Betsy VanDenBerghe has an excellent piece on Real Clear Religion giving the real scoop on what Mormon missions are like. VanDenBergh explains that she’s mostly writing in response to the Book of Mormon Musical:
Pardon my complicating what’s proved an entertaining, laughable, lucrative stereotype, but a Mormon mission fundamentally consists of a whopping dose of reality, humility, and soul searching.
Citing movies (which I didn’t find compelling) and her own experiences (which I did, because they mirrored that of myself and my friends and family), VanDenBerghe proceeds to dismantle three major myths about Mormon missions:
- It’s all about converting.
- It’s an insular bubble protected from the world.
- Missions foster intolerance.
I thought the piece was informative and accurate. I’m not going to say that everything about Mormon missions is perfect because I don’t believe that to be the case. Although some of the things that initially irritated me about missions came to make sense over the course of my own mission (served in Hungary between 2000 and 2002), there were definitely changes that I would have liked to have seen and–in fact–there have been important and constructive changes since I went home. I’m sure there are still many ways that the Church could improve, but in terms of just getting a good understanding of what missions are honestly like, this is a good piece to start with, especially if you’re not a Mormon but are interested in our religion and culture.