Elder Holland and the Adversity Gap: A Modesty Proposal

Recently, I read Elder Holland’s talk from the October 2010 General Conference. Entitled “Because of Your Faith,” Elder Holland describes the sacrifices and support that has been offered to him personally and to the Church generally and says thank you. It is a heart-felt act of gratitude for the many people who serve in the church; specifically, gratitude for the many people who serve in the church in the Mormon corridor today and therein lies the rub.

Part of the purpose of “remembering the captivity of our fathers” is to remind us of the importance of the Gospel by considering what others have sacrificed to participate therein. We tell stories of the pioneers and engage in ritualized re-enactments of particular companies in an effort to reinforce the idea that faith, sufficient to overcome, drove these folks through snow and fatigue. There is certainly no lack of stories regarding people in poor countries who walk or ride buses for hours to attend church or temple. Unfortunately, these often seem to us to just be stories. We remember the captivity of our fathers in the abstract, but we also managed to sneak a Nano onto Trek to occupy us during the boring bits. If you live in the Mormon corridor (and aren’t a migrant worker), you are much more likely to be a child of privilege than a child of sacrifice.

Elder Holland, likening the scriptures unto us, is thus forced to discuss the sacrifices of going a week without make-up, spending a night in a snow cave, or getting up a couple hours earlier to make a temple shift on time. Even the sacrifice of his mother, in temporarily taking a job to pay his mission bills, is the sort of thing that many women today would consider a blessing (only having to work temporarily). I should say that, for many people, these are genuine sacrifices and they should be praised. Elder Holland is right to praise them. But consider how the talk may have been different if he had strayed outside the Mormon Corridor for examples. What if he had shown video of those Guatemalans who walk miles to attend church? What if he had shown the crushing poverty that many third-world members live in, often while paying a perfect tithe?

One of the stated reasons that the early pioneers are considered so strong is because they sacrificed so much. Unfortunately, great sacrifice often results in no temporal blessing. In most cases, if you skip the big game because of your stance on Sabbath breaking, the team loses (assuming you are the best player or some such). Most of our sacrifices aren’t rewarded. We do them because they are what we should do. This is a good thing, because, among other reasons, those mutual sacrifices, unacknowledged and unrewarded, can bind us together. Suffering can make a people. At the same time, the Church in the Mormon corridor asks less and less of us (unless we are the bishop or RS president). Our desire to not interfere with family what-not means that church has been regulated primarily to the weekends (and possibly youth night). If we are in a large ward, and aren’t incredibly socially inclined, we are lucky to know the names of half the people who attend. Being a Mormon in the Mormon Corridor has less of an entry fee and less of a maintenance fee all the time.

Business psychologists will tell you that in order for an employee to enjoy their job, they must feel like they are doing something important; something that causes them to grow. Apparently, this is about as important to the employee as their own wage. Certainly, thinking of ourselves as the employees of the church is the wrong way to go (unless you are an employee, I suppose), but I do think this could be applied to the church membership at large. I think a lot of the flurry of activity surrounding the recent changes to mormon.org can be based in the idea that it gives members something more important to do than planning meetings, attending Scout camps, and sitting through lessons. Every member needs to acquire a sense of being involved in something important. Of course, we should have this anyway (that’s what a testimony is for), but I have a suggestion about something else we could do.

I’m going to pause here and state that the reason I feel free to make suggestions to the brethren is because I seriously doubt they read this blog or would be inclined to take anything I say seriously. So please remember that I understand that I am just some schmoe, that this is God’s church (not mine), and that the brethren are going to do God’s will (as far as possible). Consider this a thought-experiment, if you will.

I think that the church should start sending families on self-financed 3 year missions to third world countries. I think these should be service missions, but in the sense of serving and proselyting to interested parties. I think the missionaries should be instructed to strengthen the branches where they serve, but to not implement the systems that they are used to. Family missionaries should go out to the world, learn from it, and find ways to use local means and understanding to improve the local situation.

For members around the third world, this will help us to integrate. I know Elder Holland spoke to the Mormon Corridor in that talk because that is the area where he grew up and it is where he spends most of his time. It is Mormonism for him, and that’s just fine. But we need to integrate the wild branches with the original branches if we are to be the tree God wants us to be. Giving Mormon Corridor Mormons the opportunity to live with and work with Third World Mormons (who make up half the church) will allow for better understanding of their situation on every level of church government. I think it would increase our devotion in tithing and offerings. I think it would increase our giving to the humanitarian funds. I think it would also strengthen the church in those far-off lands, providing models of steady church membership for struggling branches. And sending our people out into the world, doing good, cannot be a wrong thing.

In the Mormon Corridor, this will also be a good thing. Consider the goggle eyes that missionaries get when they wander into Wal-Mart after having just returned from a mission in the Philippines (or some such place). Imagine that effect multiplied to include all the men, women, and children called on these missions. I tend to think that this will increase our modesty, not in the current primarily sexual sense, but in the sense of living within our means, unassumingly. If we know that, sometime soon, all our wealth will go toward maintaining our family in a foreign land, wouldn’t that change how we structure our debt, our past-times, and our lives? Living modestly and giving generously are ideals that we’ve long had in the Church; this change could encourage them.

Christ spent his time among the poor. He counseled the rich man to give up his riches. This wouldn’t require either forever, just for a time. But I think it would do us Mormons, in the Mormon Corridor, a wealth of good. If nothing else, we’ll start having better examples of sacrifice to draw on. Maybe that’s what remembering the captivity of our fathers really means.

Comments

  1. Uh, I’m guessing you meant “a modest proposal”?

  2. I used to get impatient with how the church was doing in living modestly. I wondered why the bretheren didn’t do more in this area. I now have come to feel that the Lord will eventually have a pure and a Zion people as foretold in the scriptures, but that it will come in his time and when we show that we are more ready for it. The bretheren will lead us there in his time also and will do what it takes to get us there. In the mean time we can do everything that we can to make ourselves more pure. If we do this we will be more ready as the prophets lead us this way.

  3. Family missions are common among other Christian denominations (as common s full-time missionary work is). I think those families experience many of the benefits you mention, although it seems that many of them are missionaries for life–they never go back to a “regular” life, never returning their rich experiences to their home communities, except by letter, perhaps.

  4. Of course, the proposal is impractical for many families. I think the way this would generally play out is that rich families who have the savings to burn would get this experience and poorer ones would not, leading to some sifting in local wards between cans and cannots.

    Also, families in child-bearing years would likely decline. Frankly, this would be an insurance nightmare for the Church–people would sue right and left when their kid couldn’t get transport to the nearest health center and died, don’t you think? This is why Peace Corps, for example, no longer allows volunteers to be pregnant or have dependent children.

  5. philomytha says:

    Do the families in other denominations self-finance their missions? What do they live on? Except for the very wealthy, most families in the Mormon Corridor would come back from 3 year missions to find their houses had been foreclosed on.

