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. Jerry Brown

    Whatever makes her happy is what she deserves. Believing in God or not believing in God, who cares.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • Raider

      I don't care if she believes in god, I do care if she chooses to knock on my door to attempt to convert me to her delusion.

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

      Raider, when there are Apple articles on CNN.com, do you jump on the message boards and bash the pushy cell phone salesmen you encounter at the mall?

      November 9, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  2. Mike

    The article makes it sound like all Mormons are forced to separate from their families and that a mission is some type of "highest honor" ... sheesh ... like we are so much different than "normal" people ...A Mormon mission is just like doing community service or the Peace Corps or a number of other "normal" activities; you don't go unless you choose to, and Mormons firmly believe that our entire families are blessed by the missionary service of a son or daughter.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • 7832hike

      ..A Mormon mission is just like doing community service or the Peace Corps or a number of other "normal" activities; you don't go unless you choose to,
      Bro, if you grow up in a Mormon family, it's a lot more of an expectation than a choice. My brother, poor soul, is a bishop in the Mormon church with 8 kids, all expected to do their Mormon duty of peddling around town preaching their dogma, hardly something I'd call "normal".

      November 9, 2010 at 11:02 am |
    • Mike

      I did grow up in a Mormon family, and I'm sure your brother is just miserable ... poor soul indeed (can you feel my sarcasm here?). He not only gave in to evil Mormon peer pressure, but now he has 8 terrible children that will grow up to be evil Mormon Automaton Robots.

      Sounds like you got out of that life as soon as you could. I'll bet you're happy, but not nearly as happy as your brother. By the way, what is your brother's take on his 8-child bishop lifestyle? I notice you don't mention how he feels about it. Sounds like a very happy guy to me (children tend to make people happy, yea, it's true) ... and yes, I suppose that being this happy is totally not "normal" anymore ...

      November 9, 2010 at 11:27 am |
    • Frogist

      @Mike: Except it isn't like doing community service if you are not allowed contact with your family and are obligated to this service and study 6 days out of the week. And you are separated from all other information or influence. Let's not misrepresent what it is. Missionary service and community service are not the same.
      And if you are still a mormon, how does your unkindness and sarcasm towards 7832hike who also has a look at the mormon lifestyle from a different viewpoint reflect on your religious character?

      November 9, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
    • Mike

      *****Missionary service and community service are not the same****

      True enough! They are actually very different ... Just remember that missionaries are not actually "not allowed contact with your family" nor are they "separated from all other information or influence" ... this is a misrepresentation of the facts. The truth is that each missionary CHOOSES to obey or to not obey the rules – on my mission I saw both kinds. No one is standing over your shoulder watching your every move. Missionaries choose to serve, and they also choose HOW they will serve.

      ******And if you are still a mormon, how does your unkindness and sarcasm towards 7832hike who also has a look at the mormon lifestyle from a different viewpoint reflect on your religious character?*********

      LOL, nice! If his "different point of view" involves attacking my beliefs (i.e. "peddling around town preaching their dogma" – you don't find THIS unkind and sarcastic??), then sure, I will be unkind and sarcastic. I'm sick and tired of all the misrepresentation, misconstrual of facts, and plain old lying that so many people perpetrate on groups of people they don't understand, be they Mormons, Muslims, Scientologists, Athiests, or Raiders!

      What am I, some sort of white-bonnet-wearing, pacifistic shell of a person? Just because a person is religious, doesn't meant that he/she is betraying their faith by using sarcasm and other rhetoric to call people out on their idiotic and incorrect assertions. I guarantee you that guy's brother (the bishop with 8 kids) is one of the happier people you will ever meet. Mormons are NOT pacifists ... we value peace, but we also fight when the occasion demands it!

      November 9, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
    • 7832hike

      Mike, you really need to get a grip!! That last tirade was totally out of control and WAY uglier than what I or Frogist had to say. You've obviously got a huge chip on your shoulder. You seem to know my brother so well. I never said he was not happy, but of course that's a relative thing. I didn't grow up in a Mormon family, my brother converted. I however have seen the whole picture very well, not only from his stand point but from many other Mormons as well. They all seem just fine which is perfectly fine with me, to each his own, I was only pointing out that the Mormon faith is more a cult mentality than something totally transparent and open to all. Lots of silly restrictions, they're absolutely prejudice, and they don't allow non Mormons to various ceremonies. By the way, if you'd ask my brother himself, I'd pretty much guarantee that he himself would think I'm even happier than he is, and he'd be right. He's always inquiring about my life, which by the way again, is pretty cool. Oh, and one last by the way, his kids are just fine as well, though they are kind of robotic. Peace and love bro.

      November 9, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Mike: You seem to claim there is some kind of choice in how you go about these missions? From what I've heard from the other Mormons on here, you do not have a choice about how you go about them. You will be isolated from other influence and you will not be allowed to contact your family by phone but for two times a year. Are you saying that a missionary can go out on a mission and have more than 2 phone calls and engage in extra-curricular activities as much as they like?
      "What am I, some sort of white-bonnet-wearing, pacifistic shell of a person?" I think your Jesus might disagree with characterizing a person who values paficism with being a shell of a person. And yes, I am quite tired of people who claim to have a higher peace and a relationship of love with god, but throw peace and love out the window when faced with behaviour they do not like. Either be Christ-like and turn the other cheek, or act out in anger and be revealed for what you really are – a hypocrite.

      November 9, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
    • Mike


      So my sarcasm and hint of frustration is a "completely out of control" tirade, eh? LOL ... sorry to be a jerk, it's totally not directed at you 7832hike, more at Frogist, who seems to have made up his/her mind about all this ... and glad to hear your brother's kids are doing well


      You attack my beliefs (and don’t pretend that what most people on here are doing is anything but), and yes, I tend to get a bit grouchy. Wouldn’t you? If something you held as very important were constantly ridiculed and despised by ignorant people, wouldn’t you get frustrated? I, like many Mormons, am tired of all the lies and half-truths out there being perpetrated against Mormons.

      "From what you've heard from other Mormons on here" ... Nice, so you, with your secondhand knowledge of Mormonism taken from this forum, know more about the way Mormons go on missions than we do ourselves? So we have no say in how we serve our missions? Really? I would recommend getting your facts straight first in all truth. Missionaries are not allowed to choose WHERE they serve, but everything else is up to them.

      Am I saying that a missionary can go out on a mission and have more than 2 phone calls and engage in extra curricular activities? Yes, that's what I'm saying all right. We choose to serve our missions, and then we choose to follow the rules of the mission. These "facts" about missionaries not being able to read other religious materials/etc are patently false. Not like anyone cares what's true and not true on here I guess...

      ****Your Jesus might disagree with characterizing a person who values paficism with being a shell of a person*** Yes he would, and I would be very wrong if that were what I said.

      If you attack my beliefs, I still love and respect you, but I'm not going to let you trample all over me and spread lies about me and my beliefs. If this were just you and me talking, I'd have nothing to say on the matter; to each his own. However, since others read these forums, I feel compelled to speak out against these attacks, I'm sure you understand.

      November 9, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
    • Kimbooly

      @Frogist– I know you've been out of the comments for a long time now, but I hope you still get this via the replies on this thread.

      Thank you for your thoughtful questions and overall politeness to us mormons. : ) I apologize to both you and the other guy Mike was being sarcastic to. I agree with you that to start using sarcasm and anger are *not* what we are taught by our Savior, and employing them, even out of frustration, is wrong. While I can see why some mormons get so angry when they feel their religion is attacked unfairly, the Christian thing to do is take it with a grain of salt and not resort to name-calling, sarcasm, attacking others, or belittling others. It's ok to disagree, and we can all do so with courteousy. Thank you for your courtesy. I've noticed it in all of your posts and replies to others' posts.

      Anyhoo–About several of your questions. I'd love to give you my take on them, but I also thought I'd tell you about mormon.org. It has this cool "chat live" function up in the top right-hand corner. It allows you to ask specific questions with anonmyity. I hope it helps, so you don't feel pressured or proselyted to, but can ask questions freely about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Though you may feel a little "answered out" right now–a LOT of people have answered your first question, even though you later clarified it.

      November 11, 2010 at 4:03 am |
    • Kimbooly


      Oops. I meant *anonymity.

      Oh, I did want to tell you, btw, that missionaries are in a lot of contact with their families while they serve their missions; I think the phone conversations may be limited simply to help missionaries focus on the message of Jesus Christ that they want to share. Or because they're trying to keep to a budget and long distance calls add up, especially out-of-country ones.

      Since the advent of the lovely internets, families and missionaries email each other once a week. ( Friends are still asked to send snail mail) And families LOVE to send packages.

      My husband served a mission when it was all snail mail, and I have a box of letters to and from family and friends that he's kept. Boy was he happy when his mom sent him some peanut butter down to Argentina! : ) His family & friends also sent cassette tapes that they would record, with them talking and singing to him, and he would record and send them as well (we also have all those cassette tapes saved in the box–time to transfer them to CDs). I did the same for my sisters and brother when they served missions, even though I could also email them weekly.

      November 11, 2010 at 4:23 am |
    • Elizabeth

      Mike, I agree with you on this one. A mission is service to the people of a community, but with the added element of spreading the religious message of the Church. It's no different than so many "missions" of other denominations - whether they be medical, musical, arts-related, or simply saving souls, etc. People from our country – and people of many countries for that matter, travel to various parts of the world to spread their gospels through providing needed services, outreach, and just plain companionship to others. It's not a weird or bad thing at all.

      As for your brother and his eight kids - what a lucky guy! We have one son. We wish we had a tribe of children, but because of my heart surgery, 3 back surgeries, six hip surgeries and a multiple sclerosis diagnosis following a serious auto accident, we have one. My husband and I took that as our message to work hard to help the children of others, and our son is a very active volunteer in the community as well.

      Do we FORCE him? Not at all... A 6'3" tall, 15 year old does not do what he does not want to do. He chooses his activities, and I am grateful that they include a significant amount of volunteer work at a local children' s museum, tutoring math for younger kids at a middle school, and various other commitments. He sometimes chafes at the time HE has committed, but he always returns to the fact that people are depending on him. I NEVER have to arm-twist to have him do any volunteer work. School work is sometimes a different story! 😉

      I refuse to believe that kids are brainless beings, controlled and compelled by adults to parrot a "party line" or dogma unthinkingly. Kids learn by example, but they are exposed to far more than ONE lifestyle, even in the most insular of communities. As one of the few Jewish families in a very Catholic area, I would expect my child to be a Catholic convert if kids really were the brainless lumps of mush that people seem to believe here. He's not; nor is her yet bar mitzvah, because he has yet to resolve his own questions of faith. He has started study, though, to make his bar mitzvah next year. Thirteen was too early for him - too many questions to explore still.

      November 13, 2010 at 12:04 am |
  3. Elena

    I am so impressed with her courage. Faith is so important in our lives and as a family we have come so far because of it. The evil she endured could not have been wished upon anyone. Our prayers are with her and her family. We have followed along with her ordeal and my children are so proud of her for going on her mission and continuing to show how strong her faith is.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • Faith is a joke

      Please enlightnen us with this "evil" you speak of...all I see are humans, but I guess in your mind they're super humans?!

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

      "Please enlightnen us with this "evil" you speak of."

      OH maybe her being kidnapped and rapped is the evil being spoken of?

      BTW, I'm proud of Elizabeth for being so strong and willing to go on with her life and not just sit in a corner feeling sorry for herself. She is trying to good things when not so good things happened to her.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:33 am |
    • Faith is a joke

      Too funny Jean, last I heard kidnapping was a criminal offense, not a "mythical" one. Get your head outta the sand!

