Helping Mormon Missionaries Call Home

In my previous post, I suggested that Evangelicals should offer the use of their phones and their internet access to Mormon missionaries that visit their homes.  I suggested this not as a means of offering temptation to break the rules.  Instead, I suggested it as a means of showing kindness to someone who may desperately need the offer.

I recognize that Mormons are generally happy with their missionary program and see the rules and regulations associated with it to be appropriate and instituted with the best of intentions.  I’m not denying or questioning the sincere motivations that the LDS church may be operating under.  But I want to point out from an outsiders point of view what is happening in the daily life of a Mormon missionary.

Missionaries are:

  1. told that they must wear a standard uniform at all times that includes what type of underwear they must wear
  2. stripped of their first names
  3. told who they must live with
  4. responsible to observe and report any infractions they witness their companions commit
  5. required to be with their companions at all times
  6. limited to a small set of reading materials which only include religious text
  7. prohibited from television, newspapers and movies
  8. offered limited contact with family and friends and are told exactly when they can call their families
  9. typically eating a diet based mostly on cheap carbohydrates
  10. experiencing various levels of culture shock and may be almost completely removed from their native tongue
  11. in an enviornment where blessings and successes are often taught to be in direct proportion to personal worthiness
  12. not given control over their own passports
  13. committed to Church related activities nearly every waking hour of the day

I know that many feel there are perfectly good reasons for each of these items.  I’m not arguing the specifics, I am looking at the entire picture. I want to be clear;  I am NOT saying that the LDS church is a cult.   But in any other religious context, the sum of this checklist starts raising some flags of concern for me.   When you study real life cultic groups, this is the exact set of circumstances manipulative religious leaders put their followers into. It’s a breeding ground for emotional and spiritual abuse.

I am NOT saying that LDS Mission Presidents are committing emotional or spiritual abuse.  Nor do I think the LDS church is knowingly and willing setting up this situation so that spiritual and emotional abuse can happen.  But if just one Mission President is inclined to be abusive, the playing field has already been set perfectly for him to have a heyday on the hearts and minds of young men and women.

I heard Steve Hassan say that if you encounter people that you know are in a mind-controlling environment, such as Moonies or Hare Krishnas, you should offer your cell phone to them in case they’d like to call their families.  Their ability to use a phone may be severely limited and you may be giving them a lifeline out of an abusive situation.

I have no idea how the Mission President may be behaving in my area.  He’s most likely a kind and decent man who has no desire to harm the missionaries in his care.  But on the off-chance that he’s not kind and decent, I think it’s appropriate to offer LDS missionaries the knowledge that they have somewhere safe to come if they need to contact family or friends for any reason.

I am well aware that most Mormons enjoyed their missions quite a bit.  I am well aware that many feel nothing abusive ever happened in their experience.  I am not at all suggesting that Mormon missions are even frequently abusive.  I expect the vast majority of missionaries to turn down my offer.  I have no plans to push it on them or encourage them to call their families as a subtle way to undermine the LDS church.  But given the context the missionaries are living in, I think it’s appropriate for a non-Mormon to offer sanctuary to someone who may need it even if that chance is remote.

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223 thoughts on “Helping Mormon Missionaries Call Home

  1. That is a wonderful idea. I always thought it was very harsh to not allow these kids to call home. One missionary told me they were only allowed to call home on Christmas, maybe one other day. I think that is so sad that these kids don’t have access to their families. I would never put my child in a situation like that. These young adults still need love, support and contact with their families. It’s very sad. All that family time lost, especially for older couples who go on missions and have to be away from their children and grand kids. What a waste.

  2. So Tim, I am wondering here… what do you think the chances are of having TWO missionaries who are desperate to call home without permission? You’ve already pointed out that missionaries are with their companions at all times. So if one wanted to make an unauthorised call home and the other didn’t, I don’t see how this would happen, unless perhaps the one missionary were to take a cordless handset or cell phone with him/her into the bathroom and make the call from there, using very hushed tones just in case the well-meaning companion is camped outside the door.

    I do see your point and I can understand why you would want to offer the life-line. But I also think that the massive amounts of oversight that exist within the LDS mission program would make the potential abuse of power from above highly unlikely.

  3. what do you think the chances are of having TWO missionaries who are desperate to call home without permission? You’ve already pointed out that missionaries are with their companions at all times.

    At some point there would have to be some courage taken by the abused missionary to make the step, but at least he’d have some place to step toward. He might have to abandon his companion at some point to use my phone. I can’t clear the path, but I can still offer kindness.

    But I also think that the massive amounts of oversight that exist within the LDS mission program would make the potential abuse of power from above highly unlikely.

    Alex, you’re the very guy who said his dad was disfellowshipped for taking firewood to a friend. The higher-ups deferred to the local leadership in his appeals. If that isn’t an obvious contradiction to what you’re saying I don’t know what is.

  4. Pingback: How Should Evangelicals Approach Mormon Missionaries? « Summa Theologica – Interfaith Dialogue

  5. Tim, just wondering what your thoughts are about things like the Australian aboriginal’s walkabouts, Catholic monastic orders and such?

    I would also add that communication isn’t cut off, just the real time synchronous variety. I would also add that the extreme focus mormon culture has on the family adds a bit of complexity to things. For instance, my wife who isn’t a member really had no idea how family intense the culture really is – even though she grew up around mormons.

    I could also be easily convinced that this rule was a hold over from the days when phone calls were tremendously expensive and having a companion with a rich family have constant contact would add a fair bit of painful disparity. Now that long distance isn’t expensive, I suspect we just have post hoc justifications going on. Well established rules just grow their own explanatory discourses and end up being part of a larger cultural understanding of things. I’m sure someone could point out some biblical extrapolations with a similar evolution.

  6. Offering them a meal or even a cold glass of water is often appreciated too. I believe that they have a set amount of money for the month for food so a free meal might be a big blessing and a great time to share the gospel with the missionaries.

  7. Tim — Your motives for making such an offer are honorable.

    First, a couple quibbles about your characterization of a mission, and then my main points.

    The quibbles: The “standard uniform” isn’t warn at all times; at least in my son’s mission, they could wear “regular clothes” on preparation day. My son reported that he always had sufficient money to get the food he needed; he ate in members’ homes almost every evening; and he knew many missionaries that didn’t spend all their food allowance. In wealthy wards, they’d typically get taken out to eat several times a week, sometimes at pricey restaurants.

    Regarding communications, in many U.S. missions these days, missionaries carry cell phones. My son also had a long-distance phone card he could have used to make calls from almost any phone had he chosen to.

    The more important points: I agree that the opportunity for spiritual abuse exists on missions. I don’t know how often it occurs (rarely, I assume), and when it does I would make no excuse for it. That fact it happens in other religious environments (which I know from personal experience that it does) is no justification whatsoever.

    I agree with you, Tim, that there are inherent risks and causes for concern under a tightly controlled system like that. An awful lot of responsibility rests on the mission president to prevent problems. I have questions myself about which restrictions are necessary and which, as Sigo suggests above, are cultural holdovers. As I’ve said before, if I were in charge, there are things I’d likely do differently; but God hasn’t called me to such a position, so I deal with what is instead of talk about hypotheticals.

    One thing my wife and I have made very clear to our children is that, as much as we think going on a mission is a good thing to do, doing so is voluntary, period. They are under zero pressure from us to go on a mission. They’ve been taught the principles; it’s up to them to decide how they’re going to govern themselves. If they go on a mission, we’ll pay what they can’t for the mission; if they don’t go, we’ll still make sure they have the finances to get an education. It is totally up to them. And if they go, they know what type of lifestyle they’re agreeing to for the next 1.5 to 2 years.

    I have talked to missionaries who have gone on a mission only because it was expected by the family and/or culture, and I recently talked to missionary who told me that if he left his mission early he would, in effect, be disowned by his father. That is wrong. (Even sadder was that this missionary thought that was a good attitude for his father to have.) That approach sounds to me like a setup for disaster.

    I am sensitive to this issue of spiritual abuse. If I knew of a missionary where this was happening (or where the person was having difficulty coping and for some reason couldn’t talk to the mission president about it), I’d at the very least let him/her know that he/she could talk to me (or preferably my wife if it’s a female missionary) about what’s going on. Fortunately, I heard only good reports about my son’s mission president, and I’ve heard good things about the mission president in my local area, so I’m only talking theoretically here.

    I think that in some cases, such as for the missionary I mentioned above, a call home is the last thing a missionary in personal difficulty might need. But that’s a whole other issue for some other discussion.

  8. Tim,

    Why don’t you think the LDS church is a cult? Or fits the description of a cult?

    I also want to add, I wish someone would have offered me a phone when my mission president told me he was in love with me during an interview. I wanted to run out of that interview and run home!!!!!! INstead I was told to keep it “hush and hush” and not tell anyone. Looking back I was so shocked, so rocked…. I should have called home and told my parents to send me an air plane ticket or better yet come get their daughter.

    Gloria

  9. Eric, thanks for your charitable consideration of my motivations and your willingness to see where I am coming from.

    I totally acknowledge your quibbles and know that the specifics I listed are not always true for all missionaries. There are missions that do not allow missionaries to eat at members houses and I’ve seen more than one set of missionaries on their “P day” wearing suits and ties.

    Gloria,

    The short answer to why I don’t think Mormonism is a cult is that Mormons are willing to engage in intellectual debate about what they believe.

    I do believe the Mormon church to be a heretical sect of Christianity, which in one sense can be described as a cult. But using the word in that regard confuses people with dangerous mind-control groups. Outside of the missionary experience the Mormon church doesn’t exhibit the markers of such a group.

  10. “The short answer to why I don’t think Mormonism is a cult is that Mormons are willing to engage in intellectual debate about what they believe.”

    Tim, have you found this to be true of Mormons in general? I think that, outside of interactions with Mormon academic or Mormon apologists or the Mormon bloggernacle, there seems to be culturally widespread shut-down mechanisms in Mormonism designed to avoid substantive engagement over difficult historical and theological issues.

    “First of all, anti-Mormon literature, Internet sites, conversations, ideas, etc. are like spiritual pornography. Once they are in the mind, they are very difficult to get rid of. As you try to reach out to your husband, I would advise you to avoid any material, even if you think it might help you understand him better. You don’€™t want those seeds of doubt planted in your own mind, because no one is immune to them.” (>>)

    “Compare the majesty of this magnificent soul [Spencer W. Kimball] to the spiritual pygmies who hurl their own faithless frustrations upon the Church or try to drag others down to their level of empty faith. Elder Packer said, ‘They leave the Church but they can’€™t leave it alone’ (Utah State University baccalaureate address). They publish theological pornography that is damaging to the spirit. None of it is worth casting an eye upon. Do not read the anti-Mormon materials. That is not the way you resolve questions about the truthfulness of the restored gospel. Simply go back and read and ponder and pray about the Book of Mormon and you will know it is true. Those who try to dissuade us from the truth want to tear down what we have, but they do not have anything to replace it when it’€™s gone. A person who has sexual hang-ups should not read pornographic material as a means of dealing with his or her problem. Likewise, a person who is weak in the faith should not read pornographic theological material. It only destroys and takes away; it never replaces that which was lost.” (>>)

  11. Um… Tim, I am not the guy whose dad was disfellowshipped. I don’t remember off-hand who said that had happened, but it certainly wasn’t me. Sorry.

  12. Gloria if someone doesn’t call home or someone else they trust to report that type of an event things are really messed up.

    Regular reporting to district leaders, zone leaders, etc offer one possible avenue of redress, but if an entire mission is off the deep end, those established close contact options are probably not functioning to redress such events.

    I can’t in a million years imagine any companion (or other leader) worth their salt not trying to do something about it via any communication channels available. Why wouldn’t you call home to figure out what to do? Why wouldn’t your companion call home as well? Phones are easily available anywhere, heck even missionaries have them!

  13. Sigo, I think you’re grossly underestimating the power dynamics involved in something like Gloria’s horrible experience. Gloria is not the first person to be abused by someone in authority and keep her mouth shut–and, sadly, she won’t be the last.

    There are all kinds of reasons why people don’t report abuse, especially when the abuser has some real or perceived authority over the victim. This is one reason why it is absolutely CRUCIAL to mitigate these sorts of situations where possible, and create real safe havens and lifelines for individuals so trapped.

    Note that I am speaking generally here and have made no value judgment on the LDS mission system.

  14. This is one reason why it is absolutely CRUCIAL to mitigate these sorts of situations where possible,

    This is vague. What I am trying to say is:

    This is one reason why it is absolutely CRUCIAL to take every precaution possible to minimize and eliminate the situations and circumstances which breed abuse on an institutional level (though until we all live in complete utopia, power dynamics will always exist), and create real safe havens for individuals so trapped.

  15. Sigo,

    My mission president expressly told me to keep his confession of interest in me “quiet”. I was told that if I spoke about this to anyone, it would ” damage the Lord’s work on the mission”.

    I felt incredible pressure to be loyal to my Mission president and to the LDS church.

    I was a convert to the church, and my parents were not LDS. I couldn’t call them and divulge this, because frankly it made the LDS church “look bad”. They would have surely come out and packed me up on an airplane home!

    Looking back now, I can see my unhealthy response to this situation was a result of the unhealthy environment created for missionaries on missions, and the mind control that is inflicted in this kind of religious system.

    I also first had witnessed a companion of mine expierence spiritual abuse from a GA, ( area authority presidency in the area I served in) . My companion was ill and wanted to return home. We had hoped an interview with a GA would help… instead it ended up being an opporotunity for the GA to yell and scream at my companion and tell her how worthless she will be if she is discharged. Good grief, does that not constitute spiritual abuse?

    Or the time my husband and I sought counsel from a former stake president about a situation in primary where my then 6 yr old son, had been molested, and instead of receiving counsel and help my husband was yelled out by the Stake Pres for half an hour? Is that not spiritual abuse?

    It happens.

    Compare that to Christian missionaries who go out to evangelize. They are not cut off from their loved ones. They often return home for visits or holidays. They are free to dresss as they wish. They have the freedom to get up when they wish and sleep as they wish.

    Big difference.

    I hate to offend anyone here, but the LDS church’s missionary program is set up in such a way that could easily breed abuse.

    Regards,
    gloria

  16. Tim,

    With all due respect, I disagree with your assesment of the LDS church. After spending 19 yrs as a Mormon, I can honestly and sincerely tell you that it has many of the defining characteristics that would define it as a mind controlling cult.

    My expierence with resigning the LDS is a fine example. Regardless of my formal resignation from the LDS, and my express desire for no contact, the LDS continue to disregard my “agency” and send representatives to my home. The horror stories I could relate to you, of women who seek to leave the LDS church and the abuse inflicted upon them by their husbands would bring tears to your eyes. I mentor women thru a ministry that reaches out to Mormons, and their stories are all the same.

    I know you have a heart to witness to the LDS tim and God bless you for it, but I would love to sit down with you face to face over a cup of coffee and share .

    I think you would apt to change your mind.

    Kind regards,
    Gloria

  17. For the record folks, I do know that the LDS church is not the only Church that has to deal with spritual abuse. There are other churches out there that have struggled with issues of spiritual abuse within their eccliastical ranks.

    I just am in agreement with Katie, that churches should do all possible to create environments where abuse is less likely to take place or foster.

    Regards,
    gloria

  18. Gloria, it sounds like you have had a tremendous run of absolutely awful experiences. I am glad you are still ticking.

    Personally I take the view that organizations are by nature rather a-moral. Over time they evolve structures that correlate effort, but in doing so facilitate possible impropriety (or in your case – abuse). On the other side of things are loosely structured organizations which have trouble correlating/directing effort and diffuse impropriety to unregulated bodies with all the problems that occur thereby.

