…for mission calls galore.

Because every other minute it seems Max’s friends are working on their mission papers, anticipating where they will get called, receiving their mission calls and heading out all over the world.

You see, when boys in our church turn 18 they have the option of serving a proselyting mission for two years. (The age used to be 19 but they recently adjusted it so that boys can leave as early as 18 if they feel like they’re ready.)  Girls can go when they turn 19 (used to be 21) and only leave for 18 months.  When you are ready to go, you fill out a whole slew of information (health forms, availability dates, etc.), turn them in to the church headquarters in Salt Lake City, and within a week or two you receive a packet in the mail “calling” you to the place where you will work and serve for the duration of your mission.  Oh, and one important thing to note, you pay for you mission yourself (often times with help from family and friends).  Many missionaries work their whole lives to save up for that life-changing adventure.  Once they’re gone, the communicate through emails once a week, but other than that, they concentrate fully on serving and working and dedicating that mission to God.

As I write this I’m thinking to myself that this all surely must sound awfully weird to someone who didn’t grow up in the church.  I mean, sending a young kid out to tim-buc-two all on their lonesome, often times speaking a foreign language and living in a foreign culture?  Yeah, kind of crazy.  But in my mind it is one of the best things kids can be doing at that age.  Focusing their minds on service in a very time of life that they are most self-absorbed, learning how to communicate better on so many levels, learning how to manage time and to be independent and most of all strengthening their faith in God in such a unique and wonderful way.

I know from my own experience how life-changing a mission can be since when I was twenty I decided to serve one myself.  I’ll have to tell the whole story at some point but for now I found a video clip from when I opened my own mission call.  I drove to my family’s house with a bunch of my girlfriends from college and with great anticipation, we opened that thing together:

(I was so goofy 🙂

Those 18 months were some of the toughest, most glorious and most defining months of my life.
Romania took a piece of my heart.  The people, the culture, the language, I love them all.  I can’t speak the language any more after 20 years and no one to practice with, but I still try to read parts of my Romanian Book of Mormon and am determined to return some day.2014-07-20 summer 7914
Every one of my siblings served missions as well.  In order from oldest to youngest here is where we went: Saren went to Bulgaria, I went to Romania, Josh went to England, Saydi went to Spain, Jonah went to England (yes, another one), Tal went to Brazil, Noah went to Chile, Eli went to Japan, and Charity went to England (yes, another England!).

Every one of us had life-changing experiences and would never change that time of learning and tremendous growth for the world. 

So, back to the “season” of mission calls…we are smack-dab in the middle of a whole bunch of mission hoopla.  Max has decided to get a semester of school under his belt before he leaves which feels like perfect timing for him, but so many kids are getting their mission calls left and right and it’s stirring up my heart like nobody’s business.

Friends will invite other friends over as they open their “calls” to share in the beginning phases of such an adventure.

Of Max’s five closest friends, three have left, one is leaving in August and one is staying and doing a semester of school before he leaves (like Max is).

One got called to Rochester, New York:2015-03-15 california 103854
Another just left for Honduras:2015-03-21 iPhone 103961
A third just left for Nicaragua:2015-03-15 california 103856
Our nephew is going to New York, NY:2015-03-21 iPhone 103959Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset
A girl in our local congregation just got called to Korea, and another to Mongolia.2015-06-15 iPhone 110898-1
One of my best friends from high school’s son just got called to Arizona and another of my friends sons is already in Peru.  They are all over the world I tell you and learning things they never would any other way.

Every time a call is opened I get a lump in my throat because I know Max’s time is coming (we are just starting on his papers).  As much as it makes me so excited for him, oh boy, we are gonna miss that boy!  And my heart jumps because I wonder where in the world he will get called.  Oklahoma?  Cambodia?  France?  Taiwan?

Who knows? But it will be quite an adventure that’s one thing for sure!

We have been attending many “mission farewells” over the last few weeks (when they give a talk in church before they leave) and oh man I have been so impressed by these kids who are so willing to get out there and teach anyone who will listen about God.  I love to see these boys together as they anticipate and talk about the mission world that is gradually taking them over.2015-06-14 iPhone 110894
2015-06-28 iPhone 1113302015-06-28 iPhone 111335

The first to leave was Max’s friend who has been by his side since Kindergarten.

Back then:

The night he got his call:
2015-03-16 iPhone 103898
I am really good friends with his mom so to see her go through sending him off has been crazy as I anticipate how it will be with Max.  If I am on the verge of tears with him, how the heck am I going to let Max go?