      November 9, 2010 at 11:56 am |
    • Frogist

      @ Faith is a joke: I think we might be on the same page about the term "evil". I have to say I feel like religious people are being dismissive and belittling when they qualify criminal and disturbing things, like what happened to Ms Smart, as "evil" meaning because of the devil. It removes the responsibility from the criminals, and it distances us from the real influences that could have caused people to act that way. To me it feels like religious people are saying this could never happen to them or that they couldn't do any of these things. They think their faith protects them from some outsider called the devil when in truth the "devil" is just humanity at it's worst. And no religious person is immune to that.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
    • Good vs Evil

      The acts committed against Ms. Smart were Evil. Claiming there is no good or evil, ignores the darkness that fills you when you commit wrong acts and the joy you feel when doing good. Ignoring these feelings only puts you out of touch with them, leaving you unable to judge between right and wrong.

      November 9, 2010 at 7:08 pm |
  4. Belva

    Wow, as a mormon dude, some of you people really hate us, huh? Oh well, to each his own i suppose.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:37 am |
    • Raider

      Not you specifically Belva, more like, religion in general.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:39 am |
    • j

      When we see you in our neighborhoods we don't answer the door. Lots of you are pushy and we don't want to be bothered.

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

      A firehouse in my town put a Christmas tree up in the lobby and was threatened with a lawsuit. It seems that the seperation of church and state allows Joe Schmoe tax payer to infringe on the fireman's religion. Ironic, but I, suppose, justifiable.

      But I'm supposed to be accomodating when I'm tracked down for a meet-and-greet at my front door? I will never impose my religion on another human being, why must others push theirs?

      November 9, 2010 at 10:55 am |
    • Mark

      Don't be so sensitive Belva. I don't see any hatred here. Just logical people who are tired of all the fantasy prone "believers" running around on this small world proclaiming they own the one and only truth, many of who would kill to defend their ideology.

      Much easier than facing the big picture and taking full responsibility for all of our actions while we live and breath in our very brief existences. God exists, I believe, but not in the twisted fables man made religions have been so carefully crafted to control the masses for ulterior purposes.

      True faith, to me, at least, is faith in ourselves. Not in what others try to make you believe.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:14 am |
    • Matt

      Your sentiments are good, Mark, but I cannot agree. It seems to me that it is by believing in ourselves that we have formed so many truthless religions of opinion and dogma. This is not to say that I think anyone should be forced into any one religion; indeed, as individuals responsible for ourselves, we are responsible for our own decisions and thus soul. However, we cannot find truth on our own. That is what so many have tried to do. That is why there are so many different religions and factions.

      The only way any truth could be known by us would be if God himself spoke first. Thank God, he did and he had it written and compiled for us in the form of the Bible. Even more convincing, he came down himself and changed our world. No one can deny that Jesus, whether real or not, changed the world, and I can tell you that he changed my life and continues to do so every day.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  5. jeff

    how about letting the young girl live her life......

    November 9, 2010 at 10:37 am |
    • Richard

      Because she isn't? Why can't someone chose to do something religious in their life? She chose to serve our Savior Jesus Christ and tell people about his redeaming love. I think that is fully living your life.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:19 am |
  6. j

    Poor thing. She probably has talents that, as a young adult, she could be using (wasn't she a harp player at one point?). Instead she is knocking on doors that mostly get slammed in her face.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:36 am |
    • Raider

      One can only hope the doors are being slammed in her face. I really feel bad for what she went through, but I can't approve of what she is doing now.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:38 am |
    • Lauren

      And I'm sure she seeks your approval.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:02 am |
    • Riley

      One might think that Elizabeth isn't able to use her talents while on her mission. To the contrary, her talents are likely magnified by her service. I am Mormon and served a mission in Puebla, Mexico. I am also an artist and musician. I had numerous opportunities to use both of those talents. One thing I did to use my music talent in Mexico was to teach people how to play the piano. My skills grew as theirs did. The same with art. I taught a group of people how to draw cartoons. I was able to keep up my skills while teaching them.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:14 am |
    • j

      But only church-approved methods. If you wanted to play a piece on the piano that they did not like or you wished to paint something they did not approve of then I'm sure you would not be allowed to express yourself. The point is that talents should not be dictated or stunted by anyone.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  7. Joe

    "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." You make it sound like she is in some nunnery. Her isolation from mainstream media is 100% voluntary, and it is not a matter of self-castigation , rather this allows her to commit her time to talking with, meeting, understanding, and serving people in France.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:35 am |
  8. Adriana

    Elizabeth, what a great example you are to the world! You have decided to serve the people in Paris and serve God. What a horrible experience you went through, an experience that will probably haunt you for the rest of your life, yet you live your life with grace, service, and love. I hope you continue to live a happy and fulfilled life. Great article Jessica.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  9. Katie

    What an amazingly reslilient, strong & faith-filled young woman! She has my deepest admiration for courageously moving forward in her life despite such horrific experiences. She is a tremendous example for all of us.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  10. joesgirl

    just out of curiosity, why don't they get a call home on Father's Day?

    November 9, 2010 at 10:29 am |
    • Richard

      Actually most missionaries do get to call home on fathers day. My first year I called home on mothers day then the next year I called home on fathers day.

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

      Missionaries are allowed 2 calls home during the course of a year. When they call is determined by the President of the mission they serve in. Christmas is a good time to call and Mothers Day falls about 6 months after that so that is usually what ends up happening.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:35 am |
  11. PR

    Thanks Jessica, what a lovely article. I'm not a mormon but her mission in France sounds like the best place for her right now. I'm sure having that purpose is helping her move on from the past.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:28 am |
  12. Cheri

    Well said, Mark.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:28 am |
  13. Susan

    thank you, Mark, for putting what can be difficult to explain into words simple to understand. Often, what is not tangible is hard to believe in.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • sandra

      I know! I couldn't agree more, Susan. I'm 66 and still believe in Santa Claus! ;o)

      November 9, 2010 at 10:44 am |
  14. Manti

    Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

    November 9, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • sandra

      Did Matthew also intend his "Love thy enemies..." verbiage to include Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden, Muslims, Islamists, and the like? If so, then you radical Christians out there have a very strange way of practicing what you preach.

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

      It was not the apostel Matthew who said this. It was the saviour of the world Christ Jesus. And the answer of your question is yes. What world the world be like if everyone forgave and blessed their enemies.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:39 am |
    • jara

      Yes, love your enemies. There are radicals of every sort, not just christian, muslim, athiest. We love everyone, and we also know that we are not perfect, and that we are all still sinners. We try to do our best, but, we all fall short to the glory of God.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:51 am |
    • Manti

      Amen Jara!

      November 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
    • Matt

      Sadly, ever since Jesus said this, definitions and motives have been twisted and confused. No one wants to follow this commandment, for it requires submission to Jesus and continual following of his example in order to succeed, and even then we so often fail.

      Truly, it is this overwhelming love that is radical, a love that brought the King of Heaven into our world to take part in our humanity, our sufferings, our curse, and our death. Anything less than this is indeed petty: the crusades, jihad, etc. It is simply using a religion or ideology (supposed truth) to justify our own desires, hates, racism, and such.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
  15. Lynn Schlick


    November 9, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  16. David

    One of the fairest articles on the mormon church I have ever read. Thank you Jessica for writing this piece. No one would ever desire to experience what Elizabeth went through, but it seems like she has taken this horrible thing and become stronger than any of us would hope to ever be.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  17. Lynn Schlick

    Thought you might like this.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  18. Nancy

    Whatever she does now, I only hope that it heals the scars on her spirit. I believe that she is a very strong and young individual to have survived the horrible ordeal that we can only imagine.

    November 9, 2010 at 10:26 am |
  19. sandra

    As an ex-Catholic - I understand faith believe me and it's a cop out for everything. How many times have I heard "take it on faith?" It's like believing in the boogie man. I can't help but see the parallel here - one small cult into another larger one. YUCK!

    November 9, 2010 at 10:24 am |
    • David

      Lets see.... Sandras opinion versus a woman that has gone through trials far greater and has come out following christ.... I think I will side with Elizabeth on this one

      November 9, 2010 at 10:30 am |
    • sandra

      David, do you know me? Or is your assumption based on "faith"? You don't know anything about me. You don't know whether I've gone through "greater trials." Don't put your foot where your mouth is.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:35 am |
    • mike

      Really, David? You'll go with the person who was psychologically crippled and now believes in an invisible sky wizard? No, you choose to go with her because her opinion already matches yours, not because of any logical reasoning. Because if you were logical, you wouldn't have these childish fantasies.

      And they are not harmless. Religion caused the crusades. Religion caused the inquisition. Religion caused 9/11. Religion caused the strife between Israel and the Palestinians. Religious tendencies even caused the Holocaust. Religion is the crutch by which evil people justify their actions, and the downtrodden use to justify allowing themselves to be exploited.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:37 am |
    • mike

      Just to clarify my Holocaust comment, I am referring to the brainwashed groupthink that led to the rise of Nazism, as well as the occult underpinnings of it. These are the same characteristics that allow religion to flourish.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:39 am |
    • Lauren

      First of all, Mormonism isn't a cult. Second of all, she grew up in the Mormon religion. She didn't "join" it after she was kidnapped – leaving one she was forced into for the other which she willingly chose. She simply returned to the way of life she had been living previously.

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

      The holocaust was caused not by religion by a scientific theory of Darwinism called Euthanology. That is what results when science alone is relied upon to lead conscience. If you are going to blame religion for going astray try the Inquisition. People need to quit being lazy and just believing everything they are told. Science isn't as perfect as you claim nor is religion. If you want to blame someone for your grief, maybe looking inside yourself and coming to the realization you blame everyone else for your problems would be a great place to start.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:18 am |
    • Michelle

      That is exactly why Mormonism is so interesting. You are not allowed to just parrot what you hear other people say and you are not to take things without studying them out for yourself. You are not even allowed to be baptized until you have an interview with a bishop and demonstrate that you join the church of your own accord and have a personal, independent testimony of the truthfulness of the Mormon gospel. I commend you for not wanting to take things just because people tell you to believe. Study it out for yourself and come to your own conclusions. Bravo!

      November 9, 2010 at 11:44 am |
    • Zane

      Robert: Sorry you are totally wrong about the cause of the Holocaust. It wasn't Darwinism, that's a red herring presented by people who believe in a mythological man in the sky. Antisemitism and the murder of Jews had been going on in Europe since the Dark Ages, along with the belief of their inferiority. If there hadn't been Darwin there still would have been a Holocaust.
      By the way, Hitler was a Roman Catholic.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:44 am |
    • Robert

      Zane you are one of many Utahns that have not been outside Utah enough. This same pressure is brought to bear in every "headquarter" of a religion in the world. This does not at much reflect religious pressures as people not being willing to pull their heads out and think for themselves. If they did, they would know the behavior you are describing is wrong. When this country was first freed from England the thought was that people aren't smart enough to govern themselves and this is why.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:48 am |
    • Zane

      Michelle: That's a crock that children are only babtised after they have studied and decided for themselves!! An 8 year old who has NO OTHER OPTION but to go to one church every week, not allowed to openly questuion anything, only play with other LDS children, having to look at a sofa sized picture of the LDS Temple in the living room, forced to go to Primary and Mutual, told by EVERYONE you know that the church is true, doesn't have a choice in what religion they join. It's a foregone conclusion!
      I have witnessed children as young a 4-5 bareing their 'Testamony' in front of the congregation in Sacrament Meeting about how they KNOW the church is true. The whole time their parents are standing next to them whispering in their ear on what to say!

      November 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
    • Robert

      Zane you are ignoring the millions of handicapped people who were also rounded up and killed in Germany. Not to mention the millions of handicapped that were already in "welfare" camps in every other country in the world prior to some politician spinning this as a horrific practice. You have drank way to much of the kool aid if you really believe that had anything to do with religion.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Zane

      Michelle: That's a crock that children are only babtised after they have studied and decided for themselves!! An 8 year old who has NO OTHER OPTION but to go to one church every week, not allowed to openly questuion anything, only play with other LDS children, having to look at a sofa sized picture of the LDS Temple in the living room, forced to go to Primary and Mutual, told by EVERYONE you know that the church is true, doesn't have a choice in what religion they join. It's a foregone conclusion!
      I have witnessed children as young a 4-5 bareing their 'Testamony' in front of the congregation in Sacrament Meeting about how they KNOW the church is true. The whole time their parents are standing next to them whispering in their ear on what to say!