    There is a really good book by Alan Briskin, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Stirring-Soul-Workplace-Alan-Briskin/dp/157675040X/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254515362&sr=1-3""The stirring of soul in the workplace". He makes a rather good case that any initiative, good or otherwise, sews the seeds of its own demise. The caveat is those who are doing the creating usually can’t see the growing shadow. This goes for formal and informal organizations.

    I hope I don’t come across as mitigating power dynamics. Like you mention Katie, I think they are fundamentally unavoidable and personally tend to detest those who abuse power (to an extent that is probably not Christ like). One could say, as the new-atheists do, religion is a very dangerous tool. However it is also very positive. For organizations that have evolved into a tight hierarchical state a good balancing tendency may not be more structures and technocracy, but more autonomy and self-questioning routines.

    In that light I appreciate that missions are again leaning towards more autonomy (at lest in baby steps like the discussions). I also find mormonism’s unappreciated focus on spiritual tests (ie. the meme of Moroni’s promise) is a good, but underutilized balancing tool. There is a strong current in Mormonism to ask and expect spiritual answers. Add to that a diminished focus on infallibility due to a lay ministry and I think you have a good leverage point for exit from scenarios such as Gloria’s in a way that uses organizational strengths instead of just tearing down components that may have deeply spandreled moral significance.

    As an aside, I think this may be one reason Mormons tend to be quite offended when the Moroni meme is castigated. It is an important tool for questioning any spiritual voice – even if people don’t always use it to the extent they should. As such it provides part of a balance to tight hierarchy.

  19. Yes, calling someone a liar about a personal experience in a public forum is extremely classy, PC.

    If you don’t believe her, you can tell her so privately.

  20. Hello PC,

    In response to your comment, all I can say is :

    1 Sam. 16:7

    God knows my heart & knows that I am speaking the truth.

    It’s ok if you don’t believe me. God does & that is what counts. It’s understandable that you think that way.It’s hard for many LDS to accept anything even remotely negative about their faith. I understand.

    Hope you enjoy this fall day.

    Kind regards,
    Gloria

  21. Yeah, I can’t say that was too kosher.

    PM, one way to look at that comment is as the direct opposite to not believing anything good could come from a mission. Extreme positions do little to encourage real discussion.

    Hopefully interfaith dialog can find a ways to avoid setting the stage for things that will almost always lead to deep ditches being dug.

  22. Tim, if a missionary “desperately needs the offer” he’ll go to a phone and do it himself.

    If he’s not willing to go to a phone and do it himself, he’s not going to do it at your house either.

    So really, as well-intentioned as your suggestion was, I found it rather extraneous.

    If a missionary is really as brainwashed as you seem to think some of them are, he’s not going to accept your offer anyway.

    Nice thought though, I guess.

  23. “It’s hard for many LDS to accept anything even remotely negative about their faith. I understand.”

    Of course, this doesn’t apply to Protestant bloggers.

  24. “After spending 19 yrs as a Mormon, I can honestly and sincerely tell you that it has many of the defining characteristics that would define it as a mind controlling cult.”

    So did the early Christian Church under Paul.

  25. I would just like to point out that nearly everybody (including myself) seems to be in an especially pissy mood this week.

    That is all.

  26. Whitney,
    Please learn how to read.
    I did not call her a liar.
    I said I did not believe her.
    FWIW, I don’t hold private conversations with any apostate.

    A lot that gloria has written has been over the top unbelievable. I won’t tell you what I personally think goes on in her head. But I didn’t call her a liar.

  27. PC,

    Thank you so much for the compliment. :)

    I always wear my apostate badge with great honor.

    They called my Lord all kinds of names and called Him crazy too. Thank you.

    Regards,
    Gloria

  28. I suppose it’s not entirely proper for me to be arguing here during General Conference.

    I’d better get back to listening to Elder Uchtdorf.

  29. I agree with Seth. I don’t think an LDS missionary would jump at the chance to use the phone. It may be a kind gesture on the part of the non LDS host, but I highly doubt the Elder or Sister will take them up on it.

    I have heard of Elders making calls home from the homes of members or investigators/converts. ( people they trust and know well)

    For the record, I was not offered a phone to call home by anyone on my mission and never called home in the 18 mos I served. But then again, I served in South America and the phone bill would have been over the top for those families.

    Gloria

  30. Yeah, Gloria.
    But we both know that Jesus wasn’t crazy.
    What that means for you…

    Here’s the thing, Peeps.
    Gloria claims something that cannot be verified. We don’t even know who this person was. We cannot go and ask them to at least refute this, or confess. In science we have a saying, “trust but verify.” yet we only trust the trustworthy. And then we verify ourselves. We cannot verify. In her online relationship, in what she’s said, she has not proven herself trustworthy to me. Therefore I do not believe her.

    And, FTR, I never wrote that I couldn’t ever believe a MP could do such a thing, only that in this instance, I don’t believe the testator. It’s online, there’s no creedance. Hopefully, Sigo, you don’t really it’s that “extreme” to disbelieve someone. Nor do I think that “disbelieving Gloria” has any impact on positive or negative impact from a mission at all.

    And if a discussion is what you’re looking for, something more than an emotional “I was brainwashed on my mission” isn’t very conducive to a conversation. Sometimes the things you people believe really makes me wonder why the conversation is about Mormon’s being brainwashed. Quite frankly, a lot of the logical leaps I see some of you make, indicate it is you that have been brainwashed into the belief that “mormons are brainwashed.” Sad, but needed to be said…

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  32. I think the “extreme” is that things are absolutely true or absolutely false. Both camps can fall into this type of thinking. Would a dispassionate observer have drawn the same conclusions from those events? Maybe not, but neither does it negate every aspect. Reflective bias is inevitable (my mission was perfect, mine was abusive).

    From my perspective, throwing out trump card experiences is a great way to cut off discussion and set up confrontation. Mormons are seen as doing this with their focus on testimony, others with their stories of pain.

    Building on positive aspects of each other’s positions seems like a winning proposition all the way round. Maybe instead of helping missionaries phone home, how about helping them make a webcam message they can mail home on CD?

  33. Tim,

    I don’t think its necessarily wrong invite missionaries to use the phone but I would IMMEDIATELY recognize it as a sign that the person offering had no clue what mission life was about and who had some other agenda, or simply was mocking me in some way.

    Its like offering one of those Buckingham palace guards a chance to sit down and rest during their guard duty or laugh or talk, because its possible that his military experience is just too abusive. The guard can sit down at any time. He would just think you a naive fool for looking at him and his decisions this way. There is some outside chance that the guard has been brainwashed and emotionally abused into serving queen and country, but as an a general approach to dealing with a soldier, the approach is a disaster.

    The problem is not that you are being sensitive to the fact that some missionaries might be “abused” in some way, but that you are advocating this as a GENERAL approach to ALL missionaries. I think this betrays either a misunderstanding of or disrespect for the missionary’s choices and mission. Approaching missionaries with this attitude will hamstring any chance at real mutual understanding, and probably counter-productive.

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  35. PC,

    That was rude. You said you didn’t believe her, which means you didn’t think she was telling the truth about what happened, which means you think she’s lying. Sorry if I misinterpreted it, but apparently everyone else who commented afterward did as well.

    And since you don’t communicate with apostates, don’t bother emailing me about DC information. Because I don’t feel like holding private conversations with people who insult my intelligence.

  36. Whitney,
    Just because others use bad logic doesn’t excuse anyone here. I wrote what I wrote, and I did not write “Gloria is a liar.” I don’t believe Gloria != Gloria is a liar. Life would be a lot easier of I was only held accountable for things I have actually written than ones I have not.

    Not trying to be rude, just accurate about I have and have not said.

  37. PC,

    If you don’t believe me, that is your personal choice.

    But my expierences are certainly not singular. Many LDS have expierenced spiritual abuse. Have you visited ex-mormon.org lately and read the stories there?
    So is everyone who ever says they had a bad expierence with the LDS church lying?

    I mentioned before, the LDS church is certainly not the only church/orginization that has issues with this.

    Are you saying that it doesn’t happen at all?

    I asked you in a previous post, how long have you been LDS and whether you have ever witnessed / expierenced spiritual abuse in the LDS church?

    Kind regards,
    gloria

  38. gloria,

    Half the stuff on exmormon.org is a bunch of bitter teenagers ranting about how mommy, daddy, their bishop, and just about everyone else in their life failed to wipe their noses for them. I wouldn’t be surprised if about a 4th of the stuff on their is just teenagers making crap up.

    The grammar and spelling is certainly typically about middle school level.

    Last time I visited exmormon.org, it was a bunch of guys laughing about how all those people dying in Martin’s Cove wasn’t a big deal because “the Cherokee Indians suffered more” and the Mormons should quite being such “crybabies” about their history.

    Classy place.

  39. Hi Gloria,

    But my expierences are certainly not singular.

    While that’s certainly your assumption, it is by no means a proven or stipulated fact. I recognize that you accept it as a fact, however. I have never felt a reason to visit the cesspools of post-Mormon blogs. I have spoken with people who have left the church, but I can’t think of a helpful reason to visit a group who are all feeding off of the hatred and anger towards the LDS church.

    So is everyone who ever says they had a bad expierence with the LDS church lying?

    While that may have a high probability of occurring, that’s actually not what I wrote. But I guess you may not understand the phenomenon that occurs when a bunch of people get together and try to one-up one another. It’s not just a guy-in-locker-room problem.

    FTR, I’m 28, and have been a Mormon all my life. I’m still single, so I’m certainly not someone simply for whom life has been the standard Mormon model. I didn’t enjoy my mission at all, and am currently severely estranged from many in my current ward. I went to BYU, and had hair about five” long, and have always fought against Mormon culture. I’m not someone simply towing the party line. My roommate would certainly find it entertaining that you simply assume I close my errors to the problems in Mormon culture. The problem is, for all the bad things done to me by Mormons, I have never experienced or witnessed “spiritual abuse.” That includes serving as mission secretary for 6 months, executive secretary for a year, gospel doctrine teacher for a year, and in several EQpresidencies (never EQP, thankfully).

    Any emotional abuse that I have observed or experienced (and there has been much) hasn’t been under the hands of a leader. I hold no views of inerrancy, but your explanation of the LDS church is simply like a different organization, in some alternate reality that bears no resemblance to anything I’ve ever experienced. Sometimes, we’ve also referred to the same talk given by a GA, and you have these messed up views, that are the most cynical, distrusting and miscontextualized possible. It’s like I’m hearing you say 2+2 = 14. Somewhere in your head your adding another 10 to the sum, but the extra evidence is coming from your own brain (created out of nothing) instead of from the reality.

    What I have had experience with is those who are mentally ill, depressed or otherwise “inventing” reasons to prove why they shouldn’t be in the church. I have experienced spiritually manipulative members who do everything they can do bring others down to their levels. Those who misrepresent meetings that I’ve been a part of, or who apply motives (which they can’t possibly know), when they misinterpret what others say (“As a daughter of God, I care about your spiritual well being” being interpreted as a “come-on.” This is something I witnessed myself). The reasons for these are many. But what it really boils down to is that there are a lot of mentally ill people out there who haven’t learned valid and effective ways of dealing with their problems. And instead of finding an effective way, they descend into a pit of anger where they (subconciously) plot on the best way to “hurt the church.” Then there are the worst kind of people, who after buying into their own delusions about why they shouldn’t be in the church, begin spreading lies, rumors, unsubstantiated claims about why others shouldn’t be in the church. I’ve met just too many of them personally, and too few of the supposed “spiritual abusers” to believe that Mormons are all “spiritual abusers.”

    In the effort of being completely honest, I will share one experience of spiritual abuse. This was at the hands of my 25 y/o brother, who although married, is not any church leader of any import. To his credit, he isn’t trying to hurt me, yet many of his actions would fall under a form of emotional abuse, that borders on spiritual matters. But, as he holds no ecclesiastical authority over me, I don’t really think that counts. But hopefully that shows you I’m really trying to be as honest as possible.

  40. Exmormon.org can be pretty bad. I understand the therapeutic need to vent, but they really take it too far. It’s one of the few places where I’ll post under an alias when I do post there (which is rare) because I don’t want anyone to see me there. It makes me feel dirty.

    OTOH, every time I visit MADB and someone relates a bad experience with the church, all the TBMs basically chime in with, “I’ve never heard of anything like that!” or “Not in my ward.” My favorite are the men who claim they’ve never heard of YW being taught bad chastity metaphors involving licked cupcakes, chewed gum and boards with nails in them. Because I’m sure men spend lots of time in YW classrooms.

  41. Seth,

    I agree that exmormon.org is not the most “classy” place for sure. There are a lot bitter folks there. But , with that said, I can’t believe that all the things shared there are all “made up”. There are other forums as well that share ex mormon’s expierences with the LDS faith. I also participate in an online forum for former mormons who are transitioning into Biblical christianity, and again there are many that have expierenced some really tough things while they were LDS. It happens.

    Again, as I said before, the LDS church certainly is not the only church that may struggle with spiritual abuse in its church government. It can certainly happen else where.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

    ps. I really am not interested in grammar and spelling too much. I guess I just look past that stuff and try to get to heart of things vs. focusing on someone’s grammar.

  42. A place that makes Jack feel dirty! And Gloria wants ME to go there! No way, man.

    FTR, I’ve heard of MADB once before. From Jack’s descriptions in the past, I had already decided I’d never go there.

  43. PC, I appreciate your trying to be honest and forthright in your last post.

    I’m concerned, though, by this statement and a couple others like it:

    What I have had experience with is those who are mentally ill, depressed or otherwise “inventing” reasons to prove why they shouldn’t be in the church

    Remember that just as an “apostate’s” poor experiences do not necessarily reflect the universal experiences of church members worldwide, neither do YOUR experiences with people who have left the church necessarily reflect the universal state of mind of those who leave.

    In other words, not everyone who leaves the church is mentally ill, depressed, or “inventing reasons” why they shouldn’t stay.

    Some people really do find more spiritual fulfillment outside the church than within. Some people really have been abused by leaders. Some people honestly have well-thought-out legitimate concerns about important issues like doctrine, policies, and procedures.

    I’m speaking generally here so as to sidestep the mire of the current discussion and focus on the big picture. But I think it’s important to keep in mind that people have all kinds of reasons for staying AND leaving…and sometimes their reasons for staying are unhealthy, and sometimes their reasons for leaving are unhealthy–and vice versa.

    It is charitable to keep this in mind.

  44. gloria,

    I didn’t say all the stories there were untrue, and I carefully worded my comment to avoid saying that.

    But we’ve been lied about too many times by people who really are mentally ill, or just plain vindictive to really trust narratives that a bunch of angry people are tossing around without even pretending to be balanced about it.

    exmormon.org is basically one big therapy session gone out of control. It’s an ugly, spiteful cesspool on the internet motivated primarily by unfocused rage, and pure vengeance motives.

    Any Christian ought to be ashamed for supporting such an organization (if it qualifies as that much).

  45. Katie:
    Re Grammar,
    I know exactly what you mean. I read my past posts and find spelling and grammar errors. It’s so embarrassing. That’s why I know use Mozilla (because it automatically checks spelling), and I prefer posting on my own blog (where I can fix spelling mistakes).

    FWIW,
    I’m not trying to pigeon-hole or explain everyone who leaves the LDS church. I’m trying to provide a general defense of various people who attack the LDS church non-truthfully, but I don’t believe are necessarily vicious liars. I’ve just met too many people who’ve convinced themselves of the complete “badness” of the LDS church, irrespective of neutral knowledge, who “really believe” it now. There is a difference between rejecting someone’s claims as true and describing them as a liar–that should be my poorly explained or poorly defended point.