These boys have spent every second together they possibly could in anticipation.  This was the night before he left.
2015-06-23 iPhone 1111942015-06-23 iPhone 111195
Love this great kid:
2015-06-23 iPhone 111191Max wasn’t able to go to the airport with them all because of work, but here they are together sending Jake off in a little huddle where my friend told me they said a little prayer together.

Makes me tear up to even think about how sweet all these goofy, wonderful boys are.

And also how much they will change in the next two years.

Here he is in the Missionary Training Center getting ready to head out:
2015-06-25 iPhone 111608
Then the next one just left for New York.
2015-06-28 iPhone 111339
And the next to Honduras.

These girls of mine are going to miss all these boys so much too!

So with all this going on, I guess we are kind of on the brink of a new stage…the mission stage.  And it is so exciting and sad and emotional and scary and wonderful all at the same time!  Before I know it it will be Max opening that mission call and I’m trying to prepare my heart!

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  1. Hi Shawni,
    This brings back so many memories. It was 4 years ago that I sent my son off. He went to Mexico City, so we were able to drive him to the Provo MTC. There were a lot of tears, but by the time we hit Nephi, they had dried up. We got our first email 2 days later, and from there, my excitement for him grew. Some days I wondered who was writing his letters. Was this my little boy? After he returned, there were days when I longed for the blessings we had been receiving while he served. Well, my wish was granted when my daughter left 7 months later. She was called to serve the people of Puerto Rico. However, she was assigned to report to the Dominican Republic MTC, so we had to drop her at the Phoenix airport at 6:00 a.m. all by herself. That was not fun. She flew to Miami to meet up with other missionaries. I cannot wait to hug that sweet girl 11 weeks from today. What helped me the most was focusing on their excitement. It was also nice to have a break from parenting, since they were in the care of the Lord, and the mission mom. I know that they could never have grown like this at home. It is hard, but it is worth it. (Just like the rest of life)
    I know Max will be prepared and so will you. Good luck!

  2. Shawni,

    Do parents have to pay for a mission? We're Christian-Methodists so I'm not familiar with how a missionary lives if he, or she cannot work. Are they paid from the church?

    Excited for Max when his calling comes,

  3. Just wondering…do they get to come back home for visits during their mission trips or are you able to go see them? Do you or the church have to pay for the trips…flights, lodging, food, etc. Do they do fundraising or how does that exactly work? Any chance you or your readers happen to know of great organizations that do similar type missions that you don't have to be associated with particular churches? Would love to try and find an opportunity like that some day…for both me and my kids 😉

    Definitely sounds like great experiences!

  4. Oh good questions. I just added a sentence up there in the post, but missionaries and their families pay for their own missions. Some save their whole lives to earn enough. Others who can't afford to go have many wonderful people in their ward or friends and relatives who contribute. It is definitely a huge sacrifice of time and money, but so very worth everything put into it.

  5. I sure hope my little boy ( only 4 months at the moment) has such a wonderful group of friends that support each other and are such good influences on each other. Max is a great kid and will be such a wonderful missionary.

  6. From mormonmissionprep.com:

    "In 1990, though, a new program was introduced to equalize the financial responsibility for each missionary. Now, all young missionaries pay a flat monthly rate into the Church missionary fund. Each missionary, then, is allocated what he or she needs for the expenses in that mission. The monthly allowance missionaries are given is designed to cover food, lodging, transportation, and other mission related expenses. Missionaries are asked to bring extra personal money for additional items they would like to purchase such as souvenirs."

    Dress for sister missionaries – same website: "new dress and grooming standard for sister missionaries –……….skirts must cover the knee when sitting down."

    Must. Not that the way you dress is important or anything….as long as you are kind and loving…..

    One of the reasons for the age change: "Surveys have found that about 60 percent of people raised in the LDS church still identify with it as adults, meaning about 40 percent leave. If more individuals serve missions, fewer young Mormons will drop out of the religion…"

    Very interesting information.

    1. Mormonmissionprep.com is not a church sponsored site. They have made a flat rate for all missionaries (young adult, not seniors) so that a young man assigned to NYC (where cost of living is higher than most places) doesn't have to pay more than one called to an area of the world where it might be significantly less expensive. Senior couples who serve pay for everything (rent, food, transportation, eyc.) except air fair to and from. The dress code is just to insure modesty. Also, I was raised catholic and the Catholic Church encourages youth activities to keep catholic youth active in church…logically, if you are an active teen and are encouraged to stay active, your chances of retailing members is higher. I don't see what is wrong with that.

    2. May not be a church-sponsored site, but it seems to have given correct information. I didn't say anything is wrong with it, I just researched the information when a commenter above asked the question. I'd always wondered about it myself.

