This article [Church unveils 16 new questions for prospective Mormon missionaries to ensure they are ready, worthy and able to serve] was published in the Salt Lake Tribune and did the rounds a few days ago.
Most of the discussion centered on the following from question 5:
In reference to the law of chastity, have you always lived in accordance with what has been discussed? If not, how long ago did the transgression(s) occur? What have you done to repent?
Which implies that the youth are expected to recount sins and their repentance process for sins that have already been resolved with a church leader.Have you lived in accordance with all of these standards? Are you now living in accordance with them? Will you live in accordance with them as a full-time missionary?
That's certainly a topic that can be covered but I wanted to focus on a different angle.
There are challenges during a mission that simply can't be avoided then there are challenges that we create for ourselves. For instance:All are encouraged to engage in candid and meaningful conversations to ensure that the prospective missionary is adequately prepared to meet the rigors and challenges that a mission might present.
While I applaud concerns over the mental health of our youth I wonder whether aspects of the expectations we place on missionaries create an environment that produces mental health issues. 12-15 hour days, 7 days a week, two years, not one day of vacation. That accurately describes my mission and those kinds of hours will crack the toughest of nuts. Everyone on this planet should have conditions that prevent them from working those kind of hours.Do you currently have or have you ever had any physical, mental, or emotional condition that would make it difficult for you to maintain a normal missionary schedule, which requires that you work for 12–15 hours a day, including studying for 2–4 hours a day, walking or biking for up to 8–10 hours a day, and so forth?
The problem: Missionaries are coming home early or otherwise experiencing issues that have an impact on their ability to do the work.
Proposed solution: Double down on the vetting process to filter out the weak kids (uncharitable representation).
Another Solution: Make the missions less arduous. There's absolutely no reason whatsoever that missions have to push our children to the breaking point.
1) We could limit a missionary's hours to 10 hours per day.
2) We could limit a missionary to working 5 days a week, and I'm not talking a p-day day where the kids put off doing chores all week so they could squeeze them all into a half-day "off."
3) We could relax the limits we've placed on communication. We gotta visit HTing families once per month but can only talk with kids on a mission twice a year? Isolation from family and friends create mental health issues.
But we make it difficult because those are the rules and those are the rules because of tradition. I'm of the opinion that if we backed off the workload, just a little, then the missionaries would be happier and more productive. We're all business, right? Studies have shown that overworking employees reduces productivity. I hope that study makes it into the business culture of missions.
To me it's another case where there's a problem with a church program and the perspective is that the problem lies entirely on the participant side of the equation. We've got to harden/prepare our youth for the rigors of a mission, make sure they are reading their scriptures 3 hours a day, and biking to church 4 hours uphill both ways. That will prepare them for a mission. Or we could make missions suck less.