The importance of actively participating in sharing the gospel is a prominent topic in contemporary Mormonism. For youth, there are big pushes to prepare for and serve a full-time mission. For parents, one of our most important calls is to raise future missionaries. We’re frequently called on to pray for inspiration about who in our lives might be open to hearing the gospel and having missionaries teach them, and we sometimes sit (often uncomfortably) in meetings where we are directly asked to commit to submit names for contact by missionaries. We’re occasionally asked to accompany ward and full-time missionaries as they meet with people in our area. And quite often we’re encouraged to prepare now for that time when our children are raised and we will have the chance to serve as senior couple missionaries, or perhaps as mission presidents.
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. Those of us in this situation are very likely aware of complications to the standard narratives of the restoration and how missionaries frame their introductions of the gospel and Joseph Smith and other prophets, which leads to some degree of internal turmoil about participating enthusiastically in formal or informal missionary work–or perhaps encouraging our children to serve. Many of us who are returned missionaries have strong memories of certain aspects of “missionary culture” that we would love to protect our children from, and for others of us, we ourselves had mission presidents with personalities or visions of the gospel and how it should be shared that we felt were ultimately toxic for our own faith.
In this episode, Kristine Haglund, Anthony Craiker, and Alice Fisher Roberts join Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon in a far-ranging discussion of these issues. Each panelist is a parent and faithful church member who is aware of complicating issues, so do they hope their children will choose to serve full-time missions? How much of their own nuanced worldviews would they share with their children ahead of their missions? What advice about mission service or descriptions of mission pitfalls would they offer their child before she or he serves a mission? Would they themselves feel comfortable actively participating in the teaching of a friend or acquaintance who expresses interest in perhaps joining the church? How many nuances or complicating views of Mormon teachings would they feel they need to share with these investigators before they could feel good about their getting baptized? What about their own possible futures as senior missionaries or mission presidents? If they were to go on a mission knowing what they know now, what would they emphasize now that might be different from what young elders and sisters might teach?
Please listen and then share your own experiences and reflections below!