  46. Seems like I need to do a post on statistics. I will and then will link it here.

  47. PC & Seth ~~

    Are you gentlemen in a round about way saying those who leave like “me” are mentally ill, depressed, & “vindictive”?

    Oh my, here we go again. A former mormon shares less than lovely things about the LDS faith, and here comes the Mormons out to personally attack the person. Sigh.

    I guess you really do have to attack the person, because my goodness, it just may be too difficult or painful to look even remotely consider that the LDS church is less than what is claims to be.

    *This is so telling gentlemen.*

    My faith compells me to respond differently.

    I don’t feel the need to defend myself further. Let God judge my heart. I think your responses say enough about the LDS faith to speak volumes.

    Regards,
    gloria

  48. … I know exactly what you mean. I read my past posts and find spelling and grammar errors. It’s so embarrassing. That’s why I know use Mozilla (because it automatically checks spelling) …

    What a good laugh to start out the morning with!

  49. Are you gentlemen in a round about way saying those who leave like “me” are mentally ill, depressed, & “vindictive”?

    No, Gloria. I didn’t write that. What I wrote is that people who say non-truths about the LDS church because it makes their departure easier are mentally ill. I am certain that there are some former mormons who fit this bill, absolutely certain. But I have not gone so far as to say that all who leave are mentally ill, and wouldn’t.

    All I’m saying is that you claim something is there which I’ve never seen any trace of. I’m not really known as one who turns a blind I to bad things in Mormon culture (see my series on “Wars against Cultural Mormonism”). I mean, it looks like your telling us all about the Emperor’s New Clothes, and I see straight thru to the naked truth, so to speak.

  50. I have no way to know whether Gloria is accurately reporting what happened (although I don’t doubt her sincerity). What I do know is that most men who would engage in that type of abusive behavior seem to have a knack for knowing who wouldn’t call them on it, much less report it. That sort of thing does happen (not quite the same thing, but not too far from here there’s a man now in federal prison because, while he was a stake president, he showed up with flowers at the home of what he thought was a teenage girl he met in an Internet chat room). I don’t think it happens more often or less often in the LDS church than in other churches.

    KL said:

    I’m speaking generally here so as to sidestep the mire of the current discussion and focus on the big picture. But I think it’s important to keep in mind that people have all kinds of reasons for staying AND leaving…and sometimes their reasons for staying are unhealthy, and sometimes their reasons for leaving are unhealthy–and vice versa.

    Well said.

    Gloria asked of someone else:

    How long have you been LDS and whether you have ever witnessed / experienced spiritual abuse in the LDS church?

    I have been LDS for well over a decade and haven’t experienced or directly witnessed it.

    We did have a situation involving the attire of one of our children that was handled poorly by a church person with some authority and involved judgmentalism and that sort of thing, but it didn’t rise to the level of abuse (but, at one point, close). If it had involved a child with poor esteem, it could have been much more damaging than it was.

    On the other hand, I have talked with people whom I don’t doubt of various types of spiritual abuse, a couple of them involving cases where a woman was disciplined in a sexual situation while the man involved was either advanced in the priesthood or got a “higher” calling afterward.

    Grrrrr.

    Growing up in an evangelical church, I wasn’t abused per se, but a climate of judgmentalism and quite a bit of “if you really believed in Jesus you wouldn’t have doubts or ever be sad” teaching certainly helped make me miserable at times. I would say that much of the teaching was abusive in a sense; I don’t want to throw a word like “abuse” around and cheapen it. Certain other things, too, made for something other than a spiritually uplifting experience. (Eventually, the church where this much of this occurred imploded in part because of incidents that involved blatant abuse, and I believe there was a connection between the climate I experienced and what happened later.)

    And as a evangelical, I had friends who were subject to various kinds of religious abuse (although I didn’t realize it until much later). Such behavior knows no denominational boundaries.

    My favorite are the men who claim they’ve never heard of YW being taught bad chastity metaphors involving licked cupcakes, chewed gum and boards with nails in them. Because I’m sure men spend lots of time in YW classrooms.

    I must confess I’ve heard those only in the blogosphere. I have heard the parable of the frog in hot water, however, which is problematic in its own way, at least in the way I’ve heard it used.

  51. gloria, I don’t consider you any more mentally sick than me or anyone else on the internet.

    I do consider you to be emotionally clouded in judgment when it comes to Mormonism. But not mentally unstable.

  52. But yeah, exmormon.org is basically a “wretched hive of scum and villainy.” I have little good to say about it, and people who support it get little credibility with me.

  53. Eric, you’re always well-reasoned and fair when you comment. I appreciate that a lot. :)

    I think you’re absolutely right that abuse knows no boundaries. Because of that fact, ALL churches and organizations owe it to their members to do their best to prevent it.

    In the case of the LDS church, I think they do a great job of striving to stamp out things like sexual and physical abuse–probably because the lines here aren’t very blurry. If you hit someone, for example, or touch them inappropriately, there’s NO QUESTION whatsoever that it’s abusive. The church is unambiguous that these forms of abuse are wrong, and even take hugely precautions, like windows on classroom doors where kids are being instructed, disallowing missionaries from even holding children, and requiring two people to ALWAYS teach primary classes where possible.

    It’s the psychological and spiritual side of things where I think we’ve got room for improvement. And this is difficult, because the lines are much more blurry. After all, I’m sure those who are completely convinced of the rightness of their position have difficulty determining where the line is between “enforcing God’s law with “tough love” and being unhelpful and even abusive? Heck, they might not even realize that such a line exists!

    I’m not sure there’s a cut-and-dried answer, but there ARE policies that seem to make it easier for abuse to thrive, i.e. some of the things we’ve been discussing here, like the strictness of mission rules, as well as dubious practices like grown men interviewing children in a closed-door room about their sexuality.

    Get rid of (or at the very least modify) some of these relics, and I think we’ll have come a loooong way in making it clear that we’re willing to sacrifice some group cohesion to protect people from spiritual and psychological abuse and harm.

    And Jack, thanks for fixing my comment. It seriously kept me up all night.

    Not really. ;)

  54. Does there actually need to be a debate about whether human weakness is more or less prevalent among Mormons (or non-Mormons)?

    The fact that there are millions of Mormons who never have experiences like Gloria’s tells us they are pretty normal.

    The fact that Gloria had experiences like she did, tells us that Mormons are pretty normal.

    Gloria, you seem to be over generalizing your experience, nothing of the criticisms you are making seem at all distinctive to Mormons and Mormonism.

    PC, you seem to be hyper-defensive and in some degree of denial that Mormons are just people like everyone else. Flatly refusing to believe Gloria’s testimony seems either pigheaded or incredibly naive.

    Mormons are people just like everyone else. (It never suprises me that they act like such.) Is anybody really going to argue against that proposition?

  55. Pingback: Remedial Statistics « I Love Gellies

  56. Jared, disbelieving someone doesn’t make someone pigheaded or naive.

    Disbelieving someone on the internet shows maturity, not naivety. OTOH, mindlessly believing everything anyone on the internet tells you betrays serious naivety.

    Being Pigheaded means being obstinate or stupid. I have three times now asked for any evidence. I have not received any. I have heard an accusation. But some people with any education know that an accusation is not evidence. I would even claim that those who accept an accusation as evidence are stupid (and hence pigheaded), but maybe that’s just me.

    Jared, Whitney, Katie, and Gloria. I ask you all to be a bit more honest about what I have (and have not claimed). I have never claimed it is impossible for a church leader to do something wrong. I have simply stated a disbelief that what was described was true. And I think Jared and Seth explain why, the person telling the story has NOT proven themselves trustworthy in the past. I have never stated, implied or otherwise that Mormons aren’t like everyone else. Quite frankly, this is a bad interpretation on the part of you four. I get a little snippy when people put words in my mouth. So I apologize, but seriously people, stop misquoting me.

  57. I think a lack of people problems in the LDS Church would be prime evidence that it wasn’t the true Church.

    It would basically show that we are not reaching out to the people we need to reach out to.

  58. PC,

    I already apologized for misinterpreting something you wrote. Frankly, some of the things you write just don’t come across clearly to the rest of us, and your tendency to throw increasingly bitter responses at anyone who calls you out on something is tiring.

    I would write more, but I’m tired of spending energy on this. Thank you for the apology, now please stop bringing me back into the conversation.

  59. Seth,

    You mentioned that you think exmormon.org is a “wretched hive of scum an villiany”………

    I agree, the expierences shared there do seem mired with bitterness. With that said, I am willing to extend grace, love and mercy to the lost there.

    There are many there who absolutely have broken hearts. No doubt abou it.

    Bottom line, they need Jesus.

    I need Jesus too.

    We all need Jesus.

    enjoy the day, it is positively gorgeous out ~~

    gloria

  60. Gloria,

    I don’t go to casinos and try to redeem compulsive gamblers.

    But I’d be happy to welcome one to church or home teach one.

    If anyone at exmormon.org is willing to come out of the cesspool and breath the air, I’ll be there to greet them. But I’m not wading into the septic tank to go talk to them.

  61. ” I don’ t go to casinos and try to redeem compulsive gamblers”.

    Ok, Seth. That’s a fair statement of what “you” wouldn’t do………

    *But *

    Jesus would.

    Ok, well there were not “casinos” in his day……

    But He definately did what the religionists felt was a “no no ”

    He hung out with lepers…….

    prositutes……

    tax collectors…..

    drank water from the Samaritan woman……..

    demon possesed women flocked to Him…….

    Today, Christians go to the “cesspools” and proclaim Christ.

    That is what is so amazing about the GOOD NEWS.

    It’s for the sick, the afflicted……and the religionists still cry out ‘ ick’ I don’t want to go there.

    yeah, the mentally ill……..
    the drug addict………
    the guy in prison locked up because he shot a person……
    the woman imprisoned for being a street walker……..

    How do I know?

    Because each monday night a team from my church goes down to the local prison and goes to that ‘cesspool’ you call it, and proclaims JESUS. I know of many other churches that do the same.

    Have you ever held the hand of a person coming off drugs…. shaking like a leaf, and telling them Jesus can heal them?

    You should try it sometime.
    It’s humbling, awesome and amazing.

    That’s the JESUS I know, Seth.

    That’s the JESUS written about in the BIble.

    I would rather hang out with a gambler any day than a religionist. I think I am safe to say, Jesus would too.

    Regards,
    gloria

  62. Wrong gloria.

    Jesus didn’t go into the equivalent of brothels and casinos either.

    He ate dinner with them.

    And so would I.

    Big difference.

  63. And don’t preach to me about ministering to people gloria.

    I’m a bankruptcy attorney. And I do housecalls. I’ve had hardened criminals, scared single moms, once proud-but now humiliated old men, homosexuals estranged from family, alcoholics, the rich, the poor, an amazing variety of people as clients.

    I go to their homes. Some are filthy hovels. Others are respectable suburban palaces. All people share one thing in common – they are hurting and in distress and I help them out of it. I help them push the reset button on their lives.

    So you don’t need to preach to me about meeting people. I do it every day, without judgment.

    But don’t try to tell me that Jesus ministry is an example of going to a gambling hall to help out gamblers. The gamblers came to him and he welcomed them with open arms.

  64. In the parable of the prodigal son, the father didn’t hike out to the pigstye and drag his son back home.

    He offered warm and unconditional welcome when the SON “came to himself” and went home.

  65. Seth,

    With all due respect, I think your jesus is completely a different Jesus than the one I’m talking about. Radically different.

    I much rather prefer to hang out with the Jesus who ate with prostitutes and lepers than the pharasees.

    He came for the sick , Seth.

    Regards,
    gloria

  66. There’s no point in talking to you gloria if you are going to stubbornly ignore what I actually write.

    I said he ate with prostitutes.

    Or were you not paying attention to my actual post and instead thinking of your own personal rebuttal?

  67. I read what you wrote, Seth.

    He ate with prostitutes,

    Healed demon possesed souls…

    touched lepers…..

    drank water from the “unclean” samaritan woman…..

    From what I read in the NT, seth Jesus pretty much spent most of His time with sinners.

    He did not spend his days with religionists discussing how the heavens were created.

    He spent HIS short life extending salvation, grace & healing to the sick, the afflicted and the sinner.

    The same ones that you would find in casinos, prisons, and on the streets of our cities shooting up with heroine……

    That’s the kind of Jesus I know and love and worship.

    Regards,
    gloria

  68. No, you didn’t read what I wrote gloria. Or if you did, you totally didn’t get it.

    I said. JESUS ATE WITH PROSTITUTES.

    I said it. Several times.

  69. Seth —

    I hear you.

    Not sure why you feeling like yelling.( all caps is yelling)

    Sorry you are so upset with me seth. This hasn’t been the first time you are upset with me , and most likely not the last.

    Brian —

    It may seem like I am being “tough” with Seth.
    And in some ways I am.
    I’m calling a spade a spade.
    I am respectfully disagreeing with “who” He thinks Jesus was and is.

    I am boldly proclaiming that Jesus would most definately be found preaching in prisons, casinos, and yeah even on exmormon.org…… Jesus came to save the sick not the well.

    Religionists don’t like that message, Brian.

    I seem to recall, the religionists in the time of Jesus didn’t like His methods or theology either.

    Kind regards,
    Gloria

  70. gloria, I put it in all caps because you seemed to miss it the first three times I said it.

    Did you see it this time? Will you acknowledge that I believe that Jesus ate with prostitutes? Or will you continue trying to talk to the caricature you would like me to be in this discussion?

  71. And you have zero textual evidence that Jesus would have gone somewhere like exmormon.org.

    Your dining with prostitutes example isn’t even close to getting you there.

  72. P.S.

    Brian — Let me point out to you , I am not the one “yelling” here. I think Seth can take the credit for that. :)

    Hey guys, I’ve said enough. God is good, Jesus still saves and I’m heading outside to enjoy this gorgeous fall day with my family!

    I’m proud to belong to Jesus.

    He purchased me on Calvary.

    The cross is still rugged and the blood still stains.

    Enjoy the day all ~~

    gloria

  73. gloria: I don’t think you’re being “tough,” I think you’re being mean.

    And, to be clear, I’m not taking sides in your dispute about who Jesus was and is.

  74. Seth: cool down, bro. You’re angry and justifiably so, but your anger isn’t going to develop into something good.

  75. Seth,

    Like I said before, I believe the jesus you are speaking about is someone completley different than the one I worship, love & adore.

    I don’t need “textual evidence”…….I need Jesus.

    I am not Jesus as you said. Hell no, I am not. You are spot on.

    Yes, I read what you said about the prostitue and jesus eating with her.

    But I honestly don’t think you “get” what I’m saying here, Seth and it’s ok. I’m not here to impress you or gain your approval or anyone elses.

    I am here to lift the name of Jesus and proclaim the awesome good news of Christ Crucified and I say it again He came for the sick, and the sinner.

    Hey, have a great day – it’s gorgeous out and now I really am going to head out and shoot some hoops with my kiddos. :)

    Gloria

  76. Brian,

    I disagree, I am not being “mean”. Bold, yes… mean .. no.

    I have not called seth or PC or any mormon here “depressed, mentally ill” … or “emotionally clouded”…..

    I have not yelled ( using caps)……

    I have not labeled anyone a “wretched hive of scum and villianly”……

    I think Brian your fellow mormon brothers have done that, eh?

    Their words speak volumes.

    I’m not being mean, Brian …. I am speaking the truth and some here don’t like it.

    Kind regards,
    Gloria

  77. Gloria: I don’t care whether you are speaking the truth or not. I don’t care who here is my “fellow mormon brother.” I don’t care who used caps.

