Started by Solitary, August 26, 2014, 03:31:58 PM
QuoteWhen young Mormons are sent around the world to attract new adherents to the Church, sometimes they end up questioning their own faith. Seventeen-year-old Matthew Timion was smoking a cigarette out his bedroom window when he heard a knock at the door. Heâ€™d just moved across the country with his mother and stepfather, a militant atheist. The recent death of his alcoholic father had left him with many questions about life, death and faith. Without looking, he somehow knew the visitors at the door were Mormon missionaries. He later interpreted this as a sign from God.â€œMormonism came as a white horse,â€ Timion says. â€œThey talked about families that can be together forever, life after death, the purpose of life. And there was an instant community. [For] someone like myself, who has father issues, this church run by men ready to give you a pat on the back filled every need I had.â€The missionaries Timion met that day guided him through the conversion process. Two years later, Timion embarked on a mission himself.* * *Non-Mormons are used to hiding from pairs of clean-cut young men in name tags and dark suits. But few of us understand what itâ€™s like to be inside those suits, knocking on doors and approaching strangers in public to discuss their most deeply held beliefs.Since the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded in 1830, over one million Mormons have gone on missions. In March 2014 alone, there were 85,039 full-time missionaries serving at 405 missions around the world. Sixty-four percent of those missionaries were young men, 28 percent were young women, and 8 percent were seniors, who are defined in church literature to be worshippers who have left the workforce.For young men growing up in Mormon communities, the pressure to go on a mission is enormous. Open any newspaper in Utah and youâ€™ll find farewell and homecoming announcements. An advertisement in The Universe , Brigham Young Universityâ€™s campus newspaper, offers a free pre-mission dental exam. One missionary we spoke to had his wisdom teeth removed as a farewell gift from his Mormon dentist.Russell Beckstead is the ninth of ten siblings, six of whom had served before Russell was old enough to serve on a mission. In the small Idaho town where he grew up, 66 percent of the county was Mormon, and time was marked by the comings and goings of missionaries.â€œIf youâ€™re a man in the church and you didnâ€™t serve a mission, that immediately raises eyebrows,â€ Beckstead explains. â€œYour prospects of getting a mate are linked directly to whether or not you served an honorable mission. A common joke is that the more people you preach the gospel to, the more attractive your future wife will be.â€Even more than mainstream Christianity, Mormonism emphasizes the importance of evangelism. One of Joseph Smithâ€™s revelations in the Doctrine & Covenants , an LDS foundational document, reads, â€œYe shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel [...], declaring my word like unto angels.â€During our interview, Beckstead pulls a laminated card from his pocket. â€œThis is a priesthood line of authority. Jesus gave the priesthood to Peter, James, and John, who gave it to Joseph Smith, who gave it to these guys, and these guys gave it to these guys, all the way down to me. Thereâ€™s a direct line of authority from Jesus Christ to me. And so I really believed, on my mission, that I was an official, legal representative of Jesus Christ.â€* * *All missionaries report to one of 15 missionary training centers throughout the world at the start of their mission. The largest training center, in Provo, Utah, stretches several miles alongside BYU and accommodates up to 4,000 missionaries-in-training who are called â€œEldersâ€ and â€œSisters.â€ For up to 12 weeks, they receive classroom instruction in foreign languages, theology, and conversational strategies, guided by Preach My Gospel , while the Missionary Handbook outlines acceptable language, dress, conduct, tithing, and relationships. Several missionaries described the training center as â€œboot campâ€ for its spiritual and emotional â€œbreakdownsâ€ and highlighted its rigorous sixteen-hour scheduleâ€"the same hours missionaries keep throughout their time abroad.â€œIt was like a college dorm with a bunch of clean-cut men that all look the same,â€ says Timion, the missionary who converted at age 17. â€œA clone center. They let you know that everything youâ€™ve done is a sin. All these 19-year-old boys and 21-year-old girls feel horrible about themselves, and confess and are forgiven. It was a very, very long, miserable experience that I wouldnâ€™t want to relive.