EI3C7208copy_zpsbd0bc077In a conversation with two friends, one mother excitedly described the girl her 23 year old son was currently dating– accomplished, lovely, the most incredible testimony… “But,” the other woman interrupted, “she didn’t serve a mission, did she?”

“No,” my friend answered, “she prayed about the decision many times but never felt like it was right for her.”

“I’m not saying she’s not a nice girl,” the friend replied, “but she’d be much more impressive if she’d served a mission.”

I’m fairly sure steam erupted from my ears; I know my face flushed with heat as I entered the conversation, but I tried to measure my words,  “You’re not serious?  Prophets instruct our girls to rely on personal revelation. I’m proud of every girl who serves and every girl who follows a prompting to follow a different path.”

“But you have to admit,” she persisted, “these returned missionaries will make much better wives and mothers. They’ll be more prepared to serve in the church.”

“You know I didn’t go on a mission.” I reminded her.

“Sure. But times were different then. With the age change, no girl has an excuse not to serve.”

And that was the moment I knew had to walk away before I exploded in anger.

****

Since that conversation, I’ve talked to several girls and mothers of girls who haven’t joined the recent wave of sister missionaries. I’m sure there are girls who never considered a mission, but I talked to young women who pondered, prayed and struggled with the decision. Over and over I heard, “I was confused to receive a ‘no’ answer. Didn’t the Lord want me? Couldn’t I contribute in the mission field?”

“I know I’ve made the right decision for me,” one girl said, “but I wish people would stop questioning me about it at every turn.”

Girls aren’t the only ones badgered with questions about their mission. I’m worried about boys feeling pressure to leave missions straight out of high school. Some seem to regard it as a badge of honor to leave just days after they earn their diploma. At the very least, our boys should take several weeks after graduation to attend the temple multiple times before they enter the MTC.

I know several boys who’ve chosen to attend a year or two of college before they depart and I applaud their decision. Although I’d love to have my third son home for another year, he’ll begin his service a month or two after high school graduation. I also respect his agency and his ability to receive personal revelation.

One boy who chose to wait until age 20 said, “I can’t count how many obnoxious questions I dealt with. At first people just asked out of polite interest, but as time went on, they asked me outright if I had worthiness issues. Don’t people understand the age change means we can CHOOSE to leave at 18, not that we’re required to?”

This seems like a good moment to review exactly what President Monson said on that eventful Saturday Morning, October 2012:

I am not suggesting that all young men will—or should—serve at this earlier age. Rather, based on individual circumstances as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available.

As we have prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service, we have also given consideration to the age at which a young woman might serve. Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.

We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty—and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve. Many young women also serve, but they are not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men. We assure the young sisters of the Church, however, that they make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome their service.”

President Monson’s words are concise, clear and filled with compassion and love. I know he wouldn’t approve of any judgment placed on fellow members of the church. As I spoke to varied people on this subject I was sickened to hear of missionaries sent home early who were ostracized by their ward, one boy whose car was egged and painted with the word ‘quitter.’ I’m sad to hear of kids who don’t feel ready and end up coming home because of anxiety. I hope we exercise compassion to everyone. Really what good comes from making our fellow saints feel unwanted; do we want to drive them away?

And how about this: what if a young man or young woman really was lazy, unworthy or just disinterested? Would the Lord want us to belittle and berate them? Of course not. God doesn’t throw people away. He doesn’t use a checklist to keep track of our good and bad deeds. He extends His arms to all, and in our own imperfect, mortal, flawed ways, so should we.

Have you heard prejudice against girls who don’t serve a mission?

Do the young men in your area feel pressured to leave immediately after high school?

and I don’t even want to ask my next set of questions, like, “Do you think returned sister missionaries make better wives and mothers?” so, just share your thoughts.

January 14, 2015

120 Comments

  1. DB

    January 15, 2015

    Clearly, your friends have forgotten these words from President Hinkley:

    “Now I wish to say something to bishops and stake presidents concerning missionary service. It is a sensitive matter. There seems to be growing in the Church an idea that all young women as well as all young men should go on missions. We need some young women. They perform a remarkable work. They can get in homes where the elders cannot.

    I confess that I have two granddaughters on missions. They are bright and beautiful young women. They are working hard and accomplishing much good. Speaking with their bishops and their parents, they made their own decisions to go. They did not tell me until they turned their papers in. I had nothing to do with their decision to go.

    Now, having made that confession, I wish to say that the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve are united in saying to our young sisters that they are not under obligation to go on missions. I hope I can say what I have to say in a way that will not be offensive to anyone. Young women should not feel that they have a duty comparable to that of young men. Some of them will very much wish to go. If so, they should counsel with their bishop as well as their parents. If the idea persists, the bishop will know what to do.

    I say what has been said before, that missionary work is essentially a priesthood responsibility. As such, our young men must carry the major burden. This is their responsibility and their obligation.

    We do not ask the young women to consider a mission as an essential part of their life’s program. Over a period of many years, we have held the age level higher for them in an effort to keep the number going relatively small. Again to the sisters I say that you will be as highly respected, you will be considered as being as much in the line of duty, your efforts will be as acceptable to the Lord and to the Church whether you go on a mission or do not go on a mission.

    We constantly receive letters from young women asking why the age for sister missionaries is not the same as it is for elders. We simply give them the reasons. We know that they are disappointed. We know that many have set their hearts on missions. We know that many of them wish this experience before they marry and go forward with their adult lives. I certainly do not wish to say or imply that their services are not wanted. I simply say that a mission is not necessary as a part of their lives.”

    • Michelle L.

      January 15, 2015

      Thanks for adding Pres. Hinckley’s words DB. I thought about including them in the original post but I was worried someone would say… “that was then…” Sad, huh.

  2. Sandra Reddish

    January 15, 2015

    I am sure there is pressure. I think one reason for this misunderstanding is that people in our church assume IF you are living the gospel you should be doing the same things and making the same decisions as others. It can be hard to still be kind when we see others making judgements. I think the key is to focus on : what is the counsel of the Prophet and do we feel we are doing the will of the Lord. As members some assume influencing people for good means we have the right to tell them what to do or make judgements. What we often fail to realize is loving someone and serving them will influence them far more than preachy statements about what they should do.

    • Michelle L.

      January 15, 2015

      “What we often fail to realize is loving someone and serving them will influence them far more than preachy statements about what they should do.”

      beautifully expressed, Sandra.

  3. Sandra Reddish

    January 15, 2015

    Also some of the rudest people I have met are preachy judgmental return missionaries who try to categorized everyone and some of the sweetest souls I know never officially served a mission. I think it truly has to do with how honest they are about their own behavior and id they meant to judge others and mock or make fun. Unfortunately i think a lot of members spend time in the great and spacious building and never even know it…..they think they are like Alma calling people to repentance when it really isn’t their place. If someone needs to repent it is between themselves, their bishop if needed, and the Lord.

    • Annie

      January 19, 2015

      Sandra, there are some in each category. I served.. turned 22 in the MTC, thanks 😛 But I am fully aware of both President Hinkley’s and President Monson’s council regarding young women serving missions. It’s an option. Not a requirement. And when I hear people getting down on women who didn’t, I have kind of a dual response:

      Inside the privacy of my own head, I laugh at them. As you’ve said, some of the sweetest, strongest women (like my mom) didn’t serve a formal, full-time mission. Frankly, I don’t really care why a woman doesn’t serve. That’s between her and the Lord- not my business. I clarify that “formal, full-time mission” because there are many kinds of service that our Father needs from His daughters. I tell my mom that she served 2 missions.. without her, I wouldn’t have served mine.. and neither would have my baby brother.

      I also verbally and out-loud correct the speaker, reminding them of the perspective our prophet(s) and general authorities have repeatedly stated- option, not duty.

  4. Sandra Reddishv

    January 15, 2015

    Oops lots of typos sorry!!!! lol I tried to edit it when I realized but can’t seem to figure out how to do that. Anyone know ?

    • Michelle L.

      January 15, 2015

      I’ve got your back Sandra. 🙂

  5. Sharon Woolstenhulme

    January 15, 2015

    The rude comments and pressure are driven by “mormon culture” which is not the same as the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    I also think the rising number of missionaries returning home is 2 fold:
    -caving into “mormon culture” pressure before the person is ready
    Second – parents, especially mothers, not allowing their children to experience and deal with hard things before they leave home.

    • Michelle L.

      January 15, 2015

      So true Sharon. So if my sons want to leave right out of high school, I have an increased responsibility to make sure they are prepared.

  6. Ana of the Nine+Kids

    January 15, 2015

    I feel very strongly about this. My oldest son went to college for one semester before going on his mission. It was the PERFECT thing for him to do. My second son is planning to leave for a mission at the end of summer after he graduates from high school, again, the PERFECT thing for him. Why the difference? They are different boys and have different personalities and different needs and different maturity levels and received different answers to their prayers.

    As for women serving. I planned to serve a mission my entire life but when it came time to start the paperwork, I knew it was the not the thing for me to do. I got married a year later. (I was concered for awhile that I would be “wasting” a year and a half of my life if I did not choose to serve a mission but one day it dawned on me that it was not as if I would just be twiddling my thumbs for 18 months because I did NOT serve. I had lots of experiences and contacts and missionary experiences anyway. For me, there simply was not time in my life for it when I was 21.) From my observations, serving a mission does not hurt women, but neither does it particularly give them an edge in being wives and mothers. It may be an absolute benefit in other ways but I do not believe that the skill sets I use as a wife and mother would have been particularly increased if I had chosen to serve a mission. I am not saying there would not have been other benefits or that sister missionaries do not do tremendous good (my mother was a young sister missionary and as a brand new convert, it did a TREMENDOUS amount of good in her life), I am just looking at the particular skill sets used as missionaries and mothers. In my opinion they are rather different. A girl who served a mission can make a fine wife and mother (which are the crowning blessings and obligations for women in the gospel, NOT other offices in the church), as can a girl who did not. I was not sure about this 21 years ago before I got married but now, with hindsight, I can absolutely state that it is true.

    I too am concerned about the “one size fits all” attitude on this and am appalled that anyone would treat a young adult with such disrespect and contempt. If they went on a mission but came early they need MORE love and support, not less.

    • Michelle L.

      January 15, 2015

      I agree Ana. ‘One size fits all’ really fits hardly anyone.

      And when I look around at the women I admire in my ward and elsewhere, some went on missions, some didn’t.

    • E

      January 16, 2015

      On my mission I gained so much experience and so many skills that have blessed me throughout my life. I had a strong testimony before I left but my relationship with God was greatly deepened. I learned patience, love, sacrifice, obedience, service. I learned to rely on the Holy Ghost. I learned to act and not to be acted upon. I increased in planning, goal setting, and organization skills. I learned to help difficult people. These are the most crucial part of the “skill set” needed as a wife and mother. They have also blessed me in the other roles I play in my life, which are very important, including in the church and professionally.

      I also agree that sister missionaries do tremendous good. In fact, there is no greater good than to bring souls to Christ.

