Thursday, October 30, 2008

Choosing Marriage Over Mission: Sisters Called to A Mission Who Don't Go

I am sure there are hundreds of cases of when a prospective sister missionary has received her call and somehow miraculously between the announcement of her call and her arrival at the MTC some young man has proposed to her and she changes her mind and doesn't go. This was brought home to me recently when my daughter who put in her papers this Wednesday shared with me a conversation with her bishop in Rexburg at BYU-Idaho last Sunday.

My daughter who is a bit naughty and a jokester called me up and said "dad what would you do if I told you I was getting married instead of going on my mission after all." I bit at it since I have drummed it in my seven daughters heads that if some bozo wants to marry them he can wait for eighteen months and said "I would be mad."

Finally she laughed and said just kidding. She told me her bishop was trying to find out if she really was going on a mission. He came up to her and said, "You aren't getting married are you instead of going on your mission?" My daughter asked him what he meant by his remark since she takes going on a mission very seriously. He told her that only forty percent of the young women from his ward who put in their papers really ended up going on a mission. The interesting thing about this particular daughter is that she told me all through high school that she wasn't going to go on a mission and would get married if she had the chance. She reminded me that in her father's blessing she was the only one of her sisters not to be told she would specifically serve a mission. She actually had a guy she could have married but chose not to. She couldn't care less what I had to say since she marches to her own drummer.

My seventeen year old daughter had an experience in seminary this week. The subject of young women going on a mission came up. She told her class that she was going on a mission when she turned twenty-one just like her three older sisters. Her female teacher laughed and said my son says that pretty girls like you going on a mission are a waste. My daughter replied, "My sisters went and they served the Lord and had a great experience. My oldest sister is getting married to a good-looking returned missionary in December. I don't see how serving the Lord is a waste."

I realize that young women are not required to go on a mission and there is a lot of statements by the general authorities stressing that they should get married if they have the opportunity. It is amazing to me the extreme degree many women go to in the church to discourage young women from serving the Lord on a mission.

President Hinckley stated:

"Many young women are serving missions. Many are preparing to serve, not because they aren't married or have nothing else to do, but because they have a desire to serve and are therefore being called to the work. The reason so many are going is because in the next generation Heavenly Father will be sending his Priesthood army to earth. He wants to send them to mothers who have been properly trained and taught in the Gospel, and what better training can young woman have than that of serving a mission?"

There are many positive reasons to go on a mission before getting married. When I was a student at BYU I was told in a marriage and family class that the divorce rate drops in half if an LDS woman is around 24 when she gets married versus eighteen. I have watched for the past thirty years many young women get their calls then decide at the last minute to marry some guy who all of a sudden wants to marry them and can't wait for eighteen months which is a relatively short period of time.

I know that many young man are impatient to get married and the girl getting her call shocked them in to action. I am just not sure that they should discourage their true love from serving a mission. It is a bit shortsighted. In the eternal scheme of things it enriches the lives of their future wives making them better companions, wives, and leaders in the church. The only negative thing I can think of is the fear on the part of the young man that his perspective wife might find someone on her mission or see that there are a lot of fish in the ocean.

I tell my daughters that if a righteous young returned missionary loves you enough to ask you to marry him I am sure he must love you enough to wait for eighteen months while you serve the Lord. My wife is a returned missionary and she finished her bachelor's degree before serving her mission. A few general authorities including Ezra Taft Benson and Richard G. Scott went on a mission and waited for their wives to go or served simultaneously. My wife tells me she had young man very interested in her right before her mission but she chose a mission since she felt a desire to share the gospel before settling down.

There are many reasons I think every young LDS woman should serve a mission which include having spiritual experiences and life experiences that are similar to their potential eternal companion. I have encouraged my daughters to marry a returned missionary in the temple. They have an opportunity to test out different companions on a mission that are sometimes difficult. Many times such experiences help them learn to put up with a spouse who also goes through ups and downs. They also get to see many young men who are intrinsically good and see that there are many potential mates out there. They see the good elders, the average elders, and challenged elders. My daughter can make better judgments on the returned missionaries they encounter when going back to BYU and aren't as easily fooled by the boy who on the surface appears handsome witty and spiritual. Having served a mission they can be a bit more discerning.

