Sister Missionaries and Opposite-Gender Attraction

September 5, 2009 | 56 comments
By

A wonderful woman who served as my Education Counselor a number of years ago served a mission for the church around the time she was 19. She fell in the fabulous loophole. Her father was a mission president, so she was allowed to serve while he served, even though she was “underage.”

But George Durrant was not just any mission president. He was the mission president at the MTC. And since she couldn’t feasibly serve in his mission, as was the rule, she served a regular foreign mission.

So not fair. I was taking missionary prep when I started dating my husband-to-be. We married when I was 21.

The (un-?) official church reasoning for why males serve at 19 and women not until 21 was always something along the lines of “missionary work is a priesthood responsibility and it is more important for women to marry and begin having families.”

While this may have made sense a few decades ago, it’s illogical in an era when the vast majority of LDS women don’t marry until after they are 21. (This is just observation and hearsay—too busy unpacking to look up sources) In fact, it seems that the current policy actually finally lets women go when they are much more likely to marry than in the 19-21 range.

My dad (who, alas, was not a mission president at the MTC when I turned 19) was a bishop at the MTC when I first asked him about this. He thought it was really a way to calm the logistical/hormonal problem of having a rash of 19-year-olds—in a mixed-gender group—all out serving together. I tend to concur, but I still wish it were otherwise.

I have no answer for why women server shorter missions. Except, of course, that they need to rush home to get married and start families.

Tags: ,

56 Responses to Sister Missionaries and Opposite-Gender Attraction

  1. Mark B. on September 5, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Maybe your dad is right. When my dad, a World War II veteran and 21 when he began his mission, met my mother, then 22 and part way through her mission, the result was a lifelong companionship, celebrating 60 years of marriage in two weeks.

  2. MarkP on September 5, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    When we asked one of the 12 about this on my mission, his response was actually that there were fewer places they were comfortable sending sister missionaries as well.

  3. queuno on September 5, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    This is statistically insignificant, but as I’ve reviewed who in the ward has served a mission, it’s FAR more common for sisters who’ve served in the last 20 years to have served foreign missions than the elders.

    In fact, it’s been maybe 10 years in my stake since a sister was called to an English-speaking US mission (the US-called sisters went foreign-speaking). Yet as far as elders go, we seem to be staffing a lot of Idaho and Nevada missions…

  4. Katheryn on September 5, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    I’ll have to admit that the 21 age worked out perfectly for me. I finished my undergraduate degree in May and then left on my mission in June. It was nice to be done with college before I left. If the age had been dropped to 19, I don’t think I would have gone then even though I had been preparing and saving to go on a mission since I was 14.

  5. Kevin Barney on September 5, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    I’m not sure having slightly older sisters makes any difference vis-a-vis elders’ hormones. It probably does vis-a-vis the sisters, who will find the elders they serve with in general young, immature, and snot-nosed. But the elders are just as likely to be attracted to a 21-year old woman as a 19-year old. 19-year old boys simply aren’t very discriminating that way…

  6. Carol on September 5, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    I really wish some young women could serve missions when they are 19. Many young women make exceptional missionaries, and the opportunity to serve would be such a blessing for them and others.

  7. queuno on September 5, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Id rather make young men wait until 21, but that’s probably a really unpopular opinion.

    To Carol (6) – I don’t see why 19vs21 is going to really eliminate *that* many sister missionaries. Most single women 21 and over aren’t going on missions anyway, and for those who really want to serve, I don’t see the extra 2-year wait as a real impediment.

    I think the real problem is that we’re conditioning our young women not to serve missions, whether they are available for service at 21 or not.

  8. Tim on September 5, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    The age difference was a big factor as a missionary. That didn’t stop the hormones flowing for everyone, but I think the majority of elders in my mission viewed the sisters as being too old for them. I had one companion who claimed that all sister missionaries had big issues–otherwise, they would’ve gotten married before they turned 21. Yeah, he was a jerk. Most elders weren’t quite that bad, but if they had romantic interests, they were interested in the girls from the ward they were serving in, and not the sister missionaries.
    I know of only three couples who met on my mission and then got married–had the sisters been 19, I believe a lot more of them would have later married fellow missionaries.
    I imagine our mission president would’ve had to make a lot more emergency transfers to keep the missionaries out of trouble.
    And certainly most of the sisters weren’t interested in guys that had just graduated from high school…

  9. Gilgamesh on September 5, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    I always assumes that the age difference was to encourage women to finish school before going on a mission. Since women are encouraged to stay home and raise the kids, it made sense to me that the church would hope they would finish a degree before a mission, since marriage after a mission may cut school short once the kids show up.