    I do care that you seem passionate about something but the way you share it is counterproductive. I do care that, in my opinion, you will be less happy as a result. I do care that you have nice weather and a chance to enjoy some time with your kids.

  78. I think this failed discussion is great evidence of the shadow that resides in all good intentions.

    I suspect Gloria thought her experience would somehow be beneficial. This has, however, created anything but a Christ like encounter. As with organizations, even the best intentioned ministry is responsible for the negativity it (wittingly or unwittingly) creates. This can’t be rationalized away as a natural consequences of false ideas/belief – doing so is tremendously ironic and grossly irresponsible.

    I suspect PC thought trying to inject balance into an emotional trump card would be beneficial. The good intentions of finding speaker/interpreter power balance is never without pain and can easily swamp any possible benefits of objectivity.

    So my 2c of preaching – If we really want to minister to people and yet can only build up others by first establishing our own power dynamics or projecting our own malformed histories, I think our own skills of ministry are seriously unbalanced. Corinthians 12 seems apt to the balance of ministry skills:

    1 Cor 12: 23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness

    If we can’t build others up without first tearing any part of them down, I suspect our own ministry skills need less ungainly concentration and more reliance on the gradual guiding hand of the Lord. In that regard, I wonder what, as (see Paul in 1 Cor 12says, are the “best gifts” to covet for ministry? I suspect it is less of our natural gifts of judgement and more of our divine gifts of empathy and reflecting light.

    Don’t know how that applies to missionaries at the door, but I suspect others can figure that out.

  79. You see sigo…

    That comment of yours just suddenly instills in me feelings of white hot rage. I feel some ALL CAPS coming on. And possibly italics if I could ever remember how to make the darn things work…

    Jack,

    My normal conversational voice is nowhere near that soothing.

  80. Having read the recent dialog that has developed here, I can’t help but remember the time on my mission when a guy I was speaking with kept repeating the same things over and over again. Sadly, I fell into the trap and kept saying the same things in response. I failed to take the opportunity to actually listen to him.

    I have learned, though, and I try to always listen to the other person, and then responding to their words, not the person. If I don’t understand, I ask them to tell me more. I’m not always successful at this, but it seems to work much better than mimicking a broken record.

  81. Well hello, everyone, it’s your friendly neighborhood Methodist here to say something about faith (for once).

    I found out something interesting today. Today is World Communion Sunday, where the mainline protestant denominations place special focus on the meaning of Communion and how we share in the Body of Christ (despite theological differences). Our scripture this evening included 1 Corinthians 11:18, where Paul chastises members of the church for being rowdy, rude, and exclusive in their observance of the Lord’s Supper.

    I had to smile as I sat there listening to my pastor’s message about community and respect and open tables, and most of all, unity. I know we’re all of different minds about who’s right, who’s out of line, and how to best respect each others views. But maybe, since it’s Sunday, and since today those mainline protestants/apostates like me are feeling pretty inspired about coming together to celebrate Christ in the most basic way we know, we can all just take a deep breath and put aside our pissyness for just a little while and then try again later, or move on to our next topic of discussion.

  82. You know… where this this get from “Share a phone” to “WRETCHED HIVE OF SCUM AND VILLAINY!!!!

    It’s funny though….

    Personally I think Tim’s not going far enough.. I invite them for one of my famous pool parties ! Belgian beer, pulled pork sandwiches and ribs, laptops with internet, cell phones all around and usually a bunch of teenagers smoking… Gives them lots of apostates to talk to !

    It sure got me out of Opus Dei and helped me get rid of my cilice ;-)

    All kidding aside.. just inviting them in to sit down, have a glass of water (some even will accept a caffeine free soda !) and start having a conversation works. None of them have come back to ask for the phone though. And yes, I have a hard time calling them elder. Some of them will start trusting you enough with their first name. Some of them don’t. What I do find interesting is that it’s usually both or neither. Can’t recall if I ever had one and not the other. But I’ll start observing.

    PS: Most of the internet is a cess pool… exmormon is no exception

  83. FWIW I hardly think Seth can be blamed for not witnessing at a place he is expressly banned from witnessing at.

  84. I am Tim?

    Huh.

    That’s news to me. Although, I’m pretty sure I would end up banned there after only a couple days of activity.

    Do they have a policy or something?

  85. I think Tim’s characterization is a bit extreme.

    If I had been abused as a missionary, I would have used a calling card to call home while my comp was in the shower.

    Or talked to the area president when he came to visit.

    Or talked to my companion and the district leader and the zone leader and the AP’s to get their counsel.

    Or talked to my mission president’s counselor.

    Or talked to the bishop of the ward in which I was serving.

    Or written to the Church Missionary Department.

    Or the First Presidency.

    The list goes on….

    I think it is kind of Tim to offer help in the event an emergency were to arise, but come on, we’re not these caged animals with no way to contact the outside world other than twice a year phone calls to home. Hell, I called my sister a few days before her wedding, with my companion in the room, just because I damn well felt like it.

    Honestly, in cases like this, I find the “pity” of non-Mormons condescending and offensive. Don’t pity us. We signed a paper, willingly accepted the mission call, knowing the rules, etc. Don’t look at us like, “Oh, you poor babies, look at you all cooped up with your excessively strict mission rules.” It just comes across as condescending. I signed a paper acknowledging that I would do my best to follow mission rules, and willfully served my Savior in dedicating my life for two years to preaching His gospel. I have no desire to be pitied by someone who thinks I’m wasting my time. I served honorably and faithfully, and the sacrifices I made were worth it to me. A hundred times over. I found much joy in those two years, and I saw many lives change for the better, including my own. I do not want your pity.

    (Disclaimer – empathy is different than pity, and offering a phone in case of an emergency is not automatically pity. As a missionary, I appreciated empathy for the sacrifice I was making, but not pity.)

  86. From the Discussion Board Guidelines at ExMormon.org here:

    “This is not a debate board for Mormons to defend the faith. Mormons have many other venues to debate and proclaim their religion. Please allow us our little corner of cyberspace. This board is for those who were once believers and for their friends, families and interested individuals to learn of the cultural aspects of Mormonism.”

    Posting at RfM is the equivalent of holding up a “Keep Away” sign to active Mormons. The people there don’t want to be reached and re-activated.

  87. OTOH, mindlessly believing everything anyone on the internet tells you betrays serious naivety.

    But… the Internet, and all of its content… is TRUE!

    I had to smile as I sat there listening to my pastor’s message about community and respect and open tables, and most of all, unity.

    Whitney–you go to a different church? Dang you. Color me offended. You haven’t even invited me once–not even to share in ‘everyone share communion day’. :P

    (In case that’s not obvious, totally kidding)
    (Only to Whitney. Not about the Internet being True.)

    I definitely know stories of spiritual abuse, both within and outside of the church. Any kind of abuse is bad and should be stopped.

    I do think that there are some aspects to the organization of the LDS Church that can lend itself to abuse–whether it is abuse of a person’s emotional or physical well being, or due to a betrayal of confidence that would be considered an abuse of power.

    My experience within the Church was, thankfully, abuse-free. My bishops and stake presidents were always kind men, and even though I am generally uncomfortable with men in positions of authority due to situations in my history that aren’t really relevant here. I received good advice from stake presidents, I learned a lot from these men, and in different callings I had (like when I was in the RS Presidency) I was able to see the inner workings of the local leadership, and it was clear that people were doing their best to do their best.

    Extending an offer to missionaries in the way that Tim describes it doesn’t seem offensive to me, because I believe that when Tim does it, he does it out of love and charity. I wouldn’t let Kullervo offer the same, nor would I feel comfortable extending the offer, unless extenuating circumstances applied (like, if a missionary asked, I would let them). It would always be on a case-by-case basis.

  88. Believe it or not Jack, I actually respect that comment policy.

    They are entitled to their corner of the internet, and I would certainly respect that stance.

  89. Oh, katyjane, I’m embarrassed. You are ALWAYS welcome to visit my church, and as a special bonus, we meet at 5:30, so you don’t even have to get up early! (As a special bonus, we use Hawaiian bread and Welch’s grape juice for communion, so the Lord’s Supper is especially yummy.) And I will happily make you dinner afterward to make it worth your while!

  90. I wasn’t offering an opinion on it, Seth. Just citing it. I don’t really blame them for telling apologists to keep away.

    I think Tim makes a good point though. Gloria doesn’t have any grounds to be chiding you for not trying to reach out to people there when you aren’t even allowed there.

  91. Tim ~ I haven’t weighed in on this yet because I’ve been a little undecided on the issue (and because I have a very zealous new LDS commentator at my blog writing walls o’ text taking up my time). There’s no question what we would do in my household—my husband would never let me offer to have the missionaries break mission rules—but if I theoretically could pick either, I think I would have to come down on the side of not offering the phone call.

    I remember even when I was taking the discussions in 1998-1999, some of the missionaries had cell phones. Ten years later and I’m considered freak of nature for not having one. Most of the missionaries whom I’ve met have cell phones and could call home if they really needed to.

    Offering them a phone call could also make it look like you’re trying to get them to break their mission rules, kind of like offering them coffee. I mean sure, since you’re evangelical you can feign ignorance, but the truth is you’re not ignorant, and some Mormons have pretty good BS detectors on these things.

    I also find it hard to imagine that a missionary could be in such an abusive situation that s/he has no one within the LDS structure to turn to. No member families, no sympathetic companions or zone leaders, no friendly investigators? I mean yeah, I can imagine an abusive mission president. I just can’t imagine a missionary feeling so completely trapped.

    I don’t have the harsh criticism of your view on this that others have offered, and I know that you mean well. Personally, I don’t think I would do it myself. I do like so many of your other suggestions though. I like your suggestion to let them load up on toiletries, insist on a meeting that’s just a get-to-know-you thing, and ask them to explain their testimony of the BoM. Because of this last suggestion, for the first time in our marriage I asked my husband how he got his testimony of the Book of Mormon. I’ll have to tell you on Facebook how it went.

    (BTW, if this were another country where cell phones weren’t so prevalent, I might reconsider the answer.)

  92. When I used “ministering”, I probably picked a word that has way too much connotation. I’m trying to practice a broader vocab than I’m used to.

    I agree we need to respect people’s personal spaces. And Seth, I think I unfairly came across as suggesting we need to work with people in ways that are likely to create and harden perspectives.

    I was rather poorly trying to get across an idea that maybe building people up in some tiny small way is a type of ministry? Maybe just an acknowledgement of pain? There are always going to bombs dropped in conversations. I wonder if the challenge of always finding a kernel on which to build isn’t a worthy endeavor? For me, this means having to fight my usual teacher persona while building a much more ingrained set of interpersonal skills.

  93. I don’t recall having a beef with you sigo.

    I guess I could find a reason if I dig hard enough. It might fit with my theme for commenting on this thread…

  94. Regarding Tim’s claims about missionary service and their potential to create abusive situations:

    1. told that they must wear a standard uniform at all times that includes what type of underwear they must wear

    The underwear is a result of the endowment covenant (entered willingly by the individual). It is not a result of missionary service.

    2. stripped of their first names

    Misleading. No legal name change takes place. We are asked, and we voluntarily agree, to take on a title consistent with the sacred calling.

    3. told who they must live with

    Again, we know this going in, and we agree to it.

    4. responsible to observe and report any infractions they witness their companions commit

    Misleading. Missionaries are asked to report only major offenses (serious criminal behavior, adultery, etc.), which is asked of all members. My mission president didn’t ask about companions’ offenses, nor did he expect us to rat companions out.

    5. required to be with their companions at all times

    Again, agreed upon voluntarily from the beginning.

    6. limited to a small set of reading materials which only
    include religious text

    Mostly true, although it varies from mission to mission. The mission in which I currently reside allows the missionaries to read pretty much any religious book.

    7. prohibited from television, newspapers and movies

    Mostly true. Appropriate films are often allowed on preparation day.

    8. offered limited contact with family and friends and are told exactly when they can call their families
    Misleading. One can write / receive letters as often as one chooses. Only phone and in person contact are limited.

    9. typically eating a diet based mostly on cheap carbohydrates

    Wildly variable. I ate well in all my areas, as do most American-serving missionaries. South America and Africa may be much worse in some areas, but stipdends are typically sufficient for missionaries to eat well, it just takes planning on the part of the missionary.

    10. experiencing various levels of culture shock and may be almost completely removed from their native tongue

    Anyone, Mormon or otherwise, who endeavors to preach in a foreign country is subject to this.

    11. in an enviornment where blessings and successes are often taught to be in direct proportion to personal worthiness

    Also variable from president to president. Official LDS missionary publications do not make this statement.

    12. not given control over their own passports

    Yet, a missionary can request to take his/her passport at any time and go home, so I’m not sure what you are getting at – they certainly aren’t given free license to use the passport to go from country to country during their missions. But again, it’s agreed upon voluntarily beforehand that they will stay in their assigned areas.

    13. committed to Church related activities nearly every waking hour of the day

    Again, agreed upon voluntarily beforehand.

    While the opportunity for abuse exists in this system, that doesn’t automatically make the system bad. The opportunity for abuse exists in many different legal, family, political, and workforce situations. That doesn’t make all those situations bad, it just means we should be aware of when abuse is happening and give people a means of reporting abuses that do occur. Missionaries have companions, district leaders, zone leaders, assistants to the president, area presidents, stake presidents, bishops, parents, and even the Church Missionary Department to which they can report things. The Church Office Building has an 800 number, and any missionary could dial it, ask for the operator, ask for the missionary department, and report abuse.

  95. Jack,

    I think you misunderstood what I was saying.

    I did *not* chide Seth for not going to exmormon.org and reaching out. That was not what I said, Jack.
    What I did say, is that Jesus would. He would definately reach out to those people there who are hurting or bitter or sad, etc.

    Please feel free to go back and re-read as I feel your assesment is incorrect.

    Kind regards,
    gloria

    ps. And I do stand by my original statement – Jesus would go to the “scum, and villanly” to show forth HIS love & salvation. That is the kind of Jesus portrayed in the Bible.

  96. Tim,

    I am going to agree with Tomchik- Missionary life is much less “identity stripping” than, for example, being deployed US military or basic training. I went to West Point just prior (and after) my mission and mission life was positively liberating. Therefore I think your depiction above is misleading, misinformed or simply lacking perspective for the reasons Tomchik states. Hence, offering the phone is going to be counterproductive to your goals.

    That is not to say that offering a phone call is not justified if you view things according to your perspective, it just won’t work to further your goal of offering those extremely few abused missionaries respite.

  97. @Tim, if the purpose of your offer of the use of a phone is to provide a control against a set of hypothetical abuses possible in an LDS missionary’s environment, and your motivation is to extend succor where there is significant stress, well, what can I say? It sounds like an act of charity, even if the Elders never take you up on it.

    But, if they don’t understand your motivation, or there isn’t a preponderance of abusive stress, then the Elders or Sisters will misunderstand your motivation unless you clearly explain your reasons.

    Like Katie, I underwent significant and depressing stress on my own mission. I will never desire those kinds of living conditions again. But the work itself, once I realized that what I wanted to tell people about was Jesus Christ, was hard work, but it was good work worth doing even if no one listened.

    For what it’s worth, I not only always had full control over my own passport, but I was part of a standing policy as my Mission’s secretary to the President, in instructing all the missionaries in the Mission to never surrender custody of their own passports to anyone.

    I had my share of abusive stress, some of it from other missionaries, but the truth is that they were clueless and forgivable when they imposed it.

    I believe gloria’s account, but I also recognize that there is the possibility of other perspectives on any matter.

    Not much else to say.

  98. gloria,

    No one here was suggesting that Jesus wouldn’t reach out to the people on exmormon.org. I certainly wasn’t.

