Apparently, unbeknownst to be me, LDS missionaries are limited in what they can read. I first became aware of this in a timesandseasons.org post by Dave Banack. One of his suggestions for improving the lives of Mormon missionaries was:
Allow more education and culture into the reading and study program. One LDS permablogger who had his mission president’s permission to read more widely in LDS and other religious and theological books said it changed his life.
It was great that MP gave his permission, but not so great that the missionary had to get permission.
In reaction to the T&S post, I wrote:
This statement is symptomatic of one big problem. Why should a missionary have to get permission to “read more widely”? Missionaries should be encouraged to enlarge their knowledge base. And shouldn’t need permission from their MP on what to read.
Controlling what missionaries read makes us look like a cult.
Ben S., the permablogger in question, responded:
I can think of several good reasons to have general restrictions on missionary reading material, but I think we’ve over-corrected to be excessively narrow, which is probably counter-productive.
Susan commented that she didn’t see a compelling reason for missionaries reading books outside the Mormon sphere.
Ben went on make his own T&S post titled “The Hypothetical ‘Missionary Library.'” In it he listed the currently approved books for missionaries: Jesus the Christ, Our Search for Happiness, True to the Faith, and Our Heritage. While Ben is critical of the current restrictive list, his list is equally restrictive, only longer. In response to my idea of no list at all, he commented:
I think missionaries at a minimum need some general guidelines, or it would be Harry Potter and (if we’re lucky) The Work and the Glory all the time.
Okay, maybe missionaries need some direction in what they read. How about restricting them to non-fiction and classical fiction?
In the age of the Internet, controlling the message (or the information flow) is no longer possible or productive. And it is best for LDS missionaries to be intellectually well rounded. Let’s sh!t-can the list.