Questions to ensure youth are ready to serve a mission

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nibbler
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Questions to ensure youth are ready to serve a mission

Post by nibbler » 25 Oct 2017, 06:42

Better late than never.

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?
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?
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.

That's certainly a topic that can be covered but I wanted to focus on a different angle.
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.
There are challenges during a mission that simply can't be avoided then there are challenges that we create for ourselves. For instance:
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?
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.

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.
It is the end of the world. Surely you could be allowed a few carnal thoughts.
― Connie Willis

Roy
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Re: Questions to ensure youth are ready to serve a mission

Post by Roy » 25 Oct 2017, 09:37

nibbler wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 06:42
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.
DW and I both served in different missions. We were both told that if an investigator asked us if we had ever committed xyz sin that we could honestly answer that we had not because the Lord remembered it no more. This new set of questions implies a different standard of transparency for investigators than for church officials. interesting.
nibbler wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 06:42
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."
What are they going to the remainder of the time? Idle hands are the devil's playground.
nibbler wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 06:42
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.
I imagine that this is partially a hold over from earlier times. For a long time lengthy phone calls could be unaffordable by many missionaries. The limits are perhaps to make it more equal to missionaries of differing economic ability.
Missionaries that are removed from their home lives may tend to be more focused. After a while - home seemed to be more ethereal. The mission was my home.
Another factor is that isolation produces a more rigidly enforced chain of command. I served around 2000. Email was not permitted. I had a soccer game accident that left my testicles black and blue. it hurt to sit down. I called my neighbor back home who is an RN. She advised me to tell my MP and get it looked at. I did. It turned out to be bruising and perhaps some scar tissue. big relief for me. Anyway afterwards the MP chides me for calling home. He tells me that he has a pretty good feel for what injuries require medical attention and that by calling an RN who at advised me to get checked out I took the decision out of his hands. IOW - I circumvented the chain of command.

I am not saying that any of these issues or justifications are insurmountable - just that they should be considered.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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nibbler
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Re: Questions to ensure youth are ready to serve a mission

Post by nibbler » 25 Oct 2017, 10:00

Roy wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 09:37
What are they going to the remainder of the time? Idle hands are the devil's playground.
Snorkel, scuba dive, and safari. :P

But to follow my thoughts in the original post; what do they do with the free time? Avoid having a mental breakdown?

DW served a mission too and she reminded me that I took my mission way too seriously... and I think she's right. Perhaps I'm in the minority of people that allowed the rules and regulations of a mission to overshadow all other aspects of the mission. Maybe most people try to enjoy their missions first and the rules are just sort of there in the background.

That said, during my mission we talked about obedience and meeting quotas almost every day and there was never any talk of enjoying the mission and stopping to smell the roses every once in a while. I guess some people have a nature of being joyless rule followers (like me on my mission) and all the talk of obedience is harmful to those types; and there's going to be troublemakers that need the constant reminders to obey, obey, obey to keep the mission from descending into chaos.

I was one of the "I bet he's fun at parties" types that needed to be showered with messages to take things less seriously in order to find my balance... but in the mission there is one message. Obey. If ever there was a place where the prosperity gospel thrives...
It is the end of the world. Surely you could be allowed a few carnal thoughts.
― Connie Willis

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mom3
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Re: Questions to ensure youth are ready to serve a mission

Post by mom3 » 25 Oct 2017, 11:21

These rules make me ill -

My brother served a mission ages ago. He was like Nibbler. Obedience was the first law of heaven. My brother fasted himself down 50 lbs while serving. His mission was a remote Native American reservation. No one wanted the message. There was no difference on the reservation from a white Mormon Missionary and some Government Suck up who would eventually take your land and trade you booze for it.

When my brother left home he was one of the most balanced, warm, funny individuals I'd known. Not a class clown. A happy, joyful, type of person. He had tons of non-LDS friends, who loved him and were inspired by him. He did not need to go find people. People found my brother.

On his mission that brother died. He has never returned. The system won. He is anchored to the church like no other. But we lost him. My sister, mom and I still grieve the loss. His non-member friends still grieve the loss. He could never be relaxed around them again. He tries so hard to be chill. His answer is to stuff all pain inside. Obedient people should never hurt. At three different points he has suffered debilitating depression. I know we have no proof that the mission created the space for depression, but something during those 2 years, while he was miles away and unreachable, flipped in him. It is so heartbreaking.

Fast forward to now - that same brother has a son on a mission in Kazakhstan. A month ago, Elder Nephew wrote home that he was having pain in his leg while walking. He had played High School sports. It might have been an old injury. Who knows.

