Guest Post: The Role of Women on Missions
by Maren, who lives in the Carolinas, is a university educator and reseacher, and mother of three young children. She has a hobby business making and selling European style chocolates.
I returned home from my LDS mission 15 years ago. During my mission, I had baptism success, and I continue to use my Spanish language skills in my career as a doctorally prepared researcher and academic. Recently, I have reflected on how much I have changed since my mission release. My relationship with the gospel is far more complex and I have grown increasingly concerned with the lack of equality between men and women in the church.
Though my foreign mission provided me with interesting and life changing experiences, there were issues that troubled me. Women’s conferences had been held in the past, but there were no opportunities to gather and discuss the unique needs of women while I served. Female missionaries were expected to work as hard as the elders with no opportunities to gain leadership skills. I spent my mission following the rules and working hard, but felt that the mission president and other male leaders tolerated the sisters, at best. Having been in leadership positions in college prior to my mission, upon my return I felt a diminished spiritual self-confidence. While it should have been an experience that rooted me in the church, my spiritual well-being never recovered.
Though I respect the Elders’ role in conducting ordinances such as baptism, I fail to see the justification for limiting leadership opportunities for women. Why aren’t single female missionaries allowed to collect weekly statistics, work in the mission office, determine who serves in what area, organize a zone conference, and (heaven forbid) receive personal mail directly from the mission office?
Now that I have daughters (7 year-old twins), I question whether I want them to serve an LDS mission. I want them to get an education, learn to serve others, have a cultural immersion experience, gain leadership skills, and have a strong spiritual core. Though eventually this is their decision, I will advise them to fully explore their options. Perhaps their time may be better spent engaged in causes that allow a woman’s talents to be fully utilized.
If you served a mission, would you go again? Do you feel your mission helped you develop a sense of self, leadership skills, and a spiritual core? Do you feel an 18-month mission would be the best use of your daughter’s time and talents?