Monday, August 8, 2016

What happens when your job sucks so much...

that you'd rather do anything else?

I was just reading RfM and someone started a funny thread about how, when he was serving as a Mormon missionary, he looked forward to anything at all that would take him away from missionary work.  This guy, who no doubt was a young, energetic, vital man in the prime of his life, preferred hanging out at Jiffy Lube waiting for an oil change to knocking on doors and tracting.

While I have never served as a missionary for any church, I have to admit that were I in his shoes, I would have probably felt the same way he did about the door to door sales required from Mormon missionaries.  It's thankless work and probably pretty pointless for most missionaries nowadays.  The advent of the Internet has made it much harder to sell religion of any stripe to people.  The vast majority of people are comfortable in their religious beliefs.  The ones who aren't comfortable are probably actively seeking something new and don't need to be recruited by young lads in polyester suits.

One poster correctly pointed out that missionary work, while billed as heroic to many young people, is actually rather distasteful.  The poster writes "Missionary work aka trying to trick people into accepting something they neither want or need ... is a totally unnatural and intrinsically distasteful, if not downright disgusting behavior for ANYONE, let alone 19-21 year old human beings."  He adds, "ANYTHING feels better than Missionary work. Being SICK and in PAIN feels better."

While some people might take exception to the last part of the poster's comment, it does drive the point home.  It also makes one wonder why someone who's young and has his or her whole life ahead would voluntarily submit to such a waste of precious time.

When someone would rather have appendicitis or toenail surgery than do missionary work, it really says something about the job at hand.  When someone would rather be hospitalized for amoebic dysentery, hepatitis, or typhus fever than go door to door selling religion, it makes a profound statement about what a waste of precious time missionary "work" is.  And yet, young people still continue to do it.  They still put in their papers and post videos on YouTube about where they will be going.

Some of the places Mormon missionaries go to are truly exciting.  But how much do they get to see when they're doing "the Lord's work"?  They get one personal day each week, which is used for doing laundry, shopping, and other household chores.  They don't even get the full day, either.  The rest of the week, they are expected to be dressed in suits, skirts, or dresses and trying to drum up membership for "the one true church".  I'm sure it's disheartening when missionaries find someone willing to listen to them only to be brushed off when the "investigator" goes online and reads up on Mormonism.

I hesitate to say that Mormon missions don't have any redeeming value.  I think they are good in that if you serve overseas, you learn a new language.  You have to learn how to stretch your money and live with other people, including those with whom you might not like.  You learn sales, too.  But one can certainly find other ways to get those benefits.  I learned a lot of those same things when I joined the Peace Corps.  I had time off and was able to learn to appreciate the place where I was living.  I met people and formed relationships based on genuine goodwill and friendship, not because I was hoping to convince them to join my religion.

Anyway... I had a good laugh reading what some of these former missionaries would have rather have been doing than going door to door.  And I will admit that having gotten to know some people that were missionaries, it makes me feel kinder toward them.  I understand why a lot of them are on missions and have an inkling of how difficult they are.  At the same time, I want to shake some of them and remind them that they are volunteers and don't have to waste precious time on what amounts to utter bullshit.

At the very least, I think missionaries should be allowed to have some fun and get to know the area where they're serving.  They should be able to develop an affection for a place.  Too many stories from exMormons who served missions include stories of how much they hated where they served.  Every year, one guy who goes by the name "flash" writes about how much he hates Roanoke, Virginia, because that's where he was a Mormon missionary.  I happen to have a lot of family connections in the Roanoke area, so I love it there.  It makes me sad that he was left with a lingering disdain for a perfectly nice part of Virginia, simply because it reminds him of having to do work he didn't believe in.  If you're going to devote two years to missionary work, it should include some fun and work that really means something and makes a difference.  Some will argue that missionary work is meaningful and makes a difference, but I can't agree based on what I've read from people who have been there and done that.  I think a lot of people are kidding themselves.



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