      • Ana of the Nine+ Kids

        January 16, 2015

        E,
        I did not mean to imply that missions for sisters are not a great thing. As the direct beneficiary of some WONDERFUL sisters who taught my mother, I want to make sure that I am not misunderstood–I am VERY grateful for the service they gave/give.

  7. rk

    January 15, 2015

    As an RM I agree with everything this article says. I can’t see how the brethren can be any more clear about the different honorable options young adults have today.

    Not every young women is cut out to serve a mission and that is ok. I’m glad I did, but I wouldn’t try to impose my choices on others. My advice would be, if you think you would like to serve a mission really pray about it. If the answer is yes, then go. If not then (this is important) DON’T GO! Trust that there is a good reason for it. I remembered getting really annoyed at some sister’s lukewarm commitment to serving. As I was leaving one area I served in had to be closed costing many thousands of dollars, hassles and lost contacts because a sister suddenly in the MTC decided to get married instead of going to the field. In all due respect, this decision should have been made long before the MTC. Her indecision hurt the work.

    I also think that those with emotional and psychological issues should really think and pray hard before going. Mission tend to only exacerbate these problems. I have known of many missionaries who have struggled with this. Let me tell you, they might be out on a mission, but the work essentially stops to accommodate them. Meanwhile we as members should mind our own business when a youth doesn’t go. There is always a good reason and it ain’t our business to judge.

    There are so many other meaningful ways sisters can serve outside of a mission. There are so many ways a sister and (elder) can have comparable growing experiences.

    I sort of agree with Ana a mission not necessarily making us a better spouse. About six months after getting married someone in our ward first realized that we had only recently married. He remarked, “But you seem to get along so well. . .” I answered him that compared to getting along with difficult mission companions, getting along with a spouse was easy. But yes, I do agree, a mission isn’t going to magically make a difficult and/or selfish person into a good spouse.

    I am also concerned with 18 year-olds being pressured to go. I can tell a difference between the maturity of a well-intentioned 18 year-old and a 20 year-old.

    • Michelle L.

      January 15, 2015

      thank you rk. I love your perspective.

    • NQRM

      January 18, 2015

      As a sister missionary who came home one transfer too soon I feel that I have a unique perspective on all of this. I know what it’s like to be a college student when the sister missionary age was 21; I know what it’s like to be a college student when the sister missionary age is 19; I know what it’s like to be a returned missionary; I know what it’s like to come home early from a mission and be judged.

      1) D&C 4:3 Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work;

      Once a girl has graduated from high school and if she has the desire to serve God she should either be seriously preparing to serve a mission or seriously preparing to serve a family because the call has been made, and it is clear in the scriptures that God is not very fond of people who waste time or are lukewarm about where they stand.

      2) Notice that it doesn’t matter what age they may serve a mission, just as it does not matter at what age they marry. What God wants is for us to SERVE HIM whether that be as a full-time missionary or a full-time mom. The problem we have is that with the age change people started stereotyping young Latter-day Saint women based on whether or not they serve a mission. The age change has made it easier to spot the young ladies who have no desire to serve God because they obviously won’t be serving missions at 19 if they wouldn’t have even wanted to serve a mission upon arriving at the age of 21. HOWEVER the age change has also made it more difficult to see the young women who sincerely desire to serve their God but have received confirmation that they should rather prepare for marriage.
      None of us should ever judge or negate the personal revelation of our fellow saints. God’s timing is not our timing and He knows exactly when those different timings will be for each one of his different daughters. Although we should not forget that even though we do not have the same priesthood duty to serve a mission as the men do, we do have the same duty to SERVE.

      3) As for the common opinion that sister missionaries make better mothers, I agree and I disagree. EVERY PERSON IS DIFFERENT. I believe that the skills a person learns on a mission are EXACTLY the skills that one needs to be a good mother. I remember being prompted nearly every day that what I was doing or learning was going to help me be a better mother. Could I have ignored those lessons and not applied them to being a better mother? Yes. Could I have learned those lessons and acquired those skills without going on a mission? Yes. But, I believe that it would be very difficult. How many 19-23 year old girls read their scriptures for an hour every single day individually and for an hour every single day with a partner? How many 19-23 year old girls are thinking 24/7 of others without time to worry about themselves? How many 19-23 year old girls are compromising with a partner when buying groceries or planning out their weekly activities? Not very many. If they don’t go on a mission and get married instead can they still learn these valuable skills as well as or better than a sister missionary has? Yes. Would it be nice to have a head start, knowing these things before going into marriage? I think so. ***The key is: learning these valuable skills to being a good Latter-day Saint mother before you’re married is such an advantage, and I am grateful for the layout of a mission that taught me such skills AND my willingness to learn and change and apply those principles, because I feel it is rare for a 19-23 year old to set up a system and teach herself said skills before marriage. I wouldn’t have done it.

      4) Regardless of whether a person has or hasn’t served a mission, regardless of whether a person has or hasn’t come home early from a mission, regardless of whether a person has made mistakes before, after, during a mission or any other time in their life! WE SHOULD LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Christ did not say love one another sometimes, or love one another “BUT”, He said love one another AS I HAVE LOVED YOU. Without conditions or restrictions or limitations. Without judgments or contempt or pity. Have Charity: “as I have loved you, love one another”.
      When searching for an eternal companion we should be concerned with what kind of a person they Truly are. We should be concerned with what the spirit and our God tell us about the person we are dating. Getting caught up in labels of RMs and non-RMs and making judgments off of those is not what our Savior or His church teaches. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Judge righteously according to what God tells you in your heart and in your mind.

  8. Heather

    January 15, 2015

    These kind of attitudes drive me mad! I’ve lived in a number of different placed (never Utah) and don’t seem to encounter as much ‘attitude’ as there appears to be there. I wonder if it’s a cultural tendency to those areas with lots of church members? Obviously this is pure speculation on my behalf as I’m basing my opinions (ok, let’s be honest…sweeping judgements) on second hand information. I guess I shouldn’t be doing that either!!!!!!

    • Michelle L.

      January 15, 2015

      Heather, I think you’re right– Utah has more attitude. I’ve asked several people about this topic and those outside of Utah aren’t seeing the same sort of pressure and prejudices.

  9. Anne

    January 15, 2015

    I am one of those girls who did not go on a mission. I was nineteen when the age changed and nearly all of my friends left. I earnestly sought for my own personal revelation and my answer was to stay at BYU and continue my studies. I know I could have been a successful missionary. I could have strengthened my testimony in different ways and become a better teacher, but my calling was to stay put and continue moving forward with faith.

    Not serving a mission has turned out to be a trial I never expected to have. I never thought my closest friends would doubt my spirituality or testimony and that I would be ostracized from certain circles simply because I followed the spirit and didn’t serve a mission. Now that the first wave of missionaries has returned there are times when those of us who stayed feel like pariahs. One of the most painful occurrences is hearing my male peers say they will only date and/or marry RMs. This seems so illogical to me because most of the girls who did not go on a mission are just as worthy, spiritual, etc. and were working towards worthwhile achievements. It’s not that one way was better and would result in a better life. Rather the experience of mission or staying put offer a different set of experiences that are necessary for that individual. Not better…just different.

    I wonder if this cultural issue is more strongly apparent on the Wasatch Front or even specifically at BYU. This specific issue has increased my excitement to graduate this April, so that I can get away from all the comments about being one the girls who didn’t go.

    • Michelle L.

      January 15, 2015

      Anne, I’m especially glad to hear from you. I want to quote almost every sentence you wrote.

      I’ve heard about this trend, “One of the most painful occurrences is hearing my male peers say they will only date and/or marry RMs. This seems so illogical to me because most of the girls who did not go on a mission are just as worthy, spiritual, etc. and were working towards worthwhile achievements.” I find it so very sad.

    • Jon

      January 19, 2015

      As an “RM”, if a girl tells me they served a mission, it means nothing to me. I know a lot of girls who are serving or who served partially because they felt pressured to or didn’t feel like they had anything else to do. I also know a few who had other plans but felt that they would be withheld blessings with they didn’t go, which is directly contrary to what prophets have said. These missionaries were always problems in the field. On the other hand I’ve met a few who definitely went for the right reasons and they were some of the best missionaries out there, but they were always few in number. “RM” means only as much as people let it mean. I’ve met plenty of real jerks who carry the title but I’ve also met some genuinely humble and selfless people who also have. Really, it’s not about if a person served or not, it’s about who they are when you meet them and who they want to become.

    • Kelsi

      January 19, 2015

      Anne, it’s not primarily in the Wasatch Front. I go to school at BYU-Idaho, and the attitude of “I’m only going to date/marry an RM” is starting to creep its way into the social norm. As for girls who didn’t go, the judgment for that hasn’t started quite yet, but it does get a little discouraging to be one of the only sisters in Relief Society/testimony meeting who can’t share “on my mission” stories…

      • KerriLynn

        January 19, 2015

        I have experienced this cultural trend throughout the “Mormon corridors” Idaho, Utah, Arizona (mostly high population centers), and Portland/Vancouver areas. More now for Sisters, but long term with young men. Also, 25 yrs ago, when I returned from my mission, many young women in these same areas were practising the “only RM” marriage thing. I married an RM. That was not the be-all solver. I am sorry that was a major concern for me.

      • Jasmine

        January 22, 2015

        I’m in the same boat, Kelsi. Seems like everyone is either sharing “OH MY GOODNESS, I’M GOING ON A MISSION!!” or “When I was on my mission…” and it’s difficult. I really hope that the social stigma of dating a non-RM dissipates, and that the judgment towards girls who do not serve does not develop here.

        Some boundaries on the subject would just generally be nice. 🙂

      • Samantha

        February 2, 2015

        I loved this article. I feel like it should include men as well. Don’t be so quick to judge why someone has chosen not to go on a mission. Actually, you shouldn’t judge them at all or make them feel like they are a horrible person. When I was in high school, I was dating a guy that was not planning on going on his mission. My bishop pulled me into his office one Sunday and told me to break up with my boyfriend and find a return missionary. He basically said that a return missionary will make a better husband than a man who did not serve his mission. My dad did not serve a mission. My dad and mom have been married for 21 years. To this day, I am boggled at how my bishop thought he had the authority to demand that I break up with my boyfriend because he was “less” of a man. That I wouldn’t be as blessed in heaven if I didn’t marry a RM. My now husband did not serve a mission and I don’t think I could have found a better man. When my husband was in the singles ward he was a new convert at 21 and the girls in his ward would go on a date with him and ask him if he was planning on serving a mission or had served a mission. He would reply no and they didn’t want to date him after that saying, “I only date RM’s.” What a horrible social norm that has been brainwashed into LDS women. Just because someone decides to not serve a mission, doesn’t make them unworthy or not suitable to marry. There are plenty of RM’s who have had affairs, are abusive, and plenty of other horrible things. I think the best thing is for everyone to be kind and not be so judgmental. There are reasons why men and women choose to not serve missions and it doesn’t make them any less of a person.

