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Elizabeth Smart's other journey
November 8th, 2010
08:05 PM ET

Elizabeth Smart's other journey

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

In a courtroom in Utah this week, Elizabeth Smart revisited the darkest  days of her life's journey. But her testimony came during a short break from a spiritual journey - one that has shielded her from reminders of her abduction, the nine-month ordeal and the attention that's followed her.

For more than a year, Smart, who recently turned 23, has been in the midst of her LDS Church mission, a rite of passage hallowed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Serving in Paris, France, she is among the 52,000 Mormon missionaries - most of them young adults; the others retired couples - who are knocking on doors and speaking 107 different languages in 180 countries, according to Lyman Kirkland, a church spokesman.

Those overseeing Smart’s mission didn’t return a call to CNN to discuss her missionary work. But if her time in the field is typical, here’s a glimpse into how she’s been living.

She’s been cut off from television, barred from seeing movies and prohibited from following the news. The only music she hears is church-approved. She wakes at 6:30 a.m. everyday to study the gospel by herself and with another young woman missionary known as her companion.

Barring the one day a week when she and her companion can do laundry, run errands, write letters home and, time permitting, go sightseeing, Smart’s days are spent with her Book of Mormon in hand, reaching out to strangers and teaching those who will listen.

Sharing the LDS Church doctrine, and being of service to people they meet along the way, is a cornerstone of Mormonism. By teaching the gospel and baptizing others, the homegrown U.S. religion has grown to about 14 million members worldwide since it was founded 1830, Kirkland says.

Joseph Smith Jr. established the Christian church after translating the Book of Mormon from golden plates that he said the angel Moroni revealed to him in New York State. In its first year, 16 missionaries were called to serve the fledgling faith, church records show.

From an early age, Mormon children are taught to sing “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission.” To be called on a mission is considered the greatest of honors.

Starting at 19, young men (referred to as elders) may be called to serve two-year missions. Young women (sisters), starting at 21, serve for 18 months. And wherever they go, they travel in same-sex pairs.

A missionary does not choose where he or she will serve.

The would-be missionary completes an application, which is then sent with other materials to LDS Church headquarters by that missionary’s stake president. A stake is sort of like a diocese; it’s the church body that oversees a group of LDS Church congregations, referred to as wards.

At LDS Church headquarters, members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles pray for divine inspiration before making mission assignments. In April of this year, Ronald Rasband, a general authority in the church, spoke about once witnessing the process when he addressed Mormons at a semiannual conference.

On one large computer screen, photographs of would-be missionaries appeared, he said. Another screen showed areas of the world where the LDS Church has missions. Before doing anything, the apostle knelt in prayer. He would envision where the missionary might go and study medical records, comments from the stake presidents and bishops, and any other materials submitted.

“Finally, as he was prompted by the Spirit, he would assign the missionary to his or her field of labor,” Rasband said. “This general method is typical each week as Apostles of the Lord assign scores of missionaries to serve throughout the world.”

The young adult finds out where he or she is going in a “mission call letter.” The call could take a missionary to places as various as Bolivia, Uganda or Kentucky.

Smart received her mission call letter, which sent her to Paris, France, in September 2009, according to the church-owned newspaper Deseret News.

Standing before family and friends, as most soon-to-be missionaries do, Smart opened her call letter, her father Ed Smart told the newspaper.

“She starts screaming and we’re wondering, ‘Where is it?’ And then she starts reading it,” the paper reported him saying. “We’re thrilled. It couldn’t be better. … It’s away from all this. Some of the celebrity type issues won’t be there. We couldn’t be happier for her.”

The newspaper also reported that during her captivity Smart was forced to write in a diary each night, and  at the bottom of each page she would write messages in French that her captors couldn't read.

Last fall's competency hearing for the man accused of abducting Smart, Brian David Mitchell, was scheduled to allow her testimony in court before she began her mission. She returned temporarily from her mission to testify further in Mitchell's federal trial on charges of  kidnapping and taking a minor across state lines for sex.

Before leaving for their destinations, missionaries report to one of the church’s missionary training centers. There they engage in spiritual study and, depending on where they’ll be traveling, intensive language classes for up to eight weeks.

New arrivals, dressed to proselytize in suits or modest skirts and always wearing name badges, are partnered up with companions who are further along in their missions. Under the guidance of mission presidents, stationed in the field, these young Latter-day Saints set out to serve.

