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Eternal Salvation In The Hands Of 19-Year-Old Missionaries


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So, there was this article today, by Andrea Bennett of the Atlantic...

 

http://news.msn.com/in-depth/putting-eternal-salvation-in-the-hands-of-19-year-old-missionaries-1

 

I didn't particularly enjoy the MTC either, but "boot camp"?  I don't think so. 

 

Also, is it just a typo where she says the MTC "stretches several miles alongside BYU"? A few blocks, maybe.  But definitely not several miles. 

 

I do agree that there is somewhat of a stigma in the church, when a young man decides not to serve a mission.  I saw it with my own boys. 

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The MTC definitely wasn't boot camp when I was there.  Life in the dorm rooms was more like a frat house, but without the alcohol.  Naked juggling, girls snuck in after hours, pennying elders' doors to trap them in their room, etc.  None of that's a surprise, though.  What do you expect from a horde of 19 year old boys?  And, bathroom door guards?  Lol!  Not during my mission in the '80s.  Maybe the interviewed RM had a weird mission where that happened, but that wasn't my experience.  Except for those things, I found the article to be spot on.  One thing did really resonate.  "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.”  That was my experience too, only for me it began in the MTC and lasted all the way through my mission, desperately hanging on, working hard, baptizing folks, trusting and laboring in faith, praying like crazy, fasting regularly, wanting to get an answer.  I even added the allowed extra month for a total of 25 months served.  And, same as the interviewed RM, just nothing.  Then I went home and opened up my heart and told family and church leaders about my failure to ever feel the spirit or gain the witness I was seeking during my mission.  The article doesn't include the experiences of those who never give up but never get that sought after confirmation, go home, and face the consequences: people who do feel the spirit all of the time telling you you must not have been sincere, you lacked faith, you were harboring a secret sin, you weren't listening when the spirit whispered. 

 

No, as the article attests, for some the mission and its aftermath don't bring the expected results.

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I sometimes wonder if these ex-LDS belonged to the same church I do.  Some strange concepts in that article.  For example, while we were admonished the first day to confess any serious misdeeds with our LTM (Yes, it's been a while) Branch President, in no way were we made to feel like our previous lives had been ones of sin and debauchery. And staying with our companion so that Satan wouldn't win? Weird, weird, weird.  Maybe if I'd had those ideas rattling around in my head, I'd have run screaming for the exits, too. Thank goodness for a set of parents who loved me, and good bishops and YM leaders who taught me.

I did hear a lot of false doctrine in Seminary, but Institute cleaned that up for the most part.  ;)

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I sometimes wonder if these ex-LDS belonged to the same church I do.  Some strange concepts in that article.  For example, while we were admonished the first day to confess any serious misdeeds with our LTM (Yes, it's been a while) Branch President, in no way were we made to feel like our previous lives had been ones of sin and debauchery. And staying with our companion so that Satan wouldn't win? Weird, weird, weird.  Maybe if I'd had those ideas rattling around in my head, I'd have run screaming for the exits, too. Thank goodness for a set of parents who loved me, and good bishops and YM leaders who taught me.

I did hear a lot of false doctrine in Seminary, but Institute cleaned that up for the most part.  ;)

 

I too have sometimes wondered if the ex-Mormons and I are talking about the same church.

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The MTC definitely wasn't boot camp when I was there.  Life in the dorm rooms was more like a frat house, but without the alcohol.  Naked juggling, girls snuck in after hours, pennying elders' doors to trap them in their room, etc.  None of that's a surprise, though.  What do you expect from a horde of 19 year old boys?  And, bathroom door guards?  Lol!  Not during my mission in the '80s.  Maybe the interviewed RM had a weird mission where that happened, but that wasn't my experience.  Except for those things, I found the article to be spot on.  One thing did really resonate.  "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.”  That was my experience too, only for me it began in the MTC and lasted all the way through my mission, desperately hanging on, working hard, baptizing folks, trusting and laboring in faith, praying like crazy, fasting regularly, wanting to get an answer.  I even added the allowed extra month for a total of 25 months served.  And, same as the interviewed RM, just nothing.  Then I went home and opened up my heart and told family and church leaders about my failure to ever feel the spirit or gain the witness I was seeking during my mission.  The article doesn't include the experiences of those who never give up but never get that sought after confirmation, go home, and face the consequences: people who do feel the spirit all of the time telling you you must not have been sincere, you lacked faith, you were harboring a secret sin, you weren't listening when the spirit whispered. 

