Missionaries’ Discomfort: A Parent’s Perspective

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

Last year, Elder Kopischke’s talk on mental health finally spoke of missionaries’ discomfort. But as things go back to normal after the pandemic, and Church leaders repeatedly ask young men to prepare to serve missions, I feel that there are some more things that need to be said.

I remember attending a youth meeting a few years ago in Western Europe. One of the highlights of this meeting was the broadcast of several videos of missionaries performing wonders: a team of sisters taught dozens of investigators by video conference, a team of Elders had made a video that had been viewed 180,000 times.  Instead of inspiring me, however, these perfect stories made me worried that any missionary who is not as successful will doubt their faith or self-worth.  Missionary work should not be measured by clicks or other quantified goals.

This matter concerns me deeply. Metrics are not only irrelevant; they are also harmful. When my son was on a mission, he was not well.  Thankfully missionaries had just been given permission to call their families weekly.  We watched as our son withered over the course of his mission.  After six months, we received an email from the wife of the mission president telling us that he was suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and depression, and needed medical treatment.

Those were terrible months for us. Our son, an adventurous young man who liked to drive and joke, no longer dared to drive and was continually struggling with a devouring anxiety. As we spoke with other missionaries’ parents, we found out that anxiety, sleep or eating disorders, and depression accompany a significant proportion of the young people who serve missions. 

At the time, we read an article which explained that “how well children respond to setbacks depends largely on how well their parents helped them develop the attitudes and the skills of resilience.”  We blamed ourselves.  But then we learned in our son’s mission there was a program called “Standards of Perfection.”  Perfection was becoming the norm, and all those who could not achieve it could only be terribly disappointed in themselves. 

I think that in most missions there are those “Standards of Perfection” in one form or another. Combined with the stress of uprooting their lives, learning new languages, and confronting other cultures, the pressure can be terrible.  Especially for young people like my son who grew up in communities with few other Church members, the demands of a mission are discordant.  He learned for years to fight against peer pressure, but then suddenly had to follow and participate in the same sort of group pressure, but now from within the Church.

Once our son came home, he got a job, started driving his car, and resumed his studies. No doubt his anxiety is still there, but without the pressures of the mission it’s not nearly as acute; it’s something he can work around.  

His experience makes me want to revamp the entire mission experience, to do away with the obsession for numbers and success stories.  For too many of our young people, that pressure makes missions a terrible experience, not a faith-affirming one. 

Comments

  1. dougiereedgmailcom says:

    Well said…

  2. nobody, really says:

    I have a relative who was hit by a drunk driver while serving a mission. The mission president checked him out of the ICU against medical advice, put him in a bike area, and told him “if you work hard enough, you’ll be healed.”

    A couple of months later he was home, undergoing physical therapy for some of the damage, and learning to cope with some of the things that will never heal. The last words from his mission president, upon boarding the plane, were “It’s too bad you didn’t have enough faith in the Lord.”

    That was for visible injuries. Imagine how much worse we treat the missionaries who are no less damaged, but without visible scars and broken bones.

  3. Chadwick says:

    Thank you for this. Truly. More than my words can convey. I feel like I’m still unpacking my mission experience 20 years later in this regard. I was never enough. And it hurt.

    If our tribe truly cares about the youth having a great missionary experience, there needs to be less focus on numbers, and more focus on serving others.

  4. Old Man says:

    Excellent post. I remember one book that was distributed by our mission president, “Drawing on the Powers of Heaven” by Grant von Harrison. Many of the damaging ideas and thought processes we are speaking of are reflected in that book. Being a missionary is hard enough. Don’t make it harder by presenting false expectations and unreasonable demands.

  5. Unless the missionary is using the mission President as a guardian, tell him no and stay in treatment per doctor’s orders. Missionaries are adults and they and /or the parents may need to remind leadership of that fact. I realize peer pressure is hard on an 18 year old, but do what is best for you.