The mission presidents and their wives act as surrogate parents to the missionaries, and local LDS Church families look out for them, too, often hosting them for meals.

Smart, like other missionaries, has in many respects been cut off from the wider world. A typical missionary is only allowed two calls home a year - on Mother’s Day and Christmas Day. In extenuating circumstances, perhaps like Smart's, exceptions are made. The church could not verify how much phone contact she’s had with her family.

But the odds are she has not followed the ins-and-outs leading up to Mitchell’s trial. Her commitment is elsewhere.

 

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints • Courts • France • Mormonism • Utah

soundoff (1,111 Responses)
  1. korwynias

    Human species are doomed to destroy each other

    November 9, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  2. Steven

    She will be able to move on. Because of her faith in Christ, she'll be able to let go. Helping other people, no matter where she goes, she'll be free from her past. Thank you, Jessica, for your fair and objective article describing Elizabeth Smart's mission.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:48 am |
  3. JDog2

    I'm one of those Elders that served a mission. I went to Texas for 2 years and it was far from brainwashing. I learned to love people better than I thought I could, I learned to be patient, caring, and what it means to be a true friend. Missionaries choose whether or not to send their application to church headquarters. Some choose not to and are faithful church goers. Men feel it is their duty to serve a mission and women go as they feel prompted by the feelings they get when they pray or if they feel that God is asking them.

    The life of an LDS Missionary is a splendid one. I loved every minute of my 2 years. I made timeless friends. My mission means the world to me, I think about it every day and miss it with all my heart. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian church, I wish people wouldn't overlook the largest two words in our logo, Jesus Christ. I am a devout Christian. I do not worship anyone but God and His Son, Jesus Christ. I know what I believe.

    I believe that each of you are talented and intelligent. I respect you and your opinions, and I just wanted to let you know that Mormons are really quite ordinary people with ordinary jobs and ordinary lives. For 2 years we try to put our full attention on Jesus Christ and tune out the noise of loud music, TV, and the ever depressing news. This is so we can bring others joy and service.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:47 am |
  4. ann

    I will never understand why people who are atheist feel the need to make fun of people who are not. Yes everyone has free speech but why would you want to use your rights to demean others? There are far more productive uses for free speech where you can make a real difference.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:46 am |
    • Robert

      Let's see if I can help. . . a bottle of wine out of a bottle of water. One fish = many fish. man walks on water. Man says to a dead man, get up. Man takes dirt, rubs it in blind man, man sees.

      How many of those things can you do?

      November 9, 2010 at 10:57 am |
    • ann

      I fail to see how that comment has anything to do with my comment.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:38 am |
    • ann

      I am pretty sure I was defending the right of a non-atheist to believe whatever they want without being made fun of.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:40 am |
    • Frogist

      @ann: Please provide specifics. It would be better than making a blanket statement as I know many non-believers who would take offence at being characterised the way you just did.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
    • ann

      I am specifically referring to people who like to make fun of others, most specifically atheist that like to make fun of non-atheists. Mocking and deriding someone's beliefs is in my mind mean spirited and unnecessary. I think people who like to participate in demeaning others could perhaps spend their time doing something a little more productive. You don't have to agree with someone's beliefs in order to treat them with respect and not derision.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
    • jt1967

      @ Frogist: Thank you so much for refereeing the discussion, but you are bit too biased to be believable in that role. Ann brings up a valid point and has still not had an answer to her question. No need for her to clarify. The question was simple. Why do atheists feel the need to come on discussion boards and ridicule other's beliefs? If you are looking for specific examples please feel free to choose from any of the hundreds lusted on this board.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
    • ann

      If that isn't specific enough, I think that atheists who are respectful and kind towards others who are non-atheists have every right to disagree with faith and religion if they so choose. I respect those who don't resort to name calling and mocking people.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
    • ann

      I knew a couple who were atheists through and through, but who respected the rights of others to believe in something different. I found the points they made very interesting of which I had no problem listening because they never made me feel uncomfortable by telling me I was a dumbo or someone who believed in the tooth fairy. They actually went to church on occasion because they like studying it from a historical perspective and liked to hear others thoughts. They were very nice people and i respected them.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  5. Diane