Two weeks later an email from the Mission President arrives and says they are sending him to Instanbul for care and treatment. Oh and by the way, "He's a great Elder." My brother sends out a request for prayers,etc. My mom and I hit the phone and call my brother and his wife. His wife is weepy, worried. My brother refuses to call the Mission President. He doesn't want to disturb the mission or his son. I am like "Hell - Yeah. You are paying for the dang experience. You can call." But no, my brother was the AP on his mission and family interference really messes with things. I am now really pissed. I am not suggesting helicopter parenting. Your not phoning to say, "Did he brush his teeth." They are moving him out of the country for treatment of what?

The more we push. The more my brother shuts down. We back off.

Another couple of weeks pass - the MP wife writes an email. They are all in Instanbul. Elder Nephew is fine, just an infection. They are going to stay for a few days and tour. Oh and have we told you, "He's a great Elder."

The story gets better - Yesterday, my brother's oldest son, who is an RM and at BYU, writes home to explain how he was told by one of his Professors that Elder Nephew's story was even more miraculous than we knew because the border's between the countries were closed to Americans. Wasn't it faith promoting that God allowed the rules of border security to be breached so that Elder Nephew could get care.

An email thread of testimonial gratitudes exploded. Only "great Elder's" get that experience. Obedience Wins.

Then my husband happens to talk to a Turkish co-worker. The borders closed thing isn't what the Professor made it out to be. If Elder Nephew has an active visa, he's fine. Nothing more. Well he did - because he was Obedient.

Needless to say I will get to live the rest of my life with the miraculous story of the "Great Elder" saved by his mission. And my lost brother damaged by his.

inthenameof....amen.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

Roy
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Re: Questions to ensure youth are ready to serve a mission

Post by Roy » 25 Oct 2017, 13:32

Thank you for sharing mom. I will be thinking about your experience for awhile.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Re: Questions to ensure youth are ready to serve a mission

Post by Roadrunner » 25 Oct 2017, 13:53

All indications from where I sit are that rules to serve a mission will continue to get more stringent. On the plus side the youth service missions are also being promoted now more than ever. I actually really like the youth service missions. Live at home, attend school, perform service. Even date although that's not advertised.

I think one simple rule change would make life dramatically better for families and missionaries alike. Allow a once a month or once a week hour long call to mom and dad. Technology is such now that it's cheap (free?) almost anywhere in the world. Some missions allow instant messaging already on p-days.

Missions are subject to leader roulette just like any ward or stake. My mission president expressly forbade us from fasting more than once a month for one day. He left the mission to attend a family member's funeral (supposedly a big no no for mission presidents). He also told me he'd never send any missionary home for breaking mission rules unless it was sleeping with someone or a felony - although he reserved the right to make life miserable for disobedient missionaries. He also let me call home to register for college.

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Re: Questions to ensure youth are ready to serve a mission

Post by DancingCarrot » 25 Oct 2017, 14:49

nibbler wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 06:42
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?
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?
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.
My interpretation of these questions is to "ensure" that past behaviors are done away with and won't interfere/be a distraction during the mission. IE, someone who has done something serious in the past needs more evaluation so that it can be nearly guaranteed that it won't happen again. I don't think it's a productive tactic, and agree that it's purposefully muddying the waters.
Roy wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 09:37
nibbler wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 06:42
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.
DW and I both served in different missions. We were both told that if an investigator asked us if we had ever committed xyz sin that we could honestly answer that we had not because the Lord remembered it no more. This new set of questions implies a different standard of transparency for investigators than for church officials. interesting.
Roy, this is an interesting perspective. I can understand the rationale behind "Don't confess because God doesn't remember it anymore" but I think that does the concept of forgiveness an injustice. You can't forgive if you don't know what the reality of a situation or person is. I also think it can be counterproductive to forget a past experience. Additionally, is it shameful if you keep remembering what you've done although you've been told that God doesn't remember? What if it's helpful to de-brief about the situation so that you can learn more about yourself and about life? What if you go back to certain moments at different points in your life and continue to learn from your past mistakes? Also, I would think that, to some extent, being able to relate to investigators about moments of guilt, embarrassment, or regret would be a positive thing. It could be a really powerful way to show others that there is a way to change, and that lots of us are doing it as well. Brene Brown's research about vulnerability and shame apply well in this scenario.
nibbler wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 06:42
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.
This sentiment reminds me of how it is to work in healthcare. You are held accountable for your own burnout, regardless of the very stressful patient populations and diseases, as well as the hugely important yet infinitely detailed responsibility of charting. I'm all for personal accountability, but I won't take responsibility for conditions of the environment that are outside of my control.
It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. -Dumbledore

Roll away your stone, I'll roll away mine. Together we can see what we will find. -Mumford & Sons

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Re: Questions to ensure youth are ready to serve a mission

Post by DarkJedi » 25 Oct 2017, 14:56

I didn't want to start the thread, so thanks Nibbler. I have no reservations about posting tough.

