Interesting conversation about youth and missions

I had an interesting conversation with my daughter who chooses not to be active in the church at the current time.

she is a manager of a company that hires “Snowflakes” apparently that means they are between 18-30, not sure though.

She was complaining about their lack of work ethic, lack of remembering what they needed to do and the fact that if you get on them they had a melt down.

It slowly turned to the missions of the church, we had a local return home because of anxiety issues.

She asked me a question that made me think: “I know the church wants their missionaries to be well prepared scripturally and spiritually, but what are they doing about the “mental” side of missions?” Her comment was based on the fact that the young people she works for seems to not knowing how to deal with failure.

I stopped and had to think about that. I know the church has pushed reading the scriptures, going to the temple, living Christ like lives, but I am not sure if there are things that they do to help with the mental side of missionary work (Living on your own, pressures of success, dealing with rejection, etc)…

It seemed to me that I have been seeing more and more kids coming home for mental issues lately.

So I guess I would ask Jim or someone who is or has been a bishop if he has noticed the same thing and if they had what are they doing about it? Are we preparing our youth to deal with failure, rejection and sometimes loneliness?

I am not being critical or anyone or thing, I am concerned that some of our youth while being prepared spiritually, need help with the reality of missions.

Any thoughts?

Living on a farm and having chores for 2 hours before the sun came up made us tough. (mentally)

Kids today are not tough. product of environment. Everyone tells them how good they are and they just have not done a single thing other than exist, eat and poop.

I have 2 deacons in YM that can run circles around anyone, both mentally and can do attitude. I would throw them up against any 12 year old I have even known so there is hope.

My daughter is serving in Guatemala City right now, and she says a few missionaries from her MTC group have already gone home in their first 8 months. Regarding the “mental” preparation that your daughter brought up, I think it’s really a toughness and work ethic thing, like Fish said.

I’m the Priests Quorum Advisor now and we have 9 active Priests. I think about 5 will serve missions. For those that won’t serve, it will probably be a lack of testimony and/or lack of work ethic.

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Mental discipline is hard to achieve but simple to understand. It makes all the difference.

Every time you run into a tough spot, big or small, do you grit your teeth and just do it or do you slack off? I’ve observed that people who consistently do the little things the right way, even when it’s only a little difficult, tend to be ready when the bigger difficulties arise.

It’s like a computer program: A condition triggers a mental process and then you instinctively perform an action.

You run into difficulty - you bear down mentally - and you attack the challenge. The mental process is the same for small and large difficulties. So cutting your teeth on small stupid things makes all the difference. When your 10-year-old is tired do they toss their socks on the floor and fall into bed or do they put them away?

Maybe I’m wrong, and I’m frequently wrong (and younger than most here), but that’s the way I see it.

It takes a testimony to become a successful missionary. President Nelson has a positive attitude about young people and I believe that he will move the bar up so that more young people can continue to complete honorable missions.

What we’re seeing is a breakdown (a generational breakdown) in parenting, coupled with the rising cradle-to-grave digital generations. In other words, I don’t blame the kids for their incompetency and lack of resilience; I blame their parents and upbringing. Obviously, there are exceptions, and we have some really good kids, too, but by and large, the whole cohort of kids over the last ten years or so (as a whole) has real problems with competency and resiliency. This is why the missionary program has changed from a missionary program to more of a “keep them in the Church and active” program. In other words, the focus is not on finding and converting (traditional missions), it is on trying to stop the hemorrhaging of RMs and YSAs from going inactive or missing. North American missionaries are coddled,tracting is discouraged or banned, and they spend downtime at the church tapping and swiping on iPods and playing the piano (and having “meetings.” At any given time, there are 3-4 cars with bike racks in our church parking lot). The Church is piloting a program where missionaries spend the last six months of the mission pulled out of missionary work and working on resumes, interviewing skills, job/work skills, dating and marriage, etc. When people wring their hands over the falling convert baptisms every year, I tell them that it shouldn’t be a surprise. Missionaries do a lot less finding.

We had a visiting Seventy tell our stake in the adult session of stake conference that it is our job to ensure that our missionaries never have any negative experiences and only have positive ones. Ironically, I think this coddling is causing more anxiety and depression than it’s preventing. Two years of hanging out at the church tapping and swiping on devices would make me want to go home (and save $10,000), too.

Our stake had a dismal rate of priests serving missions over the last two years, and I pointed out to our stake presidency that most of our youth have no idea about any of the details of their parents’ missions. They may know where they served, but they don’t know any stories about their missions. Why would youth think that serving a mission is something they want to do? My children know people, places, and events from my mission and my father’s (we both served in the same mission, northern Germany), and they have wanted to go since they can remember. But, this isn’t the norm; most youth have no inkling of the adventure and romance of missions.

And, it doesn’t help that the modern mission program is stripped of a lot their romance and adventure, anyway. “It’s not missionary work — it’s missionary fun!” — Elder Anderson

And this is the reason behind lowering the mission age to 18. It was an attempt to get them on a mission right away before they go missing between graduation and 19. This has led to a higher rate of early returning missionaries, as more with no life experience (school, work, etc.) have been thrust into their first experience away from home. The scourge of electronics addiction doesn’t help, either.

