Nathaniel Givens: Being Honest About Our Mormon Missions

This blog has advocated honesty (true honesty) about Mormon mission experiences.  This theme was recently reinterated in a blog entry by Nathaniel Givens on timesandseasons.org:

John K. Williams, who has written a memoir called “Heaven Up Here,” is one of the leading critics of Mormon reticence to speak with candor about their missions.  Based on my own experience: he’s on to something.  I could never honestly say that my mission was the best 2 years of my life although it was certainly (up to that point), the hardest 2 years.  That’s not to say it wasn’t important and meaningful, nor is it to say I wouldn’t go again.  I would.  It was just painful for reasons and in ways that I still do not fully understand.  But when I came home, I didn’t talk about this.  I haven’t really spoken of it publicly until now because it was a matter of duty and honor to say good things or nothing at all about my mission, lest I dissuade the rising generations, dishonor my family, and hurt the people I served and worked with on my mission.

Which Nathaniel added to in a subsequent comment:

I think on the subject of Mormon missions in particular there’s reasonable grounds to suspect it’s a fairly widespread issue.  In addition to John K. Williams (cited in the post), there’s also Ryan McIlvain and his book “Elders.”  Ryan’s been interviewed by Fresh Air and featured in the LA Times and so forth, so perhaps there’s a risk of a vocal minority, but from what I’ve read the general feeling that Mormon mission expectations are significantly different than the reality is fairly widespread. 

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