A quote from a missionary

“I know i just have to thank the lord, work the hardest i can, and everything will be alright.”

This statement appears on the latest installment of a missionary blog. It’s hard to believe that I used to agree with him: trust in the Lord, word my butt off, and everything will be all right.

The problem is that when things don’t go right it must have been one of two things:

  • We weren’t trusting/thankful enough.
  • We weren’t working hard enough.

Typically we believed the latter, and that’s pretty much how our leaders interpreted things. I remember having F. Burton Howard of the Seventy rail on us because we weren’t working hard enough. I was working as hard as I could (and was thankful for the privilege), and yet according to him, it wasn’t enough. My companion and I went home nearly in tears that night partly because we couldn’t figure out how to work harder than we already were working, but mostly because we thought he was right: we weren’t good enough missionaries, or the Lord would be blessing us more than He was.

I’ve often wondered if the constant berating of church members as inadequate (witness Bednar’s talk yesterday about how people are foisting their missionary responsibility off on the missionaries) is intentional. Do they really think that making people feel guilty and inadequate is an effective motivator?

Maybe it’s a reflection of how they feel about themselves and their role in God’s kingdom. As missionary work slows every year and more people exit, it has to be discouraging for apostles and prophets to see their work producing so little. Maybe they see themselves as not working hard enough or not trusting the Lord as much as they should, so perhaps if they push the rest of us to be as motivated as they want to be, things will change.

Or maybe the Lord is just testing His church. Whatever it is, I suspect our young missionary friend will be disappointed in the end. He’ll work his butt off, thank God every day for His blessings, and yet the work in Ohio will go as slowly as ever. And then will come the time for him to beat himself up. I don’t have to be a prophet to know that it’s coming.

So, for now, all I can do is send best wishes his way and hope that he realizes that it’s not his fault when things go badly. I doubt very much he’ll ever understand that.


10 Responses to A quote from a missionary

  1. ditchu says:

    This statment is an atempt to take control of such things.
    Viewed by some as a copout because sometimes bad things just happen.
    I think they are caused or let to happen but not all things are due to the indivisuals actiond or lack of action. Sometimes bad things happen and the person trying to take control by placing self blame are not trully at fault. However, is any attempt to do better invain? I think, No. If we strive to do our best we will never make that attempt invain, even if we cannot acheive the control or results we desire, the action of doing better is self-rewarding.

  2. runtu says:

    Sure, the action of “doing better” is self-rewarding. That’s not what I was talking about, but then you knew that.

  3. ditchu says:

    On this one I was not attempting to be contrary. Sorry if you took it that way. Also I am glad to see you agree with me.

  4. runtu says:

    I do agree with you. Imagine that! 🙂

  5. bull says:

    And yet the tactics seem to work on a lot of the members. They leave in tears or invigorated to do more. Guilt can be a powerful motivator and the churches have mastered its use.

    Perhaps related. The need to control life and be perfect are primary ingredients in the development of addictions. As I’ve read about addiction I’ve been struck at how Mormon religious seems designed to incubate addictions.

  6. ditchu says:

    What?! that is total Bull.

    Guilt is not involved as far as I can tell, unless you are talking about the catholic experience.

  7. runtu says:

    Guilt is not involved in Mormonism? Surely you’re not serious.

    I’ve known bull for 24 years, and I have never met a man with more integrity than he has. He’s speaking the truth, whether you want to hear it or not.

    Catholics have nothing on Mormon guilt.

  8. ditchu says:

    what “Mormon” church do you attend? I have never been guilted by “Mormons” or the church. I do know however that my personal experience is not the only experience out there.

  9. runtu says:


    The church’s mastery of guilt as a motivator is reflected in the members’ not even realizing it’s being used on them.

  10. ditchu says:

    O.k. I think I get it now…
    See, I relize that People are people, wether they be in one group or another orgnization they are still people. And People tent to repeat their behavior. When viewed enmass People tend to exert their self-control beyound the self and will utilize several taticts to control others even when they do not think they are being controlling. One of these tactics is the improper application of guilt. This can be seen in all groups to some extent. In the LDS church it is due to indivisuals suffering from misguided self-importance. When these Guilt mongers rear their heads I politly end the discussion. Also I could care less if they spew their guilt laced influence all over me or blow it out their underside. No matter, I have an iron clad relationship with my God and if guilt is sparked in me it was something I knew to be wrong without the influence of guiltmongers. (Usually it is due to something I did or didn’t do that ticked off my wife.)

    SO to qualify my comments prior with this revelation: I do not see any guilting in the church that is disproportionate to that outside the church, in fact I probably see more guilt in my daily job than in the church.

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