    All I said is that he probably wouldn’t do it ON that website.

  99. Tim probably doesn’t know this (as there are a lot of things he doesn’t know), but American passports are worth a lot in illegal markets. Having large numbers of missionaries with passports is just asking for your missionaries to get mugged. You see Tim, we care for our missionaries a lot more than you do, and we’ve also thought of this stuff.

  100. Tomchik,

    It’s not any one of those 13 things I listed that gives me concern, it is the sum total of them all. And it doesn’t matter if any or all of them are voluntary, plenty of people enter into abusive situations in a voluntary manner and most of them have a open door out. But as Katie suggested, power dynamics are often at play that keep people from taking their exit.

    I’m glad to hear you list counter-examples to many of the items I listed (the passport issue in particular).

    I read the story of a former missionary in the Philippines. He decided that he know longer believed the church was true and wanted to leave. His mission president would not allow him to leave. The missionary was sent to see a local-member psychiatrist to treat him for depression. The psychiatrist berated the missionary for being weak and losing faith. There was no conversation about any emotional issues he might have been facing. The missionary was still not allowed to return home and was instead sent further out of Manila. It was only after the missionary started to cause trouble that the Mission President gave him a plane ticket.

    Now I’m about to get jumped on for taking this one story and generalizing it for the entire missionary program. I KNOW that this is not common. I am offering assistance for the exception. A stateside missionary is going to probably need less help than someone in a foreign, non-English speaking country.

    Regardless of what you think of that story (I already know PC doesn’t believe me), I think you would agree that Mormons are not prone to help members out of the church. You would probably also agree that mission presidents are not prone to helping missionaries leave the field without their faith and without finishing their term.

    Jared,
    I think the military example is a good comparison. As Kullervo pointed out, even in basic training you are still allowed phone contact with your family. Aren’t you also given specific open opportunities to walk away?

    To all,
    I can assure you that the way in which I make the offer is not nearly a big of a deal as the way we have discussed it here. It’s as big a point of conversation as “Can I get you some more water?”

  101. No one here was suggesting that Jesus wouldn’t reach out to the people on exmormon.org. I certainly wasn’t.

    All I said is that he probably wouldn’t do it ON that website.

    And even if he tried, they’d just ban him. 8)

  102. PC has an abrasive way of putting it.

    But he does have a valid point.

    A lot of the stuff that people are so weird-ed out by, is actually a level of competence and organizational experience that people in this day of selfish individualism are simply not used to.

    The LDS Church has been doing this missionary thing for a long time, and they’ve learned some tough lessons – by experience.

    The passport thing is a prime example. Missionaries have been mugged in South America plenty of times. If word got out that they were carrying valid passports, they’d be bigger targets for local crime elements.

    Likewise with sticking to your companion. Women have deliberately tried to lure missionaries into a one-on-one conversation, and then fabricated stories of rape where it was her word against his. Companions are a deterrent for that kind of predatory behavior.

    A lot of people think this is all cult-like.

    But it could just be that our society has essentially become organizationally dysfunctional. Any group that hasn’t stuck with that individualistic trend is just going to be considered weird and scary. No way around it.

  103. PC,

    You probably don’t know this. But I’ve probably spent more time overseas in third world countries (and more of them) than anyone else reading this blog. I not only know about the black markets, I’ve been to them.

    I UNDERSTAND there might be reasoning for each and everyone of those thirteen items I listed. It is the sum total of all of them that has me concerned.

    FWIW, I have been on mission trips where I was asked to hand over my passport to someone else for safe keeping and have freely done it. It is NOT that one action by itself that is of concern to me. I have also been on trips where I was asked not to go out alone (but I could choose who I went out with).

  104. And I still think the game is ultimately rigged in the individualists favor.

    And… I looked at that list, and it pretty much describes a lot of group behavior we currently accept as normal. So I’m not incredibly impressed.

    I think it really does just boil down to prejudice against what’s different.

  105. Tom, your wife served in Bulgaria? I served there, too–from 2002-2004. If she was there around that time, maybe you could Facebook me her maiden name! :)

  106. Tim,

    I get what you’re saying. I was just providing feedback of where you are and aren’t accurate in your characterization of missionary service.

    plenty of people enter into abusive situations in a voluntary manner and most of them have a open door out

    Whereas LDS missionaries enter a situation where there is potential – albeit small – for abuse. Again, just because the potential for abuse exists doesn’t make the situation evil.

    Heck, family structure in America creates a situation with high potential for abuse. Yet I don’t see you out there saying we should change the way kids are raised in America.

  107. Tim — I woke up thinking about this and couldn’t get back to sleep, so if I’m tired all day it’s your fault.

    Seth R. said:

    I looked at that list, and it pretty much describes a lot of group behavior we currently accept as normal. So I’m not incredibly impressed.

    And Tomchik said:

    Whereas LDS missionaries enter a situation where there is potential – albeit small – for abuse. Again, just because the potential for abuse exists doesn’t make the situation evil.

    Yeah, as I see it, all sorts of situations where a person submits his/her personal needs or desires to the needs or desires of the group has the potential of being abusive and/or psychologically damaging.

    I think of the example, which is someone analogous although obvious much less intensive, of joining an athletic team. There are all sorts of “mind control” factors at play — players are expected to assume a group identity, may be deprived of a normal physical existence, may be taught to demonize the enemy, and so on and so on. In the hands of a good coach, all the things that are done can help provide for a growing experience, and help a person go beyond what he/she believed he/she was capable of. In the hands of an abusive coach, the structure can provide a framework for personal disaster.

    For many, perhaps most, LDS missionaries, the mission experience is a positive one. They come out having learned all sorts of things about how to relate to people and having developed a lifelong habit of trusting in God and all that sort of thing. For many, it’s a neutral experience, a period of 1.5 to two years that works out OK. And for some, such as the Philippines example, it’s a horrible situation in every way.

    So what’s the difference? In some cases the difference is what the missionary brings into the situation. And for others, it can be mission leadership responsible for establishing the environment.

    As I look down Tim’s original list, I can most of the factors as being somewhat neutral — they can be factors for growth, or they can be quite negative. Many of them are the sort of things that we may see as good under different contexts, at least for short periods of time (I’ve known people who have voluntarily put in 90-hour workweeks, for example, in order to reach a goal, and there are many, many situations where people are expected to adopt a personal look in accordance with group norms). As long as the situation is entered into voluntarily, only numbers 9 and 11 do I see as inherently bad.

    No. 9 (a poor diet) is usually preventable if the missionary takes some initiative in the matter, although it may take more effort in some locations.

    So that brings us to No. 11, and this may be the key to where a situation can become truly undesirable. I’ll repeat it here:

    in an environment where blessings and successes are often taught to be in direct proportion to personal worthiness

    Could it be this sort of tendency that can help determine whether a group dynamic is helpful or hurtful? Going back to the sports team analogy, I can think of a time we withdrew a child from a team because the coach (and more so, parents of other team members) consistently used this kind of “motivation” — Suck it up! You’re a sissy if you can’t run fast enough! Only losers don’t win!

    In any sort of a hierarchical situation (and certainly a mission is one), a controlling attitude combined with this sort of thinking (which amounts to a form of unrighteous dominion, to use the LDS term) can be very negative.

    I once encountered a work situation where there was that kind of dynamic. I ended up quitting the job (about a third of the staff did the same thing over a period of a few months) even though I didn’t have another one in hand. This sort of thing isn’t limited to LDS mission experiences by any means (and Tim isn’t suggesting otherwise).

    I do think we need to be aware of the dynamics that can be at play even in a program that is designed for honorable purposes. In the context of this discussion, young adults away from home for the first time (in some cases) can be particularly vulnerable, and it doesn’t hurt to be aware of that.

    Heck, family structure in America creates a situation with high potential for abuse. Yet I don’t see you out there saying we should change the way kids are raised in America.

    This isn’t a parenting blog, so I don’t know what Tim thinks about the issue. But you’ll find me saying that. As a culture, we rely way, way too much on punishment as a method of raising children. We look the other way at even physical punishment, even though it is destructive and counterproductive. But that’s a whole other topic probably best left for a different discussion.

  108. Tim, I did not know that you had spent a lot of time in thirld world countries, but I fully admit that there’s a whole heck of a lot that I DON’T know. :)

    Re: Sum Totals.
    From my POV, if for 13 points, time has a +1, and Tom provides a -1, summing 13 positive ones and 13 negative ones still gives you a net of 0. So, what it sounds like you’re saying, is that people who haven’t really thought about the situation may see a cause for concern, when those who actually HAVE thought about it, recognize the concern based on the list is completely unwarranted.

    Finally, Tim. Re, the depressed missionary. You are not justified in assuming I don’t believe your story. While I am highly doubtful of your assumptions and interpretations, I have many fewer reasons to doubt a story relayed by you. You have more trust in this respect than some others, less than Jack, who has less than Seth, but all three I’ve listed are on the positive side of the PC-trust-o-meter. Missionaries who are depressed or doubting are completely within one sigma of missionaries. While mission presidents who (ever) refuse to let an Elder leave of their own volition may be rare, they are also fully within three sigma. This story isn’t a > 5 sigma story, so outlandish and unbelievable, like some of the others relayed in this thread. I can imagine a mission president or church leader berating a missionary for being “weak and losing faith” but I have more problems accepting that a psychiatrist did, that is a serious betrayal of the point of therapists. I find it a little amazing (as in unbelievable) that the therapist didn’t talk at all about their emotional problems, but this distrust is more likely to blame with the emotional disturbed individual who relayed the story to Tim rather than Tim himself.

    I won’t jump on you for telling this story precisely because you recognize how uncommon this is. A properly contextualized story goes a long way like that.

    But please don’t over-read what I write. It appears that those who’ve responded negatively to my (always abrasive, I mean check out the scorpion picture) viewpoints have mis-interpreted them to mean “PC doesn’t think members of the church can do any wrong.” I wrote that I disbelieved one person, and the fact that you all interpret that as “PC doesn’t believe any non-Mormon” tells me a lot more about you-all than it tells you-all about me.

  109. Just to clarify one thing about my comment of 7:47 a.m.: I am not conceding that No. 11 on Tim’s list occurs as often as he may believe it does. But to say it doesn’t happen too often would be a form of denial.

  110. I spent my time in Europe, where there was little or no threat to missionaries’ personal well being. It never occurred to me to think about the areas in the world where there is greater risk of a passport being stolen.

  111. Tomchik said:
    Whereas LDS missionaries enter a situation where there is potential – albeit small – for abuse. Again, just because the potential for abuse exists doesn’t make the situation evil.

    And you’ll notice my suggested response is in line with that description. I did not say, “we need to kidnap Mormon missionaries and send them to deprogramming therapy.” I merely suggested the offer to let them use a phone.

    Would anybody object if I said “Military personnel might be having a really tough time, you can be kind to them by allowing them to use your phone to call their family”? The only difference between the two situations is that it’s not against the rules to call your family in the military. If you can think of a minor offense that I can “entrap” a GI with, let me know.

  112. It’d be analagous to offering a GI an umbrella in a thunderstorm on the off-chance they had a phobia of getting wet.

    Actually, I don’t know if they’ve done away with the no-umbrella regulation but remember there being a big brouhaha in the news about it a few years ago.

  113. I think that is an apt analogy. You are not saving anybody’s life by offering them a phone, I THINK ITS NO BIG DEAL AT ALL, but I think its not really effective at building trust and the way you are portraying missionary life is misleading and confirms the unfair/untrue bias that many Evangelicals have.

    My problem with the post is not the suggestion that offering the phone is such a bad or offensive thing, it just seems silly to think that the missionary program is even close to being cult-like compared to say, the US Marines.

  114. Honestly, I don’t care about offering the phone to the missionaries. It really isn’t a big deal.

    What’s bugging me is that I’m worried what this shows about how you view us Tim.

  115. Another analogy, follow me.

    Its like describing the LDS missionary program as a doberman, when in fact its a Jack Russell Terrier.

    Both can bite for sure, but . . .

  116. Seth,

    Honestly, I don’t care about offering the phone to the missionaries. It really isn’t a big deal.

    What’s bugging me is that I’m worried what this shows about how you view us Tim.

    And how are we supposed to view missionaries ?

    From a non-LDS perspective, they give up contact with home for two years to go door-to-door to preach a gospel that we can’t really either understand or accept.

    I see more and more LDS members here in the Dallas area and even in this weeks metro section there was a whole article about how high school students attend 4 year of seminary. Most of them at 5:30 in the morning. Then a lot of them aspire to attend BYU. In addition there very active in their Church community. I can’t help but wonder that if after this kind of involvement (and I’m trying to judge my words carefully) and not having known anything else, one is even capable of making a choice not to go on mission.

    If you’re part of a culture, system, or whatever you would like to call it, since junior high school, how easy or inclined would one be to step out ?

    Just wondering.

  117. Michael, for me it wasn’t optional. It’s just something you did. It was an assumption I had growing up, and I always just accepted that I would be going. Mom and dad expected it, and there was a lot of pressure to go.

    But I don’t view myself as a victim for that, any more than I view myself as a victim for being born in a screwed-up society like America. It’s just is what it is.

    I’m just objecting to the idea that Tim (apparently) views me as damaged goods or something.

    It’s highly insulting.

  118. And how are we supposed to view missionaries ?

    From a non-LDS perspective, they give up contact with home for two years to go door-to-door to preach a gospel that we can’t really either understand or accept.

    But just because you can’t really understand or accept it doesn’t mean others feel the same way.

    While I am no longer active LDS, I would not be a Christian if it wasn’t for the LDS Church. The way I was treated by Evangelicals prior to my joining of the church had pushed me so far from Jesus that I struggled for years to obtain a relationship with Him after I had been so embittered by the way that He was represented to me.

    If it wasn’t for LDS missionaries and the amazing answers to prayers that I have received in conjunction with the LDS Church, I don’t know where I would be now. Certainly not in a loving, stable, eight year marriage with two beautiful children.

    So, why not view missionaries as just another set of people who are doing their best to spread the good news. Even if you think their good news isn’t totally accurate–they are still painting a picture of Jesus, they are still planting seeds.

  119. “I can’t help but wonder that if after this kind of involvement (and I’m trying to judge my words carefully) and not having known anything else, one is even capable of making a choice not to go on mission.

    “If you’re part of a culture, system, or whatever you would like to call it, since junior high school, how easy or inclined would one be to step out ?”

    What Michael says about LDS missions could just as easily be said about getting a college education (for a lot of Americans) or deciding to live in the same region of the country as where you grew up. I just don’t see the value of the question.

  120. Michael asked:

    If you’re part of a culture, system, or whatever you would like to call it, since junior high school, how easy or inclined would one be to step out?

    I’m not sure that the answer is much different than it would be for parents who are serious about their evangelical Christianity and raising their kids that way. There are plenty of evangelical parents who send their kids to Sunday school, to midweek youth group, to church summer camp and eventually to an evangelical Christian college.

    And while not all evangelicals are as intense (for lack of a better word) or as countercultural (for lack of a better word) as Mormons are, there are certainly fundamentalists (and Muslims, for that matter) who are more intense and more countercultural than we are. I don’t see us as unique in the extent to which we raise our children in our faith.

    That was one answer to the question. Here’s another:

    It depends a lot on the family. On the one hand, there are those who are under lots of pressure from the family to go on a mission (sometimes too much), and there are kids who grow up (especially in areas with high LDS population) who really don’t know much about non-LDS culture or beliefs.

