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