      I did think it was quite funny that it mentioned skirts being below the knee when the girl sits down. It actually said "must" – a point debated to death when poor Elle's prom dress was criticized for *gasp* showing a bit of shoulder. 🙂 Looks like she'll need some new skirts in the next few years as well.

  7. One thing I've always been a bit confused about in regards to LDS missions (run of the mill Christian here), is the difference in age and length of missions depending on gender? Does the LDS Church have a reason for this? In all honestly, it seems a bit…..sexist?

  8. Wow, I found a lot of information when looking up how missions were paid for. It's been said here and elsewhere how mission presidents are volunteers – not paid for their 3 year service periods.

    Well, why would they need to get paid when all this is provided for them…? Also, as it relates to this post – notice #11.

    Notice it also includes a gardener (seriously? – that's a real necessity!) and undergraduate tuition for their children! And Christmas and birthday gifts! No, they're not paid, no sir!

    the Church will offer full reimbursement for the following personal and familial living expenses of the Mission President and his family, while he serves this volunteer, unsalaried 3 year-stint:

    1 Medical expenses, including dental and eye care, though not orthodontics (except in specific cases) and cosmetic surgery (unless covered by the insurance provider);

    2 Rent

    3 Living expenses proper, including utilities, food, household supplies, dry cleaning, phones, internet, dry cleaning, etc.;

    4 One official car, with maintenance and gas;

    5 One second official car for the wife, with maintenance and gas;

    6 Clothing for the mission president and his family;

    7 “Family activities”

    8 Long-distance personal phone calls;

    9 One round trip for each unmarried child under 26 to visit the parents out in the mission field;

    10 “Modest gifts (for example, Christmas, birthdays, or anniversary)”;

    11 Support for children serving full-time missions;

    12 Elementary and secondary school expenses (including tuition, usually in upscale private schools, including fees, books, and materials);

    13 Extra-curricular activities for the children, such as music lessons, dance lessons, sports, etc.;

    14 Undergraduate tuition at an accredited college or university (tuition cap at BYU’s rate, tuition waived at Church-owned schools);

    15 Part-time housekeeper/cook (20 hours/week);

    16 Gardener, if necessary;

    17 Income Tax and Tithing exemptions.

  9. Unknown- yes nessecities are paid for while they are on there mission. However they do not cover there home they left that needs to be cared for while they are gone for 3 years. They also retire or take a leave of absences for 3 years from there jobs and do not have an income. So yes they do have there needs taken care of they certainly are not being paid ( also the mission president and his wife really are so busy they do not have time to for all the house stuff so yes in some cases a Gardener is very much a nessecity. Also they leave there lives and there family behind for 3 years to care for other people's children. It is a huge sacrifice! So though you may not agree with the religion and the things they do in it you can at least respect it and choose not to bash things you do not know the details about. ( I have never commented on here. After reading that comment I could not help myself. My parents have been mission presidents for 2 years and so they have one year left. While they have been gone they have missed 7 births of grandchildren. My mom lost her mom and several other significant events. So when people make it out to be a luxury or like it is not a sacrifice it really rubs me the wrong way.

    1. It's okay to be paid clergy. Not sure why unknown is picking at that. Who would be able to go and be mission president if they had a few kids mission age and college if they are not earning, having some of that cost covered seems logical? Why would the mission president have to do outdoor upkeep on the "rectory or parsonage" so to speak? Priests and pastors wouldn't in other churches. The mission home may not even have a garden. But say the prior president did have a green thumb, that doesn't mean every one after needs to spend 2 hours attending to the property every week. Its not the mission presidents house. Why would he put money into it? It's really no different than a company sending a worker abroad to work for a short time. The company may cover housing costs, tuition for minors to attend a foreign school and moving expenses. They don't pay tithing cause they are not collecting an income, but have been tithing or they would probably not be asked to do it. It's the single elder and sister missionaries who pay into the missionary fund. Shawni was talking about the single elder and sister missionaries. Not the mission president and wife. Senior missionaries are married couples that go out and do similar to the single elders and sisters. Yes they pay. I do wonder why a mission president or anyone serving has to come from someplace else though? I would think it would be better for a couple living in AZ to be a mission president and wife in AZ where they understand all applicable laws, customs and language already. Aren't there LDS everywhere? Why must a mission president and wife come from France to serve in the US or the US to serve in Peru? It seems unnecessarily complicated. Heck they could live in their own home and just take a leave from work.

      7 grandkids in 2 years! How exciting!