  6. The part that stands out in this post is the bit about not applying ‘corridor mormonism’ in these efforts. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that many members would be able to distinguish the difference between ministering and administring corridor mormonism. Too often the ‘program’ becomes the end unto itself.

    As for family missions – we already have a couple hundred of those in the form of mission presidents ;)

  7. 5 – from my experience, their missions are financed by their congregation.. they have ‘mission fund drives’ and such to cover a couple weeks youth mission to south america, etc. I suspect family missions are handled similarly.

  8. Love the idea in theory. In practice, I’m not done having kids, I have high risk pregnancies, and it’s not something I would choose. I remember talking with one woman on my mission (I served in Ecuador) who didn’t believe me that you could have an epidural if you weren’t having a c-section. It just wasn’t done. She was incredulous. So no thank you.

    Also, I agree with ESO that rich families would be more likely to do this than poorer ones.

  9. I think there is a great deal of denominational support for the families. It is viewed as a sacrifice that the family is making and many congregations regularly give donations specifically to “overseas missions” funds. They are, in essence making a financial sacrifice as a team effort with the families that sacrifice their time/lifestyle/health (sometimes) for the mission.

    I didn’t mean to sound too dismissive. I certainly believe that MOST of us who have lived in developing countries were certainly affected by the experience. Personally, I would love to have that sort of experience with my kids, although I would never have the resources (I’m a teacher) and the Church wouldn’t send my family (I am single).

  10. Really, there is a cause of action for being too far from medical attention? I wonder why this hasn’t been a problem for the missionary program as currently administered.

  11. 10–I am quite certain the Church is sued regularly by missionary’s families. It is just taken to a different level when it is not your rough and rugged adult son who was damaged (and is more likely to recover) but your innocent 2 year old who didn’t know to stay away from the snake (both more likely to engage in risky behavior and less likely to survive).

  12. My parents are currently serving a couple mission in rural Texas. They are from south-central Idaho and their service is much like you describe. I love reading their letters to us that include their experiences working inside the system that is currently in place. Though they aren’t in a foreign land, they are learning about how the Church runs when the distances between members is far, the branches are small, and the Gospel remains the same. Yes they are on a mission after their children are out of the home, but their letters have been so instructive.

    Of my parents’ 10 children, I am the only one living outside the “Mormon Corridor” so I think it has really helped my other siblings see that the Church can and does operate slightly differently in other places and that it is okay.

  13. When I said self-financed, I meant self-financed. Looking around the Orem neighborhood in which I currently am, many of the folks here could do it. It would involve sacrifice, but it would be possible.

    Regarding young children, persistent health problems, etc, I’m fine with putting physical limitations on the process. Say no kids under 5 and no chronic medical conditions that wouldn’t require care. I’m also okay with the church spending more on health insurance for missionaries (makes more sense to me than spending on malls and such).

    I’m fine with this being something that primarily rich members do. Of course, I may have a different standard of rich than you. Part of the point of it is to re-introduce the privileged to the under-privileged.

  14. In the South for a quarter century says:

    I like the idea a lot. My impression is that the problem would be the inability of the families from the Mormon Corridor to learn from the natives and see the Gospel in its purest form: loving Christ, serving others. My experience over the past years has been that members from the Mormon Corridor to come to an area outside the Mountain West and attempt to impose the Corridor’s culture and practices on it with little regard for how others care, feel or live. Usually it is accompanied with a holier-than-thou attitude that rubs local members (and the community at large) very poorly. But the idea of an eye-opening multi-religion experience as a minority religion member for a family and especially its children, with a dose of how 90% of the world lives as far as luxury and living conditions, seems like a good thing. A year or two outside the Corridor would do a few people wonders.

  15. I think it would a tremendous burden to self finance a 3 year mission for a family with kids in the house. How many LDS families with 3-5 kids under 18 and are younger then say 45 could or would drop their livelihood and self finance for three years? There is a reason why MP’s are usually 50 plus.

    Is the church sued regularly by missionaries families? I have never heard of a case but it could of course happen. I would be curious to know the answer on this. I would suspect the SL Trib would eat up a lawsuit over the missionary program.

  16. Ah, bbell, but would it be a greater burden than having to drag a handcart over several states?

    In other words, of course it would be a burden. That would be one of several of the points.

  17. I should also note that the Church used to ask husbands to give up 3 years or more of their prime earning years. The families didn’t come, of course, but I still think of it as roughly analogous. People could do this.

  18. #10 – My son has diabetes. There are certain missions where he will not be sent, and there are certain areas in missions where he will not serve. I’m grateful for that.

    Just a couple of thoughts:

    1) Why must we memorialize only the extreme sacrifices? Why is it bad to notice and publicly adknowledge the small ones? Why are those “Mormon corridor” sacrifices, when they also apply everywhere the Church is established?

    It seems like there is a conflict in the post, since the things mentioned as the arena of the rich actually are some of the only things available for the poor. I really liked Elder Holland’s talk specifically because it didn’t cast sacrifice in terms of the common extremes about which we hear regularly. Just as an example, my father and mother do sacrifice in exactly the ways Elder Holland described – and they can’t sacrifice in almost any other way, given their finances.

    2) I agree that the family missions isn’t an option for most families. It certainly isn’t for me, as it would derail totally my career, rob (and I use that word intentionally) my children of their college scholarship assistance, etc. I absolutely love the idea, but it really is much more available for the upper financial classes in the Church – and wasn’t the point of the post to limit that disparity?

  19. #17 – John, giving up three years back in the day was a sacrifice, but careers were radically different then for the average member than they are now. Really, that’s an apples to carrots comparison given the economic differences of the times. There’s a reason the Church no longer asks husbands to serve three years.

  20. Wow, this is scary. My wife and I just talked about this as we both felt separate, independent promptings to pass up to our Stake Pres. our “availability” to relocate wherever the church might make use of us.

  21. Sorry for one more, but the Church already asks older couples who can afford to do so to finance missions – many of which are in third-world countries. Many of these couples serve multiple missions, covering in totality more than three years.

  22. Ray,
    I’m aware that it would limit future college funds. I’m also aware that it could hurt certain kinds of careers. I’m just not terribly concerned about that.

    Ya’ll, remember that the likelihood of this happening is nil.

  23. Oh, and I do think that Mormon Corridor sacrifices have value. I’m just not sure that the membership always thinks that (which necessitates Elder Holland’s talk and inspires this proposal)

  24. Elder Holland certainly doesn’t need me to defend him, but since the first 30 percent of your post bemoans his attention to the Mormon Corridor, I’ll point out that not all of his talks are that way, like this one:

    http://lds.org/general-conference/2002/10/called-to-serve?lang=eng

    That said, I think your idea is terrific! It would be fascinating to see how families would be blessed by such service.

    Our family happens to have spent three different extended overseas tours with my company and on each occasion we have had great experiences with the “local” church that have enriched our own membership experience.

