Friends and Dating

Part 6 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ Series

As we all take a deep breath, and calm our excitement over the recent announcement by the First Presidency, it’s a good time now to settle back and maintain focus again. It seems fitting to be talking now about what it means for a returned missionary in terms of their social well being. The LDS dating scene is about to get turned on its head as our returning missionaries will soon find a different kind of dating pool on their return over the next 2 years.

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Friends and dating.

From Dave and Wendy Ulrich

President Hinckley has said that in order to remain active and become integrated in the church, new converts need a friend, a meaningful assignment, and to be nurtured in the good word of God. Now, instead of providing those things for others, your missionary needs to get them for himself or herself. Families can help. Social life is a big challenge for many returning missionaries. It is hard to go from having constant companions, even if you don’t like them, to not having anyone to hang out with. It is especially hard if old friends have moved on, or have not grown up while the missionary has. Returning missionaries may have to work at making friends and dating again, and that can feel awkward. Avoid jokes about marriage, and help them manage outside pressure to make decisions about marriage too fast. Help them trust themselves to just date, learn to be friends with the opposite sex, and not feel that every date requires an immediate decision about marriage potential. Have fun helping them think of things to do, people to do them with, and ways to connect, and support them in taking time for this important part of life.

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What do I think?

You may not want to know what I think on this matter, as I could expound all day on the seriously poor dating skills that are out there at the moment. But, as Dave and Wendy suggest, it’s important for us as parents to avoid making it more awkward for them than it already is, so I’ll hold my tongue 😛

The biggest thing that we have done to help our three marriageable age daughters is to make our home a place where young people want to be. As parents we decided early on that to assist our girls in finding their social mojo, and eventually their eternal companion, we would offer our home as a place where they could bring their friends to hang out and socialise. Many of you may remember the Food Friday piece I wrote about ‘Pancakes and the Maurer’s’? We used these occasions to invite many young people into our home.

It’s my belief that the more opportunities our young people have to mix and mingle with the opposite sex, the easier it is for them to identify the characteristics and qualities they most want in an eternal companion and the the less painless it is for them to learn the art of socialisation. It also gave us opportunities as parents to meet their friends and discuss these things with our daughters openly. As Dave and Wendy suggest, the key is to making it fun for them and supporting them along the way.

But I place a huge caveat on my statement above! This is not an opportunity for parents to enforce their ideas and preferences on their child. Remember the last post I wrote on ‘Renegotiating Family Relationships’? That relationship is now one of support and encouragement, not rule making, curfews and parental expectations. They are adults now, and need the freedom to make their own choices, no matter how much you feel they could be wrong.

Questions:

1. Is it appropriate for parents to set curfews and rules about dating in the life of their returned missionary?

2. What are some ways that you think you could assist your returned missionary to become integrated back into a healthy social life?

3. Do you have any creative ways that you have used to support a missionary on their return to the dating scene?

4. In what way do you think the change to the ages of missionary service will affect the dating habits of our returned missionaries?

**Part 7 of ‘The Return of the Missionary’ we’ll talk Singles Wards and Church Callings.

Where to from here…

President Thomas S. Monson announces the lowering of missionary service age – October 2012.

I have been watching very carefully the many reactions to President Monson’s recent announcement for missionary service. I am pleased to note that it has overwhelmingly been positive.

Let me share with you some of the responses I have heard so far…

“So completely awesome.”

From one 17 year old young women,“It’s official, I’m going on a mission in 16 months”.

“What fantastic news.”

From another young women, “Yes, now I can serve a mission and still get married when I’m 21!”

“What better way to help our young people build a stronger base for their testimony before they go “out into the world” and face the trials and challenges of life!”

“What an amazing spiritual impact it will have on the Church!”

“What I worry now is that when my son comes home next week, he’ll have a problem finding good worthy sisters to date because they’re all going on a mission :-(“

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Now that the hype over the changes is beginning to die down, I am wondering exactly what will happen. Where do we go from here?

Even Elder Nelson and Elder Holland indicated that no-one knows yet the exact affect this change will have. But they both offered timely advice to all prospective missionaries, their parents, and to the wider church community. I would like to recap here exactly what this change will mean for these three parties and highlight how each can contribute to hastening the work of the Lord.

