I’ll admit right at the start, I didn’t serve a mission. And I’m a woman. So I was at the receiving end of neither the expectation nor the condemnation. Still, I have a husband and brothers who served missions, and a nephew currently serving, and the eldest of those brothers has always disliked what he’s described as ‘the cult of the RM’. See, it’s not even my phrase!
So, what did my brother mean by it?
He’s referring to the expectation so many have that because a guy served a mission it must mean he’s a wonderful person, he’s going to be a great leader, will make a wonderful husband. And the opposite, the feeling many hold that those who don’t serve are somehow less worthy, shouldn’t be considered as leadership or husband material. You know the kind of thing.
Now, there is no doubt a mission can be tough. Craig Harline’s book highlights some of those discouraging things. Hopefully, RMs will have benefited from that in some ways. That doesn’t mean that those who don’t serve don’t have good reasons for it, and haven’t grown in other ways, by virtue of their different experiences.
Last year there were a number of posts about the difficulties missionaries who return early can face. And there’s no doubt that the cultural expectations of their communities can cause them problems. But I don’t think they always do those who return after serving a full two years too many favours either.
This week a couple of guys from our ward will return from their missions, having served two years. Adjusting to normal life can take a while I know. And I’m pretty sure they can rightly feel proud of their achievement. I don’t want to minimise that. But still, I’m reminded of a talk given in our ward not so long ago by a recently returned RM from elsewhere in the stake. I’m not sure it isn’t contributing to the cult of the RM to have returning missionaries be sent to speak at wards other than their own within a stake. Anyhow, there was an awful lot that made me cringe and wince.
What was it I really didn’t like?
- He appeared to exude an attitude of entitlement, with an accompanying swagger.
- His constant references to obedience, as a virtue in and of itself, were like nails on a chalkboard.
- I definitely didn’t like the way he was eyeing up the Young Women in the ward. My visceral reaction was: Stay away from my daughter! Leave our YW alone!
As the most recent specimen of a new RM to cross my path, he was not encouraging, and I didn’t regard him as a great advertisement for the benefits of a full-time mission. He was only 20. He has time to improve. But I hope I won’t find my nephew, and the lads returning to our ward this week nearly so off-putting.
My questions for you are:
- How common is this attitude of entitlement amongst RMs?
- Is it ‘the cult of the RM’ in action, dependent on the personality of the RM, or an attitude picked up from their Mission President?
- Is it more prevalent than it used to be?
- What have you observed in returning missionaries that you either liked or disliked?
- How did you deal with things you didn’t like?
- If you are an RM, what helped you get back into the swing of normal life?
- Did you feel entitled?
- How could your family and ward members have best helped you?