Allison Pond on Being a Mormon Missionary
Date: January 30th, 2012

What is it like to be a young missionary in a foreign country that is undergoing major religious and legal changes?  Allison Pond, an editorial writer at the Deseret News (Utah) and formerly with the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, recounts her days as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Russia from 1997 to 1998.  Mormons are well-known for their missionizing activity around the world, so we explore the preparation, training, experience, and results of such missionizing work.  Allison begins by describing her spiritual upbringing in the LDS Church and reveals that she never thought of mission work until volunteering for a youth program while at BYU.  She then discusses the process for being selected as an LDS missionary, which includes an interview with a local bishop.  We inquire as to whether her work teaching English in Moscow played a role in her being selected for her to missionize in Russia.  Following this, we look at how Mormons, who are mostly young adults at the time, are trained in the Missionary Training Center and what goes on during the first few weeks in the field.  We discuss language training as well as preparation for hostile situations.  Allison then tells us what it was actually like to be in the field, especially the anxiety she felt on the first day and how this dissipated over time.  The typical routine of a missionary is discussed and we also focus on what is like to be a female missionary, considering that roughly 80% of all Mormon missionaries are young men.  We then discuss the changing religious scene in Russia and what complications that may have played in the mission trip.  Russia, which experienced the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, initially allowed a great degree of religous freedom leading to a rapid influx of foreign religions.  By 1997, the Russian Orthodox Church was pushing back with intensified rhetoric against foreign missionaries and with legal changes that made it difficult for such folks to operate.  Allison closes with some reflections about what she learned while on her sojourn and provides a bit of “looking back” advice for people considering missionary work, be it for the LDS Church or any other faith.   Recorded: January 6, 2012

RELATED LINKS

Allison Pond’s biography at the Deseret News.

 Allison Pond’s “Houses of Worship” column for Wall Street Journal (subscription required) and reprinted in the Deseret News.

Mormons in America at The Deseret News.

 Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

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6 Responses to “Allison Pond on Being a Mormon Missionary”

  1. Mike M. says:

    Thanks Allison and Anthony. Very enjoyable.

  2. jkoyle says:

    Very informative and wonderful to hear. Good stuff.
    Thank you!

  3. Jennifer Spencer says:

    Anthony I appreciated your questions and Allison, your replies were clear and informative. I’m glad that I ‘happened’ upon this site. I will visit again.

  4. Bonnie says:

    I enjoyed this interview very much!! Having been a sister missionary myself I felt Allison did a wonderful job of explaining the experience. One thing she didn’t mention is that each mission is led by a Mission President and his wife. They work as a team in supervising and assisting the missionaries. Also, there are usually several older missionary couples serving in each mission–retired people who help in the mission office, work with the branches (congregations) and also give community service in the areas they are assigned to. I have been able to serve, first as a single sister in Tennessee–1961-1963, with my husband in Hawaii 2006-2007. After he passed away, I served as a single sister again in Hungary 2009-2010. I loved each mission. It’s a win-win experience.

  5. Diana Carpenter says:

    Anthony: Interesting questions, you create a positive environment for discussion. Allison: an eloquent spokesperson for your faith. Thank you both. I will be following further discussions and look for Allison’s printed work.

  6. Todd Knowles says:

    Great interview! Great questions (as is usual each podcast) that allow a person who is not familiar with Mormon missions to get a much better idea of what it’s about.
    Thanks!

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