The interesting thing is that returned sister missionaries attract returned elders like honey. There is something very attractive about a beautiful sister missionary who can really debate the gospel with you. She not only stimulates the eye she stimulates your mind. I am sure there are many other young women that can do that but in my experience sister missionaries have an edge. I dated 116 young women at BYU. I can honestly say that the return sister missionaries were a great challenge to me.

It seems to me that if you go to the trouble of putting in your mission papers you should honor your commitment to serve once called. You are wasting the time of the apostles and seventies who go to great trouble to get inspiration of where you serve. In addition there are literally thousands of people that would have joined the church had these thousands of sisters served. My mission president told us that the blood of those who we should have taught and converted will be on our skirts if we fail to honor our duty. The only way I can see that it will be made up is if the sister and her spouse goes out later in life otherwise I guess they will have to have their work done vicariously. I guess you could argue the opposite that if these called sisters did not get married then the blood of their unborn might be on them. For example if my wife hadn't served a mission at twenty-one she might have married the guy from North Carolina and had twelve children instead of eight. Of course my kids would have had a different father.

I think it is a win-win situation when a young woman puts in her papers and actually goes on a mission. I think it is a win-lose situation when she gets married. I suggest to those who want to trump me with you are not following the advice of the general authorities that they also say sisters can serve just that it is not as imperative as every young man serving. I think that young women who get their call may want to prayerfully examine that decision and not take lightly the obligation. I think this is one of those topics where people have opinions both ways. I think both getting married in the temple to a righteous young man and going on a mission are good things. I just think you can do both and still arrive at the same place you were suppose to.


Lisa S said...

I liked your post. I was a sister missionary. I never dreamed of going. One day, when I was 25 by the way, I was reading a story about fulltime missionaries in the Ensign and the feeling came over me that I wanted those experiences. So I went when I was 26 1/2 and returned at 28 years old. My last convert's daughter just married in the Orlando temple this past August. I was there, in the temple, sitting next to her mom. Oh, and her husband is the Stake president. The groom? He served in my mission, in my ward, the last 5 months he was out. Now, I think if I hadn't gone the only thing that wouldn't have happened are my experiences. My friend was ready when we taught her. If it wasn't me, then it would have been other missonaries. But it was me and I now have all these great experiences to share with my two daughters, both of which have said they want to serve a mission.

Dr. B said...

That is a tremendous story. I wish I could say what happened to my converts but unfortunately I didn't keep in touch with them. I hope your daughters do go on a mission so they can have experiences like you described here.

Genevieve said...

I am glad that I served my mission. Sister missionaries had more success in my mission (Korea) and I would hardly call that a waste!

Jake said...

I'm waiting for my sister and greatly enjoyed this. However, I must point out that the comment you have attributed to President Hinckley has no cited reference to him anywhere, and they tell us down at the Y these days that it's not actually from him (I guess the same quote appeared years ago signed as Pres Kimball or Benson -- which is a pretty decent clue). Either way, have a great day, and Happy Holidays!

Anonymous said...

can a missionary sister after joining mission, wants to get married? will she be permitted or not?

Unknown said...

Guess it just depends on who you are, and when it is time for your kids to come to this earth. I met my husband while i was about to go on my mission, and chose to not go and marry him. I am truly grateful that i did. I now how two beautiful sons that i would not have right now if i would have went. The Lord knows what it is one should do. Whether it is going on a mission, or staying to get married. Everything happens for a reason, and i am very grateful that the Lord told me through my fasting and prayer that my mission was to stay home and start my eternal family.

Anonymous said...

I like this blog post quite, but I'd like to point out that quote by President Hinckley that you used was never actually said by him. May I direct you to this link:
Thanks for your awesome writing. Keep it up!