  6. My son suffered from significant anxiety that affected him physically a couple of times in his youth. We had him get professional help when necessary to help him develop the tools he would need to navigate life. As he approached his 18th birthday I was very concerned about a mission. I figured it would either be a really great growth experience for him. Or, it would destroy him.

    I admit breathing a sigh of relief when, at 18, he decided to step away from the church altogether and the prospect of a mission was completely off the table. He’s a wonderful young man now with a bright future. I can’t help but think we dodged a bullet.

  7. Old woman says:

    As I mentioned in a comment in the previous blog post, my son developed major anxiety on his mission in the early 90’s. His mission President accused him of sinning, wouldn’t let him call home, just told him to get to work. His companion in desperation performed an exorcism to chase the evil spirits away. Helped by an older senior missionary couple he was finally able to see a doctor and was sent home. It took him a long time to heal. Even today, I don’t think his healing is quite complete. At that point, I resolved that no one holding a position of authority would ever abuse my child in such a way again, and no institution would take precedence over an individuals well being. It was the beginning of my disillusionment with the church.

  8. C. Keen says:

    I’ve recently had a child return home from a mission because of anxiety and depression, and I currently have another child serving, and so I can say that your concerns are well intentioned, but not really warranted. The child who came home was treated with love and caring by the mission president and the doctors who were consulted, and has done very well as an active member of the church over the last few years since coming home. The child on a mission now is not subject to pressure to report success. Our weekly conversations are usually cheerful and upbeat. There are occasional concerns, but pressure to have some kind of success is not one that has come up.

  9. C. Keen, I’m sincerely happy that things have turned out well for both of your children, and it’s good to balance negative anecdotes with positive ones. But even if the ratio of good to bad is as high as 10:1, those odds still put our young people in danger. I know which of my children are most at risk, and I don’t know what I’ll do if the vulnerable ones express a desire to serve.

  10. anitawells says:

    I’m concerned that the push to get more young men out at 18 leads to more mental health challenges and struggles. This group of kids just getting through these Covid years has had a lot of struggles and isn’t as grown up/accustomed to independence/socialized as previous eras of youth. Teaching seminary, I see recent seniors who aren’t as ready to go as in years past, and I see some leave anyway and come home fairly soon afterwards since they can’t cope with a mission yet. They need more time to mature, socialize, have experiences away from home, be independent from family, and be mentally strong, to be successful missionaries.

  11. Roger Hansen says:

    The whole missionary program needs a complete overhaul. In developed countries, Church growth is stagnant. In developing countries, the church is padding it’s membership numbers, but retention is low. Missionaries are wasting their time on unproductive activities. And the Church is putting too many in harms way with physical and mental health issues. A much bigger emphasis needs to be placed on service, volunteering, etc. The Church needs to stop the hard sell.

  12. your food allergy says:

    Roger that, Roger. It is amazing how virtually every person I talk to in the church, even the most obedient and faithful, knows that the missionary program is obsolete. Everybody knows this except the leaders apparently. Come on, this is obvious. An emphasis on community service will solve multiple problems in one stroke: more young people will be interested in going, mental health will be improved, our Christian message will be backed by tangible evidence that will be more attractive to younger, activist-minded non-Mormons of the current generation, we will do tangible good in the world even if membership doesn’t increase, etc etc.

    Another point: mission president roulette has an enormous impact on the mission experience. I had two mission presidents at opposite ends of the militarism spectrum, and the difference in my daily lived experience was massive.

  13. Old Man says:

    My youngest son was serving in Texas when Covid hit. Against the mission president’s efforts, he and several other missionaries began engaging in long hours of service, often hard physical labor in the yards of the elderly and on the ranches of members. It saved these missionaries minds. They still did the time on social media, but they were out in the community, and in sunshine and fresh air. These missionaries saw more convert baptisms than those faithfully plodding along on Facebook during the pandemic. They called it the “Ammon method” for obvious reasons.

  14. Old Man says:

    Note: my son was treated for anxiety during high school.

