I always ask missionaries about their schooling. Did they attend college or trade school before serving a mission? Are they planning to go back? What are they planning to study and why? I know that’s a lot of pressure for a young person who’s supposed to be 100 percent dedicated to service for 18 to 24 months, but it’s the luck of the draw, kid: I prep students for the SAT, and my husband is a college professor.Read More
The day I learned of the president’s decision to release me, I was volunteered to participate in a missionary panel for a youth conference. The idea of sharing intimate details of my overall disheartening experiences in front of a group of strangers and fellow Billings missionaries both terrified and irked me. However when asked to share “how I knew the call was right,” I had an answer that was true as well as acceptable to the group waiting anxiously for an answer I didn’t even know I had. I said, “I still don’t know, but I believe its right because sometimes when I’m walking with a companion, talking to people on the street, eating a horrific dinner including spoiled food and embarrassingly personal questions — I feel right, like I’m in the right place at the right time, doing and saying the right things. It’s not often that I get to feel that way.” A short time later I was told that the president was in the building and wanted to meet with me. After hearing this message and waiting for what felt like eternities I came face to face with him for one of the last times as he instructed me to open our talk with a prayer and then told me he had bought me a plane ticket home and I was leaving in one day.
Then, something that I had never expected but prayed fervently for almost every day after he called to threaten my old companion and I: he admitted that he was wrong about me.Read More
Although I was only a full-time missionary for a few months, this would be the first of many companionships. They ran from the trio that questioned my worthiness and “attitude” (an always strategically chosen word when used to describe women of color) because I chose to pray standing up over kneeling at times and didn’t wake up with the alarm clock one morning. Only one of these two sisters spoke about this; the other one admitted to being a strict conflict avoider, refusing to discuss, explore or resolve tensions at all. She expressed, “I think if you’re an adult and don’t hear the alarm it’s not my responsibility to wake you.” I found this sentiment to be conflicting with the concept of “companionship”. I was learning that each missionary has their own idea of what a missionary, companionship and the mission rules are supposed to look like. So my adherence to the rules I’d learned in the MTC, missionary guide and rule book were not completely in line with any of the companionships that I had.
This made the lack of support from the Billings mission leadership, family/friends, and companions at many times beyond what I could endure by myself.Read More
I was always a supporter of gender equality in the LDS church; any time women in my classes at church wanted to serve missions, I was all for it. However it wasn’t until my late teens that it occurred to me that I could serve a mission too. Since then I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. I was going to serve a full-time mission, then I wasn’t, then I was. This battle would continue for the next 7 years. Finally at 26 years old I decided to follow the promptings that I had been feeling for years and submit mission papers. The process that would follow is one that I am still struggling to completely understand and accept.
From the mission call itself to incompatible companionships and experiencing bullying from the mission president and his wife, much of my full-time mission was weighted with loneliness, misunderstandings and mistrust of others.Read More
As I prepared this lesson an inspired tangent led me to delightful readings from the Church History Department on the first sister missionaries and their role in testifying of Joseph Smith and the restored gospel. The trying experiences of ETB in England illustrate the need for sister missionaries. I have used his experiences as a launching point for a deeper discussion of women as instruments in the hands of the Lord and the origins of sister missionaries. I have provided links and resources from the Church History Department to help you share the lives of Elizabeth McCune, Inez Knight, Jennie Brimhall, and Flora Benson (if you have time). Throughout the lesson, I return to the topic of Joseph Smith and provide questions for a discussion tying the voices of women to a testimony of Joseph Smith.Read More
Not very long ago, I read this post, that made me want to read this book, Way Below the Angels: the pretty clearly troubled but not even close to tragic confessions of a real live Mormon missionary. Even shorter ago, I did.
While it isn’t a woman’s story, I still feel that it is worth reviewing here, in this women’s story space for two reasons. 1) The author, Craig Harline, does a fairly good job pointing out when women’s stories, voices, and presence are forgotten.
One example of this is when his Salt Lake Mission Home President tells a mixed group of Elders and Sisters that they are to dress like “local businessmen.” Another is when his going-Belgium group was moved to the Rexburg, Idaho LTM, and they held a nightly devotional with the older going-Belgium missionaries, that fully excluded the Sisters because it was in an Elder’s dorm room. The saddest examples took place in Belgium. The first question they asked women who answered the door was if they could speak to their husband. Not because they weren’t allowed to speak to women, but because they were taught that they should focus on the man. A woman named Lieve demanded focus, because she had a dream and a wish to be baptized. She also had a husband who did not share that dream or wish. He was required to sign a permission slip, which he did. But then he took it back. Lieve learned that if her husband had the dream and wish, her signature would not be needed.*
2) Harline’s ofttimes funny/ofttimes insightful words created a space for me to remember my own mission story.Read More