      November 9, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
    • Robert

      Zane is right about the forced nature of people. It happens more than anyone wants to admit, but he won't admit that he has forced his own opinion about Mormon's onto his children in a similar way. Teaching free thought and the process of making an educated decision to children allows them to choose something that we would not and that is too difficult for most people to deal with.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:07 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Robert: I would add that science is never relied upon to lead conscience. That is not the goal of science, nor should anyone ever claim it to be. People of faith often do not understand this, because they assume that science is an attack on religion when it is obvious that the two do not cover the same ground. People who value morality can come to it whether they are scientifically-minded or faith-followers. Neither path precludes moral behaviour.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
    • Robert

      @Frogist That is exactly the point, but not one that people normally understand. It reminds me of the fuss over Stephen Hawkings book. He didn't say there wasn't a God, just that the big bang didn't require one. That is not the same point. I always love to hear someone explaining science to me and how it disproves God. The two are not related. Both should be philisophically viewed and studied. The problem comes when people think that ignoring God is the same as ignoring gravity. That is just stupid.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • blandinbasement

      I think you neglect the many positive contributios 'cults' have made to art, history,music, government...(cult merely means religion in practice-it does NOT mean Kool-Aid drinkers).

      November 9, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
    • willis

      @Zane. You are absolutely right about the indoctrination that Mormon youth goes through. I am speaking from experience. I was baptized. What is said is 100% correct. There is never another option that is a brought as a counter point to there faith, and if there was it is the workings of the Devil. I still to this day remember ( I was nine) an overwhelming sense of pity that came about when a visitor attended sacrament meeting and did not eat the sacrament, I was thinking to myself, this poor person, they must live such a pathetic existence not having the power of Jesus and Joseph in there life. I almost imagine that this is what a sympathetic yet indoctrinated Hitler youth would have felt about Jews, My feeling were of pity, but rotted in superiority. I was 9 ffs, glad my patents wised up and left the church the following year.

      November 9, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
    • jane


      While I"m sorry you had a negative personal experience, which in most cases tends to involve a variety of factors including the person's own perceptions, that is not a basis for stating knowledge of everyone's experience in all religions. I am not a big fan of Mormonism because when I lived and worked in a heavily Mormon area I saw and was a victim of a great deal of corruption and abuse of power by the established middle aged people and older. The lay leader I worked under in a government post was lazy, manipulated records to benefit his friends and hurt his enemies, and fired me out of the blue to allow his cousin to take my job even though I had rave reviews for my work and was nice and competent at all times. Sadly, everyone I worked with there except for two women in their thirties was basically a good old boy. One of them offered me a job and I didn't take it only because it was a lower wage and I couldn't afford to make less. The other was raised there but as a protestant Christian. She was only accepted there because they all went to school with her. The other had lived elsewhere and wouldn't participate in the nastiness. Forgot one of the department heads, who had been career Navy and was very nice and gave me excellent recommendations. I could have sued as the previous person he did this to did, but the proceedings were rigged, and he had told me all about how they were against the previous person. I only got hired because of that scandal and the other Mormons refusing to take the job. But, there were few jobs and I had a child to feed. I did know a few nice Mormons, but what I am saying is that no one should whitewash these people. They are like other people–nice if they want to be, nasty if they don't. Regardless of what their religions teaches, they are just like other people.

      November 28, 2010 at 8:40 pm |
  20. Frogist

    Thanks for this article. Again, I am learning daily about what Mormons are about. The article doesn't exactly mention... do all Mormons go through this process? Or is it only certain ones that are "called"? If there are LDS members here, I'd appreciate an answer.
    To me this process seems very restrictive like the military, or prison. Being forcibly separated from your family for such a long time... It seems excessive. I don't know. But if these young people are doing so voluntarily... I could compare it to going to college, except in college you are allowed to do as you wish, live as adults without being overseen for the most part. This seems to be a bit of the opposite. And for me, it seems almost a waste. Go to Paris, but you are not allowed to be part of Paris. It's almost as if they are seeking to make the world smaller, conform to their way of life, rather than expand their own minds and make themselves bigger, more broad-minded. It's a shame. Their missions, miss the point of traveling to other countries.
    BTW Did anyone else LOL when they read "The call could take a missionary to places as various as Bolivia, Uganda or Kentucky." Kentucky?! LOL!

    November 9, 2010 at 10:22 am |
    • sandra

      Kentucky! HA HA HA! How exotic!

      November 9, 2010 at 10:25 am |
    • David

      It is not a required thing to go on a mission. The people that WANT to go submit an application and go. ALmost all the men go when they are 19... not too many women go.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:29 am |
    • lilfro22

      Frogist, any Mormon who meets certain worthiness requirements (i.e. has to be living according to core principles of the gospel) can choose to serve a mission.

      It is voluntary... nothing about it is forced. I also don't think there are many Mormon missionaries who would say they felt like they were in a small world or not "a part" of the places they served in. They see everything - the good, the bad, the ugly - as they are selflessly trying to serve the people in that area. They give up two years of their lives to do something for something they feel is bigger than they are. I have a friend who served in a very remote area of Africa who saw someone get burned at the stake for a relatively petty crime. I have numerous friends who spent their time trying to help people overcome drug / alcohol abuse, various addictions, get help in physical abuse situations, etc. These are life-changing, eye-opening, maturing events that you don't get on the average tourist trip.

      Whether or not you believe in God / religion, etc., my opinion is that young people choosing to do these things is admirable. They develop a maturity, empathy, and sense about the world is aetypical of others their age.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:32 am |
    • Monty B.

      It's expected (but not required) of all young men age at the ripe young age of 19...it's more of a voluntary thing for women. To the chagrin of my parents, I did not go on a mission as an LDS youth. I haven't been to church in about 10 years (I'm 29), but I do maintain a respect and admiration for the Mormon church. There's nothing BAD about the teachings-the importance of family, personal virtues, etc. They're really just people trying to help other people.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:34 am |
    • Me

      The youth of the Mormon church choose to go on missions. All know what is expected of them as far as rules go and if they did not want to live under the strict rules that keep them focused on the work they are there to do they are free to leave, or better, free to not go in the first place.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:36 am |
    • RachelC

      Not all young Mormon kids go. They only go if they want to. Anyone who meets the qualifications can fill out paperwork to request a call and will receive an assignment.

      As far as the restrictions.....they know before they go that they are not there to travel. They are dedicating two years of their lives to sharing a message about Jesus Christ. In the process they are on their own spiritual journey as they leave behind jobs, families, and schooling to focus on Jesus Christ. They joke around and have fun, but they also work hard and spend their days in preaching or service.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:37 am |
    • Megan

      Missions are fantastic opportunities to get to know and experience another culture and country. My brother is serving his misison in Recife, Brazil, and has been able to meet wonderful people and certainly see the historical sights of the area. Many of my friends and family who have also served around the world, and in the United States, have done so voluntarily and have fallen in love with the culture and place where they are serving. It's all about living in the world, not OF the world, and not one missionary feels it is "a waste." Similarly, my cousins serving in Texas (Spanish-speaking) and Florida (ASL/sign language) have no regrets to being called to serve in the United States... it's all about the reason they are serving, and sharing the truth with anyone, regardless of who they are or where they live. We don't serve missions hoping to be called to some exotic place... it is just an honor to serve. : )

      Mormon.org has a lot of great information about missions, and anything else we believe if you have more questions! : )

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

      The article says that once out of the week they are able to go sightseeing if time permits. The mission is totally voluntary, but not something that is expected by the church leaders, but by God. Therefore, a member who goes on a mission is going on complete faith in God. That is the reason they are there on the mission, not to sightsee and be a tourist. They desire to serve the Lord and teach people truths that the world desperately seeks for and these young men and women sacrifice two years of their lives to bring it to them. I am Mormon and I hope this clarifies what a mission means.

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

      Hi Frogist!
      I am LDS and will be happy to explain.

      Missions are part of our culture, but are not forced on our members. They are definitely encouraged, but it is voluntary.

      My husband served a mission to Budapest, Hungary and it was one of the best experiences of his life. Not only because of the spiritual growth he experienced, but also because of the people he taught, served and loved as he was there. The mission president in that area encouraged the missionaries to become a part of the Hungarian culture, and they did. My husband was able to sightsee and learn about those he served as well.

      It is a time of self reflection as well as spiritual growth. He, along with everyone else I know who have served missions, would not trade that experience for anything else during that time of their lives. I think Elizabeth Smart needs this time to help her more fully recover from her experiences in her childhood.

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

      The experience is not about the missionary, it's about the mission.
      She's not in Paris for herself. She's there to preach the word of her faith.

      Until you shed your notion that everyone should act and do as you do you will remain closed to learning why LDS does this.

      I am not in the LDS church, but I certainly admire the level of commitment this takes. As giving as many Americans think of themselves, they don't come anywhere near as how much these missionaries are giving in the name of spreading their faith. They are trading 24 or 18 months of their lives to serve.

      November 9, 2010 at 10:45 am |
    • Megan F.

      I'm an LDS women who served a mission. It was one of the best experiences of my life. It was something that I chose to do after several months of pondering and prayer. I was not forced to go on a mission and I knew what the lifestyle entailed. I chose to go on a mission because I firmly believe that my faith is a gift that was given to me by God. It has brought me joy, comfort, and peace and I wanted others to be able to have the opportunity to have those things too. All I wanted was to give others a chance to listen if they had the desire. Being separated from news, TV, and even family helped me to focus on the people I was there to serve. It wasn't about a tourism experience; it was about a people experience. I made some of my dearest friends where I served and I treasure them and the experiences I had. I think there is a natural impulse in us as humans that when we have found something good, we want to share it. We try to pass it on to our children, to our family, to our friends, and eventually to the world. That's what LDS missions are all about.

      I understand that we all have our own faiths, beliefs, or philosophies. I did not go on a LDS mission to try and force my religion on anyone. I was simply giving others a chance to hear a message about Jesus Christ. I would say most LDS missionaries feel the same way. If you chose to listen, awesome! If you think it's not for you, that's cool too. I respect your choices and beliefs and I would hope that you would give me and those of my faith the same courtesy.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:01 am |
    • Andrea

      I hope I can help those of you who seem confused about the representation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, (mormons) from this article. This misrepresentation of the LDS faith and the missions that are served by those who choose to do so is simply CNN being overly dramatic in every way.
      Nobody goes on a mission unless they personally decide to do so. Men who hold the Priesthood are commanded to do so because it is part of the Priesthood duty they accepted and took upon themselves. Still, if they don't want to go on a mission they are not coerced in anyway to do so. Women do not hold the Priesthood and are therefore do not have the obligation that a Priesthood holder does to serve a mission. However, women are valuable to missionary work and are invited to serve a mission if they feel as though they desire to serve the Lord in that way.
      When it comes to the rules of the mission, yes, they are to refrain from television, radio, phone calls and other worldly distractions. They and their companion live in an apartment by themselves. They are completely responsible for waking up at 6:30 on their own, dressing appropriately, studying the gospel, avoiding worldly distraction and for following every other rule set forth. NOBODY forces them to do or not do anything. If they don't like their experience and don't want to continue they are not forced to stay.
      Here is an official website for the church http://mormon.org/missionary-work/ or just go to mormon.org
      Hopefully this helps you get a more accurate picture of Mormon missionaries. On this website you can also send a request for a Book of Mormon or even a visit from missionaries in your area!

      November 9, 2010 at 11:04 am |
    • Clifton C.C.

