Section 4 deals with missionary service. There are a tremendous amount of procedures and regulations which are used to enable the church to have 50,000 plus full time missionaries serving around the world. I am not going to pick through all of the minutia to try and judge what is scriptural and what is not. The majority of full time missionaries are young men aged 19 to 22. The guidelines address them and their situations especially.
There is something which caught my attention. Section 4.10 is under the heading of temple recommends. This is concerning the issuing of a temple recommend as the missionary is released. The procedure is different for the young missionaries as for senior missionaries. For young missionaries the procedure is when a missionary finishes his 2 year mission the mission president interviews him and takes his temple recommend. He is then given a recommend which is dated to expire in 90 days.
The CHI directs the missionary’s stake president and bishop to interview him, commit him to live his covenants and maintain his standards, get him a calling and monitor his progress at adjusting back to normal life. And then when they are convinced he is doing well, and being righteous they issue him a regular recommend good for two years.
I will give the church leadership total benefit of the doubt that they have good reason for this rule. Obviously there must be a problem in this regard.
Jesus said, “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”
I would say if a young man has truly just spent two years serving Jesus Christ he is not going to be at risk of committing transgressions to jeopardize his worthiness. Truly serving Christ is a good tree. It will not bring forth evil fruit.
What is happening? What is the corrupt tree which brings forth this fruit? I won’t try to answer that in detail. But there is obviously a corrupt tree somewhere. And to simply say that ’21 year old men are just that way’ or speaking the judgmental slur more overtly to accuse them of being inherently disposed to do evil, will truly hide the reality of the problem.
I believe there are at least two problems. First the rules missionaries are expected to follow are unnatural and external. Being cowered into obeying a set of restrictive rules by an organization that keeps close tabs on your behavior, I mean in some cases missionaries are required to call their leader every night to report they are in bed, is not righteousness. Righteousness is a choice freely made. Since it is not an exercise of agency it does not produce the blessings of being righteous.
Secondly what do we really think we are doing? God makes men and women a certain way. I believe 18 years of age is the time of maximum levels of sex hormones in a male (in some countries young men can serve missions starting at 18). He is the most fit and most eager to be wed. And we tell him to deny all these God given signals and become a monk while still moving among everyday life for two years. It is a recipe for tragedy. And I don’t mean just the tragedy of committing sexual sin on his mission. When you deny a healthy God given desire you must numb yourself to a sacred part of your soul. That does damage to your heart and mind. You think Satan doesn’t laugh his spiritual hind end off seeing all the damage which may extend for years for hundreds of thousands of young men?
I had never considered this a problem till I began looking at the reality of life. I was like many people in the church trying very hard to repent of being what God had made me to be. I was lucky to have the mission president I had so that my experience was probably much better. Yet it still did a number on my heart and mind.
From talking with other men who have served a mission I have seen that my two year mission was a departure from the norm. Not because I was so good and pure. I think I was as others my age. My mission president however was radically different in his views and actions towards us missionaries. He did not allow the white bible (missionary rulebook) to destroy his role as judge in Israel. On our mission the temperature got hot in the summer. He was asked what was the policy on wearing suit coats; optional after the 1st of May or anytime the temperature was above 90° or what? He said Elder I look at it this way, when it is hot and uncomfortable to have suit coat, take it off. And that was the rule.
We had Saturday as our preparation day. Our mission president was asked what were we allowed to do from Friday night at 9:30 till Saturday at 5 pm. He said Elders you are Melchizedek priesthood holders, you have made covenants with the Lord in His house. I expect you act like it.
That was his attitude toward the white bible and Salt Lake gave him static for it. We were one of the highest baptizing missions in the church and I know of myself pressure tactics and baseball baptisms were not practiced. We were not pressured or taught to have unreasonable goals for the number of discussions or baptisms in a month.
As I said my experience seems to be an exception to the normal missionary’s experience. I invite those with a different experience to comment.
For me adjustment back to non missionary life was nothing. A close friend of our family a few years my senior noted my relaxed attitude just one week after being home. He said, “Aren’t you nervous like you should be doing some missionary work right now?” Nope I wasn’t.
We might do well ask ourselves if it is wise to have a young man, who’s physical creation has prepared him be getting married at 18 or 19, deny those God given desires and become a monk for two years. What damage does it do to force ourselves to be numb to deep and sacred feelings? Is it in accordance with the scriptures? Is there anyone out there who has memories of how this affected them?
In case some may be thinking otherwise I am quite sure there was only one case of a missionary’s having to be sent home from our mission in the three years we had that president. And this was back in the days when we had about 450 missionaries per mission.