      One thing that gets me. Are they kids or are they adults being independent? All the control suggests that they are in fact kids. And the parental element of the mission president and wife. It really doesn't impress non members that they can't use the phone to call home but twice a year. It seems like they are in delayed adolescence. Our servicemen are totally dedicated and can use a phone but for short periods of time depending on stage of training and where they are. But unless they are a POW the don't go that long without being able to use a phone.

      The prom dress thing was ridiculous. But a sister missionary is an adult with a temple recommend and the dress code is set to be little more modest as they are the image of the church they are pushing. It's no different that appropriate dress for court if you are a trial lawyer. The knees covered thing is temporary.

      I would think sending the kids off on solo adventures is to prepare the parents for the kids leaving the house for college or mission at 17/18?

      I don't know a kid at 18 spending two solid years working at minimum wage can afford $400 a month for two years. $16,000 gross can be earned working 20 hours a week for two solid years. They have to pay taxes. They have to tithe. Car insurance and gas to get to and from work. Not to mention college savings. And then there are mission costs besides the basic fee to go. There is clothes, pocket money..

    2. I agree there is nothing wrong with being paid clergy. But these people claim they are NOT paid. And they are told to conceal these reimbursements from their tax preparer. If there is nothing to be ashamed of and all is above board, why is it all so secretive?

  10. Brynne Rose – I understand that you think being reimbursed for all expenses is not the same as being paid. It is. They have THEIR needs taken care of and do not have to spend any of THEIR own money on anything. A gardener is NOT a necessity, and neither are dance and music lessons and sports for the kids.

    Also, in the same "secret" mission president handbook, it instructs them not to ever disclose that anything is reimbursed and never mention any of this to any financial professionals or tax preparers. I wonder why that is.

    1. It is not the same. If they were paid they might recieve more than they need and could save it. But even if it were, what is so bad about it? It seems to anger you very much.

    2. I would think the gardener thing would be like any other maintainable upkeep the church does. The mission home where a mission president lives is owned by the church and so the church maintains it like it does its church buildings and historical sites around the world. At least, that's what I would assume. It's totally understandable to ask questions but there is a way to do so without being critical. Being a mission president probably nice in many ways but a sacrifice in many ways as well…like many things in life are. Those serving missions who are not mission presidents pay their own way.

    3. That makes sense. How about making one of the children do the gardening as an "extra curricular activity"? Good exercise. Oh, but gym membership for the whole family is probably considered a reimbursable living expense…..

    4. You are being silly.

      The son of a pastor at 16 isn't required to do the upkeep around the rectory/parsonage his family is currently living in because the pastor before went nuts and had a gardening hobby requiring hours of effort on the property. It's hired out or the parishioners tend to it. Depending on the area it could require year round care others just a few months the summer. The handbook that is "secret" covers the possibility of a gardener if is beyond what is reasonable. It's the churches property and image. A 18 year old boy isn't a mission president. The mission president takes care of the logistics of 200-300 people coming and going. Not too much time for gardening. And it would be good to have a vehicle or two to get people to and from the airport. It would be silly for them to ship their cars and then figure out the mileage due them. Instead they drive a vehicle covered by the church. Not many mission president have minor kids still at home anymore. There might be one or two left in the home and the rest adults and out of the house, but mostly they are empty nesters.

    5. I think providing opportunities for the kids to continue in some of the activities they did before they made this huge move and lifestyle change is quite nice. Makes it not so much of a culture shock. If those of us who are helping to pay for this through our tithing don't mind, why are you so concerned. These mission presidents don't need to live in poverty and they are extremely busy on a daily basis. They honestly don't have time for gardening and other things.

  11. Doesn't anger me at all. Just facts I found when I researched it. I'm not Mormon, so it doesn't affect me at all.

    I do think they are receiving more than they need. Do they need a gardener? Do their kids need dance, gymnastics, sports, etc.? Is it one activity per kid? Wouldn't they have had to save for their kids college anyway? Why is this reimbursed? It's not a living expense?

    And (biggie) – why are they told never mention to anyone, especially the tax man, that the church is reimbursing them? Isn't that dishonest?

    1. I didn't mean to discuss needs and wants. What I meant is that it doesn't seem to be an income that can be spent or saved in which way they choose it.

    2. A mission president and wife are paid clergy. Just like a pastor may get housing and not direct deposited much cash into a checking account per week because that offsets his salary. I'm sure they file taxes. They just wouldn't likely have a tax bill because Uncle Sam doesn't tax clergy on the dwelling they live in owned by their church or for driving a vehicle owned by the church and so on. If they earn investment income during their service they pay tax on that.

