Brothers and Sisters
A few missionaries struggle to find someone to teach. The Sisters try to help a family decide on baptism, but when tragedy strikes at home, Sister Voyles has to decide if she should stay or go home.
Click here to watch episode II of The District
Click here to listen to the Mormon Expositor podcast’s review of this episode.
Poor Sister Voyles. That was painful to watch. Sister Voyles had a younger brother. He was born with some health issues and physical defects. The family knew that he would not have a long life from the beginning – He had four holes in his heart and no pulmonary artery. Sister Voyles was incredibly close to her brother. One of his physical defects was a soft palate and Sister Voyles was the only one who understood him as a child. She was his translator. I can’t imagine how connected just that alone made the two of them as children. They show several family pictures and talk about how in all of them Sister Voyles is looking at David. She was sort of centered on him.
So she gets the news that David has died and is then faced with the choice about whether to stay or go home.
I’m going to come back to that topic but first the rest of the episode….
They continue to work with two of the same investigators and a part member family.
The family was really a joy to watch. I enjoyed them very much. I will freely admit when the mom was getting ready to go into the baptismal font and she started to cry… Ya. So did I. I love to see people happy. She was feeling some powerful emotions and I couldn’t let her cry all alone now could I?? I also loved the “one year later” update when they went as a family to the temple to be sealed. I love seeing happy, joyful people!
I did feel like this part sort of left the impression of “Get baptized, go to the temple – everything about life will be sunshine and roses!” It’s just so not true.
One investigator, Leslie, I’m assuming we’re seeing the last of her. She said that she’s not ready at this time in her life to rock the foundation she’s already standing on. She’s had some hard “life stuff” and she wants to just have “firm ground” for right now.
Also she was having a hard time dealing with the idea of having to follow a living prophet’s every command, not questioning, etc. She didn’t seem to really hear the missionaries when they said that wasn’t true. But in reality, who can blame her – there are lifelong members that act like you’re apostate if you question anything word from any general authority, much less the prophet. The true is our church is founded on questioning. Joseph Smith QUESTIONED. It’s our history, our heritage as LDS people – to question.
Olivia is a young teenage girl they are doing discussions with. At this point they are being very pushy about getting her to baptism. I think she was doing a stellar job as a young woman in not being pressured into doing it until she’s sure. She talked about the feelings she’s been having (aka spiritual experiences). I appreciate how seriously she’s taking the commitment. She’s not living with her own family but with a member family. It sounds like there is some troubled history there. She talks at one point about wanting to feel “worthy” of being baptized. That made me uncomfortable.
And I wanted to hop in the TV and tell her I was proud of her when she refused to pray about the decision to be baptized as a group. That is a very personal decision. And what could possibly come of that?? Were the missionaries going to get done and then say “Well, we feel good about it. You have to get baptized now.” Oy. The choice is hers and hers alone. She is the only proper receptacle for the answers to her own prayers. So good for her!
Last thing: To go or to stay.
Oh glory. I have issues with this. In our culture a missionary coming home for any reason is a thing to feel shame about. Shame shame shame. It’s WRONG.
It seems from the episode that Sister Voyles made her own choice and she chooses to stay. She said she could feel her brother there with her and that made it okay.
I can’t help but wonder what was said to her. When a missionary has a tragedy happen at home the leadership lays the choice at their feet. These are young people. Do they have the emotional tools to make a choice like that? And this choice doesn’t just affect them. It affects their whole family.
I just wonder if there wasn’t such an intense cultural pressure to “complete an honorable mission” if more missionaries wouldn’t make the choice to go home and grieve with their families.
Why is it more admirable to stay? Why would we think it took more strength to stay? Is the leadership saying to them either choice is okay? We will support you no matter what you do! We will honor your choice. Neither one is wrong! Is anyone saying that? And really, truly meaning it?
Is it emotionally healthy to put off grieving something like this for so long? The people who choose to stay are going to come home to a family who is much further along in the grieving process then they are. I just can’t imagine how all that disjointedness is going to affect those missionaries. That’s so painful. For me when tragedy strikes it’s those that are grieving with me that bring the most comfort.
Personally, I would go home. And I can’t imagine I’d feel a moment’s guilt about it. It seems like the right thing to do.
My husband got very sick in the MTC and was sent home for a couple months and then went back out. The same thing happened towards the end of his mission and it was cut two months short. He still to this day – _____ years later (He’ll be mad if I list the actual years! HAHA!) – feels tremendous regret that he didn’t serve a “full” mission. This makes me crazy. Nothing that happened was within his control but that’s our LDS culture when it comes to missions.
