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
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.
Patrick Mason on anti-Mormonism and Mitt Romney.
Michael McBride on Religious Free-Riding and the Mormon Church.
Jeff Rose on Street Preaching.
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