    I will also point out that in my present stake (and in a neighboring one), suburban families (couples without kids, usually) are regularly called to support inner-city branches where English may or may not be the language of worship. Those couples serve in branch leadership roles, teach and train, and offer a more seasoned church presence for maturing members. The couples I have personally known who have participated have been as moved by their experience as an senior missionary couple I know.

  25. A postscript:

    There is a unique challenge in taking youth to remote locations for their church experience. Having raised the bar for young missionaries, there is less missionary melt-down, but given the normal complexities of adolescence, it is easy to believe that such service might not be for everyone.

  26. There are already many Mormon American families who move somewhere else and experience Mormon life outside of the Western US. My family lived in South America and England, as well as the Eastern US. There were other Mormon American families there.
    There are many of us. I’m surprised you haven’t met us. There are international jobs you can apply for and move somewhere else if you want that experience.
    I love some aspects of my upbringing and the fact that I could see the gospel in action in many different places and see the differences and the core sameness is a huge part of it.
    However, there is no way I would suggest the church encourage it as a family mission. You have to earn money and provide for your children. We are middle class and it is crazy to think we could self-finance that sort of thing PLUS lose those 3 years of income, lose those years of retirement saving, etc. Whenever you move and uproot children you have to consider the costs (social, educational interruptions). It is a killer in high school but can have major impacts in previous years too.
    We already ask our young men to take 2 years out of their life and postpone their education and career path.
    I would, of course, go if the church ever called me, just like we’ve done for any of our small or large callings.

  27. John Mansfield says:

    John C., thanks for your poignant expression of the challenge of serving meaningfully as one more Mormon surrounded by Mormons. Your proposal is very retro, and it is discouraging that somehow our predecessors of a century or so ago were capable of such things but we are not. No more selling our place and starting up somewhere else we are assigned. No more calling middle-aged men to leave their families to preach the gospel. As late as 1952, my brother-in-law’s oldest two sisters were born in Tahiti (without medical attention) as their parents served three years there as LDS missionaries (not mission president), but that world is gone now.

    I do admire, though, several people in my ward who I don’t see much of because they are serving in branches that need them.

  28. Since one huge transfer of wealth (to people who generally are among the financially better-off members of the church) occurs at the church universities, why not change your suggestion to another modest proposal:

    1. Raise BYU tuition to match that of similar private universities
    2. Make loans available to help people pay the tuition
    3. Have a loan forgiveness program for people who move out of the Mormon corridor. Allow deferral for periods when family members (spouses, mainly) are completing their education, and change the percentage of forgiveness depending upon the area to which people move. For example, one percent per year if you move into one of the New Canaan wards, ten percent for Scarsdale, fifteen percent for the Park Slope Ward, twenty percent for a Manhattan ward, thirty percent for Bushwick, fifty percent for anywhere in the Bronx or Haiti.

    That’s not only a modest proposal, but a rough one. Feel free to completely threadjack this post by suggesting changes.

  29. If only there were enough NYC naclers present, Mark B, you probably could turn this into a discussion of which burroughs are equivalent to third world countries.

  30. #29- my thought exactly. Why go to a third world country when Watts is just around the corner?

    I was driving around Orange County (CA) with my friend the other day. We went through downtown Santa Ana and ended up (by mistake) in Newport Beach. She made a comment about us seeing the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich. I didn’t want to break it to her that Santa Ana, while it certainly has poor areas and gang activity, is nothing compared to Watts or South Central LA.

    Try going from skid row in LA to Rodeo Drive in one day. I’ve done it a couple of times. The contrast is staggering.

  31. I do think the church should encourage its members to leave the Mormon Corridor. The salt of the earth doesn’t do much good just hanging out in the salt shaker, after all.

  32. I have been thinking about the church expanding it’s world-view lately, and I’m convinced that we should have apostles from 15 different countries. Right now, Uchdorf is the only one wasn’t born in the USA. In fact, 10 of them were born in Utah. Maybe we should start with 12 different states first? Of course, I’m even more of a schmoe than you are, so that will probably never happen.

  33. Oops, I meant “Uchtdorf”.

  34. John, count me in, I think this is a great idea and something I’d like to see more of in the church.
    In the church we have a tendency to shake off mention of “sell all that thou hast and give to the poor” or “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. We’ll go on for hours about how those references, while very important, don’t apply to us in our mini-mansion two car families, because we’re struggling so hard to get by.

    I think thats why you get people saying that it would “destroy careers” and people would come home to “foreclosed houses” . . . I don’t think God particularly cares about your career, and I think he’d be fine with you selling your home to do his work. There has been plenty of precedent of Him asking significantly more.

    Yes, careers would be destroyed, houses would be lost. But eyes would be opened, testimonies strengthened, stakes in Zion would be reinforced.

    Of course, I don’t see this ever happening, as you allude. But I like the idea.

  35. Susan,

    I’ve driven through Compton and walked through Watts (both times on accident . . . ) I watched Bloods and Crips: Made In America and was moved and surprised.
    On a scale of violence, there are few places that compare. And they indeed have huge problems, and the contrast of opulence of Brentwood with the poverty of Compton is sad. But on a pure poverty scale, I don’t think they compare with many neighborhoods in Latin America; let alone Africa.

  36. 32 – Salt Lake has plenty of great leadership, Guatemala and Chile are severely lacking. Why would you want to take from the few capable Stake Presidents that DO exist outside the “mormon corridor” and place them among a population overflowing with leaders?

  37. I’m a lurker, but I just have to say I LOVE this idea. Mostly because I’m pretty sure the only way my more conservative husband would agree to do something like this (in our case with little money and many children, it would be a great sacrifice and would take many years to save enough to do this) is if it were church-sanctioned.

  38. TaterTot,

    I’m convinced that we should have apostles from 15 different countries.

    I’m convinced that that is wrongheaded, but I might be wrong.

  39. I like the idea, but I’m pretty certain it is not something I would volunteer to do, until we hit retirement, which is not that far away anymore. However, I almost certainly would go if it were an actual calling from church headqarters. My wife and I are looking forward to serving a mission somewhere like what you describe, in about 8 to 10 years, and perhaps more than one.

    I would agree that our concept of these kind of large sacrifices are something that belongs to other people in other times, despite what we commit to when we enter into our temple covenants. The sacrifices we make are small in comparison to hauling off to the Little Colorado in Arizona in a horsedrawn wagon, or the like.

    Just one question. Does living on the Seattle Eastside count as living outside the Mormon Corridor? The differences between here and Orem are huge, but I tend to think we have it way better here. Perhaps some of us folks from outside the corridor should consider going to live in that third-world pocket known as Utah County, to help expand their horizons. Now that’s a sacrifice.

  40. Patricia Lahtinen says:

    Amen, amen, amen, John C.! I also really liked the comments in #12, #16, #27, #31, and #34, and I applaud #20. Radical idea, Mark B. (#28)! Good point, B. Russ(#36).