      They all don't get a gardener. Only if the property requires garden maintenance. If they don't have a child at BYU there is no BYU free tuition. I highly doubt anyone would be eligible for all these potential costs being covered. It just allows the church to call more people no matter their stage in life. If there is a member with a 16 year old at home instead of waiting for them to graduate they will cover international school tuition so the parents can take the position. And they know they will get the tution fee waived that first year at BYU or the cost of BYU for that first year at college since they will be serving for three years. They don't have to worry they can't earn and save up that tuition in the three years they are not collecting a pay check from their employer while they are serving. The 16 year old may not be able to work part time and earn that tuition fee due to VISA restrictions of the country they move to. If they are empty nesters and the adult kids are just starting married life they can get a plane ticket to visit, even if the adult kids are not in a position financially to fly across the world. These make perfect sense. Mission presidents are specifically asked run things in x location for 3 years.

    3. My brother and sister in law just left last week to preside over the NYNY mission. He is 42, it is a huge sacrifice career wise for him to leave his profession. It is a huge sacrifice for their 3 kids as well. Their oldest is 15, is leaving all of her friends, her spot on the varsity cheer team and will do all of her high school in NY. It isn't easy and yes they are paid to go do this. They are more than happy to do it, they are loving it in fact. But it wouldn't be possible if the church didn't pay for their living expenses. Many families with kids give up a lot to go do this. I'm so grateful for them and happy as a member of the church that my tithing helps pay for them to go serve in this huge calling in helping the missionary work go forth.

    4. I agree with everything you've said. But as an outsider looking in you have to see where it looks shady.

      They claim to be unpaid. They do not consider these reimbursements as being paid, as a paid clergy member would be in other faiths. You even said, "yes they are paid."

      Their own handbook tells them NOT to disclose any of these reimbursements to the tax man, or even to other members. Why? That just sounds very strange to me as a non-Mormon.

      Here's exactly what the handbook says about it:

      "Because you are engaged in volunteer religious service, no employer-employee relationship exists between you and the Church. As a result, any funds reimbursed to you from the Church are not considered income for tax purposes; they are not reported to the government… To avoid raising unnecessary tax questions, please follow these guidelines closely: 1) Do not share information on funds you receive from the Church with those who help you with financial or tax matters… 2) Never represent in any way that you are paid for your service… 3) If you are required to file an income-tax report for other purposes, do not list any funds you receive from the Church, regardless of where you serve…The amount of any funds reimbursed to you should be kept strictly confidential and should not be discussed with missionaries, other mission presidents, friends, or family members."

      Look at #2 – never represent that you are being paid for your service. I don't understand, if it's all good and above board, why are they told this?

    5. Okay they are given a stipend for their service or compensated for their sacrifice…is that better? It's semantics and I'm not sure why you're so concerned about it. It really is miraculous and amazing that in our day and age people are willing give up so much to serve God. My sister in law and brother in law sold EVERYTHING…literally all their material possessions except clothing and family keepsakes to go on their mission. It's a testimony to me that they have such faith in God and love this gospel so much they are willing to do this for three years! That's what I'm focusing on, their dedication and faith, not how much money is paid. I encourage you to find some missionaries or mission presidents to talk with about why they are doing this. It is incredible.

    6. Understood. Yes, that is commendable. I'm sure every mission president is extremely sincere and is doing a wonderful, unselfish thing. I really do believe that.

      The only thing I didn't understand, and still don't… is why the church is being so secretive about it. It's perfectly acceptable for missionaries to be reimbursed for normal living expenses – so why are they making sure they warn them not to ever mention it or tell anyone? That suspicious behavior is why I ( and probably others) question what exactly they are being reimbursed for – and whether it is really overboard and more than what most people (including the tax man) would consider "normal".

    7. I honestly don't know the answers to some of your questions but this is different than a salary, these people aren't getting rich, they are being provided a nice lifestyle which is okay since they left everything behind to do this. I don't understand tax law on these things or I would answer your questions.

    8. We have a lot of Mormons at any given time here in Southern VA – we see them riding on bikes all over our neighborhoods – although I never see them at any doors or talking to anyone (?) I was always under the impression that in order to get their tuition paid at BYU they had to do this evangelizing door to door bike stuff for a certain period of time first.

      I saw the comment (one of the first ones) asking Shawni about how missions are funded. I googled "is college tuition paid for Mormon missionaries?" – it took me to lots of sites and one of them (referenced and quoted verbatim as I did here) portions of the "secret" Mission Presidents Handbook" that talked about what reimbursements are made to the presidents and their families.

