It’s that time of year when all over the world, Mission Leaders (formerly called Mission Presidents) for our church make a giant switch.
The new Mission Leaders are trained and make their way to wherever they are assigned to take the places of those who have served for three years.
What are “mission leaders,” you might ask? Well, it is a couple who have been called to preside over one of the 408 missions worldwide for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Each mission has approximately 200 missionaries, and the Mission Leaders are the stewards over all those missionaries for 18-24 months. They take them under their wings and guide them as they serve.
Basically, it is a pretty big job.
This past fall two of our best-friend couples (one who happens to be Dave’s sister and her husband) were asked to serve.
And they accepted.
It has been so interesting and awe-inspiring to watch first-hand as they have prepared over the last six or so months in anticipation. All the emotions. All the things to get in order before leaving home for so long. The work they are involved in. The homes they live in (do they sell them? rent them out?). Most of all I think for all the couples called, the thing they worry about leaving the most are their children and grandchildren.
Of course, some bring their children with them. My parents, for instance, were very young (31 & 29) when they were called to preside over the England, London mission. They brought their then-four children (including me) right along with them, and then had two more in the three years they served there.
But I think the majority of Mission Leaders now are more in the empty nest stage.
This, of course, is something that changes so much of life for them. They basically agree to serve wherever they are called.
They don’t find out where that will be for a month or so after they agree to serve.
If Dave and I were distracted with anticipation as to where they would serve, I can only imagine how it was for them!
But finally the announcements were made.
One hundred and sixty-four of the 408 missions in the world will get new leadership this month.
Dave’s sister and her husband were called to the Sierra Leone, Freetown mission.
The official language is English although there are many different tribal dialects, the main religion is Islam, and from what I understand only 30% of the population there has electricity. They are nervous, of course, but it is amazing to see their willing hearts in action.
Those missionaries will be so lucky to have them!
Their own missionary is out serving a mission and won’t finish until next month. He will be released to them in Africa before he comes back to the states.
They will be so far away it will be pretty difficult for their kids to visit and almost impossible for their five (almost six) grandkids to come visit (all kinds of vaccinations required). Yes, it’s quite a sacrifice!
A couple weeks ago my other sister-in-law gathered us all for a little going-away dinner for Christy and James.
Paul told us all kinds of things he had researched about Sierra Leone and we all asked all kinds of questions.
Claire was excited to entertain the kids as everyone talked…gosh she sure loves these guys!
We are going to miss these two with all our hearts. James has been Dave’s business partner for so long and Christy has been such a mothering (and life) mentor to me and we share so many memories of spring breaks and life in general spent together. We love these two so much!
Below left they are answering questions at our dinner gathering and on the right is when we went to their “farewell” at church.
Our other best friends were called to preside over the Iowa City, Iowa mission.
How do you think it would feel to get to Zoom call from the Prophet to give you a special calling?
Nichole was my roommate in college and Denny and Dave knew each other growing up and we have shared so many memories and deep discussions and adventures over the years. We have been along with them for the ride in many ways as they have prepared.
We are trying to be cheerful about all this, but it’s tough to let friends go!
We had a dinner together with some other good friends to send them off the night after James and Christy’s dinner.
Love them all forever.
We also got to get together with these guys plus some other dear friends in Utah last week:
And then it was off with all of them to the Mission Training Conference.
I love that Nichole sent me this picture of all of them during that conference last week:
Look at those incredible people!
It sounds like it was a pretty amazing experience.
Christy and James left yesterday for Africa, and Nichole and Denny leave tomorrow for Iowa.
I have often wondered over these months of preparation what we will do without them! (Sure, it’s a big deal for them, but what about us they’re leaving behind?? Ha!)
They are some of the best of the best and they will be missed sorely (and we are determined to go visit).
But oh those lucky missionaries who will get them for their leaders! I guess we musth share them.
I know they will grow in such beautiful ways as they embark on this adventure of a lifetime.
And I think we’ll grow in many ways as we watch and support them from afar.
God speed, dear friends!
How interesting to read about this! I wish them all the best in their endeavors 🙂
I am not a Mormon and find this set-up quote interesting, I hope you don’t mind a few questions:
I was just wondering how this works financially? Is it a full time job and they get paid by the church? Or are they keeping their regular jobs and just work remotely? Or is it supposed to be self-funded?
Also how do the people get chosen as Mission-President couples? Do you have to signal first that you would be open to it? Surely for some people that simply would not be doable (Mortgages to pay, older children in school, medical issues etc.)
Lastly are only couples eligible? Or could single people also be chosen as mission presidents? What about same-sex couples?
Really all quite interesting, wishing them all the best, especially Sierra Leone will surely be a stretching experience!
I have the same questions! Would love to know more about this. Thank you for sharing!
They say they are not “paid”. However……
These things are covered 100% by the church. AND they are explicitly told in the Handbook that they are NOT to bring any of these things to the attention of any other church member OR the person doing their taxes or other financial advisors.
Living expenses (Food, tourist spots, christmas presents, etc.)
