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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Jackass Missionaries: Where Are They Now? » Jackass Missionaries: Where Are They Now?

Jackass Missionaries: Where Are They Now?

Rusty - June 14, 2007

So I was recently listening to John Dehlin’s very first podcast in which he brags about all the kids he baptized on his mission in Guatemala. Er…I mean in which he tells of other missionaries who baptized large groups of kids after having played soccer with them and then “cooled off” in the water. I probably wouldn’t believe this except that I was there 8-10 years later to witness the aftermath.

These stories circulated among missionaries and members alike. Elders taking kids down to the river to go swimming. Elders giving “service” (like helping someone build their house) in exchange for getting baptized. Missionaries taking names off of gravestones (to which I ask what’s the point? Why not just make up names if you’re not dealing with real, live people?). And of course you can’t hear legends like this without having a poster-boy who epitomized the spirit of the epoch, my mission’s being Elder Terry. It was said that he went inactive in Patzún (due to playing on the town’s soccer team on Sundays), had a profitable business in selling music CD’s (which he acquired two missions over in Mexico) to other missionaries, once went all the way to Mexico City, had a baby in Sipacate and BAPTIZED LIKE CRAZY! Every member I spoke with that knew him loved him.

This was rather vexing to us elders who were doing our best to teach discussions, go to church and not have sex.

Right after I got to Guatemala (Fall of ’96) our mission initiated what eventually became the cleaning up of the membership records in all of Central America. That meant every ward got a stack of records of each “member” of that ward. It was our job to go around, find all these people, correct any mistakes and invite them back to church. Of course this was more difficult that it appears, us being in Guatemala and all. When the listed address is “red house on the corner” or “San Luis neighborhood” then the difficulty of finding that person increases. This problem was compounded by the fact that when we actually found someone we’d often have a conversation that went something along these lines:

Elder Cleepstone: …so it says here that you were baptized into our church and we’d like to update…
José: No, no you must be mistaken. I was never baptized in your church. What church are you from?
Elder Eagleston: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Actually, it says here you were baptized on April 10th, 1989 in Escuintla. You would have been…hmmm, let’s see…nine years old then.
José: No, that never happened.
Elder Cleepstone: Don’t you remember a couple gringos with white shirts, ties and black tags?
José: Sure, I remember some gringos going swimming with us but I never got baptized.

…awkward pause…

Elder Eagleston: Um…so Rusty, what’s for lunch?

After listening to John’s experience and since my mission I’ve often wondered where all these jackass missionaries are now. Did they all go inactive? Have they all been excommunicated? Are they the DAMU? (or BCC for that matter?)

The devil in me hungers for vindication. My smug side wants to hear their stories of apostasy so that I can continue knowing what happens to sinners. My prideful side wants to hear that all their baptisms went inactive so that I don’t feel so bad about so many of mine going inactive. My Spirit-less side wants to hear that they are all the top pest-control salesmen so that I can write them off and just say that they were good salesmen, nothing more.

The side of me that wants to hear that they have remained faithful in the Church and lead fulfilling lives is growing, but only at around 3% a year.


  1. Is this why missionaries aren’t allowed to go swimming?

    Comment by Susan M — June 14, 2007 @ 2:40 pm

  2. I just listened to that podcast a few days ago. I entered the mission very shortly after the time period John Dehlin is talking about. In fact, the mission president he is criticizing was my mission president for the first three months of my mission.

    Just as you say – he wasn’t exaggerating.

    Comment by danithew — June 14, 2007 @ 2:45 pm

  3. I served in the Japan Tokyo South Mission about 5 years after what is well-known as the worst abuses of this sort happened. But at least the then-mission president got his name in the Church News for having 1000+ baptism months.

    Funny how there was no corresponding increase in Sacrament meeting attendance, need for ward/stake splits, requests for new buildings….

    It still makes me sad today.

    Comment by Chad too — June 14, 2007 @ 2:52 pm

  4. I remember Elder Holland saying in the MTC that every door tracted by a missionary in Europe or Asia meant that another person was baptized in Latin America. “So keep on knocking those doors,” he jokingly said. If much of the Latin American expansion is attributed to writing down false names on baptismal records, I could have submitted a phone book and said I had tracted it all. I could have saved so much time.

    Comment by jose — June 14, 2007 @ 3:06 pm

  5. This sort of thing has been going on for a long time, unfortunately. In 1973 we did a mission-wide audit of church members in Peru. I took more people’s names off the rolls of the church than I baptized! Because of the earlier lax baptizing practices our mission president would allow single women only to be baptized if they came to church on their own for for six months. The same went for married women and their children. We were told to focus on total families and potential priesthood holders. The result was a downturn in total baptisms, but during the period of my mission all district presidencies and all but one branch president consisted of peruanos.

    Comment by John — June 14, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

  6. Hmmmm, never heard about Elder Terry.

    Wasn’t there some contest between the Guat North and Guat Quetzaltenango mission back in the day? Legendary stories.

    Rusty, one of President Williams’ counselors (Rudy?) served in Xela somewhere and baptized some 150 or so people in a month. Hilarious story, but I can’t remember all of it. But he turned out okay.

    Comment by Tim J. — June 14, 2007 @ 3:44 pm

  7. What I meant to say about the local leadership is that it INCREASED during this time of “retrenchment”.

    Comment by John — June 14, 2007 @ 3:45 pm

  8. After listening to John’s experience and since my mission I’ve often wondered where all these jackass missionaries are now. Did they all go inactive? Have they all been excommunicated? Are they the DAMU? (or BCC for that matter?)

    I’ve heard of a book filled with well-documented stories about the gruesome fates of those who were involved in kiddie, gravestone, beach, and sports baptisms. Never met anyone who has read it, however.

    What happens to the mission presidents who place young, impressionable missionaries under enormous spiritual pressure to baptize and condone these practices?

    Comment by Justin — June 14, 2007 @ 4:52 pm

  9. Although I’m very sympathetic to the various aspects of himself Rusty mentions (the devil, the smug side, etc.) having all of those sides to myself as well, still, in the spirit of Justin’s question, I have to wonder if the missionaries who engaged in this reprehensible behavior all really merit the appellation “jackass.” Admittedly, the elder Rusty describes does sound like a hard-core, cynical case for whom the gospel was nothing more than a good sales pitch.

    But missionaries are so young, and at such an impressionable and vulnerable phase of their spiritual and emotional lives. Absolute obedience is pounded home with such fervor that it’s not hard to lose track of yourself, in a sense–I know I did. I never witnessed anything like the awful experiences John Dehlin described, but there were a couple of other issues on which the chorus I heard from everyone else–my mission president, the elders, my companions–was so unanimous that I came to doubt myself and my own experience and perspectives in fundamental and damaging ways. As a result, I had a couple of companions it took me years and years to forgive.

