Are More Missionaries Staying Native?

Peter Brown Mormon 25 Comments

I know this is really anecdotal, but almost everyone I know is serving a stateside mission. I have wondering about this situation and wonder (if its true on the aggregate) why this is the case. It would only make sense when you think about it to keep missionaries native. As the church grows and expands, I think it’s probably inevitable. Undoubtedly there are benefits to sending Elder Junior to Africa or South America (important optimal Americanism, and multiculturizing the missionary), but there are some benefits to staying home as well. Here are a few:

Money – Plain and simple, it costs most to send someone out of the country, albeit there is a benefit going to a country where the cost of living is lower.

  • Problems – Easier to relocate a missionary to a service mission if he’s an anxious case if he’s only in North Dakota. Problems with culture shock are also allieviated.
  • Language – Let’s face it, people learn better in when they can be taught and teach in the same language. I served a multilingual mission, both Enlglish and Haitian. Teaching Americans who spoke English – much easier.
  • Security – As worlwide security gets more scrutinzed, as America becomes less popular, better to keep the American missionary home where he doesn’t have the potential of ticking off the local socialist activits or Muslim cleric.
  • Health & Safety – Insurance costs, poor American diet, diahhrea in South America, poor law and order. Easier to send missionaries from Africa to Africa. They’re used to the local flora and fauna.

We all know of horror stories of battle wounds from missionaries over these things. We’ve put up with it in the past. With the availability of Latin, European, and African missionaries, why risk the Utah/California boys in other lands? I don’t mean this to sound racist; I don’t think the policy would be that anymore than it would just be more practical.

What think ye?

Comments

comments

Comments 25

  1. I have five nephews on missions currently, and all are in foreign, non-English speaking missions.
    Sure, native missionaries would be better for the work.

  2. I think it’s a function of having a glut of less valiant souls signing up for missions these days.

    We all know that the most valiant in the pre-existence are sent to exotic locales like Russa or Thailand. The least valiant are sent stateside to places like Pocatello or Anaheim.

    I went stateside foreign-speaking, so I guess that makes me some sort of fence-sitter. 🙂

  3. I served foreign, and my mission president pointed out D&C 90:11:

    “For it shall come to pass in that day, that every man shall hear the fulness of the gospel in his own tongue, and in his own language…”

    The implication was that by simply learning their words, we could speak their “tongue,” but in order to have them taught truly in their own “language,” you had to be a native.

    The point was to emphasize that native missionaries are much more effective in their own lands. I had a native companion for a few months, and there was a clear difference in the way we worked and were received compared to when it was just two gringos.

  4. and I went to an overseas comfortable first world European mission, so I’m one level above Andrew in the celestial kingdom. My friends who served in the Philippines are in the uppermost level of the kingdom of course, they got parasites and such.

  5. I get the same impression if I look at the missionaries in my socal ward. Most stay in the states, or go to a Spanish speaking mission overseas. But when I visit my parents and read the local paper, the Herald Journal in Logan, Utah, those missionaries seem to be going all over the world. Is there a geographic bias to mission calls?

  6. Having grown up in North Dakota, I think young missionaries from California experience significant culture shock.

  7. I think staying in the US affected me in a good way (well, I hope so). When I think & talk about my mission, I don’t have food horror stories, or embarrassing language mix-ups, or traditional dress…for me, when I think & talk about my mission, it’s only gospel stuff bc that’s the main thing that was different for me.
    Yes, people have great spiritual experiences everywhere, but I think having them in our own language, in neighborhoods that look like ones we live in, with people just like our friends and fam at home, means those skills will be more easily plugged in later. I guess getting used to starting up gospel conversations in line at Target or over the fence in suburbia is a pretty good way to make us braver, more comfortable member missionaries once we’re home.

  8. We have a small ward of about 52 active and proportionally have a high number of missionaries out in the field for a UK Ward. Two Elders have gone to Ghana and Elder to Manchester here in the UK and Sister Missionary in Toronto. But your observation appear to be right in our Stake on the whole most missionaries serve right here in the UK.

  9. Just going on a mission is the craziest culture shock of all. Not a good reason to keep someone stateside.

    Have you seen the food allowances they give stateside missionaries? See the guilt they heap on locals to keep ’em fed? Understand they send ’em home if there is anything really serious health-wise? Remember these are kids who usually don’t know how to wipe their own nose, let alone eat healthfully, and are prone to dangerous (and exciting!) escapades? Health and safety, per se, isn’t a good reason to keep ’em stateside.

    But weak dollar; rising insurance costs; liability risks; some areas less effective for proslytizing missions; some areas lower growth for the church? Those are all practical reasons to steer more misshies stateside.

    That said, of those young people I know on missions, there’s a good mix of US and foreign-bound.

  10. Those who can learn Japanese get called to Japan; those who can’t learn Japanese get called to a Spanish-speaking mission; those who can’t speak English get called to an English-speaking mission. I’m sure that’s in the CHI somewhere.

    On a more serious note, our mission (Cincinnati, OH) is losing nearly 10% of its missionaries over the next few months – strictly through attrition. This is happening throughout the Eastern US (perhaps not every mission, but in general, at least). Instead of filling these current slots, additional missionaries are being sent to missions in the Western US. The reason is as simple as it gets: More missionaries are being sent to areas with higher baptismal rates.