Mission expenses for children serving
One round trip per child to come out and visit you on your mission
K-12th school costs
College tuition for kids
A house with furnishings
A house keeper (20 hours per week)
All home maintenance
Use of any mission car for the wife for “Shopping and Errands”
Fuel and Car Maintenance
Travel within the Mission
Thank you for the questions, Sasha. This is definitely a sacrifice financially, which makes it even more beautiful in my opinion that they go so willingly, leaving behind so much. Mission Leaders are so busy they do not have an opportunity to earn any type of income so the church does pay for living expenses. (In response to Renee’s comment, they don’t pay taxes on non-income.) Isn’t it amazing that people will put their income on hold for three years to serve and help missionaries in a remote part of the world? I think it’s quite remarkable!
There is a much better explanation about this over here if you’re interested in learning more about that: https://whytheldschurchistrue.com/mission-presidents-financial-benefits/
I think probably the way most people are chosen to serve is just though different things they have done within the church and community. There is a process for sure, but I’m not sure of the details on that. Both of these couples have served quite extensively in different callings in the church and have lived their lives in such a way that I’m sure they were just recognized as people who would be willing to make this kind of a sacrifice.
Yes, I agree that it would be very difficult for some people to serve depending on health, monetary restraints, etc. But it’s amazing that people still take this on even against seemingly unsurmountable obstacles. My Dad was just in the process of starting his own political consulting firm and was contemplating running for congress when he was called as a Mission President. When asked how his business would do if he left, he let them know it would collapse. But he and my mom made the necessary sacrifices and it changed the trajectory of the rest of their lives (they ended up writing parenting books which led eventually to speaking about parenting all over the world). I should definitely do a whole post (or an upcoming podcast!) about this whole process for our family and how that sacrifice ended up being such a tremendous blessing.
Anyway, everyone is different. Of course, this type of service is not mandatory. Someone could say no. But it’s amazing sometimes to see how sacrifices “make the next seemingly impossible thing” fall into place (quote from my Grandma Hazel).
And lastly, it’s just married couples who are called to serve in this capacity. There is so much for both of them to do, and it’s great for the missionaries to have parental figures when they’re so far from home.
Thanks for the clarification. I see where they wouldn’t pay taxes on the “non” income, but some of the things listed are sort of NOT living expenses…. Christmas gifts? College tuition? At least not BASIC living expenses like housing and food. Also, why would they be warned not to mention to any of their financial advisors….?
Question…. if they are earning passive income.. like royalties on book sales…. can they collect that while serving? AND still have all those things paid for by the church?
Goodness. Every member pays 10% on earned income to the church. Would you go to Japan if your junior in high school could not go to an international school? If your last 2 were in college and didn’t have the money all saved ahead of time? It’s a 3 year appointment. Not 27. If is not a financial planning tool to expect to be asked to do this while your kids are young enough to benefit from it. Some pastors get a rectory. Some get Christian school tuition paid. Some countries employment credentials don’t transfer very easily and the spouse is probably too busy anyway to take on a job. Most employers ask people not to talk about benefits and compensation. Think of it like military. There is pay and then there is allowance for housing or accommodation on base and food allowance, etc.. military doesn’t pay taxes because they are in base housing. Employees of a university might give kids free tuition as a perk. If you are a member paying 10% and don’t want a travel allowance for an adult kid covered send the leadership a Facebook message about it.
She also asked about same sex couples. You didn’t answer that part…
Considering the Family Proclamation, I think it’s safe to assume that same sex couples won’t be called to be mission leaders anytime soon.
Your parents were my mother’s mission presidents. Such a small world!
That IS a small world! I’m sure my parents would want me to pass on a big “hello!” and lots of love to your mom.
Shawni – Islam is best as a religion rather than Muslim
Thank you for the correction!
Love Claire’s double set of earrings in the pic with the two kiddos.
This is the most LDS blog I’ve ever read, and the people who come in here and comment that they’re not being LDS *enough* or they’re LDSing *wrong* blow my mind. And anyone who’s read here for a while knows that this family has never claimed to be perfect. But sure, measure tank top straps and continue to count holes in a woman’s earlobe as some sort of bizarre gotcha game that only makes you look bad.
True. They don’t claim to be perfect. But they don’t seem to mind showing pictures to the entire universe on the blog of some of the things they do that aren’t quite right…. Whether Shawni meant for it to happen or not – she and her family have become role models for lots of LDS younger families. In that capacity, she should be very careful to show her family doing things that bring honor to her church – even if they do some things that are questionable, maybe not show it? Her readers are like groupies – they emulate her and think “wow, look what those people do, even if the church frowns on it… I can do the same things!” It’s a precarious position she has put herself and her kids into.
When I read judgmental comments on this blog I often wonder if these commenters have children. And if they do have children, do they have teenagers? I’ve read Shawni’s blog since my 14 year old was a toddler. Because of Shawni’s willingness to share her thoughts and her family with us, my family celebrates Holy Week. We hang Valentine heart love notes on our kitchen cabinets. We have a family economy. I’ve made documenting my family’s life through pictures a priority. I’ve learned how to be a durable object. I’ve had my mind opened to new ideas and new ways of looking at things. I’m active in the LDS church and love the example of this strong and imperfect family who share so much goodness.