    But to be brief and to the point: I suspect that many of the missionaries involved in these schemes are as much the victims of them as they are the perpetrators. And as John says in his podcast, I have to wonder what happens to a missionary when the gospel becomes corrupt and shallow for him that way, a means to some other end. That has to be spiritually damaging, I would think.

    Comment by Eve — June 14, 2007 @ 5:15 pm

  10. I still bear an irrational and immediate dislike of Zone Leaders. It seemed that almost every ZL I ever met was more or less, a jerk. But they tended to bring in the baptisms…

    Comment by Seth R. — June 14, 2007 @ 6:02 pm

  11. I saw the title in MA thinking this was going to be a discussion of Balaam’s Ass.

    Comment by clark — June 14, 2007 @ 7:01 pm

  12. Does the blame go on the jackass missionaries or the Zone Leaders and and Mission President? As a zone leader at the end of my mission, I could tell in about 5 minutes how sincere a baptism prospect was. And every one of our baptisms had to be interviewed by the ZL or MP.

    But hey, that MP got his name in the Church News!

    Comment by jjohnsen — June 14, 2007 @ 7:39 pm

  13. I don’t get the mix of teaching the Gospel and making the numbers. I assume that making the numbers is the motivation behind such “baptisms.” I wish we could take them numbers out of it. [yes, I served in Japan, where numbers tended to hoover between 1 and 0]

    I agree that the missionaries who participated in such things MUST have been damaged by the experience. What a shame to equate missionary work with selling.

    Would not many problems be solved if we did not allow the missionaries to perform the baptisms? Then the converts would have someone (who baptized them) in their branch looking out for them when their elder/sister had moved away. Maybe the missionaries, too, would feel less pressed for numbers.

    Comment by a spectator — June 14, 2007 @ 8:26 pm

  14. John, the rule you describe in comment #5 sounds very sexist.

    Comment by E — June 14, 2007 @ 9:02 pm

  15. ..and that’sssss … bad?

    Comment by Jack — June 14, 2007 @ 9:09 pm

  16. Well, I don’t like it, but I’d be interested to read your take on it.

    Comment by E — June 14, 2007 @ 9:12 pm

  17. [...] Rusty’s post speculating about the ultimate fate of missionaries involved in bizarre baptizing schemes over at Nine Moons has reminded me again of a thorny issue I’ve considered from time to time: the occasional spiritual necessity of defying the church. [...]

    Pingback by Zelophehad’s Daughters » Blog Archive » The (Occasional) Spiritual Necessity of Defying the Church — June 14, 2007 @ 9:19 pm

  18. So, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying John Dehlin is totally wrong, or anything anybody has said here is wrong, but can I just say that almost every missionary I’ve ever talked to has a story that starts like this:

    “Well, about 5 years before I got in the mission, the Mission President was terrible, and all the missionaries were apostate, and they did awful things like X and… by the time I got there we had to deal with a lot of their messes.”

    It just makes me interested in knowing what the purpose/origin/meaning of the trope is, is all.

    (And yes, about 5 years before I got to my mission, there was a relatively lax bunch of missionaries, but by the time I got their, things were a lot better, but we still had a lot of their messes to deal with.)

    Comment by A. Nonny Mouse — June 14, 2007 @ 9:20 pm

  19. Both of my mission presidents were excellent and neither even came close to the sort of shenanigans described in this thread. Furthermore, the horror stories I heard seemed to uniformly come from several years previously. There were few instances of real abuse by the missionaries who I was actually serving with.

    I mean, we had some trivial dumbness, like the ZL who would ride around on his bike with a realistic looking cap gun to scare taxi drivers with, and that missionary who managed to punch every companion he ever had… Then there was the occasional missionary who got into girl trouble and one missionary who proposed to every young single girl in one of my branches a couple years before I arrived…

    But nothing systematic, or widespread, or really heinous…

    Comment by Seth R. — June 14, 2007 @ 9:35 pm

  20. Salt in the wound for me is when these dynamite Elders would return to Guatemala and party with the members. Sad thing was, the members absolutely loved it.

    Comment by Rob — June 14, 2007 @ 10:39 pm

  21. Rusty,

    I served in Xela from 93 to 95, in the immediate aftermath of some of that disaster.

    The way that Xela was cleaned up was well known. The Presidente shipped all the worst chalkers and other claveros to Centro when it was created. Meanwhile, according to the word we heard, Sur sent their most flecha elders to the new mission. It was said to have created a civil war of sorts that lasted for years.

    My favorite example of the problems was one I’ll call Elder Y. He was (barely) before my time. I served in San Pablo a few years after Elder Y, and the members were very suspicious of the Elders.

    Turns out, this was because Elder Y. got a local girl pregnant, and then paid for her abortion. (The account was confirmed by enough people that I’m pretty sure it was true.)

    Yes, he was one of the ones shipped to Centro.

    A year after Elder Y. got home (after serving his two years, and honorable release), the mission office got his temple wedding invitation.

    I always wondered whether his wife had any idea. Or whether that marriage lasted.

    Thing was, in Xela, a highly motivated, hard-working elder _could_ legitimately baptize 20 in a month sometimes. People were that receptive. One elder I knew regularly baptized 20 — he was an energizer bunny type who contacted all day long, and no one ever accused him of chalking. He was one of the best missionaries I knew.

    But given that possibility, it opened up the door to the chalkers. Political aspirants had to try to baptize 20 or 30 in a month, to compete. And if it wasn’t available through legit channels, some of them went through less legit channels.

    Comment by Kaimi — June 14, 2007 @ 10:51 pm

  22. We had these stories in my mission, too–kids bribed into swimming holes, underage baptisms, the mission president laying out major incentives/punishments for high/low success. All just stories until we came across hard evidence buried deep in the piles of missionary guides and old ties in the apartment of my last area.

    While doing a deep cleaning of the place we came across baptismal records from three years prior. In my time, it was good to get one or two baptisms during your whole mission; the records we found, these guys baptized loads of people every month. They had all gone inactive (I assume–only 3 of the 400 plus members in our area were active). Some birth dates revealed that six and seven year-old kids had been baptized.

    I think it’s a little funny to suggest that these two Elders (I’m going to dive into my missionary journal to find their names; I do remembering vowing to look them up and kick their $$@) joined the DAMU or were excommunicated. Just as likely, they were Zone Leaders climbing their way to the top and when they got home, they kept on climbing.

    Comment by hplc — June 15, 2007 @ 12:40 am

  23. My pet theory is that such missionaries later went on to become movers and shakers in the Utah Republican Party. The personality type kinda fits. So does the sort of crap that goes on in Utah’s Republican leadership.