      I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and I served a 2 year mission in Bolivia. I was not forced to go, but Church leaders have stated that every worthy male (one who adheres to the basic tenents of the LDS faith) between the ages of 19 and 26 should serve a mission. Women from ages 21 and older are encouraged to serve a mission if they feel impressed to do so (prompting from the Holy Ghost). I am now 35 years old and have experienced many rich and rewarding experiences in my life. However, few of those experiences can compare to the wonderful blessings that came to me through working to bless the lives of others by spreading a message from a living God that has brought peace, comfort, and eternal perspective into my life. As I served and sacrificed for the people of Bolivia, I grew to love and value them much like their Father in Heaven does. Missionaries must pay their own way for the duration of their mission (roughly $10,000 for two years); so a lot of toil and sacrifice was made before I even received a mission call. I still draw daily from the experiences I had in the mission field. I have no doubt that by losing herself in the service of others, Elizabeth Smart has experienced healing in her heart and comfort to her soul.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:05 am |
    • B Rod

      Mission work is entirely voluntary. They parameters which are set are widely known and conveyed in no uncertain terms prior to enrollment. A missionary can leave at any time during the process. It is not militant, or forcible and it is not selective, anyone who adheres to the principles of the church and is willing to make the sacrifices required can go.

      As for missing the point of travel... you're right, the point of the mission is not to Travel, if these young men and young women want to travel, they have every right to take the time to do that. They volunteer for a specific experience, that is the one described above. As for not getting the full experience. I myself served in Chile, i can almost guarantee you that I have a more in depth perspective than any traveler.... as a missionary you are not just assigned to heavily trafficked areas once you arrive to your country, I lived in 5000-person towns, 2 hours from a metropolitan areas. I worked in their schools teaching English, i worked on farms with livestock, I built fences, I helped to paint and remodel hospitals. I worked side by side, while living in typical housing, not some cozy tourist accommodation. Part of what was left out is that you are constantly rotated through the region you are assigned so you always been exposed to new things/people. Additionally, they couple assigned to act as "parents" are in charge of the well being of the missionaries, not some kind of principle from breakfast club figure. Since they oversee 100-200 missionaries at a time leadership within a "Mission" (the regional organization) is actually composed of the missionaries themselves. Additionally, We are on the street almost all day and become part of the community, i befriended and still keep in contact with people simply because we connected socially, they didn't want to be taught or join the church but it doesn't preclude two people from talking and creating relationships.

      I am more of a global citizen now because of my mission than due to the many other countries i have had the opportunity to travel to. I fluently speak spanish now because of that experience. I developed skills from the stress of that environment (ie being transplanted with little to no spanish skills into an entirely different life).... i learned how to study effectively, how to interact with people from all walks of life, goal setting, leadership, on and on. I wont even attempt to talk about how i felt it effected me spiritually because this is not the forum. From a purely practical sense, as a professional now at duke furthering my education, the practical skills developed are invaluable.

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

      I served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Novosibirsk, Russia, which is odd because I was fluent in Spanish when I said I would serve. It was my choice to go. Actually, I attended my first year of college not intending on going on a mission, but some things in my life happened that made me change my mind. I hope I'm not brainless. I graduated from college with a degree in Economics and then got my Juris Doctor, passed the bar, and am now working in Nigeria of all places. The vast majority of my friends are not members of the Church, I'll have to ask them if they still think I'm funny . . . although chances are I was quite dull to begin with. I do adore reading Terry Pratchett, I think he's hilarious! My advice, care for people for who they are, respect beliefs and just have fun. Still doesn't mean I don't ask my friends to read the Book of Mormon (most of my friends say no thank you and we continue being friends). Cheers.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:08 am |
    • C Maxon

      I do not care to get caught up in this religious debate. It's getting further and further away from talking about the Good this girl has made of her life, considering her past ordeal.
      I'm only writing in regards to clarify that Yes, a mission IS voluntary. Of the young men, it is encouraged. However, I know many young men who felt that, for whatever reasons, a mission is something they just couldn't do. The young men and women who go on missions are more than informed of exactly what it entails. They do NOT go into it blindly. Yes, some of them go for the wrong reasons (pressure, nothing else to do, for the chance to explore a whole "new world", etc.), but there are MANY who go for the intended reason, which is to devote all their time to teaching people about the fact that earth life is not the end.
      Tossing the religion thing aside for a minute, I don't need religion to KNOW that my spirit seperates from my body. It's happened to me, as it has numerous other people. There are plenty of books and history on the subject. That prooves there IS something beyond what we know as life. I don't see anything wrong about people trying to teach other people to "think outside the box (our physical state)", regardless of their spiritual background/faith.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:23 am |
    • Dan

      Frogist, I served a mission to Poland almost 10 years ago. I can assure you that it is completely voluntary. In fact the missionaries that go and their families pay their own way. The last figures I have seen about 30% of the young men borne into the church choose to serve a mission.

      I can see how you might think the rules would cause you not to truly experience the foreign country. In my opinion the opposite is true. When you serve a mission you live among and with the people very much as they do, it is very different from a vacation and is an eye opening experience. You spend meeting and talking with every day people. Sure you get to see the sights too but that is not what a mission is about. It is about helping and teaching others about Jesus Christ.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:29 am |
    • Frogist

      Hi! Wow! I did not expect such a wealth of responses! Thank you for everyone who answered my questions.
      I think a lot of you are mistakenly characterizing my response as 'missionary vs tourist'. I was looking at it as 'missionary vs exchange student'. An exchange student travels to learn, not for leisure. While I understand what you are saying about how people learn about cultures they visit, they don't go with the purpose of learning that culture. Experiencing the world is secondary to making it conform to your rules by conversion to the LDS church. And that is where my resistance lies. IMO, it is unfortunate how many americans do not have a more culturally diverse view of the world. And while most of you say this mission gives people the opportunity to rectify that, it also teaches the missionaries that the world is something to be changed or molded without experiencing what it is first. Otherwise, why the isolation? Why the intense study not of the place you are going to, but of what you come from?
      Certainly, I recognize that churches and the religious-minded can do good works like drug abuse prevention, and programs to help the poor. But this seems to be less about that and more about proselytizing.
      As you say this is not about the missionary, but the mission. And the mission does not seem to be primarily about helping those in physical need, or learning about other worlds. It's only about spreading your own personal philosophy. And that seems to be a rather self-centered mission more than anything else. I think the missionaries would say the world needs to experience their gospel so they can be exposed to something they did not know of that could expand their minds. All I'm saying is where is the reciprocation of that sentiment for what the world has to offer?

      November 9, 2010 at 11:30 am |
    • Michelle

      Do all Mormons have to submit to this? No. We chose to and we pay our own way because we love the doctrine and we want to help other people. It is not only proselyting but also humanitarian service the missionaries give. I didn't have have the opportunity to serve a mission but it is something I would very much like to do when I get older. It is a joy. We don't believe that we are the sole keepers of goodness and everyone else is bad and we try to learn from others and teach others the goodness and joy that we have as well. If that is evil and distorted brainwashing, I plead happily guilty.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:37 am |
    • Frogist

      BTW: I have to say, this is the most polite group of comments I've ever seen.

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

      No one forces Mormons to go on a mission. In fact, I know plenty that haven't gone, but are still faithful Mormons. Many of them regret not going, however. There is nothing forced about it by the church, although it is emphasized due to the important of sharing the gospel as was instructed by Jesus Christ to the disciples.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:46 am |
    • sutton

      Members of the LDS Church volunteer to go on missions. They also use their own money. Many start saving at a early age to go on a mission. Yes I am a member of the LDS Church, but was not able to go on a mission, but hope to do so when retired.
      As for those attacking the LDS Church shame on you.
      This article is about her courage of faith and no matter what religion that is what is most important. FAITH IN GOD!

      What I have learned is that attacking something you don't know that is the real ignorance.

      I pray for people who have not found their truth and wish them well in their journey's of faith, what I do not do is attack them for their beliefs. Again shame on thee.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:49 am |
    • pheifferhorn


      I'm LDS and served a mission to Chile 10 years ago. It is restrictive- think of it as voluntarily signing up with the Peace Corps- you choose to go (there are many good LDS kids who do not serve missions) and you know what will be expected of you. The restrictions are there to keep a bunch of 19-year old kids wandering around foreign places out of trouble and on task.

      To your point on missing out on the entire experience, i can certainly appreciate your viewpoint. I went to Chile, but never visited the Andes. I never traveled to Easter Island. I didn't see the beautiful South or the Atacama Desert in the north.

      What I did see was the area in and around Santiago. I know it as well as most Chileans. I made a new home. I met people who I still consider to be my best friends- many of whom were never baptized as members of my Church. I lived there as a resident for 2 years. I became intimately familiar with the streets, the food, the customs, the smells, the language, the people.

      If you are looking for a 2 year vacation, an LDS mission isn't for you. If you are looking to walk around slums for 15 hours each day- rain or shine- you're on the right track. You won't hang out on the beach or at a castle snapping pictures, but you will come to know that country, the people, the language, and customs at least as well as any world traveler could hope to. Of course, you will also learn a lot about yourself- how to work hard, what you really do believe (you are after all asking people who have become your friends to believe you). You learn to be a responsible adult- something most kids that age (including myself) didn't really learn in college.

      I hope this helps. BTW, If you are in the process of learning about a religion, culture, whatever it might be, you are probably best off not ridiculing it in the same breath.

      November 9, 2010 at 11:53 am |
    • Tiff2

      Hey frogist, thatnks for being open minded and wanting to learn and understand and not condemn! That is a rareity.

      missions are optional, bust many young boys do feel pressured by their families to serve. the church it self does not force the issue. Female missionaries are seen as extra special since not many women choose to go on a mission.

      As for them seeing the country they are in? Let me assure you that they find the time for sight seeing. Sometimes it is at the same time as serving. When my husband and I investigated the church (that is what it is called when the missionaries are teaching you) we had to go to court ina different area that happened to be at the beach. They got permission to come with us to court for moral support and then we got to spend the rest of the day at the beach showing them cool stuff! But on their day off, they do get to see many things. None that I have ever talked to said they missed out seeing all the sights. They have 18 months to 2 years to get all the sight seeing in!

      November 9, 2010 at 11:55 am |
    • Frogist

      @Steve: Well there goes my comment about beng polite. *face palm*

      November 9, 2010 at 11:58 am |
    • funny

      Kentucky...? Why is that weird? I guess you might think Kentucky to be a strange place for a mission if you think a mission is a vacation. I dare say people might be interested in religion on Kentucky. Just guessing though.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Stephen

      I served an LDS mission in the 70's and looking back, it was one of -the- most rewarding (and difficult) times of my life. An no, I don't think I am a brainwashed idiot. My parents were members of the church for only 17 years by the time I decided to serve a mission. And when I decided to go, I was not as nearly prepared as todays young men and women of faith. My parents certainly not brainwashing me, and neither were those I met at church. Missions are not forced on anyone by the LDS church. Indeed, prospective missionaries have to meet a higher criteria than in my day, or they are not permitted to serve. Force is Satan's realm. Any person who feels pressured to serve a mission should step back and ponder that faith in God requires use to step into the unknown, with our hand outstretched in expectation that God will reach back to lead us.
      I have two sons who have served missions and my third son has, for the time being, decided not to serve a mission. I can only relay my experiences and personal experiences with faith. I cannot nor will not force my last son to serve a mission, because no one can testify by the power of the Holy Ghost, of something they do not have a personal witness of. My thanks to the person who explained that everyone demonstrates faith in something, otherwise each day would be lived recklessly as though it were their last and civilization and society would shrivel and chaos would eventually reign.
      I thank my parents for my belief in God. Without them, and God's love and willingness to forgive and power my faith, I would be a far smaller soul, doing far less with my life. It is faith to believe that we are eventually accountable to God for all of our thoughts and acts in the end. Such a belief has become a game changer in my life, knowing that my soul will be measured in the end causes me to discipline myself, respect and love others, think of this life as a sacred choosing time for all (whether they know/accept it or not) and that life is intended for us to decide our eternal destiny and proximity to the incomprehensible majesty and glory of the Almighty Father of all. For those who do not practice faith in God and His Perfect Son, please try it and see for yourself, what fruits your faith will bear.