  15. C. Keen says:

    Robert: If there are concerns, those can all be discussed during preparation to serve a mission with the stake president and relevant professional counselors. After discussion and evaluation, a nephew on the autism spectrum is now preparing for a proselyting mission and has entered the MTC. In another local case, a young man on the autism spectrum will be serving a local service mission.

    Local and mission leaders want missionaries to succeed. The mission program has undergone a lot of changes in recent years. The idea that missions are obsolete, or especially that everyone knows this to be true, is just bizarre.

  16. purple_flurp says:

    Roger is right on the money, despite how things changed with COVID the whole program still seems built to be built on the ‘summer sales’ model of proselytizing which in of itself is a dehumanizing experience in which success and failure are measured in numbers. You often get these mission presidents running the mission like a business and I would assume that’s the predominant mindset among the people in charge of all this.

    At the same though, I think there’s an unspoken consensus that full time missions for young adults are less about proselytizing but more about youth retention, the idea being, that if we get them on their missions immediately after high school they’re less likely to leave the church, and perhaps, by extension, the idea is that if we get them working the whole time on something related to gospel they’ll get more committed to it.

    I think there needs to be a holistic approach not only to missions but on member retention in general. I don’t think they quite understand why young single adults leave the church but they don’t know what else to do besides applications of protestant-work ethic.

    Personally I think this phenomenon is wider than just missionaries or young single adults, or even just people in general. In the late-capitalism hellscape we live in, meaning and spirituality is being stripped out of our lived experiences and for many their material conditions are get noticeably worse, even in developed countries. Media, entertainment, and consumer goods are the medication to temporarily distract us from the jobs we hate or the dehumanizing things we have to do to pay rent and put food on the table. In the case of full time missionaries, that medication is taken away and they have to confront the spiritual emptiness or the artificial standards that are supposed to be metric of spirituality and proselytizing success.

    People in summer sales jobs can at least go home at the end of the day and turn their brain off and watch Netflix or do something fun over the weekend and temporarily forget about their awful jobs but missionaries don’t really have that option.

  17. Roger Hansen says:

    To “waste” 1-1/2 – 2 yrs of a young person’s life is a true tragedy. Call it an inoculation or refiner’s fire if you like, but we need to find better uses of missionary time. One solution to that is humanitarian work. Another is delivering a more nondenominational Christian message. The Church needs to improve it’s mage.

  18. Chadwick says:

    @C. Keen: “The mission program has undergone a lot of changes in recent years. ” Such as?

  19. The Church put a lot of emphasis on mission today. But none of the first presidency dit it, and I wonder how many apostles ?

  20. I served a mission about 30 years ago. I remember it as a good experience. About ten years after I got home, I decided to reread the daily journal I had faithfully kept. I got about 20 pages in, then skipped around to see if the tone every changed, and decided I couldn’t stand to read it. My journal entries were a constant wail about how I wasn’t doing enough, I needed to do more, work harder, testify more, be more obedient. I wish I could go back in time and give my missionary self a huge hug and try to say something to lessen that pressure. It’s odd that I remember all the good stuff, but wrote incessantly about the pressure and guilt while I was there.

  21. Some years ago the Elders assigned to my mom’s ward, were told to go visit “all the older, single sisters in the ward.” The Elders: So Sister Engle, what do you do to keep yourself busy? My mom: I’m the manager of a public library for LA county. The Elders: Oh Sister Engle, that’s so sweet you volunteer. My mom: No, I have Master of Library Science, and am the manager of other librarians with same degree. The Elders: Blank stare. Turns out though, that the Elders found their way to my mom’s library and met almost all of their service hours there, helping a library serving a mostly underprivileged community. They may be young but they can learn. Fast forward to Houston when my mom decides to to sell her house, downsize, and move into a one bedroom apartment in independent living. My brother had to rush to work, and he left a stack of heavy boxes in the middle of my mom’s living room promising to come back when he could. So my mom’s new neighbor cajoles her into going down to play bingo, and who should be running the bingo game–the Elders!. When I first heard this I thought fantastic. Wonderful Christlike service for the elderly, in a place my mom was even afraid to mention her religion because she was surrounded by evangelicals. After the game, my mom asked the Elders if they could move these boxes for her. They came up to her apartment, and then one Elder says “Wait, we can’t go into the apartment of a single sister” (my mom was 86). The other says, “Of course we can, she needs our help.” Elder number one says “Sister Engle will have to stand in the hallway while we do this.” So my mom got her walker and stood in the hallway, for as long as she could manage, calling out instructions on where to put the boxes. Stupid, stupid. Great that we are pointing the missionaries toward service over proselytizing, which often has dubious results. Not so great when “obedience” trumps common sense and compassion. Who makes these rules? It’s a scary thought.