        I know I went on a complete rant, but this topic has really bothered me living in Utah and seeing 18-19 year old boys being pressured by family members and ward leaders. My little brother is in this situation right now. I have plenty of family members who ask him if he is going and he replies “I haven’t decided yet.” They give him this disdainful look. “Like I can’t believe you aren’t gung ho about going on a mission.” It really bothers me that people can be so quick to judge. It’s a really big decision. Let them decide when and if they should go on a mission.

    • Liz

      January 21, 2015

      I’m sad that you’ve experienced hurtful comments like that.
      Having served a mission over 20 years ago, I learned that the decision to serve a mission is a deeply personal one and that what is right for one person is not what is right for another.
      I will share one more thought:
      I grew up in Utah and came from a family that had gone through divorce and inactivity. There were young men who chose not to date me because of that. I found a seminary teacher’s words to be particularly comforting in regards to this situation. He told me that I would find a young man who would love me for who I am. He was right.

      • stacer

        January 29, 2015

        I was told the same thing. I didn’t. But the thing that your seminary teacher should have told you, what people like that should have told me, is that your worth does not lie in whether a man deems you worthy of his love.

    • Meghan Bean

      January 24, 2015

      I love your comments. The prevailing attitude is sort of like, “Well you’re not a BAD person for not going, but…”
      It hurts a lot when I hear that from guys. I never expected to feel worth any less over this. I didn’t expect to be categorized in a tier below anyone else over this. I don’t get why they have the nerve to talk to me about it. What do they think I’m going to agree..? I don’t think all guys mean it that way, but in some cases I think it’s elitism confused with ‘higher spirituality.’

  10. Annie

    January 15, 2015

    A girl in my ward was told by a recently returned missionary (young man) that she was cute but she’d never get married if she didn’t serve a mission.

    Six months later she did get married to a fortunately less biased returned missionary.

    I’m a RM and it was life changing for me but I’ve told my two daughters they are under no obligation to serve. I sometimes feel they have pressure to serve just because I did.

    • Michelle L.

      January 15, 2015

      One girl told me about a conversation overheard between two male RMs:

      “She’s cute, but she’s going on a mission. I don’t want to go out with her.”

      “She’s a nice girl but she didn’t go on a mission. I don’t want to go out with her.”

      My friend walked away laughing– she couldn’t win either way!

  11. Nani

    January 15, 2015

    Our third child, a son was nearly twenty-one when he left on his mission. Knowing he needed professional help for anxiety, time to develop more emotional maturity, and also to feel that serving a mission was his decision, I was completely unashamed about answering those “covert” questions from ward members. After being bullied and experiencing so many ADHD-related struggles through adolescence, the last thing our son needed was another perceived “failure” if he couldn’t cope with the intense challenges of a mission. (My husband was always very honest about the difficulties he experienced as a missionary. I’m not sure that’s always the case in priesthood or missionary prep classes.)

    I was shocked when we met with our bishop to discuss our son’s counseling needs, only to be told that he and our son (who was then 18) had started the missionary paperwork. The kid had recently returned home from a failed semester of college where he finally fell apart emotionally. The bishop was adamant about what the handbook said about boys serving missions at at 19. (This was before President Monson’s announcement.) But we held firm. Of course our son is an adult, wanted to go on a mission at that time, and he experienced a lot of pressure to do so. But he was unprepared financially and finally admitted he needed to prepare in other areas as well.

    The next two years were difficult. I’m the first to admit that waiting was a gamble, but we always told our son the mission decision was his. At one point, he almost quit attending church because of things that were said to him by peers. But he trusted his therapist, eventually developed good relationships with the single’s ward bishopric, and gradually gained confidence as he got a job.

    Our son is now “on fire” with enthusiasm as he winds up his full-time missionary service. Like all missionaries, he has plenty of hardships, but the techniques he learned from his therapist are valuable tools that help him cope.

    I’m so grateful we learned about his anxiety before his mission; my heart breaks for several of his peers and younger men in our ward who didn’t know how devastating this condition can be until they found themselves far from home, experiencing challenges they never imagined when they accepted the call to serve. From the first “wave” of missionaries from our ward who left right after high school graduation, nearly half have returned home because of emotional difficulties. Most are now less-active. Again, my heart breaks when some of their moms who tell me how disillusioned their sons feel. So many active kids in the single’s ward and even at the high school have said unkind things to their siblings. We can do better and teach our children to do better.

    Our fourth child, another son, will soon turn twenty. He has Asperger’s syndrome and we don’t yet know if he’ll choose to serve a mission after he finishes a course at tech school. But I did feel uncomfortable when boys who had their mission calls were singled out at last spring’s seminary graduation. They’re wonderful young men; one in particular had tried to befriend this son. But I don’t feel it was appropriate for church and seminary leaders to portray them as better than others who might not be ready to serve. Maybe not even in this life.

    As for our youngest son? When a stake leader told our ward’s young men that “eighteen is now the magic age” to serve a mission, our deacon raised his hand and answered, “That’s if it’s right for you.”

    • Michelle L.

      January 15, 2015

      Oh Nani. You’re an awesome mother. And bless you for your honesty.

    • Jan C

      January 30, 2015

      Thank you. My son graduated at 17 and is only 5 months past his 18th birthday, having decided on a semester of college before he left. The number of questions and even taunts that he has dealt with is ridiculous. As he watches numerous friends return after only a few months on missions they were not prepared enough or mature enough to serve, he just shakes his head every time he is questioned. As “saints”, our tendency to judge others, usually be some warped version of the standards as we interpret them, is shameful. These young men and women are going to bring others to Christ. We should all try to bring ourselves to Christ as an example. Perhaps shutting our mouths would be a great first step.

  12. Nani

    January 15, 2015

    Sorry for my looong monologue. But, to respond to someone’s previous comment, our son’s therapist told us that missionaries from areas besides Utah aren’t leaving at age 18 in such large numbers. Things haven’t changed that much, so apparently the pressure isn’t the same. For the record, we live in southern Utah.

  13. Ana of the Nine+ Kids

    January 15, 2015

    Anne’s comment about young male RM’s declaring that they will only date/marry female RM’s makes me feel sick. I think it is more a reflection of their own misunderstanding and immaturity than anything else. It seems to be an example of going beyond the mark–if the prophet declared that women who do not choose to serve will be considered as just as worthy as those who do, who is anyone else to say anything different? I plan to have a discussion in family home evening with my children on this subject.

    • Michelle L.

      January 15, 2015

      there’s some facebook group where the boys have all committed to dating only RMs. sad, sad, sad.

  14. jenny

    January 15, 2015

    Just, Amen to this post.

  15. Arianna Rees

    January 15, 2015

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this. I just barely wrote about it on my own blog because it’s been so frustrating and prevalent lately. I was probably a lot less Christlike about it than you’ve been here, but here’s the link, if you’re interested in more of my thoughts:

    http://www.igobyari.com/2015/01/to-guys-who-will-only-date-rms-from.html

    I’d write more here, but it took a lot out of me. Haha.

    • Michelle L.

      January 15, 2015

      Oh Arianna– I read your fabulous post, but I was horrified by some of the comments. I’m so sorry you were attacked like that. Let’s state the obvious– just because someone went on a mission doesn’t mean they are a good person or a good missionary. Anyone who’s served a mission should know that fact.

      Again, I’m sorry. But I think you’re lovely and I’d be thrilled if you dated one of my sons.

  16. Holley

    January 15, 2015

    Isn’t it interesting that we as women are now being subjected to the same prejudices that young men who are “off of the norm” have been enduring for years. Hopefully it gives us more compassion for our sons, nephews, etc.

    • Darrell Williams

      January 20, 2015

      Thank you Holly, that’s the perfect remark

  17. Jeanelle

    January 15, 2015

    In my area (Pacific NW) I think there could be some pressure but I haven’t heard of much. More YM I know are going away to school for a year to experience living away from home before turning in their papers, which I think is a great idea. Just learning to get along with someone you’re not related to but have to live with is a huge help, I think.

    I’m sad that we are so judgmental of each other…it breaks my heart, actually. I wish we could all recognize and appreciate the fact that the youth we know and love are doing what’s right for them. The thing that I always say is just because a young man *can* leave at 18 doesn’t mean he *has* to leave at 18. I think mission presidents would much rather welcome a prepared, spiritually strong and ready to go missionary than one who felt pressured to depart soon after their birthday. And re: young women…I never served and I think I turned out just fine. I wouldn’t want someone to marry me JUST because I served a mission, just as I wouldn’t want someone to consider me only because I had. That’s just silly…

  18. j

    January 15, 2015

    Stories such as these are why I am losing more faith in the correlated Church. Instruction rather than conversion. The general membership and too many lay leaders perpetuate this. I’m resigned to have rather low expectations when it comes to the Church organizations. It keeps me from being disappointed.

  19. Elissa

    January 15, 2015

    Over 20 years ago my husband said the same thing, only an RM for him. I was an RM so I didn’t have a problem with that. But as an RM I recognize not all RM’s are created equal. My Dad never served a mission but I have seen him serve more diligently than many RM’s. Over the years (before age changes) I have seen this kind of judgement of many wonderful male YSA’s that were overlooked because of their inability to serve a mission. I have also seen many girls judged for wanting to serve a mission (but you are too pretty to serve). We need to stop judging people full stop at church.

    I am an RM but I see many women who never served who are amazing women who I would be proud to have as a daughter-in-law for my son. I have also seen the same for men who did not serve. We should not judge people by where they have been but where they are going. I am a YW’s president and I am trying to teach my girls that they should prepare to serve a mission but not that they have to serve. Preparing spiritually to be able to serve is important and then if they decide to go or not at least they are ready for life – spiritually prepared.

  20. Nani

    January 15, 2015

    Our daughter, who is a returned missionary, wishes that more young men would consider dating her. At BYU-Idaho, she and her roommates (who are mostly returned missionaries) have observed that it’s usually the 18-19 year old girls who get asked out. When she returned to school after her mission, that hasn’t changed. Sigh.

  21. Robin

    January 15, 2015

    This article makes me so sad. My husband and I just returned from our mission (I hadn’t served previously) and had such good experiences with the missionaries. We felt so badly when they had to return home early and in every instance but one it because of anxiety and an inability to press forward. I had a struggle with that too and I’m 63 yrs. I look at missionaries who came home early with different eyes now. I want to help them feel good about themselves again and be successful. Also, the 18 yr. olds who came out struggled for the most part because they really weren’t mature enough for the decisions they had to make. The sisters were wonderful but sisters whether on a mission or not always are. Those RM’s who discriminate between girls who have served and those who haven’t are cheating themselves. A strong testimony comes in a lot of different packages and now one knows what’s inside till they open it.

  22. Bekah

    January 15, 2015

    To answer your last question, I absolutely feel that serving a mission has helped me be a better wife and mother. I feel that is true because the Lord knew that there were specific lessons that I would learn as a missionary. However, I do not, in any way, feel that missionary service is necessary for every young woman to learn those lessons, even though it was for me.
    My younger sister had a strong desire to serve as a full-time missionary. For health reasons, she was unable to do so. Her sensitive bishop and stake president were able to make arrangements for her to serve a part-time church service mission while going to school part time. We had many long phone calls during that time and talked about her experiences. It was amazing to see the parallels between the life lessons that she was learning and the ones that I had learned as a full-time missionary.
    I think the Lord can teach each of us the lessons that we need to learn, even if the circumstances of our lives are very different. My life choices may be different from yours, but if we are both following the guidance of the Holy Ghost, they will lead us where the Lord wants us to be.