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

      Very well put. I have also wondered about mormon culture. Everything seems so secretive.. I did get a good laugh at the Kentucky bit also.. lol

      November 9, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
    • Jose

      It is voluntary to go on missions and no one is brainwashed as I have read on several other comments. Serving a mission is a personal decision which allows the missionary share the gospel that we believe brings happiness and peace to the soul, unite family for eternity, and comfort those who need be comforted. Isn't that what our Savior did for all of us? in a much greater scale of course. Missionaries are not cut off from society, the are engaged talking with people 24/7, they see the good and bad of the world, the grow more as individuals during the time of service than staying at home, it is a very unselfish act of service, they dedicate this time to think about others and to help them obtain happiness. This doesn't mean that you forget your own family, as missionaries we would write/receive letters or emails to/from our family and friends on a weekly basis, and yes we would only call home during Christmas and mother's day which wasn't extreme at all because of the ongoing weekly communication we would have with our family. Don't believe everything you hear from other people who know nothing about it, I served a 2 yr mission in South America and it was the one of the best time of my life and I admire Elizabeth Smart for her courage and strong faith that has allowed her to put this horrible time she had in the past, I don't know too many people who has done something similar.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
    • ExLDS

      In response to your post, LDS missionaries are not forced to do a mission. Although parents and family expect one to go, it is not rquired. I volunteered for my mission (right here in the states SC), and paid for it. It is a strict military like lifestyle. I went on my mission late. I was in my 20's already and had experience as an NCO in the Army; so the regimen wasn't so bad for me; but for some of the young guys it was a big adjustment.
      Although I am no longer apart of the LDS Church, I still appreciate the things I learned. I just disagree with the theology. I do wish more faith groups would encourage their young people to do a one or two year mission. The mission teaches, organisation of time, prioritizing, systematic study, etc.... Those two years were very good to me.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:17 pm |
    • r1228

      My husband worked a part-time job at a gas station throughout high school to earn money to serve a mission. He willingly applied knowing what rules he would abide by. He was prepared to serve others. And whether people wanted to listen to his message or not, he still helped many people and made life long friends. . He was called to Uruguay and learned to speak Spanish. To this day still thinks it is one of the best experiences of his life. He has a great love for the culture and for the people of Uruguay.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
    • Jonathan

      I'm also a member of the LDS Church (Mormon). I got a kick out of this article because it makes it sound like you are cut off from humanity during your mission. It's not like that at all. It's true that you don't get to call home a lot, but you write home all the time. It's really a lot of fun. You meet tons of sweet people and it's Suuuuuper Sweeeeeeeeeeet! I went to Argentina, by the way, but Kentucky would have been fun, too.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
    • ExLDS

      In response again... Those who volunteer to do a mission do it at their own expense. It is an honor and a sacrifice. Even though I am no longer a part of the LDS Church, I still am a person of faith. I serve as a senior Pastor. Many of the things I learned I still use today. Even though I didn't have the opportunity to do a foreign mission, going to SC from the mid-west was indeed culture shock! And yes I had to learn a new language (Southern English). I still live in the South East even now and if it wasn't for my mission, I wouldn't be the person I am.
      As far as theology goes, this is not the forum to debate and discuss it. If folks want to debate the theological implications of Mormonism, I'm sure there are forums to get involved with.
      Yet if one wants to learn the in's and outs of Mormonism, just google LDS.org or the many other sites sponsored by members of the Church.
      Ms. Smart went through a living hell and praise God she is making it! I wish her all the best in this life because she deserves it.

      November 9, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • Jewels2010

      visit mormon.org or lds.org

      November 9, 2010 at 12:41 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Yeah yeah http://www.mormon.org/ check it out

      November 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
    • Kyle

      I live in SLC and am in close proximity to a lot of Mormons, and have a fairly decent amount of family members that are Mormon as well. The Mormon mission from is not a very complex agenda to understand. It is 1) an experience for the missionary to develop a closer relationship with their religion and in some (not all, trust me, this isn't magic) instances to mature as an individual; 2) an effort to get others to join the religion.

      I believe that there are two very valid complaints about the way that the Mormon religion handles their mission program. First, if a young man chooses to not go on a mission (there is an age window – last I heard it was 19-26) because there are other factors at play in his life that he would like to pursue (an education, love, career, etc) then it is looked down upon as him not making the "correct" life choice, and they are taught that they will stand before god and be judged for their decision. While it is a "choice," many young men, and I state this from so many experiences I have lost count, themselves feel guilted into going. I am not saying all young men are; I'm not even raising an argument, it is simply the truth and it is sad to see a lot of people who have faith in their religion but are made to feel as though there is something wrong with them in their community of faith for choosing to not go.

      The second complaint is a purely outsider, objectivist observation. Mormon missionaries enter homes in order to preach their gospel and hope that they will bring others to be baptized. In the process, if an individual or family belongs to another faith, there are undoubtedly moments where the missionary has to admit that they believe the other religion in the conversation is not the one True religion, as this is a major tenant of the Mormonism. Imagine a 19 year old kid telling a non-Christian in an Eastern culture where Christianity is entirely uncommon that their religion and their entire foundation for believing in god is flawed, or incorrect, or however they choose to articulate it – not the True faith. Now, imagine that kid coming home and telling his friends and family that he was able to experience and learn so much about and *appreciate* another culture.

      How much can you truly appreciate a culture when it is your stated goal to alter that culture?

      November 9, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
    • Josh

      I was a missionary for the LDS Church in Sao Paulo, Brazil a little over ten years ago. I have a great-grandfather who went on a mission to France a century ago. But none of my grandparents, parents, or uncles went on missions. My older brother did not go. No one in my family let that bother them. They did not expect me to go. But I chose to go. I had felt peace and strength in my life through my faith and I wanted to share that with people. I was so happy to be called to Sao Paulo.

      While in Sao Paulo I met amazing people. I came to know Braziilian culture in a way that is unique to a mission experience. After my mission I studied Brazilian culture at the undergraduate and graduate school levels. My experience as a missionary offered insights and experience that my professors and colleagues–some of them Brazilian–did not have. We hear a lot about Brazilian "favelas" in the popular culture about Brazil (the film Cidade de Deus, for example). But I was the only one in my program who had actually been in and lived in a favela. And I was able to do so because I was a missionary. This was just one of the unique opportunities I had as a missionary that gave me a sense of Brazil and how it works that other people–be they tourists, academics, or business people–do not get to see. And the friends I made are life-long. Thanks to Facebook and email, it's easier than ever to stay in touch with them. I don't feel comfortable talking about the ways I grew spiritually on a CNN message board, but the experience changed my life, for the better. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in my life.

      Hope that helps.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:06 pm |
    • gnsh

      lilfro22 has it right. The tone of this article is an unfortunate misrepresentation of what a mission is. Within any Christian faith, missions consist of voluntary service performed in the name of God within a known set structure. Much can be learned including, but absolutely not limited to the sole searching that goes with finding and living ones faith.

      Unbiased reporting would have made this a much more professional article. As is, it is spreading misinformation. Next time you see a missionary ask them if it was their choice to serve a mission and live the associated rules.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
    • Bill

      I served an LDS mission for 2 years in Taiwan. On a mission, one actually gets to know a country and culture much more then a tourist ever would. A missionary will have 2 months of basic language training and then is quite literally, thrown on the streets of the country to speak to people. I can tell you now, 2 months is nowhere near long enough to learn Mandarin Chinese. A missionary often feels lost for the first few months. You cannot fully understand others or communicate your message. The first few months were one of the most frustrating times of my life. I knew missionaries that couldn't handle it and chose to leave. My faith in Christ and what I was doing though sustained me. I had something that has made me happy in my life, and I wanted to share it with others.

      A mission is not just about converting others to the Mormon faith. It is a chance to serve those where you labor. Almost 1/2 of my time was not spent teaching, but serving. We worked in centers with handicapped children, we helped clean up after typhoons, most of the service I did, never resulted in any teaching. A mission helps a 19 or 21 year old person to realize, they are not #1, and that you find true joy in helping others. If you look at any natural disaster in the world: tornado, hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, etc..., the missionaries will be right in the middle of the relief efforts.

      The rules or restrictions are in place for many reasons. One is to help the person focus on their task. It was great having two years to not have to worry about jobs, or dating, or school, and to give two years fully to the Lord. Another reason is that missionaries are official representatives of the church. Just as any organization will have standards for their leaders and representatives, the Mormon church is no different. Those standards are known before going and are accepted and followed in most cases.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • Josh W

      "Serving a mission" is a choice you can make when you are 19. It's somewhere around 40% that make that decision...but in many communities and families, there is a lot of social pressure put on you to go and a stigma placed on you whether you decide to go or not. You will be referred to as an "RM" (return missionary) throughout your life in Utah and if you don't have that attached to your name then you are somewhat of a letdown to friends and family. In my case, I went out of pressure from Utah society, not because I believed it or wanted to go. Fortunately, I went to Italy on my mission, and don't regret that because I got to spend 2 years in a remarkable country, but had I been called to Kansas, I would have regretted my decision and probably opted out.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
    • Scott

      I was raised Mormon but never served a mission my self. Missions are voluntary and you don't get excommunicated if you don't go. If you do go, and you know the rules, than you aren't forced not to talk to your family, you willingly choose to follow the rules. I have many friends and family that have served missions and I can tell you, they are submersed in the culture more than you can imagine. They go into the locals homes, teach them and serve them. Most missionaries come back speaking a foreign language fluently. The church congregation in a particular country often helps the missionaries by taking turns hosting them for dinner. The missionaries get to spend time with the families in the church and devote their 2 years to serving others. In the process, they're walking the streets, visiting homes, seeing sites on their days off. They get to know the country they visit very well. They don't just preach the gospel, they also talk to the locals about the local history and culture. So don't feel too bad for the missionaries. Most are there because they love their faith, and the people they serve and they are excited to immerse themselves in the culture they're serving in. It also teaches young adults how to be very disciplined and work hard at a goal. Most missionaries come back much more grown up and ready to tackle college, or a carrier after their mission. I know from the outside looking in, it may not sound like your cup of tea, but next time you see a missionary, ask them how they like their mission, or ask an ex missionary how they enjoyed their experience. I bet 99% of the time you won't be able to shut them up about how it changed their life for the better.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
    • Kyle

      I am sure that there are thousands of other "return missionaries" who have a wealth of positive stories and experiences to share about their missions and their 2 years living in another culture.

      As I must admit positive experiences do happen, those "return missionaries" must not discount the negative stories that occur as well. The qualitative decision that must be made is whether those good experiences outweigh the bad.

      If you do not think there are that many negative experiences, try searching for ex-Mormon blogs and terrible mission experiences. I would not suggest reading them, as they are as depressing and polarizing as it gets, but the point is that it isn't all roses.

      Any negative side-effects of a program like this are always thwarted with the silver-bullet: it is the one True Church of God. It just depends on whether or not you subscribe to that type of outlook.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:35 pm |
    • Cam

      Teaching people a more loving and kind way to live is just as important as humanitarian service, both of which are done on a mission. If we all lived up to the ideals of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, most of the world's problems would be eradicated. There would be no poor, no abuse, and so on.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
    • Taylor

      I would encourage anyone who has other questions about Mormons to visit mormon.org where you can chat with a missionary who is currently in a missionary training center.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • Meg

      "Their missions, miss the point of traveling to other countries."

      The point of a mission is to not travel to another country. It is to share their message, about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Living amongst the people of the place a missionary serves, even having "native" mission companions can teach you more about the culture and country than any other vacation/study/exchange program available. It is an amazing opportunity to learn about the world if a missionary is called to a different country than their own, but it is not the purpose of one's mission.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • Stargirl

      To serve a mission in the LDS church is a choice. It is not forced upon anyone and having served one myself, it was actually really nice being cut off from the world in terms of TV and movies. A mission is such an adventure, and a missionary is just so busy, that those things kinda just lose importance for a while.

