What was wrong with my Mormon mission

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Today’s post is excerpted from Scott Miller’s memoir The Book of a Mormon: The Real Life and Strange Times of an LDS Missionary.

In it, Miller (with co-author Mark Hubble) chronicles the ups and downs of his Mormon mission to Sweden in the 1970s, during which he came to question many of the beliefs he’d grown up with. Short version: These were not “the best two years,” even though they were, in the end, a catalyst to growth and change.

As one reviewer put it on Amazon, the book “captures the authentic experience in all its agony and goodness.” It’s not aiming to discredit Mormonism, but it does challenge many of the assumptions that Miller once held dear — in particular, that obedience for its own sake is a spiritual good. — JKR

 

sdmheadExcerpt from The Book of a Mormon: The Real Life and Strange Times of an LDS Missionary

by Scott D. Miller and Mark A. Hubble

LDS Church members refer to missionary service as “the best two years” of a young person’s life.   As soon as kids are out of diapers, they learn the Sunday school song “I Hope they Call Me on a Mission” (“When I have grown a foot or two/ I hope by then I will be ready/ To teach and preach and work as missionaries do . . .”). Think otherwise and you are unworthy in the sight of God.

The experience irrevocably changed me. One weekend, I was surfing the sunny shores of southern California. The next, I was marching lockstep in service to an organization I quickly discovered I knew very little about and which, to my complete dismay, cared nothing about me, the other young men with whom I served, or the people I’d been sent to save.

Boots on the ground, going door to door—known as “tracting”—was how we spent most of our time. Each week we were also expected to stop one hundred people on the street and secure a commitment to visit with them in their homes.

I understood the urgency. These were the “latter days.” Everyone that could be saved must be saved now.

Within a month of trolling the dark, snow-strewn streets of Sweden, I noticed people were avoiding us. When they saw us coming, they quickly crossed the street or darted into a shop—anything to get away from us. Doors slammed. Some people raised their fists and swore. Most, glimpsing us through the peepholes of their apartment doors, refused to answer.

Over and over I wondered if this could be what God intended. When I asked church leaders about the wisdom of what we were doing, I was told, “Don’t ask!” The program was inspired of God. It was to be followed without question. Period.

A little over six months into my mission, I found my answer. I was riding a bus. It was one of those rare times I was alone, traveling to my next assignment. At a stop along the way, a man boarded the bus and sat next to me. I learned he was a Lutheran minister who worked with street kids in the southern part of the country.

He asked about my experience as a missionary, including my signature attire. In addition to the regulation blue suit, we were forced to wear a black felt fedora more befitting a Prohibition-era gangster than a messenger of Christ.

Just as he inquired, the bus driver stepped on the brakes, bringing us to an abrupt halt. Overhead, a voice crackled on the speakers, “I’m sorry, it looks like there’s been an accident.”

A large truck and two small sedans were involved. One car was wedged under the truck, the top peeled back like a sardine can. The other was smashed into the back of the first. Clouds of smoke and steam billowed up from its engine.

That’s when my fellow traveler stood up. “I’m going to help,” he said, then paused and looked at me expectantly.

Seeing my reluctance, he reached over and, with his free hand, patted me lightly on the shoulder. “I must go. Goodbye, Scott.” Up the aisle he ran and was gone.

Shortly, the bus began inching forward. Along with the rest of the passengers, I watched out the window.   People were milling about, obviously dazed.   A woman sat by the side of the road, holding a baby and crying, her face and hands streaked with blood. Next to her was the minister. He was coatless—his dark, down parka now wrapped around her shoulders. He was leaning in close, speaking to her.

As we passed by the accident, I turned away from the window and looked ahead. I had never felt more ashamed in all my life. I struck both legs with my fists, hard. I would never have acted like this before becoming a missionary. Of the two of us, my new acquaintance was the true Christian, the real servant of the Messiah.

From that moment on, everything became clear to me. Yes, we Mormons were on a mission. But what was the mission? To emulate the example of Jesus? To do unto others as he would have us do, on Earth, now?   Apparently not.   Our job was to be obedient, wear a funny hat, knock on doors, annoy people on the streets, and follow the script.

No more, I decided. My mission would be to serve rather than be servile, consequences be damned.

Scott Miller, Ph.D., is a psychotherapist and the founder and director of the International Center for Clinical Excellence. He is married with two sons.

