8: Bonus Episode – Missionary Announcement Edition!

Brandt hosts a bonus episode to discuss the announcement delivered in General Conference regarding missionary service. He is joined by Troy, Lindsay from The Official Feminist Mormon Housewives Podcast, and guest panelist Sarah.

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25 Comments

  1. Heather C.

    I don’t have near the positive outlook on this announcement as all y’all do. I should have come on to bring you all down into the doldrums with my pessimistic predictions.

    I predict:
    -Younger age at which LDS girls are labeled “spinsters”
    -Rhetoric toward high school aged boys, “why are you wasting your time with extra-curricular sports?! You should be working a job to save your money for your mission!”
    -Many more young men force into a mission by their families because they don’t have that 1 year to get out from under their parents’ thumbs and into the world on their own.
    -Even younger people getting married, further exacerbating the problems associated with that

    This gives the church the ability to apply greater pressure on young men. Finishhighschoolgoonamissiongetmarriedpopoutkidsdon’teverstoptoconsiderwhether
    ornotthisisworkingforyouorwhetheryoubelieveit.

    Reply Oct 09, 2012 @ 15:41:25
    • JT

      Heather,

      “Finishhighschoolgoonamissiongetmarriedpopoutkidsdon’teverstoptoconsiderwhether
      ornotthisisworkingforyouorwhetheryoubelieveit.”

      Yes … close all the “gaps” in t i m e during which critical thought based on b r o a d e r independent experiences can provide an authentic expression of agency.

      Thanks

      Reply Oct 10, 2012 @ 12:36:44
  2. brandt

    Heather, I think you forgot some spaces in that last sentence there. ;-)

    Reply Oct 09, 2012 @ 15:46:00
  3. Kathy

    It feels like once again the church is a day late and a dollar short with this change. This does not address why young people are leaving. It is sad that the church has such little confidence in what it can offer people that they need to keep them on a path that does not allow them to go out and stretch their wings, to figure out who they are, and than make their way back.
    I don’t understand all the excitment. I guess it will effect the young women, but most young men, (at least in our area) turn 18 while still in high school and need to work and earn money before they can leave for a mission.
    Like Heather, I think there may be more young couples under educated, with kids, financially struggling. How does that help anyone?

    Reply Oct 09, 2012 @ 16:05:00
  4. Mike

    Just a correction I looked up as I was listening. Graduation rates for college in Utah are actually good for private schools and below average, but not last, for public schools.

    http://collegecompletion.chronicle.com/state/#state=ut&sector=private_four

    http://collegecompletion.chronicle.com/state/#state=ut&sector=public_four

    Reply Oct 09, 2012 @ 17:25:22
  5. Audrey

    Heather and Kathy brought up what was my first thought about this change – does this mean we will be encouraging 2-year-old young men to marry now? Kind of a scary thought, imo. And since women are generally believed to mature earlier than men it seems strange that they still have to wait longer to go on missions.But then, I guess this is not about fielding the best missionaries as much as it is about converting the one on the mission.

    Reply Oct 09, 2012 @ 19:15:47
  6. tisatruth

    Oops, that’s suposed to be 20-year-old men, obviously.

    Reply Oct 09, 2012 @ 19:18:26
  7. JT

    Dear Panel,

    I appreciate you all scrambling to put this together and the many insightful comments shared.

    Now that my hand spasms have relaxed from 48 hours of “fist clenching”, and my teeth are ground dull, I offer a few comments.

    First, please consider the source. I’m a non-believing former member who got this bomb dropped on him from 2000 miles by his 19-year-old daughter – a sophomore at BYU – evidently caught up in the excitement – who announced she’s going on a mission ASAP. Might that have something to do with the letters we’ve been forwarding to her from her freshman year boyfriend now on his mission?

    I give each a subject title:

    1. Statistics

    Does inspiration distinguish between correlation and causation? Specifically, do missions cause lifelong activity more than socioeconomic status, Church status, family dynamics, and a psychological disposition? Are missions more often the consequence of a life already set up for life-long allegiance?

    2. Conspiracy theories

    Conspiracy theories are fueled by secrecy. Why can’t the Brethren be more forthcoming about their deliberations – about their pragmatic considerations? The reasons they offered (“hastening the work” and special circumstances) struck me as disconnected from the obvious “writing on the wall” reasons the panelists were reading into this.

    In my opinion this shows a profound disrespect for the membership – all this need for second-guessing their real motives. It also point to a reciprocal problem, or dysfunction, in how the membership relates to the leaders. It seems obvious to an outsider that the Brethren expend a lot of energy on “image mongering” – throwing up a curtain to maintain a mystique of their special inspiration.