  23. Megan

    January 15, 2015

    I served a mission (when sisters were the ripe old age of 21) and it was one of THE hardest decisions I ever made. It was back when sister missionaries were considered the castoffs of Mormon culture because they weren’t making babies at 19 years old. Now, it’s the “in” thing to do- to serve a mission. Those three years after high school that led me to serving a mission were some of the most valuable, experience-gaining years of my life. They enabled me to have experience to draw from that allowed me to connect with many less actives and investigators.

    I wish members of the church more often lived the Gospel rarher than living the culture. The culture is unforgiving and hypocritical. It breaks my heart because the culture/attitude is bound to alienate young people who choose not to serve or choose to wait a short period before filling out their papers.

    I pray that my daughter will feel the call to serve a mission someday, but if it’s not right for her, I’m completely confident that the Lord will bless her with missionary opportunities.

  24. Kerri

    January 16, 2015

    I feel exactly the same as you do, Michelle. Why can’t we let people make their own decisions without judging them?

    Our son is in his first year of college. He is planning to turn in mission papers in the next couple of months and leave sometime next summer. I am glad to say that no one (as far as I know!) has given him any flak for that decision. And it has DEFINITELY been the right choice for him. I had a couple of moments where I wondered if he should go last summer, but those moments were few and fleeting. In fact, I would be fine if he decided to wait another year if it were for a good reason.

    If we trust that each of us is entitled to personal revelation, why can’t we allow others to get different answers than we receive? The ordinances of the church are universal, but the applications of gospel principles differ in each of our lives.

    I haven’t personally seen or experienced any of the negative spin on the new mission age, but it breaks my heart for those who have, especially those who end up postponing or returning because of anxiety or depression.

    I think discussions like this are helpful. We need to remember that our job is to love and support, not to judge and demean.

  25. Elizabeth Huntsman

    January 16, 2015

    Speaking of pressure, it amazes me how much is put on senior couples. We were caring for our adult son, who had kidney failure while he waited for a transplant. A friend, who was a member of the stake presidency, asked us when we planned to go, as we are relatively young, healthy, and have the means to serve. We explained that we were caring for our son while he underwent dialysis 3 x a week. He looked at us and said, “Can’t someone else take care of him?” I was shocked. We had always planned to go, and currently serve in Russia, but that left such a bitter taste. I think many of us don’t get the agency thing – I love these young ones who choose to serve. What a joy it has been to meet so many beautiful young ones!

  26. Becky

    January 16, 2015

    I have found that no matter how certain I am about a particular life decision, someone will find a way to second guess it. The more powerful the personal revelation, the more others find a way to object.

    I was on my mission when President Hinckley reminded the church that sisters were not under obligation to serve. One of the elders I was serving with then asked me if I felt differently about my decision to serve. As if the answers to my prayers on the subject and my call signed by the prophet were somehow invalidated by a gentle reminder to church members not to pressure girls to serve.

    Your last question reminds me of young mothers who patronize me because as a single childless woman I’m ‘ignorant’ of the lessons they’ve learned. Besides being a slap in the face to someone who has spent 4+ decades trying to follow the spirit and still being denied those fundamental blessings, it simply denies the rich diversity of life and learning and understanding. I have faith that I will learn what I need to learn in this life with my experiences and God will make up the difference between what I know and what others may have had the chance to learn. No two mothers learn exactly the same things. No two missionaries learn exactly the same things. Our experiences, capacity to learn and willingness to be taught etc vary so wildly that generalizing is impossible. So yeah, maybe some RMs come home better prepared to be wives and mothers. And some don’t. I would hope that all come home better prepared to live their own lives. The experiences of every life teach that person things others cannot know.

    • Kerri

      January 16, 2015

      This is spot on! Well said!

  27. Ben

    January 16, 2015

    I’m disappointed every time I hear or am the recipient of cultural stigmas like this one, and since this one is new based on a recent change (and keep in mind, changing the age at which missionaries can serve isn’t a doctrinal change, yet still a fundamental one, making this reaction even more astonishing), it is more upsetting and will be difficult for faithful saints to address. The point your friend is trying to make is that a mission has the potential to make those that serve a very valuable asset to the church now and in the future, not to mention as a spouse. The point that they are misconstruing is that a mission is the only way to become a valuable asset to the church and become a great spouse. And the age at which you serve is completely and absolutely irrelevant. I chose to serve at 19. I also chose to pay for my mission. My dad told me two days before I left that he wanted me to pay for half of it so that I would dedicate to it more with skin in the game, but when the time came for me to serve, he would surprise me by paying for all of it. He then told me that he wasn’t even sure if he would be able to pay for his half anymore. I told him that he can do as he would like, but I had saved enough to pay for all of my mission and that he should take what he would like from what I had saved to pay for it, even if it meant I paid for all of it. I’m grateful for that lesson he taught me that day and the sacrifices he would make to pay for what he could. And I believe that if we focused on other qualities besides what age we chose to serve or the experience women go through to prayerfully choose to serve or not, we would gain from the faith of others more abundantly. Thank you for this post!

  28. Nani

    January 16, 2015

    I am encouraged by the fact that some local church leaders recognize the necessity of helping youth prepare emotionally as well as spiritually for missionary service and life in general. One stake in our area has revamped the missionary prep program and our stake adopted it this year because it has helped a substantially greater number of young missionaries to stay “in the field.” The program is still based on Preach My Gospel, but returned missionaries will be involved in each weekly meeting to help young men and women understand what missionary life is really like. Preparation for dealing with emotional issues will also be addressed.

  29. Taylor

    January 16, 2015

    I wish more people like you existed. That is, people with sense.

    I live in Highland, Utah — the Mormon hotspot of the world. The local high school has the largest seminary in the world, which is unsurprising when you consider the fact that 87% of the population are members of the Church.

    Lots of pressure to keep the commandments comes about because of this environment. Two minutes after the age change was announced, someone came through my work shouting about the age change. Two minutes after that, someone says, “You’re a senior in high school. What’s your plan?”

    “I’m still going to go at 19.”

    “Oh, you want a little extra time to repent, huh?”

    And I went to the janitor’s closer and cried.

    Within months, I had completely decided not to serve at all, and I was one critical comment away from leaving the Church. So many people assumed that my decision was due to laziness or unworthiness. But after a few well-placed tender mercies, I hung on to my testimony and chose to serve a mission.

    Then I put my papers in, and was honorably excused due to health challenges. I was devastated. I turned 19 six months later, and the time since then has been horrendous because now there’s “no excuse” for me not to serve, according to many locals. I patiently explain that there are health challenges in my way, and one erroneous response has been “pornography is indeed one of the greatest diseases of our time.”

    Thanks to more miracles and tender mercies, my health has improved dramatically and I receive a doctor’s recommendation for missionary service this Monday. I’ll finally get to serve a mission, but not after seeing the worst that holier-than-thou Mormons are capable of.

    • Michelle L.

      January 16, 2015

      Taylor, I’m so sorry for all the grief and judgment you’ve endured! I pray you’ll enjoy a wonderful mission.

  30. Rachel Howe

    January 16, 2015

    Can I say that your post was manna to my ears?!? My husband actually saw it first and called me from work. Ironically, I subscribe to both Scenes From the Wild and Segullah but hadn’t seen your post yet! So grateful to have an intune hubby to alert me to something he knows I needed to hear! When President Monson announced the age change, my oldest daughter, was a junior in high school. Excited about what the change meant for her generation, Ems declared, “It definitely opens up all sorts of possibilities for me now but I am not jumping on the mission bandwagon just yet. I need to determine what the Lord’s plan is for me.” That following spring she came home from seminary one day and told me about a powerful experience she had in class that afternoon and how she was certain she was going to serve a mission. She was excited and talking about her mission preparation was a frequent topic. Everyone who knew and loved her, knew her plans included a year away at college and then a hoped for mission call that would have her in the MTC by early may of her freshman year of college. She was even asked to speak in stake conference in her senior year about her plans to serve a mission and what she was doing to prepare and, of course, being her mother I can say she spoke masterfully. But about half-way through summer as she was preparing to leave for college, she whispered to me one day, “I need to really make sure a mission is right for me.” I didn’t hear much more about it until a month in to her college career. She called me, audibly upset, and said, “Mom, I really have got to figure out this mission thing…I am feeling pulled in all sorts of directions and can’t get a confirmation on what to do.” I told her to take a deep breath and she had plenty of time to decide what she was doing. I mean, man, there was no rush and time often soothes the heart. But soon she called again, ” Mom, I am feeling so much momentum at school. I am enjoying the learning process so much more than I ever imagined and I am getting little pricks telling me that perhaps sticking with my studies, and even expanding my studies, is what I am supposed to do.” To complicate matters, she had several opportunities that required a time commitment right at the same time she had always anticipated entering the MTC and she felt strongly she needed to determine God’s will for her before making any other decisions regarding the next year of her life. The next six weeks were a roller coaster for her and for me as her mother. She fasted and agonized and prayed and worried and read guidance from church leaders and studied her patriarchal blessing and sought priesthood blessings and agonized some more. I mean, heck, not only had she told the whole world she was gonna serve a mission, but she REALLY wanted to serve a mission. But she just couldn’t get a clear and concise answer from Heavenly Father. It was a frustrating and confusing time for my dear girl and I helped the best I could. One time I found an article on lds.org titled FOR YOUNG WOMEN: Making The Mission Decision. It talked about seeking personal revelation and discussed the SEVEN different answers you might get from the Lord regarding your question of full-time mission service. Seven options! These poor girls. I know boys need to determine the timing of their mission service but the knowledge that they need to go is pretty inherent in their priesthood responsibilities. Our dear young women have such a tough thing to determine with the Holy Ghost on the plan for their young adult years. And even after deciding not to go, until they are married the option is always there…and that can be really great in some ways and in other ways a little wedge in their mind if they elect not to go that can wiggle around at times and make them wonder if they have chosen correctly or not. To make a long story short, Ems finally received her answer from the Lord. It wasn’t any grandiose experience but guidance in her patriarchal blessing and the still small voice spoke to her heart and mind and told her that staying in school was important to her life plan. Most of the time she stands confident in her decision but some of the time she finds herself questioning her answer. Most of those questioning times arise from the comments of others that seem to imply a decision not to serve a full-time mission is based on selfishness or Satan’s whisperings or when she hears statements inferring returned missionaries will better wives and mothers down the road. She happily joins the all excitement generated by the mission calls the majority of her girlfriends are currently receiving but wouldn’t be human if she didn’t feel a little pang sadness or doubt over her decision when she thinks of what she might be missing by choosing another worthy path, especially because for a great while she was certain that would be her path. Some might think she was taking the easy way out, thinking only of herself, but she knows that isn’t the case and in her weaker moments her Dad and I stand ready to remind her of the great opportunities she to hasten the work as a member missionary! She’d be a missionary that every mission president upon meeting her would thank Heavenly Father for sending her to his mission but she can do an amazing amount of good sticking to the plan Heavenly Father is directing for her and serving Him as she pursues her education and enters her adult years. She just has to deal with a little flak, both internally (you know us women, we guilt ourselves) and externally, at times but she has a deliberate plan to move His work forward without serving as a full-time mission. Sophrosyne is her word for the year (look it up if you need, its a goodie) and believe me, this girl is gonna move some mountains and live with real intent in 2015, no matter what others might think!