    9. The young missionaries don't have their BYU tuition paid. I found another very good blog about tax laws regarding mission presidents I'll link here. I think one of the reasons those handbooks aren't made public is so people don't get hung up on the finances of the missions like we are here but instead focus on the work these people are doing. This is the last comment I will make here regarding this. If you want to discuss more about missionaries I would be happy to give you my email. I served a mission as did my husband and the majority of our family members, I'm happy to answer any questions.


    10. Thanks, Cheryl. I will check out the link. BTW I was merely answering your question as to where I got my info. Not trying to beat this to death!

    11. I think the church pays the rent/already owns the home and pays the property taxes, light bill. Not the mission president. A priest doesn't declare the cost to maintain the rectory as income to the tax man. He doesn't own it. I think you need to spend time looking at the IRS publication concerning religious. There is honestly no way to know if the "secret" book is the real book. Or even when it was written if it was the real book.

      If the military gets base housing they don't get a housing allowance. Your salary is going to depend on what is provided from the army and then you have a small salary or a number of allowances to cover the things the army can't cover like off base housing if there isn't enough and you need to go off base. Do you get a food card or do you get $. A mission president simply gets a number of allowances. The don't get x amount to cover soccer for their high school student in which they can pocket the money or reroute it to something else. They don't get income to donate to their church. They don't get earn income they can save for retirement or children's weddings or put into a college fund. If during the three years of service a child is enrolled in college they get a tuition stipend for that term. In the army you get more perks the more kids you have. Your compensation is matched to the family requirements to live.

      If you aren't giving them money it really is none of your business how many tithes they collect and how they are spent. Unless you are looking to have your expenses paid for a period of time consider joining their church and getting to be chosen as a mission president and your child can get a plane ticket to visit you where you are sent. If It's so envious go for it.

    12. No need to be rude, kms. I'm not envious, just curious. And Cheryl has been very kind and helpful in explaining to me.

      Wanting to learn about the practices of different religions is ok, not "none of my business". You seem to have done your share of research also on a religion that is not one you belong to. Is it more your business than mine?

  12. I love the picture of the boys huddled together. It was lovely how they said a prayer together.

    Josh served in my ward, Bracknell & Charity served is the Reading ward.

  13. I am an outsider (ie not Mormon) and understand the importance of a mission to someone in their church. I have 2 questions however…first, I am curious as to why the age is higher for a female when, in my experience, young women of 18 are so much more mature than a boy of that age. It just seems to me that girls would be just as well prepared at 18. Also, as a Momma, I really feel for you when your child leaves. Granted, leaving for that lentgh of time with limited communication is foreign to me but my mommy heart broke sending my only child to college last year and only seeing him every couple of weeks! I guess I jsut am not that strong…I don't know if I could handle the separation. Also…he is a sophomore now…it gets easier thank goodness.

    1. Hey Lesliejane-

      I asked this same question earlier in the comments, with no answer. (also a non-Mormon) Its always been something that made me scratch my head. Especially with the big announcement a few years back that made it possible for both men and women to serve missions at younger ages. Why not just use that opportunity to make them the same? Same age to start, and same length. It just doesnt make a lick of sense to me as to why there's a difference.

      SO. I went straight to the source! I got on the Mormon.org chat, and asked the missionaries. The young man I spoke to, admitted this was just his thoughts and by no means official Church opinion, said that its because serving a Mission is considered a commandment for men, and it is NOT for women. Also, because the LDS Church is based around the importance of family, they didn't want to create obstacles for women to start a family by postponing marriage.

      Despite my own opinions on that answer, it was nice to finally have an idea of why there is a difference. I would certainly be interested in seeing if the LDS Church has released anything official regarding answers to this, but even with my expert sleuthing I havent been able to find anything.

    2. I am a member of the LDS church and I think the age difference is to discourage any relationships happening in the mission field… Haha! I don't know exactly the reasoning but I do believe there is good reasoning behind it. We believe our leaders receive revelation from God, I have faith that is so. I served a mission at 21 and would have been thrilled to be able to go at 19. Serving a mission shaped my life in powerful ways, it has made me a better person, wife and mother and I think about it nearly every day. whether it was 18 or 24 months it didn't even occur to me that it was "sexist" or discrimatory. Different isn't bad, it's just different.

    3. Hi RHrad–I'm a card-carrying member of the LDS church, and I did some checking of my own for you! I knew the answer, but I wanted you to have info from official sources. 🙂 I found this on the newsroom.lds.org website. Here is the link: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-lowers-age-requirement-for-missionary-service-faq

      And, here is the answer to your question from the FAQ:

      Why are the age requirements different for men and women?
      Missionary service is a priesthood responsibility for young men in the Church, but young women are encouraged to serve as they feel moved to do so. The Church has learned from experience that there is wisdom in maintaining age differences between young men and young women who are serving missions.

