The Real Story on Mormon Missions

2013-05-07 Book of Mormon Musical

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:

  1. It’s all about converting.
  2. It’s an insular bubble protected from the world.
  3. 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.

2 thoughts on “The Real Story on Mormon Missions”

  1. HI Nathaniel,
    This is Betsy thanking you for the post about my column. I’m gratified some of my mission stories and observations resonated with you because I’ve been interested in your writing, and found a missionary story you once shared particularly insightful and compelling. Keep up the stimulating philosophizing and ruminating along with your day job and family obligations. I’m impressed.
    All the best,
    Betsy VDB

  2. Hi Betsy!

    I can’t believe you’ve heard of me, let alone read my stuff. I love your writing for First Things, and I’m glad that you liked what I wrote about your piece. It really was excellent, and I know I’ll be going back to it for years to come as the best quick intro to Mormon missions for my non-Mormon friends.


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