    My friend’s parents were just called a couple of days ago by his former mission companion now serving in the regional presidency in southern Argentina. Apparently he’s calling all of his former mission companions inviting them to serve with him there as couple missionaries sometime in the next five years. All ya gotta do is love the people! Sign me up!

    And why not single parent families with children? And why not families with children at home? And why not ask the congregation to financially support these family missionaries? Why not sell your home? Why not live modestly?

  41. Scott B.,

    While I understand your thinking about pulling leadership from “ecclesiastically weak” areas of the world, I would still argue that more diversity in the highest leaders of the church would be helpful. Maybe it’s just my partiality to Elder Uchtdorf that convinces me.

  42. TaterTot, I didn’t argue that it wouldn’t be helpful. That’s not the point. The question is whether it would be sufficiently helpful to offset the relative harm it causes. I think it would not, in a fairly decided fashion–at this point in time.

  43. “We’ll go on for hours about how those references, while very important, don’t apply to us in our mini-mansion two car families, because we’re struggling so hard to get by.”

    BRuss, nice stereotype. Doens’t apply at all to me, even if it was pointed at my comment – among others.

    Ffwiw, I would respond in a heartbeat if the Church asked me to relocate anywhere in the world, with my family, to serve in some way. Just because I wouldn’t volunteer, given my current family and financial situation, doesn’t mean squat about my commitment and “why” I responded the way I did.

    The Church doesn’t make those requests anymore of people in my situation, and I just think there’s a very good reason they don’t – multiple reasons, actually. The biggest one is that not everyone lives the life you described in your barb.

  44. Ray, it wasn’t directed at you any more than anyone else. It was directed at myself too. I have often explained those verses away myself.

    I’m glad that you would respond in a heartbeat, I think many would.

    As far as not everyone living the life I described, I would assure you, most families in the Wasatch Front do. Perhaps we have different definitions of “mini-mansions” but if you’ve ever been in a house built before 1900, or ever entered a middle class house in Latin America (and I would assume Europe, Asia, Africa, etc.) You would notice that our houses have 1)higher ceilings 2)larger rooms and 3) more rooms. You could easily fit 4 Argentine houses into the house I grew up in, and the house I grew up in was not a large house by Utah standards. Many people around the world would see a 4 bedroom house along the Wasatch Front and their jaws would drop. They would assume the person living there was among the wealthy elite upper class. No doubt. And if you have two cars that run, that puts you in the top 1-2% of the world.
    And yes it is a stereotype, and it might not describe you, but its a stereotype that I have developed after having heard those verses described away a number of times throughout my life in Primary, YM, seminary, Elder’s Quorum, etc.
    Or would you contend that those verses, more often than not, get plenty of discussion in sunday school, and the discussion doesn’t stretch analogy and language to their very breaking point?

    I think if we were confronted with what the rest of the world lives like a little more often, we would have a much harder time dismissing verses that condemn our opulence.

  45. Families are currently at times asked to serve as mission presidents. Three years, largely on own dime.

    Just sayin’.

  46. I had never applied that particular verse in Alma to this situation, but the message in Matthew Ch 25 has always given me some discomfort, as I expect it was supposed to do. The disconnect is between what we commit to potentially do when we enter into our covenants, and what we perceive we are asked to do in daily life as members.

    And I apologize ex post facto for my previous slam at Utah County.

  47. Sorry, for some reason it appears that the link in my #46 is not working. Here is the complete URL:

    http://lds.org/scriptures/nt/matt/25.31-46?lang=eng#30

  48. B.Russ, I understand what you mean, and I don’t dispute that MANY of us are living way beyond necessity. I also agree that those verses don’t get enough introspection and repentance-inducing attention. We are in total agreement on those points.

    I’m just saying that there are a very large number of people in situations like my own who are “wealthy” by the standards of third-world countries but still are struggling to live on very tight budgets and simply could not walk away for three years to live somewhere else, if we had to pay for it ourselves. I’m also saying I can’t return home to a rural, agricultural society where work is readily available for me when I return. Leaving for three years literally would derail my career – and I shifted careers two years ago and am starting from the bottom all over again.

    Would I do it if asked? Yes. Would it cause incredible damage to my family in the long run? Almost certainly. Would it give me great blesings? I’m sure it would. Would those blessings outweigh the damage? I’m not sure. Therefore, I’m glad the Church no longer requires it of me and others in my situation.

    That’s all I’m saying when all is said and done. I love the idea for those who can afford it – absolutely love it. I just don’t want to over-generalize it to the point where guilt and judgment are heaped on those who simply can’t do it.

  49. Ray,
    I judge your refusal to hop on board my completely hypothetical, never gonna happen program. I JUDGE!

  50. #49 – LOL

  51. John,
    I’m curious about how you would incentivize this kind of program. Given the financial inability of most people to simply take 3 years off and pay for whatever travel, lodging, etc… are needed (and I’m not talking about financial discomfort–I’m talking actual inability), it simply can’t be a “requirement” for church members–it would have to be something that is “encouraged” at best.

    As such, how would you incentivize or encourage people to (legitimately) risk the educational, social, and financial well-being of themselves and their children during very formative years? I mean, telling people that they’ll be blessed is great and all, but I can’t really see it trumping “Take care of your family first,” when it comes down to decision time.

  52. I don’t mean to say that it’s not a good idea, or that it wouldn’t be awesome, but rather I’m interested in how you could convince a bunch of comfort- and security-loving folks to abandon it all.

  53. Scott,
    I’m not sure I would have to. Plenty of people who object have already voiced their commitment to go on my nonsense missions, in spite of objections, if the Brethren asked. I also tend to think that a few years abroad in tought circumstances tends to improve kids, not harm them (setting aside tropical diseases and such). However, you are right to point out that this would be a great sacrifice. I just think that some folks might really want to make a great sacrifice.

    Of course, this could all turn into the Mosquito Coast. So that might be another reason why the Brethren haven’t thusfar brought it up.

  54. John,
    You have a rosier view than I do, I guess. My bet is that if such a request were actually delivered, you’d see a very low hit rate. Lots of initial enthusiasm, of course. And then people would look at their bank accounts, college & mission funds, and Zion would flee.

  55. I’m very interested by the idea…the education for the children and parents would be amazing. What an experience. I don’t know how you would handle the multitude of logistical nightmares, but i’m interested.

  56. Mark Brown says:

    Here is what is so interesting to me about the post and comments. It is hard for us to even imagine doing this. I mean, the gap between us and the people we would hypothetically be serving is just so enormous that we cannot even imagine a way to implement John’s idea. It simply can’t be done, and that is that.

  57. I should add that most third world countries are on the couple of dollars a day economy (or something similar). Where people would be taking a hit, in most cases, would be in not getting paychecks back home.

  58. Right, John–it’s not the living expenses per se; it’s the opportunity cost.

  59. Mark,
    It absolutely can be done. It just can’t be done by every single member of the Church. And it’s not a function of sacrifice in many cases–it’s a function of impossibility. It is simply not possible to, by yourself, buy $12,000 in plane tickets if you don’t have $12,000.