  10. ESO on September 5, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Gilgamesh–21 generally catches women having finished 3 years of college, so some may wait another year, but returning and finishing one more year after the mission hardly interferes with marriage/child-bearing.

    Tim–I think it varies widely, depending in large part on the tone of the mission. I always viewed the Elders with whom I served as little brothers (no attraction) but my sisters’ mission had an astounding number of hook ups. Largely without incident, I think.

    I know the Japanese missionaries with whom I served were advised to keep their eyes open for potential mates; one of my companions married a man who was the ward mission leader in the same district. I think those sorts of matches are pretty common, and encouraged for them.

  11. ESO on September 5, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Also–I have known women who served at 19 because of their fathers’ calling, but never in the same mission. I thought the idea was to get the girl out of the mission home/office so as not to distract those missionaries.

  12. Naismith on September 5, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    “Since women are encouraged to stay home and raise the kids, it made sense to me that the church would hope they would finish a degree before a mission, since marriage after a mission may cut school short once the kids show up.”

    Isn’t this “cutting school short” true of any woman who marries?

  13. Wilfried on September 5, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Interesting thoughts, Alison.

    I presume our readers are aware of the excellent article “Not Invited, But Welcome”: The History and Impact of Church Policy on Sister Missionaries” by Tania Rands Lyon and Mary Ann Shumway McFarland, in Dialogue, Volume 36, Number 3, Fall 2003, pp. 72 – 101.

    But just in case, it’s available online here.

  14. Bridget Jack Meyers on September 5, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    I’ve always been deeply envious of the LDS missionary program, but the whole women-start-late-finish-early thing never sat well with me, either. I was 21 when I married my husband, and I’ve often told him that he’s lucky I’m not LDS because if I had been, I would have told him to have fun waiting for me while I’m on my mission. Then there’s all the LDS guys I said “no” to between the ages of 19 and 21, so I’m not sure I even would have made it to 21.

    The only explanations I’ve ever been given for the age differences are the ones offered here: that it’s to keep elder and sister missionaries from having too much attraction to one another and that it’s so that women can hurry up and get married and make babies. I’ve also been told that it’s for the safety of the sister missionaries, because 21 year-old women are so much older and smarter and street-wise than those silly 19 year-old women. Or something.

    I figure it could be worse though. At least women aren’t being told that they must serve a mission right around the time that they’re hitting their sexual peak.

    Sorry men. Sucks to be you.

  15. Stephen M (Ethesis) on September 5, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    The age difference was a big factor as a missionary. That didn’t stop the hormones flowing for everyone, but I think the majority of elders in my mission viewed the sisters as being too old for them.

    That is my memory of how elders reacted as well.

    It probably does vis-a-vis the sisters, who will find the elders they serve with in general young, immature, and snot-nosed.

    Indeed.

  16. queuno on September 5, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Some foreign missions are like serving in a war zone, if I may use an inappropriate metaphor. In my mission, there were problems with prior mission presidents, but I found that just getting by day-to-day killed off any interest in checking out the sisters. Survival, not romance, was the key.

  17. Ziff on September 5, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    President Hinckley said in a 1997 Conference talk that the purpose of keeping the age higher for women was specifically to keep their numbers down:

    “Over a period of many years, we have held the age level higher for them in an effort to keep the number going relatively small.”

    I think the Church is wasting a valuable resource by intentionally discouraging women from serving. If the men can go at 19, I think it would be better to just let the women do so too.

  18. Paradox on September 6, 2009 at 1:24 am

    Whether we like it or whether we don’t, women do not come into their own fullest realization of power until they understand and appreciate what it means to be a mother. There are lessons that we learn at that time and setting from the Lord that He cannot teach us, as women, in any other way. Source: Mothers Who Know by Julie B. Beck. The Proclamation on the Family. The Book of Abraham. A host of other teachings and scriptures. Take your pick which ones you want to refute and/or ignore.

    As such, the most important thing a woman can do in this life is to marry the right person at the right time under the right authority. Source: President Monson. Going on a mission should be an individual choice between the Lord and His daughters, and when He says No, that should be the end of the discussion. And for those of us that are younger than 21, the Lord has said “No.”