    Just a theory.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 15, 2007 @ 7:27 am

  24. On my mission in South Africa we had none of this stuff.

    My MP was a native who actually lived in the mission. As a result he would have to live with the results and did not want bad outcomes.

    We had strict rules on who we could teach and baptize. The native MP was looking for intact families and singles that would actually come to church. No kids could be baptized unless they had parents who were also getting baptized or were in High School and regularly coming on Sunday. The potential converts had to come to church for a while before they could be baptized and had to show some committment.

    Another thing we did was go “car tracting” Looking for people who had cars, telephones etc.

    We had about 125 baptisms in the 2 years I was there and exp a really high retention rate.

    I understand that the native MP took a lot of grief over the low baptisms numbers but stood his ground.

    Since he left in 1996 baptism numbers have increased to about 500 a year and two new stakes have been formed. The committed singles started to marry each other eventually and form the intact families that the native MP was looking for.

    The native MP had figured things right. He knew that retention was key to growth and that the local units needed intact families to prosper long term.

    He had a quote that I will paraphrase….

    I am looking for a dad for BP, a mom for RS President, and the kids to fill out the primary. & I am looking for committed singles who will marry another member and form new families.

    Comment by bbell — June 15, 2007 @ 7:30 am

  25. My Mission President was not a native, but he was a convert, and I think that really helped his perspective. We were in “last place” baptising in the philippines were I served, but our retention rate at the one year mark was over 60% whereas the philippines as a whole averaged 10% retention purportedly. We still got somewhere between 100 and 200 baptisms every month. Our mission president was a proponant of lookng for families and finishing familes, so that’s what we focused on as missionaries. Pretty much every 2 months there would be a “no baptising children statement” in every zone conference.

    Comment by Matt W. — June 15, 2007 @ 8:57 am

  26. My husband served in Samoa in about 1979. They dealt with the aftermath of the “ice cream baptisms.” Tropical climate/extremely rare cold commodity. You can fill in the story.

    Comment by Alison Moore Smith — June 15, 2007 @ 9:04 am

  27. “…… in Xela, a highly motivated, hard-working elder could legitimately baptize 20 in a month sometimes.”

    If we had a month with 20 discussions I would have considered the month a success.

    i remember asking my first companion why he lied on our weekly reports. His response was simple, “they don’t care what we really do, they just want to see certain numbers. I give them what they want.” I wish all MP’s an GA’s could have the an attitude/perspective like the MP is South Africa. Just think of what difference that would make in the long run. Line upon line, right?

    Comment by Craig W. — June 15, 2007 @ 9:06 am

  28. I served concurrently with one big baptizer who wasn’t a total jackass, but was very numbers-focused and didn’t hesitate to baptize kids and teens. I don’t know where he is now, but I seem to recall that soon after the mission he tried out for the BYU football team as a walk-on and became the backup punter. I guess it goes to show that it doesn’t pay to baptize kids.

    Comment by Tom — June 15, 2007 @ 9:06 am

  29. I remember on my mission that our second mission president strongly discouraged the teaching and baptizing of single women and older children. My companion and I once stopped teaching a unbaptized innactive kid after we realized that there would be no one to support him in taking him to church and so forth only to later to discover that zealous number hungry missionaries later baptized him. Since then I have discovered that much of the things that I was taught as a missionary in terms of how important those two years are just not so. But thankfully I am home and do not have to do it again. I will plan on going again when I am older but will not proselyte. Maybe a temple mission or something like that.

    Comment by Chris Rusch — June 15, 2007 @ 9:21 am

  30. Matt,

    We go the “no baptizing kids” comment from the MP, AP’s, ZL’s, local members etc all the time. There was almost no pressure to baptize whatsoever. The MP wanted to do it right…….. Local members opinions were honored

    We were not even allowed to teach kids let alone baptize unless the parents were either attending church and investigating or members already.

    As a ZL I handled a controversy where a senior couple had baptized about 8 kids in a branch where there had been no active proselyting for a few years due to lack of local leadership. The kids had been attending for a long time without their parents interest in the church. The month that this happened was probably the largest month baptism wise in my 2 years. We may have hit 14 baptisms with the extra 8.

    When the senior m’s mailed in the paperwork on the baptisms to Mission headquarters I got a really angry phone call from the AP’s were they called the baptisms unauthorized and never allow something like this again. I of course was completely oblivious to what the senior couple was up to….

    Comment by bbell — June 15, 2007 @ 9:34 am

  31. Bbell, great thoughts. My second mission president wanted to do that, but could not get the missionaries to relinquish the numbers and folklore oriented attitudes that many missionaries held. For instance he said that he did not want single sisters being taught unless their husbands were sitting in on the discussions. Well, these singel nm sisters were the bread and butter and of the sister missionaries in my mission and there were some who just went throught the roof over this. Years later I think that he was right. Missionaries need to focus on converting families and not individuals. Our focus was simply one-hundres baptisms a month. Something that we never achieved. In fact when my first mission president left, the numbers dropped significantly. I wonder if retention improved with his more balanced approach.

    Comment by Chris Rusch — June 15, 2007 @ 9:49 am

  32. There are a couple of contributing factors to the baptize at any cost attitude that results in extreme cases in baseball baptisms.

    1. MP’s aspiring to be GA’s and using their business training & attitude to boost the baptism numbers in order to look good to SLC
    2. The short time line that non native missionaries and MP’s often have. They are only considering the here and now in their mission work. Not thinking about the 3 generations it really takes to firmly root the gospel in an area. a 2-3 year mission is very short….
    3. Immaturity of 19-21 year olds. Case closed
    4. American missionary arrogance. Us 7 generation members think that we own the church and know much better then these simple BP’s and other local leaders who lack $$ and first world exp.
    5. Cultural pressure in the US that used to send out unprepared and often unworthy elders into the mission field to wreak havoc. This has changed recently. I had a roomate at USU who went out because if he did not he would not inherit $1,000,000 from his grandparents. He got drunk and slept with his girlfriend the night before he went into the MTC. This is obviously an extreme example but a symptom of a larger problem that “Raise the bar” looked to solve.

    Comment by bbell — June 15, 2007 @ 10:25 am

  33. There’s a chapter in the Prince biography of McKay that pretty well documents this stuff in Europe in the 40s, 50s, 60s. C-c-c-crazy. Y’all should read it.

    I served in the Tokyo South Mission too and while some of the stories have got to be legends, some of them were true. In the Shibuya ward where I served for 13 months we had a members’ role with 1800 names on it and only about 120 active. There were occasionally a few that stayed active despite their creepy entrances to to the Church. Their stories were amazing.