    On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, there are parents such as yours truly who have made clear to their children that going on a mission is voluntary, that in fact it isn’t something they should do unless they want to or themselves believe that they should. They’re under no pressure from us to go on a mission. While we have expected our kids to participate in church while they’re with us, we’ve also exposed them to non-LDS culture and beliefs and haven’t pushed for them to go to LDS schools. We’ve done what we can to share with our children what we believe to be the truth, but it’s ultimately up to them whether they choose to embrace it.

    At least where I live (outside the Mormon Corridor), most families seem to fall somewhere in between. Most young men with parents active in church go on missions, but not all do. Of the male teens who don’t get caught up in booze/sex/drugs/crime in high school, I’d say the percentage that go on a mission is very high.

    And most of them (not all) have a generally positive experience doing so.

  121. Seth,
    Aren’t we all damaged goods in God’s eyes ;-)

    BrianJ
    True, but we’re not giving up a bunch of “stuff” in doing that. The value of the question is really “How do LDS members expect non-LDS members to view the missionaries”. It’s been made obvious people object to perhaps the connotation that we might look upon them as victims of a system. KatyJane gave somewhat of an idea that I do like.

    Eric
    Same comment somewhat applies to your response in that we’re not making our kids give up a lot. Maybe because we’re not used to and maybe we should do it more.

    As a side note
    1) I grew up RC and was taught to give up “stuff” every year for forty days for lent. Quite rigorously until my teenage years as a matter of fact
    2) I spent time in the military. Partly because it was compulsory, but I elected to take the hard route. Partly, because my grandfather spent four years in the trenches in WWI and my dad had served in the same unit I elected. It was part of my family. I never complained through the 23 weeks of hard training, I never relented, I made the 30% or so that finished training and it was the best time of my life and changed me as a person. I’m sure some had bad experiences, I’m sure some look at it as stupid. But I did it anyway and I’m proud of it.

    I look at the mission a little bit the same. It’s tough, it’s engrained in the environment LDS teens grow up in and I have a lot of respect for most of them and their commitment.

    That’s being said, I still try to engage with them to plant a seed that there might be other quite valid interpretations of Christianity. IMHO, as you may recall, I think LDS has some things wrong just like the RC’s do. But that’s a different topic. I don’t pity them, I don’t think of them as “Victims” per se. But I do want to try and engage with them on the larger traditional interpretation of Christianity as accepted by Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations.

    I wonder if you would find that offensive ??

    Just my .02 $ worth..

    In Him
    Mick

  122. Michael: “True, but we’re not giving up a bunch of “stuff” in [going to college or living in a certain region of the country].”

    Sure you are. College is 4+ years of hard work, no pay, and huge debt. If you live in the Midwest then you miss out on mountains, if you live in the East then you miss out on really awesome mountains and good Mexican food, etc. Your question (and implicit criticism) just applies to so many things as to be a non-starter: language, music preference, cuisine, hobbies, profession, education, religion, military service, and so on.

    For the question to really take hold, you’d first have to show that the things “given up” by missionaries are really so weighty as to separate missionary work from the other things I listed—and of course they must also be balanced by the things gained: travel to a new area, wonderful experiences meeting new people, life away from parents for the first time, immersion in one’s religion, a new language, etc. You’d have a terrible time showing that since the vast majority of returned missionaries look back on that time quite fondly (even my brother, who left the Church long ago, still speaks well of his mission experience).

    That isn’t to say that missionaries are not making sacrifices to be there. Just that in most cases those sacrifices are a lot like the sacrifices people make when they go to college: they give up something good for something better.

    On the other hand, your second question is very useful, I think, and it’s totally different than your first:

    First: “If you’re part of a culture, system, or whatever you would like to call it, since junior high school, how easy or inclined would one be to step out?”

    Second: “How do LDS members expect non-LDS members to view the missionaries?”

  123. “Aren’t we all damaged goods in God’s eyes”

    A valid religious message. But that doesn’t make a one-sided focus on other people’s bad side, with an implied self-congratulation on your own people’s superiority any less offensive.

  124. Seth,

    I’m hearing you loud and clear that you think I might be a bigot.

    Let me restate, I clearly said the incidence of abuse would be rare and not at all the norm. So that implies that I do not think that everyone who goes on an LDS mission is a victim.

  125. I would say the massive student debt load that people come out of higher education is far more emotionally, spiritually, and financially damaging than anything that happens on a standard LDS mission.

    It’s wrong, it’s exploitative, it’s disproportionate to the benefits, but it’s also almost never criticized either.

    Which brings me back to my point that most of the criticism of LDS missions is primarily founded in the perception that they are “weird” – not that they are harmful.

  126. Seth and Brian, let me ask you this: you don’t think that the highly-controlled environment of a mission COULD lend itself to abuse at higher levels than less-controlled environments?

    I had a rough time on my mission, though I wasn’t abused. But I was terribly vulnerable, and if my mission president had had a mind to abuse or control me, he could have.

    I also came away from my mission feeling as though I had been set up to fail. I was obsessed with rule-keeping and “exact obedience,” feeling that it should indeed be possible to “obey exactly”–and berating myself for every mistake. I say I was set up to fail because of course I never achieved “exact obedience”…and this pattern of obsess/mistake/berate followed me home. It’s taken me about 5 years to unlearn it.

    Now, I’m not blaming this entirely on my mission: especially then, I was by nature a perfectionist and prone to bouts of extreme guilt.

    But I’d be lying if I said the tightly-controlled mission environment didn’t exacerbate my problem–and it left me with emotional/spiritual scars that haven’t quite healed up yet.

    I hope this doesn’t come across as overly-negative or bitter. I’m sure one day I will be able to look back on my mission with more fondness. But now I’m still in the thick of “recovering” and thought I’d throw it out there.

  127. ““Bigot” is almost as useless a word as “cult.””

    In other words, “yes, but that’s not the right word.” ;)

    Katie: “you don’t think that the highly-controlled environment of a mission COULD lend itself to abuse at higher levels than less-controlled environments?”

    Sure, but that wasn’t Michael’s question and hence not what I was addressing. He was suggesting that the culture, etc. of Mormonism essentially locks one into going on a mission and that the mission is inherently a net opportunity loss. I disagree with the second part and challenge the usefulness of the first part. That’s all.

    Now, as to your question, I think it’s more complicated than “highly-controlled/less-controlled.” One of the highly controlled aspects of your mission was that you had a sister companion with you nearly all the time and a district and zone leader you met with frequently. If you had suffered abuse from anyone—companion, mission pres, neighbor—the highly structured system is set up to give you a lot of “outs.” And there is no one screening your mail so you have that avenue as well.

    No system can eliminate the chance for abuse, of course, but the only major change I can see that would be good in this case is to make it perfectly acceptable for sister missionaries to be interviewed by the mission president’s wife instead of answering personal questions to a man (okay, that’s not really “major,” but that’s something).

    I realize, of course, that you’re talking about a different kind of abuse than I allude to above. You’re talking about something like “institutional oppression.” And yes, I see that an already-obsessive personality is going to have that problem exacerbated on an LDS mission. I also think that a dozen or so of the mission rules should be done away with immediately—and I think eventually they will be: similar to how there are no longer set discussions, we will soon return to missions where missionaries are “taught correct principles and left to govern themselves.”

    One of my daughters has an overly self-critical, perfectionist personality. I talk about commandments and repentance a bit differently with her than I do with my carefree daughter. Mission presidents could benefit from some training along these lines—awareness of different personalities, etc.

    And, fwiw, you didn’t come across as “bitter.” You came across as you always do: thoughtful, balanced, honest.

  128. I don’t think anyone has argued that the controlled-environment of a mission COULD lend itself to abuse. I think that the argument is that there are scores of other similar experiences that we undertake that are equally capable of leading to abuse.

    How many times do we hear of young, bright kids who get so stressed out from the pressures of performing well in school that they commit suicide? It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Should we stop encouraging kids to perform well in school?

    How many times do we hear of male school teachers who sexually abuse students? Should we ban all men from being school teachers? How about the number of students who say they hate their teachers because the teachers are mean? Isn’t being mean to a child a form of emotional abuse? Well, then, I suppose we should just put an end to formal education.

    There are always opportunities for abuse in any kind of controlled system. I do not think that the LDS missionary program is any more prone to creating such opportunities than any other controlled environment. I guess the question to ask, in the very end, is this: Would terminating the phone call policy for LDS missionaries do anything to decrease the possibility for abuse within the system? If not, how many other rules do we need to throw out the window? And at what point do we realise that the advocacy here isn’t to let missionaries call home more often. It isn’t any one of the thirteen points that Tim has suggested. Rather, it is the whole sum. Which, to me, indicates that the problem is that there are certain rules. It is that there are rules at all.

    I guess I just fail to see how the rules of the LDS mission program contribute to the potential for abuse any more than any other set of rules for a program would.

  129. Here is the thing that bugs some (me) about attitudes reflected by the post as well as by so many other Evangelicals, Catholics etc.

    In so many ways the Missionary program massively beneficial to many, if not most of the missionaries involved. Although some disagree with the goals of them mission, it is at its core about loving and serving others selflessly, for God.

    I absolutely think the country and world would be a better place if Evangelicals and Catholics had similar programs, even if the intent was to make more Evangelicals and Catholics.

    I say this knowing that every time you have such a rigorous, military like environment you are going to have some knuckleheads that abuse power and influence.

    Its important for kids in order to become strong adults to loosen ties to family, learn to sacrifice for something other than their own benefit, learn to get along with people, serve and love those who are different, etc. Missions are great at teaching all of these things.

    College, which is primarily focused on getting ahead in the world, does not get you these things. Military service, to me is a very good thing, but its not about love and spirituality and often detracts from these important virtues.

    So, when Evangelicals and others totally miss the point, which seems to be the case here, when missions are compared with brainwashing cults it is both disappointing and baffling.

    It likes focusing on the crappy frame surrounding on a beautiful painting. You come across as clueless and simply out to criticize. Its like the hippie who criticizes the guy getting a job or joining the military because that life doesn’t suit him (or vice versa) but fails to see how it could be great for a lot of other people.

    I don’t think you are a bigot Tim, I just think due to your background and bent you are failing to see the benefits of the LDS missionary program to the missionary as well as the benefits of that type of program in general.

    Tim and Michael, Could you live with an Evangelical or Catholic church sending people out on Mormon-style missions, or is this approach just bad to you?

  130. I would just like to note that not all universities are purely about “getting ahead.” Some of us went to liberal arts colleges because we are, in fact, ginormous nerds who love learrrrning.

    And let’s be honest. We all know that serving a mission–not to mention the foreign language skills often acquired–looks pretty dang good on a resume to “those in the know.” For those who don’t believe me, I can assure you that return missionaries are very, very good at highlighting all the skillz they learned out in the field.

    Anyway. Carry on.

  131. It’s not the sending out that I object to. The painting is quite nice (Evangelicals generally respect Mormons for being committed enough to go out on two year missions). It is the disregard for “personal agency” at times within the structure that bothers me. A crooked frame distorts the painting.

    What I think about the all around fruits of Evangelicals (and Mormons) doing a program like this is the topic of another post.

  132. In the case of liberal arts, higher education is doubly exploitative. Because it’s milking you for tens of thousands of dollars, and sending you off into the workforce without the capacity of earning enough income to pay it back.

  133. Seth – Ha. ahhahaahahha. Touche.

    I will of course disagree and say that my capacity for doing a variety of jobs was greatly enhanced by my degree. Of course I was career oriented enough to major in Economics and International Studies, so….

    But what of law school? Isn’t it thrice as exploitative? Just as much money, with an explicit focus on theory over practice, and usually a total emotional meltdown to boot.

    But I really do heart learning.

  134. Law school is an incredibly pressured, disrespectful and exploitative system.

    Because of overblown expectations of earning potential, law degrees are highly overpriced. But schools and legal professional organizations do not limit class sizes enough to keep the supply of law degrees low enough that you can command a good price. Most legal markets are flooded with graduates and the value of a law degree has probably halved in value since the 1970s.

    Furthermore, the practical value of the vast majority of what you learn in law school is almost zero. Much of the stuff taught in law school is purely theoretic and esoteric horse crap that’s only worth anything if you want to practice in Federal Court appeals, or become a law professor and continue the legacy.

    The vast majority of the practice of law has little or nothing to do with anything you learn in law school. So there is little vocational value in the degree.

    The law school education also doesn’t really teach you to pass the Bar Exam either. And if you fail that, you’re not a lawyer – no matter how much work you put in those three years. But most professors resent the “artificiality” of the bar exam, and pretty-much hang you out to dry on this score. You’ll have to take a two month cram course after graduation if you even want a shot at passing.

    There’s plenty of sick thinking in a typical law school class. Peer pressure, backstabbing, inhumane institutional pressure, indoctrination, you name it.

    And after they haze you for three years, they dump you into a market that can’t pay you and doesn’t care about you, with no real practical skills to make a living. Almost everything I learned about bankruptcy law, I taught myself on the fly or learned from practicing attorneys.

    And all this for a profession with some of the highest suicide, depression, and substance abuse rates in the nation.

    Thanks JD!

  135. Brian said:
    I also think that a dozen or so of the mission rules should be done away with immediately

    I’d be interested to hear what you think those rules are. I promise not to exploit them for Evangelical purposes.

  136. I have degrees in both law and philosophy, I served an LDS mission, and spent two years at West Point. . . I am so brainwashed and exploited I can hardly think for myself anymore. (what was my name again?)

    I am little more than a hollowed-out shell of a man destined to fall into the abyss of some wretched hive of scum and villainy.

  137. seriously, anyone going to seminary can hardly throw stones at anyone who went to law school. Glad to be holding up the economy for everyone.

    I should probably get back to work, now realizing how vital I really am.

  138. Hey, I’m going into archiving after I’m done with my education, one of the few job markets that’s actually expanding and not oversaturated with people wanting to do it.

    So there. I’ll throw all the stones I damn well please.

  139. “Tim, have you found this to be true of Mormons in general? I think that, outside of interactions with Mormon academic or Mormon apologists or the Mormon bloggernacle, there seems to be culturally widespread shut-down mechanisms in Mormonism designed to avoid substantive engagement over difficult historical and theological issues.”

    I haven’t given much thought to whether I consider Tim’s observation definitive or not.

    But I would remind Aaron that this applies equally to Protestant denominations as far as I can tell. Very few people want to talk about their religion in a debate context. And their church leaders often discourage them from doing so (often for very good reason I think).

  140. “Real masochists marry outside their faith.”

    FTW!

    “I’d be interested to hear what you think those rules are.”

    Here’s my long answer:

    Nearly all of the mission rules are really good ideas—good suggestions—that smart, wise, devoted missionaries would follow even if they weren’t told to. But a lot of 19-yr olds aren’t smart or wise, they’re just devoted enough to go into a situation where they know they will have a lot of rules.

    I think the Church has already changed its emphasis in mission work toward putting more of a burden on the individual to be accountable for his/her mission: missionaries no longer have a “team of experts” writing their lessons for them, and instead the missionaries have to do that themselves. It makes sense to have a set discussion pattern of course, because you don’t want your representatives going off all over the place, but it has it’s obvious problems.

    Compare that to mission rules. It’s a great idea to go to bed well before midnight (say, ~10PM) and thus to get up about 8 hours later. Now, what 19-yr old is going to come up with that on his own? So you make it a rule…or you just teach it to the kids and let them apply their devotion to that principle and see how many of them do it quasi-“on their own.” Likewise, it’s a great idea to spend those morning hours studying/preparing lessons instead of knocking doors (at 6:30 AM, can you imagine?!). It’s also a good idea, since you only do this sort of thing once in your life, to spend the vast majority of your time doing missionary work instead of cleaning, playing, sight-seeing, etc.; thus, the idea of p-day comes in.