  22. thurston says:

    David,

    All of the current Q12 served full time missions except Uchtdorf, who was conscripted at age 19 and got married just after age 22 while still in the W. German military. As for the FP, Nelson became mission-aged in the middle of WW2 when wards could only send 1 missionary out, then got married at age 21 when the war ended. Oaks similarly was serving in the national guard, about to mobilize during the Korean war, when he got married at age 20. Eyring served a 2-year district mission while he was in the military.

  23. How About That says:

    Nelson’s “mission” consisted of doing tours of Temple Square 2 hours a week.

  24. Thanks, thurston and How About That says for the intel. I’ll be less critical on this point. I was thinking : the Church seems to get rid of numbered goals in many areas : ministering for example isn’t evaluated by numbers and I haven’t seen programs with numbered goals in our stake since a very long time. Missionary work, though, still works by numbers, more than ever.

  25. @rogerhansen “Another is delivering a more nondenominational Christian message”
    You’re joking, right?
    I agree that if we meet a lapsed Catholic, we should encourage them to return to their faith, but if they don’t want to do that, we should teach OUR message, not some watered down non-denominational message.

  26. Yes a church mission is difficult. So is college, bringing children into the world, raising children, finding employment, starting a business, dying, and etc.

  27. J Davis says:

    It has been over 20 years but my mission still haunts me while at the same time changed my life in a lot of positive ways. The price was my mental health, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

    My depression and anxiety were at peak form. I think I a lot of it came from the fact that I was stateside Spanish speaking without a Mission President that spoke Spanish. A lot of “Instruction” came from the elders, who know had power, a desire to wield it, and no idea what to do with it.

    All of a sudden the sins of every person I didn’t speak to became my fault. I lived off one sandwich a day half for lunch, half for dinner because returning to the apartment showed a lack of dedication. I wish I could go back and tell myself, do what you feel is correct and understand that you have just as much right to the spirit as anyone else. And the elders, for the most part we’re just as full of $h!t as the rest of us.

  28. J Davis says:

    It has been over 20 years but my mission still haunts me while at the same time changed my life in a lot of positive ways. The price was my mental health, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

    My depression and anxiety were at peak form. I think I a lot of it came from the fact that I was stateside Spanish speaking without a Mission President that spoke Spanish. A lot of “Instruction” came from the elders, who know had power, a desire to wield it, and no idea what to do with it.

    All of a sudden the sins of every person I didn’t speak to became my fault. I lived off one sandwich a day half for lunch, half for dinner because returning to the apartment showed a lack of dedication. I wish I could go back and tell myself, do what you feel is correct and understand that you have just as much right to the spirit as anyone else. And the elders, for the most part we’re just as full of $h!t as the rest of us.

    And we only had two calls a year.

  29. I’m no longer a practicing member, but I do follow the church with interest and think it can be a force for good in this world. I think the problem is two-fold: the missionary program appears to be broken and needs major reforms. On the other hand, as a person with teenage children, I think my generation is perhaps the worst generation of parents in history. We haven’t helped our children develop resilience, mental fortitude, purpose, work ethic, emotional stability, self-reliance and adaptability. I see the writer’s story repeated over and over and over again. I believe a program deeply woven into Sunday services which supports parents and good parenting with instruction, counseling and mentoring could be a very good thing. It’s a crazy world to try to raise kids in, and I think parents would be drawn to a church which offers more practical support instead the endless study of banal conference talks.

