Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Everything Just Changed for Me

Everything changed for me in between sessions of General Conference on Sunday. The whole thing was good and I got a lot out of the talks, but President Holland and President Nelson were doing a little interview around noon about the surge of missionaries going out now.

They talked about how now that we have the internet they can post training materials online and they have shortened missionaries' prep time in the MTC  because there are just so dang many of them.

I was struck by the similarity of this time to the invention of the printing press which enabled Mormons to get the Book of Mormon out there.  I realized that the general authorities not only embrace new technology and use it but they expect me to step it up because of the internet.

In the olden days it must have been like, "with our new-fangled printing press you can read the gospel YOURSELF with your own portable copy that you keep in your very own house!" And now they are saying, "Well, you're on Pinterest all day anyway so surf on over to LDS.org and start getting your kids ready for their missions."

I also heard that the general authorities were looking at data about how there are fewer divorces between couples who both serve missions. (To be clear, they were looking at when a sister missionary marries a guy who went on a mission. Ahem.) So they wanted more people to go on missions. They also noticed that the year boys usually wait until they turn 19 and can go on missions can be a tough and awkward one. All of this led to lowering the age. I think it makes sense.

During the little news feature between sessions, it hit me that my daughters should go as much as my boys should. Now, you know I'm a feminist and I would have always encouraged my girls to go. But I didn't go on a mission and it really is optional in my mind for girls to go. But I want my daughters to be the kind of women who would go.

There used to be this unspoken thing for women like, "go on a mission if you've got nothing else going on." I would never have said that. In fact I didn't even know I harbored thoughts like that until I felt my mind changing. But I realized that I'm going to prepare them all to go. That's my job now. 3/4 of my kids are baptized. This is the next thing we are doing.

Now that they leave younger, it has become more of a parenting task to prepare them to go. Know what I mean?

I know there are factors out of my control and that my kids are their own people. They might not end up going on missions. But I think serving a mission is the best thing for them—like nursing, a sleep schedule, being read to, having chores, getting braces, and making them do their homework is the best thing for them.  Serving a mission is no longer a decision Maggie or Ellen will make as a young adult. It's something they will do as teenagers, when I am still in charge of them.

 Everything just changed.


  1. I love you Kacy, and yes. This is how I feel too. I have been hammering it into the YW I teach and trying to push it through to the leaders too who are surprisingly more resistant than the girls. MISSIONS ARE FOR EVERYONE NOW!! Maybe they always were and we didn't know it.

    1. I went on a mission in the early 90s. I felt at that time that most of the sisters went out of a desire to serve, not because they didn't have anything going on. I knew sisters who put a variety of exciting opportunities on hold for 18 months so they could serve. I felt then, and do now, that missions are for any young woman who has the desire to serve and feels like it is the right decision for her. I don't think every young woman should expect or be expected to serve. In my family, only one of three sisters seriously thought about it as a teen. All three of us thought and prayed about it as we neared the appropriate age, and two of us went. I am all for encouraging YW to prepare! But really, the preparation for going to the temple (pre-marriage or pre-mission) should be the same.

  2. I love cognitive dissonance and all the beautiful lessons we struggle to because of it!

  3. I remember being young and having such a strong desire to go on a mission but everyone kind of patting me on the head like, "Right, Sweetie. You'll get married first." Like, it was a dare, and I wasn't up to the challenge of Not Getting Married For Long Enough To Go On A Mission. For some reason this made me feel like the implication was that I wasn't worthy (that's not exactly the right word) to be a missionary, like it was a goal completely out of my scope and I shouldn't even bother. (By the way, totally got married at 20, and there was a part of me that, at the time, felt like a failure for not having 'made it' to serving a mission.)

    I'm so happy to contrast this with the SERIOUS discussion about mission service with my own daughters, and have the realization of their contemplation of service in the not-so-distant future be something that's not only realistic and achievable but also likely, STOP MAKING ME CRY.

  4. Anonymous10:33 AM

    I'm really going to try to keep this comment short (which will be hard to do) (yeah, I failed).

    When I went on my mission, in my interviews with my bishop and stake president they were very specific to ask whether I had any marriage opportunities. I think they were told to ask that because the church didn't want a mission to get in the way of marriages (on the woman's end, anyway) nor, probably, to have a situation where a sister leaves the MTC to get married. (I have known of those situations, and they turned out well in every case I've known of, but of course it's not ideal.) Anyway, I simply said no to that question in my interviews, which was only true in spirit: there was someone who would have married me, but I didn't want to get married, because I really, really wanted to go on a mission. I'm not sure where I got that desire, other than knowing some very cool returned-missionary sisters in my young adult ward, but I'm a stubborn person when I set my mind to something. (I also ended up breaking up with the marriageable boyfriend via a letter shortly before my mission ended, which is not something I recommend--it was the right decision for me, but not the kindest approach.) My mission was very difficult but very satisfying, and I've always been very, very grateful I got to go. (And when I met Dean, he had hoped to marry a returned missionary, and had sort-of waited for a girl who broke up with him shortly after her mission, so there was a kind of symmetry--almost as though he had waited for me.) And since I loved my mission so much, I always hoped for that opportunity for my daughters.

    So when the announcements changing missionary ages were made last fall, I cried twice: first because I was losing a year with my dear oldest son before he goes (he turns 16 this summer) and then again with joy because it's SO much more likely that my daughters will go on missions, now. I used to always talk about how it just wasn't that likely my stunningly gorgeous oldest daughter would make it to age 21 without meeting the right man. But it seems much easier for her to make it to 19. (My stunningly gorgeous youngest sister made it to her early 30s before she found the right guy, so it's not that beauty always brings great marriage opportunities--but it's still true that in this world it makes a difference.)

