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  1. Dan – This was exactly the topic that I had been waiting to hear about. I have loved my missionary experiences, both on a full-time and post-mission basis. Going through a faith transition, I had been asking myself, how can I continue to participate in something I have loved in my life while also being genuine to my new framings. I suppose the question going forward that we could hypothesize about is what would the new “missionary message” look like if we tried to distill the message of the restored gospel with our new framings.

  2. Dan, I haven’t listened to the entire podcast yet. But, the topic and first ten minutes prompted me to add this thought: Not all men or women were born with the ability to be a missionary. Some people have a musical gift, others a gift to write, or be a mathematician, or a lawyer. Every member a missionary assumes that every person has the same gift. And, for those who are not natural missionaries, the edict to be that way would be the same as every person being required to be a good musician or a scientist. I feel sad for those individuals I have seen who come home early, or do not go at all, live the rest of their lives with the idea that they are somehow something less than the “return missionary.” That is not right.

    1. Agree! (I haven’t served a mission), but I liken missionary work to “sales.” Not everybody is suited for “sales.” My son was one of those who came home early. He was my one child whom I thought would have a difficult time on a mission–very shy and reserved. It was a big struggle for him, suffering from depression that began in the mission field–and continued for some period of time after he returned. I think he was able to eventually recover, in part, because he didn’t go out and return from the same ward (we moved). I do think he “grew” as a result of his months in the mission field–more comfortable in social settings and public speaking. But it could’ve turned out the opposite–deeper depression, sense of failure, suicide etc. I really resent and abhor the strong pressure from Church leaders (at all levels)for every young man to serve a mission. I also wonder how many of our young men go inactive around 19 because they don’t fit into the “missionary mold.” I would like to see the Church develop shorter and different types of “missions” say, a 3 month humanitarian experience or something similar.

    2. Someone — I can’t remember if it was Alice or Kristine — mentioned the unfortunate stigma that is attached to those who do not serve full-time missions (for whatever reason). You are absolutely correct that it is not right for anyone to feel like they are less in any way for not serving. I think this issue is an ugly byproduct of our missionary culture. I’m not really sure what the solution is, but perhaps there are things that local leaders could avoid doing or saying in order to ameliorate the situation. For example, I recall being in a stake priesthood meeting where everyone who had served a full-time mission was asked to stand. If I remember correctly, the purpose of this exercise was to somehow encourage the young men to want to go on missions. But what it really did was make those who didn’t serve feel awkward and uncomfortable. Another (and more common) example is the habit of asking whether someone served a mission when meeting them for the first time. The intentions aren’t usually bad in these situations, but they encourage the notion that a full-time mission somehow elevates a person’s status in the church.

      1. The stigma of not going on a mission is so strong that many young men go on missions for no other reason than to avoid it. A young man who chooses not to go may find the stigma so strong that he finds it too difficult to stay in the church. How unfortunate it is that the choice young men make can’t be entirely because they have the personal desire to do so.

  3. The discussion, I don’t think, didn’t go too far that direction, but I mentioned that a proselyting mission isn’t something I felt like I could ever do. It’s just not the kind of person I am. I wish that service missions were equally valued.

  4. In the introduction it says:

    “While many of us may welcome this emphasis on actively sharing the gospel, it can trigger different feelings in those who are undergoing or who have undergone a faith crisis or transition. ”

    I tend to think faith can’t have a crisis and the that the only transition it can have is to grow. Consider what it says in D&C 1:2:

    2 For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.

    The reason why every heart shall be penetrated is that, in the end, everyone will be held accountable for what they know – that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the Lord’s chuch. Sayinig that you’re having a faith crisis is like saying that you never really had faith in the first place. It seems like God is telling us that when he penetrates our hearts, that pentration leaves a record. So when times get tough, be true to the record you have or if don’t really have any faith – get it!

    1. I appreciate the comment. I, personally, dislike the use of the term faith crisis. Spencer Fluhman recently described these feelings more as a “crisis of trust” rather than a “crisis of faith.”

