Dear 100 Hour Board,
I overheard a guy on campus the other day say something to the effect of, "I want to marry an RM because I only want an RM teaching my children." This really bugged me, but I find that I have a hard time explaining to others why. Thoughts?
-Not so fond of some attitudes at BYU
Well, you're definitely not alone; reading that quote bugs me too. For one, just because someone has served a mission, that doesn't automatically make them a wonderful/better teacher. There are many women who aren't RM's who are nevertheless amazing mothers and teachers. However, that isn't what truly bothers me here. What I dislike the most about statements like this is the underlying assumption that people (and in this instance, women) are somehow lesser for not having served. In other words, it's the belief that if a woman was actually as righteous as she was supposed to be, then she would have served a mission, and if she didn't serve, there must be something wrong with her. That belief is simply false.
Speaking as a woman who has not served a mission, I would be incredibly hurt if a guy I was in a relationship with broke up with me because I wasn't an RM. In less dramatic examples, I'd be offended, well, extremely indignant is probably a more accurate descriptor, (cause, like Sheebs, I probably wouldn't want to date him either) if a guy refused to even consider dating me based on that limited criteria. I'd hope that I'd be valued for who I am, not whether or not I served a mission.
For each individual, following God's plan for them looks different. Thus we shouldn't make judgments on one another for having taken a different path from ourselves; what is right for one person is not always right for another.
Dear Not so fond,
First of all, serving a mission doesn't ensure that someone will be an amazing person for their entire life. Heck, as an RM I can tell you that just the simple fact of being a missionary doesn't make you an amazing person even on the mission; choosing to develop Christlike attributes and focus on others and listen to the Spirit does. And while missions tend to facilitate/accelerate that, not every missionary chooses to do those things, and there are scores of people who don't serve missions who do do those things. True, lots of people grow and learn and change while on a mission, but that's definitely not the only way to have life-changing, testimony building experiences.
Second of all, I think it's dumb when people choose to focus on past events of someone's life rather than the present. Everything in the gospel teaches us that whatever we were or did in the past is insignificant in comparison with where we're now headed, and I think that applies to missions. Merely having an impressive resume in the Church doesn't say anything about who that person is now, or where their life is headed. Rather than focusing on what someone did in the past, and trying to check something like, "Returned missionary" off a list, I think people looking for a spouse should focus more on what someone is currently doing to have an active relationship with God. As Elder Edward Dube said in the October 2013 General Conference, "In the sight of the Lord, it is not so much what we have done or where we have been but much more where we are willing to go."
I am not an RM. And whatever, I don't want to date him either.
I agree with the statements above.
But do you know what's kinda ironic about this situation? A few years ago (before all the age-change sisters got back), men were much less likely to date a girl if she was an RM. RM sisters were thought to be bossy and controlling, not to mention what on earth was wrong with her if she couldn't get married by the time she was 21. It's interesting that, now that RM sisters are two years younger and there are a lot of them, now it's a desirable trait. We guys are weird.
Like others said above, whether or not someone served a mission is a silly criterion to impose on all potential partners, because it doesn't necessarily reflect what kind of person they are today.
I think we should be really careful in what we say because there's a lot of people out there who either don't get a chance to serve a mission or don't feel like it's for them. That decision was hard enough, and they don't need a bunch of people criticizing their decision and evaluating their worth from it. As a guy, I know plenty of incredible women, some who have served a mission and some who haven't. A mission can be a fantastic growth experience, but it doesn't define a person's character.
Now, there's a lot that two RM's can have in common because they both served a mission. I could imagine that some people would really enjoy that. But to say that a non-RM is a worse teacher is going too far.
Personally, I wouldn't make serving a mission a requirement in a spouse. It's more important to me who she is than what she's done.