LDS Service Missions

I wish the LDS church allowed men and women to serve service missions as an alternative to preaching missions. For members of the church that want to serve a preaching mission, the current program is probably sufficient. But I worry that too many members choose not to serve, or choose to serve for the wrong reasons. I know very few 19 year olds who really want to be preaching the gospel. Certainly my own experience as a missionary leads me to believe that a great portion of our missionary force doesn’t actually care whether the church grows or not or whether new people are baptized. Certainly not all of our missionaries are happy about being there, and absolutely not all of them believe all the words they are teaching people. I met many missionaries who were involved in painful struggles to reconcile who they were, with the role they were being asked to fill. I wonder if many of our current missionaries would find much more personal fulfillment and satisfaction if they were allowed to choose a service mission instead.

I worry that some of our young men and women are simply uninterested in serving preching missions. Some of them are “unworthy” (church’s words, not mine, don’t get me started on this one). And far too many of them choose to leave the church altogether rather than commit themselves to a preaching mission. But I wonder how many of them would gladly spend two years of their lives donating their time to help rebuild New Orleans. How many would gladly spend two years installing water systems in villages in Africa? How many would volunteer in various capacities around the world to provide service where it was needed? And whats more, what if members of the church were even allowed to choose what sort of service they were most interested in performing?

I only see the church membership being strengthened by a program like this. Perhaps some of the service positions could even prepare less advantaged members of the church for full-time careers. Why couldn’t the church allow 19 year old young women to volunteer with a Habitat for Humanity type organization for two years as an apprentice electrician? By the time she got home, she would be prepared for a career as a full-time electrician. Why not let young men and women learn hands-on skills and trades as volunteers?

If such a program existed, no doubt there would be significantly fewer people signing up for preaching missions. I think it’s worth it.

And for heaven’s sake, let’s let the women serve at age 19 with the men.

6 comments to LDS Service Missions

  • I would be interested in hearing your comments about why you feel that women should be allowed to serve when they are 19. For me, 21 was a great age to serve a mission. I don't think that was because I am a woman, but just because it fit in well to my life. I just would like to hear your thoughts.

  • Sure. I only intended to mean that the age restrictions should be the same for both genders. Whenever I've heard someone ask why age differences are in place for men and women, I am never very satisfied by the answer. It's usually something about gender roles and how they would rather have the 19 year old women getting married instead – if it's an option (this isn't an official answer, just what peeps always seem to say). Do you know of any reasons why age requirements should be different for men and women? Along similar lines, it has always bothered me that men are "required" to serve, but it is completely elective for women.

  • Yeah, I have heard the marriage reason a lot. I think the other most common reason given is that creating an age gap between the elders and the sisters decreases romantic interests in the mission. Of course this reason is also just what people say and isn't a official reason.
    As to the point about missions being required for men, a lot of people asked me when I was a missionary why they don't see as many women. This was a hard question to answer. For women it is more of a choice, but for men it is not a choice???…
    I think that it is interesting that age aspects of the church (the age that you serve missions, the ages you can attend singles wards) hasn't changed for a long time. However, because people are living longer and more schooling is now needed to get a good job age aspects of our society are shifting. Such as the average age of marriage. It now seems less likely that 19 would be a good marriage age for most women, or that most people in the church will be married before they turn 30. I wonder if these policies will ever be changed due to the changes in our society.

  • Hey Rooooooooooooob! So yeah, I think the idea of letting young missionaries serve a service mission would be so great! My hubby was unable to serve a mission due to a learning disability … kids who are rejected and really want to serve a mission should be given a second option… instead of waiting until we are old grandparents, it would still give them a sense of purpose instead of thinking "i'm not good enough"

  • Anonymous

    I served a mission in Atlanta back in 2000, I did a lot more service than preaching, and I loved it. My mission president was in the dark about some of it, but I felt I was doing what Christ would have done.

  • curtis

    This is a great idea! Too much effort of current missionaries is wasted, and that sense of not accomplishing anything can be demoralizing. But service would be really gratifying since you could see the results of your labor. Plus it would be good PR for the church. Let’s do it!