    I truly wish you the best of luck in dealing with the consequences if you choose to disagree. I’ve been down that road. It’s not worth it.

    The Lord wants to bestow His gifts, His spirit, His mission for His daughters, and I’m sure He doesn’t appreciate hearing us complain that none of it is good enough because it isn’t exactly like what the men get.

    If we were wise, we’d understand that what He has prepared for His daughters is better for us, which is why it’s prepared for us and not His sons.

  19. Juile on September 6, 2009 at 7:17 am

    I would humbly submit, Paradox, that “the most important things a woman can do in this life” is to walk the path that the Lord would have her walk….”in all patience and faith”. For some of us, the lessons we need to learn are through marriage and family life, for some it is through single parenting, and for others it is a completely different path that involves neither marriage nor children. I also think the Lord doesn’t view it as “complaining” when we want to question, discuss, and think about why there is a certain policy. Asking questions and even challenging traditional assumptions has been key to the Church moving forward in new and better directions.

  20. Peter LLC on September 6, 2009 at 8:12 am

    17: I think the Church is wasting a valuable resource by intentionally discouraging women from serving.

    How can it be considered waste if the policy is intentional?

  21. Mytha on September 6, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Missions are the training ground for church leadership. If more women went out, it would require a greater investment in training and administration, for no increase in the number of future priesthood leaders.

  22. Dan on September 6, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    cuz 19 year old males are not interested in 21 year old females?

  23. Toria on September 6, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    By making missions optional for women (instead of a responsibility that they should rise to) the decision to go on a mission is no longer based on questions like “Am I ready” or even “Am I willing”. The decision for a girl requires a lot of maturity. Like other important and difficult decisions in which the answer varies from person to person (such as marriage) I think it is great that the church has girls wait until they are 21 and of an age when they are more likely to understand themselves enough to make the choice that is best for them.

    Obviously this leaves out some girls who are mature enough to go earlier. But in this case, a mission is such a long and invested commitment, that leaving some out (or simply making them wait) is probably better than the alternative.

    I don’t think the decision making factor was a consideration when the guidelines were set, but it could be at least a small deterrent as to why there isn’t a push to change the guidelines.

  24. Alison Moore Smith on September 6, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Toria, given that teenage females are almost universally thought to be more mature than teenage males, your comment sure makes a good argument to make the boys wait until they get it together.

    That said, I sincerely find that both female and male missionaries can often do things far beyond what their chronological age would suggest.

  25. Ardis E. Parshall on September 6, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    Missions are the training ground for church leadership. If more women went out, it would require a greater investment in training and administration, for no increase in the number of future priesthood leaders.

    I really like this logic. In fact, I think it should be expanded: Let’s eliminate half of the Primary and the entire Young Women program — they are costly in terms of training and administration, for no increase in the number of future priesthood leaders. Heck, let’s keep the girls home from school, too, while we’re at it.

  26. Researcher on September 6, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Missions are the training ground for church leadership. (Comment 21)

    We’re talking about the Mormon church, aren’t we? At what level of the Mormon church are women not involved in leadership? Last time I noticed, women were leading church organizations from the most local to the church-wide level. They are in charge of a good percentage of the church’s public affairs efforts, and sit on the boards of the church universities. I am in a presidency right now in which three of the four members of the presidency are returned sister missionaries. Please explain how my missionary service was any less valuable to me, my family, and the church than the missionary service of any of the elders I served with.

  27. Mark B. on September 6, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    You folks are arguing with a Mytha-logical person. Good luck!

  28. Alison Moore Smith on September 6, 2009 at 9:58 pm

    At what level of the Mormon church are women not involved in leadership?

    Interesting question.

    I can’t think of any female leadership positions that aren’t overseen by men, not just ultimately at the first presidency level, but directly above. That doesn’t mean there isn’t responsibility in those stewardships, but there isn’t much autonomy. Have you noticed, for example, how the female-led auxiliaries do have stake counterparts, but the stake counterparts aren’t in the direct “chain of command.” I’m not sure what real authority any of those presidencies have. Authority to suggest? Authority to recommend? Authority to hold a semi-annual meeting?

  29. RT on September 6, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    28 said “Have you noticed, for example, how the female-led auxiliaries do have stake counterparts, but the stake counterparts aren’t in the direct ‘chain of command.’”