    Comment by amri — June 15, 2007 @ 10:42 am

  34. Yea, amri, I was thinking of the same chapter. The conclusions of the chapter put this into a very interesting perspective, and Prince talks about how we retained a larger total number during these times when there were a lot of shenanigans than when we finally clamped down and only baptized “responsibly.” I thought he gave a lot of interesting food for thought, beyond just bashing the people who did dishonest things, which I think we all deplore.

    On my mission we didn’t have anything remotely like this, but then, I was in the USA where it is less likely. I’m glad I didn’t have to see this or deal with it.

    Comment by Jacob J — June 15, 2007 @ 10:58 am

  35. i recently met a guatemalan surprise baptism victim. it was within a parenting group where people who knew me peripherally for years found out that i am lds. one of the women turned to her husband and said, “hey, didn’t you used to be a mormon?” he was very vague and still confused about the whole thing, but made it clear that he was NOT lds and never intended to become such. it was really interesting to meet someone who had actually experienced what i’d only previously heard million-hand accounts about.

    i was engaged to someone who had a horrific trainer. trainer used to sneak out at night and got an investigator pregnant just before returning home. he made grand promises of coming back and marrying her, but convinced her that an abortion was the right move. my fiance was one of the elders who broke mission rules to drive her to the hospital for the abortion, believing her story that she had terminal cancer and had to go in immediately for some sort of treatment. once the abortion was done, trainer told her to never contact him again.

    i actually met trainer, not long after his temple marriage (which occurred less than a year after his homecoming). the whole thing was alluded to and he and his wife openly acknowledged that he had made mistakes, repented of them, and wasn’t it so nice that everything got squared away in time for the wedding. it was all very bizarre.

    Comment by makakona — June 15, 2007 @ 11:33 am

  36. These stories about missionaries impregnating women and encouraging abortions is very worrisome, especially because they’re getting married in the temple shortly after they get home. What’s going on? Shouldn’t they be ex’ed hardcore for not only fornicating while on a mission but also encouraging an abortion?

    Comment by Brett McKay — June 15, 2007 @ 12:58 pm

  37. Brett,

    Comment by Rusty — June 15, 2007 @ 1:01 pm

  38. bbell,

    That’s much of how I felt about my mission president. I respect him, laud him for his work (we were one of the few missions that actually doubled their baptisms after Pres Hinckley made that challenge) and stood up for him as a missionary, but it was tough to do so at times and would be even more so with the perspective I have now. He was a commercial real estate man and was good at running the mission as a business, but missions are not businesses (just like schools are not businesses, but that’s another thread) and many problems ensued.

    I remember struggling much of my two years because I just wasn’t any good at the “Gene R Cook principles” we were taught.

    Comment by Bret — June 15, 2007 @ 1:40 pm

  39. I got the feeling that my MP was making the area presidency mad and that is not a good formula for becoming a GA. Although he would have made a great one.

    He cared about the long term implications of our actions because he lived in the mission.

    I literally once drove down the street were he used to live prior to his call. He returned to that house and branch at the end of his three years. Far different then getting on plane back to SLC.

    Comment by bbell — June 15, 2007 @ 2:36 pm

  40. Bret,
    Where did you serve and who was your prez?

    Comment by David — June 15, 2007 @ 3:10 pm

  41. I think there are examples of idiots from every mission. However, I have a feeling that since the “bar was raised” and it’s dang hard to even qualify to serve a mission lately, these idiots are being weeded out.

    My husband had a companion who was fornicating without my husband’s knowledge. Won’t go into the details here, but when my husband found out, the comp. was sent home from his mission. My husband is still humiliated that he didn’t recognize the signs and wishes he could have done something to stop it.

    He was also transferred out of an area once for not getting enough baptisms. Instead, he and his comp spent 8 weeks going through a ward’s records of 575 people –they found inactives, transferred record of those that moved, helped with leadership, encouraged member involvement, etc.–basically transformed the entire ward for the better and enabled them to better work with the missionaries in finding potential converts. And he was “punished” for it.

    btw and fwiw, he served in Australia…

    Comment by Cheryl — June 15, 2007 @ 5:19 pm

  42. Re 28,

    Tom, coming to you as former backup punter, I would request you not give us a bad name like that. Our egos are already fragile enough as it is.

    Comment by Jon in Austin — June 15, 2007 @ 5:38 pm

  43. Interesting how many comments mention the pressure on the MP to raise the baptismal numbers. Did MP’s mention that in zone conferences?

    I served in Ukraine, and I only remember one month where we were supposed to set a specific number goal (5) for baptisms. Halfway through that month, I met with Pres for some reason and mentioned that I didn’t have five people preparing for baptism and how bad I felt about that. If I had faith, I’d have numbers, right? Yeah. Anyway, I was still there when a lady walked in and demanded to see the MP because she wanted to be baptized. I still remember the MP’s huge grin as he found me and informed me that this lady lived in my area and I should teach her the discussions for baptism in a couple weeks.

    She was a fruitcake, and that was obvious from the first discussion. But we taught her and baptized her anyway, because Pres told me personally she was an answer to my faith and prayers.

    I still feel badly about baptizing her. She didn’t stick around long, and I wonder if we would have lost her before baptism if we hadn’t rushed the teaching schedule so much just to get the right baptismal date. Better a lost investigator than a lost member.

    Comment by Melinda — June 15, 2007 @ 6:23 pm

  44. Rusty — I recently blogged on something similar. I am now going through the “is it fair to still call them jackass missionaries” dilemma — what about forgiveness?

    So it does, I think, beg the question — where are these guys now? The one’s I knew have moved on and made big changes in their lives. I wonder about the MP in John’s Dehlin/Danithew’s mission. Anyone know if he recognized the mistake and changed his ways?

    Comment by Glenn — June 15, 2007 @ 6:31 pm

  45. Wow, how amazing it is the vast difference between missions!

    I went to Romania. The worst thing that a missionary ever did, at least while I was there, was leave his companion in the apartment and go walking around the streets of Bucuresti by himself. Yeah, Elder Neuenschwander came in from the Area Presidency to send him packing home! In Romania missionaries had to walk on eggshells because the church was not yet (and I believe still not) officially recognized in the country. Any serious mistakes, like say, impregnating a native and encouraging her to have an abortion, yeah the church would be kicked out. I had two presidents, including Elder Robert Orton of the Second Quorum of the Seventy. Both were excellent men.

    Comment by Dan — June 15, 2007 @ 8:00 pm

  46. My brother’s best friend was a missionary in South America and I still think today there are jack-ass missionaries, and I find it ironic that he went to South America as well.

    Previous to his mission he had “relations” (which were never confirmed if they were sexual or not) with my step-sister, who at the time was 14. Why he never got put in jail, or suspended for his mission I will never know.

    But it is ironic that on his mission he met a woman who he is now married and brought back to America. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had “relations” with her on her mission as well.