    Hence my question: since it has to be part of the membership, it has to be voluntary. As such, how does one “sell” the idea to people sitting on the margin?

  60. Another way of saying this is that, in addition to huge opportunity costs, there are significant fixed costs which will disqualify a large proportion of otherwise willing servants.

  61. I think what is hardest about contemplating this is not going elsewhere and serving in a third-world country for a few years. It’s that the mission would be only for a few years and we’d have to come back home in order to fill John’s mostly unspoken second goal, to live more modestly at home for the rest of our lives.

    But if we sell everything to go there, and to live for three years, most of us would be starting from zero when we came home. You simply can’t live in, say, Salt Lake City on the few dollars per day of a third world economy. Laws prevent you from living in buildings without sewers and running water, if not electricity. You can’t grow enough of your own food to matter if you’re renting (which presumably would be the case if homes were sold pre-mission). You have to pay for health care at first world prices. You need clothes, even modest ones, and multiple ones — you couldn’t keep most jobs if you wore the same jeans and t-shirt day after day after day. For those of us who are workers and laborers rather than professionals, three years out of the labor force means starting again at near entry-level positions and wages. There are not many of us in our 40s or 50s or 60s who could start over again under the conditions we lived under in our student days — we’ve outlived the people who furnished our first apartments from their basements and garages.

    I say this as somebody who lived throughout my 40s without heat in my home, and who now lives without a car or even a telephone, whose most expensive shoes cost less than $15 and who hasn’t had a haircut in a couple of years. I’m used to doing without a lot of what most people consider basic necessities. I could live without a lot of my “stuff,” sure. But I’m not sure you’ve thought through, John, what hardships such a mission would impose on many people once they came home — hardships that go beyond sacrifice and cross into privation, and that could easily last the rest of one’s life.

  62. Mark Brown says:

    Scott, your question just reinforces my point.

    We think in terms of $12,000 worth of air fare, but who says we need to fly? Honduran families with children manage to find a way to cover the same distance, moving in the other direction.

    I agre that it would have to be voluntary, but I have no idea how to provide an incentive to do this.

  63. As I have thought about this today, I am wondering why you want to funnel this activity through the Church?

    Family missions, as you propose, do not actually entail finding and such. The family would carry on as normal (going to school, maintaining a household, etc), but instead of investing their strength into their local home wards, applying it to some way out branch or ward.

    So why don’t you and your family just pick up and move yourselves? As JKS and others have mentioned, people do this. When I was a kid, my family moved to a decidedly NOT 3rd world European country where the American families were well-used. I am sure that rubbed some locals the wrong way (my dad was a bishop there, his predecessor in that office was also American); I hope it was net-positive for our ward and stake as it is certainly a cherished chapter in our family story.

    The Church had nothing to do with it, but we offered support to that ward. When I lived in Africa, too, I was not there on a Church mission, but I hope I was a little helpful to my branch(es) and I know the state department families et al were, too.

    Sure, some people would never do it unless called to do so, but I guess I am just saying to all the people on this thread who love the idea: do it. Even if it was just a 3-month stint, you’d probably love it.

  64. For a long time now I have been saying that we need to cut a lil bit on the sharing farming stories in Idaho (sorry Pres. Monson).

    And for your proposal, great idea but very impractical in my opinion.

  65. Ardis,
    As stated above, I see this happening more for the rich than the truly middle class. But I do understand what you are saying. While I would like individual calls to be inspired (and not more voluntary than regular missionary calls), I also think that the church, should it ever implement such a crazy idea, should give the church 5 years (or whatever) to prepare for the first calls. If we accept this as a possibility in real life, I don’t think we’d take out massive mortgages. I don’t think we’d blow our wad on silly toys like ATVs. I do think that we’d save, as much as possible, to serve. We may do less to stimulate the economy, but we’d be better prepared for emergencies ourselves. Hence the Modesty in the title. I don’t know that this would settle all your concerns, but I’m not sure of the logistics of this myself.

    ESO,
    I’m trying. I’m trying.

  66. Mark Brown says:

    Following up on ESO’s comment.

    I know a couple who were planning and preparing to serve a mission together after all the kids were gone. Then, relatively late in life she got pregnant again and they realized that they would be in the child-raising business well into their late 60s. So they thought if over and prayed about it, and decided that they would create their own mission experience as a family. They moved to a part of the USA where could continue his occupation, but where the church presence was tiny, and they raised their last daughter there. They still live there and attend that branch, even though they are now empty-nesters.

  67. John,
    I’ve seen lots of people that do this. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s not. The flip side of the coin is that Americans going to other countries often are, or at least come off as, extremely arrogant. People don’t want to be condescended to by the almighty Americans who think they are going to fix everything. That attitude is really common by Americans abroad. That’s kind of the attitude you’re inadvertently encouraging.

  68. Mark Brown,

    Honduran families with children manage to find a way to cover the same distance, moving in the other direction.

    This is because they face an entirely different set of incentives in life, not because of willingness to sacrifice.

  69. Chairman Mao left some nice notes on how to do re-education and family trips to the countryside. Maybe you can incorporate them into your proposal.

  70. John Mansfield says:

    What exactly would the Americans abroad add to the places they deign to make their new homes? In one town in Argentina where I served I remember hearing about the basketball coach of the local team, an American Mormon, who had lived there for a couple years with his family, but that’s a rather unique confluence of foreign-bred ability and local interest. What do most of us have to offer merely by our presence that the locals can use and don’t already have in abundance? Now “Mosquito Coast” is running through my mind—do we build a refrigeration plant?

    B. Russ’s #44 started my “Mosquito Coast” thoughts with his hyperbolic comparison of the wealth of Argentina and the Wasatch Front. Argentina isn’t as poor as he made it out to be; only the poorest parts of it are. Typical Argentina homes are not a quarter the size of typical American four-bedroom homes. Most Utahns don’t live in mini-mansions.

  71. #46-kevinf:

    Is there such a thing as an apology that is not “ex post facto?”

  72. If we know that, sometime soon, all our wealth will go toward maintaining our family in a foreign land, wouldn’t that change how we structure our debt, our past-times, and our lives?

    This is such a great post John! The quoted sentence is so true. Would Latter-day Saints in the Mormon Corridor be living in McMansions furnished luxuriously with all the toys and accoutrements of suburban royalty (SUVs, ATVs, boats, etc., etc.) if they knew that at any time they could be called to move to Bolivia and finance themselves there? I think you are correct that we would all structure our lives entirely differently, living modestly, avoiding luxury, and putting much more of our earnings into savings etc. for the purposes of maintaining us once the call comes.

  73. #61, Ardis — Your comment reminded me of a story my Taiwanese stake president told me about a couple from India who wanted to attend the temple. They had saved their money and were prepared to go, but could not get enough time off to make the trip (not sure to which temple — Hong Kong, perhaps). So they quit their jobs and went. When they returned home, they started again.