 

No, as the article attests, for some the mission and its aftermath don't bring the expected results.

When I learn of experiences like yours, it causes me to wonder if at times there isn't a real handicap to being born and raised in the Church. My first real exposure to the religion of the Latter-day Saints didn't occur until I was almost 21, when the missionaries taught me and my brother the Restored Gospel. And I must say that the tremendous privilege of being able to experience a very real and sudden transformation from a condition of abject spiritual blindness to a state of profound spiritual enlightenment left an indelible impression on my heart and mind, an extremely positive impression that has only continued to grow in intensity of glory throughout the years.

 

The teachings and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are compelling and wonderfully fair and logical -- a set of beliefs truly worthy of a God of perfect intelligence, wisdom, justice, mercy, and love. Yet it seems some of those who are born in the Church, and who have heard the Church's teachings repeated the whole of their lives, don't realize how unique, wonderful and mind-blowingly positive those teachings really are.

 

For some, because they have been continually immersed in the brilliant light of God's restored Gospel for the whole of their lives, it seems they come to take the Church's superlative teachings for granted, even perceiving the miraculous Book of Mormon to be nothing but a peculiar literary humdrum of no particular worth or consequence. The Doctrine and Covenants speaks of this kind of spiritual blindness, a blindness at noonday that prevents one from being able to see God's light, even though its healing and enlightening rays shine with intense brightness all around them:

46 Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?

47 Behold, all these are kingdoms , and any man who hath seen any or the least of these (including this earth) hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.

48 I say unto you, he hath seen him; nevertheless, he who came unto his own was not comprehended.

49 The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not ...  (D&C 88)

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When I learn of experiences like yours, it causes me to wonder if at times there isn't a real handicap to being born and raised in the Church. My first real exposure to the religion of the Latter-day Saints didn't occur until I was almost 21, when the missionaries taught me and my brother the Restored Gospel. And I must say that the tremendous privilege of being able to experience a very real transformation from a condition of abject spiritual blindness to a state of profound spiritual enlightenment left an indelible impression on my heart and mind, an impression that has only continued to grow in intensity of glory throughout the years.

 

The teachings and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are compelling and wonderfully fair and logical -- a set of beliefs truly worthy of a God of perfect intelligence, wisdom, justice, mercy, and love. Yet it seems some of those who are born in the Church, and who have heard the Church's teachings repeated the whole of their lives, don't realize how unique, wonderful and mind-blowingly positive those teachings really are.

 

 For some, because they have been continually immersed in the brilliant light of God's restored Gospel for the whole of their lives, it seems they come to take the Church's superlative teachings for granted, even perceiving the miraculous Book of Mormon to be nothing but a peculiar literary humdrum of no particular worth or consequence. The Doctrine and Covenants speaks of the this kind of spiritual blindness, a blindness that prevents one from being able to see God's light, even though that healing and enlightening light shines intense brightness all around them:

46 Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?

47 Behold, all these are kingdoms , and any man who hath seen any or the least of these (including this earth) hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.

48 I say unto you, he hath seen him; nevertheless, he who came unto his own was not comprehended.

49 The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not ...  (D&C 88)

 

I can promise you that the experience that Spammer talks about has nothing to do with my experience or any experience from the LTM or MTC that I have ever heard from others.  Exceptions seem to always exist so I am willing to accept that some things obviously occur that are not in keeping with typical standards of missionaries.  However, the context is exceptions rather than the rule. 

 

Girls being brought into the LTM - that would get you sent home in a NY minute. 

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I can promise you that the experience that Spammer talks about has nothing to do with my experience or any experience from the LTM or MTC that I have ever heard from others.  Exceptions seem to always exist so I am willing to accept that some things obviously occur that are not in keeping with typical standards of missionaries.  However, the context is exceptions rather than the rule. 

 

Girls being brought into the LTM - that would get you sent home in a NY minute.