    By the way the whole time he was seeing this other woman he was still writing very detailed love letters to my 14 year old sister; all the way till she was 16 and then when he returned tried to date her while not letting anyone know he was bringing home a foriegn fiance.

    I do wonder to this day if he still married, and why so many people let this happen. Or turned a blind eye.

    Comment by Nicole — June 16, 2007 @ 12:55 am

  47. This thread is a bit of a nightmare to me! My son has been serving for just under a year. He is the first missionary in either side of the family and so none of the rest of us have had any missionary experience to reflect back on. This is it for us. I feel like I should be on my knees all day thanking God that he is having such a good experience. How did we get so lucky? He is serving in an area that most people consider “tough”. Although, they do regularly set goals to increase lessons/contacts/baptisms, I haven’t perceived even a hint that my son feels overly pressured or “under the gun” about it. He loves his MP and looks forward to the regular interviews. He likes a lot of the other elders he has served with. I am sure that he doesn’t share all the most negative stuff with me, but if he were truly miserable, I would know it. I can tell that he is happy and feeling good about the service he is giving. I don’t know if this makes a difference, but he left with a really good attitude about serving and loving the people. He didn’t have unrealistic ideas about baptisms and he definitely did NOT want to be just a numbers oriented missionary. I am sure it helps that his MP is a great guy. He must be like that one other South African MP mentioned above.
    I have to admit that these stories are a real shock to me. Most people I know speak so highly of their missions. I have heard stories of some problems but not to the overwhelming extent of this thread. I’d like to know how the rest of you are teaching and preparing your sons to serve missions in light of your own experiences and stories such as these?

    Comment by AJ — June 16, 2007 @ 8:02 am

  48. I remember huge pressure in my mission to meet numbers. I served in eastern Germany, and baptisms were rare. Baptisms of those who were actually ready were even more rare.
    Much of my mission was spent “cleaning up” after a missionary who destroyed families wherever he went in his pursuit of those numbers.
    In particular, he had a very bad habit of teaching men or women behind their spouses’ back. At least one came very close to ending in divorce.
    I am not sure where the “jackass” title should fall in every case, but it is hard to believe that he didn’t know what he was doing was wrong. Often, blame does indeed lie with the MP, but not all.

    Comment by Rüpel — June 16, 2007 @ 8:49 am

  49. AJ, #47, Most people I think do have good experiences on their missions. A few do not, and even fewer are “jackasses.” Occasionally there are circumstances that encourage bad behavior, but I think the majority of missionaries want to do the right thing and mostly keep their shoulder to the wheel. Keep in mind that the stories of bad missionaries get traded around far out of proportion to their actual numbers. They serve as cautionary tales about what not to do because there are inevitably missionaries who come in later and have to pick up the pieces of the few and they tell these stories to keep them from being repeated.

    When I was a missionary I never knew any of these horrible missionaries. I knew the stories and even met some of the members who were harmed by them, but none of the missionaries I served with came even close to doing these sorts of things. There were some who made the mistakes kids that age will make (the worst I knew of was an elder serving as a BP who kissed a 17-year-old convert who didn’t know that Elders couldn’t date), but by and large they had their hearts in the right place.

    It sounds like your son has his head screwed on right and will do just fine. Most missionaries are in it for the right reasons.

    #48, Rüpel, good to see you, őcsi!

    Comment by Fenevad — June 16, 2007 @ 9:48 am

  50. AJ – this thread contains the stories of the worst of the worst. And as Fenevad pointed out, many of them are secondhand. I don’t doubt abuses occur, but I doubt they happen every year in every mission. But the stories of the abuses get traded around, and embellished upon, until it sounds like they happened everywhere.

    Also, the awful experiences rarely take up all two years. I’ve been in threads where we just talked about food experiences, and a commenter asked if we ever worked, or if we just ate. Well, of course we worked, but we were talking about food right then.

    Your son will probably come home with a story or two of something terrible, but he’ll also have stories of wonderful experiences. And likely stories of weird food, too. Just depends on the topic at hand.

    Comment by Melinda — June 16, 2007 @ 12:01 pm

  51. Look AJ, missions are rough. Some folks handle the pressure well, some don’t, for some, it’s a mixed bag.

    I had a fabulous experience on my mission. But I also had some not-so-great moments as well. Like the time I got chewed-out by my Mission President in front of 50 other missionaries for underperforming in new contacts for the third month in a row.

    Life is like that though. If your son is worthy to be where he is, he should probably be there. Somehow, he’ll work the other stuff out, just like many of us had to.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 16, 2007 @ 1:04 pm

  52. Seth puts it best, AJ. The mission was the hardest thing I’ve ever done for many reasons, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever done, too. From what I’ve gathered from everyone I know over the years, it’s a mixed bag. Some missions are worse than others (I served in L.A., which is more conducive to bad behavior than some for many reasons, though I’m sure there were worse out there), some missionaries have an inordinate amount of bad/good companions, some stories are totally true, some are part true and some are stupidly outrageous. Keep in mind also that a lot of the stories people tell here are of missionaries who are trying to do the right thing, they just get their priorities screwed up (like numbers above all else, for instance).

    Hopefully, worst don’t make it out now that the bar has been raised and the worst stories are not nearly as bad as when most of us served.

    Personally, I think it’s a testament to the truthfullness of the gospel that all these things happen and yet the church continues to grow (if slowly) and prosper. “No unhollowed hand can stop the work from progressing…”

    Comment by Bret — June 16, 2007 @ 4:43 pm

  53. David,

    California Los Angeles, President T. Dean Christensen 2000-2002. Sorry to not get on here sooner.

    Why do you ask?

    Comment by Bret — June 16, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

  54. Although, like AJ, I have a son in the middle of his mission who is also having a good experience, I don’t find these stories shocking because I’ve read David O. McKay’s biography. These things are nothing new. I’m sure things like this still happen, but that hasn’t been my son’s experience. There are some numerical goals, such as talk to a certain number of people, but no numerical expectations on baptisms. He has heard of one missionary who had to leave his mission, but he doesn’t know why, but he assumes the problem was something serious because of the nature of the mission president.

    He has had one companion with some serious emotional problems and another who some days would refuse to leave the apartment unless they had an appointment to be kept. And what do you do in a case like that? My son finds the mission experience good some days, not so good other days. But he is definitely learning a lot about getting along with other people, and that in itself is worth quite a bit, IMO.

    Comment by Commenter — June 16, 2007 @ 6:04 pm

  55. Just to affirm what others have said: the majority of my mission was a good experience. I had one or two really bad experiences with other missionaries. Most of the other stories I can tell were indeed the highly embellished missionary “folklore.”

    However, I would put forth that seeing some of these “bad” missionaries do what they did was actually a good experience. On one occasion, I got to stand up against what I knew to be wrong and make a decision that has very real effects in my life today.