    Such stories of sacrifice are not uncommon in Latin America, either, of families who sell everything they have to go to the temple (less necessary now that temples are more available).

    We do have a way of thinking in the US that prevents us from considering such a radical shift in our behavior, but I think it’s that very change that John C is trying to push.

    As for incentives? I suspect if a member of the 70 asked a family to go, that would be incentive enough for many. As for how to pick who to send? Start with the tithing records and select the top 10% of tithe payers (since John also said his plan would be to target the wealthy and not merely middle class).

    But, as John also said, it’s not our call, is it?

  74. 71- “Is there such a thing as an apology that is not “ex post facto?””

    Sure there is: I’m sorry if I’m about to offend you, but that’s a pretty stupid question.

  75. John Mansfield says:

    Paul, you have several times lived abroad with your family, so you could perhaps help with my question above (#70). I suppose that those your company sends abroad are a small portion of the management in those places and pretty much none of the labor, and that most American workers would add little to overseas operations. In which ways was the benefit of your family to the wards abroad different from the benefit you are to your home ward?

  76. John Mansfield says:

    For those not familiar with it, LeGrand Richard’s call to move to Los Angeles is something like what John C. is contemplating. Here’s a link to an ample account. I admire greatly the faithfulness of someone to sell his business and start a new one in another state (in 1930!) because the the president of the church asked him to. There is a lot more than shedding a love of opulence that goes into such a thing:

    On the home front too changes were taking place. In the fall Marian had gone to Salt Lake for a promised year at the University of Utah. Norinne worked at the First National Bank and Trust of Los Angeles and had received a proposal of marriage from Reed Callister. The older boys were active in school and sports and had part-time work. Nona and Alden were now acquainted in their school but happy for the holiday break. Ina was still somewhat homesick for family and friends in Utah, so when they went to Salt Lake for Mercedes’s wedding on January 1, 1931, it was with pleasure not only at the temple ceremony performed by LeGrand’s father and the Hotel Utah wedding breakfast and reception, but to be in Salt Lake again among old friends and many relatives. It was with some reluctance that Ina left her two daughters and returned to California with LeGrand.

    By late summer of 1932, LeGrand and Ina’s three eldest daughters were married. Mercedes had become Mrs. Joseph Grant Iverson on January 1, 1931; Marian became the wife of Harold R. Boyer on December 19 of the same year; and Norinne married Reed E. Callister on March 9, 1932. Now in August, the family were together for a rare visit. Marian and Hal were working in California earning money for school the next year, and Mercedes and Grant had come down for sports events.

    On August 4, LeGrand A. and LaMont went to Santa Monica Beach with some of their friends. While there, LeGrand A. was riding a surfboard, and as he came over a high wave one end of the board caught in the sand and the other end dealt him a blow across his stomach. This caused internal hemorrhaging, and he started to cough up blood. They took him to the hospital, where the doctor performed an operation in an attempt to stop the bleeding; but after two transfusions a clot formed, causing his death the next day. LeGrand A. was the eldest son and the family’s pride. They were desolate in spite of the many friends and family members that tried to comfort them. Ward and stake leaders and members responded with concern and compassion. Thirteen of LeGrand’s and Ina’s family members came from Salt Lake, including their parents. President Grant, who was in California at the time, deferred his return to Salt Lake so that he could attend the funeral and speak words of solace. LeGrand A. was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

  77. 75 JM, yes you are right, and I so indicated in #24.

    It’s true that expats tend to be in the management ranks and generally offer insight or skills not generally available in the local talent pool, OR they occupy a position where “home office management” does not want a local person for reasons of control. I suspect that’s true for many large companies like mine.

    In the church, we have served where we’re called. When we lived in Japan and Venezuela, we attended local wards. In Japan, I taught Gospel Doctrine, and my wife was a Primary president to a Primary with about half the kids speaking English and the other half Japanese. She served with two Japanese sisters, one who also spoke English, and my wife spoke little Japanese.

    It was a remarkable cultural experience for my wife, and having both languages represented in the Primary allowed for a great cultural experience for the kids of the Primary.

    In Venezuela I eventually was called as bishop, replacing a local member who moved outside the ward boundary. It was a unique time when the ward was very small as we arrived, and grew remarkably in our first year or two (over 100 new converts in that time). When I moved, one of those converts became the new bishop, and when he was released to serve in the mission presidency, another of the new converts replaced him. So I assume I was plugging a hole in the dike until some local members were ready to serve.

    Our family benefited by being the “minority” group in our ward and learning how that feels. And I think we offered the wards where we served a slightly different (more global? more “centralized”? more “seasoned?”) view of how the church works.

    In Taiwan, we attended an English ward, but about half our ward were foreign workers from the Philippines. I served in the bishopric there, and my wife served as a counselor to a Filipino Relief Society president. The RS president was amazing, but not well schooled (left school in the sixth grade to support her family and has been working ever since) and not well schooled in the administration of the church. Because the stake was a Taiwanese stake, the stake leaders struggled to provide the training they might normally provide, but my wife was able to provide one-on-one training and support to a president who was uniquely qualified (and gifted) to serve the many Filipino sisters in our ward.

    Although we certainly did not have the sell-all-and-serve experience John C advocates, we caught glimpses of the value of getting outside our comfortable suburban ward and seeing how the church functions in other parts of the world. Particularly in Venezuela we observed poverty and hardship and service dispite that that certainly changed me forever. We also had the very real understanding that God loves all of His chldren and blesses them wherever they are and in whatever circumstances they live. And we continue to be senstive to “Mormon Corridor-only” messages (though we’ve been that for years since neither my wife nor I hail from the intermountain west).

  78. B Russ #35 – I realize third world countries have a lot worse poverty than SCLA. My point was sort of that it’s easy to sit at our computers and wish we could all go to some far away land and do some good, when we all know it’s very unlikely to happen. But how hard is it to go volunteer at a local shelter or community center or food bank or whatever? (And that’s directed at me as much as anyone.)

    Why doesn’t BCC try to organize a serve-your-community day?