    I have noticed that phenomenon. But it’s not a gender-based one. In addition to YW and RS, it applies with equal force to Young Mens and Sunday School, both of which are run by men.

  30. Ardis E. Parshall on September 6, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    So … there is leadership only when there is the autonomy of being the top dog? C’mon, you wouldn’t say that even about secular business organizations — the only possible reason for saying that here is to pretend that women in the church have no role. You usually do better than that, Alison.

    Stake auxiliary leaders stand in the same relation to the stake president as ward auxiliary leaders do to the bishop. The stake RS president is responsible for training and working with the ward RS leadership and finding solutions for problems that are the purview of the RS, and counseling the stake president on the needs and concerns of all women in the stake.

    It’s a misguided, secular pretense to cast ward and stake leadership as powerless when they’re “just” implementing programs and teaching the gospel, and pretending that real power exists only when nobody can tell you to stop ordering people around, or revolutionizing procedure. (Did you ever know a priesthood leader who did much of that? Men’s roles don’t come with much autonomy, either.) It’s cool to reduce women’s stake roles to conducting semi-annual meetings, though, isn’t it?

  31. ESO on September 7, 2009 at 9:43 am

    I currently serve in a stake YW presidency; our entire presidency are RMs. We do serve under the direct supervision of a male member of the Stake Presidency (he also supervises the YM) who did not serve a mission. How did he get his mad leadership skills, I wonder?

    PS–I agree that much of the work of the Stake auxiliaries is unknown, but as for me and my presidency, we work our butts off.

  32. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2009 at 10:30 am

    #28 RT, I’m sure you meant “Young Men.” ;)

    Of course, it’s hard to compare male-led auxiliaries in a gender discussion, because they are overseen by men no matter how the auxiliaries are organized. But there is a marked difference between how Relief Society and the priesthood quorums are overseen.

    #30

    …there is leadership only when there is the autonomy of being the top dog?

    Kind of a straw man, Ardis. I think I included enough qualifiers. I didn’t say women had no leadership roles—and certainly didn’t say they have no roles at all—and I didn’t say they had no responsibilities. I said they didn’t have much autonomy within them.

    The point is not that you only have leadership if you are “top dog,” but I think we’d all agree (in business as well) that leadership isn’t a function of title, but one of governing, supervision, and decision-making. Having a stake presidency that is assigned duties, but given little authority to direct or govern, isn’t much in the way of “leadership” by definition.

    I’m the CFO of an engineering company. The title aside, the “leadership” of that position is only meaningful to the point that I can actually direct, manage, or control what I or others do.

    We may differ on the continuum at what level action becomes autonomous, but personally I don’t see a great deal of self-rule in the women’s organizations from women. There aren’t too many decisions the stake rs leadership can dictate to the wards. The wards must have approval from their bishops for just about everything. As I said, I don’t see it. If you do, I’m more than willing to consider what you have experienced.

    Stake auxiliary leaders stand in the same relation to the stake president as ward auxiliary leaders do to the bishop.

    Sure they do, but what I addressed was their relation to the ward auxiliaries that correspond. I’ve only served in one stake rs, but to the best of my recollection our collective duties had to to with passing on info, training, etc. I think those are important roles (and not “reduced” at all), but not with much autonomy.

    #31 ESO, my husband has served in a couple of stake presidencies, and I agree that they work very hard and provide great service. Our old stake in Eagle Mountain had a stake YW presidency that hosted an amazing 2-day temple training event for all the YW and their mothers. It was a huge undertaking. And they also worked on some great youth conferences.

  33. Ardis E. Parshall on September 7, 2009 at 10:48 am

    “Direct,” “manage,” “govern,” “control,” “dictate,” “supervise” are the words you use as synonyms for “leadership,” Alison. Those all have more to do with running a system — a business — where underlings are serving as tools of the head to meet the ends and goals of that head, than they do of a system — a church — where the achievements and development and fulfillment of the masses are at least as important, probably more so, than the satisfaction of the head.

    You’re looking to the wrong source for your model of leadership. As long as you do that, no woman leader in the church will score very highly. Come to think of it, no male leader in the church would, either.

  34. Ardis E. Parshall on September 7, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I don’t want to be entirely negative …

    “Guide,” “model,” “teach,” “encourage,” “inspire” are all better synonyms for “leadership” in a church environment than terms drawn from a commercial enterprise. Bringing people within a woman leader’s stewardship to the point where they are successfully practicing whatever goals the leader is trying to achieve is far more difficult, IMO, than dictating policy, supervising performance, and controlling actions the way a secular leader might in his or her sphere.

