Missionary work (full-time)

 

Pros of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
It is not uncommon for a former missionary to say that a mission was the best or among the best 2 years (or 18 months) of their life. For many missionaries, a mission can be a formative experience at the minimum. Usually, it involves many positive experiences that lead to personal growth. Missionaries learn many important life lessons, such as how to work hard, how to work with other people, developing social skills, how to appreciate other cultures, how to get by with very little, and so much more.
 
Aside from these practical benefits, the spiritual benefits of bringing souls unto God are nearly incomprehensible and provide joy in this life and in the life to come. (see D&C 18). Furthermore, Elder Hales reminds us that “The Lord will send special blessings to your family as you serve. “The Lord promises: “I, the Lord, give unto them a promise that I will provide for their families” (D&C 118:3).
 
Missionary work is literally the most important duty we have as members of the Church, as per Joseph Smith: “After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel”.
 
For all these reasons and more, it is no wonder that we tell our youth: “no opportunity will be worth more than your service as a missionary.”
Even nonbelievers probably acknowledges that a mission can be a formative experience at the minimum. Usually, it involves many positive experiences that lead to personal growth. Missionaries learn many important life lessons, such as how to work hard, how to work with other people, developing social skills, how to appreciate other cultures, how to get by with very little, and so much more.
 
Cons of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
There is an undeniable opportunity cost of going on a mission. Choosing to go on a mission will often preclude someone (although not necessarily so) from pursuing other endeavors like the peace core or studying abroad. It is not always easy to resume college studies after a mission.
 
Missions can be financial strains on families.
 
 Missionaries that return from their missions are pressured into getting married and starting families, making some feel that they were forced to grow up too fast, especially with the lowered missionary age of 18.
 
There is a lot of social pressure to go on a mission and great stigma attached to males who do not serve.
 
Believing Mormons who go on missions can have a psychologically challenging time if they do not see success. They are frequently promised success, but often don’t necessarily see it, even if they are obedient and hard working. Missions can thus lead faithful missionaries to depression and feelings of no self-worth. Missionaries who go home early or don’t serve at all often feel like social and / or spiritual outcasts.
 
Many missionaries lament that they are restricted from offering “no strings attached service”, or from doing real charity / humanitarian work. Many missionaries wish they could have spent more time doing real service and less time proselytizing.
The nonbeliever is likely to agree with the cons listed in the believing section, and they are not reproduced here for the sake of brevity. They might add the following thoughts:
 
Missionary service is one aspect of Mormonism that can appear cultish to outsiders and nonbelievers. Mormons receive extremely high social pressure to go on a mission. As soon as they go, they are immediately cut off from the rest of the world. They spend anywhere from 2-10 weeks in isolation, being indoctrinated. Then they continue the rest of their 18-24 months in relative isolation, being part of the world but being in a bubble. Phone calls home aren’t allowed, letters and emails are heavily restricted, and even doctor and hospital visits are frequently discouraged. All media including books and newspapers are banned save a small selection of church materials. Again, an outsider that learns of these restrictions is likely to feel that it sounds culty.
 
Furthermore, the church has hinted that one of the most important reasons missionaries should serve missions is to convert themselves (i.e. maintain lifelong indoctrination).  Some men and woman who do not feel they have much of a testimony are counseled to go on a mission anyway. They are told they will get one on their mission. For example: “If you are worried about serving a mission, follow the Savior’s call… It is there you will feel and understand the sweet whisperings of the Spirit”. Elder Holland tells missionaries: “Missionaries are under obligation to come home having had at least one convert, you! There is no excuse in time or eternity for you not to have that one precious conversion”.
He also says that the missionary manual is designed “to convert you, then help you to convert the [individual] investigators”. This is another example of how missions are self-serving for the church and provide little real service in the traditional sense of the word.
 