      When they announced this change a few years ago, they held a press conference, and Elder Holland (one of the 12 Apostles) was asked this question, and he gave a similar answer. Here is the link to the press conference: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-lowers-age-requirement-for-missionary-service

      I hope that helps!

    4. Cheryl and Whitney- Thank you so much for your responses!!

      Whitney- haha, to be honest, I saw the FAQ answer previously, and it makes me even more confused! Im sure part of this is because Im not a member of your Church, so when I hear the answer as Divine Guidance, I still kind of scratch my head. "The Church has learned from experience that there is wisdom in maintaining age differences between young men and young women who are serving missions." What exactly does this mean? What was learned? And does the difference in age solve the problem, etc? This comes off as a very opaque answer.

      I truly mean no offense by these questions. I've asked my many LDS friends, and it just seems like the answer is always- Im not sure, but that's what the Prophet has decided! Which, is a totally valid answer, and one I respect. But for someone outside of the religion (and also an academic, who is know to pick things apart 😉 ), I just dont find that to be a sufficient answer to the question of WHY there is a difference.

    5. If they both leave at 18 the girl will get home at 19 and the boy at 20. This way with them leaving at different ages they both get home when they are 20. Remember they are 24 and 18 month missions. Before the men would get home at 21. He would usually marry soon after getting home. Marriage is encouraged. Women serving left at 21 before. So there were not many sister missionaries. By 21 most of the girls were married and they wanted to increase the number of missionaries. Making the mission shorter and postponed slightly for women reinforces it's optional for women and mandatory for men who are able to go. Not all men will be able to go. There could be a health thing come up. If they were late to joining the church they also won't be serving. If they are a member in a country wil a mandatory conscription at mission age it will be postponed or maybe not done at all. Everything seems set up for the way it works for most American LDS.

    6. Great answer Whitney, I forgot about that press conference. KMS men can serve until 27, so if they are a convert they can still serve. Many men and women from other countries serve their mandatory military obligation and go on to serve a mission for the church as well.

    7. kms, are you an ex-Mormon? You seem to think you know a lot about their church, but not getting it quite right.

    8. A married convert of 25 isn't going to serve a mission. A man older than 27 can still convert, right? Even though he is too old to serve a mission as a single? If the military service is a short period, of course there is still time to do a mission and its postponed. Isn't that what I said? But if it's a long service requirement it just isn't going to get done.

  14. It's like when you question something your Mom tells you and she says, "because I said so". Valid response but still doesn't explain the reasoning. I guess if you follow whatever the church or prophet says blindly then you don't really need an answer. That sounds dangerous to me – lots of bad things have happened in other religions when people unquestioningly did what the prophet told them without thinking for themselves.

    1. Eh…I don't know any member of my church, personally, that "follows blindly." I certainly wasn't raised to. There are many things the church has a stand on that I don't agree with personally. However, I respect that those are the official positions, and that there is likely wisdom in those positions, even if I disagree with them. Sure, there are many members that will say, "Well, this is what the prophet says, so I'm going to follow it." But you don't know their hearts, and you have no idea how/if they've wrestled with those commandments/positions/etc. In a church that values personal revelation so much, I think you'd be surprised how many members do actively seek answers on positions for themselves.

      Simply because you don't believe the same things as someone, or disagree with the answers doesn't mean that those that do believe or accept those answers are "following blindly" and you do a great disservice to the many different members of this church, and their varying experiences and opinions, by stating they are "blind followers."

  15. Thanks, Whitney. I really meant no disrespect. I guess it all depends on the individual.

    I do have a question for you, though. If you are a "card carrying" member of the LDS church- are you allowed to disagree with some of the things the church has taken a collective "stand" or "position" on? Is this something you would feel comfortable sharing with your fellow Mormons or something you just feel inside but go along with the crowd in public?

    Are they small things or large doctrinal matters you take issue with?

    Again, no disrespect intended – I just wonder if your church leaders knew you didn't agree with all the tenets (for lack of a better word) – would they still consider you a "card carrying member"? Or when people feel the way they do within the church, is it best to just keep it to yourself?

    1. You are posting like madam and mama. Is it me?

      I don't know what cult your parents belonged to growing up but I feel bad for you. I think you confusing leaders of churches with the leader of North Korea. Did it ever occur to you people are simply fine with the ages of missions? Did it occur to you people just accept mission infrastructure costs money? People are allowed their own agency and can still have affiliation to a relgion.