Nibbler's ideas are my soapbox. I served a mission and two of my sons have, with another leaving soon.

I get the obedience thing, it's the only thing MPs have to hold over the kids' heads. Almost every MP could benefit from studying and pondering Pres. Uchtdorf's talk about fear from April GC.

I agree with the shorter day idea but what I'd really like to see is a real day off or two. Missionaries do not keep the Sabbath (because they're not really allowed to) and I believe it's extremely unhealthy for their mental well being to have no other free time - a real day to relax and do what they want (within reason).

And the phone call thing. I agree it's mostly a holdover from an earlier time. Even once very other month would be an improvement. If they're all going to get smartphones, how about allowing texting Mom and Dad?

A note to Mom3 - I recently visited with a returned MP acquaintance. He would absolutely urge your brother to call the MP and even the son without reservation. Of course he was the type that had a Facebook account and liked parents to message him.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Re: Questions to ensure youth are ready to serve a mission

Post by AmyJ » 26 Oct 2017, 06:19

To offer a different perspective...

My mom has battled with chronic depression throughout her life - and I wound up being more or less a 3rd parent in my family.

Serving a mission was difficult at times because I wondered how my siblings were doing without my assistance. However, I consoled myself with the idea that because I was serving a mission my family was sustained to function without me. In the emails and letters I got, there was some evidence of that, but also you didn't have to look too hard to see that they were doing less well off without me. If I had had monthly access to call them or video chat with them, I don't know that the illusion would have been as effective - and it would have impacted my service in my mission.

I don't know what the best course of action is, I just think maybe possibly, I was better off because I didn't have as much contact.

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Re: Questions to ensure youth are ready to serve a mission

Post by Roy » 26 Oct 2017, 14:26

DancingCarrot wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 14:49
Roy wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 09:37
nibbler wrote:
25 Oct 2017, 06:42
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.
DW and I both served in different missions. We were both told that if an investigator asked us if we had ever committed xyz sin that we could honestly answer that we had not because the Lord remembered it no more. This new set of questions implies a different standard of transparency for investigators than for church officials. interesting.
Roy, this is an interesting perspective. I can understand the rationale behind "Don't confess because God doesn't remember it anymore" but I think that does the concept of forgiveness an injustice. You can't forgive if you don't know what the reality of a situation or person is. I also think it can be counterproductive to forget a past experience. Additionally, is it shameful if you keep remembering what you've done although you've been told that God doesn't remember? What if it's helpful to de-brief about the situation so that you can learn more about yourself and about life? What if you go back to certain moments at different points in your life and continue to learn from your past mistakes? Also, I would think that, to some extent, being able to relate to investigators about moments of guilt, embarrassment, or regret would be a positive thing. It could be a really powerful way to show others that there is a way to change, and that lots of us are doing it as well. Brene Brown's research about vulnerability and shame apply well in this scenario.
I also read an ensign article by a woman that had lived a life of sin as a young adult and now serves as the RS president. She gave the same rationale. She had worked it out with the proper authority. She was fully forgiven. Her ward members and children do not know about her past (I assume that the husband does know). I thought that it was interesting that the article was anonymous.

Part of this is just a justification for LDS culture and practice. We are not open about our sins, struggles, or shortcomings so that must be the proper and right (divine?) way to do things. Some other Christian churches seem to revel in how sinful their lives were before Jesus came into their life so as the better highlight the miraculous transformation. There are advantages and disadvantages of doing that. In LDS culture we resolve our sins quietly behind closed doors. If forgiven, we likely rarely or even never talk about it. We are even given this particular rationale to justify lying about it if asked directly.

I also speculate that, as missionaries, we are to project a sense of being God's messengers. Once investigator's accept the BoM as additional scripture the missionaries become like mini-prophets. They introduce such concepts as chastity, tithing, WoW, and the investigators are expected to commit immediately. I can only speculate but taking life advice from a pair of 20 year olds might be a hard sell. Maybe they are not going for "relatable". Maybe a sense of otherworldliness or heavenly messenger.

Again, I can only speculate as to the reasons why but DW and I were both told not to confess these things to investigators unless directly told to do so by the HG.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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