    • E

      January 16, 2015

      This story makes me so happy.

    • Karen

      January 16, 2015

      Just because your daughter felt that this was the time to work on her studies does not mean that her time for a mission will not come.
      My daughter talked about serving a mission for years, but as she got closer to turning 21 (this was before the age change), she stopped talking about it and did not feel like it was the right thing for her to do at that time. She graduated from college and worked an internship, and after those things came the time for her to serve. She was 23 when she left and turned 25 while on her mission. She loved her mission and she knew she served at the time the Lord wanted her to serve.

      This may not be what will happen with your daughter, but she will be blessed whatever happens. I think good things happen when we listen and follow what the Lord has in mind for us!

  31. Carrie

    January 16, 2015

    So many great thoughts and personal experiences – thank you! Three of my children chose to serve missions, none left at exactly the prescribed age, and all had successful missions that changed them in very important, individual ways. All three of them loved serving and have said they’d go back in a heartbeat. That being said, not everyone is cut out to be a missionary. No one can adequately express to a potential missionary how difficult mission life can be at times. Imagine how much more difficult it is when your companion does not want to be there or is unable to cope with the unique stress of missionary work. True, being a companion to someone who is struggling is tremendous preparation for things they will face throughout their lives But I would be lying if I said I never shed tears over the impact of a disobedient, unwilling or even mentally unstable companion on my own child’s physical, emotional, or spiritual health. I am encouraged to hear that more parents are advocating for their children to be ready to go instead of forcing the issue out of embarrassment or fear. Next step – LDS folks learning not to speculate or comment on a young adult who isn’t currently serving a mission. I think as the Church continues to grow, this will become less common because many wards will be comprised of converts rather than folks who grew up with LDS cultural traditions.

  32. stelmos

    January 16, 2015

    I’m 20, a priesthood holder, haven’t served a mission, and don’t plan on it. I wanted to go, but as it came around to it I didn’t feel right about it. I kept trying to find excuses not to go, hoping a reason would come up. So I decided to go away to college for a year or so, then see how I felt. Without even leaving I had a great ammount of people upset. My parents kept telling me, in their own ways, that I’m a screw up and I need to serve a mission at this moment in time. They struggled and struggled. But I still wanted to serve a mission. People began to joke and tease, poke and prod me about worthiness, and this and that. My bishop kept counselling me, telling me not to go to school, telling me I’m making the wrong choice. I was just so sick of all of it. I didn’t want to hear another word about a mission. I, more or less, fell away from the church. I didn’t want anything to do with them. Everyone telling me I wouldn’t make it, or I could do so much better with a mission. So I decided to prove them wrong. I’ll control my own life. I love the church, I attend regularly now, I never served a mission. I’m perfectly happy with my life right now.

    • Elizabeth

      January 16, 2015

      It’s merely a missed opportunity – life is full of them. What you must concentrate on are the opportunities to took advantage of. Good for you!

    • lmergens

      January 26, 2015

      That’s how I feel about the most of the commandments so I just do whatever I want. Free agency right?

  33. M2theH

    January 17, 2015

    I have a SIL who is an Rm and she is the least supportive wife out of everyone I know and has actually kept my brother from going to church. So no, I don’t think serving a mission makes you a better wife and mother. I think if you stay close to The Lord and live the gospel you are a better wife and mother than you might be without that.

    Only one of my brothers served a mission, and he was annoyed that no one talked to him at church until he finally cut his hair right before his mission-seriously two days before his farewell. So I refuse to ask the youth about their mission plans, and I make sure I talk to the long haired young men. When missionaries come home early I treat them the same way I did before.

    If I overheard a conversation about not going on a mission making someone less, I would probably call that person an idiot. To their face.

  34. Jason Ray

    January 17, 2015

    Thank you for your thought-provoking post. After reading it, I decided to write my own blog post about how I decided that I should date any girl who is following God’s plan, RM or not. If you’d like to read it, you can find it here: http://mylifeisjason.blogspot.com/2015/01/sister-missionaries-and-dating.html

  35. Random

    January 17, 2015

    And here’s the equality we fought so hard to obtain.

  36. Kenzie

    January 17, 2015

    Great post! And I agree! I’m currently preparing to go on a mission but thats because I made the decision when I was young and it’s felt right to do since then. But I went to college for a semester first and it was sad to hear and see many girls who were feeling pressured into going on missions when they don’t really feel it’s the right thing for them to do at this time.
    I think a mission teaches great lessons that can help in the future but I’m fairly certain anyone can learn those same lessons, mission or not. The Lord can shape us in whatever situation if we let Him. That’s the beauty of having such a loving Heavenly Father who knows us so well that He will never leave us alone and will help us down the right path doing is will. We’re all needed all around the world, for some that’s as mission, for others it’s a job or college or something else.

  37. Eric Geels

    January 18, 2015

    This makes me want to punch something… I went on my mission just 6 months after my 19th birthday because I wanted to earn the money to pay for it myself. I still got So many questions about worthiness, and people always said, all your friends are already gone, you’re going to end up being the last one to leave and come home,you better hurry and get those papers in so that doesn’t happen! It’s such a personal and private thing to serve a mission. I often think the only reason people want you to go on a mission is so they don’t have to go to their own ward one Sunday so they can come and hear you speak and then get free food from your house. And that’s something else I can’t stand farewells and homecomings. People were told to not make a spectacle of it… But they still are. So annoyed.

  38. Katie Richmond

    January 18, 2015

    I’m an RM and married to a lovely man who, when asked where he served, jokes that his mission in life is being married to me (in a good way). One of the most challenging things for me about Mormon culture is the lack of boundaries. Yes, as a follower of Christ I can be my brother’s (and sister’s) keeper–but I can do that and *still* mind my own business. Nowhere in the scriptures or modern revelation does it say I should be scrutinizing my brother’s choices, looking down on him, asking prying questions, offering my brother unsolicited advice, speculating about his motivations or judging him.

    By the same token, when someone does one of those things, I’m under no obligation to accept it. I can simply say, “Thanks for being concerned,” or even, “What you just said is more hurtful than helpful.” And I can walk away. One of the most difficult and necessary lessons in life is that the relationship that matters most is the one I have with the Lord. No one else’s opinion matters–and frankly, what other people think of me isn’t any of *my* business. So, as hard as it is, I can let go of worrying what other people think and do my best to guide my own actions by what I know the Lord’s will is for me. It’s taken me some painful years to learn this–episodes of allowing myself to be offended and struggling with my attendance at church–but all of those challenges have brought me to the point where I understand the atonement with more clarity and I have greater compassion for others. Hard lessons, but critical for my growth.

    It will be a beautiful day when more saints in Zion can be gentle with themselves and others as we learn these lessons in our own time and way. This is how the Lord loves us–allowing us to come to Him when we’re ready, always inviting, never forcing, ever ready with tender mercies.

  39. Madalyn

    January 18, 2015

    As a senior in high school I have yet to make the decision to serve or not serve a mission, though I would really love to. The best advice I’ve received about choosing serve was from a sister missionary I spoke with. She said, “prepare to serve a mission. Prepare to be a wife and mother. Prepare to get an education. The time you put into those three areas will never be a waste. When the time comes to decide, you will be ready for whichever path the Lord has planned for you.”
    Thank you for this article! I’m grateful for the push-back against all the judgement I’ve seen many of my older friends being subject to about choosing to serve, deciding when, and coming home early. it also makes me nervous to see so many young men get calls to go out days after they graduate. Granted, some are prepared. But many have never spent more than a few days away from home, and the spiritual challenges of serving combined with the physical and mental challenges of being living on your owning being responsible for yourself for the first time are too much all at once.

  40. K34

    January 18, 2015

    Interesting thread; thank you. I have felt fairly frustrated with people’s response to the age change for the boys. When it was announced, I took it as a statement that the option of leaving earlier was available in cases where it made more sense – like if they had plans for college at a school that wouldn’t allow them to defer, etc. It seemed like a policy change for logistical reasons; to broaden the acceptable options… not a sweeping encouragement for everyone to go as young as possible. Yet somehow it’s been all twisted around and is now a badge of honor, resulting in an increase of judgment against options that were before and are still 100% acceptable (the opposite of what I thought the change was meant to do!)

    About the girls, well, I didn’t know that RM thing was happening and it’s so misguided…. I shouldn’t even get started. I’ve had a nice spiritual Sunday and I’d hate to ruin it by getting all worked up and arguing 🙂

  41. Kimberly

    January 19, 2015

    I normally don’t comment on websites like this, but I felt prompted to today.

    Thank you for posting this. I am currently struggling with this decision myself. This has been a difficult journey. I have a desire to serve, but I am attending school on a scholarship and substantial financial aid package. If I serve, there is a large chance I could lose both as this school doesn’t have clear deferral/leave of absence policies. I am trying to find a way to serve while still retaining this financial aid,but it made me think that this might not be Heavenly Father’s plan for me.

    I know that he has a plan for us all, and that if we move forward with faith, he will make that plan clear to us. That was made clear for me by reading this, and I hope that others will be made aware of this as well.

    • Jessie

      January 19, 2015

      I served my mission with more than one sister who had finished college–I knew several sister missionaries in my mission who were 24 or 25 years old when they served. The age given is a minimum age and the timing of when you go may or may not be what you (or others) think.

      After serving a mission, I have come to realize that there are many types of missionaries and many types of missions. Each mission is a unique experience and changes a person in a unique way. A mission is a great opportunity for spiritual and emotional growth, but just going on a mission doesn’t always do that for everyone.

  42. Mackenzie

    January 19, 2015

    I feel like this has flopped. I knew I was supposed to serve a mission since I was 5. It was never a question in my mind and, in the end, it was this motivation that kept me temple worthy. Because I knew this, I didn’t feel ashamed of it. What was I told? “Oh honey, you shouldn’t plan to serve a mission. Marriage is much more important.” “Marriage is only for the ugly girls.” “Marriage shouldn’t be put off for a mission.” My personal revelation was questioned by my ward so much it almost made me give up this dream. When the age change happened, I had my papers. I served and have been home 5 months now. Even if the age was still 21, I would still be planning on serving. It was the revelation I received and my parents knew it as well.

    That was then. Now, when a young woman gets a “no” to serving a mission, she is questioned. IT IS NOT A DUTY FOR A YOUNG WOMAN TO SERVE. Many young women SHOULD’T serve. Many young men aren’t able to serve. Serving a mission is not a requirement for the celestial kingdom. My dad didn’t serve. He is still the greatest man I’ve ever met.