  • Horst

    Dr. Miller rocks. Friendly, funny, insightful. He’s been blessed with a good BS alert meter and has learned to listen to it. Whether a person is in the Church or has parted ways with it, Dr. Miller has something of value for everyone. If you enjoyed this excerpt you might also enjoy John Dehlin’s interview with Miller at Mormon Stories: http://mormonstories.org/scott-miller/

  • SanAntonioRob

    Well this little excerpt definitely makes me NOT want to read the book.

    I am also against unquestioning obedience and the salesman tactics you, me, and essentially every other missionary was taught to employ.

    But I can tell you without reservation, my Church mission definitely made me more understanding, more caring, and more engaged in the spiritual, mental, physical, and economic well-being of those around me.

    This passage reeks of placing blame so that someone’s conscience can be mollified. You decided not to jump off the bus. You decided to keep going instead of stopping to help. There may have been outside forces that influenced that decision. But to publicly place the blame and not accept total responsibility cements the dishonorable nature of that decision.

  • Spencer

    “I was marching lockstep in service to an organization I quickly discovered I knew very little about and which, to my complete dismay, cared nothing about me, the other young men with whom I served, or the people I’d been sent to save.”

    What a crock. This fellow froze and failed to help people he saw who had been involved in a car accident, and this is failure is attributable to the LDS Church how, exactly?

    As a missionary in Taiwan I once helped my companion save two children from being swept out to sea during a storm. Another time I and my comp physically stopped a drunk man who was beating his wife on the street. I also cleaned parks, fed orphans, volunteered at hospitals, and served others in a hundred ways as a missionary.

    “My mission would be to serve rather than be servile, consequences be damned.” This is a false dichotomy. The LDS Church sends missionaries out to serve others. Service and obedience to common-sense missionary rules are not mutually exclusive…

  • Spencer

    I’m not sure I would accuse this guy of being “dishonorable.” He froze in an emergency situation. People do it all the time. It happens. We’re human and sometimes don’t make the best decision in the heat of the moment.

    But to take that incident and use it to slander the LDS missionary effort, well, that’s absurd. To accuse the LDS Church of not caring about its missionaries or about the people whom they serve is also absurd. To create a false dichotomy between a missionary choosing to A) serve others, and B) obey common sense missionary rules is absurd.

    But content disparaging the LDS Church and its efforts is pretty much par for the course on this blog, it seems.

  • Bob

    A lack of faith, maturity, Gospel knowledge, understanding and spiritual preparation combined with a measured of youthful cowardice can produce these results. Fortunately, for every Dr. Scott Miller there are literally millions who have been spiritually prepared for the moment and had life changing positive mission experiences following the spirit. A few of them like me also follow this blog.

  • (Northern Japan) We filled out or ‘kekka’ (summary? result? can’t remember) each week. We were allowed max 4 hours of non-proselytizing time per week – this was often a pre-arranged engagement at a children’s home or sr citizen center set up by previous missionaries.

    I think this is one of the most simple changes the church could make that would have the most immediate impact – changing ‘4’ to ’40’ per week – all of a sudden we have 60,000 young men/women JUST doing volunteer work: visible, non-confrontational interactions would do more to change the perception of the church than anything else I can think of (barring maybe the second coming).

  • Anonymous

    Agreed

  • Spencer

    As a missionary in Taiwan in 1993, my missionary companion and I were “street contacting” on the southeast coast. A storm was whipping up the ocean, with increasingly large waves breaking against giant concrete tetrapods lining the coast (here’s a pic of what they look like: http://bit.ly/1QptYuo). My comp heard a child screaming, and immediately took off running toward the tetrapods, and I quickly followed. Jumping across the tetrapods, he quickly found two children who had been playing in the crevices between the tetrapods. The surging waves had overtaken them, and were also creating powerful suction-like currents between the tetrapods. My comp reached down and pulled one child out of the water (the current was so powerful in that moment that it sucked off one of the child’s shoes), and I pulled out the other. We then helped them get away from the tetrapods, calmed them down, encouraged them to stay away from the tetrapods in the future, and sent them home.

    Missionary…

  • Elder Anderson

    First, I’d like to congratulate Miller & Hubble on the snappy prose. That is a fine piece of writing. I look forward to reading the book.

    I see many of the comments here are critical and more than a tad defensive. I didn’t find the piece negative at all. At the end, young Miller learned a valuable lesson, and he continued his mission with new resolve. This is an immensely positive message.