Thoughts? Am I missing something here?
One of the greatest regrets I have is counseling my little brother Jon to stay on his mission when our father died. I think it would have been healthy for him to come home and grieve. This part of our culture needs to change!
I had the same thoughts as I was watching this episode.
I have often questioned why I gave Jonathan the advice to stay on his mission upon dad’s death. Was it because it was felt that everything was taken care of here at home? Was it out of a sense of duty, and what Mormons do is stay on their missions? Was it because of a cultural expectation?
As I have run the scenario through my head and have imagined trying to explain it to a non-member, I now think that I gave Jonathan the wrong advice.
I would now advise him to come home and grieve. Funeral services are for those that are still alive, not for the deceased. Central to our theology is the importance of family; family trumps possible converts.
I think about dressing dad in his temple robes and what a powerful unique experience that was. Recently Cathy and I went through the King Tut exhibit in Seattle. I was impressed by all the care that went into preparing a body upon death; it was almost a communal experience. Mormonism has that beautiful, almost sacramental, part of our belief too. And to think that I may have robbed Jonathan of that tears at my heart.
I am so sorry .
Here’s my experience with it.
I got a phone call from my mom at about 4:00 am letting me know he had passed. At 6:30 on the dot, my president called me. It was literally the shortest conversation I’ve ever had with the man, and he’s very short winded unless he’s talking soccer or baseball. I think it lasted a total of a minute and a half. He let me know that my mother had called him earlier that morning and told him my father had passed. He extended his condolences to me and asked “What do you want to do?” (I guess I should mention that we knew he was in bad shape for 10 days-ish, so my president knew I had been thinking about what would happen if…). I let him know that I hadn’t decided yet but would talk to my family and let him know.
All he said was “Andale, pues.” Spanish for OK or alright. For his part, I can honestly say that if I had chosen to go home, he would have fully supported me. I was only 6 months out and I probably would have been sent back to the same mission (Salta, Argentina). I felt no pressure from him whatsoever to stay and knew he would support me and understood that I needed the time. I can see, however, some people getting pressure from their companions, their families and their president to stay.
Should I have come home? Maybe. Mike, did I miss out on an amazing experience? Yes. But staying was my decision. I take pride in the fact that I own that decision in my life. I don’t remember speaking to you, but I remember Paul saying that you guys had talked and advised me to stay (this after saying I wanted to come home). The reason? I was more needed in Argentina than at home. Looking back, I can understand that. But I didn’t stay for dad (you know he loved missionary work and the Latin people), for mom, for the family or because you guys told me to. I stayed because it was not only a place I felt needed, but felt like it was something that I needed to do; it was a huge time of growth for me on my mission.
Wow our wonderful Barker Brothers. I’m sorry all of you experienced any of that.
Jon – It’s wonderful to hear that you own that choice for yourself. I think no matter the choice that’s the biggest piece – that you get to make a choice for yourself.
It absolutely does. I’m sorry you have a personal experience with it.
I think that it is so much harder to go home sometimes, to loose yourself in work is sometimes easier until much later.
First, I have to say how proud of my big sister I am that she is writing these awesome reviews. I am connected to greatness.
Secondly, I had a dear friend who came home from a mission early because of depression. I remember talking to a mutual friend about it, who just could not wrap her mind around how that could possibly be the right decision. She actually used the words “dishonorable discharge”. When I pointed those words out to her, and what their implications were, it gave her quite a shock. She came around to the fact that she was being super judgmental without me having to say it, so that was the good news.
I think, as a people, we just need to remember to ask ourselves how the savior would respond to these situations. In all of his wisdom, love, and infinite compassion, I seriously doubt his response would always be, “Get back to work.” Maybe staying on the mission is right for some people some times, but compassion requires that we recognize a variety of needs.
Thanks Sister :*
Sadly, I was one of the judgmental ones as well. I had a companion leave the MTC for the same reason. I couldn’t get over the fact that all he had to do was pray and he would be comforted. I’m glad I’ve come to the realization that I was the one in the wrong, not him.
I had a companion who’s father died about a week after he had been transferred away. They let him go home for a week and attend the funeral and then he came back for his final six months. I wonder if the leadership is softer on this issue than they were in the past, or if it was just our mission president.
“life isnt easy, but with God its possible…” Does anyone remember the rest of this quote that Sister Voyle said?