      Nowadays it is not that hard to be away from your family on a mission because most missions in the church allow you to email your family every week. It really is no big deal, not much of a sacrafice and totally worth the fun that comes with serving a mission. SUCH AN AWESOME experience. And, it's only for a year and a half, or two years. It speeds right by!

      November 9, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
    • K

      While people may see a mission as restrictive, others feel that it is growing experience. It is a time of service, a time of getting to know people as you share something that has helped you find peace in the world, and a time of personal revelation to receive insight on how to be happy. It's quite the selfless act in my mind. Everyone I know who as served, women and men, has raved about their learning experiences. While it may be hard, they wouldn't trade it for the world. Plus, it's two short years or 18 months compared to the years ahead we have to live.

      November 9, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
    • Bill

      It is true that missions are HARD work. The 12 hours a day out in the 100 degree heat, walking the streets in the almost daily downpours, having door after door slammed in your face, having to adjust to new foods like chicken hearts, feet, or anus. The benefits though and what you learn as you do help others kind of make you forget how hard it is. I think the best way I have heard to describe a mission is:

      I wouldn't sell many of the experiences I had on my mission for $1,000,000, but I wouldn't buy them for a penny.

      November 9, 2010 at 2:01 pm |
    • Drew

      I served in the Taiwan, Taichung mission seven years ago. For me, the decision to serve was entirely out of love: love for the Gospel, and love for my father.

      The Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of the most precious parts of my life. Jesus himself compared His truth to a a pearl of great price, a treasure for which, when discovered, a good man would sell all he owned in order to obtain it. Missionary work is not about demanding that others conform to your way of thinking; it is about offering a part of yourself, and one which has brought you great joy, to others.

      Secondly, my father served in Korea when he was 19. As a young child, he took me to visit Korea, and I saw his love for the people and the culture. I saw how much the people whom he had taught loved him, and I wanted to feel that way about God's children, too.

      I count myself immensely blessed to have been able to serve. My life, my education, and my career have all been affected by my time in Taiwan, but the most important part of serving was being able to feel a pure Christ-like love for the Taiwanese people that I could only have felt through service.

      November 9, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
    • MillieD

      Thank you for your inquiry and as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I am happy to answer some of your questions and respond to your thoughts. I am older than Elisabeth but served a full time mission when I was her age as well. our service as missionaries is voluntary. Men are more encouraged to go but also have the choice. I decided for myself to go. I was happy to serve among Latinos in San Diego, Ca. and learned to speak Spanish. We as members of the LDS church are not brainwashed, nor are we encouraged to be anything but open minded and educated. We very much believe in broadening our minds and exposure by gaining a great formal education and then continue learning throughout our lives. With that education we also believe in a responsiblilty to serve and give back. We believe we have a very important message to share with the world that Christ Lives and is alive today and loves each of us very much. As a missionary, I was only honored to go forth and share this message. It was hard work but it blessed my life immensely and taught me great things. It helped me to love more and to give more. I served during 9/11 and I can't describe the joy I felt to go forth visiting the residents of San Diego and praying with them for peace. What I mean by that is it was a blessing to alleviate some of the fear caused by this tragedy and to serve those who were very troubled. I also had a good friend serving in NYC at the same time. You mentioned it seems restrictive but that is so we can totally focus outward and serve others. If I had been calling home and getting homesick during those months I wouldn't have been able to give what I gave and help who I helped. We as missionaries go on a mission knowing what we are giving up, etc. We do it voluntarily and it is a great blessing. I definitely think I ended up gaining more knowledge and love in my life than I was able to give. It is wonderful. So if those missionaries knock on your door...let them in. If it's hot outside...give them water. They'll appreciate it. And please listen to their message or at least let them offer a prayer over your household. It will bless your life immensely:) My mission lasted about 18 months. It's amazing how fast this time goes and then I returned and finished college and am a much better person today than I was before. I hope that I answered some of your questions.

      November 9, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
    • Surfparks6

      It is completely voluntary, I was inactive for over 4 years and started coming back to church when I was 19. I gained a testimony of the gospel and chose to go on a mission. Growing up I never planned on going on a mission, it was a thought, it was talked about but it came down to me making the decision. I didn't go anywhere exotic, but I loved it!

      November 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
    • Kamereon

      From the number of "glowing" reviews of your article, methinks someone at Mormon high command has instructed the troops to write in. Well played Mormons, well played.

      November 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
    • Peter

      This looks like brainwash to me...

      November 9, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • Rachel

      A mission is voluntary. Some of the words chosen in this article portray missionary service as restrictive (missionaries are "cut off" and "barred" from t.v.). But when someone volunteers to be a missionary, they view these "restrictions" as necessary "sacrifices" to keep them focused on their purpose (serving others and preaching about Christ). And I think many missionaries return with a clearer perspective of the human condition than those that go abroad to study or travel because missionaries are serving communities and people of all walks of life.

      November 9, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • jackie

      Hey. I'm a member, and I went on a mission to Missouri, my brother to Chile. We are not expected to do this. It is voluntary service. Some destinations sound odd, (Kentucky) however we believe that that is the place God wants us. Mine was a great experience, and one I still miss 10 years later. My brother and I had been a member for one year when we left. I'd jump at the chance to do it again. My husband and I plan on going when our kids are grown.

      November 9, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
    • PCollen

      Idiot...Kentucky was only being used as an example of how near, or how far away, a Missionary might be sent. You think Bolivia or Uganda are 'exotic' ..HA. Maybe you think getting a shower once a month, or eating termites, would be the way you'd rather go than riding your bike through the green fields of Kentucky. I'd sure take anywhere in Kentucky any day over some other places in the USA..like Detroit, Akron, Brooklyn, etc.

      November 9, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
    • factsperson

      The church does not restrict people from doing anything...quite the contrary actually. they encourage you to seek out by prayer to god. They don't restrict when missionaries can wash clothes,etc....that's silly. they don't say 'no touring allowed!'....that's also ridiculous. they encourage service to others,a focus on god,and focus on ones well being. I think that if more of us did that, our world would be so much better. They believe in the bible,and they believe in god. It's interesting because I am an historian...and as i've researched some of the info about mormons and joseph smith, it seems legit. In other words,the fact that a poor farmer boy with no education could just make up some random book just doesn't make sense. When you read the book of mormon, the words,the stories,etc are not something a poor farm boy would know anything about...even just by exposure to a basic bible. So even with all these crazy people you will see comments from, that are just pure evil about what they say of the religion, as a PhD scholar, and as someone raised baptist, I cannot find a whole lot wrong with them. they are good people...not weirdos,or a cult...just good people doing good things and encouraging others to do good things.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • Josh W

      @ashton 2:56...are you personal friends with the devil? Maybe you're his spokesman. You sound like you know him well.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
    • CGR79


      November 9, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
    • chris

      Missions are purely voluntary though the % of young men that go is higher than that of young women.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
    • Heythere

      I was a missionary with Elizabeth Smart in Paris. I was only there with her for about 4 months before I finished my two-year mission but she was a great missionary! I had quite a few opportunities to speak with her and she is a normal girl, just like everyone else and was doing a really good job. I bet coming home and having to deal with all of this again was hard for her.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
    • Ron Gidlund

      This article shows she went from one captor to another; and that ALL Religions are B S!!! Common sense and intellect need not apply! After thousands of years mankind has still given over all our gifts of standing upright, intellect and tools to Money, Religion and Politics! We've Not progressed forward! Religion is a VIRUS that simply put must continue to expand and infect the intellect!!!!!!!

      November 9, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
    • Bill

      Bette at 3:22 said
      "LDS is NOT a "Christian church." They do not believe the divinity of Jesus Christ and are therefore a cult."

      I find it interesting that random people on message boards are trying to tell me and millions of Mormons what we believe. I have had people try to tell me to my face what "I believe" when in actuality, they are only showing their ignorance.

      Mormons do believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ. I know, because I am one, and that is what I believe. Maybe instead of looking at anti-Mormon literature, or listening to those opposed to the church, you should actually go to the source and ask them what they believe. Go to an LDS meeting and listen for yourself what they are teaching. They are open to all. We are not hiding anything.

      Go to mormon.org. You can find the actual beliefs of Mormons, and not what your bigoted friend or preacher told you.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
    • Creighton

      Bette, the Mormon Church is absolutley Christian and we believe completey in the divinity of Jesus Christ. We believe in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible as scripture.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
    • Undeceived

      The chorus of Southpark's All About the Mormons episode comes to mind: "dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb"

      November 9, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
    • susieC

      Oh, Frogist, what were you thinking asking that question on this forum?

      November 9, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
    • Angie Klabacka

      It is voluntary, no one is forced to go on a mission. My son is serving a mission in Alabama. When he first got his call I think he was a little surprised that is was not going somewhere out of the country. He was born and raised in NV and has found that people from AL are very different from the people out West. He loves Alabama so much that I'm afraid that he will never come home. He cannot say enough good things about the people there, he feels that he was no doubt sent to where he needs to be. In addition to writing us letters weekly, he sends us an email every Monday. I usually know the time of day that he is on the computer, so I am able to respond to him immediately. I keep all his emails and letters, they are like a journal. He is very happy and does not miss TV, Newspapers, or any of the worldly things we all get caught up in. In his last email, he said that he and his companion were going to help this lady paint her kitchen this coming weekend. He loves providing services to those in need. I am so proud of him and could not imagine him doing anything else at this time of his life. Do I miss him? You bet I do! But I know that two years will fly by.

      November 9, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
    • Moravian


      November 9, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
    • Mont


      Thanks for your honest questions and comments. I can do one better than answer your question (regarding missions), "are all called or just certain members . . ." The President and Prophet of the LDS church recently spoke on the matter and you can hear him answer your question (in less than 15 minutes) here:


      (under the Saturday Morning Session "As We Meet Again." In it, he reviews what we beileve regarding missions, and who should go, and how to prepare to go.

      As for the "waste" of being in a country and not being able to be a part of the culture etc . . . I am devout LDS and a traveller at heart! I am 39 and have lived in 39 homes. I have seen many parts of the world and encourage my children to do the same (eg. right now I am looking at sending my daughter to Germany as a foreign exchange student in the next 2 years.) However, besides seeing the world, I am also encouraging my children to give back to Christ who gave Himself and His all for them (and all of us.) One form of that giving back is to take His message to everyone who will listen. Yes, I am preparing my children to serve missions to do just that. Upon their return, I hope they will continue in the faith and continue in their "sight seeing" 🙂 Besides my marriage and raising of my children, my mission was the best thing I have ever done (and that is just for selfish reasons . . . not to mention all those with whom I worked for those 2 years.)

      All my best,


      PS. My "exotic" location was Texas 🙂

      November 9, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
    • CGR79

      I served a two-year mission in Panama and it was an amazing experience. No one forced me to go, it was all up to me. And the reason why I decided to give two years of my life was because I knew the message was true. My life had been changed by it, I knew it, and I wanted to take the opportunity to share it with others.

      Let it be known that the mission is a very trying, difficult, and taxing experience; physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. But, I will say that it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I would do it again. Really, words can't begin to describe how much you grow through the service that you give. I know the message that the Mormon missionaries share is true, it is the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

      November 9, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
    • Some_Truth

      "LDS is NOT a "Christian church." They do not believe the divinity of Jesus Christ and are therefore a cult."

      It looks like you have been proved wrong here, Bette. Might it be wise to examine some (all) of the other assertions which you claim as ABSOLUTE truth?