    3. Bias Blind spots in identifying problems

    This relates to the Brethren’s assumption that recruiting more teenage missionaries will lower the 95% attrition rate. This bias is revealed in both the conflation of correlation and causation, I mentioned above, but even more so in the assumption that massive attrition is not result of other weaknesses in the institution.

    Perhaps the 95% problem is that the church’s programs are broadly and systemically crappy and uninspiring. If so, then doubling down with teenage missionary work. i.e. resorting to putting young people in a Mormon bubble from the moment they are legal until they can get them married to the institution, is a matter of denial.

    4. Hastening the work? What work? And who should be doing it?

    The “grown ups” in this country send 18-year-olds to do their dirty work in Iraq and Afghanistan, and pay for it by mortgage their entire generation future. is the Mormon Church doing an analogous thing with regard to missionary work?

    Why aren’t the Brethren asking the adults to do their own proselytizing? (Or am I missing something?) And if the adults don’t generate more referrals (rather than just prepare their own kids), what good will doubling the missionary force do?

    But we mustn’t forget that missions don’t seem to be about new converts. I found it interesting that the impact of this change on covert baptisms never came up in this discussion. And if it can be only implicitly read into the word “hastening,” then it becomes disingenuous innuendo.

    5. Manipulation and its consequences

    This relates to my previous point.

    A proselytizing mission, once committed to, requires a person assert as literal truth extraordinary propositions supported by the thinnest evidence for the purpose of soliciting life-changing commitments. What does it say about an organization that enlists people who must have every minute of their day prescribed because they generally lack the maturity, the experience, the circumspection, the judgement, to even an understanding for the implications of this work on other people. And what does it day about an organization that withholds relevant information about the Church from them – relevant at least to their targets. Based on my experience, this highly unethical.

    In this regard, I thought the Sarah’s (or was it Lindsay’s) comment about return missionaries looking back on how they were treated (or handled) as an 18-year-olds in the service of old men (my embellishment) important. This possibility will only be exacerbated when the age drops. The mission field will be filled with kids who go directly from selling Boy Scout pizza kits and Girl Scout cookies to Celestial Kingdoms. In retrospect it will all be seen as the same.

    6. Investing in the 95%

    This is a bit of a side issue, but it came up in the discussion.

    Right now the Church subsidizes the BYU educations of a relatively few young people who are largely the “haves” of Mormondom.

    This subsidy is unfair to those tithe-paying members who shell out obscene bucks to other colleges. But then this reflects how our society works generally. And perhaps the COB has run the numbers on this and figured out that current business plan has better financial prospects – let sleeping externalized costs lie.

    But more generally, perhaps there are better, more Christlike ways to invest in the 95 out of 100 lost sheep than missions, that is, if they thought like Christ.

    7. Conflating gender equality with truth.

    I find disturbing the extent of the delight being expressed by members over this tiny gender-equality “bone” being tossed to them, which, as was mentioned, is more likely a secondary by-product the Brethren will strategically use. And who is this Joanne person gushing and crying? I was impressed that Lindsay and Sarah weren’t buying it.

    Again, perhaps it’s too much to stop and consider that this all seems to take for granted all those people who get accosted by heavily-handled kids. Or, even more, those who buy into the glossy sales pitch only to discover a barrel of hidden problems down the road. Yes, they are the externalized costs this self-perpetuating corporation.

    Criticisms welcome.

    JT

    P.S. I’m sorry about having so much trouble keeping straight who said what.

    Reply Oct 10, 2012 @ 10:29:27
  8. sonya_d

    I totally agree, Heather. I am most worried about women thinking they “have” to get married at 18 or 19 or else they will be pressured into going on a mission. And it really frightens me that now 20 year old men will be getting pressured into getting married.

    I am not someone that believes that a kid going to college for one year will make a huge difference in learning to think for themselves, thus learning all of the problems with the church and therefore choosing not to go on a mission. But I do think that if they go straight from HS to mission to marriage they are missing out on a huge and important rite of passage which will put them at a disadvantage in the real world.

    Reply Oct 10, 2012 @ 11:55:16
  9. JT

    [I see I can no longer rely on an edit feature for a final proof-read]. Some, if not all, of typos corrected here]

    Dear Panel,

    I appreciate you all scrambling to put this together and the many insightful comments shared.

    Now that my hand spasms have relaxed from 48 hours of “fist clenching”, and my teeth are ground dull, I offer a few comments.

    First, please consider the source. I’m a non-believing former member who got this “bomb” dropped on him from 2000 miles by his 19-year-old daughter – a sophomore at BYU – evidently caught up in the excitement – who announced she’s going on a mission ASAP. Might this have something to do with the letters we’ve been forwarding to her from her freshman year boyfriend now on his mission? (And so let my first comment be a rhetorical question)

    I give each a subject title:

    1. Statistics

    Does inspiration distinguish between correlation and causation? Specifically, do missions cause lifelong activity more than socioeconomic status, Church status, family dynamics, and psychological disposition? Are missions more often the consequence of a life already set up for life-long allegiance?