    JohnQuest, if I had never tasted salt how would you describe it"s flavor to me? Elizabeth Smart has paid the price to know the Lord, through much study, prayer and obeying His commandments. Real faith is not just a belief but many everyday actions that stretch our souls as Elizabeth has done. And in doing so she has tasted the salt of the earth. Yet the experience of that flavor can never be adequately described to another who is not willing to partake and pay the price. And so, sadly, many think salt does not exist.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:46 am |
  6. Anona

    I feel for her – she has to relive that horrible experience again. I hope her faith gives her everything she needs to move on and live a happy life.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:46 am |
  7. Robert

    Poor girl. She gets it from the crazy person and she gets it from the crazy religion. I truly wonder if there is a difference.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:46 am |
    • C. leigh

      If you're truly wondering, go to mormon.org

      November 9, 2010 at 11:20 am |
  8. Kamereon

    A shame to see her go on a mission. As much psychological damage that has already been inflicted.

    I grew up in a small town that was about 50% Mormon (maybe more). All of my good friends that were Mormon came back from there missions completely different people. Gone was their sense of humor, their zest for life, and their creativity. It really upset me to see that happen to such wonderful people. Some Mormons are alright, but Mormonism is a brain damaging cult.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:45 am |
    • Rethink

      I understand where you are coming from, but I feel I should qualify. Many missionaries have difficulty when they are thrown back into their former lives. Missionaries grow a lot on their missions, but when they come home, their old life is waiting for them to return. Missionaries don't always want to go back to their old ways. In many cases, they have worked very hard to overcome certain habits and develop certain talents. It would be easy to go back to their old lives, but they don't want to. Dealing with that dilemma and coming to grips with what type of a life you are going to deliberately choose for yourself going forward can be challenging. To others, it can appear that you aren't fun anymore or whatever. I saw it with my younger brother. But once you have come back from a mission, there is a period of adjustment. It's a time of self reflection for the return missionary and it can take only a few days or it can take up to a few months or even a year or more. It all depends on how much the missionary wants to change his or her former life. But I think it was a good thing for me to have the chance to reflect on my former life and really choose a deliberate path going forward. Was I still going to hang out with all of the same people from before my mission? No. Do some of those people with I hadn't changed? Perhaps. But I would be offended most of all if I had come back from a mission and everyone had said, "Wow! You haven't changed a bit!" I would hope I had accomplished something with myself in two years.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Kamereon: I'm sorry for that. It's really tough losing friends. I would say sometimes people just grow in different directions when they are apart. And maybe that's a real danger of these missions: creating a real separation from friends and family who might provide an equal influence apart from the church. After two years of only knowing what the church wants you to know, people will change. The cynical part of me thinks that is what the church would like. And I can't see how that would be beneficial to anyone but the church.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
  9. Jen

    Frogist –

    No, not everyone is "called" on a mission. The young men and women that submit their paperwork (for men it's at age 18, and they leave at age 19, women usually 21.) But they do so because they WANT to go. They are not torn away from their families, they can choose not to go, or to come back before their 2 years are up. But in order to be able to go they have to be worthy, meaning they refrain from drug and alcohol use, they cannot father a child, etc.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:44 am |
    • Kamereon

      You know this is BS. There is such pressure by the ward bishops, family, teachers, friends, ...I have never heard of anyone not going on a mission. I knew plenty that didn't want to go, but they all went. And are the worse for it...so's the world.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:48 am |
    • Parker

      I'm LDS, I'm 21, I haven't left on a mission... yet. I agree that if you don't want to go on a mission, you shouldn't, as for me, I cannot wait to receive my call.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:03 am |
    • r1228

      My sister went on a mission, my brother and I did not. My parents love us all equally and are proud of all of us. You don't have to go unless you want to.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Jen/Parker: I appreciate your response. Thanks for taking the time. My question to you is the other people who do not go on their missions or don't want to go, what do you think of them? Are there people who have gone but don't stick to the rules, of what they can and cannot partake in? And are there people who go, and stay without staying in the program? And how do you feel about them?

      November 9, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
    • Don

      Response to Fragist – I know many people that did not serve a mission, some of them now serve in leadership positions in the church, some wish they would have gone. I am not aware of anyone that thinks less of them. Some do not follow the rules and come home early. I knew two missionaries that returned early during my mission. One had mental problems, the other flipped out and went missing for days. All others felt blessed for their servce. But that was 30 years ago.