    Missionaries have very real responsibilities. It makes sense that opportunities for things to go bad will abound whenever we have such great opportunities for growth. It is the nature of the agency we teach of.

    Comment by Rüpel — June 16, 2007 @ 8:08 pm

  56. Brett,
    I just recognized the description of President Christensen as having met President Hinckley’s challenge and the stuff about Gene R. Cook. I was there (Spanish speaking) from 1998 to 2000.

    Comment by David Grua — June 17, 2007 @ 12:07 am

  57. I appreciate reading all those comments. I guess I always knew that some missionaries mess up a bit. We’ve have our share of goofy elders over at the house. In fact, my college roommate made out with a missionary once. Fortunately, it went no further. He got transferred and she had to write his parents and apologize! A humbling experience! What I find especially hard to take is the stories of bad mission presidents. It is hard to imagine the Lord putting them in that kind of a position. I would guess it is a test for them. Maybe they are being given enough rope to hang themselves. I still feel sorry for the missionaries involved though.

    Comment by AJ — June 17, 2007 @ 5:05 pm

  58. England had the baseball baptisms. Want to join the baseball team? First you gotta do an initiation. (get dunked in the water!) It happend in the 1960s. 30 years later priesthood leaders were still trying to find people to clean up records.
    In my mission, USA west coast, we had a good prez. kind. but some of the ZLs were for sure jerks, and thought they were better than others. Dare I go beyond this? One ZLuseda slingshot with marbles and shotcats as they drove around int he car. the cats would yelp and fly three feet in the air.

    Comment by DavCo — June 17, 2007 @ 8:50 pm

  59. “No unhollowed hand can stop the work from progressing…”

    I’m trying to picture an unhollowed hand and failing. Does this mean a normal hand, since hands aren’t hollow, or did you hollow it out and then fill it in (unhollow) it?


    Comment by John P. — June 17, 2007 @ 8:54 pm

  60. John P,

    Good call. My mistake. To answer your question however, the second one. It’s filled in with caffiene drinks and a whole lot of porn!>:)

    David Grua,

    Ah! I probebly just missed you then. You spanish workers were always way better than us, anyway:)

    Comment by Bret — June 18, 2007 @ 12:58 am

  61. Missions are, overall, great experiences and some of the “jackass” events being written about are more than likely embellished several times over. Rumourmongering is rampant in most missions. Looking back, it was just a bunch of young bucks jockeying for position – the old “I know more than you know” syndrome.

    One ex-mission pres told me when he arrived (as the new pres) in Korea he had a terrible time with missionaries. They were doing very little missionary work and listening to hard rock music. He said it was like taking drugs away from a drug addict.

    Comment by DavCo — June 18, 2007 @ 7:40 am

  62. Here’s a link to the Baseball baptisms story…it’s a great read.

    Past really is prologue.

    Comment by John Dehlin — June 18, 2007 @ 7:51 am

  63. AJ, Mission presidents aren’t perfect either. There just aren’t enough perfect men in the church to go around to fill all the necessary positions like bishops and mission presidents, etc.

    An even better viewpoint, as expressed by one divorced sister is “Perfect men? Now there’s an oxymoron.”

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 18, 2007 @ 8:42 am

  64. interesting, cheryl… the fiance o’ mine that i mentioned was also in australia, i’m assuming around the same time as your husband. what mission was he in? bret, yes, said missionaries SHOULD be excommunicated. in the case imentioned, it was suspect that everything seemed to “come together” so swimmingly and we suspected (whether right or wrong of us) that he was not entirely truthful with his bishop.

    Comment by makakona — June 18, 2007 @ 11:30 am

  65. Rusty,
    After thinking on this topic for a while, I’d be willing to bet that it’s not so much the jackass kind of missionaries that you described who end up leaving the church, but perhaps the hard-nosed rule-obsessed, pharisee-type missionary like I was.

    I used to think that the rule-breaking, goofing-off, didn’t-really-repent-of-their-sins-prior-to-the-mission, kid-baptizing missionaries were the jackasses.

    But looking back after 20+ years, perhaps the nazi missionaries like me were the real jackasses.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 18, 2007 @ 10:23 pm

  66. I was quite good friends with a former MP, and he told me about the pressure he got from Area Presidencies, etc. He felt like he had to absorb the stress to protect his missionaries, but most pass it on.

    Comment by Norbert — June 18, 2007 @ 11:20 pm

  67. Re # 48:

    I served in Eastern Germany, but I don’t remember any pressure in terms of numbers.

    As far as the “worst of the worst” examples given in this thread, some of which upset me a great deal, perhaps we can charitably say of most of those missionaries that they were doing the best they could given the expectations and their limited knowledge of the gospel. After all, one of their stated goals has always been to bring people to Christ through baptism, and I can see an overzealous 19 year old kid misinterpreting that goal to mean that it is better for someone to be baptized than not baptized, even if that person does not understand what baptism is. Thus, to them, perhaps the ends justified the means.

    As far as where they are now, I would guess that the great majority of them are probably good, active Latter-day Saints doing their best to raise a family in the gospel. With the exception of the (hopefully) few who are really just dishonest people, I would guess that many of them either (1) have realized the seriousness of the baptismal covenant and repented for perhaps taking it too lightly be baptizing people who were not prepared or (2) still sincerely believe that being baptized is better than not being baptized.

    Comment by Jordan — June 19, 2007 @ 4:09 pm

  68. This discussion has made me reflect back on my own conversion story. I was only seventeen when I took the discussions. The first discussion was exciting yet highly uncomfortable. Religion was not a topic in my home and I found it awkward to be discussing God with a couple of strangers. At the end of the discussion, the elders gave me a reading assignment, pointed out the Moroni promise to me, and “challenged” me to pray after reading my assignment. A portion of the lesson was teaching me how to pray properly in four easy steps. Anybody remember that? Anyway, at the end of the discussion, one of the elders asked me to say the prayer. I refused. I was out of my comfort zone already and wasn’t about to take that kind of a leap. He wasn’t satisfied with my reluctance and kept on pressing me. I remember him saying “I think you can do this” over and over. His whole attitude bugged me and I never did like the guy very much after that. During another discussion, he led me to believe that if I didn’t promise the elders to accept any future calling or talk assignment, then I wouldn’t be allowed to be baptized. I suppose that was kind of silly of me. He didn’t actually say that in so many words, but he certainly gave me that impression. I remember telling him that being asked to speak would be difficult for me. His answer was, “If it isn’t hard then you don’t grow” How cliche is that? Anyway, he is now a lawyer in Washington and I wonder what kind of a man he grew up to be? I like to think he meant well and has no idea of the anger I felt. Despite his lack of sensitivity, I still managed to gain a testimony and join the church.