    2. Conspiracy theories

    Conspiracy theories are often fueled by secrecy and ignorance. Why can’t the Brethren be more forthcoming about their deliberations – about their pragmatic considerations? The reasons they offered – “hastening the work” and special circumstances – struck me as disconnected from the obvious “writing on the wall” that the panelists were reading.

    In my opinion, this shows a profound disrespect for the members – all this need for second-guessing the Brethren’s real motives. It also points to a reciprocal problem, or dysfunction, with how the members relate to their leaders. It seems obvious to an outsider that the Brethren expend a lot of energy on “image mongering” – throwing up a pious curtain to maintain a mystique of their special inspiration.

    3. Bias Blind spots in identifying problems

    This relates to the Brethren’s assumption that recruiting more teenage missionaries will lower the 95% attrition rate. This bias is revealed in both the conflation of correlation and causation, as I mentioned, and even more in the assumption that this massive attrition is NOT result of other weaknesses in the institution.

    Perhaps the 95% problem is that the church’s programs are broadly and systemically crappy and uninspiring. If so, then doubling down with teenage missionary work. i.e. resorting to putting young people in a Mormon bubble from the moment they are legal until they can get them married to the institution, is a matter of denial.

    4. Hastening the work? What work? And who should be doing it?

    The “grown ups” in this country let 18-year-olds to do their dirty work in Iraq and Afghanistan, and mortgage their futures to pay for it. is the Mormon Church doing an analogous thing with regard to missionary work?

    Why aren’t the Brethren asking the adults to do their own proselytizing? (Or am I missing something?) And if the adults don’t generate more referrals (rather than just prepare their own kids), what good will doubling the missionary force do?

    But we mustn’t forget that missions don’t seem to be primarily about new converts. I found it interesting that the impact of covert baptisms never came up in this discussion. When my wife was “talking me down” she never framed it in these terms either – it was all about my daughter’s experience, as if it were a semester abroad. And if it can be only implicitly read into the word “hastening,” then is it disingenuous innuendo?

    5. Manipulation and its consequences

    This relates to my previous point.

    A proselytizing mission, once committed to, requires a person assert as literal truth extraordinary propositions supported by the thinnest evidence for the purpose of soliciting life-changing commitments. What does it say about an organization that enlists people who must have every minute of their day prescribed because they generally lack the maturity, the experience, the circumspection, the judgement, while not fully understanding the implications of their work on other people? And what does it say about an organization that withholds relevant information about the Church from them – relevant at least to their targets? Based on my experience, this is unethical.

    In this regard, I thought Sarah’s (or was it Lindsay’s) comment about return missionaries looking back on how they were treated (or handled) as 18-year-olds in the service of old men (my embellishment) important. This possibility will only be exacerbated when the average age drops. The mission field will be filled with kids who go directly from selling Boy Scout pizza kits and Girl Scout cookies to “selling” Books of Mormon and Celestial Kingdoms. In retrospect it might all be seen as the same thing.

    6. Investing in the 95%

    This is a bit of a side issue, but it came up in the discussion.

    Right now the Church subsidizes the BYU educations of a relatively few young people who are largely the “haves” of Mormondom.

    This subsidy is unfair to those tithe-paying members who shell out obscene bucks to other colleges. But then this reflects how our society works generally. And perhaps the COB has run the numbers on this and figured out that the current business plan has better financial prospects. Let sleeping externalized costs lie, so to speak.

    But more importantly, perhaps there are better, more Christ-like ways to invest in the 95 lost sheep than missions, that is, if they thought like Christ.

    7. Conflating gender equality with truth.

    I find disturbing the extent of the delight being expressed by members over this tiny gender-equality “bone” being tossed to them, which, as was mentioned, is more likely a secondary by-product the Brethren will strategically use. And who is this Joanne person gushing and crying? I was impressed that Lindsay and Sarah weren’t buying it.

    Again, perhaps it’s too much to stop and consider what all this seems to take for granted. Namely, all those people who get accosted by heavily-handled kids. Or, even more, those who buy into the glossy sales pitch only to discover a barrel of hidden problems down the road. Yes, these are the externalized costs of a self-perpetuating corporation.

    Criticisms welcome.

    JT

    P.S. I’m sorry about having so much trouble keeping straight who said what.

    Reply Oct 10, 2012 @ 12:04:36
  10. amyrappb

    lets not forget the significant added burden to families to somehow pay for more missions since, while the church says there is no pressure to go on a mission, how can this change for women be seen as anything BUT an invitation to do both.