    Many young people experience the same disillusionment when starting a new career. We graduate with heads stuffed with knowledge and idealism. It’s a hard lesson to discover that much of what we know is useless, and we pretty much do exactly what we are told in order to keep our job.

    Maybe, just maybe, after a few years or decades of beatdown we earn enough credibility to begin to fight for change. Welcome to the real world, young missionaries!

  • Spencer

    “I didn’t find the piece negative at all.”

    I did. Publicly attacking the LDS Church by claiming it “cared nothing about me, the other young men with whom I served, or the people I’d been sent to save” will, I think, merit a defense.

    Miller blaming the LDS Church for *his* failure to help accident victims is “negative.”

  • Bob

    How heartwarming it is to know we made a difference to someone in that special time of our lives. In just one of the many standout incidents, I remember following promptings in North Las Vegas and helping to rescue man from suicide and a drug overdose 40 years ago. It was both hair-raising and heart-warming all at once.

  • Bob

    Though conveniently not my call, perhaps missions should come with some kind of notice, “results vary, past performance is no indication of future results”. While I’m sure success in Sweden was measured differently than it was measured in Las Vegas 40 years ago, all who served faithfully, having the smallest measure of proselyting success, must agree, the most rewarding missionary experience was watching people apply gospel principles and change their lives for good while helping turn fear (and sometime despair) into joy and happiness whether they joined the church or not.

  • Bob

    Though conveniently not my call, perhaps missions should come with some kind of notice, “results vary, past performance is no indication of future results”. While I’m sure success in Sweden was measured differently than it was measured in Las Vegas 40 years ago, all who served faithfully, having the smallest measure of proselyting success, must agree, the most rewarding missionary experience was watching people apply gospel principles and change their lives for good while helping turn fear (and sometime despair) into joy and happiness whether they joined the church or not.

  • Elder Anderson

    I think it’s a matter of perception. I read it as being “in the moment”. The gentleman described his thinking at the time as the events happened. I can completely sympathize with his frustration, anger, self-hatred, and disillusionment. I felt these things when I was young, I feel them sometimes now.

    I don’t see this as an attack or as negative. I see it as an honest recounting of his experience on his mission. Your experience might have been different.

    You must admit the man turned out OK. He managed to get a PhD and he’s devoted his life to helping others as a psychiatrist.

    I intend to read his book to understand his entire journey. It sounds fascinating.

  • SanAntonioRob

    You are correct – freezing in the moment was not dishonorable. I did not do a good job of communicating my views.

    It appears from the post that he immediately blamed his inaction on missionary mentality and still does today. He “would never have acted like this before becoming a missionary”. To not act was not a good choice, but not exactly dishonorable. What I am calling dishonorable is to make a wrong decision, and then immediately and continuously blame his mission and the Church for actions that were 100% his own.

  • Spencer

    I agree with you. I often see critics complain about how missionaries should perform more “service” (as in manual labor, volunteer work in hospitals and schools and such, etc.). Frankly, I wouldn’t mind if the Brethren increased volunteer hours. But as you said, this is “not my call.”

    But there is more than one type of “service.” We are all familiar with the saying “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” I think missionary work is an attempt to *both* “give a man a fish” (“service” in the form of manual labor, volunteering in hospitals, etc.) *and* “teach[ing] a man to fish” (sharing principles of the Gospel of Christ that, if lived, will improve individual and family lives, help people avoid pitfalls, help people learn to serve others, etc.).

    It’s not an either/or situation. Missionaries can and should “give a man a fish,” but they can and should also “teach a man to fish.”

  • Spencer

    Fair enough. Reasonable minds can disagree about such things. Thanks.

  • Bob

    I don’t know Scott Miller but he is likely a good man who has regrets. Don’t we all? However, we all must except responsibility, make adjustments and move on. Playing the blame game does not allow us to move on. It’s pride that gets in the way of excepting responsibility and making real progress in developing our personalities and character in real terms.

  • Robert Versluis

    If you have 12 minutes, here is a short NY Times documentary about a Mormon Missionary. I found it quite moving, truly worth the time.

    http://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000003762144/elder-a-mormon-love-story.html

  • Spencer

    I think your response to his writing was better than mine (“What a crock”).

    Thanks!