      November 9, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  10. Shamrock6

    Having faith that there is something else out there beyond our understanding is one thing. Believing that Joseph Smith Jr. translated the Book of Mormon from two goldent tablets that an angel from heaven left for him in the woods of upstate New York in 1830 is not faith. It is 100% ridiculous garbage. It is sad that people believe that and nothing more.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:44 am |
    • Robert

      Very well put. There may be some sort of god, but it is nothing like religion makes it out to be.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:50 am |
    • MadMarv

      The only thing that differentiates Joseph Smith from the prophets of the bible is time. Want to see something really crazy – read Revelations. Trying to decide which "prophet" is crazy and which one isn't is like arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (my own guess is 42, thanks to the prophecies of Douglas Adams).

      November 9, 2010 at 11:06 am |
    • Jack

      How is that any more crazy that any prophet? Just because it was in the 1800s?
      If Jesus or anyone else were alive today making the claims he made, he would be committed, what makes it more believable that he lived in ancient times?

      November 9, 2010 at 11:20 am |
    • Don

      “He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people”
      I'd say the angel's prophecy to Joseph Smith has been and continues to be pretty much fullfilled. The Joseph Smith story is no more crazy than that of Moses, or Elijah, or the apostle Paul. A prophet is always treated with contempt by those who refuse to believe them.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • Anna K

      I'm sure Joseph Smith's experience sounds far-fetched. Just think how crazy everyone thought Noah was when he built the ark. There are countless miracles recorded in the Bible throughout history. If God could work such miracles through ancient prophets, why not through a modern prophet?

      November 9, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  11. rbc

    What a poorly written article: In the fourth paragraph out of 27: "But if her time in the field is typical, here’s a glimpse into how she’s been living.." Couldn't get the facts so that author guessed. The author's opinion isn't news.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:43 am |
    • Rethink

      As a former missionary, I can vouch for what the author said here. Missionary routines throughout the world aren't quite as predictable and uniform as McDonald's hamburgers (no matter where you are in the world), but they almost are.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:40 pm |
  12. David

    Thank you, Jessica. This is a fair and accurate article.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  13. Chris

    Going on an LDS mission is completely voluntary. Any young man or woman in the church may go if they meet certain criteria, including spiritual and physical preparation. As for where they are sent, like the article says, it could be just about anywhere. While I went to Albania and one of my brothers went to Brazil, my other brothers stayed within the United State and went to places like St. Louis, Houston, and Pocatello, ID. To some, the strictness of missionary life may seem excessive. But, like I said, missionary work is completely voluntary the entire time. And most of us who have served missions would agree that separating ourselves from unnecessary distractions made us better missionaries and helped us grow even more during that time.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:42 am |
  14. Tennislady

    Thank you for sharing these interesting insights about Mormonism. I've always wondered how that all worked. Elizabeth Smart is an inspiration and her triumphs and the way she has handled herself have helped promote my belief in God. Thank you Elizabeth.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  15. Maria S.

    A mission is a choice, it's not forced on anyone. The article implies that I lose some freedoms as a missionary. That's not true. As a missionary I chose to follow the rules that were set down. I could have left at any time I wanted and I could have watched TV or anything else. I chose to follow the rules because it helped me be more effective at teaching about Jesus Christ.

    Mark's comments are totally out of line, it looks like trolls are still allowed here. For him to comment that he wonders what is more damaging to her, her abduction or trying to follow the life of Christ. Amazing. We need to send missionaries to him!

    November 9, 2010 at 10:41 am |
    • Faith is a joke

      And they say only the military knows how to brainwash!

      November 9, 2010 at 10:42 am |
    • p

      But it is obvious that by keeping you away from media and only allowing you to listen or experience approved things you are bgin controlled as they wish. If to keep anyone following the approved path you limit anything that would make them think then that is a cult and you need to get out. But you have already 'drunk the koolaid'.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:45 am |
    • Texas Mormon

      @P it is not about brainwashing. You are ignorant to things spiritual if you cant see that. It is about focusing your attention of the things of the Savior. When we take the distractions of the outside world away we can more easly feel the inluence of the spirit.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:26 am |
    • Faith is a joke

      Oh Texas Mormon....I hink it's you who's ignorant to the REAL world around them. Keep your imaginary puppets in private please.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  16. Sean/Arlington, TX

    Good for you Sister Smart!

    You will be blessed by Heavenly Father for the manner in which you serve Him and others. There is nothing like serving a mission and returning with honor.... CTR!