â€The missionary training center is also a missionaryâ€™s first experience of companionshipâ€"having an assigned companion by your side 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as you dress, bathe, study, eat, and sleep. If you want to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, you have to wake your companion and have him stand guard outside the door. â€œYour missionary companion is there to keep you on the straight and narrow path, so you donâ€™t let Satan win,â€ Timion says.* * *Russell Becksteadâ€™s older siblings were called to exotic locations, including the Caribbean, northern Europe, and eastern Germany immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall. â€œAnd then I was called to Indiana!â€ Beckstead laughs.â€œIn Indiana, there was this line everybody would use. They would say, â€˜Thereâ€™s two things that I donâ€™t talk to anybody about: politics and religion. Now get outta here.â€™ I heard that line I donâ€™t know how many times.â€Missionaries provide progress numbers to their mission leaders, who in turn report up a hierarchical structure: How many people they talk to, how many copies of the Book of Mormon they distribute, how many baptisms theyâ€™ve performed, and so on. All of the missionaries we spoke to mentioned how rare baptisms were, and how much guilt they felt as a result. "Youâ€™re like, man, we only talked to four people this whole week. We must be horrible missionaries," Beckstead says. "And theyâ€"the assistants, and the zone leaders and the presidentâ€"they try really hard to convince you that they donâ€™t care about the numbers. Theyâ€™re like, â€˜Oh, itâ€™s not about the numbers, elders. Itâ€™s not about the numbers â€¦ but what are the numbers?!'"And those numbers were frequently dismal. â€œThe most typical experience was just a door slammed in your face,â€ Beckstead says. â€œSomebody sees that youâ€™ve got a nametag on, and youâ€™re in a tie and a white shirt, and the door immediately closes.â€* * *After the first few months of his mission in England, Adam Ballard*, 19, born and raised in Provo, Utah, began to question if he genuinely believed in the only system of faith heâ€™d ever known. He realized one of his roommates had gone on a mission to escape his abusive father, and that others struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts, and pornography addiction, which Ballard attributed to the churchâ€™s repressive stance on sexuality.Ballard was seeing a mission-appointed counselor for anxiety. â€œMy counselor said, â€˜Elder Ballard, you can choose to be yourself and do what you believe in, or you can live a hollow life.â€™ I donâ€™t think he realized what he was saying. A week later, I called my mission president and told him I was going home.â€Before he could be released, Ballard was ordered to speak to his father, his sister, and his stake president, who acts as the head of several local congregations, or "stakes." He described this as â€œone of the hardest things in my entire life.â€Ballard phoned his father first. â€œHeâ€™s like, â€˜What about when Mom died? What about what you said before you left on your mission?â€™ And I remember telling him, â€˜Dad, I lied, because I wanted to look good.â€™ I got off the phone and cried for two hours.â€A 2013 study at Utah Valley University found that nearly three quarters of missionaries who return home early experience a deep sense of failure. Ballard served for seven months,and received an honorable discharge for health reasons. Although heâ€™s finding the transition difficult and his home congregation less than receptive, Ballard remains positive about the mission experience overall. â€œYou can â€˜life shop.â€™ You meet thousands of people whoâ€™ve lived their lives thousands of ways, people who are doctors, lawyers, janitors, who have children, who donâ€™t have children, who are married, who arenâ€™t married, whoâ€™ve never been married. And you can see, like, â€˜Oh, thatâ€™s how I want to live my life. I want to live my life like that guy.