    2. Unknown, our church was founded on a young man asking a question. Yes I would still be a card carrying member if I voiced questions to my leaders. It's what you do with those questions. Not all questions are going to be answered right away or maybe even in this life. That is called faith. I am a well educated woman who grew up with parents who taught me to ask questions. They gave me books about other religions to read when I was younger and I went to other churches because I was fascinated with them. In spite of my questions, I have never found a religion that gives me more peace of mind, a better way to raise my family, a better lifestyle to live or one that brings me closer to God and Jesus Christ. There are so many answers for me in this church and I am happy and content here.

    3. kms – you make absolutely no sense. Cult? Did I mention a cult, or my parents in any of my comments? I post like a madam? What?

      Anyway, I was referring to things like David Koresh, and Jim Jones…where people did what they were told by their prophet – horrible things.

  16. Cheryl – I wish I could be as satisfied and content with religion as you. I'm glad you got to learn about other religions – then made an educated choice. That's how it should be with everyone. I wonder what Shawni and Dave would say if one of their kids asked to go to another church for a while – to see if they would rather be affiliated there.

    1. My husband and I have said to each other that even if we die and find out our beliefs aren't all true(I don't think that will happen…haha) that this is a very good lifestyle, a great way to raise our family, wonderful guidelines to live by and a way to find peace in this crazy world. I wouldn't ever regret living the way I am.

  17. Ooh, boy. Strap in, this is going to be a long answer. Shawni–I sincerely apologize for comment hijacking. Please delete if you find this distracting–I promise not to be offended one jot or tittle.

    Unknown–For me, it's things that I would say are more cultural or policy oriented. As an example that I hope is fairly innocuous and will not cause any upset among my fellow members: I don't really believe it is bad or wrong to have more than one ear piercing per ear. The counsel (and counsel to me is a quite a bit different from doctrine, as is policy, but I'm sure many would disagree with me. Again, my fellow beloved members of the church, I am not trying to start anything in the comments, I am trying to articulate how one, very imperfect Mormon feels) is that girls/women should have one earring per ear. I follow that counsel, but it doesn't bother me if members do have more than one earring, nor do I think less of them if they make that choice. to have more. The best YW leader I ever had had multiple piercings in her ears. I never loved a leader more (not because of her earrings, but because of who she was and how she treated me).

    For me, one of the most beautiful things about this Gospel is our belief in agency, and I try to respect those that make different choices than I would, or come at their membership differently. I don't know their hearts, their circumstances, or where they are at with anything in life or the Gospel, and I would hope the same courtesy is extended to me.

    I'm pretty square with the Gospel, and who my Savior is and what He has done for me, and the Plan of Salvation. I can truthfully and honestly answer any temple recommend question I am asked, hence "card carrying."

    Now, as for speaking up or not…I try to be fairly diplomatic about things, but I can be a bit of hothead. I was actually thrown of Seminary a few times as a teenager. Now that I'm older and wiser-ish (ha!), if there is a discussion in Sunday School or Relief Society that I don't agree with, I'll usually try and ask a question that gets back to the heart of the lesson (because it seems those discussions come up when we get off track). Or, sometimes I'll just go sit in the hall and study my scriptures. That doesn't happen very often–perhaps twice in the past five years?

    As for what my church leaders think of me, to be honest, it doesn't matter. However, as I said, I'm pretty square with doctrine. My relationship with my Savior is my focus. He is my true judge, and one of only two Heavenly Personages that knows my whole heart, and I would hope I'm living a life that He approves of.

  18. Whitney – thank you so much for your honest and heartfelt answer. I am in agreement with you that some of the smaller things in any religion are definitely a matter of conscience or agency as you call it. I believe God gave us free will and it would be insulting to Him if we were robots and didn't use the freedom of choice that we have.

    Again, thanks so much. I bet way more LDS people feel exactly like you do and just don't have the courage to step up like you did and say it.

  19. OMG. Yes. One more reason why parents shouldn't post pictures of their kids on the internet. Wow. How embarassing for Lucy.

  20. I recently got home from serving in the Hungary Budapest mission! How fun to hear that you served there too, even though it was in Romania then!

  21. I gotta stop reading your blog in July, lol…. my son turns 13 tomorrow and you get emotional over Max and it makes me MORE emotional over my boy! But this time I just had to say… It IS fun to watch non-members react to the idea of missions, and how crazy it must sound to them. My friend in Germany couldn't understand why my brother "chose" to serve in Bolivia… 🙂

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