Hi Storm, My comments were only speaking of those individuals who are born and raised in the Church but never gain a testimony, even though they try. I believe in some cases the reason why a testimony is not obtained is because constant exposure to the teachings of the Church from early youth renders the otherwise wonderful and powerful doctrines of the Restored Kingdom humdrum, boring and uninspiring to certain individuals. Why it is that this false perception manages to creep in and warp the thinking of some who are born in the Church but not others is another discussion.

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The MTC definitely wasn't boot camp when I was there.  Life in the dorm rooms was more like a frat house, but without the alcohol.  Naked juggling, girls snuck in after hours, pennying elders' doors to trap them in their room, etc.  None of that's a surprise, though.  What do you expect from a horde of 19 year old boys?.

Yikes! This doesn't bear much of a resemblance to my MTC experience. All that horseplay must have been quite distracting to your efforts to gain the spiritual witness you never got. That's a shame. By the way, I gave you a rep point by accident. You're welcome.

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The kinds of juvenile behaviors I described were rare, but they all happened during my 4 weeks there. Regarding the girls, it was after hours and I heard the giggling then the door to the room next to ours open and close. Next morning we found out it was some sister missionaries who were snuck in. Unless the elders lied and it was girlfriends.

The mission itself had nothing like that, apart from the normal small percentage of disobedient missionaries I had to work with as a zone leader.

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Yikes! This doesn't bear much of a resemblance to my MTC experience. All that horseplay must have been quite distracting to your efforts to gain the spiritual witness you never got. That's a shame. By the way, I gave you a rep point by accident. You're welcome.

It wasn't my horseplay. I just witnessed it.

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With all the praying like crazy and fasting like crazy, one would hope there was a lot of " listening" .Also Oliver's experience recorded in the D&C may have some application.

For me, there was incessant listening and studying it out in my mind, from approx 17 yrs old until a few years after my temple marriage at 25. and, as in the article, just nothing.

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Someone should tell the author of the article that we don't put the Eternal Salvation of people in the hands of 19 year olds.

 

We put them in the hands of 18 year olds. We have that much faith;)

 

We put eternal salvation in the hands of neither, unless you are 18 or 19.  Our eternal salvation is in our own hands.

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In the eternal scheme of things the difference between 18 and 70 is not that big. That God trusts any of us with it still baffles me.

Nehor, I have a feeling that if we ever met for lunch, it would be one of the more entertaining hours of my life.  Or at least that day. 

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For me, there was incessant listening and studying it out in my mind, from approx 17 yrs old until a few years after my temple marriage at 25. and, as in the article, just nothing.

So, Spammer, you are saying that you spent about a decade of your life (from 17 to 27?) with an intense focus on prayer and study, but without any sort of resultant revelation or inspiration? -- such as D. Michael Quinn describes as a teenager.  Moreover, in all that time you no doubt came to be a great scriptorian, right?  And very familiar with LDS history, right?  You read widely both in and out of the scriptures, right?

 

Would you therefore be willing to submit to a test of your knowledge of the LDS Canon and Theology?  Should be pretty easy for you after all that effort.

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So, there was this article today, by Andrea Bennett of the Atlantic...

 

http://news.msn.com/in-depth/putting-eternal-salvation-in-the-hands-of-19-year-old-missionaries-1

 

I didn't particularly enjoy the MTC either, but "boot camp"?  I don't think so. 

 

Also, is it just a typo where she says the MTC "stretches several miles alongside BYU"? A few blocks, maybe.  But definitely not several miles. 

 

I do agree that there is somewhat of a stigma in the church, when a young man decides not to serve a mission.  I saw it with my own boys. 

That may be a reference to the two separate locations for MTC in Provo now, the traditional location northeast of campus, and the new location at the old Helaman Halls (to accommodate the increased number of trainees) southwest of campus.  They are about a mile apart, and missionaries must be bussed to attend the temple.  So probably not a typo.

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So, Spammer, you are saying that you spent about a decade of your life (from 17 to 27?) with an intense focus on prayer and study, but without any sort of resultant revelation or inspiration? -- such as D. Michael Quinn describes as a teenager. Moreover, in all that time you no doubt came to be a great scriptorian, right? And very familiar with LDS history, right? You read widely both in and out of the scriptures, right?

Would you therefore be willing to submit to a test of your knowledge of the LDS Canon and Theology? Should be pretty easy for you after all that effort.

