Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Or the children's crusade

Mormon boys in their late teens are expected to dedicate two years of their lives to proselytizing for the LDS Church as missionaries. It's a right of passage. It's proof of conviction. It's a badge of honor. It's a sign of marriageability. It's a test of leadership capability. It's something most young men feel significant pressure to do and be successful at.

The Church has recently found a way to amp up the pressure one feels to serve a mission by lowering the age of service for men from 19 to 18. What this means in the context of the United States is that now, instead of discussing which universities you're applying to or where you've decided to go, high school seniors will be talking about whether or not they've put in their mission papers (the application to go on a mission) and where they've been assigned to serve the Church.

In other words, the decision to serve is now made at an even younger, more impressionable age more squarely within the dynamics of peer pressure instead of being made after about a year of higher education and significant social distancing from friends and family. It's stands to reason that the Church is probably trying to increase the percentage of young men serving missions (about 30% in the U.S.)

The demographic that typically goes undiscussed in church is the 70% of young men who aren't going and they young men who return early from their missions for one reason or another. On an anecdotal note, my close friends who did not serve missions have all explained the shame and ostracism they experienced as a result of staying home. Those who come home early share those same feelings.

Isn't their a more inspired way? Couldn't Jesus instruct the Church leadership in the creation of a more flexible and loving program that would allow everyone to participate without all the baggage of social pressure and shame? Is this really how God wants his work carried out? Is this really how we want to treat our children?

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