    So I’d do away with most of these little rules that a devoted missionary should come up with on his own anyway: when to go to bed, what to study, when to wear the suit coat or not, what day of the week to do laundry, etc. etc.

    Some rules I would not do away with: staying with your companion, phone calls to home (for the reason stated earlier: I don’t want mom/dad to bug my missionaries with constant phone calls), and probably some more that I can’t even remember right now. (Are there some you have in mind? I’m happy to answer yes/no about specific rules if you do.)

  141. A couple of observations and then a couple of questions…

    Seth, Alex, Jared. It sounds like you guys are saying that the mission experience/environment works for the vast majority of participants and is not any more likely to produce negative side-effects or abuse than any other controlled environment.

    Assuming I got that right–and assuming it’s true–let me ask you this: what do you propose should be done with people like me, where the structure of the mission ended up being more damaging than uplifting to the spirit?

    Should we…

    1)–“Loosen up” mission rules so that perfectionist personalities like mine don’t go crazy (is there a balance to be achieved here, where we can loosen up on some things, but not on others?);

    2)–Accept people like me as unavoidable “collateral damage”;

    3)–Just keep people like me AWAY from missions;

    4)–Something else?

  142. Improve the way missions are handled of course.

    Look, in other contexts, I’d be perfectly willing to complain about my mission as much as anyone. And I have done so:

    http://www.nine-moons.com/2008/02/12/the-tower-of-babel-the-book-of-mormon-and-the-pointy-haired-boss/

    No one here is saying that the missionary program is “just fine the way it is.”

    But the context here implies one of “look how freakishly unusual those Mormon missionaries are – the poor deluded little dears.”

    In that context, I am going to point out how missions bat compared to the norm.

  143. Should we…

    1)–”Loosen up” mission rules so that perfectionist personalities like mine don’t go crazy (is there a balance to be achieved here, where we can loosen up on some things, but not on others?);

    I bet there is. I’d like to see some progress here.

    2)–Accept people like me as unavoidable “collateral damage”;

    I don’t know what people like you is really. But I don’t think this one is optional. There is just going to be unavoidable collateral damage – no matter how perfectly you are running things. Moot point.

    3)–Just keep people like me AWAY from missions;

    Some people shouldn’t go on missions. And I’d like there to be a little less stigma attached to not going. But… frankly, as long as there are playground popularity contests on elementary school playgrounds, this one is just going to be something we deal with.

    Or I guess we could just boot all the “shallow” people from our wards….

    Take your pick.

  144. Brian, re: your reply to me. I think you’re right, the structured environment theoretically can do as much to prevent abuse as it does cause it–if utilized properly.

    Perhaps if we did a better job educating missionaries that abuse happens, what to watch out for in terms of warning signs, and gave them a specific protocol for addressing it, it would go a long way to both PREVENT and DEAL WITH abuse.

  145. “People like me” = people with perfectionist tendencies who become overwhelmed by the sheer number of rules in the missionary program.

    In other words, stick with people who are LESS concerned with obeying them (now there’s a bit of irony for ya)…

  146. Just a note of clarification, I’m about to talk about peccadillo rules of conduct rather than potentially oppressive social structures.

    Brian,

    My general feeling on the mission rules (phone access et. al). is this; if the LDS church doesn’t feel its missionaries are mature and responsible enough to handle the freedoms available to them in missionary life, they shouldn’t be sending them out. Perhaps 19 is too young.

    Does BYU protect its students from intrusive calls from overbearing parents? Does BYU tell students when they must fall asleep and when they must study?

  147. “My general feeling on the mission rules (phone access et. al). is this; if the LDS church doesn’t feel its missionaries are mature and responsible enough to handle the freedoms available to them in missionary life, they shouldn’t be sending them out. Perhaps 19 is too young.”

    I think you’re missing the reasoning here: the mission dept. apparently “doesn’t feel its missionaries are mature and responsible enough to handle the freedoms available to them in missionary life [without the safety net of the rules, and thus they do not send them out without that safety net].”

  148. While we’re playing this game, here are a few things I’d change if I were in charge…

    1)–The dress code. I’m not saying we have to be grungy or even run around in jeans, but something like business dress or business casual would be entirely appropriate (maybe even MORE APPROPRIATE and LESS INTIMIDATING) 99% of the time.

    2)–Allow us to use our first names. The nametags could stay the same, but it’s weird for there to be a “taboo” against using our first names.

    3)–More latitude in media choices. Admittedly, this varies from mission to mission already, but we should be allowed to read the newspaper, choose books that interest us, listen to music at our discretion, etc. I can understand not having TVs/video game consoles/internet available in the apartments, but staying informed never hurt anyone, and being cloistered is a little scary (not to mention embarrassing when people ask you questions about current events).

    4)–More latitude in the schedule. Bedtimes, study times, P-days, etc. should be suggestions, even strong ones, but NOT “commandments.” When I was in the MTC, I was told, “The worst thing you can do as a missionary is get up at 6:35 a.m.–because then you’ve just lost the Spirit for the whole day.” Seriously, I was told that. Yikes!!

    5)–More leisure time. In most missions, even P-day is heavily structured. They used to tell us, “It’s not a day off, it’s a PREPARATION DAY: so clean your apartments, do your laundry, go grocery shopping, etc.” And they were right. For me, this was one of the most stressful aspects of missionary service: no time to recharge the batteries.

    6)–More encouragement to serve and get involved in the community–and LESS time knocking doors. This is especially applicable in missions like mine, where the church is teeny tiny and the missionaries truly ARE the face of the organization. I think I could have accomplished a whole lot more if I’d been allowed to dress in normal clothes, go down to a local teen facility or community center, and teach drama classes a few times a week.

    That’s all I’ve got for now, but maybe more will come to me… :)

  149. BrianJ
    Sorry for taking a while to get back to this.

    I think I’m getting your point. I interpret it as such: “Sure they’re giving up stuff, but life is all about choices where you give up something to gain something else. Missionaries give up some freedoms, but it’s outweighed by what they get to experience”.

    If that’s correct, I think the analogy is somewhat flawed. I wonder if they really know what they’re giving up. I can give up music since I have absolutely no talent for it (trust me, I tried). I gave up hiking all over Europe, mountaineering in Switzerland, excellent food and great beer, because I made a conscious choice to move here. But I still miss those things because I know what they are and have experienced them.

    A better analogy is perhaps this one: I was forbidden to read Luther when growing up. Once I got out from underneath that and started reading Luther, Calvin, etc.. a whole world opened up which eventually led me to become Protestant. I never knew what I was missing, because it was part of my culture and environment for it not to be there. So yes, my culture “locked me into” something. And I believe the LDS culture very much “locks” or at least highly encourages 19-year olds to go on mission. And while they’re there, as some of the other posts made clear, they don’t really get to experience a ton of the local culture. It’s not why they’re there and some of the rules make it really hard for them to do it. Hence I question the what they get to experience part of your example.

    You won’t experience Amsterdam without pulling an all nighter. Even without personally participating in all the bad stuff. But at least you know what it is. I don’t think there’s a lot of LDS missionaries that have done that. So they could have been a missionary in Amsterdam, but it could have been Brussels, Frankfurt, Munich, Liege, … for all they know. Except for the language bit of course.

    Seth
    Long live the European system ! Not one penny in debt after graduating ;-)
    And fwiw, I have a healthy amount of respect for LDs missionaries. I definitely don’t think we’re “superior”. BrianJ mentioned that a little bit too and don’t get me wrong, I do think it’s a great program. I concur with some of the things Brian said about ‘learning to let go’, ‘putting the greater good above yourself’, etc. On the other hand, I question whether that’s really the case. Is that really why they’re going on a mission ? Or are they going to convert people ? Let’s at least have the honesty to call things for what they are. It’s not a 2 year period destined to “teach young members of the LDS Church to become strong adults to loosen ties to family, learn to sacrifice for something other than their own benefit, learn to get along with people, serve and love those who are different You can learn that in a lot of ways without the strict rules surrounding the mission.

    Jared
    Would I let my kids go ? I don’t know. Good question. I’ve always encouraged my kids to go on short term mission trips. And they have. Long term without the opportunity to call home when they wanted, without the possibility to stop and come home if they truly felt they made a mistake and had considered it and thought it through, without a true opportunity to experience other cultures or being able to take a week of in those two years to go see some things. With those restrictions, I’d have my reservations. Long term without those restrictions. Sure. I’d encourage it. Go see the world, go spread the gospel, it’d be great.

    Katie L
    I like those rules. Definitely the dress code and the whole idea of interacting with the community. They’d get more accomplished imho. Unless there’s a fear that they might experience what that community really is like, figure out what their really missing and leave the LDS Church ;-) Rumspringa anyone ??

    Which still leaves me with how LDS members here would like us apostates to react to or interact with the missionaries.

    Mick

  150. Michael, unless you are a former Mormon I don’t consider you an apostate. From your intro you sound like you come from a Catholic/Protestant background, so you wouldn’t classify as an apostate. (Maybe a heretic, but that’s really not our term).

    Not all apostates are bad people either. It’s a descriptor, not an insult.

  151. Michael asked:

    But I do want to try and engage with them on the larger traditional interpretation of Christianity as accepted by Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations. I wonder if you would find that offensive ??

    Not in the least.

    Some missionaries are more willing than others, however, to spend time with those who indicate they are unlikely to convert. And, to judge from what my son told me when he was on his mission, missionaries can develop a certain defensiveness — they fairly often run into people who pretend they’re interested in the church, then, after wasting their time, make fun of them or preach at them or whatever, basically trying to make fools out of them. So they might be suspicious.

    Michael also said:

    Which still leaves me with how LDS members here would like us apostates to react to or interact with the missionaries.

    I think the main thing is to be polite and honest in your dealings with them.

  152. Katie L — All but the first two of your suggestions already apply to many if not most senior missionaries. Missionaries barely out of high school hae different needs for structure than retirees do, but I’d definitely agree there’s room for tweaking in those areas.

    I have no thoughts one way or the other on the first-name thing.

    And I agree with you on the dress code. I do see some benefit to a recognizable “uniform,” but I think that something a bit less nerdy would make the missionaries more approachable. The outfit may look normal to those of us that are in the church and used to it, but elsewhere not so. I think the “look” simply creates another obstacle under many circumstances.

  153. Michael: No worries about the delay in responding.

    I think you more or less captured my point (which to reiterate I stated as: “they give up something good for something better”).

    You responded, “I wonder if they really know what they’re giving up.”

    To which I say: absolutely they do. Every missionary entering the mission knows long beforehand that he/she will be giving up each and every item on Tim’s original list of 13. None of those are surprises. And, since everybody has experienced life without those restrictions then it doesn’t at all compare to your Luther analogy; you didn’t know what it meant to read Luther, but a missionary certainly knows what it’s like to not wear a necktie.

    Sure, one could argue that they can’t really understand what it means to give up those things until they actually give them up, but that’s kind of circular thinking.

    “I believe the LDS culture very much “locks” or at least highly encourages 19-year olds to go on mission.”

    I always agreed with you on that point. I just said, and still say, that it’s not a relevant point (as it relates to the topic of this post; it’s perfectly interesting in other contexts).

    “they don’t really get to experience a ton of the local culture. It’s not why they’re there…. Hence I question the what they get to experience part of your example.”

    It depends on what you mean. I’ll bet that if you spent some time in Brazil as a tourist that you’d see things I never did, but at the same time I experienced parts of Brazil you likely would not. I went to birthday parties and funerals, I visited orphanages and hospitals, I taught in favelas and in the homes of college professors, I ate real Brazilian food made by real Brazilians in real Brazilian homes, and so on. If I moved to Brazil today I would have little or no trouble adjusting to the culture because I already lived it to a large degree.

    And besides all of that culture that I lived, the other part of my experience was delving into my religion, learning to work with people who weren’t my friends, learning to care about people who could do nothing to benefit me, and more.

    “I definitely don’t think we’re “superior”. BrianJ mentioned that a little bit too.”

    I’m not sure where I mentioned that. I don’t think I did….

    “Is that really why they’re going on a mission ? Or are they going to convert people ? Let’s at least have the honesty to call things for what they are.”

    The mission has a lot of indirect purposes. The main goal, stated quite clearly in the mission statement in the “white bible” (at least when I served), is to “bring souls unto Christ”; i.e., to convert people. Personal growth, strengthening young people in the church, etc. are secondary objectives—but I can’t see how anyone is being sneaky about that.

  154. “Which still leaves me with how LDS members here would like us apostates to react to or interact with the missionaries.”

    We’d like you to convert, of course!! :)

  155. “they don’t really get to experience a ton of the local culture. It’s not why they’re there…. Hence I question the what they get to experience part of your example.”

    I’ll toss something out about this point. I’m with Brian here. I’ve traveled abroad as a missionary, tourist, and anthropology student (as in I went specifically to study the culture)–and without a doubt, my mission gave me the most intimate and honest look at another culture of all three experiences.

    Granted, I missed some incredibly important aspects of their culture. I didn’t get to spend each Sunday in their temples and other places of worship; I missed evening parties with home-made whiskey; I passed on the all-night clubs…and these ARE INDEED vital pieces of their lives that I never experienced (and which I would love to experience at some point in the future–maybe even taking a sip of that whiskey this time [maybe not]). ;)

    But I don’t think you really get to experience another culture until you’ve lived in a lonely city where tourists never visit, or wept with women in their living rooms who tell you over and over how much you remind them of their children who are living abroad to make ends meet, or bought bread and tomatoes at the little shop in your apartment complex day in and day out and get to know the names of everyone who works there.

    Until you learn to speak their language and get a feel for the flow of their regular lives because you’re living it right along with them, you never REALLY experience another culture.

    So in that sense, an extended LDS mission is a more authentic experience than most 19-24-year-old kids could ever hope to have.

  156. I’m going to third that on the culture…In fact, I’ve often heard that the CIA likes to recruit return missionaries in part because they’re so adept with specific foreign languages and cultures.

  157. In fact, I’ve often heard that the CIA likes to recruit return missionaries in part because they’re so adept with specific foreign languages and cultures.

    To say nothing of all the martial arts training which they pick up from their polygamist assassin wives.

  158. …. “Hmmmm..whiskey” But that’s ok for a heretic like me ;-)

    PC: No insult taken. As a matter of fact I don’t recall ever being insulted by an LDS member. I have been insulted more by so called evangelicals than by the mormons I have worked with. And thanks for the clarification on the term. Never realized that.

    I can see the experience part more and more as I listen/read. I’ll take it for now based on what Brian and Katie said. I still think there’s a lot of stuff I got to experience on my world travels that perhaps missionaries don’t. But it definitely wasn’t all good considering I’m an “off the beaten path” kinda guy. I recall wandering down some side streets in China one night with a colleague. And interestingly enough the guy that joined me is an LDS member. He was the only one, besides me, who wasn’t afraid to go do this. Stupid ? Perhaps. Great experience ? Absolutely ! I don’t think missionaries get to do that per se, but perhaps what they do get to do is at least an exposure and invitation to other cultures. I’ll leave it at that.

    As far as engaging with missionaries, I’m usually pretty up front. Grew up strict Roman Catholic, pretty strong believer in Christ, active in a very Bible oriented non-denominational Church, history buff and hence interested in historical Christianity and no interest whatsoever in converting. (sorry BrianJ ;-) ) However, interested in trying to understand the LDS faith and more than willing to try and engage. To convert ? Perhaps.. just in as much as the missionary may try to convert me. But anyone, believer or not, is welcome in our house, grab a plate and sit down for dinner. I make a mean BBQ ;-)

    In Him
    Mick

  159. You know something – I’ve always been really puzzzled why everyone seems to have this odd and mystifying confidence that missionaries would look “less dorky” if allowed to dress how they want.