  30. Blake P. says:

    The first presidency put school before all else Thurston. Oaks joined the guard in his senior year of HS so he didn’t get drafted or needed to do a mission (and he never went to Korea). Eyring could have served a mission but chose school and then military. Nelson wasn’t baptized until age 16 and he had other goals than a mission.
    The only young men that went on missions back then, we’re either mormon royalty or wayward young men. The last group to get called, we’re those that said they would go when they asked for volunteers from a ward.
    My father is Oaks’ age. He got in one year of college, served a mission, and went to the Korean War. And if your wondering, no he wasn’t a wayward young man or a volluntold missionary.

  31. Mom of non missionaries says:

    Blake thanks for the history of the First Presidency. Three of my uncles served missions after they served in World War II. One was a bomber pilot in WWII, the other was a foot soldier in the Pacific, and the third served in a non combat role in WWII. All three spent more than two years in the military. They all came home and served missions. One served a three year mission in the Pacific Islands. None of them were wayward. They came home to small towns in Sanpete county and served as bishops, stake presidents, and patriarchs. I have never heard a boastful word from any of them. They were not Mormon Royalty, but very good men who became educators and blessed the lives of thousands of children. I mention this because they choose to serve missions and did not avoid the opportunity. Missions are great for some young men. My own sons choose not to serve. I wish every young man could choose without experiencing shame for choosing a different path. My youngest son’s patriarchal blessing tells him that he could choose a path different from his friends, ( we live in a Utah community that is predominately LDS.) He was told the Lord would support his choice. He was shamed by his priesthood leaders for choosing his education. I hope we can build communities of faith where choice is honored and supported rather than shamed.

  32. This is an all too common experience, unfortunately. And the church will not be changing anything based off what we simple peasant members are saying. No, the fault of this is placed on us as parents and our children for not being resilient enough. Heaven forbid they take a good look at the missionary program and make changes. The fact is, most if not all of these missionaries are happy to serve. But they are pressed for numbers. It’s all about the numbers. I for one am not planning on sending any more of my kids on missions unless big changes are made. It’s simply an unhealthy environment.

  33. Maybe I can share my perspective from someone that has served in missionary callings for 14 years. I served as a young missionary in the Latino barrios of NYC in some pretty rough circumstances (2 years). Served as a counselor to 4 MPs, in the Rochester, NY mission (6 years). MP in Chile (3 years). Currently serving with spouse as Service Mission Leaders in New York (3+ years). There is a lot on this thread, good, bad, some less informed, some not true, and some painfully true.

    Missionary work has evolved for 200 years. There have been some absolute atrocities (e.g. “baseball baptisms”), and some inspiring advances. There are 400 or so MPs in the world. All of them attend the MP Training Seminar the week before they arrive in their assigned mission. The new MPs are told as forcefully as possible not to try and lead their mission like their mission of 20-40 years ago. They all hear the same message and they all interpret the message through the lens of personal missionary experiences. So despite the tremendous efforts of the Brethren there are 400 individual interpretations on missionary work. I know if is a great frustration to the Brethren.

    Despite some of the comments and perceptions, at least in the last 30 years the message has been constant. And as a whole there are a lot fewer aberrations than in the past. Preach My Gospel came about because Pres. Hinckley, got wind of some practices in Latin America that were abhorrent. He traveled to Chile and met with missionaries and told them stop baptizing people that are coming in the front door and leaving out the back. Baptisms plummeted and rightfully so. That led to his well known talk “Feed My Lambs, Feed My Sheep.” He also began the work on PMG to likewise prevent aberrations. If MPs follow PMG they will not head off on tangents. Some do and some revert to the “on my mission” approach. I became painfully aware of some of this history in Chile. One of my biggest frustrations was fathers of our missionaries that put pressure on their children to baptize like they did. More than once I had to meet with a missionary who was feeling guilty after another letter from home. Again, it takes so long to change culture. But changing it is.

