Friday, June 5, 2009

Ending A Missionary Tradition: Swine Flu Breakout Catalyst for Eliminating Missionary Tradition of Missionary Drop-off Devotionals

This week Bored in Vernal and I discovered the elimination of the Mormon practice of taking your missionary to the MTC and reported on it in our new blog He Said/She Said. The swine flu breakout precipitated the decision on the part of the missionary executive committee to discontinue the practice. On the blog He Said/She Said are differing reactions to the policy. In many ways it was a faith-promoting experience that required a constant outlay of people power to coordinate the arrival of new missionaries. In addition it tied up the presidency of the MTC and a member of the First Quorum of Seventy who was usually on site to greet the families.

Tiarna Bronach reported about dropping off her brother this week:

On a completely different note (and in a completely different emotional direction), my one and only little brother went into the MTC today. We couldn't even go inside because they're having swine flu and regular flu issues, so we had to just hug and say goodbye on the curb where we unloaded his luggage.

'Twas very sad. ;_;
In Bored in Vernal's account she lamented about the discontinuation of the practice:

So with all of the policy changes which have taken place in the past few years, I very much regret to see another of our Mormon traditions bite the dust: the MTC drop-off.

It's been a wonderful tradition, ever since the Provo MTC was built in 1978, for families to be able to bring their missionaries to the campus, check them in, take pictures, participate in a brief orientation, and then bid their missionary goodbye. Families exit one door, and missionaries another, amid many tears. As a young convert missionary in 1981, I had no family to take me through this ritual, but I watched with a tender heart as mothers hugged their sons goodbye, little brothers shook hands solemnly, and the families wept. I loved being a part of it. I had the opportunity to take my oldest two daughters to the MTC in 2006 and 2007. When my third daughter departed this past January, we were unable to go with her, but three of her sisters, who were attending BYU took her through the rigamarole.
I actually saw the utilitarian side and the vast amount of effort and resources that were being expended in keeping the tradition going and felt that the Church was doing the socially responsible thing in ending the practice. In my commentary on the practice on He Said/She Said I agreed with the decision because:

I am not sure what their experience will be now that this sappy tradition is ended. I think of the literally tens of thousands of hours spent in saying goodbye and the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in traveling to Provo by families who would come from all over the country. The Church ending this tradition is being more health and resource conserving.
I fully agreed with Richard G. Hinckley and the Church's reasoning in discontinuing the practice for health security:

Hinckley says they've had outbreaks of other viruses before and similar protocols are used. However, this time it will permanently change how parents say goodbye to their children at the MTC.

"Those [parents] who typically do come, from this area, will be asked to drop them off, from this point forward in time, at the MTC and say goodbye to them at the doorstep and not come into the buildings," Hinckley said.

Check out the He Said/She Said blog for a deeper look at the subject and take the poll to express your feelings one way or the other on the topic.

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