      I think it is perfectly possible to have a trust crisis. I think that many of us hear the faithful narrative of the restoration from missionaries and leaders and we place so much trust in them, that we are eager to accept the message they give. When a more in depth history is learned, you start to question whether or not you properly placed your trust.

      This trust crisis does not have to diminish your faith. For me, I hope more than ever that many of the core tenets of Mormonism are true which, I guess, means that I have faith. The difference is that I severely distrust that the selected accounts of divine manifestations, restoration of keys, and latter day revelations actually occurred as we are taught because the sources of those accounts are less trustworthy than I had thought, based on how I was taught. With the Church now admitting that claims regarding Facsimile #1 in the Book of Abraham are incorrect or that the widely held views, teachings, and official statements regarding race and the Priesthood are now “disavowed”, it’s pretty clear that members ought to at least question the amount of trust they place in what they are taught.

      1. ‘A trust crisis’. That’s very good. That’s why God tells us never to put our trust in the arm of flesh. (D&C 1:19) And remember the arm of flesh refers to every single mortal on the face of the earth.
        You said,

        “This trust crisis does not have to diminish your faith. For me, I hope more than ever that many of the core tenets of Mormonism are true which, I guess, means that I have faith.”

        OK, but don’t stop with faith. The misssion of faith is to die.

        “34 And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because you know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.”
        (Alma 32:34)

        Don’t hope! Replace it with Knowledge from God and you won’t have to hope it’s true. You will live life go out of this world knowing it’s true. And if a tenet turns out not to be true, it won’t phase you because you trust is in God, not the arm of flesh.

      2. I think it can start as a ‘crisis of trust’ and quickly dive into a ‘crisis of faith’ and then crash land in ‘I’m out of here’ land. ;-). Seriously, I’m an inactive disfellowshipped member of the church who has no desire, absolutely no desire to return to the church. This is largely due to the overly preachy missionaries and the sad fact that once you convert you are essentially ‘drooped’. Add to that a ward who was so full of ‘fundies’ and I never had a chance. My wife is an active lifer and my children are being raised mostly in the church but I just have no desire to go and fall more into the atheist camp now-a-days.

        I think if the missionary goal was less to convert and more to actually be-friend the people they speak with and then to find people in the ward with like interests the retention rate of converts might increase BUT the conversion rate would probably drop. This type of mission goal would also help to include more of the young men and women who aren’t maybe as social and type A as others.

        Just a thought or two from some one who is happily on the outside looking in. Thanks for reading.

  5. I really enjoyed this podcast. This conversation is one that really touches on the “how” part of navigating through Mormonism after a paradigm shift rather than the “why” and this is exactly where I am sitting. If I really want to be a part of full blown Mormonism, how to engage in missionary work is a huge piece of the puzzle that I have to deal with.

    I appreciated the comments that were said regarding the need to have a dichotomy between faithful and real history. While I agree with the consensus that perhaps faithful history is real history, it is certainly not acceptable, at the institutional level at least, to embrace a more robust and truthful history.

    Great episode!

  6. I very much enjoyed this podcast as well. I served a mission, and though I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, I didn’t love it. Have never been a big fan of missionary work and as I have come to a different place in my faith, it is even more difficult to want to be engaged in missionary work, so I don’t.

    Very much appreciate the thoughts around what to teach or do with our kids when it comes to missions. I am still working through how we want to approach this with our own kids.

    Keep up the good work!

  7. This podcast has been very helpful for me. I got home from my mish about 16 years ago and really loved my mission. Also, during graduate school, I lived in a country where the church is not well-established, and so it felt like another year-long mission–just trying to be a support to the members/investigators, etc., and contributing countless hours to the church that year.

    But now, I avoid the missionaries like the plague. I feel SO badly about this, b/c I know they are working hard and have such good intentions. But I just don’t know how to handle my frustration w/ our missionary goals of trying to convert the whole world with the one and only truth.

    I will try to look for opportunities to interact with the missionaries in a helpful, but authentic way. I do hope the church can come up with some alternatives to the full-time proselyting mission. Time will tell.

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