The first year of my mission I rarely interacted much with missionaries outside of my companionship and my house-mates. I saw sisters once a month at zone meeting. I had no opinion on them, other than that I was probably a bit intimidated by the sisters from the US that had completed or nearly completed college. Basically I was working in isolation with my companion and it was great. I didn’t know anything about the rest of the mission.
I spent the entire second year of my mission working in the office, with the exception of a two month period during which I lived in the apartment attached to the office (rather than literally sleeping on the floor of the mission office, as our office elders did). This greatly widened the scope of my interactions with all of the missionaries. I saw a variety of sisters and elders nearly every single day, and became very informed as to what was going on all over the mission.
Based on those interactions I arrived at some generalizations. I will admit that the sample size for the elders was much larger than that of the sisters, which makes all of this even more suspect than it already is. In any case…
Most elders are merely “ok”. There are doing a reasonable job and they are sincere. There are also outliers. The bad elders were REALLY bad. I don’t want to go into details here. But if there was a problem that the office heard about with the elders then it was a bad problem. There were some really good elders as well. Ones that the other missionaries looked up to, regardless of where they sat on the mission heirarchy.
Sisters are in an interesting position. They didn’t go on a mission “by default” as many of the elders did. They tended to actually have a reason to be there. Of course some of them had better reasons than others…
I can honestly say that the office spent as much time dealing with problems with the sister missionaries as it did with the elders. The interesting aspects of this are that the problems were never as serious and there were about eight times more elders than sisters in the mission. The problems were usually minor health issues and companionship spats. Things that missionaries of either sex can be expected to resolve on their own.
There were also outstanding sisters. I think that the best sister missionaries were better missionaries than the best elders. They taught more effectively, they had better interactions with the wards, and they learned the language faster in the case of those that were from the US. They were also mostly free from the burndens of mission politics.
As a percentage I think there were more great sisters than great elders, and that the great sisters were even better than the great elders. I also think that as a percentage there were more bad sisters than bad elders, but the bad sisters were bad in that they were lazy or perhaps their parents were visiting them in person once a week, bringing “care packages”. The bad elders were doing things that were much worse.
What does this mean? There were more middle of the road elders than there were so-so sisters. Lots of guys that were there, doing their duty, without any extraordinary motivation. If there were from the US they had a 50-50 chance of being fresh out of high school. I really felt the elders that had already been away from home for a year were more prepared for a mission than those that had not. Within several months this didn’t matter, but it made a difference in the MTC and for the first few months in the field. Sisters come in with much more “adult” life experience. This is especially visible in the sisters that are really motivated to be there.
One other difference that I noticed was that elders had the extra burnden of getting caught up in mission politics and who got to what position and how fast. The sisters seemed almost immune to this disease. It was amazing to see how riled up some guys would get over stupid political games that nobody in the wider world cares about at all and that the missionaries themselves won’t care about once they return home.]]>
So Bret, I DO encourage young women considering a mission to serve — but I mention this comment to them and encourage them to fit the latter category rather than the former.]]>
In my mission, the Sister areas were picked because they were the safest places in the mission. Invariably, this meant they were better off economically, and thus harder to proselytize.
My father, when he was a mission president, strongly preferred sisters over men. He wanted as many as he could get. Then again, he had a lot of problem Elders.
My mission president didn’t really seem to care for the sisters, probably because he was a numbers man, and they didn’t bring in as many as the Elders.]]>
You’re lucky to have them as great examples, not just for you but for your kids someday too!
Sign me a proud Dad….proud of all of the missionaries in our family.]]>