    A woman leader in the church needs no hierarchical autonomy to fill all of these functions.

  35. Alison Moore Smith on September 7, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    You’re looking to the wrong source for your model of leadership.

    Ardis, I discussed the business model because you brought it up. (#30) Seems like equivocation to me.

    Sincerely, I don’t see the vast difference you imply between the goals of a business system and a church system, except the verbiage you’re choosing to use. The church seems at least as intent on the satisfaction of “the head” as any business I’ve seen.

    Bringing people…to the point where they are successfully practicing…is far more difficult…than dictating policy, supervising performance, and controlling actions the way a secular leader might in his or her sphere.

    Whether a particular task is “far more difficult” doesn’t bear on whether the person doing it has a position of leadership, does it? And, really, don’t church leaders “dictate policy, supervise performance, and control actions”? I’m confused about your point on this.

    I think you make great points, but if you’re going to use a very specific definition of “leadership” in the church—as opposed to how you would use it in other organizations—then you have to be very clear about how you are using them at the beginning.

    If you want to say that women in the church guide, model, teach, and encourage, I don’t think anyone will argue with you. But if you suggest they direct, control, and govern, someone might.

    A woman leader in the church needs no hierarchical autonomy to fill all of these functions.

    Indeed, she doesn’t need to be a “leader” at all.

  36. Daniel on September 8, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Can we just admit that there is a bit of sexism in the Church? The idea that women need to get about the business of marrying and having babies suggests the Church is running its own breeding program – kind of smacks of eugenics, doesn’t it? I find it sexist and somewhat offensive that Church teachers insist on teaching women in the Church that they _should_ be preparing for marriage and raising a family (as a “stay at home mom” ideally) rather than building skills, knowledge, and credentials for a career.

    There is no official Church doctrine supporting the idea that women _should_ prepare for marriage and raising children as their first priority.

    And yet it is taught as if it is not only official Church doctrine, but the most important test of being a “faithful” LDS woman! If you do not believe that being a wife and mother is your most important priority and contribution in the Church (and society), you are treated as an outcast in the Church.

  37. TStevens on September 8, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    An old missionary companion of my mission president (and longtime friend) had his 18 year old daughter serve a mini-mission in our mission. Typically this was to last 6 weeks but she was there over a year. To be fair though, she was an excellent missionary.

  38. Alison Moore Smith on September 8, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Can we just admit that there is a bit of sexism in the Church?

    Given the definition of “sexism” I think it’s obvious there is. But, heck, I’ve engaged in it many times, my favorite being when I chose whom to marry. No women made it on my list.

    The real question, I think, is whether the particular instances of sexism in the church are appropriate.

    The idea that women need to get about the business of marrying and having babies suggests the Church is running its own breeding program – kind of smacks of eugenics, doesn’t it?

    Eugenics? That’s a stretch. Last I checked the Bible commands multiplying and replenishing, period, not just by the genetically superior Utah Mormons. ;)

    I find it sexist and somewhat offensive that Church teachers insist on teaching women in the Church that they _should_ be preparing for marriage and raising a family (as a “stay at home mom” ideally) rather than building skills, knowledge, and credentials for a career.

    Tell me more.

    My preference would be that the church stressed one of the parents staying home to raise the kids, rather than just the moms. But I think someone should be there. In other words, I do think someone should prepare to raise the family, even at the expense of learning other skills to some extent (opportunity cost, you know). To me, this is more about children than gender.

    I don’t know if the gender specification is cultural, practical, eternal. But I do think the propensity in our culture to throw kids in daycare is astounding and sad. Would men respond to the needs of children as readily (assuming women do)?

    This isn’t very well worded. Apologies. This stay-at-home mom is needed by her family and I don’t have time to edit. :)

  39. John Mansfield on September 9, 2009 at 9:29 am

    I think this all has something to do with Joseph Smith and Emma Hale Smith, who married when he was 21 years and 26 days old, and she was 22 years, 6 months, and 8 days old.

  40. Daniel on September 9, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Alison,

    First, let’s dispense with the false interpretation of scripture that says that “multiply and replenish” is a COMMANDMENT. It is not. It is a “blessing”.

    Gen.1:28 “And God BLESSED [Adam and Eve], and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

    Gen.9:1 “And God BLESSED Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.”