  • Lyle

    Posting a small snippet of the book only; its hard to tell…but it certainly ends with the young missionary vowing to do better. What came next…requires reading the book. Does it involve another similar situation where he is a force for good? But the initial comments about the LDS Church not caring about him…and implying it would prevent him from having helped out in that accident…are not very promising. Exactly what mission rule would he have broken by helping out? Certainly not any that I’m aware of, or that I was told to follow as a missionary, or that prevented me or any other missionaries I’ve ever seen or heard of from providing service to those in need.

  • Bob

    A more helpful article might have been written entitled, What was wrong with me on my Mormon mission?

  • Elder Anderson

    “It was both hair-raising and heart-warming all at once”

    hair-warming? like rescuing a kitten from a grizzly bear? 🙂

  • AuntM

    I read the passage as relaying what he thought at the time, not what he thinks now looking back. It’s not uncommon for 19-year-olds to have less than nuanced responses. It may be that now as a fully grown adult he can see that these experiences weren’t as black-and-white as they seemed to him then.

  • SanAntonioRob

    I suppose it is a possibility that he does not think that way now.

    But then again, if that is the case, it is strange he would pick this particular excerpt, share it on blog regularly critical of the Church, and title it “What was wrong with my Mormon mission”.

    Say I blamed my parents as a teenager for causing me depression. If I wrote a book, posted on a blog regularly critical of (and rarely complimentary of) parents, chose an excerpt with derogatory language regarding my parents leadership, ended it with teenager me blaming my parents for something I did wrong and vowing I would be better despite them, and titled it “What was wrong with my childhood” – would that sound like I didn’t blame my parents and had taken responsibility for that action? Not really.

  • SanAntonioRob

    I changed my analogy halfway through to be more similar, but didn’t correct the first sentence. So the first sentence should read “Say I blamed my parents as a teenager for something I did wrong.”

  • Cameron Crosby

    My mission cultivated within me the opposite of everything this article writes about. One of the most important lessons I learned was to fully and without reservation love people, to empathize with them, and to serve them. I learned that blind obedience is not Christ like and that even the mission rules are for the missionary and not the missionary for the rules – that ultimately, people come first. I’m sorry Scott had a different experience. I would only ask that he not present his case as the norm. Now at 55 and having spoken to many many return missionaries, the vast majority are glad they were called on a mission where they grew spiritually at least a foot or two. That it was the hardest thing they had done till then, but a blessing that continues in their life today.

    Jana, I read your articles often and I think your thoughtful. Just wish you would represent the rest of us that love our religion. I guess “man bites dog” always wins out in the news world.

  • Briant Cole

    As for Scott’s mention that a mission can irrevocably change you, the answer is yes, Yes, YES. Mine did. Saved my life. As to the incident where he flinched, well, Church mockers/casters, sorry, but that’s on him. And only on him. His obedience was to his self-centered self, not the the mission he was to serve. On my mission, I first hand experienced 3 different scenarios where sense of urgency at all cost was demanded, and we responded. One was at an absolute certain risk to my life and safety. Neither companion or I flinched (well, ok, we may have thought “what am I thinking?”) Screw the new Italian suit, books, bag, whatever. . . . . we went to work. I am willing to let this situation be Scott’s personal Gethsemane, but don’t put me up on his cross. . . . .

  • Briant Cole

    Best post on the thread. Concise, direct, true.

  • I think this passage is too short to understand why the author connects his mission to his inaction. Perhaps people are a bit too quick to dismiss his description of his own feelings, as if they could know his mind better than him.

    Personally, I think there are multiple problems with our current missionary efforts, although things are very slowly moving in the right direction:
    *The “Commitment Pattern” has more in common with sales techniques than preaching repentance.
    *There still is too little compassion for struggling missionaries, who are told to forget themselves and get to work.
    *Forcing two young people to remain together 95% of the time does not result in their safety if one of them is bullying or abusive.
    *Missionaries are judged and judge themselves by something that is not–and should not be–in their control: the personal decision to be baptized. The measures of their success should be things they can control.
    *They are pushed too hard to be next-to-perfect.

  • And before anyone else jumps in, I do know that there are people who value their missionary service very highly and are grateful for it. You guys talk about it all the time in church. We know you’re there.

    I am very, very glad it worked for you, but the reason you don’t hear more negative mission experiences from active Mormons is not because those experiences are few in number, but because it really isn’t considered to be acceptable to talk about them.