    I can say that the Church spares no expense when it comes to missionary health and safety. If there is pressure to baptize in a particular mission it is from an individual MP who just aint listening. Yes, I know it happens but I really think as time goes on it is a minority, hopefully a dying one. I could give a lot of examples but not really the place.

    We expected our missionaries to do meaningful service. We assigned two additional APs to work with service organizations, churches, and government agencies to coordinate service. They even built an Assemblies of God Church. The result was happy missionaries with an expanded vision of the work. But the real interesting thing was mental health issues were significantly lower. Church attendance doubled as members joined with the missionaries in service and baptisms increased. BTW, we never reported mission statistics to the missionaries.

    Now, here is one of the greatest developments in missionary work in my lifetime. in 2019 the Church began the Service Mission program. It is still evolving. My wife and I work with young people that are assigned as service missionaries from day one and those that “transfer” home to a service mission from a teaching mission. The reality Christ did two things, he taught and he served. Now young people that in the past were excused from service can serve as their abilities permit. They are doing so much good.

    So, I guess my point is missionary work continues to evolve. It blesses the lives of thousands daily. Yes there are aberrations from time to time. Believe me I know. But I hope we will not judge the missionary program by what happened decades ago.

    I’m sorry this is long for a comment. To the administrators – I’d be happy to do a post on service missions and mission culture.

  34. your food allergy says:

    Thanks Dave!

    I wrote:
    ” An emphasis on community service will solve multiple problems in one stroke: more young people will be interested in going, mental health will be improved, our Christian message will be backed by tangible evidence that will be more attractive to younger, activist-minded non-Mormons of the current generation, we will do tangible good in the world even if membership doesn’t increase . . .”

    Dave confirmed:
    ” The result was happy missionaries with an expanded vision of the work. But the real interesting thing was mental health issues were significantly lower. Church attendance doubled as members joined with the missionaries in service and baptisms increased.”

    Dave, you appear to have some connections that many of us do not. If you have not already, please write to the leaders at the highest level of the missionary effort and describe all of these benefits of focusing on service.

  35. Dave, thanks for that interesting comment. I’m glad to hear that you believe things are changing in the culture of full-time missionary work. On the other hand, I think you’re being excessively generous in the way you describe the efforts of senior Church leaders. Under committed, capable management with a clear vision of the change that is needed, it should not take thirty years to change the culture of missionary work. There is more to this problem than you’re seeing or letting on.

  36. Oh, they are very aware. As I noted the issue is not at the highest levels it is at the cultural level. There have been multiple articles in Church publications, mentions in GC, but most members in pews still have no idea about the Service Mission program. My wife and I are speaking and training most weekends and we are amazed how few people still don’t even know about the program.

  37. Respectfully, I don’t think that is a fair comment. l don’t sugarcoat anything. It is not my nature nor my professional training. I am not a church employee. I simply served when asked and that has exposed me to a lot. I call it as I see it and I could give lots of examples of pushing back on church culture and bureaucracy. To suggest, without knowing me, that I am either hiding information or just blind assumes a lot.

  38. Dave, I’m sorry if my comment came across as a personal attack. I did not intend it that way. I genuinely appreciate the work you’re doing to share the gospel and improve missionary life.

    Nonetheless, when I read your comment I see some big gaps in your account of things. I think you’re not seeing part of the picture—a part that’s important in addressing the concerns of parents like the one who wrote this post. I don’t think that makes what you’re doing less valuable, nor does it make your commitment and sacrifice less meaningful.

  39. Mormon mamma says:

    My husband and I had missionaries live with us for two years. We live in an affluent stake that has been hosting elders and sisters since the salt lake missions opened. My sons watched these missionaries who were physically confined to stake boundaries struggle to find service opportunities or teaching opportunities. They spent most of their time giving lessons to member families. They struggled with boredom and anxiety. I asked the mission President if they could assist at a food bank at a non denominational church just a mile away but outside of the stake boundaries; the mission President declined. I wonder if the work of sharing the gospel would yield more fruit with a focus on service and expanding the work of helping the poor and needy. My sons declined to serve missions partly because of what they saw when the elders lived with us.