Missions can be traumatic memories for Mormons who leave the church. A Mormon who goes on a mission and later comes to believe the church is not true might feel that they wasted their time. They might regret helping people join a church that they now do not believe in or that they now believe causes harm. They might regret helping converts in foreign countries to leave their culture behind as they join the church. They might start to wonder if they actually helped anybody on their missions or if they actually did harm. They might feel regret that they did so much proselyting and so little service. They might feel regret that the commitment pattern they used on their mission seems similar to high-pressure sales techniques.
 

 

Comments relating to your lived experience with Mormonism are welcome. Although it can be difficult to distinguish at times, please focus on how the church helps and harms rather than it being true vs untrue.

  • Jose Galdamez

    Here are a few items I would add under Cons -> Believer.

    Con: For heterosexual males, not going on a mission severely inhibits one’s mating options. Choosing not to go automatically relegates one to second class status among the true believing female population.

    Explanation: From a very young age, Mormon girls are taught to only marry a return missionary (converts who join after age 25 are an exception). Males under 25 who haven’t gone on missions can certainly date Mormon girls, but it’s less likely the girls will commit to long-term relationships. Instead, the males will constantly be reminded by the females that they need to turn in their papers and go ASAP. Some LDS females will even use marriage as a carrot in order to encourage the male to go (“If you want to marry me you have to go on a mission.”).

    Con: For heterosexual males, not having contact with females for 2 years can lead one to make rash decisions upon returning home.

    Explanation: Marrying for purely physiological reasons. Enough said.

    Con: Active LDS males that grow up in the church and pass the age of eligibility (25 years old) are forever tainted in the social scene.

    Explanation: Upon meeting someone new in the church, it is customary for Mormons to ask where a male served his mission. It may even be one of the first three questions asked. “Where are you from? What do you do? Where’d you serve your mission?” For those that haven’t served a mission, the conversation quickly becomes awkward. “Well, I didn’t go on a mission because…,” at which point the other person may condescendingly respond, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. Hey, you can always do a senior couples mission!” In addition, these same males have to endure hearing about other men’s missionary experiences for the rest of their lives. Sentences that start with “On my mission…” become akin to the scratching sound of nails on a chalkboard.

    Con: Males who haven’t served get looked over for leadership roles

    Explanation: While it is still possible to move up the ranks in LDS church leadership, return missionaries will typically be given first priority. LDS leadership roles aren’t inherently pleasant, but they do increase one’s social status within the community.

    Con: Being forced to spend 24 hours a day with someone you don’t like.

    Explanation: Missionary companionships are like a game of chance. You’ll really get along with some companions and really despise the rest. Missionaries can ask to switch companions. Most of the time they’ll be forced to stick it through. This is especially frustrating when differences are irreconcilable, or a companion’s snoring keeps one from getting through the night.

    Con: Missions used to be a form of punishment.

    Explanation: Being sent on a mission used to mean that you were causing trouble and needed to be reformed. Brigham Young even used it to rid himself of members he felt were getting in his way (“Wife No. 19” documents many such cases). It’s not as much of a problem these days since all worthy males are required to go.

    Con: Males that leave girlfriends behind risk losing them during the two years they are out.

    Explanation: This started very early on in the church when Joseph Smith got married to women whose husbands were serving missions (e.g. Henry Jacobs, Orson Hyde). These days, young men serving missions wouldn’t leave behind wives, but they can leave behind girlfriends. Cue other LDS returned missionaries to come in and begin their mating rituals.

    Con: Female missionary stigma brought on by male missionaries.

    Explanation: Many male missionaries look down on sister missionaries. They either assume the sisters were unable to get married back home or had nothing better to do with their time. This one courtesy of the immature minds of 19-21 year old boys.

    Con: Post mission dating demographics puts females at a disadvantage.

    Explanation: The bulk of the research can be found in the article below. TL;DR: When 21 year old males primarily marry 18-19 year old girls, more women are left single over time.

    http://time.com/dateonomics/

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