    November 9, 2010 at 10:41 am |
  17. korwynias

    There is a difference to choosing christian faith and to having it crammed down your throat. Would you like it if musslims went door to door tryin to convert you? Im christian but I beleive that the other person should keep what they beleive and not be told its wrong. This is how wars are started because we cant get along with neighbors.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:41 am |
    • Raider

      I approve this message!

      November 9, 2010 at 10:44 am |
    • Khayven

      Correct.

      Freedom of religion means you are allowed to practice whatever you chose (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof), it does not mean you should push people into yours, or sue people who celebrate one that differs from your own.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:00 am |
    • CathyNY

      Yay Korwynias, thank you.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:38 am |
    • Don

      Let's define freedom. Freedom provices the right to chose what to believe. We knock on your door to give you the opportunity to learn more of our Heavenly Father's plan for his children. It is your choice to listen or to slam the door. No one is cramming their beliefs down your throat. On my mission I refused to baptise a family that failed to gain a conviction through prayer. After gaining that conviction, they happily requested to be baptized. Freedom of choice requires knowledge from which to choose from.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:52 am |
    • C Maxon

      In response to Korwynias, "Would you like it if musslims went door to door tryin to convert you?". Actually, I don't see any reason why that would be something to get all worked up about. I'd be polite and explain my religious beliefs, compare them with theirs, etc. I read the book, "The White Bedoin" and it was really insiteful about how many of their beliefs are very similar to Mormonism. It's the terrorists groups that try to twist it all that around that's the threat, not Muslims in general. Now watch. This will lead to a whole 'nother discussion about Muslims and nothing to do with Elizabeth Smart.
      Anyway, if you don't agree with something someone says, nicely close the door. Yes! It's THAT simple. I don't get all upset when the neighborhood kids continually come over to tell me about the latest school fundraiser. Why would I be any different if a Jehovah's Witness, Muslim, Mormon missionary, etc. came to my door? Just say, "Thank you for wanting to share that, but no. Have a nice day", and close the door.
      Bravo for Elizabeth wanting to teach people about a way of life that helps them rise above worldliness!

      November 9, 2010 at 12:03 pm |
    • CanadaBob

      I'm LDS, and occasionally, Jehovah's Witnesses will knock on my door. I don't invite them in, but thank them for their time, express appreciation for what they are doing, but tell them that their time would be better spent talking to someone else.
      LDS missionaries don't 'cram' religiion down anyone's throat. They offer to teach about our beliefs. Just because someone knocks on your door doesn't mean you have to let them in if you don't want to.

      November 12, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  18. itsjustme

    I am surprised her kidnapping did not sour her on LDS forever....or sour her on religion, period.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:40 am |
    • R

      Um...maybe because Mitchell isn't LDS? (He was born to LDS members, sure, but kicked out for having beliefs and practices that are diametrically opposed to what the church believes. )

      November 9, 2010 at 11:05 am |
    • BrentW

      That's one of the amazing things about life, how individuals react differently to certain situations. Basically, as you live through your life experiences your real self is revealed to you. Elizabeth is an amazing example of "you don't have to react negatively to a negative experience, no matter how bad it is".

      November 10, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  19. Randy Tayler

    Steve, we use the Bible every Sunday. It's part of our scripture. Not sure who informed you otherwise, but if you visit some meetings you'd see. Visitors are welcome.

    Joseph Smith is a prophet to us like Moses or Peter. We pray to the Father in the name of His Son. Our worship is of Christ, not of His prophets.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:40 am |
    • Kamereon

      You're using the book of Mormon – completely different than the bible. Bible says you can't add to it – and that's what that lunatic Joseph Smith did. An angel moron only he can see gives him golden tablets noone else can find, and he has to have special glasses to read them? Can you say cult?

      November 9, 2010 at 10:51 am |
    • D-man5005

      @Kamereon, The bible does not say it cannot be added to. The book or Revelation does. The Bible didn't even exist when the Book of Rev. was written. It was compiled a while after it was written. By your logic, some of the other books written in the Bible technically shouldn't have been there.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:12 am |
    • Deb

      Do any of the mormons know if Elizabeth Smart was a Mormon before she was kidnapped/ is her family Mormon? Or did she decide to keep the sane tenets of LDS (rather than the rantings of Brian David Mitchell) after she was returned to her family?