    And with the comments about only dating RMs… I get sick every time, especially after serving. Just because someone is an RM DOES NOT make them temple worthy. There are different kinds of missionaries. The RM label means nothing. See, I want to marry an RM but that is because of personal revelation received, not because they are the only ones worthy of my love. If he isn’t an RM, it doesn’t mean that he was/is unworthy, there is also ineligible. This means there is a health problem that would make serving a mission impossible. These people are honorably excused. One of my friends was this way. Returning from your mission early is the exact same thing. A lot of the time, it is health related. I was close to going home at my year mark because of a knee injury. The doctor thought I needed surgery. But I was blessed not to have to.

    Can we, as members of the Lord’s church, just learn to love already? We spend so much time judging each other. This is a long rant. But Missions are up to PERSONAL revelation, nothing else. It’s between you and the Lord. For young men AND young women.

  43. Mackenzie

    January 19, 2015

    Correction on my comment: “Missions are only for the ugly girls.” Not marriage… Oops

  44. Stephanie

    January 19, 2015

    Really? Do returned sister missionaries make better wives and mothers? I am pretty sure they have the same situation as everyone else in which they have to learn how to navigate deep and complex and intimate relationships with their spouse as well as incredibly complex relationships with their children. Ultimately Heavenly Father prepares each of us for our individual roles as he sees fit. Yes, the mission field has the ability to prepare and stretch us, but Heavenly Father creates opportunities for growth that we each need individually wherever we are and if we are where HE wants us to be (as opposed to some crazed, opinionated lunatic) than HE will provide the learning and growth experiences necessary for our lives and at the appropriate times. And I have nothing else to add because I just am flabbergasted by people and know that if they really truly believe that there isn’t really any common sense you can speak to them, because their brains obviously function in a whole other realm than mine and I just can’t even understand that way of thinking… I mean, obviously I disagree, but I’m not trying to be completely rude here, I just really can’t grasp that train of thought.

  45. Giggles

    January 19, 2015

    My husband and I were just talking about this exact issue. Nobody remembers exactly what President Monson said, they just heard “boys leave at 18, girls leave at 19.”

    One of the fears I have for our daughters is that they will feel pressure to go because I went. My sister, 10+ years ago, felt pressure to go because I did and people assumed my mom went because I did. Neither my mom nor my sister served missions, it wasn’t for them to do. My answer to serve does not apply to anyone else but me.

  46. Mark

    January 19, 2015

    If you are feeling judged because of your decisions regarding a mission, remember that there are certain people that are judgemental, others inadvertently say things that can be considered judgemental, and then there are the rest of us, that are supportive of your decisions. The vast majority of the members you know are supportive of your decisions. Don’t let a couple of judgmental members discourage you.

  47. Reed Dudley

    January 19, 2015

    I had to return home early from my mission for back problems that had become uncontrollable. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face. I’ve had some of my best friends turn to me and say things like “maybe if you’d had more faith” or “if you’d only prayed harder.” People never think that I gave it my all and I’ve even had to deal with my mother telling me she wishes that I’d “just go back out and try again.” Or “try harder if you go back out.” “You broke my heart by coming home.” And things like that. The fact I came home was something that I literally could not control. I have many back problems and the problems had started to hinder my productivity and although I only made it 12 weeks, I tried it my best. And yes, many people have been supportive of my coming-home, but it’s the fact that people who are my absolute closest friends have judged me super harshly on something that I gave it my all for and did out of faith… I’m sad to say, you aren’t wrong with your words, you’re very right and it’s sad to see people judge my close friends’ worthiness because of personal choices.

  48. Khristine

    January 19, 2015

    We experienced the opposite of this in our stake. Our son decided he wanted to graduate early, attend college for one semester, and then submit his mission papers to leave the summer after his 18th birthday. He put his birthday, which falls at the beginning of the summer, as his availability date. When the call came, he was assigned to report to the MTC three days after his 18th birthday. We received repeated criticism about the timing, including many comments such as those in your article, that he should have waited so he could attend the temple more. Much of the criticism came from our stake leaders. If I had it to do over, I would have suggested they call Salt Lake because we did not choose the date. In the end, not only his call but the timing were perfectly inspired for him and what he needed. I think the only answer is to follow what the Savior commands to not judge. The Lord is so individual, and His direction, given through personal revelation, is always right.

  49. Anon

    January 19, 2015

    2 different quotes attributed to Brigham Young: “To live with the saints in heaven will be a time of glory; living with the saints on earth is quite another story”.
    “If we were as busy and involved as we should be in living our religion,we’d have no time to worry about whether our neighbor is living his.”
    Why members are spending so much time judging and prying into the lives of others – with obviously no motive of lifting and blessing, is to me, playing right into what Satan would have us do to each other.
    – and these are sacrament partaking members????
    Maybe we need Mosiah 18:10-12 engraved on our foreheads.

  50. Mel

    January 20, 2015

    Funny how things have changed in the last 20 years or so, isn’t it? When I chose to serve 17 years ago, there were several people who looked down on me. They reminded me that President Hinckley said it wasn’t my duty to go and I didn’t have to! I should be staying home and preparing to get married. I reminded them that this had always been the policy and I knew that. I had had a clear answer from the Lord that it was what I needed to do. It definitely prepared me for my life now. I am so thankful that I didn’t listen to the voices of others who told me I should stay, but listened to the Spirit instead.
    It seems that no matter what we do, there is always someone there to judge us. So many people get caught up in the “culture” rather than the spirit. Heavenly Father has a different plan for each of. I know so many women who are much better mothers and wives than me, who didn’t serve a mission. They followed the Lord’s the promptings, just as I did, but it took them in a different direction, preparing them for the life that they would lead. I am thankful for a Heavenly Father who knows us each individually, and knows what we need to help us grow and become who we are meant to be.
    If only we could learn to see each individual the way that our Heavenly Father sees us. We are all His children and are of infinite worth!

  51. cmascholes

    January 20, 2015

    I am a wife and mother and whether or not I served a mission is irrelevant. If you served a mission you know how many excellent young men and young women served, bringing light, peace, repentance, joy, and God’s love to people. You also know ones who went but didn’t serve. The reasons are myriad, and inconsequential to anyone but that individual. The lesson to take away from that knowledge is that the label of RM is not inherently meaningful. I also try to teach my own children that Christ is the Master Teacher he knows what we each need and how we can best get it, in every single circumstance. The Lord prepared me perfectly to serve my family and be the mother of my children. Judging, others speaks more to where you are in your personal progression than it does about anyone whom you judge. So listen for the counsel and judgement of one who has perfect judgement, perfect vision, and perfect love for you; give everyone else the time that the Lord requires to make in them a new heart.

  52. Alexa S.

    January 20, 2015

    I was 18 at the time of the mission age change. I remember thinking about and not feeling it was right for me. I spent a year at school talking with my roommates about if we would go on missions or not, and had some good discussions about it. When I came home lots of my friends had already left on their missions, and I was the only one not gone. No one directly asked me, but I could tell they wanted too. When I seriously had begun to think about it at a YSA campout, I was very forcefully told I was getting married instead. (But that’s another story 😉 )
    While at school, I had a friend who was trying very hard to submit his papers. He was in his twenties already, and had some health issues, but whenever he went on dates, the girls would ask where he served, and then snub him when they found out he hadn’t gone yet. It was very disappointing for him, and as his friends we got very upset that these girls were so judgemental.
    As for if sister missionaries make better wives? I don’t think so. Everyone has their own experiences in life, and serving amission is it’s own set. There’s no magic combination of experiences a woman needs to have to be a good wife and mom, and if there were, I’m not sure missionary work would be on there. It definitely helps, but I know plenty of great nonmember moms, and moms that didn’t serve.

  53. Jasmine

    January 22, 2015

    When the mission age changed, it seemed like all of my friends started on their papers, or otherwise made public declarations that they felt called of God to serve a mission. The numbers were absolutely astounding. Easily 30 boys and girls made these announcements within a week of the change, and many more in the months following. “So, are you going to go on a mission?” was the most commonly asked question towards young girls of my age group, as almost all of us were LDS.

    Nearly every girl would respond “YES!” with the brightest grin on her face. It was amazing to see, and so inspiring. After watching so many of my friends come to this amazing conclusion about their future, and with a couple very wonderful missionary exchanges under my belt, I knelt and humbly asked my heavenly father if he wished for me to be a missionary as well.

    The result was a resounding no. It was so loud and firm in my mind that I was speechless for several seconds. “But, don’t you-” I stammered.
    “NO.”

    I didn’t know why. I wanted to serve so badly. I knew that I had a talent for teaching, and I thought that I would have been a successful missionary. Yet my answer was the firmest no I could imagine. A couple months later, I tried to return to the subject, but each time I did I was met with the same answer, and no explanation.

    It was very difficult, because I did face judgment for it. I remember one situation in which a sister from my ward who I had known for about nine years was visiting my mother and I. After discussing her son’s papers that had just been submitted, she turned to me and asked that very popular question: “So, are you going to go on a mission?”

    Her wide smile said that she expected me to say yes. I didn’t- but then rushed to explain. “I got a no. I prayed really hard, and He said no.”

    I’ll never forget what she said to me. “Oh, well. I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sure as you get older, you’ll get a handle on how to interpret the spirit better.”

    Whether she was telling me that I was incorrect in my personal revelation, or that I somehow got a no because I was unfit to serve, I don’t know, but I still get very peeved when I think about that behavior towards other young girls. It makes me so sad to know that people will ridicule and belittle those who don’t serve the Lord, who will ignore the sacredness of another’s personal, prayerful relationship with God and choose to make snide comments about their worthiness. Or that, despite multiple instances where the Apostles bring up mental illnesses and stress their severity, people will murmur that those missionaries sent home early for their anxiety, depression, horrible nightmares, or suicidal thoughts are nothing more than attention-seeking quitters.

    It’s so important to love. It’s important for them to love all those who cannot or did not serve, whether or not they understand why, and it is also important for those of us that have been spoken down to because of our decisions to love those that have hurt us. As we exercise charity and understanding, we will draw closer to our Heavenly Father, just as we would have if we had served full time missions.

    • Giggles

      January 22, 2015

      Oh my goodness! I’m peeved at that woman for you. What self-righteous rock did she just crawl out from under?

      No matter what we do in life there is always someone there to judge us wrongly for it. You will serve the Lord. You’ll just do it in your own way.

    • Michelle

      January 27, 2015

      Oh wow. I’m sorry about that comment. But I’m proud of you for listening to the Spirit. <3

  54. Margaret Wehrhahn

    January 22, 2015

    When my son left for his mission, his older cousin said to him, “don’t come home early, if you do, don’t bother talking to me.” He is now suffering with back issues that have required medical attention in another country. He is so afraid to come home because of what others will think of him. I pray for my son that he can get through this struggle without it affecting his strong faith.