  40. purple_flurp says:

    I appreciate Dave’s comment and I find it very encouraging, however, I have quibble. The notion that issues with the missionary problem are to be lain entirely at the feet of MPs and general membership of the church ‘not being aware of X’, and absolving the FP, Q12, and other capital ‘B’ brethren of any responsibility.

    I don’t agree with that, the whole idea that the Brethern do not err, the membership just doesn’t listen or it’s a cultural problem etc. You know, the whole adage (I think from Oaks) about the church or institution of the church being perfect while the members are not. It’s that sort of idea and I don’t think that’s how it works. The FP and Q12 have an enormous impact on what members are aware of and on the culture at large. We hear from them twice a year in very public arenas and their words are pretty much advertised and reverberated in our local church meetings and in church media.

    A member of the FP could easily give a talk in a priesthood session and talk about how a service mission is just as important/honourable/etc as a proselyting mission and I am certain that would have an IMMEDIATE effect on not just the awareness of service missions but also on the young men considering serving a mission.

    Even a line as simple but as explicit as “a missionary is not a salesmen” or “a missionary should not act like a salesman” would be huge in shaping attitudes toward how missionary work should be done. I know that Elder Christofferson said much the same thing in an MP seminar in 2008, but that’s the sort of thing that needs to be said to the church as a whole in a highly visible medium (like a priesthood session of GC). Saying things like that in a very outward and public medium creates at least a little bit of public accountability and when something that is established or part of the discourse at large, people will go into the missionary program with that kind of expectation.

    In sum, I think the capital B brethern have more power and influence over church culture and expectations, and I’m sure they’re aware of that, but on issues like this at least, they refrain from doing so, perhaps out of caution.

  41. your food allergy says:

    Dave,
    It can’t be true that the Brethren agree that a missionary experience rooted in service will produce improved outcomes in missionary mental health, attractiveness of missions to prospective missionaries, and church atttendance by members. If they did, they could immediately tell mission presidents to require missionaries to spend the daytime hours (when families are working anyway) doing humanitarian service, while evenings can be for teaching. Or something similar. Instead, we still have a rule of 4 hours of service per week. At least that is the case in the mission where I live and also the one where my child is currently serving.

    So no, the leadership obviously still thinks that tracting and facebooking for the vast majority of the time is the ideal model. If they did not, they could change it in the time it takes one email to reach their mission presidents.

  42. Your Food Allergy – As far as I am aware there is no “rule” of a maximum of 4 hours, unless something has changed in the last 6 years. In the mission where we live there is no limit. Our service missionaries frequently partner with the teaching missionaries for service. I think over time there will be more integration between service and teaching missionaries. So, again, in my opinion your dealing with an MP who may have served his mission in the “old days” and by golly that’s they why it’s got to be. As I wrote earlier 400 missions and 400 different MPs who think the only way to do missionary work is the way they did it 30-40 years ago.

    Purple Flurp – There have been GC talks and Liahona articles, in fact there is one this month. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/2022/07/young-adults/16_service-missionaries-building-the-kingdom-through-service-and-love?lang=eng
    I also know of a visiting GA in a stake conference who got up after the MP spoke and had all his missionaries stand (kind of a tradition in some places). The GA then then stood up and asked all of the missionaries to stand teaching and service. He then proceeded to praise both. There are efforts. Trust me I get the frustration. Our role as service mission leaders is to train the leadership and members. We are out speaking somewhere in a 4 hour radius almost every weekend. It is just so hard to change the culture. I have dear friend who has been my hiking, skiing, climbing partner for 30 years. Often when we’re together in the mountains we play a game we call “prophet for a day”, where we solve all of the Church’s problems. ;)

  43. Sheldon Lawrence says:

    Great post. The missionary program badly needs reform. I proposed some ideas here. https://thepearlandswine.wordpress.com/

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