  • Dee Wilson

    We are all responsible for the choices we make in Life. I think he was addressing the fact that he was taught to not do what he felt was best but to obey. He was to get on the bus and not get off till he reached his destination because he was alone and did not have his companion with him. He was being obedient. A dew years ago, the Branch President of a small town in WA allowed fire fighters use the facilities of the Mormon building to sleep. shower and eat. The mountains around the town were on fire. He felt, as head of the branch, he could make this decision and felt God wanted him t. He was racked over the coals by the Stake and Mormon Church leaders for doing so and released. He does not regret doing so but learned a lesson on the cost of following ones conscience. The problem had to do with what the building insurance would cover if these forest fire fighters caused damage; the fact that they were risking their lives to protect the town did not matter.

  • Dee Wilson

    His experience was not about “personal physical harm”. I was about being obedient and not reacting to his own thoughts and promptings. He was without a companion. He was to stay on that bus and arrived at the spot in which he was to be met at a specific time. He knew he would be in trouble for not following his given directions. What he realized is that, as a Christian, he should of been free to follow the promptings, whatever those might be. That Christ Church would be teaching thus and that the directions of mission Presidents are a guide for their safety, but in no way means they are not to follow what they feel their Heavenly Father wanted of them. And, when he was not there at the bus station to be met, there would be understanding and praise for following the Spirit.

  • Bob

    Representing one side of a story never gets to the truth of the experience. Without knowing all the details of the firefighter housing issue, I can guarantee you there’s a lot more to the story.

  • Dee Wilson

    I live in that Branch.. no more to the story. He was in trouble for going against Church policy. The building is not to be used without Stake approval for non church use. It would be days before the meeting to do so would take place, a decision needed, he took it upon himself to make that decision.

  • Daniel Berry, NYC

    I understand your annoyance and criticism and even agree with them, even though I’m not LDS. I think, however, that Miller’s critique is directed primarily at the model for discipleship and mission in which he was trained by those responsible for his formation. On a more cynical note, the case can be made that all of the churches have a history of using outreach (missionary activity) to increase customer base to improve revenue stream. And it’s not surprising: religious institutions, like any other kind, are bureaucracies which must maintain cash flow to ensure survival of their status-quo. That’s the nature of all bureaucracies, regardless of type. Miller and many others have been disillusioned–sometimes even heartbroken–to learn that fact of life about their churches.

  • patrick

    @ Daniel Berry, NYC

    “ On a more cynical note, the case can be made that all of the churches have a history of using outreach (missionary activity) to increase customer base to improve revenue stream. “

    Bravo Mr Berry !

  • Maddy

    Sometimes within the church there exists opposing elements of perfect “obedience” for obedience sake, making people an item on a “checklist” rather than engaging and accepting people where they are and looking at a broader picture.

    i’ve always found it curious that within the power center of the church–UT–despite having sent many missionaries to other parts of the U.S. and the world–
    there seems to be significant narrowness, judgmentalism, cultural uniformity and ignorance/insensitivity of others who might not fit the cookie-cutter mold.

    To what extent do we churn out a well-trained “sales force” as opposed to people who more emulate Christ–reaching out to those shunned by society and not meeting outward rules /standards? Do we resemble more a hospital for sinners or a country club for saints?

  • Peer Gynt

    The thesis statement above is being commented on and discussed: “The experience irrevocably changed me . . . the other young men with whom I served, or the people I’d been sent to save.” Certainly this has prompted many passionate comments. It is curious to me that so much heat has been generated by this brief excerpt. I myself am interested in reading further in order to better understand exactly why he makes this statement. I believe it is important to keep in mind that this is Scott Miller’s experience with particular individuals in Sweden in the 1970’s. It is not “Every-man’s” experience. It is his alone, filtered through the mind of a young devout man who is now a mature psychologist. Obviously, the writing and position taken is provocative – good!

  • That’s the problem with rules first religion. Jesus preached against it in the Gospels and 3rd Nephi. Obedience does not save, but by having Christ in our hearts, we obey the Spirit, and thus obey the rules. If we don’t have Christ, we cannot be truly obedient, as we know what what it is we are truly to obey.