  79. So, I really love this idea, and am trying to think of how it could be feasible for my family. (Hypothetically speaking, at this point). My husband is a high school teacher, and we have five kids ranging from 6-16. I don’t work, and we don’t have any savings to speak of. However, if he were able to find employment in another country, he could leave his job here, and we could rent our house out for a few years (our mortgage is such that I believe we could probably get enough in rent to cover it). If jobs in the other country could support us in said country, I can see it working out fairly well. The biggest challenge would be relocation. If the church, however, were willing to help families with relocation costs, and maybe with some of the logistics, such as finding housing, I think it could be done. For my family probably the biggest drawback would be that my husband, upon returning, would have to find a new job (not impossible, I believe) and start considerably lower on the salary scale than he currently is. That said, if we had been financially more prudent in the past, we could conceivably make it on that. Fact I am not taking into consideration: were we to do this at any point in the next 15-18 years, we would undoubtedly be trying to help someone with college or a mission- however, we could leave that entirely up to the kids, which would be a valuable thing in and of itself.
    Now, several people have asked how this would benefit the area where the family served. Well, I served in a small branch in Austria for 7 months on my mission. My family currently would double their Youth Program and Primary, as well as providing two more adults to serve in callings. Just more faces in the congregation can be a blessing, especially when a couple of those are teenagers with relatively strong (I hope) testimonies, who could be a support to other teenagers who are often the only LDS kids within a 100 mile radius. Actually, I believe that branch has now been dissolved, and those members meet with another branch about 30 minutes away, which makes an awful long commute for the members that were already an hour and a half out.

  80. Holy run-on comment, Batman. Sorry. I’ll breathe now.

  81. meggle,
    That’s the kind of thinking that I hope would take place. If nothing else, it helps us get more prepared for the call back to Independence than anything Emergency Essentials sells. ;)

  82. B. Russ’s #44 started my “Mosquito Coast” thoughts with his hyperbolic comparison of the wealth of Argentina and the Wasatch Front. Argentina isn’t as poor as he made it out to be; only the poorest parts of it are. Typical Argentina homes are not a quarter the size of typical American four-bedroom homes. Most Utahns don’t live in mini-mansions.

    Mmmmmmm, I’m guessing its been a while since you’ve been to Argentina John, no?

    The day I landed in Argentina was the day of mass rioting that the country hadn’t seen in decades. They went through three presidents in the course of a couple months because the presidents kept abdicating as they saw the financial mess that Carlos Menem had left them. The Argentine peso went from 1:1 with the dollar to 1:4 over the course of the following 3 months, to later stabilize to 1:3. People’s wealth and income (buying power) were slashed in thirds. This was the beginning of the 2000 decade, but I’m sure that with the general wealth and prosperity of the latter half of this decade in the world that they have recovered smashingly.

    I assure you, they are as poor as I described them. Spend some time reading about Argentina and I’m sure you’ll agree.

    I didn’t say that typical Wasatch Front homes are four times the size of a typical Argentine home. I said the house I grew up in was four times the size of the homes that I saw in (Buenos Aires) Argentina. I’ll concede that homes in Mendoza, Cordoba, and Neuquen are probably a little larger, but the ones in Buenos Aires, Capital are not. It wasn’t meant as hyperbolic. I also stand by the statement that my parents house is not “large” by Utah standards. Its not small either, and may very well be larger than “average”, but its size is not impressive or out of the norm.

    The bishop of my third area – the only person I ever decided to ask – lived in a one bedroom house on a half acre lot with his wife. They were very much middle class and doing okay since his wife couldn’t have children, it was easier for them to get by. It was a brick house, so in no way a slum. He told me he made 15 pesos ($5us at the time) a week. I don’t know where that ranks as “average”, but I’m pretty sure it was normal.

  83. 78 – yeah, you’re right. There is often a lot more that we can already do in our communities.

    At the same time I think that the results of service in our poor communities at home is different than moving to a branch and being part of the community. Both would have important results, but there would be different reasons for doing both.

  84. Susan, it’s not just food kitchens or the like. Typically there’s a lot we could do just in our neighborhoods with trash, overgrown lots, and the like. And that’s the sort of stuff you could do with 20 free minutes. (Not that I often have 20 free minutes)

  85. John Mansfield says:

    B. Russ, it sounds like you went from a spacious life in the Great Basin desert to the crowded conditions of one of the hemisphere’s greatest metropolises. Here are links showing at the same scale the neighborhood I left as a teenager, and the first one I was sent to as a missionary: home, Argentina. (And yes it was quite a while ago.)

    The level of prosperity I experienced in Argentina was lower, but not an order of magnitude lower. Economic turmoil is not the same thing as poverty. CIA puts Argentina’s 2010 PPP per capita GDP at $15,000, compared with $47,000 for USA. The difference for the US from when I was born compared with now is almost as large, and started at a level we can consider prosperous.

  86. JM, well, since GDP and average income are the same thing, I guess you got me. Oh wait, they are two completely different things.

    Here are the only statistics I could easily find on normal incomes. If we assume that the average Argentine is a high school graduate (many are not), then they will earn ~$539 AR (which is ~$135US) per month. This equals out to $1620 US per year.
    Average US income per year? $32,000. that is 20 times the average individual income for an Argentine high school graduate.

    For a non-graduate, average income is ~$1100 US a year.

    Yes, I would say that is “an order of magnitude lower.”

    Those are nice google photos you posted, in fact I think they demonstrate my point nicely when you factor that most of the houses in the “home” link have basements and many have second stories. Also when you consider that in many cases any one of those buildings in the Argentina link probably house 2-3 families (especially if you consider son and wife and kids to be a seperate “family” unit from grandma and grandpa).

    As far as the culture shock you are alluding to in your comment about going from the great basin to a metropolis, it doesn’t factor for the fact that I was just coming off my first year of college in LA – a metropolis three times the size of Buenos Aires.

    Economic turmoil is not the same thing as poverty.

    It is if it lasts more than 5 years.

    The crazy thing, John, is that we would both probably agree that Argentina is one of the most successful/wealthy countries in Latin America. If we were to start talking about Paraguay, Bolivia, or Guatemala . . . the contrast would be much much greater.

  87. John Mansfield says:

    A lot could be argued back and forth about economic measurement—GDP vs. personal income, accounting for cost of living, the impressions from a severe low point in a volatile economy vs. fifteen years earlier vs. now—and the assumptions of how most people in America live (no, pretty much none of those homes have basements or second stories). Going back to John C.’s aims, though, the impression Argentina gives you is worth noting.

  88. I love the idea – as far as making it work? Just last month two of the principle owners of my company left to form their own firm (we’re civil engineers). When I found out they were leaving I automatically assumed they wanted a larger piece of the pie than they were getting by splitting it with all the other owners, lower level engineers and staff. In a conversation to explain his motives, one of them told me (these guys are not LDS btw) that he wanted to look back on the last 15 years of his career and think “what good did I do in the world?”. His new company will give him and the other partner the freedom to go on mission trips for their church (they both have done a couple short summer trips but want to do so on a yearly basis). They both have college and high school aged kids that are included in their plans. Granted it’s not exactly a “sell all thou hast” scenario, but it is an example of feeling an impulse and making it happen.
    Apologies that my comments seem to be anecdotal and not much more.

  89. It’s a good comment, Jaron. Fear not.

  90. A lot could be argued back and forth about economic measurement—GDP vs. personal income

    Except we weren’t talking about national economic measurements, we were talking about poverty, and you used GDP – a measurement of national product. Its like saying a song sounds like “red”.

    Going back to John C.’s aims, though, the impression Argentina gives you is worth noting.

