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Saying Goodbye For Two Years. . .or Why Do Mormons Serve Missions?

September 29, 2021

I said goodbye to my son today. I gave me a hug and told him I was proud of him. I won’t be able to hug him again for 23 months.

My son is 18 years old. He turns 19 in a couple months. Last year he graduated from Pleasant Grove High School where he played on the football team and did his best to pass all his classes.

He has a serious girlfriend who lives North of Salt Lake City. He also has two best friends from high school. He wants to go to a Utah university and study criminal justice to become a police officer. Specifically he wants to be a SWAT team member.

So, why is he putting all of that on hold for the next two years?

You’ll have to go with me into Mormon theology and culture a little bit. If you aren’t interested, that’s fine. Tomorrow I will probably be back to writing about cars, or campouts. And if you are not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I don’t expect you to understand. If you are a member, then you already know.

The church has always been a missionary church. From the time the church was founded in 1830, men have been going on missions. You’ve seen them. They are the clean cut young men (and women) in white shirts and ties with those black name tags.

They all seem to have the same first name: Elder. Elder is a priesthood office in the church. As a full time missionary, young men are also full time representatives for the church and for Jesus Christ himself. Elder is the priesthood authority that they hold.

The boys have actual names, of course. But, for two years they will be known as Elder. My son has a name tag that says Elder Bliss.

My son will go to the Missionary Training Center in Provo Utah for the next two weeks. After that he will get on a plane and fly to Philadelphia. That’s the area that he will spend the next two years preaching.

Missionaries have a pretty simple mission. They are 100% focused on sharing information about Jesus Christ. Will they talk about the Book of Mormon? Joseph Smith? Tithing and not smoking or drinking?

Of course. The Book of Mormon is a book that has many, many stories about Jesus Christ. In fact, the subtitle of the book is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” Joseph Smith? He was the founder of the Mormon church and the first prophet of modern times. Just as ancient prophets received revelations for the people living throughout history, modern prophets receive revelations for people today. Joseph Smith was the first prophet of modern times. Today there is a prophet named Russell M. Nelson. Elder Bliss will talk about him too.

There are some pretty strict requirements to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You have to give up alcohol, tobacco, even coffee. Why? Well, that’s another (long) discussion, but mostly because of those modern revelations I talked about.

So, is a missionary just out there to get more converts for the Mormon church?

No. In fact, there are some missionaries that don’t preach at all. Really, it’s about sharing the Word of God. In fact, if you have no intention of EVER joining the church, but you still would like to hear a message about Jesus, the missionaries will be happy to engage at whatever level you would like.

My son has planned on going on a mission since he was a little boy. Tithing, giving one tenth of your income to the church, is a well established practice in the Church of Jesus Christ, as it is in many churches. Many young men view a mission almost as a service tithing. Ten percent of your first 20 years.

My son’s friends will likely still be his friends when he gets back. His girlfriend? Let’s not even go there. He’ll apply to a university. He’ll move on to the next phase of his life. A phase that many young men enter right out of high school. He’ll be two years old. Hopefully, a little wiser.

But, he’ll also be a different person. Spending two years serving the people of Philadelphia will have an impact.

Good luck and Godspeed, Elder Bliss.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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