Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pressure mistaken for promptings?

With the announcement regarding missionary age change I've noticed and been a part of some discussions lately that gave me pause.

Sister missionaries are now feeling more pressure to serve missions.  I've seen this consistently across many different circles.  The pressure for guys has been there as long as I've been alive but this recent change brings the matter to the surface again.  When the announcement was made regarding sister missionaries it was clearly stated that they do not have the same obligation and duty to serve a mission as the young men.  It was stated that if they desire to serve great, if not, that's perfectly acceptable as well.  Regardless of that, the culture has done what it sometimes does, which is do things a bit contrary to what leaders and doctrine state. 

One conversation yesterday was particularly interesting.  A sister missionary candidates voiced she was moving forward with plans to serve not totally due to promptings, but in large part due to pressure. Pressure and promptings are obviously not the same and should not be confused with one another. One of those comes from the Holy Ghost.  The other comes from our culture. The long term effects of acting on pressure vs acting in promptings are worth thinking about.  The outcome is vastly different.  The two can sometimes lead in opposite directions even. One can change the heart, the other often lacks the divine and thus will usually only lead to superficial changes, if any.  The temptation to succumb to pressure is something we all deal with in one way or another.  

The effect of this kind of cultural pressure seems to just create a herd mentality and an empty form of worship.  It produces no power, and often only mimics true faith.  The Holy Ghost does not have that effect.  We need the Holy Ghost as our constant companion.  Cultural pressure is constantly surrounding us so the need is as high as it's ever been to also have a divine gift that is an active, living part of our life.  It's not our will, nor the will of our culture or traditions, it's doing God's will that brings light and happiness.   

Joseph Smith said: The Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. TPJS. 149-150.


  1. I'm glad you posted on this topic. I have kept my thoughts to myself on this subject. I have great fear that your concerns are exactly what is going to happen...a herd mentality that creates a new "requirement" for females to once more shift from their primary focus to that of a man's....all on a new "expectation" that will quickly become staunchly entrenched in our latter-day saint culture. No longer serving as an optional choice as directed by the Lord for women, but one of pressure to serve to manifest that you are in fact someone that has a evidenced by your serving a mission. As a mother of six girls, I am extremely frustrated by this.

    I DID serve a mission (even taught at the MTC), extremely diligently, but ONLY because I was prompted numerous times by the Spirit that this was the course the Lord desired of me. The experience with the Lord I had in receiving this answer is one of the profound spiritual experiences of my young life. Never had I desired to serve a mission (though I was always strong and faithful to my testimony of the gospel)...there was no cultural pressure for me 25 years ago. I had no intention to serve one...but the Lord Spoke. I struggled and refused because it was not what I had planned for my life. He spoke and spoke for nine months until I humbled myself and submitted to His will, whereupon I experienced one of my first occurrences of actually hearing his voice in my head in a literal manner.

    I have raised my daughters to prepare for marriage and motherhood as their divine responsibilities and left proclaiming the gospel in this "formal" 24/7 manner to the priesthood. I have never wanted them to feel they "have to" or "should" serve. If they served I wanted to be certain they were doing so because they received a divine direction to do so. I would be 100% supportive of a daughter that was acting on conviction she was being directed to do so. I also regret the forthcoming negative stigma that will be associated with the supposed "weak" testimony of girls if they don't serve a mission.(the church can say girls are not obligated all they want...the members will still create the negative stigma for not going).

    I struggle on a myriad of levels with the perhaps unintended consequences that are going to come from this new age change (I could make a list of several more negative consequences). I am sure the numbers of young adults falling away and the higher percentage of successful marriages of two returned missionaries is the greatest impetus for this I believe the brethren weighed the pros and cons and decided these pros outweighed the concerns I have. I hope they are correct in their assessment, but I have my reservations and deep inside feel that this is going to be a HUGE culture shift and continue the dramatic shift in men's and women's roles that has been going on over the last 50 years.

    Thanks for touching on this topic.


    1. Absolutely agree with you, Karen. I'm really quite surprised that even in a group of people with advanced degrees in a host of areas---including science---the confusion continues between causation and correlation. More and more decisions have been made (at least in the last 75 years) based on statistics in the church (I present this without comment). But the understanding isn't there. The fact that people who tend to stay married tend also to be married in the temple DOES NOT mean that if you push people to get married in the temple when they otherwise would not have, they will not get divorced. In fact, in myriad situations such as this, the players usually self-select. Of COURSE people who desire to go to BYU are going to tend to be more active in the church later in life. This has nothing to do with BYU, and everything to do with the fact that people who are striving to live the cultural norms of the church are going to desire to go to BYU. The list goes on and on. Massive amounts of money and time are spent carrying out these decisions based on incorrect statistical interpretations of data. It really needs to stop.

  2. Karen

    Its as though you read the post as I originally wrote it. It had a rant or two about the shifting male/female roles and the effects of the trends we are seeing.

    Thanks for your personal experience about serving a mission. I think that is how it is supposed to operate despite how our culture mangles it. Its getting more and more difficult to escape the culture. Your comments nailed it.

    What also concerns me about this cultural trend is the unexpected/unintended effects on the men. I believe with a massive increase in female missionaries also come a corresponding burden/call to the men in order to keep things in balance. The burden on the men now is to hold onto and show up maturely in their masculinity and role as a real man and priesthood holder. Not the pornography addicted, lazy, passive, weak, light footed man trend that exists. I'm afraid the males of our culture may not recognize, nor rise to that unspoken call but will instead become slightly more and more emasculated, weak, and passive. The media portrays men this way frequently, and it may get into church culture as well. Reminds me of scenes from the movie Hunger Games. While in the capitol city it’s clear the male population is quite effeminate, they have become somewhat indistinguishable from the women in dress, appearance, and overall behavior.

    I think everyone will suffer if men go that direction. If the numbers of sister missionaries are what they project they could start culturally overpowering men in what was once primarily a priesthood responsibility. Sisters generally are said to be more successful in the mission field too. More fuel for the same trend of men sitting back and letting their role evaporate.

    I remember and am thankful my father took the time to explain the importance of being a man, and what that meant. That kind of discussion is more and more rare I'm finding. Priesthood session of General Conference has some attempts, but I wish there was more. Much more. Otherwise the hunger games type demographic gets a step closer.

    On a side note, I'm curious how the dynamic will play out as there are younger male missionaries and a whole bunch more young female missionaries near the same age all serving together. This creates a whole new set of challenges for the mission president. :)