      November 9, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • SG

      I went on a mission to South Korea. The rules are strict but allow each missionary the opportunity to study and learn about the doctrines of the Church, study the language spoken in the area that the missionary is serving and to serve others. My service included teaching English classes at the church and other areas, translating materials for a city hall, visiting with and helping feed Korean War veterans in a care facility among many others. I enjoyed the experience very much and enjoyed teaching people (that were interested) about my beliefs. Some of my friends did not go on a mission. They are in good standing with the church and are appreciated and serve in the church along with those that did serve missions. I will never regret the time I spent in Korea and think about the great experience I had almost every day.

      November 9, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
    • bwp88

      This article is a complete fabrication. This is what Ms Smart MIGHT be doing based on what some other people might be doing.

      "Those overseeing Smart’s mission didn’t return a call to CNN to discuss her missionary work." As in no comment, so we'll make it up. What BS.

      November 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
    • willis

      IF you are a Mormon male and you don't go on a Mission you better have one dam good excuse, and I really don;t think that there are any other then some kind of physical/mental defect. You will bring shame and dishonor on your family if you don;t go, and you will live with that for the rest of your life. There is no OBJECTIVE decision making process that a Mormon male can go through to deiced for themselves if they want to go, the pressure is to strong, you start singing songs about going on missions as soon as you can speak. The indoctrination of the Mormon lifestyle, a very controlled way of life starts the second you are born.

      November 9, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Aaron

      I just thought I would throw in my 2 cents about the cultural impact of missionary service. I served in Paris France from 2003-2005. Though I only took time to tour and visit the many wonderful sites of that country once a week I feel like I was able to develop a deep and abiding appreciation of the tradition and heritage that is unique I think to Europe and even France. I visited the Louvre on multiple occasions as well as the Musee D'Orsay, I saw L'Opera, as well as toured the many historical districts of Paris like Montmartre. I also saw many of the beautiful sights in the French country side including the beautiful coastal regions of Normandy and Brittany. I saw the D-day beaches, and the American Military Cemetery, lived in areas that had been completely razed during world war II, spoke with countless individuals who lived through it all. Heard their stories, and had my mind opened more than any history class ever could about the realities and atrocities of war (I freely admit however that I still can't fully appreciate the horror of it). All of this was accorded to my by virtue of living for two years in that beautiful country. On top of that there was not a single day that I wasn't exposed to new ideas, morals, beliefs and lifestyles of other people as I sought opportunity to talk with them about my religion. I was invited into their homes. I saw in a small degree the way the live how they talk to each other, what their value system implies. I cannot for the life of me imagine any vacation our tourist excursion that could have offered me even a hundredth of the cultural experiences that I enjoyed while I was there. To be cut off from the news, and media is of very little significance when for 15 hours of every day you are out among people talking with them and participating in service you get a good idea about the world on the most important level the community level. On top of all this over the course of my two years I met people from almost every country on the planet. I kept track in on little weekly planner that had a world map in it, by my missions end there were only about 15 countries that I still hadn't met someone from. This was in large part due to the diversity of France, and may not be typical of all missions. In short I have yet to experience anything in my short 26 years of life that has opened my mind more about the world its people and what life is about. And as a final note, I never had someone watching over me on my mission to make sure I kept the rules. My companions and I were for the most part by ourselves for the vast majority of the day. Many times the nearest mission leadership was hours away by train. We decided that we wanted to spend our time was prescribed by mission leadership. We could have just as easily done otherwise I knew missionaries who did. Personal choice is at the very core of missionary service. Just because someone gives you guidance, rules or council about how best to spend your time doesn't in any way remove your ability to do other wise. All that being said the truly mind opening and freeing benefits of missionary service come from the spiritual journey that accompanies service of this type.

      November 9, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Melissa

      While the mission is "voluntary" in name, in reality – the pressure to go on a mission is tremendous in LDS families. Parents threaten to not pay for college unless their sons go. But the faith requires this outward appearance that everything is voluntary and perfectly cheerful – so they will tell you that no one forced them, no one pressured them. That's a lie. Missionaries are not allowed to call home except once per year – for mother's day. Emails are screened. If a family member dies while they're on their missions, they are not allowed to return home for the funeral. Ultimately – a mission is not about conversion. It's about brainwashing the young adults before they have a chance to experience the world at large – to keep them bound in the Mormon religion, where they will nod and recite the same apologist rhetoric to questions. Anything that may challenge their world view is dismissed as "anti-Mormon." Beware this religion – it is a cult, and it destroys families. It did to mine, and to many of my friends.

      November 9, 2010 at 4:59 pm |
    • Vita

      Seems like another American invasion.

      November 9, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
    • RC

      I am sorry, but the LDS Church is not Christian. They do not believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins. They only recognize that he is (was?) another prophet.

      November 9, 2010 at 5:20 pm |
    • Bob


      Maybe that is the way your parents were, but they were not following the teaching of the LDS church if they did. There may be some parents out there that act that way, but for the great majority, It is a completely voluntary experience. Only about 50% of the men choose to go on missions where I am from. They are not loved any less by their parents. They are still just as accepted at meetings. The whole basis of the church and this life is agency. You can choose to believe or not. You can choose to serve or not. You can choose to accept Christ or not. You can choose to be miserable like you have, or you can choose to be happy by following Christ's teachings. The church is based on bringing families together. My greatest joy is in my family. The same can be said for millions of Mormons around the world.

      November 9, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
    • Jeremy

      While some families may pressure their children to go, that is the exception, and not the rule. I come from an LDS family, and one of my older brothers didn't go. Sure, my parents wanted him to go, but he chose a different path, and they didn't withhold college tuition or anything to that effect (in fact, he had more of his school paid for than the rest of us).

      As far as the mission being used as an opportunity to brainwash, that couldn't be further from the truth. When you are serving a mission, you are talking to countless people, all with different viewpoints than your own, and likely experiencing a different culture than you grew up with. I went to NYC for mine, and I found that that small portion of my life was instrumental in shaping who I am today, not from a theological perspective, but from a cultural and philosophical one. I am more open minded now, and I attribute that not to my college experience, but to my experience interacting with people in New York. It may seem counterintuitive, but I found it easier to go through college without being exposed to new ideas than I did on the mission (and I didn't go to BYU – I went to Arizona State).

      The fact of the matter is, some individuals will be closed-minded, and shun new ideas, regardless of whether they go to school, or are serving a mission, or whatever; and some will be open-minded, and welcome new ideas, no matter the situation. That is a function of their upbringing, long before the mission, and it is not an issue exclusive to Mormons.

      November 9, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
    • J.M.

      RC said

      "I am sorry, but the LDS Church is not Christian. They do not believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins. They only recognize that he is (was?) another prophet."

      Wow, R.C. did you make that up yourself, or is that what your preacher told you? Either way, you have been deceived.

      Mormons believe Jesus is the ONLY begotten son of our Heavenly Father and he came to this earth to die for our sins, and ONLY through Christ can someone return to heaven. Attend any Mormon meeting. Read any Mormon scriptures (Bible and Book of Mormon). Talk to any Mormon. You will hear that belief from any one of those sources.

      It appears to need to check where your "facts" are coming from.

      November 9, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
    • Bill Mosby

      Missions serve as bonding with the church, as a badge of honor, and also as a source of slide shows for decades afterward. A lot of my Mormon friends seem to have been sent to the general region around Machu Picchu, lol!.

      November 9, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
    • JJ

      The mission is voluntary and actually helps an individual learn self-reliance, discipline, hard work, organization, social skills, and often language skills as well. Many former LDS missionaries have become leaders in business and politics.

      November 9, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
    • Some_Truth

      RC said:
      "I am sorry, but the LDS Church is not Christian. They do not believe that Jesus Christ died for their sins. They only recognize that he is (was?) another prophet."

      That is what Muslims believe - not Mormons.

      What else might you be confused and misinformed about.....?

      November 9, 2010 at 6:30 pm |
    • cliff

      So CNN has made Mormons into Christians? Don't think so.
      They are a cult...just like the JW's, Scientology, etc.
      I will give them credit....they put a lot of time and money into their indoctrination of the "followers" they cultivate.
      Sorta sad a sane person could believe their line.

      November 9, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
    • Jaime

      I am member of the LDS (Mormon) faith, and I was a young woman that chose to serve a mission. I am from Utah, and was called to Toronto Canada. It's all by choice – no forcing. Some of my friends went, some did not. Some chose to leave Mormonism, and some chose to just stay in College, or get married, or do nothing but work at Little Caesars. My experience with my religion has been positive, I had great parents that supported whatever choices I wanted to pursue. This has a huge bearing on what your experience will be – how you are raised in The Church. I had good parents that converted to Mormonism from Catholism and Quaker. They taught me about other religions, to be respectful, and that good and bad people can come from all walks of life and religions. God knows the heart. That came in handy later when I made some poor choices, but the knowledge of our Savior and the ways that he blessed me pulled me through and helped me grow and be the Woman I am today.

      There are always going to be people that want to argue. There are always going to be naysayers. There will always be opposition to the word, no matter what Religion is conveying it. Tolerance, acceptance, and love always go a long way in learning about someones beliefs.

      And to be on-topic for this conversation, Elizabeth Smart is a very strong, independant woman that overcame something horrific and traumatic – not only because she has a great family, and wonderful people in her life, but also perhaps because she knows The Savior, and has relied tremendously upon him.

      November 9, 2010 at 8:45 pm |
    • andrew

      cnn sucks! it is the individuals choice to go on a mission! How sad that you people talk down to someone that is willing to give there life to jesus christ, to teach people about his word. what have are you doing to show people jesus?!

      November 10, 2010 at 8:30 am |
    • michelle

      to make things clear the opportunity of a mission is absolutely voluntarily and so are the mission rules. they have certain rules and regulations to keep missionaries focused on why they're there. if the person chooses to leave they are certainly allowed, and not kept against their will or FORCED to do anything. a mission is not a vacation but they do allow time to see the cities. and what better way to get to know the people there than by serving them. on a mission one grows to love the the people and area in which they're apart. if a missionary chooses to go and make the sacrifice of concentrating fully on doing and saying what they feel the Lord wants them to, then i see nothing wrong with that.
      there is one thing, however, that i feel is inaccurate about this article, it 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."
      Joseph Smith did not establish the church. it was God. Joseph Smith's history and account of his vision and instructions from God can be found at the end of the THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE, just in case you'd like to read his experience for yourself. we believe that God has given us our free agency and it's very important for us all to make our OWN decisions, hopefully good ones. 🙂

      November 10, 2010 at 12:09 pm |
    • rdlc

      I served a mission for the LDS church and would definitely say it expanded my mind more then any other experience. I served in Italy and for two years I talked to Italian people all day. Through this I was introduced to the Italian culture in a way that is not possible as a tourist. Sure, as a tourist you see many sites, but you must live there to really experience the culture.

      For example, I moved to Boston one year ago. It was very different from my home town and took a lot of adjusting. As a tourist, I love the city of Boston for all of its historical sites. As a resident, it has taken some time to enjoy the city. Living here has definitely been different then just visiting and this holds true for all places.

      November 10, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
    • cnk

      this missionary service is completely voluntary. those who choose to serve missions do so by their own choice. they apply and then are called to serve. this article does an excellent job of describing the process of a mission, but it's the experiences with the people you meet and lives you touch, and the lives that touch yours that make the experience amazing. i served in ecuador and my husband served in utah. both were amazing for the personal relationships we developed on our missions (with the people and with the lord), not because of the place. as far as being restrictive, it is not. you learned the tools of discipline and structure and how to apply them in your life and work. i am so greatful for that! that has blessed my life since i've been home with school, work, family and running businesses!