The Prospective Missionary:

Both Elder Nelson and Elder Holland stressed that this change is optional. They encouraged all prospective missionaries to prayerfully consider their options in terms of schooling, family, health, worthiness and personal preparation. Prospective missionaries should study and prayerfully consider the time that is best for them to serve as it is deeply personal to each individual young man and young women. This change is as much about facilitating different circumstances as it is about increasing the numbers of missionaries around the world.

Church policy still maintains that missionary service for young men continues to be a Priesthood responsibility, but for women it is wholly optional and suggests no obligation on their part to serve.

They were most explicit in their comments about the need for all prospective missionaries to begin their mission preparation early. Elder Holland admonished the youth of the church to enhance and improve their pre-mission preparation through:

  • Total personal worthiness
  • Gospel study
  • Attending seminary and institute programs
  • Attending mission preparation classes and studying the ‘Preach My Gospel’ manual intently
  • Knowing the gospel you teach
  • Being ready to serve as an effective missionary from day 1

The Parents of Prospective Missionaries:

I felt the mandate from Elder Holland that parents need to step up more. Parents were urged to take a stronger hand in the training of their children and were cautioned against relying on other church leaders or programs to prepare their children for missionary service.

However, this doesn’t mean we discourage them from attending their Sabbath day meetings, or seminary and institute classes. It just means we as parents need to help lay stronger gospel foundations of knowledge and testimony within the home first.

The Wider Church Community:

As a ward YW President, I was deeply affected by what Elder Holland said to the youth leaders in regards to this change. He stressed the clear role that youth leaders will need to take in assisting to prepare these young men and women at an earlier age.

In particular he recommended that YW leaders assist in developing the teaching abilities of the young women. It was also suggested that the new 2013 YW curriculum will help facilitate this.

In general, the consensus was that the wider church community is going to have to assist in the accelerated preparation of these young men and young women if they are to be adequately prepared for effective missionary service. There is none who escape this responsibility.

A Change Born Through Revelation

Overall, the message that came loud and clear to me was that this is a time for the hastening of the Lords work. While we may not know exactly what effects this change will have now, what I do know is that this announcement was born through revelation. As Elder Holland expressed on Saturday, “I warmly affirm Elder Nelson’s testimony that this has been studied and prayed over, and we have experienced the revelatory power in this … ” I know this to be true.

So what are your thoughts on it?

Press Conference Announcing New Missionary Opportunities

Elder Holland, Elder Nelson, and Elder Evans of the Seventy, announce that, effective immediately, men may now begin serving at age 18 and women at age 19.

**The actual press conference begins at about the 1 minute mark.

A New Option

BREAKING NEWS

Pres. Monson Announces Lowering of Age for Missionary Service

During the first session of the October 2012 LDS General Conference, Pres. Monson announced the opportunity for every worthy young LDS male to begin their missionary service at the age of 18. Additionally he included the announcement that all worthy young women may now serve from the age of 19.

Pres. Monson described this as a ‘New Option’, and it was later emphasised at a press conference with Elder Holland, Elder Nelson, and Elder Evans of the Seventy that this is merely an option that each potential missionary could consider. There is no obligation for young men or women to leave at this age. The only requirement for this option is that each young man needs to have completed high school graduation.

This change is immediate and could see many young men of 18  and YW of 19 submitting their mission papers as soon as this week, providing the requirements of worthiness and education have been met. Clearly this new announcement will raise many questions on the part of individual families, particularly for those young men who have just turned 18. However, during the press conference Elder Holland and Elder Nelson both emphasised that it should be a personal and family consideration with no mandatory expectation for any young man or young woman to prepare to leave earlier.

What a wonderful opportunity for the Lord to have His work move forward. As Elder Holland suggested, this announcement addresses the need for more missionaries. Worldwide Mission Presidents have been calling for more missionaries  and there is a great demand for the creation of new missions.

I look forward to hearing from any of our missionary mums out there who may be affected by this announcement. How do you feel about this announcement, and how is it going to affect you?

For me, with an almost 17 year old son, this is going to directly affect our family over the next 12 months. I am keen to explore the implications of it all.

For more information please visit Mormon News Room