My title is borrowed from Ronan, I hope he does not mind me plagiarising. Following a brilliant post at JI on Nibley, I was talking to some Missionaries the other day about their Mission reading habits and rules (they apparently have quite strict guidelines in this Mission) and it reminded me of the time and money (photocopies are not cheap) I spent trying to gather everything I could find about the Church. Yet, apart from Ensigns and the odd mimeographed essay from yester-year, pretty much everything I read was from either Truman Madsen and/or FARMS.
In fact, it was narrower than that, it was pretty much all Nibley and Madsen. I wonder how this happened. Limited by internet access and ignorance we read only what was sent and circulated. My question now is: did no one send Sunstone or Dialogue to Missionaries? Does no one send England or Bennion? I am curious regarding how FARMS (i.e. Nibley) and Madsen have cornered the market on Missionary extra-curricular reading. I say extra-curricular because I think Talmage, Fielding Smith and McConkie are the mainstays of the authorised curriculum for most Mormon missionaries.
I would guess that for many the missionary years are the only time that people really read and delve into the doctrine and history of the Church. I can imagine the positive impact that reading these things “auf mish” would have had on me and I suspect that the same could be said of many others. I even think it might benefit the Missionary programme and even the Church if a wider variety of articles and/or writers were circulated through the Black Market of the Missionary office. Is my experience warped? Perhaps everyone else read England and Sunstone and Dialogue and just did not tell me!
I remember sitting on a couch in Waterford, two months into my mission and reading ‘Zeal without Knowledge’ for companionship study. It was a fairly important moment in my Church life. I was changed by that experience and will forever love Nibley’s critique of Mormonism (I even read it with the girl I would later marry while we were dating – yes it was that important to me!!).
I am convinced that some of the things written in Dialogue and Sunstone could benefit the Elders and Sisters currently serving the Church. Therefore, send your friends, loved ones and associates articles which have inspired or change you. Send them an MP3 Sunstone session or even the Richard Bushman interviews from Mormon Stories. Send them a blog post or two, but try and do it hard-copy. There was something fantastic about sacrificing clothes for want of space because of the extra books and ‘talk’ folders that now filled your suitcase. It was that moment when certain gospel ideas became real, that moment when Nibley was more important to you than that beautiful QPR football shirt.
Was your experience different? What did you read on your Mission?