  55. Jackie Pettis

    January 22, 2015

    I normally don’t comment on articles but I am so tired of judgmental people out there in the church that wish to speak their own opinions and continue to judge everyone according to their own standards. There are plenty of good people out there serving endlessly in the church that never served missions. Our youth are being driven from the church by judgmental people like were referred to in your article. I just want to say to them…judge not, and keep your opinions to yourself.

  56. Jessica Richardson

    January 22, 2015

    As a 19 year old girl from Michigan (outside the Utah bubble) currently attending BYU, I can absolutely confirm that this is true. The attitude has become “Why wouldn’t you go?” Rather than, “Why is it right for you to go?”. This has made my own process of finding out what is right for me significantly harder. I consider myself a fairly strong individual, but at times it seems like declaring that I want to serve a mission as soon as I can will solve some of my problems by getting people off my back, which I know is not the right attitude with which to move forward. Nonetheless, that temptation is real and I see many people giving in to it. Most questions I’ve been asked have come from good places, and are born of genuine wishes for me to have spiritual experiences, but they often overlook the importance of prayerful reflection in coming to this decision. I still haven’t decided which is right for me, I only know that it’s not right for me right now. I just want to offer support to anyone who feels like they are treated as less because of a decision not to go on a mission. Recently my very wise marriage prep teacher reminded us that while missions are wonderful and sometimes necessary, they are not the ultimate end goal of this life; they are only a means of sharing the real goal with others. The end goal is eternal families and happiness with God, and our only responsibility is to be sensitive enough to do what we need to do to make that happen (which, for some, will include serving a full time mission). We often hear people talk about missions saying that they are called to the work and will overcome any personal, social or financial obsicle to serve the Lord. Why don’t we hear that same language about marriage and motherhood? Without it, the Plan of Salvation would hit a literal standstill, and we would deprive ourselves of reaching out true potential. I don’t expect this issue to go away, but maybe if people had a better perspective of why we’re here at all (to learn and grow through our own unique circumstances) they woldnt try to pressure each other to learn it in any specific way.

  57. Eli Klein

    January 23, 2015

    So, I am a 20 year old male who is currently attending a YSA branch. And I will have to say, that yes, honestly I am generally more attracted to RM’s. A girl who is as strong spiritually as an RM is just as attractive to me, but it seems like at least in our YSA there are very few like that. As for me, I didn’t really have anyone asking rude questions or anything. But my mission papers took an extremely long amount of time, and my call took a while after that even. And though I didn’t have any major issues, and It was just waiting on medical stuff and a few extra tests, it still started to wear on me all the questions that I got because I knew a medical issue was holding things up. (It turned out to be nothing) they all meant
    Well too, it just bothered me having to continually say I hadn’t received it yet. I leave in less than three weeks

    • Eli

      January 23, 2015

      I really do mean that I would be just as attracted to a girl who was not an RM, but RM or not she has to be as strong as the RM girls I know currently. If you put God first always, that’s what is important to me. Also I should add that I’m not from Utah… I’m from Indiana

  58. Brandi

    January 23, 2015

    For me as a convert, I think serving a mission as a young women DOES make you a better mother in the gospel not necessarily in motherhood. I know a lot of women who served missions and are wonderful mothers in their own right. They have taught me a lot from helping me raise my children to helping me know the scriptures better.

    • Michelle

      January 27, 2015

      But do we need to go on a mission to learn the scriptures?

  59. Jill Satterthwaite

    January 24, 2015

    I have a wonderful, beautiful daughter who is serving a mission right now. I also have a wonderful, beautiful daughter in her first year of college who isn’t planning on serving a mission. Both are amazing women.

  60. TM

    January 24, 2015

    Have those who are judging forgotten, “EVERY Member a Missionary’s”? We should try to get away from using RM and call ourselves EMM’s

  61. TM

    January 24, 2015

    Have those who are judging forgotten, “EVERY Member a Missionary”? We should try to get away from using RM and call ourselves EMM’s

  62. Good Ol' Dad

    January 25, 2015

    I am a father of 2 beautiful daughters at BYU now. The world belongs to these young ladies. Both have wrestled with the question to serve a mission or not serve a mission. They asked for my counsel. My response was to read them the Prophet’s remarks and then I shared this anecdote from one of our vacations when they were young, a trip to a nice hotel with 3 fabulous swimming pools:

    I asked them to imagine one pool full of missionaries and missionary experiences, another full of education and community/professional service, and a third full of babies and potential spouses.

    Which one do you instinctively want to jump in when you pray?

    My daughters answered, “All 3”.

    Great answer! I told them they can do all three, the only question now is the order.

    I also counseled them to definitely swim in the education pool sooner, rather than later, esp. if they are not sure where to start.

    All three are great pools. I do not think young women should get too hung up on the order they jump in…or be to afraid that the “spouse pool” will close before they are 22. But that is another blog for another day…

    The miracle of this vacation is eventually they will all be swimming in all three pools at the same time. Now that is one way the faith of one YW changes the world…

  63. Donna

    January 26, 2015

    another opportunity for Saints to go beyond the mark. Just gentle reminders of what is doctrine and what is culture. I am glad I live in a time where we are starting to understand the difference. Hooray doctrine…..goodbye culture!

  64. brian

    January 26, 2015

    Both my wife and I are not RM’s and have been sealed in the temple, have stayed active and we’re raising our two children to be good, responsible people. I don’t think that serving a mission makes you a better person. I have RM friends that have left the church and have gotten divorced. Some of the most selfish and judgmental men I know are returned missionaries.

  65. Mic

    January 26, 2015

    Thank you for this awesome article! I feel it is so important for people to understand. When the age changed I was very excited and explored the option to go. At different times in the year I had before turning 19, I felt I should start papers, and sometimes felt I shouldn’t. My ultimate answer was that Heavenly Father would love to have me serve, but did not require it of me. I wanted to be really sure that it was me who wanted to go, and not me getting caught up in everyone going, so I waited until I felt I could really make a ‘grown-up’ decision. I did my best to follow prompting. It turned out that in that time of pondering, I ended up finding my eternal companion instead of temporary companions for 18 months. (young marriage, whole other issue…) I am often frustrated with the emphasis on how much better serving a mission is, or being pitied because I missed out or whatever. When confronted with the questions about serving, I often say that I have chosen to serve a different mission, at a different time, whether it is a couples mission when we are older, or maybe in the next life. People really need to understand that it is all about personal choice, and no one is better than someone else for their different paths.

  66. Jill

    January 26, 2015

    I have lived in & out of Utah. I have seen kids go on missions & finish, come home early, decide not to go. ..all of it. I have Never once heard someone bad mouth or make light of another’s choice or circumstance. I have had fleeting thoughts of “why?” when i hear of someone’s choice, but then remember that if i don’t know why already it is none of my business. I believe that many people with a bad experience let one unkind person color their view of others. I think this is easier when the person not going feels shame or disappointment and is defensive. Easy to do. But I recommend to try not to over inflate the problem. I believe this problem is rare or isolated to certain local areas. And I recommend ignoring these comments by ignorant people as they are a huge minority who clearly have issues of their own.

  67. MJ

    January 26, 2015

    This is a sad statement against those whose testimony comes more from the living the culture than living the Gospel. I spent years rebelling against the notion that there were “Utah Mormons” (especially since they often live in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Nevada…) until I moved from Happy Valley to the southeastern United States. It’s real, ladies. Neither of my older sons served a mission, a great deal in part because of the judgment they felt from the very people who claimed to be living the Gospel. One of my sons became completely inactive, not just because he was ignored by the ward, I’m not suggesting that, but it certainly had a negative affect on him. He saw a bunch of people who claimed to live Christlike lives, but failed to deliver much Christlike behavior outside of the three hour block. I am so grateful to be out of the scrutiny of the culture – our daughters have been very vocal about how much they do not miss being judged, and they no longer fight me to get them to church or Young Women’s. This unrighteous behavior is a cancer within the culture. We do not judge righteously when we claim to know who makes the best mothers – seriously?! – or who should serve a mission.
    I am appalled and devastated when I hear how many suicides occur in middle and high schools that my children used to attend in Utah. Why do you think that happens? I heard too often from my nonmember students that they were ostracized by LDS friends, weren’t allowed to babysit members’ children, that they weren’t allowed to play with LDS families. How horrible is that in this day and age, yet how much worse for those who are LDS who are ostracized because they don’t fit the mold. It’s like the Greek myth about the man who didn’t fit into the bed made of iron bedposts, so his legs were chopped off so he would fit. The Gospel, while a strait and narrow path, is not an iron bedstead.
    It’s time to really, really do our best to be an example of the believers and put aside all judgment of others’ decisions, particularly about such a sacred, personal thing. Unbelievable. Yet, very believable.

    • Brenda

      February 2, 2015

      Well said.

  68. Anonymous

    January 27, 2015

    Wow. Just a few thoughts I’d like to throw into the lively debate here. Online anonymity does tend to lend a certain polarization and ire to opinions, so I hope to express my concerns in a manner that doesn’t offend. My prayer is that people will think about what they are saying publicly, as well as examine possible and unnecessary prejudices.
    1) Hearing the term “unequally yoked” applied to non-RM spouses did strike a nerve. As a convert, and one who had been a little wild when younger, I married a “born and raised” LDS man who had always been very active in the church. My conversion (several years before we met) was immediate and dramatic upon my learning about the gospel. My life was, and remains, fresh and new. I sought out the gospel completely on my own; no missionaries or friends were involved. Thanks to the our Savior’s atonement, I became new. He can do that, you know. My husband and I do have different pasts. But – the words “unequally yoked” were actually mentioned to him by a “concerned” friend at the time of our engagement, several years after I became a member. I hasten to add that there was no reason for this line of thinking. No robbing of banks, or anything like that? To this day I don’t know what they were referring to. I was pretty shocked to hear someone speak of me in this manner, as I was (and continue to be) very “straightlaced” (of course it would be inappropriate to refer to anyone in this manner; also, I hope I don’t offend anyone who does not adhere to our religious standards). It was an odd thing to be said, and a horrible thing to hear. Consider, now, the many young women who have prayed and been told “not now” regarding a mission. I know several who had strong plans to serve missions and were told “no”. For at least one of them, the reason “why not” became very clear several months later (no, it wasn’t marriage). Upon hearing “no”, they continued obediently with His guidance for them. Now, as horrible as it was for me to hear an inference that I was “unequally yoked” to my spouse, I promise you, it’s equally horrible for these wonderful young women to hear that there are LDS men who won’t consider dating or marrying them. And they do hear it – Some have actually been told this in person. Really?!? Who says that?? (I know, no one here would?) (but to the poster, above, who claims that any woman claiming to receive a “no” answer to a mission query is deceiving themself…please be careful. Perhaps that was your personal experience, but dangerous ground is being tread when we judge others’ possibly sacred answers to prayers; not our place). These women, like all of us, will be given experiences of their own to help them grow and develop wonderful qualities. Now, just as middle school girls make lists of “Ten Qualities my Husband will Possess”, idealistic young men may have “Returned RM” on their mental list, and that is nice as one of many hoped-for qualities. That’s your business, though you are missing out on some amazing women. My concern, though, is that this becomes a “thing”…a “trend”…how hurtful to those woman who don’t serve missions, and how unnecessary. “My Wife’s Going to be an RM” Facebook pages? Please, just be a rumor. Don’t encourage such hurtful behavioral trends towards others. I’m sure there is no malicious intent, just a youthful idealism, but…think about it.
    2) If these facebook pages are a reality, I would caution young men to think twice before joining them. The girl of your dreams (and she could very well be an RM) would likely be turned off by this. Potential employers, friends; the same. It speaks to a certain judgmentalism. In all fairness, you are judging…you will be judged in return.
    3) Most RMs are amazing people. I admire their courage and conviction to go on a mission, and I love what they do. Most will return more mature and spiritual, yes. But (and I hate to repeat this, as it’s been said many times) several dear friends who went on missions are completely inactive now (they’re still amazing people and I love them very much) But – clearly no guarantees, RM or not. Really, do not think this.
    4) Finally, my husband confirms he is very happy to be married to his non-RM, convert wife?. No, I didn’t grow up having family home evenings, but wow, no one does them like I do!:) I didn’t go on a mission, but my education (which I was encouraged to pursue in my patriarchal blessing) has enriched my spouse’s, children’s, and friends’ lives in many ways. That was the path that the Lord encouraged me to take, and I’m so grateful that I did.

