As Garrett has been preparing to receive his mission call to serve for The Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints, we've been talking a lot about Mormon missions and missionaries.
And a lot of people have asked some wonderful questions.
My friend Andrea from Blogging Mama emailed me with the following -
"On the post Money, Money, Money! -
Are the kids required to go on a mission?
And what happens if they are in college?
Do they just pick back up after two years away? That seems hard."
Great questions Andrea!
1. "Are kids required to go on a mission?"
It's not a requirement. It's an expectation.
From the time my boys were teeny, we always talked about "WHEN you go on your mission" not IF.
Church service is an integral part of our religion. We have a lay ministry. No one is paid. It's a church of volunteers. Service is expected. Likewise, for young men, serving a mission is an expectation.
In a recent church conference, the prophet, Thomas S. Monson said -
"First, to young men of the Aaronic Priesthood and to you young men who are becoming elders: I repeat what prophets have long taught—that every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much. Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary. Keep yourselves clean and pure and worthy to represent the Lord. Maintain your health and strength. Study the scriptures. Where such is available, participate in seminary or institute. Familiarize yourself with the missionary handbook Preach My Gospel."
Okay - I added the bold.
Most LDS families talk about missions from birth and mothers and fathers and Sunday School teachers and youth leaders all have a common goal of helping young men receive a testimony of the Gospel and a desire to share it with others. We begin preparations at a young age- saving money, instilling values, learning skills for independence etc.
2. "What happens if they are in college?"
Because the majority of young men leave on missions when they are 19, most of them are in college. Trammell left for his mission immediately following his freshman year of college. Garrett will do the same. Some only finish a semester. Some graduate from high school early to get more college in before they leave.
Most colleges allow the student to defer his enrollment. They just have to fill out some forms and the school allows them to re-enroll in two years. In fact, the military academies now allow Mormon missionaries to defer their education and come back. They do have a requirement that you need to put in two years of school before you defer, but they allow it.
3. "Do they just pick back up after two years away? That seems hard."
Yes and yes.
About six months before Trammell returned from his mission, he received a letter from the university asking to verify that he was indeed returning to school in the Fall of 2011. They also provided registration information for the new academic year.
Somehow, moms of his freshman friends tracked me down and we all decided on a condo for the boys to live in upon their return to school.
The boys were all on missions and didn't have time to "condo shop." And after living in third world conditions for two years, they didn't care if they lived in tents.
When they get back from their mission, there is a big adjustment period.
They go from focusing on one thing - sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ
to real life - school, friends, work, bills, TV, and GIRLS!
It is hard to get back into the swing of things and strike a balance between all of the things calling out to you.
It's also hard to leave being a spiritual high and not having to worry about "earthly" things and now being hit by a barrage of decisions. There is a lot to think about....like what to do with the rest of your life
Return missionaries will tell you it's hard to adjust.
But they would not trade their two years of experiences for anything!