    When God “commands” he regularly uses such language as “Thou shalt/shalt not…”

    When the scriptures say that God is “blessing”, then he is not commanding.

    Moreover, it is a convolution to equivocate commandments and blessings. There is no hermeneutic basis for doing so.

    Second, I was not arguing that stay-at-home moms are in any way inferior or unneeded. But I will disagree with your blanket generalizations that “the propensity in our culture to throw kids in daycare is astounding and sad.” It is important to realize that the concept of a “stay at home mom” is an historic anomaly unique to an industrial age. Prior to the industrial age, moms “worked” to support the family alongside everyone else in the family in the predominant cottage industry/agricultural economy. There was no sense in which they were specialists focusing on “raising the kids” (whatever that might mean).

    The Home served as business center, workshop, sunday school/Church, school house, recreation facility, cafeteria, social hall, hospital, and even funeral home.

    Through the specialization arising as part of the industrialization process, factories and offices “in town” supplanted the Home’s role as business center and workshop. Public education supplanted the Home as school house and recreation facility. Machine politics and machine religion supplanted the Home as social hall, Church, and hospital/funeral home.

    Once industrialization stripped women of all these responsibilities, and everything of significance in human life was happening away from the home, being a “stay at home mom” was given meaning by being contrasted against being a mom away from the home: at the factory/office, at the social hall, at the hospital, at the Church, etc. Prior to that, the idea of a “stay at home mom” would have been meaningless.

    As such, industrialization, specialization, and mass production (of goods, services, education, politics, and religion) changed the configuration of family life, in many ways for the better. But it left the role of “mom” stripped of all that gave it practical value in the past.

    Now on a personal note, my wife and I went to great lengths and sacrificed much to raise 3 of our children “at home”. The other 3 we “threw” (really?) into daycare. Although the game is not over, in my opinion, the 3 raised at home are less well-adjusted and less successful than the 3 raised in daycare, and my wife stopped needing antidepressants after she returned to school and the workplace and feels a sense of accomplishment that is independent of me and the children.

  41. Sean on September 9, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    #40 – Multiply and replenish the earth is not a commandment? I think you need to go to the temple, do an endowment session, and then a sealing session. Afterward see if you have the same opinion. Multiplying and replenishing the earth was the very first commandment given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Not only is it a commandment it is indeed a great blessing to create and raise children.

  42. Daniel on September 9, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Sean,

    Only two products of Joseph Smith’s “New and Everlasting Covenant of [plural] marriage” conceive of multiply and replenish as a “commandment” (D&C 132:63), and this notion is tied directly to the “commandment” to take multiple wives as follows:

    “But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be DESTROYED; for they are GIVEN UNTO HIM to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfill the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.”

    The treatment of women as chattel in these verses, and the notion that women “earn” their exaltation by having babies, needs no comment. It is important to note that the temple ceremony no longer puts women under oath to “obey their husbands” as it used to.

    But my point is simply that in canonical scripture “multiply and replenish” is not a commandment but a blessing. If it was a commandment, there would be penalties for disobedience, and infertile couples would be in direct violation of this “commandment”. I have no problem disregarding the remnants of plural marriage that “commands” women to submit to their husbands, etc. What I do have a problem with is the “breeding program” implied by treating multiply and replenish as a “commandment”.

  43. Raymond Takashi Swenson on September 9, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    My guess is that the Church would probably prefer that the male missionaries were a more mature 21, too, but by that age, a lot of them would either be nearing the end of a bachelor’s degree program, in the military, into a career, or married.

    While 19 year olds may be “snot nosed”, their youth is also why they are a bit more adaptable, more willing to put up with the demands of missionary life than their own older selves would be. Obviously, any age is going to appear arbitrary, because people mature at different rates, but the reason the military likes to get people when they are young is to a certain extent the same reason why the church encourages most young men to serve starting at age 19. To the extent that missionary service is meant as a training ground, doing it at an age when young men are developing their adult personalities may have a much larger effect than at a time two years later.

    Because sister missionaries are smaller in numbers, they usually live only with their own companions, not with two or four other missionaries in the same apartment. Being a little more mature and ready to be independent and wise about one’s personal safety is more important when there are just two of you.