I spent that decade faithfully attending church, reading scriptures, studying church history, trying to magnify my callings, praying sincerely, all the things the rank and file do to gain a witness of the spirit. Are you suggesting that wasn't good enough, that I must also have elected to devote my life to becoming a great scriptorian, including obtaining an advanced degree, to merit that witness?  If I failed your test, would that be evidence that I didn't work hard enough to gain that witness?  How many ordinary Mormons who received that witness after trying Moroni's Promise would fail that test?

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I spent that decade faithfully attending church, reading scriptures, studying church history, trying to magnify my callings, praying sincerely, all the things the rank and file do to gain a witness of the spirit. Are you suggesting that wasn't good enough, that I must also have elected to devote my life to becoming a great scriptorian, including obtaining an advanced degree, to merit that witness?  If I failed your test, would that be evidence that I didn't work hard enough to gain that witness?  How many ordinary Mormons who received that witness after trying Moroni's Promise would fail that test?

 

Well, we would need to see Robert's test first, then, wouldn't we?

 

Robert, are you going to make it open book through SurveyMonkey?  I'd be interested in taking this test.  It should be fun, quite apart from whatever Spammer takes away from it!  :D

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I spent that decade faithfully attending church, reading scriptures, studying church history, trying to magnify my callings, praying sincerely, all the things the rank and file do to gain a witness of the spirit. Are you suggesting that wasn't good enough, that I must also have elected to devote my life to becoming a great scriptorian, including obtaining an advanced degree, to merit that witness?  If I failed your test, would that be evidence that I didn't work hard enough to gain that witness?  How many ordinary Mormons who received that witness after trying Moroni's Promise would fail that test?

5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (James 1)

26 And after that he came men also were saved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the sons of God. And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you. (Moroni 7)

 

If you feel I'm prying, please do ignore this post.

 

With humility and respect for you as a son of God, I ask the following question to the end that I might gain further understanding into the workings of God. Here's the question: 

 

In light of the above passages of scripture (especially the words in bold), and looking back on your experience over those ten years when you often prayed to the Lord that you might gain a testimony of the Restored Gospel, do you sincerely believe you were truly unwavering in your faith and fully confident that the Lord would answer your prayers?

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5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. (James 1)

26 And after that he came men also were saved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the sons of God. And as surely as Christ liveth he spake these words unto our fathers, saying: Whatsoever thing ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is good, in faith believing that ye shall receive, behold, it shall be done unto you. (Moroni 7)

 

If you feel I'm prying, please do ignore this post.

 

With humility and respect for you as a son of God, I ask the following question to the end that I might gain further understanding into the workings of God. Here's the question: 

 

In light of the above passages of scripture (especially the words in bold), and looking back on your experience over those ten years when you often prayed to the Lord that you might gain a testimony of the Restored Gospel, do you sincerely believe you were truly unwavering in your faith and fully confident that the Lord would answer your prayers?

 

The answer is yes, but that answer is unacceptable, so I'll just go along with expectations and say no.  Since my prayers weren't answered, I was obviously insincere and lacking in faith. 

 

That reminds me of one of many instances where my obvious lack of faith led to my failure to feel anything spiritual.  I was on my mission and was a district leader at the time and we were were teaching an investigator who read the entire Book of Mormon, attended church each week as he was taking the discussions, wanted to get baptized, but wasn't receiving the promised witness.  He was holding back until he felt the spirit testify to him.  He told us it wasn't working but we challenged him to give it one more try and on our last visit, we had the zone leaders and ward mission leader come with us and we invited our investigator to pray and ask for that witness with us.  We all got on our knees and this guy poured out his heart to the Lord, begging him to grant him a testimony.  He concluded his prayer, looked up, and the sr. zone leader said, with tears in eyes, "The spirit is so strong right now...so strong.  I feel it testifying to you of the truthfulness of the things you've been taught.  I know you feel it too."  Our investigator said he didn't feel anything.  Neither did I.  That was the last I saw of the investigator.  He politely terminated future meetings and that was that.  Afterward, my comp and I were riding our bikes back to our apt and I was crying.  My comp thought it was because we'd lost our investigator.  No.  I was crying because I felt nothing at all when he prayed.  I was praying at the same time as our investigator that, not only that he would receive a witness, but that I would also, finally, receive it.  But nope, as usual, all I got was nothing.  Obviously, since I didn't feel anything either, I must have been wavering in faith and lacking in confidence in the Lord.  If only I had really wanted that testimony, if only I had had confidence in the Lord, and if only I had been unwavering in my faith, things might have been different, right?  Isn't that the standard assumption?. 