  • ThomasT

    “…an organization…which, to my complete dismay, cared nothing about me, the other young men with whom I served, or the people I’d been sent to save.” Cared nothing? No credibility, Miller. None. There is no honor in writing it. A lot of us had very hard experiences on missions and have known some poor mission leaders. But this experience you tell hardly even compares. This “organization” as you call it is filled with many caring people and leaders, despite the bad apples here and there. It was in the 70s, too. My father, nobody of high position, personally knew the prophet in the 70s (SWK) and personally witnessed how much he cared, and that care has positively impacted several generations in my family. Your inability to solve your moral dilemma that day to the satisfaction of your conscience is sad. Your inability to recognize the truth about your mission experience is even sadder for you. I would invite you to forgive and forget and relearn your faith.

  • Thomas Ryscavage MD

    I am a Catholic but I have always known members of the Church of the Latter day Saints. Their church has existed for just under 200 years. There are at least 14 million members. That growth in members over the first 200 years is probably more than the Christian religion growth rate per capita. The members that I know are more likely to be a ‘Good Samaritan’ than current day Catholics. They construct very solid families and put restrictions on things that need to be restricted, e.g. drugs, alcohol. They are extremely friendly people who have changed old positions of their religion (treatment of women) to positions closer to other religions except for Muslim religion which is far beyond normal, modern religions. It has always been and shall always be that loss of a religion is never the religion. It is a person. A person in the hierarchy of the religion or a member of the religion that throws the religion away and never the opposite is where the situation always ends. Religions are…

  • samuel johnston

    A pair of young women Morman missionaries came to my door and I invited them inside. One was obvious;y in charge, the other saying almost nothing.
    I was teated to the spiel, which assumed that I knew nothing and that I subscibed to the Christian religion and to the authority of the Bible. I earnestly tried to have a conversation, but they were unprepared for any exchange of views or experiences. They simply looked tired. What a waste of these young people’s lives. They should be learning, not be sent to deliver the opinions of adults, which they do not, and cannot, understand. It would be just for their exploiters to be punished, not rewarded; proof enough for me that their Gods are false.

  • Bob

    Samuel, Those who listen to the “spiel” (complete message) whether or not they become Mormon generally change their lives for the better as a result. Those young women will look back on their missionary service as a time in their lives when they made a difference, improving the quality of life and the condition of the world. Consider inviting them back, applying a bit of patience with their youthfulness and listen to their entire message before condemning Mormonism. Thank you for all the good you do.

  • Josh

    Well said.

  • samuel johnston

    Hi Bob,
    ” generally change their lives for the better as a result.”
    How do you know this Bob?
    I compare them to the young woman who came up to me advovating Socialism.
    I asked her if there was a working example of her advocacy that she could point to. She immediately responded, “Cuba”. I looked at her stylish clothes and soft hands and wondered how many Cubans, still on the Island, would agree with her.
    Better to teach the young to think critically for themselves, than to advocate somebody else’s vision. Remember the Red guard in China?

  • Josh

    I think many of us who served LDS missions can relate to Elder Miller’s experiences and the excerpt that Jana has included here highlights the human frailties of the “wretched man that I am” (2 Ne. 4:17). Let’s be careful not to confuse the mortal missionaries for the Messiah whom they represent. Jesus taught clearly that we are to “love our neighbor” (Luke 10:25-37). King Mosiah demonstrated this in his reign in Zarahemla (Mosiah 2:17), Joseph Smith understood it well (Hymn 29) and it was taught to me in FHE, Primary, Sunday School, Aaronic Priesthood, Seminary, Elders Quorum, and reviewed thoroughly in the MTC. If we as missionaries fail to follow the example of the Savior, we need to repent. As Gordon B. Hinckley put it once to a group of missionaries, “Well you aren’t much to look at but you are all the Lord has”.

  • Elder Anderson

    “If we as missionaries fail to follow the example of the Savior, we need to repent.”

    Really? What do you think would have happened to Elder Miller if he had gotten off that bus and missed his appointment? I’ll tell you. He’d have been severely reprimanded for disobeying orders, not praised for rendering aid. That’s what his training taught him.

    The Lord associated with the most miserable and diseased people in society. He stuck by them, advocated for them, elevated them, and healed them. Meanwhile, LDS missionaries get evacuated from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi, Japan, Mexico, Bolivia, Beruit, and anywhere else where they might be in some distress. I am pretty sure the Lord would have been elbow deep in the blood and rubble doing what He could to ease peoples’ suffering.