    I can see the day when there are no more than two missionaries (one companionship) serving in any stateside mission (with a few exceptions), while the number of missionaries being sent outside the states to open new foreign missions where the work will go much faster than stateside. Eventually, I could see missionaries being pulled completely from many units and having the Ward Mission be responsible. (For example, if China were to give permission for full-time missionaries, how would the Church staff those new missions?)

  11. Ray, maybe those of us “smart” types sent to Japan are the ones more prone “to think themselves away from the church”? (I had someone say that to me… sheeesh.)

    The recent Pew Forum results that show that the Catholic attrition rate, nationwide, would be a lot worse if not for the influx of immigrants who are predominantly RCC. The LDS church is net loss, too, though less than most of the mainstream faiths. Does make me wonder the cost/benefit/ROI ratio the church places on missionaries in general and some places vs. others. (And no, I’m not cynical; you don’t think they consider this?) There’s been attrition in the # of missions and # of missionaries just in Japan from when I was there in the 80s. If there experience was like mine, I’m surprised they don’t just have service, community outreach or English Conversation missions there anymore. 😉

  12. I cherished serving my mission in another country. I can see a lot of practical reasons not to though and am blessed I got the oppurtunity to learn another culture.

    I think it is multipartitie but that economic costs play a big part.

  13. If the church sends more missionaries to wealthier, Western countries now it will generate more tithe-payers for when the church decides to get into more of these third-world countries in the future. Then there will be more money for their temples, meetinghouses, education, etc.

  14. Peter, anecdotally it seems that way to me too, but here is a very scientific (not!) tally of locations for mission calls submitted to the Arizona Beehive newspaper for the last quarter. Foreign: 22 and US: 23. Here is the link with pics and specific missions for the new missionaries.

    http://www.arizonabeehive.com/mission.pdf

  15. More anecdotal evidence:
    In my family of 10, the top half went foreign and the bottom half went stateside. Boy Boise was a rude awakening for my brother when the immediately senior sister served in Madagascar.

  16. In our ward (Parker, CO), we currently have seven missionaries out, three who recently came home, and one who just got his call (to Guatemala). Over 50% are in foreign missions. ..bruce..

  17. In our ward there are mostly foreign-serving right now (Russia, India, a few South America–no Europe, though). In my family, the 4 of us all went to different continents in the 70s and 80s: Japan, Australia, Uruguay and Europe. Then in the 90s my parents went to San Jose, CA, English-speaking followed by an Atlanta, GA temple mission. However, they probably would have freaked out in a foreign country. I still think some of it is based on readiness of the individual to learn a language and deal with a foreign culture.

  18. For what its worth, I served in a foriegn mission as well. Thinking about all the missionaries serving now from our Stake, I’d say its 50%/50% foriegn vs. domestic. I quite like the idea of missionaries teaching to those in their own country. That’s certainly one way of pushing us towards becoming a truly international religion, rather than simply franchising out an American church.

  19. I’m living in Germany, and I’ve noticed that German elders get called to three places: Germany/Switzerland/Austria, England, or Greece. The sisters often get called to Temple Square. I’ve wondered on more than one occasion: why is that?

  20. Talofa Lava! I’m a convert to the Church, baptised when i was 16 in 2005, in New Zealand!! comment to “silent observer”. Your right brother, the Church would benefit from having only missions, for a little while, in the Western Countries and would most probably generate more Temples and meetinghouses etc, and but @ the same time, we would be denying our brothers and sisters in the third world countries with the truth and the bliss of the gospel, especially when the gospel gives faith and hope to those living in there and im guessing (please correct me if im wrong!!) most would be living in poverty!!! From what i know and experienced it ultimately comes down to our Dear Heavenly Father’s will, what He says goes and He always provides a way for us to accomplish His will.

  21. I t seems to me that less missionaries may be available given the greater strictures on worthiness.I’m also very impressed by the wikipedia article on the church and it’s missionary potential,and wonder if this may be making it necessary to send less missionaries out in the flesh,but rather to concentrate on the developing world,given shrinking resources in relation to what will be an increasing task.

  22. well guys you get called to basically where your needed and where theres an opening. your not going to get called to some small mission in Brasil when its already full.. meaning there not going to have 4-5 pairs in one ward…… and based on visa availabilty your not going to go international when certain countries only allow X amount of religious visas at a time… meaning someones going to have to leave the country before someone comes in…but in the end you go where your needed to go…
    and eventually well all be teaching our neighbors and friends in our own country as it was intended to be…
    as just a comment to where the valiant and best missionaries are…. I belive there was a confernce talk that the following was stated..

    ” Ive seen that the greatest missionaries arent those called to exotic places and islands like…… (names a bunch of places).. or those who work in the mission home but have little contact with the mission president..” those arent the exact words but.. everyone in our mission office thought it was funny as we were all called international, worked in the mission office and were constantlly getting yelled at. BURNED for mistakes other missionaries were making.. so yeah great and valiant missionaries getting called overseas??
    HERMMMMMM??????

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