Thank you for seeing and concentrating on the good amidst all the imperfection, Jen.
I too have been a reader since my kids were born and I can honestly say she has made a difference in my parenting more than anyone else. 💯
Am I perfect? No! Is she? No! Are any kids? No but why pick out things like an extra earring or a tank top.. seriously, why can’t we love and support each other as women, and mothers? I feel actually bad for those that pull apart other people, they need more happiness in their lives!
She is an accidental role model? You feel let down? Oh my word.. Different person, different rule, worry about you.
If you want to label, I am a groupie, though not LDS. A little while ago, a reader commented perfectly on the discussion why pictures of girls in short shirts were posted even though the shirts are too short for LDS standards (creepy discussion btw!): We teach them and then we let them be themselves and love them and are proud of them all the same (the reader said it more articulate).
First, I think that is a perfect description of good parenting. And second, I as a groupie 😉 would be very, very off put, if I realised that Shawni would hide pictures of short shirts or tank tops or whatever because of the brand.
Understood. But in my mind, it is tantamount to reading the blog of a devout Catholic and her family. One that not only mentions but describes in detail their beliefs, their church, their values, morals, etc. Then in the background of the picture, we see this person’s (or her teenage daughter’s) pack of birth control pills, or box of condoms sticking out of a grocery bag…. you know, not blatantly in your face, but there none the less. Would that reflect positively on the Catholic church? Would it make you think that this person is not as devout as they seem? That is not judgmental. That is drawing a conclusion from something observed.
I know no one is perfect. But that saying is overused. I think it was meant to mean that everyone will accidentally slip up and say the wrong thing, or behave badly, something beyond their control that they can’t take back, but they are sorry for.
Double pierced ears does not fall into the “no one is perfect” scenario. It may have been a lapse in judgement to get the double piercings but is it a continuous daily lapse in judgement to continue to wear the double earrings? How sorry can someone be for doing something questionable if they continue to do it?
Totally their business, and totally none of mine – but I still think that if you want your blog to embody the spirit of being an LDS family, if you see something like that in your photos, don’t show it. It’s not hiding it, it’s just choosing not to stumble someone who might be looking up to you as an example.
People live their faiths in different ways. It’s a matter of personal choice. I don’t know any Catholics who abide by ALL the religious teachings of the church or the Bible. I know Catholics who chose to abstain from sex before marriage, I know others that did not. I know Jewish people who keep kosher; I know others who do not. I know Muslim women who wear the headscarf, and I know others who do not. It’s not productive or healthy for you or the people you’re observing to be measuring everyone who belongs to a faith by how stringently they adhere to every rule, proscription or custom. The world is not so black and white. Faith and religion, though they can be practiced in a community, are intensely personal experiences.
No matter if it’s a Catholic or an LDS blogger, I do not think that your examples reflect negatively on the Catholic or LDS Church. What reflects negatively on a church would be abuse or money laundering or hate speech (I guess we agree on that).
Would it reflect negatively on the blogger, if she preached something, but obviously did another thing? Yes! Does Shawni do that? I don’t think so. Obviously, she is devout, but I never had the impression that she preaches to follow every single rule/advice/suggestion (and please, don’t let us discuss bare shoulders and rules again).
If she faked that she and her daughters follow all rules/suggestions/advice 100 %, just in order to be a better example for other LDS women, I personally would be put off. And I don’t even think that she would be a better example in doing so. In my opinion that would be lying by omission.
If I haven’t convinced you by now, we have to agree on disagreeing. And on wishing the mission leaders all the best! 🙂
I’m fascinated by your in-laws going to Sierra Leone. Do they keep a blog like yours ;)? I am so curious about what the day-to-day life would be like.
They don’t keep a blog but they are going to try to keep up somehow in Facebook. I sure want to keep up on that day-to-day life as well!
My daughter recently got called to serve her mission in Romania! Is that where you served Shawni? If so I’d love any advice!
Congrats to these couples. I know that Heavenly Father will watch over them & their families & will bless them for their service. x
Just curious, Shawi, do you remember much of the time you spent in the UK when your Dad was the mission president?
Did you go to a British school or an American one? I’m sure I remember a couple of pix in your Mum & Dad’s book & you were in a school uniform, which most British children wear.
Sooo amazing!!! Those missionaries will love their leaders fiercely!! I’m still in contact with my mission president and his wife ( I served a sign language & spent a lot of time in London with Jonah)!!
Mission leaders are amazing, literally so amazing!!!!
I’m so excited for them all. Do you think it’s something you and Dave would love to do?
Thank you for sharing TINY SLIVERS, of your lives with us!!
Your in-laws will have a wonderful experience in Freetown! I visited when I lived next door in Liberia- it is a very cool place. 🙂