    Comment by AJ — June 19, 2007 @ 10:26 pm

  69. I’ll bet the truly dishonest “jackass” number-padding missionaries became lawyers, where they now apply the same principles they acquired on their missions to billing clients. After all, what’s wrong with billing 48 hours in a day??? ;)

    Comment by Jordan — June 20, 2007 @ 7:56 am

  70. I had an occasion to go on splits with another Elder where we taught ALL of the discussions in ONE day!! I objected to the tactic employed by this Elder, but since I was a junior companion and new to the mission, I lost the argument. The young man we taught was sincere in his desire for baptism, although I felt that one day for all of the discussions was not sufficient to allow for understanding of gospel principles and baptismal covenants.

    Comment by Brian Duffin — June 20, 2007 @ 12:20 pm

  71. makakona-
    He was in Perth…hey, can I email you?

    Comment by cheryl — June 20, 2007 @ 9:53 pm

  72. Bookslinger:

    I was a stickler for the rules myself on my mission. In fact, I’m convinced that my persistent insistance on blowing the whistle on my fellow Elders (and the occasional Sister) is what got me sent home almost a year early from my mission. The mission pres just got so fed up with my constant complaints that when I was sent home to seek medical treatment he just issued a “discharge” (I recieved it while still in the hospital!) despite my protests. All-in-all, I think my constant rule-mongering more than qualified me for “Jackass” status. The irony of the situation is that my pres was a prolific rule-maker. We had rules governing everything and had to get permission to do anything.

    David and Brett:

    It’s nice to hear from some fellow CLAM alumni. I was there ’92-’93 (Spanish speaking).

    Comment by endlessnegotiation — June 21, 2007 @ 8:51 am

  73. endless,

    I didn’t know you served in the CLAM:) Hey, did you have the so-called “CLAM Mafia” back then too? Or was that not around in the spanish work? David?

    Comment by Bret — June 21, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

  74. Think about this:

    We hope an investigator will be ready for baptism in a matter of weeks. He/She will be a member for the rest of their life.

    OTOH, We give a young man 11 years from the day of his baptism all the way up to his MTC entry day to prepare for his mission which is only a two year comittment. (I might add that Seminary, Aaronic Priesthood and BSA are there to help during the 11 year interim.

    Comment by Fregramis — June 25, 2007 @ 12:24 pm

  75. I served my mission in OZ with quite a few Maoris. I was always amazed by the deeply spiritual ancient oral traditions they’d share with us about their “Lamanite” heritage, which all just happened to confirm the Book of Mormon account.

    Now I know it was just a bunch of BS and the Maoris were probably just trying to curry favor with the Mission President by telling tall tales that validated the BOM.

    Pretty funny in hindsight actually, since the Maoris were about the least concerned with obeying the white handbook. It seemed their main mission was finding the next hungi to throw down, hauka to perform, or rugby game to play. They had a real thing for pork bones and pooha and ice cream.

    I was Zone leader for a bunch of Maoris and I had one group of them down in the furthest district away from mine who were going out to movies every weekend with the members and every day was basically a big party.

    One funny story about a Maori I served with named Dalton Winera. He was a rugby player and I think he took a few too many shots to the head without a helmet. We knock on the door of this feminist exmormon. She tells us she used to be MOrmon but resigned from the church because she was disgusted by the patriarchal heirarchy.

    I hear Winera say, “Hi Rockey!?!?!? Hi Rockey?!?!?!? What’s a Hi Rockey?!?!?!?”

    I had to explain to him that she wasn’t saying “Hi Rockey, but heirarchy, which was a pyramidal social order.” At which point the woman slams the door.

    And Winera says, “Well if that’s what she meant then why didn’t she just say so? Why does she have to use all those fancy words?”

    I just shook my head and carried on.

    The one nice thing about him was that I never had to worry about my safety with him.

    If anybody taunted us he’d just go beat the shit out of them. One time a whole gang of kids was giving us a hard time when we stopped at a light at a corner on our bikes. I said, “The hell with this, I’m outa here” and took off. One of the kids took off after me and tried to knock me off my bike. I stuck my leg out and knocked him down and kept going. I get down the hill and no Winera. I look up the street and see a siloette of this huge Maori beating the shit out of the kid who tried to knock me off my bike. By the time I get back up the hill the whole gang has Winera surrounded with knives pulled. I talked them down from stabbing Winera. They stabbed his bike tires instead. Fortunately we got out of that with a couple of popped tires.

    Later on he got to feeling guilty about beating up one of the natives and went and confessed to the MP.

    The MP asked him, “Who won?”

    He told everybody in the mission that I got scared and abandoned him and he had to defend himself.

    If it wasn’t for me he would’ve been dead.

    Comment by Stan Fan aka Che Dali — July 26, 2007 @ 3:51 pm

  76. Yeah, we had our share of Polynesian elders in our mission too…

    Man, that brings back memories.

    Comment by Seth R. — July 26, 2007 @ 6:33 pm

  77. cheryl, i just saw your #71! email away, as i can’t find your email anywhere.

    Comment by makakona — July 26, 2007 @ 10:19 pm

  78. A lot about what you said about Terry is slanderous and totally false. He was my zone leader and I knew all his dirty little secrets as all missionaries have. He did not go to Mexico city. He did not get busy with a woman, he did not go inactive. He did belong to the Patzun soccer team and traveled a bit but please be careful when you are speculating and insinuating about someone and damaging their reputation. He baptized a lot because people loved him. He brought peace to people and a couple of his baptisms are stake presidents now.

    Comment by Ammon — November 21, 2007 @ 4:24 pm





    Comment by THELEON — February 25, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

  80. Dude, lay off the ALL CAPS button. It’s considered shouting.

    And this isn’t a Myspace page where you get to spread gossip about all your personal enemies. What’s next? Their home addresses and phone numbers with a call for their swift excommunications? Or just a call for no one to sit next to them at the ward picnic?