    What exactly led you to this strange conclusion?

    If any of you visit my house, I’ll have to drag out some of my mission photos from Japan. I guarantee you, the dress code was a GOOD thing in both my case, and in the case of most of my fellow missionaries.

    On P-Day, we dressed pretty-much like homeless people. Ugly tapered jeans, combined with wingtips, and baggy shapeless sweatshirts, and not a hint of color-coordination to be seen anywhere.

    Believe me – white shirt, tie and slacks was a BIG IMPROVEMENT.

    So, until 19 year old boys learn to dress themselves, the dress code stays as far as I’m concerned.

  160. Wow, Katie, I think that last comment was the most positive thing I’ve heard you say about your mission! :)

    So, Katie asked what we can do to help those perfectionists who got overburdened by their mistakes in strictly adhering to the structure of missionary rules. (At least, I think that was the question.)

    I think the single most important factor is to begin a massive paradigm shift in how we think about missionary service. We need to stop thinking of it (and promoting it as) an obligation and start thinking of it as an opportunity. When it comes to the rules, I think we need to put a focus on two concepts: first, that no matter what the rules say, it is ultimately up to the individual to choose to follow them; and 2) change the rules to guidelines–after all, this is really what they are. I could tell all sorts of stories of missionaries who did not follow the rules because they realised that, with rare exceptions, no one was going to show up at their apartments at 9:30 pm to make sure they were home, nor was someone going to check in at 10:00 pm to make sure they were in bed, or at 6:00 am to make sure they were awake.

    I would also suggest that we need to stop teaching missionaries to be 100% obedient to the white handbook (something that was a HUGE part of my mission leadership’s counsel). Nobody is perfect, and 100% obedience is just not possible. If it were, we would have no need of repentance.

    Finally, I would suggest dropping the “obedience = blessings” concept. One, it is not doctrinal; two, it is not helpful. What is doctrinal is that blessings are derived from obedience. But it does not go the other way. Obedience does not guarantee blessings, especially not immediate blessings. We do receive blessings from our obedience, but we do not get to set the terms of what those blessings will be. Nor do we get to determine when they will be given.

    But because we have so many LDS people who misread D&C 130:20-21, we have a cultural mindset that says “I am obedient now; therefore, I should be blessed now” when, instead, we should be saying, “I am obedient now; therefore, if the Lord chooses, I may be blessed, maybe now, maybe later, and probably not in the way I expect, but I also need to remember that I am not the only person in the world, and therefore there are many more factors involved, especially in missionary service, than simply my own personal obedience and worthiness, thus the blessings I receive from obedience are most likely not going to be the same blessings that the sons of Mosiah received when they were on their missions for 14 years.” (Unfortunately, that latter doesn’t fit into a neat little catch-phrase).

    Of course, I don’t know if any of this would have helped Katie when she was Sister L. but I think it might have.

  161. Seth
    Wasn’t expecting anything else to come from a lawyer ;-)

    As an IT geek.. give me flip-flops, shorts and a T-shirt any day.

    Mick

  162. If 19 year-old young men can be taught the difference between white shirts & ties v. jeans & sweatshirts, I have great confidence they can also be taught the difference between “business casual” v. jeans & sweatshirts.

  163. I don’t.

    And I think casual Friday is one of the stupidest trends in the corporate world to come along since those moronic books about “samurai business tactics” back in the 80s when people thought Japan was actually going to beat the snot out of everyone.

    “Wow guys! Now one day out of the week, we can all dress like the Saturday Wal Mart edition of ‘What Not to Wear!’ freedom never looked so stupid!”

    Believe me when I tell you that these guys did NOT know how to dress themselves, and they tended to be so focused on proselyting that they just didn’t bother to shell out much cash on clothing (clothes shopping would have been considered a distraction, and besides – it would have been totally sissy anyway). It’s hard to irredeemably screw up white shirt-tie-slacks. Believe me, this dress code is far, far better than the alternative.

  164. Ouch Seth. I didn’t realize you were so passionate about this.

    And I think casual Friday is one of the stupidest trends in the corporate world to come along since those moronic books about “samurai business tactics” back in the 80s when people thought Japan was actually going to beat the snot out of everyone.

    Are you also one of those Mormons who loathes the practice of women wearing jean skirts to church?

    Anyhow, if I had things my way, all Mormon missionaries would dress like this. And probably look like that, too.

  165. Jack, there is no way in hell you are going to get Mormon missionaries to pull that off.

    Let me itemize the reasons from my own mission (which I think are fairly typical):

    1. Mom bought all my clothes
    2. I had no color coordination
    3. When I did buy my shirts, they were always at least one size too large
    4. Missionaries – like most young men – don’t take care of things

    When the Elders moved out of their apartment in Nagamine during my mission, it cost the LDS Church over $8,000.00 to pay for the damage 6 years of missionaries had done to the place. We didn’t treat our clothing any better. Some of the missionaries I knew actually had their shoes held together with visible safety pins and duct tape.

    Clothing is not something that missionaries were thinking of, and honestly, you can’t really make them think about it either.

    5. Poor budgeting skills. We usually managed to keep ourselves reasonably malnourished on my mission. We had plenty of food budget. We just didn’t handle it that well. As you got more experienced as a missionary, you got better at making the money go where it needed. But as you matured in your mission, you ALSO started to care less and less about your own needs and more about others.

    My last area in Japan, one month I spent so much money on fellowshipping activities, that I pretty much ran out of money. It was a good thing that we had a big sack of pancake mix, a bag of potatoes, and box full of mandarin oranges that a nice church member brought by. Because that’s what we lived on for two weeks. I had a total of $2.00 and change in my coin pouch for most of that month.

    We didn’t take care of ourselves. Mission President wives try to remedy this as much as they can. So did the local Mormon moms. But you just can’t force a pack of 19 year old guys with no girlfriends to take care of themselves.

    Impossible. Not in the program.

    Also Jack, I would suggest taking a survey of the young single guys you see around (not just the ones you NOTICE – all of them) and just see for yourself how snazzy they tend to dress.

    Young – guys – dress – like – crap.

    End of story. Over and out.

    Uniforms are probably the best fashion event to occur in LDS missions.

  166. Young-guys-dress-like-crap !

    Exactamundo ! And that makes it all the more weird that the LDS young guys don’t dress like crap. It makes them stand out like a sore thumb !

    Good, bad or indifferent I guess. But they would probably connect more with groups their age if they dressed like crap too.

  167. Oh and FWIW.. By now I’ve had 8 of those “young people” (4 girls, 4 boys of which 4 our own, 4 foster) come through our house.

    The rule is “Nothing offensive”, meaning no cuss words, no raised fingers, etc.. on the clothing. Besides that.. go for it. And they tend to stick to it. A rule like that might work.

  168. I don’t have a dog in this hunt, but white shirt and khakis seems easier to figure out to me than a full suit. The tie brings all kinds of opportunity for fashion misfortune.

  169. Holy crap, Seth. The link was a joke. I’m not that ignorant of how sloppy the young men-folk are. The one I married was only 22 and a year off his mission when he became my roommate. Sorry to waste such a good rant, but it really wasn’t necessary.

    I do think your hatred of the business casual proposal makes you sound awfully conceited, but maybe that’s because I’m only one generation removed from Arkansas trailer trash myself. Business casual is worlds nicer than what the people from my family almost always wore. Guess I just don’t “get” fashion like you do.

  170. “But you just can’t force a pack of 19 year old guys with no girlfriends to take care of themselves.”

    I do it every day.

  171. And probably look like that, too.

    Probably the main reason the missionary in pic #1 is beyond redemption. Put him in any one of those other get-ups and it only increases his face’s punch-appeal.

  172. So, until 19 year old boys learn to dress themselves, the dress code stays as far as I’m concerned.

    While this isn’t the world’s most important problem, I do find I have a very definite opinion on this issue!

    I didn’t say abandon the dress code entirely. I said lighten it up. For the first few years in Bulgaria, things were dangerous enough that missionaries dressed in street clothes anyway–khakis and button up shirts or polos–and somehow they survived. You can still keep it simple enough that’s it’s hard to screw up, but reduce the weirdness factor of suits and ties or calf-length skirts all the time.

    You could even still have rules. And yeah, there are some nerds out there, but even they can follow pictures with basic instructions: Don’t wear white socks. Pants should NOT be 3 inches above your ankle. Match your leathers.

    You don’t have to look like a GQ model by any means, but learning to dress normally and nicely is a basic life skill anyway.

    Oh, and maybe it’s because I was in the theatre, but most of the guys I knew when I was 19 dressed very well. (And no, they were NOT all gay. Even if most of them were. LOL.) ;)

    Wow, Katie, I think that last comment was the most positive thing I’ve heard you say about your mission!

    I’ve been very negative about the whole “missionary” aspect of my mission, but I did LOVE the language, the food, the culture, and the people–heck, even most of my companions. If I would have spent more time focusing on those things and less time focusing on rules and “doing it exactly right,” I would have had a very different experience.

    Of course, I don’t know if any of this would have helped Katie when she was Sister L. but I think it might have.

    I think it might have, too. :) I like all of your suggestions, Alex.

  173. I like the suits. I think suits make guys hot. :)

    The girls’ clothes, though… there is no way that two girls walking together wearing the missionary uniform can look much better than dowdy. Let a girl wear pants, already! Sheesh.

  174. The suits are fine. The short-sleeved button-down and tie look is super dorky.

    Katie L. ~ You don’t have to look like a GQ model by any means

    I beg to differ. If you don’t look like a GQ model, there’s no way I want you on my doorstep trying to hand me a Book of Mormon.

    (Just in case anyone humor-impaired is reading this, yes, I’m kidding.)

    katyjane ~ The girls’ clothes, though… there is no way that two girls walking together wearing the missionary uniform can look much better than dowdy.

    Amen to that. I watched The Errand of Angels the other day and those colored tights the protagonist kept wearing were disastrous.

    I think a sister missionary would look pretty darn stylin’ in my $8 beige pinstripe pants. Everyone looks stylin’ in pinstripe pants.

  175. When my sister went on her mission, she had a specific goal to never look frumpy. And she didn’t! She also gave her trainer a total makeover. Oh, if only I had permission to show the before and after pictures! However, I think that Amanda would kill me. You can ask Kaimi what he thought (although he may plead the Fifth).

  176. By the way, since Tim’s taken it on the chin for most of this thread…

    I’d thought I’d just reiterate my appreciation for his ongoing efforts to foster civil and respectful communication between faiths. My beefs with his approach are nothing to the gripes I have about other approaches I’ve encountered.

  177. I will tell you that something you are not considering is very important. Let me ask a question…when a student is attending medical school how much time do you think he spends living the life as a student? The curriculum is rigorous…and with much effort the student reaps the benefits he set out to by becoming a medical Dr.
    You speak as if LDS missionaries are living a lifestyle that causes vulnerability to abuse. Wow…it’s just the opposite my friend. Temple garments are offered as a protection and one should live worthy to wear them and understand the privilege. We all make committments in our lives for various things. Missionaries are no different.Please don’t think I intend to be contentious, I do not. Please understand that anything worth working towards in this life takes committment and sacrifice.

    Someone once said that “sacrifice means giving up something for something better” (so in actuality can it really be “called” sacrifice?) Being in tune with the Spirit that allows them to teach takes sacrifice, but many don’t see it that way. They simply see it as ah honor cosidering what Christ has done for ALL mankind…the atonement makes it possible for us to live with him. God is merciful, and kind. He loves us. He wants each of us born to the earth to know truth…be strengthened in trials, and return to live with HIM. I hope you will be there too. You have every opportunity to.

    Missionaries for the LDS church love the Lord. If they do not and are not committed to Him, they have no business being on missions. The have 1 day a week where they prepare for the week, they excercize, shop, write letters, ect…yes they still pray, serve through other means , read scriptures . Missionaries are to preach and testify of Christ. He is not here to physically walk and talk with them. The missionary must know Him to teach of him and His sacrifice through the spirit. The spirit can not be present with anything negative that drives his spirit away.
    I have been so grateful for people who serve others and bring joy to thier lives. My brothers have served mssions. my husband served a mission. My sister served. My son is a US marine, as are many others in my family. I’m so grateful for them! Unlike the military which truly is a dictatorship…that doesn’t allow so many freedoms one does have on an LDS mission is an honorable way to provide something for others…defending our freedom.
    Missionaries speak of missions being “The best 2 years of their lives”…they do not suffer Post Traumatic Stress for it.

    Please interview some…you will see you have not got the complete picture. I promise. Although I will not comment to all of your points, I feel they are all completely necessary and help keep the missionary safe, spiritually in tune, and focused on what ways are best to teach certain individuals that express their willingness to learn more…and want the truth in their lives. If missionaries regret missions they were on, believe me, they were in the minority…and probable had family issues at home or othere mental or health problems that went unresolved befor committing themselves to be servants of the Lord for 2 years.

    These men make great husbands…they have learned a higher way of living and are experienced in the attitude of “What can i do for you today?” instead of just their own needs. What better way to start out a marriage and creation of children than that? I’m sure grateful of my marriage to an LDS missionary…25 years next month. No matter the trials, the struggles raising children , extended family situations ect…I know where his heart is capable of being and so often is.

    Have you ever attended a college without rules of conduct, dress code or reccommendations for good study habits? A place of worship? A wedding or funeral? Golf course…country club? how about your childs preschool? or a pricy restaurant/ a cemetary? There are things we do in all those places…social and respectful. Do you address your church leader by the first name, the president of the US, high school principle or credit officer at your bank? The name Brother “so and so” or “Elder so and so” is out of respect…nothing more. Would you appreciate that kind of respect? Did you ever call your friends parents by their first names….hopefully not!
    Do a little more research, talk to people happy in the gospel…ask them why they are. Ask them if they feel they are close to perfection yet…they will all tell you “no”. It’s about stiving for purity, which eventually in another life can lead us to perfection….ALL OF US HAVE THAT CAPABILITY NO MATTER WHERE WE NOW STAND OR WHAT FAITH WE NOW BELONG TO. Saving ordinances must be performed, our good works do matter and God will judge our hearts, with Christ as our mediator. I hope for you that understanding will come. “The motivation behind the rules is the understanding you lack…” There is so much more to it! Good luck to you friend. I hope you do have your questions answered accurately. Sincerely Kati

  178. JACK (who else) wrote:

    I beg to differ. If you don’t look like a GQ model, there’s no way I want you on my doorstep trying to hand me a Book of Mormon.

    (Just in case anyone humor-impaired is reading this, yes, I’m kidding.)

    liar,liar, pants-suit on fire…..

  179. Just my 2 cents in response to number 12: I carried my passport in my front pocket my entire two years in Russia, and was astounded that I never lost it (only because I tend to lose everything).

    Otherwise, I by and large agree with Jack’s opinion on the matter.

  180. Haven’t read all of the comments, but the premise of this post is right on. I was severely emotionally abused on my mission 20+ years ago in South America. I suffered awful abuse by a President who was only concerned for numbers, and not for souls. I worked in the offices for over a year, and was a witness to how he literally beat down dozens of missionaries.

    I did call home a couple of times WITHOUT authorization, because I was on the point of a mental breakdown. One occasion was prompted by violence inside of the country, and I wanted my parents to know that I was ok.

    Too bad cellphones didn’t exist in that era.

    I did have several shortwave radios that were confiscated by the Assistants to the President, but I only used them to find out what was going on inside of the country, since the national media was silent due to brief martial law.

    A mission can be devastating, as it was for me (should have left 20+ years ago), and a quick call to mom and dad can make all the difference in the world.

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