 

Sorry for the cynicism, but I've had my sincerity and faithfulness questioned multiple times by every single one the LDS people in my life I've poured my heart out to.  It got really old really fast, years ago.

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The answer is yes, but that answer is unacceptable, so I'll just go along with expectations and say no.  Since my prayers weren't answered, I was obviously insincere and lacking in faith. 

 

That reminds me of one of many instances where my obvious lack of faith led to my failure to feel anything spiritual.  I was on my mission and was a district leader at the time and we were were teaching an investigator who read the entire Book of Mormon, attended church each week as he was taking the discussions, wanted to get baptized, but wasn't receiving the promised witness.  He was holding back until he felt the spirit testify to him.  He told us it wasn't working but we challenged him to give it one more try and on our last visit, we had the zone leaders and ward mission leader come with us and we invited our investigator to pray and ask for that witness with us.  We all got on our knees and this guy poured out his heart to the Lord, begging him to grant him a testimony.  He concluded his prayer, looked up, and the sr. zone leader said, with tears in eyes, "The spirit is so strong right now...so strong.  I feel it testifying to you of the truthfulness of the things you've been taught.  I know you feel it too."  Our investigator said he didn't feel anything.  Neither did I.  That was the last I saw of the investigator.  He politely terminated future meetings and that was that.  Afterward, my comp and I were riding our bikes back to our apt and I was crying.  My comp thought it was because we'd lost our investigator.  No.  I was crying because I felt nothing at all when he prayed.  I was praying at the same time as our investigator that, not only that he would receive a witness, but that I would also, finally, receive it.  But nope, as usual, all I got was nothing.  Obviously, since I didn't feel anything either, I must have been wavering in faith and lacking in confidence in the Lord.  If only I had really wanted that testimony, if only I had had confidence in the Lord, and if only I had been unwavering in my faith, things might have been different, right?  Isn't that the standard assumption?. 

 

Sorry for the cynicism, but I've had my sincerity and faithfulness questioned multiple times by every single one the LDS people in my life I've poured my heart out to.  It got really old really fast, years ago.

Genuinely appreciate your candid response.

 

The interesting thing about my conversion experience -- especially as it contrasts with your non-conversion experience -- is that although I knew next to nothing about Mormonism prior to being taught by the missionaries (I was almost 21 at the time), to my mind their presentation of the Restored Gospel was so powerful, logical, reasonable, just, fair, compassionate and compelling that I was already intellectually converted before I ever once prayed to God to know if it was all true. So it was rather simple and easy for me to have the unwavering faith and real confidence that I would need in order to  receive an affirmative answer; I knew for sure that if there actually was a God, the marvelous religion of the Latter-day Saints would be His religion.

 

For whatever reason, there seems to be a certain category of people who hear the message of the Restored Gospel and are so overwhelmingly impressed with the logic, beauty and power of it all that they immediately recognize the truth of it. I am one of those people.

Now as for you, it could be for His own good reasons God may want you to follow in the footsteps of Lehi, who before he had his glorious vision of the tree of life was first caused to wander through a spiritual wasteland for many hours (in your case years)...

 

4 ... I saw in my dream, a dark and dreary wilderness.

5 And it came to pass that I saw a man, and he was dressed in a white robe; and he came and stood before me.

6 And it came to pass that he spake unto me, and bade me follow him.

7 And it came to pass that as I followed him I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste.

8 And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that he would have mercy on me, according to the multitude of his tender mercies. (1 Nephi 4)

 

Without realizing it, It could be that the reason why you're drawn to participate on this board is to prepare you for the day when you will be led away from the lone and dreary wilderness of spiritual uncertainty and apparent unanswered prayer, and guided from above into a new and fertile land where the tree of life and the iron rod of testimony will finally provide answers to all the fervent prayers you uttered all those years ago. Perhaps, for his own reasons God wants you to taste a full measure of bitterness before the eyes of your understanding are opened and you are welcomed home. If this is the case, you will thank Him in the end.

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