    Comment by Seth R. — February 25, 2008 @ 10:51 pm

  81. well, i served in nicaragua recently, and found this forum just now. one thing i learned was that there are no rules on the mission other than to follow what the spirit dictates. now, due to the inability of many to recognise the spirit, and even fewer that constantly follow its promptings, we have the mission rules, to keep the not quite so mature people in check. it kinda reminds me of how Christ summed up the comandments into only two. during my mission we averaged about 400 baptisims a month, and had an extrordinary mision president, he was a convert, and had saved his money and worked for years to be able to go on his own mission. he really taught us to follow the spirit. which most of us strived to do. when it came to baptisims we had the general rules, but we were informed above all to follow the spirit.
    shure, we had the classic missionarys that would do anything to baptise, which was annoying, especially when we had to go in and clean up the mess that that caused, but we still can’t generalise too much. i was not someone that baptised a lot of kids, i could probably count the number of kids under 14 that i baptised my whole 2 years on one hand. but then again there were some. i remember baptising a little girl that was only 9 years old. but she had a testimony, her parents wanted her and her brother to go to church and her mother wanted to be a member but was not married, and her relationship with her husband, er, life-companion, was complicated, she owned the house, he brought in the money, so since they couldnt be baptised they wanted their kids to be. that 9-year old girl knew more about the church than i did when i was nine, she was a genious really, she even told off a pastor of another church that came by telling lies about ours, so yah, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, there are younger people that are ready for the gospel, there are older, learned men that are wise and insincere and want in on the church for alterior motifs, the only way to know is with the spirit.
    just one more experience, on e missionary, elder lang, baptised two tenage girls of a family, they stayed active in the church even when he left the church i met them once in divisions, very nice people, i even thought that their parents were members, turns out they were not married and the husband liked to drink. long story short i was transfered into the area a year later, we(the missionarys) were now living in their house(it was divided in two parts) i was there 3 transfers and we would always talk to them and teach them and such. well,towards the end of my time there the sister was planning on going to spain to find work(nicaragua being the poorest country in the western hemisphere short of haiti), well, we used the leverage to convince her husband to marrie her, seing as their oldest son was now 23 years old and had a kid of his own. i knew that the missionarys in spain would baptise her if we could only get them married. well, i jokingly told her that she should get baptised before she leaves for spain. she had never been to church before, so i thought it really as a joke, as we liked to kid around. that night as we got home from zone conference with the MP i had the distinct impression that she needed to be baptised before she left. we got the permissions, had the zl’s interview her, and she got baptised, never having been to church before. she was confirmed in church, then left for spain. first couple of days there a random lady noticed that they were not from spain and and offered to take them to lunch, then invited them to church. when they got there the realised it was our church. i got transfered not long thereafter but got a call in my new(and last) area from her husband(he stayed with the fam. while she want with here sis to spain), turns out that he had stopped drinking, had gone to church and was now being baptised. so there are really no rules as to who will be active and inactive. i feel bad for the swimming hole batisim victims, but i don’t think they will be accountable for that if they didn’t know what they were doing, i feel worse for the missionarys that did the crime, as all the weight of those people now falls on their heads.

    so in short it’s really hard to go and say what type of baptisims are legit and which are not just by looking at age or something superficial like that, but i’m not claiming that we should baptise every 8yo kid we see, that would be about as dumb as saying we should burn everyone before the age of eight so they get saved unconditionally. i think the end result for the perpetrator of either would be pretty similar though.

    Comment by kyle — June 3, 2008 @ 3:05 am

  82. from comment 70, yah, one of my zl’s(at the time of the incident not a zl) gave all the discutions to a girl in one day. she did not have family ties to the church and was pretty young, not shure but less than 18yo, well she got baptised that day(had been to church with freinds before, just never wanted to talk to the missionarys)and now she is one of the strongest members of that ward. so you never know.

    Comment by kyle — June 3, 2008 @ 3:15 am

  83. [...] isn’t because I was one of those “jackass missionaries” that Rusty attacked so eloquently last year. Sure, there was plenty of misbehavior on my part [...]

    Pingback by Times & Seasons » Making Peace with Missionary Work — June 15, 2008 @ 4:47 am

  84. Stumbled upon this randomly, sorry for the late post.

    I waited for my missionary and ended up marrying him a few months after he got home. I wish I would have known the sorts of things that were happening in his mission, before we hurried into marriage. He was just about to start an intense schedule at BYU, and I wanted a summer wedding, and we didn’t think we could wait a whole year. Dumb reasons to rush marriage, for sure.

    Whether or not he personally participated in terrible acts on his mission (such as naming and baptizing inanimate objects to boost numbers), it damaged his testimony severely, to the point that he only attends church out of perceived social pressure, and doesn’t support religious activity at home at all. Which is VERY hard for me. And most of his mission friends have left the church entirely.

    So, consider yourself vindicated, but I do hope that the 3% and growing hopes will turn out sooner than later… :-)

    Comment by sn — August 26, 2008 @ 1:25 pm

  85. I just have to say that this has been an interesting read. I’m a little concerned that we’re all airing our dirty laundry on the public Web, or at least not telling the whole story of what we learned from these experiences that made us into stronger, smarter, and more spiritual members after the mission than we were before.

    I’ve often heard the statement, “The Church must be true because if not, the missionaries would have destroyed it years ago.”

    Truth is, I had every best intention of serving the most 100% perfect mission anyone could ever serve. Yes siree, I was going to be the Moroni of my mission and no bad companion or mission president was going to influence me otherwise. Well, I think we call that pride. Today when I look back, I still feel that I was a good (enough) missionary, but that the Lord was somewhere in Heaven rolling his eyes and laughing at the stupid situations I got myself into because of my naiveté at the tender age of 19-21. Yes, I was an “adult”, but by no means had I fully matured.

    But I’ve learned since that the Lord is not ignorant of this fact. Instead, as Alma said, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.” I certainly was small, simple, and foolish, but what gives me hope and understanding is that despite all of that, there grew in my last area a branch of 7 new members into a ward of several hundred. Nearby, within walking distance of the apartment I lived in, a new temple will soon be built.

    Though the Lord doesn’t excuse us when we intentionally sin and try to cover it up, I believe that when we make mistakes that come from lack of understanding, he applies the grace of the Atonement as we come to realize what happened and seek to repent and make restitution.

    When one of my companions, a native of the area who had severe mental issues (bipolar and paranoia), sneaked away from me one night to go make out with a young woman we had been teaching with her family, I was devastated when I discovered them together. I felt so angry at him and so stupid for trusting him and not listening to the Spirit when I was told to check on him. But the Lord spoke to me by the Spirit and prompted me to not fear, but swallow my pride and the temptation to make him take the heat. Instead, I turned myself in and take full responsibility for my companion’s actions. To this day, I believe that this was one of the defining moments of my life in that the habitual excuse-maker in me was replaced by someone with enough chutzpah to do the right thing.

    In the end, the mission president had mercy on my companion and I and we lived up to his challenge to not mess up again. Ever since then, when faced with a weighty dilemma, I look back on that moment and make myself apply that situation to the current one. It’s been good for me.

    There will always be “bad” missionaries. There will be many more “good” missionaries who end up doing bad thing because of immaturity, peer pressure, or even pressure from home. That doesn’t mean the Church isn’t true, nor that it, as an organization isn’t perfect. It just means that the people in it and running it are imperfect. The Lord knew this and that’s why there’s an Atonement and forgiveness…to make all things right and new again.

    Comment by RW — November 15, 2008 @ 7:51 pm

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