    Reply Oct 11, 2012 @ 02:17:27
    • Audrey

      This is such an important point. I think of a family of five boys in our branch. Son #4 just left this past spring but son #5 is almost 17. There is no way this family can afford two missionaries at once (they haven’t really been able to afford the first four).At least their daughter is only 14 and they’ll have some time in between.

      Reply Oct 14, 2012 @ 08:21:56
  11. Cylon

    Super impressed you all were able to get this one up so quickly, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I have to say I agree with what seemed to be the general consensus that this change was primarily motivated by a desire to retain more of the youth in the church, not out of a desire for more equality. I do have one question for Brandt, though. A couple of times you mentioned “conspiracy theories” and I could never quite figure out what you were referring to. Care to enlighten me?

    Reply Oct 11, 2012 @ 20:14:06
    • brandt

      Hi Cylon,

      I think the “conspiracy theories” I was referring to was the fact that this was a logistical change instead of gender equality. I think that the fact that people are commenting on this along the lines of OD1 or OD2 is overshadowed by that simple fact – they need more missionaries in more areas, and this allows them to get more missionaries both internationally and a more diverse base.

      Reply Oct 12, 2012 @ 13:27:57
      • Cylon

        OK, thanks for clarifying.

        Reply Oct 14, 2012 @ 00:55:15
  12. Brad

    Seriously, prior to last Saturday would the difference in mission age have been on any LDS feminist’s top 10 list of changes they would like to see? I just do not see this as being anything other than a play by the church to increase the number of missionaries. Consequences be damned, and there will be consequences. No doubt the number of young women finishing college will decrease even lower, yet this is a win for gender equality?

    Reply Oct 13, 2012 @ 00:43:43
  13. Teresa

    I am overall disappointed in the Mormon Expositor podcasts… As I was hoping it would be a continuation of the Mormon Expression podcasts. This podcast was especially disappointing due to there being no ex-Mormon/apostate viewpoint represented. A few comments as to the reasons why the morg made this decision, but overall not enough time exploring these viewpoints. I agree with Heather and others who have brought up the ‘other’ side of the announcement. Generally… Getting more missionaries out in the field, thus converting more tithing payers, but especially further indoctrinating the youth of the church will lead to less tithing payers leaving the church in the future. Thank you for allowing me to comment on this forum.

    Reply Oct 14, 2012 @ 14:55:01
  14. Steve

    One of my first thoughts had nothing to do with the fact that kids would be going on missions sooner, but that they’d be going through the temple ceremony sooner and making lifelong promises in a masonic ceremony before they really know what they’re getting in to. What we are now saying is that an 18-yr old pimpled face kid is going to essentially promise that he’ll give up everything for the church for life, and should he fail to live up that promise, well, you know….

    When will the church truly prep these kids for the temple and tell them that the ceremony is a vestige from a medieval practice that we know very little about and are not taught growing up. It’s a blind transition from one church to a totally different once, and you don’t know what has hit you until it’s too late.

    Reply Oct 14, 2012 @ 18:30:32
  15. amyrappb

    @ Teresa- i’m sorry that you are disappointed with our lack of apostate contribution! I have to point out that Brandt put together a BONUS episode while we were pulling together 4 panels for the actual conference sessions and editing them. Unfortunately we had 2 apostate panelists pull out at the last minute due to personal reasons and qualified, informed exmormons that actually want to watch conference is sometimes hard to find. If you are interested in being a contributor please email us at our FB page.

    Reply Oct 14, 2012 @ 23:55:11
    • Teresa

      Amy, thank you for your kind response. I realize that it might be difficult to get people for the different podcasts and I appreciate all the people who volunteer… Seriously, everyone does a great job!
      To be perfectly honest with you, I attempted to watch conference but it made me nauseous and I had to turn it off.
      I did not mean to offend anyone, I just felt it was too one-sided.

      Reply Oct 15, 2012 @ 00:05:40
      • Cylon

        Teresa, be sure to listen to the Conference recap podcast. They discuss the missionary age change there too with a more diverse set of contributors.

        Reply Oct 15, 2012 @ 01:26:46
      • Audrey

        Teresa, if you thought this podcast was too positive about the change do not – I repeat, DO NOT – listen to the Mormon Matters episode on this subject. The gushing there would fill a swimming pool.

        Reply Oct 15, 2012 @ 07:45:18
        • Teresa

          Cylon, Thank you, I am listening to the conference podcasts now… :)
          Audrey, Thank you, I’ll be sure to avoid that… Lol… That’s not one I’m familiar with anyway.
          Best wishes and love to you all!!! :)

          Reply Oct 15, 2012 @ 15:07:22
  16. Nate G

    Re: Holland’s “one miracle at at time.”

    I bristle when the church leaders describe their administrative decisions as miracles.

    Reply Oct 16, 2012 @ 11:04:22

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