Friday, March 28, 2014

LDS Mission vs. College Education

by Brig Bagley

28 March 2014

Now that boys and girls can leave on missions at 18 and 19, respectively (still literally teenagers), the LDS church has successfully deployed over 30% more missionaries around the world. But as college physics teaches, not only what goes up must come down, but energy can't be created... only transferred. 

These kids out on missions are taking away from attendance to not just physics, but all college courses--possibly forever. Girls, especially, are dropping out of college enrollment to "serve the Lord" and "go and do" his will wherever that may be. However, the expectation is that women marry early on and soon after serving--making Utah the lowest average age for marriage: 24. This number will also go down with the lowered mission ages. The education gap for men and women (highest in Utah) will continue to increase. 

Mormon Utahns argue that the 4% drop in college enrollment each semester since the 2012 mission age announcement was expected, and that a mission serves as a great opportunity to grow, learn how to learn, and experience many other important life experiences. There are a few issues that go along with that, though. The learning experience is not only biased, but it comes at a price. These kids give up 2 years of income and even pay out of pocket up to $10,000 for the "experience". Similar life and world experiences (if not more realistic and useful ones) can be encountered by serving in the military, peace corps, red cross, and more. And these experiences pay you. Not a lot, of course, but you can take your earnings to pay off much of college with it. 

LDS people often recite how important education is, but pulling naive teenagers right out of high school (with poor public school ratings in Utah to top it off) to fill their minds with religious rhetoric is anything but valuing education.

Along these lines--and I know I've already said this--snatching kids up right out of high school is one solution the LDS church has for such high inactivity levels for youth. Kids in this generation are the most open-minded ever seen with the progressive society we have. More and more of them are questioning the outdated ways of the Mormons. Sending them off to a mission right away, however, skips the limbo period where they question the church and fall away from it. 

Teach them how to think before they are taught to think for themselves.

Even if the LDS church gets more kids out on missions, there are still high numbers of missionaries that return home early for various reasons. Many will go out and realize it wasn't for them, they weren't ready, or they don't believe in it after all. This hurts both the church and the missionary.

Missions have a lot of great aspects. I served a mission and learned much from it. Most of what I learned, however, I could have learned many other ways. And I would be 2 years further in life. Missions should be for mature adults who have lived and loved the religion on their own terms and wish to share it. Not for a teenager that has little to no life experience or skills.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in a comment!

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