My parents got back in March from their mission in Poland. They said there is a night-and-day difference between the 18 year-old missionaries, and older missionaries.

I had no idea this was going on. In our mission in Chile, I could count on one hand the missionaries that were “Slackers”…the rest got out and worked, some were relentless.

Foreign missions are different, for obvious reasons: missionaries are needed to form vital functions within branches and wards. The nature of the work outside of North America is such that a lot of the coddling is impossible. I wish they treated NA missionaries the same, but it is different.

One unintended consequence of “the surge” (when the ages were lowered) was that boys and girls went on missions who otherwise would not have. On paper, this is a good thing, but it necessitated changing the nature of missions where a lot of these kids were sent. We went from 52,000 missionaries to 90,000, as a lot of youth were swept up in the mania and positive peer pressure of the time (it is dropping back down into the upper 60,000s at this time).

Our mission president in my area said that he was asked monthly by Salt Lake at the height of the surge if he could take on 30 additional missionaries. Since each ward already had a set, this meant that there were multiple sets in many wards. Missionaries were tripping over each other, and what work there was didn’t go far between these large numbers of missionaries. It wasn’t good for morale.

It isn’t that most are slackers. They are doing what they are being told to do (by Salt Lake, and by the mission president). Some missions ban tracting or finding because they want to put the onus on members. They are told to spend time where they don’t have appointments at the church.

I believe it may be indicative of society in general and our tendancies to use escapism to counter lifes problems and struggles. For boys, i think the church has focused on scouting in the past to help youth become confident and self-reliant. The girls-I dont know that we have had sufficient programs in place to help them adapt to the next stages in life, when in reality most of the emphasis was inside the home and not outside in the job market. In the end, though, the responsibility may lie more with the parents, who unwisely, allowed their children not to fail early in their lives and learn to pick themselves back up. I know many 18 and 19 year olds that cant put their x-boxes down and go find employment and we let them get away with it. Youth need to be challeged and taught to overcome adversity or they are ill prepared for what comes next. I find Nick Emery’s latest blog encouraging and insightful.

emery blog link?

I just picked my son up from his mission to Colorado today. He served the full 2 years and it was great for him. We talked in the car on the way home, our 45 minute drive from santa barbara took almost 5 hours because of the mudslide in Montecito. We had to go the long way around.

We talked about millenials, lack of commitment and many other things. He was already pretty mature for his age, but he also went out a bit later, at age 22.

I agree with Rubicon in that it is a lack of proper parenting mostly, combined with society’s values and morals, but I believe my generation is responsible for a lot of it as well. Ultimately the individual will have to answer for his own actions so there ya go.

My son has a strong testimony of the gospel, but more importantly he talked about his testimony of the love he knows his Heavenly Father and Savior have for him. We put a lot of energy and time into raising him too. A lot of little things go into the mix and you hope for the best. My wife and I feel fortunate because we were given a lot to work with in all of our boys. We loved them and held them accountable and we did our best to lead them in the right direction, but let them figure it out themselves too. His life mattered to us and he knows it, just like his brothers.

I feel bad for those that leave the church and think there are better options out there. I challenge anyone to show me a better way… there isn’t. We will all acknowledge the Savior and his example, hopefully we follow the plan we accepted before coming to earth. It isn’t complicated but for some reason it seems difficult for many people today.

It looks like pendulum is going to swing back to focusing on finding and conversion as opposed to helping develop the missionary (which takes place naturally if they are finding and converting). I was particularly interested (and impressed with) the acknowledgement that we have sent out a lot of missionaries who weren’t qualified/ready, and that we are to a better job screening before sending them or, if they are going to go home early, to do it early in the mission and get it over with rather than make companions, presidents, missions, and wards suffer:

My kids left for various reasons… Gay Rights and the way the church handled Prop 8, How some kids in church treated them while be held up by adults as being a “Good Mormon”, Poor decisions and feeling guilty about it, influence of spouse.

Not making excuses for their decisions, I guess, I was not the best dad either, so I should share the blame as well.

I have hope that some day they will see that the church has a lot to offer their lives and come back, until then, all I can do is be there for them and love them.

my take is a differing one. It comes from visiting 60+ countries and observing cultures. The smart phone had made every person in the world both smart and dumb. Children no longer depend on their parents for info…some other nuggets that the smart phone brings us:
No need to socialize, just play video games
No need to communicate, nothing face to face, its all in snap chat or text
learning how to accomplish tasks…I got to level 14, isn’t that good enough

I could go on and on but you all know, couple that with the disappearance of the family farm and credit to buy all one would ever dream of and you have what you have

That is a reason why people are leaving the church, a whole different dilemma.

But the Church appears to be going all in with smart phones globally for missionaries. I think that will be a disaster.

Jim - What did your son say about spending a lot of time at the chapel, not tracting, etc, as Rubicon stated?