    Whatever our speculation, the bottom line I think is that the current policies have been in place for a while and they seem to work, in terms of the personal growth of the individuals and the work they do for the Church. If there were specific problems about the current arrangement that could be solved by adjusting the ages up or down, I think the church could do that. But to a certain extent programs like this are experimental, such as the policy shortening missions by six months that lasted only a couple of years until men were returned to 24 months and women to 18 months as the standard.

    I was originally called to a 30 month mission in Japan, then was reset to 24 months including 2 months in language training in Hawaii in the first Language Training Mission at CCH (now BYU-H). We rely explicitly on the inspiration of the brethren who call us to Mongolia or New Jersey, but it is clear that they are not always sure about whether certain policies should be changed or remain, especially until they see how things work out in practice.

  44. Daniel on September 9, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Somehow “make it up as you go along” doesn’t seem consistent with what we should expect from “prophets, seers, and revalators”, does it?

  45. Thomas Parkin on September 9, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    “Somehow “make it up as you go along” doesn’t seem consistent with what we should expect from “prophets, seers, and revalators”, does it?”

    Yes. Because the battle between light and dark is, in the details, more like a chess game than a script. ~

  46. Alison Moore Smith on September 9, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Winner for comment displaying least brevity goes to…

    #40

    First, let’s dispense with the false interpretation of scripture that says that “multiply and replenish” is a COMMANDMENT. It is not. It is a “blessing”.

    Daniel, you’ll never hear my claim to be any kind of gospel scholar. I don’t speak Hebrew and the only Latin I know is the ACT prep kind. I hardly understand Isaiah and I lisp. OK, that’s an exaggeration. I completely understand Isaiah. ;) But just for fun, let’s go on the assume-the-translation-is-decent-English plan (huge assumption, I know).

    Gen.1:28 “And God BLESSED [Adam and Eve], and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it

    Today, my sons came up to me and hugged me. And I kissed them and I said to them, “Please go make your beds and get dressed.”

    As you can see, I did not request that they clean up their rooms, I kissed them that they clean up their rooms. Or something.

    But my affectations aside, it’s utterly clear that authoritative LDS interpretation is that we are commanded to have children. This being an LDS site, I’m good to go with that. And I still don’t see the eugenics connection.

    Prior to the industrial age…

    Thanks for the history lesson. You mean the pioneers didn’t have cars? I swear my ancestors came to Utah in a Chevy truck.

    There was no sense in which they were specialists focusing on “raising the kids” (whatever that might mean).

    “No sense?” Except that women prior to the industrial age were taught from the time they were young to care for homes and children. Oh, and embroidery.

    Once industrialization stripped women of all these responsibilities,

    Wait, what responsibilities were stripped from me? We have three companies we run…from home. I host parties with up to 75 people regularly (one this Friday, a smaller on Saturday)…at home. We homeschool…ahem, from home.

    Oh, but I don’t generally embalm people.

    …everything of significance in human life was happening away from the home…

    Speak for yourself, Daniel.

    …being a “stay at home mom” was given meaning by being contrasted against being a mom away from the home…

    No, it was contrasted to calling yourself a mom while someone else did the mothering a majority of the day.

    I suggest that the other functions women often do (work in business or agriculture, teach lessons, have parties, cook food) aren’t the actual mothering. And there is a profound difference between, say, cooking with and for your kids and running a cafeteria.

    Although the game is not over, in my opinion, the 3 raised at home are less well-adjusted and less successful than the 3 raised in daycare

    So, what did daycare provide that the two of you did not?

    …my wife stopped needing antidepressants after she returned to school and the workplace and feels a sense of accomplishment that is independent of me and the children.

    So, mental health requires one to accomplish things that depend on a boss or a business organization or audiences or fans or a cubicle or a paycheck? That is somehow healthy? And accomplishing things with humans that you bring into the world is some kind of psycho-dependence?

    Maybe the problem was that your wife assumed that “stay-at-home mom” meant “specialist” in the sense that you seem to imply. That somehow–stripped of the “meaning” of having an in-home funeral parlor–mothers must roll around on the floor playing with tinker toys and all their goals should be vicarious living through children or spouses.

    I’m sure I’m being dense, Daniel, but I can’t see how working out of the home provides the antidote for depression, unless there’s something seriously wrong in the home in the first place.

  47. Daniel on September 10, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Alison,

    Whatever works for you, go for it. But that is not the prescription for everyone.

    That’s not too hard to understand, is it?

  48. Alison Moore Smith on September 11, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Daniel, are you saying that the point of your posts was to claim that being a stay-at-home mom isn’t for you? Are you saying I disputed that?

