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Mormon Inquiry

At Mormon Matters, a post reflecting on the positive and negative aspects of serving a two-year LDS proselyting mission. Young men who follow the standards of the LDS Church are very strongly encouraged to serve. Young women are, at present, neither encouraged nor discouraged from serving; many do in fact volunteer. Young men are eligible to serve starting at age 19, young women at age 21.

The post first notes certain practices or programs available in other denominations that might offer experiences similar to an LDS mission: Bible camp, Peace Corps service, lay proselyting as practiced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, or entering the clergy as a priest or minister. It then discusses the positive features of an LDS mission — none of which really captures the experience, but together give a fair picture of why they are viewed so positively by members and missionaries alike. The post also raises some potential negatives, in particular the fact that “missions can be intense.”

One item that is not discussed in the post is that, from an efficiency viewpoint, LDS missions are not particularly good investments of time or money in terms of the number of individuals who convert to the LDS faith. While those who are contacted and taught by full-time missionaries and who go through a conversion process are certainly highly valued in the LDS Church, the effect of missionary service on the missionaries who are serving is at least as important to LDS leaders as the number of conversions.

It is also worth noting that LDS missionaries now spend an increasing percentage of their time supporting local service projects (both LDS and projects in the larger community) and working with less active LDS families and individuals. Previously, the focus was almost exclusively on proselyting efforts. I think broadening the range of activities LDS missionaries are engaged in is a very nice development.

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