    The impression Argentina gives me is that we, in the “Mormon Corridor” live in extreme opulence. I never said that Argentines were highly impoverished. On a worldwide scale, they actually do pretty average (I would assume, without looking at worldwide statistics).

    If you go back to comment 44, where this tangent started, you’ll notice I was using Argentina as an example of normal in the world, to which I contrasted the Wasatch Front as being very abnormal.
    If you’d like to point out where I said that Argentina was incredibly impoverished, I will gladly take it back. But compared to the average US home? Yeah, its night and day.

  91. StillConfused says:

    The restrictive nature of LDS missions is why I will likely go “independent.” I love the idea of serving my fellow man, even on my own dime, but not necessarily for XX (36 or whatever) consecutive months. I can see myself studying a language/culture for 11 months and then volunteering there for a month. Then moving to a new country the next year. Something like that. Since I am about as religious as a frog, my missions would be humanitarian / education based rather than religious. Now to get my husband on board…

  92. I love the idea of the family mission (and the post overall).

    I do think that the whole western world Church membership has gotten a bit, dunno, comfortable with where we stand in the world. I think there is quite a disconnect for us from the rest of the world. For example, this Sunday, a sister gave a talk on the tender mercies of the Lord. One of her examples included a generous $200 gift-card given to her and her siblings to buy something for their mother, after the mother had gotten divorced and struggled to provide for her family on her own. She said how her mom had this worn out purse, and hadn’t gotten something for herself in 3 years, and this was such a sweet tender mercy to get that gift card for her. Well, I agree. It was sweet, and generous, and a mercy. But I couldn’t help thinking that a) most women in the world probably haven’t even ever owned a purse and b) probably haven’t bought something for themselves their whole lives.

    I thought what a pity if we can’t see how blessed we are simply by having any kind of roof over our heads, any kind of clothes on our bodies, and any kind of food on the table. In the west, we easily consider ourselves poor when we have an old computer, a tiny apartment, and one old car – or something like that. Forgetting completely that the majority of the world has none of those things.

    I think if we as members in the West were exposed more to what is the reality for the rest of the world, either through missions or other kind of service, I’d hope that it would really improve how we live and think. I don’t know that those missions need to be 3 years, or necessarily self-financed. But I do think it’s crucial to be more exposed to the realities of most peoples lives. It’s rather disappointing to me right now how self-centered a lot of members actually live (though much of that may not be intentional – it’s just that we think it’s a hard life when you haven’t been able to buy a new purse in 3 years…).

  93. I think it’s a great idea, and if proper preparations were made many families would cope. I really appreciate all the comments on this post because many reflect my own responses to this suggestion, “I’d do it only if this and only if that, only if I had more money”

    I find it really intresting how many would be willing to do it if they were instructed by the church, but to do it of there own free will & choice. “it is better to obey than to sacrifice”

    This raises lots of good questions for me, what is really motivating me. I can’t wait to serve a mission with my wife, but to give up my job & home, then spend three unpaid years in another country at this time of life??? I’m not sure if I could do it.

  94. the flip side of this discussion has to do with the current mission presidents… I may be wrong in my understanding, but aren’t they self-financed? So by that measurement, is the church not in fact placing a spiritualness measurement on ones ability to finance a mission and limiting the service of so many faithful people simply by that criteria? I’m sure the 19-20 year olds learn a lot from CEO’s and the like, but that does not represent a fair cross-section of what our membership has to offer IMO.

  95. 94. No, mission presidents are not self-financed. The Church pays…at least they did for my dad. So, I’d think that’s how it works across the board. Oh, and not only do they pay for you, your children can also attend any Church college during their service time for free…

  96. ref#94/95 — I agree that Mission Presidents have their living expenses paid while on their missions — they lived in church owned (or paid) housing, drive church vehicles, have their children educated in international schools (if they are US expats serving abroad). But their “stipend” is small and generally intended to cover modest living expenses.

    I don’t understand the broad assumption that only wealthy businessmen serve. I haven’t known many MPs (maybe 10 in my life), but they have included: a small-business owner (my own MP), educators (some BYU profs, some CES employees), church employees, a retired physician, and a middle manager from a Fortune 10 company. In the case of the last, he took a three year leave of absence from his company to serve (a highly unusual case in that particular company).

  97. I know a recent Mission President who gave up some incredibly generous job bonuses at a job he had just started to serve (basically, he sacrificed being wealthy and remained middle class).

    However, I imagine that young former Mission Presidents in the Mormon Corridor have absolutely no problem finding lucrative work. So it’s probably only a temporary sacrifice.

  98. Elizabeth kirk says:

    Adversity comes to all whether your rich or poor. Ive been both and tough times are still tough, money cant cushion the blow of all things.
    I think that if more American families were called to serve outside of the bubble and were less insular their eyes could be opened to the reality of how the gospel is both administered and ministered. As well as looking outside of their own immediate and parochial surroundings the opportunity to learn from the humility of those who have less are endless and would probably benefit the server more than the person receiving the rendered service.

  99. I don’t need to go past my own neighborhood to find many ways to fill up my time with service. And I always come home, after time spent helping someone out, feeling ABSURDLY blessed. My eyes are opened to life outside of my own personal bubble…and I need go no further than my next door neighbor! Others may have to look a bit further, maybe a few more blocks from home than I do *gasp*. And yet even for the more affluent, there’s plenty of hardships that don’t involve money.

    As the hymn goes, “I have work enough to do ere the sun goes down.”

    When we take the sacrament on Sunday, we take upon us the name of Christ. That means we GO and DO what He would do. Will we be slothful servants, compelled in all things, by waiting for our leaders to compel us to go and do what we’ve already promised to go and do on our own initiative???

  100. When my husband retired we moved from Sandy Ut to his hometown in the Northeast. Not the same as Guatamala, I know, but we brought our kids and I took a job and he found a lot of people he grew up with were still here. I don’t know how much good we have done, but I think being part of a Branch rather than a ward was a valuable experience for my kids. I would like to believe that we have done some good through our associations in the community. I would encourage all those who can, to do something similar. We won’t die rich, but we will die with a feeling of fulfillment!

  101. I actually look at the parable of the rich man a little less literally than is being held in this post, at least at one important level. The rich man asked what HE would be required to do to follow Christ. It was a personal question. I think we each should be doing that in our lives, and I really don’t think the answer would always be “sell what you have and go to a third-world country.”

    I agree with Ray that there are multiple reasons why we don’t have a wholesale program like this and with him and others who talk about how the ‘little’ sacrifices matter to God, too, and can change our hearts if we let God do that work. We don’t have to move across the world to have that happen.

    I think there are definitely things we can and should do to continue to seek to help the poor. But I think it’s important to remember that what the Savior may guide us each to do may be different, and (gasp) may even include living in the Mormon corridor. There is good to be done — important good to be done — in many facets and places and ways.

  102. michelle,
    I hate to break it to you, but the rich man isn’t presented as a parable.

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