New occasional series: “So You’re Going on a Mission!” July 12, 2016Posted by Ubi Dubium in Books, Humor, Responses.
Tags: 1960s, books, Mission, Mormons, religion
I was at my local library recently, and as I often do I wandered over to see what was on the book sale shelf. Often it’s just boring stuff, but this time I found this gem, just waiting for me.
It’s a book aimed at young Mormon teens, to help them prep for going out on their two year mission. And it published in, get this, 1968. NINETEEN SIXTY-EIGHT! Do I buy it? It’s only fifty cents, how do I resist?
I don’t think I’m really up for reading this all at one go, or for a full blow-by-blow of every chapter, but I think it would be fun to keep around and every once in awhile tackle a chapter and share a few gems and bits of unrealistic or outdated wisdom. (It’s not that this blog is specifically targeted at Mormons, I find all religions fairly ridiculous, but this is the book I found. If I find anything comparably funny from other religions, I’ll have to break up the series with comments on those.) Most of the book is filled with helpful tips about things like laundry and cooking, because the “elders” being sent out have most likely never had to deal with this kind of stuff on their own. But there’s some religious stuff injected in there too.
So here goes. Chapter 1. Preparing for a Call
On the copyright page it says “This book deals exclusively with the non-theological aspects of missionary life.” For a book that’s not supposed to be about religion, this first chapter certainly has a lot about religion. The first thing that popped out at me, right on the first page, was this:
“Don’t for one moment think that no matter what you do there will be a little band of angels hovering around to help you overcome obstacles. You will receive help and strength only in so far as you keep spiritually in tune and live your religion so that you are worthy of being helped. (pg 1)”
So they are starting right out with guilt, and blaming people for their own difficulties by telling them they just aren’t believing hard enough. This section also emphasizes that a future missionary must focus on living a “clean honorable life” as if Mormon youth aren’t already under enough pressure to do that already. And of course an exhortation to study and share the gospel, no surprise there.
Next section is on “Physical Challenge” where they point out that walking all day, almost every day, for two years, is going to be more tiring that the future missionary expects. (What’s the slang from 1968 for “no duh”? Oh, I remember. It’s “no duh”.) And they say this:
“However it won’t take long for you to discover that there is no place for idleness (in fact, before your mission is over, you’ll learn to feel guilty if you’re not busy every minute)…. (pg 2)”
Again with the guilt.
And “Emotional Challenge”:
- Get used to disappointment.
- Get used to never being alone.
- Live only for missionary work.
- Obey authority.
- You now have to be a mature responsible person.
- Get used to disappointment.
- Get used to culture shock.
- Don’t expect perfection from the other missionaries.
- Don’t go on a mission unless you have convinced yourself that spreading Mormonism is the most important thing you can do with your life.
- Don’t get too attached to anybody because you are likely to be transferred.
Some more general tips include assembling wardrobe, learning cooking and cleaning and mending, earning money in advance to cover expenses (because the church doesn’t pay for these missions) and church, church and more church. All the ceremonies over and over, teach Sunday school, lead scouts, do all the baptism and priesthood stuff, all the church services and rituals available.
Then this book, which is not about theology, then exhorts the prospective missionary to study the Mormon scriptures, the bible, memorize sections of all of those, and listen to their preaching lessons over and over until they are memorized too. I don’t see how a teenager is supposed to be doing this while also finishing high school, learning housework, holding down a job, and doing every church activity possible. And of course, not being able to fill this unrealistic expectation adds more guilt. If they are not effective in preaching, it must be because they didn’t study it hard enough, not because the material is unbelievable.
The general advice in this chapter I think is of mixed utility. Pay attention in school and learn all you can so you can carry on interesting intelligent conversations. Good general advice, but in this case they are encouraging it not for it’s own sake, but to be able to use a conversation as an opening for preaching. They recommend learning about other religions, and actually warn the missionary to be respectful because many of their targets already have their own religions and this must be treated with respect and tolerance. Hmm. If the Mormons actually were truly respecting and tolerating other religions, they wouldn’t be sending teenagers out to try to win converts!
And in her discussion about attitude toward where the missionary is assigned, the author says this: “Actually, you’ll end up thinking your mission is the best in the world and it will be simply because you won’t know anything about anyone else’s!” (pg 13) Somehow I think this also sums up the marriage advice these young men will get when they get back.
Some basic things I learned about these missions: The targets of the preaching are referred to as “investigators”, as if they are an active participant in being preached at. Door-to-door preaching, that I would refer to as “proselytizing” is called “proselyting”. I don’t know if this is a Mormon thing, or just a weird spelling in this book.
Next chapter will be about girls! Oh Boy!