    Get off your high horse.

  • maddy

    Don’t know Scott Miller, haven’t read his book(yet). But I took it upon myself to look at the reviews of his book:
    Some snippets:

    “This book brought back so many memories both good and not so good. He did such a great job of capturing both.”

    “In reading this book my brother said that it transported him back to a challenging and difficult period in his life and many of the situations and conditions this author described resonated deeply within hIm.”

    “This book is factual. Missionary life has a lot of hardships, but also a lot of joys.”

    Defensiveness is a common response within our church culture.
    Perhaps we should withhold judgment until/unless read the book.

  • Anna

    The gist of tje piece I accept. His credibility plummets though when he says he was forced to wear a fedora. I’ved lived in Sweden most of my adult life. Missionaries are not required to wear fedoras and haven’t been at least since 1989. So, that makes me wonder if there is any fact-checking! Fictional anecdotes passed off as real don’t help anyone’s cause ever.

  • Elder Anderson

    @Anna
    The first paragraph says Dr. Miller’s mission was in the 1970’s. That’s well before your 1989 cut off date. Also, at least one reviewer of Dr. Miller’s book mentions that he also wore a “Dick Tracy” style fedora during that time frame. I think Miller’s credibility is intact.

  • Bob

    As a young man in the Catholic Church in the mid 1960’s my father and I wore a fedoras every Sunday to church. Mine has a feather on it.

  • Bob

    My recollection is that there were few fedoras worn to church after 1969 (Woodstock), however, my grandfather wore one until his death in 1984. I can imagine they were worn in the 70’s in Europe.

  • Bob

    Samuel, ” generally change their lives for the better as a result.”
    How do you know this Bob?

    Here is how I know. Faithful Latter-day Saints teach and practice the set of values, principles, and standards of behavior, when adopted by the individuals of a community, create a society of peace, order and stability. Many (but not all) of these values are universal and shared with those of many other faiths. In more common terms these values include kindness, honesty, generosity, personal responsibility, self-determination, and mutual respect, to name just a few. With all their youthful inexperience, my guess is the young sister missionaries exhibited all of these values and more when speaking with you. Its interesting how opposite this these values from what Socialist Cuban leaders teach by their example. Please listen to the entire message before condemning Mormonism. Thank you again for all the good you do

  • Bob

    Samuel, ” generally change their lives for the better as a result.”
    How do you know this Bob?

    Here is how I know. Faithful Latter-day Saints teach and practice the set of values, principles, and standards of behavior, when adopted by the individuals of a community, create a society of peace, order and stability. Many (but not all) of these values are universal and shared with those of many other faiths. In more common terms these values include kindness, honesty, generosity, personal responsibility, self-determination, and mutual respect, to name just a few. With all their youthful inexperience, my guess is the young sister missionaries exhibited all of these values and more when speaking with you. Its interesting how opposite this these values from what Socialist Cuban leaders teach by their example. Please listen to the entire message before condemning Mormonism. Thank you again for all the good you do

  • Josh

    No high horse here. I recognize my own need to repent every day. I served a 2 year mission and I made a lot of mistakes. I don’t judge other missionaries for their mistakes. They are mortal just like me. Now, 20 years later, I serve in the church in a leadership position and I still make a lot of mistakes. I don’t claim to be Christlike in my efforts to ease people’s suffering but I strive to follow His example. I strive to do all that I can to care for the poor and the needy.

  • Elder Anderson

    @Bob
    “Samuel, Those who listen to the “spiel” (complete message) whether or not they become Mormon generally change their lives for the better as a result.”

    I agree with Samuel. You state this as a fact, but there’s no proof whatsoever that listening to a Mormon missionary “generally” affects a person’s life going forward. Your evidence is that missionaries have qualities such as kindness, honesty, generosity, etc., and these qualities somehow rub off on the listener. That makes no sense at all. These are traits that most people have whether or not a Mormon missionary ever visits, so it makes no sense to say people “generally change their lives for the better as a result” of a missionary visit. The best you can say is “perhaps a few people change” but even that is pure speculation on your part.

  • Bob

    The comment section here is much about opinion. Let’s agree that I will respect yours if you respect mine. My experience after sharing the LDS message with thousands is that imbedded in the doctrinal teachings of LDS theology is a unique understanding of a certain unique set of values, principles and standards of behavior. My experience is that that for anyone, sincerely listening to this message changes lives forever. Thank you all for all the good you do. Signing off for now.