â€™â€* * *Scott Hortonâ€™s family has been Mormon for several generations. Like many missionaries, he had doubts about his faith, but he wanted to set a good example for his younger brothers, and the scriptures suggested that the mission itself was the best way to strengthen his testimony.While an estimated 40 percent of returned missionaries become inactive sometime after completing their mission, only 2 percent become apostates, meaning that they request to have their names removed from church rolls, or are formally excommunicated. Scott Horton is among the 2 percent. Looking back, he recalls the moment when â€œall the lights starting firingâ€ on his mission in Bahia Blanca, Argentina. â€œIn my last area, I went on a regimen of studying the Book of Mormon like crazy, praying like crazy. I got to a point where I was fasting every week, wanting to get an answer. I did that for two or three months. And just nothing.â€Another turning point occurred when Horton stopped a man on the street who was an adherent to the Virgin of Guadalupe. â€œI said, â€˜Oh, thatâ€™s really interesting. Why do you follow her?â€™ And he said, â€˜Well, five or six years ago, I didnâ€™t have a job and I was out of money. And I couldnâ€™t stand to be at home and watch my daughters cry over hunger. I was walking down the road, praying, and I had no idea what to do. And I saw a light. I looked into the light and saw the Virgin. She told me that everything would be okay, and that she was looking out for me and would provide for me. And when I looked down, below the light, there was 20 pesos on the ground. I picked it up and bought bread and milk for my daughters. Iâ€™ll always remember that, and I will never move away from her.â€™â€œI was dumbfounded. I thanked him for sharing that story with me and let him go on his way. I remember thinking, I have nothing that even compares to something that spiritual, that profound. Who was I to stand out here telling people what to do? You start to recognize how ridiculous it is to put peopleâ€™s eternal salvation in the hands of 19-year-olds who are viewing it as a competition of who can baptize more people.â€* * *Russell Beckstead, now in his mid-thirties, remains an active member of the Church. He still accompanies missionaries every week as a model of non-missionary fellowshipâ€"what he refers to as â€œbeing a normal person.â€Young is uncomfortable with the missionary promise that conversion is a cure-all. â€œPeople will talk about how they lost their job, or they have this medical problem, or their wife left them, or their kid is in trouble at school, or their parents are suffering and old. And as a missionary, your mentality is, â€˜Okay, pray and read the Book of Mormon. Done.â€™ And I want to be like, â€˜Did you not hear all these other problems?â€™ I still believe that faith and Jesus Christ gives people power and comfort in their lives. But itâ€™s not going to solve their problems!â€For Beckstead and others, like Ballard and Horton, the most memorable aspect of missionary work was the connections they developed with different kinds of peopleâ€"and the theological tension these connections raised. â€œThereâ€™s a scripture in the Book of Mormon that says, â€˜The natural man is an enemy to God.â€™ It gets drilled into you that everybody else is secretly miserable because theyâ€™re not in the church. As a missionary, itâ€™s your job to share the secret to happiness. And I just found that that wasnâ€™t true. Thereâ€™s lots of happy people with great lives, just trying to do the best they can.â€œMaybe my faith in the institution was shocked, but my faith in humanity was boosted.
Quote from: Minimalist on August 26, 2014, 05:53:01 PMYou have to be as dumb as a post to be a mormon to begin with.
Quote from: Solitary on August 27, 2014, 12:07:23 PMWe all have our delusions and don't realize it. As children we don't question our parents (authority), and when older some still don't question authority, even that of science. I believed most of my life that if I touched the eggs in a Robins nest the mother wouldn't come back to feed them and they would die. I also believed it was my duty to serve my country I pledged allegiance to. Peer pressure is very real and strong, even stronger than our parent's guidance. Solitary
Quote from: Mr.Obvious on August 28, 2014, 09:35:47 AMIn many cases it's not exactly 'known evidence'. If your social environment keeps indoctrinating you to not trust the actual evidence and see it as evidence, then to you this is not 'actual evidence'. In reality it is off course, but you are blinded by your environment to see it as such. You are still mistaken, but not because you have a mental illness that makes you over-fantasize and lose contact with reality. It's because one is a social creature that relies on it's social environment to construct it's worldview, in which these flawed and mistaken convictions are amplified rather than discouraged.