by Michael Barker

The Big Missionary Announcement:  A Summary

My brothers, as well as our friend Jerilyn, all watched the live-stream Church broadcast this Sunday afternoon.  And I, for one, was underwhelmed.

All the flurry of excitement seemed to follow the same narrative we have seen since the change in missionary-age came.  It is the narrative that many of the on-line Mormon community have noticed and critiqued:  What are we going to do with all of these missionaries?  “Because there are now a ton-load of them. Oh, crap, we better think of something and fast.”

The first problem that came was where to house all of the missionaries in the MTC.  At first the Church attempted to build tall buildings in the area where the MTC now resides.  This was in direct contradiction to what the Church had promised the surrounding neighborhood in the past.  The Church attempted to strong-arm its plans, but the plans ultimately failed.

Our Church then forced BYU students out of some of the surrounding apartments so our missionaries could be housed.   In Mexico, our Church closed down one of its schools to accommodate the influx of missionaries.  Now many, many Mexican children will not get the high-quality education they once had.

Today’s broadcast had the same feeling – hurrying to figure out what to do with all the missionaries.   The thought process seemed to be:

  1. Allow the missionaries more access to on-line networking and use that as a proselyting tool.  Oh ya, we will also start giving some of them personal electronic devices.   This will fill up some of their hours.
  2. Hmm….They still have too much time on their hands so we will shift the responsibility to the Ward Councils to figure out what to do with the rest of the missionary’s time.    This will include a consorted effort of re-activiation since the new-convert retention is so horrible.
  3. Make a big hoopla about the two above announcements.

This problem seems like it could have been avoided by doing the following:

  1. Being very explicit and reiterating again and again that the new missionary age is not the expectation but on option.   It was predicted by many that the new-missionary age would become the expectation instead of being an option.   This is concerning to me and many others.  Earlier this year I listened to an interview of an LDS-employed psychologist who has helped develop some of the programs to lessen the mental stresses on the mission.  He explicitly stated that there is good data to  show that missionaries who have been away from home for a year (as in college) prior to their missions fair much better than those who don’t.  He expressed the same concern that many of the on-line LDS community have – that the stresses of missionary life won’t be handled well by the younger male missoinaries.   Can we expect an out-of-proportion
    increase in male missionaries coming home early due to anxiety?  I think we will. 
  2. The big lacuna in the broadcast seemed to be that there was no mention of increasing service-missions.   Boy, that was a swing and a miss.

Over all, seeing the Marriott Center packed with faithful members just shows how hungry we are as faithful LDS members for new revelation. A friend of mine told me this: “White shirts and ties, replacing door-to-door and pamphlets with social media and iPads. Ever modeling the business of marketing… I wish we were more interested in exemplifying the gospel than selling it.”


Miguel is a Guatemalan-American Mormon living in the Northwest with his family. He is one of the proprietors of the Rational Faiths blog.

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