      November 9, 2010 at 11:15 am |
    • Texas Mormon

      Kameron – You are ignorant. NOWHERE in the bible does it say that the bible couldn't be added to. Now your claim is based on the verse in the book of Reveleation. Dude. There wasn't even a bible yet when that verse was written. Just seperate books. It is referring to adding to the revelation obviously. It says the same thing about "adding to" 4 other places in the bible. Your ignornace shows that you haven't really studied much yourself, you just got it all from your anti mormon youth pastor and some 30 min cartoon you watched in high school youth group. And for the record – the book of mormon doesn't add anything. There is NO doctrine in the book of mormon that is not found in the bible. take your hate somewhere else.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:21 am |
    • andorra03

      Deb, Elizabeth was raised in a Mormon family.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:43 am |
    • garza25

      The kidnapper was excommunicated before he abducted Elizabeth. He wasn't a member of the LDS church.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  20. Jeff

    After reading the article I cannot imagine anyone wanting to spend any part of their life in a foreign country cut off from the culture, stuck in small little world. I find it depressing that young people just barely old enough to be considered an adult by most societies of the world and who have only learned of the world in books would want take their limited knowledge to "teach" others. Sounds arrogant and naive to me. These young people should be going to these countries to learn about the people and culture there, not trying to share their idea of the way to live.

    @JohnQuest...why is it hard to understand faith? You probably use a form of faith when making decisions everyday. Faith is not exclusive to religion. And I'm pretty sure this young woman's faith is stronger having survived her ordeal. For those that have faith in the "great not there" things like this tend to strengthen faith not weaken it.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:40 am |
    • dougie b.

      Yeah, it sounds awful. Learning new cultures, a language, helping people, gaining confidence. They should stay at home and party!

      November 9, 2010 at 11:04 am |
    • Jeff

      You obviously lack reading comprehension skills. SoI'll try again to make it easier to understand my post.
      They are cut off from world. No access to the news of whats going in the country, no access to the music and movies and tv in the country they are visiting. They are only seeing part of the culture they are visiting, and the rest of the time they are limited to the LDS view of the world. They shouldn't be staying home to party, they should be going out and taking in every aspect of these countries. Learning to see the world from someone else's eyes, not trying to convince everyone to see the world from their limited view.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:16 am |
    • andorra03

      Jeff, I had the opportunity to serve in Spain as a missionary for the LDS church. In my 18 months there I learned more about the culture and people I was serving than any tourist could or would be able to. My time in Spain only sparked a desire to travel and learn more about other cultures and other ways of life. It also gave me the opportunity to learn the Spanish language that has become an invaluable tool in my life today. To this day I feel a special connection with the people of Spain and know that my mission has not only brought me closer to Jesus Christ, but has taught me life lessons that help me to be a better person. I believe any young person would benefit from taking time out of their lives to separate themselves from a materialistic society and serve others.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:16 am |
    • Jeff

      @andorra03

      And you were able to do that while living in isolation of the world and only listening to church approved music?

      I'm all for the idea of leaving behind the material world, but when I travel to other countries I want to immerse myself in their culture. I want to walk in their shoes. I want to see the world from their eyes. I want to live as they do. As they saying goes "When in Rome do as the Romans do." I didn't get the idea from the article it was like that. It sounded more like traveling to a country for a job. Sure you get a little taste of what life is like when you get those brief chances to get away from work, but you never really get the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture because you are there to work not learn.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:26 am |
    • TigerInSLC

      @andorra03

      All these things you mentioned learning while on a mission can be accomplished as a foreign exchange student. The difference being you did it for your religion while exchange students do it for their education. And, I might add, as a student, one has more freedom to move about and explore the entire country or region.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:31 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Jeff: That was my point of view too. These children are missing out on seeing the world for themselves. Instead they are being told, see the world how the church wants you to see it, but not too much to make you appreciate it fully for what it is.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:10 pm |
    • Mike

      Bro, your main problem here is the 'cut off, no access' part. On my mission I was surrounded by libraries with newspapers, internet access and all. I chose not to 'access' it. I chose to focus on the work I was doing. And when I was done, nothing stopped me from getting right back to it all. Here I am, a Mormon, on CNN, learning. Uh oh, don't tell my leaders! Not brainwashed, just taught. I have a choice. So do you. And you made it. Good for you.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.