  • Elder Anderson

    1. “…LDS theology is a unique understanding of a certain unique set of values, principles and standards of behavior.”

    Before, you said the qualities were universal, now they are unique. What values, principles, and behaviors are unique to Mormon theology? Please list some.

    2. “My experience is for that for anyone, sincerely listening to this message changes lives forever.”

    My question (and Samuel’s) remains, “How do you know?” Out of the thousands you spoke to, how many had their lives changed? How many of the thousands listened sincerely? How could you tell? How did their lives change? If you claim they changed “forever” does that mean you followed up on these people forever to check?

    3. On the other hand, if you mean to say “I delivered the LDS message to thousands of people and I personally believe that, in doing so, I forever changed their lives for the better.” I can buy that. It’s a personal belief or opinion.

  • Bob

    Elder Anderson and Samuel, I have limited time today but wanted to respond to at least the first of your questions.
    I did not say the qualities were universal. If you look back at my post, this is what I said.
    Many (but not all) of these values are universal and shared with those of many other faiths. There are unique LDS values, principles, and standards of behavior that make a big difference and do change lives simply by making people aware that there are higher standards to observe.
    To me the most important ones include (but are not limited to) “personal revelation” and the importance of observing the “spirit of the law”. There are principles the LDS observe that are observed by other churches. These include the law of tithing, the word of wisdom, law of chastity, etc. To me LDS theology, which included continual revelation to leaders and individuals, puts together a unique more complete standard. Work for a living…so bye for now. Keep doing your best good works.

  • Elder Anderson

    @Bob
    I work 50 to 70 hours a week, and I’m a lot more efficient than you, apparently. At least I know how to answer a direct question in a couple of sentences.

    Either way, I’m going to let you off the hook. Apparently, you have a personal belief or opinion that what you’ve said is true. That’s good enough for me.

  • Elder Anderson

    If are sinning, repenting, and making mistakes every day, then maybe you shouldn’t be in a church leadership position. Have you informed your superiors about your sins and difficulties handling your calling?

  • Josh

    “If we do not invite others to change or if we do not demand repentance of ourselves, we fail in a fundamental duty we owe to one another and to ourselves. Only through repentance do we gain access to the atoning grace of Jesus Christ. The divine gift of repentance is the key to happiness here and hereafter. In the Savior’s words and in deep humility and love, I invite all to “repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17)” Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (Oct 2011)

  • Elder Anderson

    If you have to repent daily, you’re doing it wrong.

    Go and sin no more. -Jesus

  • Jonathan

    Dee Wilson-

    Years ago, the mountains around my town were on fire, too. Our stake fed the firefighters for weeks, and members continually visited their camp at a city park in our stake.

    We did not house them in any church buildings. If any of them had injured themselves in the building, the potential liability was enormous.

    A co-worker of mine faced a similar situation. A drunken guest had fallen off his porch and was considering litigation. He was sick with fear for days. His homeowner’s insurance didn’t seem willing to pay anything, and were adversarial rather than helpful. He was afraid he’d lose his house.

    The Church restricts use of its property not because the Apostles are unfeeling corporate machines or evil monsters. They are constrained by the law. The Church would be sued into oblivion if they acted with less caution.

  • Arthur

    It seems to me the story says more about the immaturity, spiritual and otherwise, author than anything else. Most people, including most Mormons and most missionaries, don’t need permission to do well or to act in a crisis. And nothing against him – these are 20 year old kids thrown out of their comfort zone and lots of people need something of a dope slap to step outside of themselves and take a look at the larger picture. The problem are the ones for whom it never comes, or they don’t respond appropriately when it does.

  • Elder Anderson

    “Most people, including most Mormons and most missionaries, don’t need permission to do well or to act in a crisis.”

    Missionaries are decidedly *not* free to act in a crisis. They are forced to live in pairs, mostly isolated from their family, and live highly regimented lives.

    Mormons accept micromanagement of their lives to a degree that astonishes outsiders. They grow up with it are are completely unaware of it.

    Another thing Mormons like to do is place blame, judge, and point fingers. This couldn’t possibly represent what missionaries experience and how they act.

    There couldn’t *possibly* be anything wrong with Mormonism and the mind control exerted on young people. It must be that the author is “spiritually immature” and needs a “dope slap”.