    And, no, I didn’t make any claims about what your wife should do, either.

  49. Daniel on September 11, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    “And, no, I didn’t make any claims about what your wife should do, either.”

    No, but you certainly provided a lot of condemnation and distorted “reading between the lines” that misrepresented what I wrote. I think you were not only being “dense” but malicious.

    For instance:
    “…unless there’s something seriously wrong in the home in the first place.”

    and

    “…calling yourself a mom while someone else did the mothering a majority of the day.”

    I did not claim that working outside the home is THE antidote for depression. I simply reported our experience. The etiology of depression I leave to professional researchers. But, as I reported, once my wife returned to school and the workplace, she no longer needed antidepressants. Statistics support the fact that more non-working mothers suffer from depression than do women who work. Women with education suffer from less depression than do women without. If you have a problem with that, take it up with reality, but don’t try to say there was something “seriously wrong in the home in the first place” or that my wife is abandoning her motherly responsibilities because she is “calling herself a mom while someone else does the mothering…”

    Tell me, Alison. At what age can a “mother” turn her children loose to be “mothered” by anyone except HER? Are women who “mother” until the child goes to public school at age 5 also guilty of “pretending” to be “mothers”? What about a little preschool? How long do you recommend a “mother” home school her children before unlocking their cage and allowing them to be “mothered” by other people besides herself? 14? 18? 30?

    You seem to have this very narrow view that being a “mother” means physical presence 24x7x365. Same with “fathering”? I know, why doesn’t the whole family just sit around 24 hours a day hugging each other!

    (Turnabout is fair play, isn’t it?)

    Your entire diatribe is absurd.

  50. Peter on September 13, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    Man, this thread was pretty good before it went down the tubes.

  51. Daniel on September 14, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    I agree with Peter.

    Thanks a lot, Alison!

    ;-)

  52. Alison Moore Smith on September 16, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    #49

    No, but you certainly provided a lot of condemnation and distorted “reading between the lines” that misrepresented what I wrote. I think you were not only being “dense” but malicious.

    Neither of the quotes you gave are either dense or malicious. Instead of answering the question—which was how working outside the home provides the antidote for depression—you just call me a big meanie. Not very productive, IMO.

    You might note something. I assumed that the answer was something other than that your home was a horrible, depressing place. Thus the question about what work provided.

    But, as I reported, once my wife returned to school and the workplace, she no longer needed antidepressants.

    You didn’t merely report this, as you claim, you used it to support a position about staying at home. And if you’re going to do so, it seems reasonable to discuss why someone would be depressed at home and not in an office. I suggest it’s not because offices are enlightened, cheerly places. It’s not because we stopped doing home embalming. It’s not because being dependent on the boss at an insurance company or bank for annual awards and stroking is psychologically superior to hugs from your own children.

    I don’t have a problem with statistics, I have a problem with your implication about the causes. If your wife isn’t depressed in an office and was at home, you might want to know why. I would.

  53. Jennifer on September 17, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Serving a mission as a sister missionary was a great honor, but it was also very physically challenging. Serving in a bike mission, riding over 25 miles a day, through rain and snow, up hills, mountains, and freeways, I can definitely see why sister missionary (if for no other reason than physical strength) serve shorter missions. Although I felt as you did at 19 years of age, wanting to go on a mission at the same time my peers were going, I am grateful I left at 21 years of age and had more life experience, maturity, and testimony. It was an honor to serve the Lord, and grateful that both men and women are given the sacred privilege to serve as “angels” of the Lord.

  54. Alison Moore Smith on September 17, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Jennifer, what a great addition. You’ll have to describe the joys of biking in a skirt. That just seems wrong!

  55. Jennifer on September 18, 2009 at 12:42 am

    Biking in a skirt was definitely not easy! Especially in the middle of the winter, with the icy wind blowing in all directions. I learned to layer, layer, and layer. During the rainy seasons, we wore our rain paints outside of our skirt to prevent the water from getting us wet. (So I guess we weren’t technically really wearing skirts!:) Thanks Alison for providing such a thoughtful discussion on missionary work. As as a woman, I feel so blessed and privileged that I could serve the Lord. It has added such depth and breadth to my understanding of the gospel, the atonement, and my personal relationship to my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.

  56. t.j. on September 19, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    haven’t you read the book of timothy, and what it says about qualifying to BE an elder?

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.