    Also, even setting aside questions of marriage, it's also true that at 21 a young woman can have already set a life course that's hard to step away from, whereas at 19 many Americans are still trying out various things and not very set in a path.

    Anyway, although I had already often talked with my daughters about missions, now I don't feel as much compunction to add, "IF you don't meet the right person before you're 21." Of course I'll still make it clear it's their choice, but I'm thrilled it's so much more likely now.

  5. When I was 19, I was a junior in college, casually dating my now-husband and sorta waiting for a different guy (missionary). It was definitely a spiritual peak in my life, according to my memories and my journal. I feasted on the scriptures then in a way I never did before or since, in a way that I think might only be possible for an enthusiastic teenager at BYU. I went on a semester-long study abroad in Europe and had a lot of "mission-like" experiences there, which got me extra excited for the future and at the time I really thought I would be the one girl in my family to serve a mission. The odds were against me I guess, not helped by my younger than average age, and I married at age 20, my senior year.

    That decision to marry my husband blesses my life every day, and actually I think he might have waited for me if I had gone on a mission at 19. I haven't asked him but I think he might have!

    But I am one of the ones who cried (and still cries occasionally) both with joy and a sort of wistfulness, first at the announcement and later at every picture and video I've seen of young girls opening their calls. It is so thrilling to me. I never served that mission but I just know that I would have if I could have gone sooner. That should mean nothing, except for me it means that I am definitely preparing my daughter for a mission in the same way that I am preparing my sons. And hopefully won't veer too far over to a "living through her vicariously" sort of situation!

  6. I have never felt the desire to serve a full time mission, so I know that it wouldn't have been the right fit for me. But, I do feel the responsibility of preparing my boys and my girl to serve a mission, and I feel that the preparation should be equal. The time of sister missionaries only serving because of "no marriage opportunities on the horizon" is over, and I think that it is wonderful. We should be preparing young children from the time that they have the understanding, that mission work is a wonderful thing. As a mother, I feel like I have a great responsibility.

  7. I really liked everything you said in this post.

    I have been trying to find the interview you are referring to. I missed it when it was on. If you know of a link that would be awesome!


  8. Oh man, the pressure! I can't just hide in my bed, they keep getting OLDER! I never went, but I went to a discussion with the sister missionaries for the first time last week, and wow, what an experience! I need to prepare myself more, because I was stumped a couple of times!

  9. I really liked this post!!!

  10. When I was in the MTC in '95 the last week of our (district) 3 week stay was a little "torturous" only because we were ready to get into the field and had enough practicing. I think we would've been fine with 2 weeks even then.

  11. Lauren, it was a Ksl half time special with Carol Mikita called A Mighty Band of Youth. I only saw it because my friends The Lewises appear near the end and they posted the link. I for one love this whole deal. I could hardly contain my excitement at the announcement. My first thought was, "Stuff's about to git REAL up in the missionary department!" Lol. Seriously, my mission still blesses my life everyday, 21 years later. It was the hardest and best thing I have done (until motherhood, of course). It is my hope that all of my children will have the desire and ability to participate before "the great Jehovah [says] The Work Is Done." I love that mission prep is on us...it should be. I remember thinking in the MTC, I wish everyone could learn the gospel this way...now we can. My oldest daughter is using my old scripture memorization cards to study & mark her own scriptures as a Faith in God project (her idea). I find that (secretly...don't tell her) THRILLING.

  12. I really wanted to go, and nearly did. It had always been my goal to serve a mission. Like you, I feel a tremendous responsibility to make sure that all my children are ready.

  13. Anonymous5:46 PM

    Did you just copy and paste Sister Beck's "Mothers Who Know" Oct 2007 Conf talk?

    I remember when I was at BYU in the '90's there was a rumor being spread that the church had researched the most significant factor for boys to go on mission and it was if their Moms had served a mission. So that would agree with the data you are talkin' about.

  14. PS: In 1995 and in 1999 I filled out two separate questionnaires from the church about being a returned missionary, so I know they really did do a bunch of research. I'm surprised I haven't heard from them in 14 years, but maybe they gave up on me because I wasn't married in 1999, lol.

  15. I decided at 17 to serve a mission and then adjusted the way I date to be sure I'd get to go. It was a wonderful experience, filled with ups and downs and trials and blessings. I was so grateful for the opportunity to serve and knew it was the right thing.

    Then I came home and started dating with the intent of finding a husband and it was hard. I dated constantly for 3 1/2 years before I finally met the man I'd marry. Then it took me two years to get pregnant. I ended up with a smaller family than I'd always hoped for because of all these factors.

    So when it came to my daughters, I've had mixed feelings. Yes, I want them to have all the blessings and opportunities that come from serving a mission, but I was always concerned about the later start to having a family. I was always a little guarded in my encouragement to my girls to serve missions.

    Then the announcement was made six months ago and I cried and cried. Suddenly all the reasons for my reservations were removed. My daughter who was away at school called me in tears just moments after the announcement, "Mom, I can leave in seven months."

    She enters the MTC in June to serve in the same mission I served in. I'm thrilled for her and so excited to hear my younger daughter plan for hers. She'll go in four years. What an exciting time.

    The only people who were hurt by this announcement (at least temporarily) are the boys my oldest son's age who have watched their dating pool leave. I guess he'll just get more school in while he waits for all these girls to come home.

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