Thursday, May 29, 2008

Exit Interviews and Mission Presidents

In March 2008 my daughter returned home from her mission. On the Sunday she was released she called me on Skype because I was in Saudi Arabia and she was in Provo getting ready to attend BYU again. She asked me to do a father's interview and to discuss her life with her.

She told me that her mission president had given her some counsel about her life. One of the counsels he gave her was that she should get married right away. She said he had told her that normally he would not counsel his missionaries that specifically but in her case he felt a strong impression that she needed to hear that. I think she thought I would think this was inspired counsel but I said "He is not entitled to revelation for your life. He is entitled to revelation for you as a missionary but it stops there." I told her I appreciated he was being helpful but that as her father and knowing her better that she should forget that counsel and concentrate on getting an education. I told her she would get married eventually but I as her father know her and feel she should get a degree first. I counseled her to get a job as fast as she could and concentrate on her studies. My daughter was still on academic probation from before her mission and if she failed this semester would be kicked out of BYU.

Of course she didn't listen to me. She met a boy her first week who himself was fresh from a mission himself. He hadn't been accepted in to BYU but was trying to get in but had bad grades and was going to go back down to California and then transfer later. I told her that was nice but he sounded kind of immature and to forget him. A few weeks went by and I find out through my wife my daughter is going down to meet the boy's parents. She was offered a job in the religion department which I told her to take. She said she didn't think she should take it since she wanted to work in the MTC. I said take the job and then later you can switch over if you get it.

I warned my daughter that she shouldn't go home with a boy unless she was engaged. She went to California and passed up the job in the religion department. When I finally spoke with my daughter this week I found out that she was suffering from depression as her new boyfriend had decided that they shouldn't be so serious and should date other people. She said she had been offered a job at the MTC but she was already failing her calculus class. She was even making arrangements to transfer to BYU-Idaho even before the semester was over. If she had listened to me this might have been avoided. Mission presidents should be careful what they say to missionaries they can destroy their lives if they become too specific. If something doesn't pan out the way they interpreted some of them might find that as an excuse for going inactive.

Recently in the Church News President Thomas S. Monson gave counsel that he suggests mission presidents use with missionaries which is a little more generic than the well meaning man in Korea. I don't hold it against him but I remember when I went home I wanted to find some girl and get married. I was younger then my daughter I think sister missionaries might feel even more pressure.

Jason Swenson reports:

"During his exit interviews with departing missionaries, President Monson stressed the importance of acquiring a quality education. That timeless direction to "seek learning" remains especially relevant in today's competitive, high-tech world.

You want to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. If you're not prepared, you're in difficulty," he said, before quoting the scripture, "if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear." (See Doctrine and Covenants 38:30.)

It isn't enough to simply get an education, added President Monson. Young men should plan to study something that they enjoy and will allow them to earn a living. A person may possess a fondness for, say, Egyptian pottery — but the job opportunities in such a field may be limited.

Study something you like to do and something that will enable you to have a family and sustain your family," he said.

President Monson said that during his exit interviews with missionaries, he also spoke of the safety found in satisfying one's financial obligation to the Lord. "Pay your tithing," he said, "that's the big divider between those who stay fully active in the Church and those who do not. Tithing is the first law (some) slip on, then there is slippage all the way through."

Lastly, President Monson would tell his departing missionaries to marry in the temple. "Date only a girl you can take to the temple — you're going to fall in love with someone you date."
(Young men counseled to be their 'very best': Church president believes future is bright for Aaronic Priesthood holders, Church News [24 May 2008]: 3).

It is a lot different to tell a young missionary get married in the temple than to tell them they should get married right away. One thing I read somewhere is that lots of returned missionaries put artificial pressures on their dating situations when they should very well relax and let relationships run their natural course. If mission presidents would stick to generalize things like President Monson has mentioned they wouldn't enable them to screw up their lives after their missions.

1 comment:

S.Faux said...

Dr. B:

You have made some very important points. Priesthood leaders need to know where their domain of authority begins and where it ends. This principle includes fathers, I suppose. (Darn).

With similar issues, my RM son (as of Feb. 2007) has been counseled by me to avoid marriage until he can graduate from college. He gets a tuition waiver at my university because of my employment. If he got married, then that tuition benefit would be taken away. The benefit is 30K a year.

The problem is that my RM kind of resents not being at BYU surrounded by LDS girls. However, depending upon the life situation, marriage is NOT always the #1 priority. I am not sure he see it that way.

Our sons and daughters are facing an increasingly complex world. College education is one of the keys to survival and effective leadership in the future. I am very confident that my son will have a better family life in the future if he is college educated now. I have counseled him as such.

So far, my son has taken my advice, but I am not sure it will hold for two more years. I am crossing my fingers.