    • Michelle

      January 27, 2015

      Anonymous, I wish you’d included your name because I really like you!

  69. Jordan

    January 27, 2015

    I think steam would have been coming from my ears as well. I am sure serving a mission would help prepare a woman to become a mother and wife but I do not believe that it makes you a better wife and mother.
    I did not serve a standard church mission but I would like to think I am on my own mission for the Lord…A mission to raise my beautiful children in the light and truth of the gospel. I am not perfect but even if I had served for 18 months I still wouldn’t be perfect.
    Let us all be more Christ like and less judgmental…we do not have personal revelation for anyone but ourselves:)

  70. Anonymous

    January 27, 2015

    Hi Michelle – I think you’re fabulous as well! Love your way with words, and appreciate your tackling this clearly sensitive topic. There were so many important thoughts that many felt prompted to share. There’s a specific reason I am maintaining anonymity here, but I’d love to touch base! Not sure if there Is a way to send you a private message (I looked around but didn’t see a link, but that doesn’t mean one wasn’t there lol). Let me know if there is a way to do that? Or feel free to send me an email – I think I did submit that info. Keep up the good work!

  71. Anonymous

    January 27, 2015

    (I must confess I am getting a bit of comic relief picturing all of this steam blowing out of everyone’s ears…)

  72. Joe

    February 1, 2015

    I read your article & think you are one of the few who understands what it is like when someone doesn’t serve a mission.

    I know of a sister who fasted, prayed & sought council from her bishop on the answer she received. She felt that God had another plan for her & a mission was not part of it. When she told someone who asked her about if she was serving a mission, she was faced with the comment “Are you sure you were serious when you asked? Because, if you were… You would have been told ‘Yes’.” Even to this day she still has to deal with such attitudes.

    I feel for her because I live through similar experiences. I prayed, fasted, sought council from my church leaders & got the answer that a mission was not what The Lord has in store for me. I was told that I clearly had misunderstood God (or was listening to “the wrong source”) & that if I didn’t serve a mission it would only prove that I wasn’t honouring my priesthood & didn’t have enough faith in the gospel.

    That was 12 years ago & since then, I have served in Elders Quorum presidencies, Young Men’s presidencies, Sunday School callings & have become a Temple worker. Even after all these wonderful ways that I have been able to be of use to my Heavenly Father, I still have people treating me diffrently because I didn’t serve a mission. I have never been on a date with a member because “I want to marry an RM.” Or have been told that they are after someone who has proven that they are serious about the gospel.

    I am reminded of a Hymn:
    “It may not be on the mountain height, Or over the stormy sea.
    It may not be at the battle’s front my Lord will have need of me.
    But if, by a still, small voice he calls to paths that I do not know,
    I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine: I’ll go where you want me to go.”

    Sometimes that where The Lord wants us to go isn’t to the mission field, but to labour in our local communities, among our friends & families. I honestly believe that if God’s will is to have them to be of service to Him outside of the mission field. Who is anyone else to say that makes them less than a child of His trying to do His will?

    “This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

    Stop it!

    It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. I don’t know exactly how to articulate this point of not judging others with sufficient eloquence, passion, and persuasion to make it stick. I can quote scripture, I can try to expound doctrine, and I will even quote a bumper sticker I recently saw. It was attached to the back of a car whose driver appeared to be a little rough around the edges, but the words on the sticker taught an insightful lesson. It read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”

    … My dear brothers and sisters, consider the following questions as a self-test:

    Do you harbor a grudge against someone else?

    Do you gossip, even when what you say may be true?

    Do you exclude, push away, or punish others because of something they have done [or haven’t done]?

    Do you secretly envy another?

    Do you wish to cause harm to someone?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to apply the two-word sermon from earlier: Stop it!

    In a world of accusations and unfriendliness, it is easy to gather and cast stones. But before we do so, let us remember the words of the One who is our Master and model: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”

    Brothers and sisters, let us put down our stones.

    Let us be kind.

    Let us forgive.

    Let us talk peacefully with each other.

    Let the love of God fill our hearts.

    …Brothers and sisters, there is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.

    We are not perfect.

    The people around us are not perfect. People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way.

    Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: The Merciful Obtain Mercy)

    “Every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much. Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary” (President Thomas S Monson: “As We Meet Together Again,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 5–6).

    If you ask a missionary, you don’t have to have the name badge to be a missionary. Your example can help others in “Coming unto Christ.” The whole aim of those in the mission field.

    I think that we are a church culture need to stop shaming anyone who doesn’t serve a mission (or came home early), regardless of the reason & love one another as the Saviour commanded of us. As The Lord said himself “I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (D&C 38:27)

    (Sorry if this comes off as preachy, that was not my intention. My intention is to add my voice in trying to stop others treating people who don’t serve missions as ‘lesser’ members.)

    • MJ

      February 1, 2015

      Hear, hear! My husband who is almost 50, still gets asked where he served his mission (he didn’t). He now works in the temple after many years of on and off activity. What is the atonement for if we don’t use it? Who but God tells us when and where to serve? Judge not, that ye be not judged. I’m so sorry you are still being sleighted.

  73. Pyper

    February 2, 2015

    As a young 20 year old I prayed for months about serving a mission and felt the distinct impression that it was not what the Lord had in His plan for me. I never felt bad about that decision until 10 years later. As I sat in a Sacrament meeting on Mother’s Day a recently married returned sister missionary gave a talk about the importance of being a mother. She stated that the only way to understand the love our Father in Heaven has for his children is to serve a mission and become a mother. I have never cried such bitter tears before. I had not served a mission and my husband and I were struggling with infertility. My mind and spirit rebelled at her words…A loving Father would not keep His children from experiencing that kind of love…but my broken heart found it impossible to forget. It took months to come to grips with the reality that our Father in Heaven and his Son have provided many ways for us to understand a finite portion of Their love for us….One day we will fully understand the depths of that love. To those who serve missions – thank you! For those that follow the promptings of the spirit and choose not to serve missions – Thank you! I know my children will learn from all of your examples. You are of worth!

    • Joe

      February 2, 2015

      I am so sorry & That really sucks that you had to go through feeling that way for doing what you know The Lord wanted of you. I feel for you & understand where you have been. I know & can testify that you don’t need to be an RM to learn to be a parent or even to be a missionary.

      I think we need to remember that many of these brothers & sisters who don’t serve, had a desire to be in the mission field. But, that is not where our Heavenly Father needed them to be. Also, if anyone questions your worthiness, faith, ability to receive blessing, ect… I find comfort in the fact that many who either didn’t have an opportunity or a mission was not in Gods plans for them, are strong & faithful servants of The Lord.

      These are some who didn’t serve missions for whatever reason (they might sound familiar):
      Boyd K. Packer, Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, Robert D. Hales, & President Thomas S Monson.

      This is also a little Mormon Message on Gods will that might help those who struggle to know God does have a plan that is perfect for them. Sometimes it’s not about what they wanted, but what He requires of them.
      http://youtu.be/Rr8xvw0cgw0

  74. Amy

    February 4, 2015

    Thank you for your post. It has been a joy being married now for 6 months but it’s been an on-going internal insecurity battle. My husband is a returned missionary whereas I chose to work and put myself through an associates degree. My husband’s last ex-girlfriend went on a mission, he met me four months later, and we just clicked. I had a hard time comparing my worthiness for the right to marry him over this other girl who may have had another chance after her mission…and I still do sometimes (still tear up when I think about it). But he chose to pursue our relationship, my own testimony is very strong, our union was ultimately ordained of God, and I love him dearly. Though yes, I do feel the pressure and guilt of sister missionary situations.

  75. Ana of the Nine+Kids

    February 5, 2015

    Amy. I want to encourage you NOT to feel insecure. I also married the guy who sent a girl on a mission (except I had met him LONG before she did.) A regular habit of scripture study for the past 38 years has given me a deep understanding, love and appreciation of the gospel. Missions are great but NOT essential for righteous womanhood, wifehood and motherhood.

    • Ana of the Nine+Kids

      February 5, 2015

      28 years. I can’t add. Haha.

  76. Hildie

    February 5, 2015

    I’ve got an 18 year old boy (12 th grade) and a 19-year old girl who are both planning on missions this year. I was thinking my son might need some time to adjust to being on his own and suggested maybe he go to college for a semester first. But the kid is driving me so crazy right now that I think i’m going to encourage him to leave this summer because I seriously think I might kill him if he doesn’t leave soon.

    But as far as people being judgmental? Not so much of a problem here. In our ward we have had kids get sent home then go out again, girls who don’t go and it’s not a big deal, and boys who go when they’re nineteen. I don’t think anybody really cares that much. The only think that really gets people fired up is when girls get engaged during their freshman year. That is totally scandalous here in our ward.

  77. Jacob

    February 6, 2015

    I recently returned from my mission, but have someone close to me who is if mission age, and he’s choosing not to go. It’s insulting to him to know that some think he’s not worthy, and or lazy. In reality he has a hard time with Joseph Smith having been married to 14 year olds. ( he was telling me forever ago, but I didn’t believe it until the church admitted it.) I still believe though. He says ” he’s not jumping on the bandwagon and going out of social pressure like the majority in his grade.” The bottom line is it’s wrong to judge someone’s value on if they serve a mission. It’s hypocritical for a girl to say she’ll only date an rm when she isn’t one. Show me in the scriptures where it says all men should serve missions.

  78. Joe

    February 6, 2015

    Jacob, reassure him that many confusions happen because of the worlds understanding of “Sealed”. Yes, Joseph Smith was sealed to many people & there are two reasons to consider… First was that Joseph Smith was sealed to this woman the same way a father is sealed to his children. (Note, sealed, not married) also, when sealing first came into the church it wasn’t very well understood. After his death, many people were sealed to him under the (mistaken) belief that you needed to be sealed to Joseph Smith. This was corrected once the leadership in the church became aware of it.

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