      November 10, 2010 at 2:27 pm |
    • JosephC

      @ Frogist,
      I am LDS and also served a mission when I was 22. Not all members serve missions, only those that choose to do so. Although it is something that is heavily suggested, especially for men.
      As for all of the "restrictions" I can attest that they are only there for the missionaries safety and benefit. It is to help them focus on what they are there for. It is so they can give their all to Jesus, and not worry about any other things. And yes there are exceptions. I was able to contact my family when my little brother was in a bad motorcycle accident. Others are able to return home for funerals, illnesses, and things like that. I can honestly say that the time I was "shut off" from the world was one of the greatest most happy times of my life. And I often wish I could be as shut off again where all I had to worry about was spreading the love of God. Solely worrying about others. There is no greater feeling in life. It really is not a burden to leave life behind for only 2 years. More of a blessing.
      And yes, some of the places are not the most glamorous destinations. I went to Arizona for example. But I can tell you that after serving the people there I couldn't have picked a better place myself. Every missionary is sent exactly where they are supposed to. I know I was. I met people there that I know I was supposed to meet. Either to help them in only a way I as a missionary could, or for them to help me (which was mostly the case).
      If you have any other questions about the LDS faith I would be more than happy to help you out.

      November 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
    • Kara

      I am a lds youth girl. Only 13. My brother has been home from his misson for a year. He served in Austria. He claims in was the best two years of his life. However, not every memember serves a mission. Most girls are married by the time they reach the elligible age to serve (21) Our prophets say that every worthy young man should serve a mission. Some dont to.

      You also asked why they were so voluntary. Well They wanted. to . They probably had their own personal revelation from prayer and reading their scripture when they felt they needed to go. I sometimes think that with all the things going around in teens mind plus the stress they have with peers and school would cause them to want to party at the age of leavng for the misson. That is not the case for these people. They really do want to go. because they KNOW its right

      November 10, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
    • Benjamin

      Hi Frogist,

      I'm LDS and I actually served a 2 year mission in Paris as well. I got back about two years ago, so I never overlapped with Sister Smart. Serving a mission is entirely voluntary, although there is some pressure to do so for young men. Almost all young men serve missions (we believe it is a commandment for them if the are capable of doing so), and I'd estimate that a little less than half of young women do as well. You will not be reprimanded by the Church in any way if you do not serve, although (if a young man) your family and friends will probably be disappointed with your choice. Those who do not serve are not shunned or isolated, (at least by members who understand and live their faith) even if there is a degree of disappointment. In order to serve a mission, you must be 'called' by the Church and have enough saved up to support yourself financially during you service (with financial aid available for those in need). Virtually everyone who meets the age and worthiness requirements receive callings to serve.

      Although serving a mission can be viewed as being restrictive because of the many activities you do not participate in (TV, movies, etc.), I found it to be very liberating–I didn't have to worry about school, money, relationships, jobs, or anything else. I voluntarily put these things aside to focus exclusively on the people of France and their physical and spiritual well-being. All my efforts of each hour of each day are focused on serving those around me. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to serve a mission; this is primarily because of the spirit that comes from dedicating everything, everyday, to the service of God and his children. There is a reason that missions are commonly referred to as 'the best two years' of your life! I learned so much about myself and my purpose in life, my relationship with God, and truly grew to love those I served. Had I been distracted by other pressures, I would not have been able to grow as I did. In fact, I think this extraordinary personal growth is probably why serving a mission is viewed as being so important in the culture of the Church.

      The article is a little misleading because it suggests that you are completely separated from your family as a missionary. Although it is true that the only phone calls home we make are on Mother's Day and Christmas (for about half an hour), we actually have much more regular contact with our families. In fact, missionaries are asked to write their families every week (either through physical letters or email). I did so, and certainly enjoyed receiving news and letters from home each week (along with the occasional package of treats).

      And as for serving in Paris, I don't feel like I missed out on a whole lot of cultural activities. I think I learned more of the culture through the dozens of people I met each day than I could have as an international student or long-term tourist. I was out mingling on the street with the French people for several hours each day. In addition, missionaries are actually encouraged to take advantage of appropriate cultural experiences, as it helps them to grow to love, appreciate, and understand those they serve. During our weekly preparation day, I would go out of my way to take advantage of these opportunities. I never served in the actual city of Paris, but I was able to take advantage of year pass to the Louvre, attend a popular French musical, visit the Eiffel Tower, the Sorbonne, dozens of astounding churches, and many other landmarks. Outside of Paris I visited several museums, castles, cathedrals, local markets, farms etc.

      As for receiving a mission call to Kentucky (or some other 'state side' mission), the lessons I learned and the personal growth I experienced on my mission could be learned anywhere in the world. While it's true that people may quietly hope to be called to exotic locations (I was hoping either India or Paris), it is the service, growth, and dedication that are important rather than the location. As mentioned in the article, we believe that the apostle who calls you receives direct revelation from God specifically for you as to which mission will afford you with the best learning experiences and opportunities for success.

      A mission is very tough; it was by far the most difficult two years of my life. I sacrificed a lot in addition to my energy and actual time of service: I put my university studies on hold, had to earn the money to support myself for two years, and gave up many of the experiences that 20-somethings look forward to. But I wouldn't have it any other way. I learned so much, gained so much, and returned a much more mature, loving, and understanding person. I genuinely believe that no other experience I could have had during those two years would have been nearly as beneficial as serving a mission; my mission prepared me to lead a meaningful life.

      November 10, 2010 at 5:54 pm |
    • Former Sister

      I haven't read everyone's comments (so maybe I'm repeating someone else), but I wanted to point out a few things. It's true as a missionary you cannot call home more than a few times a year, but you can email or write letters. Also, if your family needs to get ahold of you right away, there is a way to do so. Also, I served a mission in Portugal and the Cape Verde Islands and never felt "cut off from the wider world". I still knew about current events without watching T.V. or reading the paper. As far as not being able to choose where to go on a mission, we know that's part of the deal from the start. It's part of the excitement to find out where you are going. The article seemed so ominous. The truth is not so dramatic.
      And by the way...Joe's cult with the magic underwear...really?...you can't think of something else a little more creative? That tired line has been around for decades. Try to find a new way to hate.

      November 10, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
    • M

      To answer your question, almost any young man or woman who would like to can be called to serve a mission. They need to be living worthily, meaning, upholding the standards of the church such as regular church attendance and not smoking or drinking. Sometimes medical conditions may prohibit a person from being able to serve a mission, or may restrict where they can go.

      I definitely understand how someone not of the church can see the mission lifestyle as restrictive. I did not choose to go on a mission, although my brother did. He looked at it like a job. He knew he was signing up for two years of very specific work. He was busy serving other people (b/c a mission is not just going door to door telling people about the church) from sun up to sun down...going to parties, playing video games, etc. would have taken him from the work he was assigned to do. Yes, giving up 2 years like this is a sacrifice, but it also gives the missionary a chance to learn some great skills. After his mission he felt confident talking with strangers about anything, was more responsible with his time and money, and had a greater understanding of his religion. Then he returned to college and to the college lifestyle of exploration.

      November 10, 2010 at 6:57 pm |
    • Rachel

      You are 'called' on a mission when you volunteer for one. It is a voluntary service that you offer. Dedicated members of the church offer up their time and pay for their mission themselves. Two years for men and eighteen months for women of service spreading the gospel.

      November 10, 2010 at 7:19 pm |
    • Victoria

      The article was good but obviously written by a non-member, or someone not belonging to our church. These young adults choose to go on missions, no one forces them, they are not 'cut off' from television or anything else, they are there to serve the Lord. My son served in the Harrisberg Penn mission and those were wonderful years for him and the other young men he served with. He now has sons and if they chose to, will also go on missions. No one will make them go. They will chose for themselves.
      If you do not truly know the church and the spirit therein, please keep your hateful words down deep so others don't have to bare them.

      November 10, 2010 at 8:19 pm |
    • Floralagirl

      Actually, having served a mission for the church, I can tell you that it is the greatest love there is. You learn and grow as a person but moreover learn to love and serve the people that you are working with. I don't think that I'd have been nearly as effective teaching and serving the Venezuelan people had I been burdened with the drama at home. The time goes so fast when you are on a mission. And on the contrar about not being a part of the country – you are more a part than you might imagine. You are not a tourist – you live, breathe, eat, serve and become very close to the people learning their culture, language and customs. My own son was a missionary in South Africa – he came home with so greater an understanding of life, of love, and a commitment to live a Christian lifestyle. A waste – I cannot disagree more.

      November 10, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
    • Sylvia Jutila

      4 of our 5 children served missions. It is not required, but voluntary. Girls go at age 21 or older and for 18 months, boys at age 19 or older for 2 years. It is a very disciplined experience, but none of my children regretted going, in fact they were all happy they went. It is a valuable experince to devote your time to spiritual study and service to others. Serving a mission has nothing to do with business, it is expensive, but families gladly sacrifice. If a family can't afford to send their children, there are others who will finance it. The missionaries live frugally and stay focused on their work. TV, popular entertainment and political activities are forbidden because they would be a distraction from their real purpose. They can travel, go to school, or whatever they want after their missions. They love the people they meet, the culture they get to experience and the language they learn in the mission field.

      November 10, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
    • Jackie

      Only those who want to serve a mission. And if you don't serve a mission it doesn't effect your membership or standing in the church at all. Also, This article is pretty well written. However, this sentence, "She’s been cut off from television, barred from seeing movies and prohibited from following the news" Isn't really accurate. The words "barred" "prohibited" and (in the next sentence) "only church approved" are slanted and give a false sense of what it is like. They aren't anti-TV or anti-news. If they come to your home and the TV is on they don't ask you to turn it off or act like it is a big deal at all. They've all grown up watching TV. Sure, they don't really watch it much as missionaries usually but there is not anyone policing them–or guilt tripping them if they do. These young people are really happy people that serve long hours each day. First off they really don't want to watch TV. They sincerely would much rather be helping at a local hospital or shelter. Truly. And their "leaders" are all volunteers too. Couples that have kids of their own and try to help the missionaries be comfortable and happy. None of them has a bone in their body that would go around "barring" or "prohibiting" the young people. They visit with them regularly, throw them Christmas parties, and try to help them. They send them birthday cards, make them home cooked dinners etc. They really are not the barring or policing type.

      November 11, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
    • LOLing

      LOL at the haters who think "the Mormon hierarchy" put people up to writing glowing reviews of their missions. I smell conspiracy!

      November 11, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
    • Craig

      Frogist, you ask some valid questions. I'll do my best to answer. Many young men approximately 19 or so do receive a "call" or request to serve on a two year teaching mission. The call is based on worthiness and of course, ones willingness to go. No one is ever forced. I served in California. My two elder brothers served in Ireland and Australia. A missionary's time is generally spent helping others understand the message that the Savior's Church has been restored to the earth again.

      I like your "going to college" analogy. There is much personal growth that a young missionary experiences, just as when one attends college. A missionary learns much about the people's cultures, values and traditions wherever he/she serves. The experience is very growth-oriented. And yes, there is limited time weekly to travel and sight-see also.

      Asking and answering questions one at a time from a credible source is a good way to go. Best wishes.

      November 11, 2010 at 6:41 pm |
    • Central Cali

      Well, I hope you have gotten a taste at the couple of thousand responses to thi!! I too an LDS. I served a mission and I can't tell you the blessings that poured out to not only me but my family as well. I served in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, the third poorest country in the world, or so they say. The people came to be my familiy- the city my home and the members my best friends! I not only worked side by side with thema nd my companion, but I shared with them, assisted them, and even wept with them. I don’t think anyone could become closer to a culture than even the most experienced tour guide! I will never forget those in Bolivia and the wonderful experiences I had, and no, the sacrifices didn’t affect me at all!
      I know that Elizabeth Smart, with her life’s experiences and faith that she held onto her entire life, will guide her to help others find that same faith as well. I hope you’ve gotten some answers you were looking for, as well as further insight on the LDS faith. I wish you luck on your future endeavors!

      November 11, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
    • Mike D

      Bro. Monty B. –
      The Church family would love to have you back.

      November 12, 2010 at 7:25 am |
    • speedro

      Basically, any boy who is a mormon is more or less forced to go do a mission by everyone in their family and church social circles. To say it is voluntary is not totally accurate. Technically yes, but more realistically the alternative would be to suffer ridicule and to be ostracized by your own family and friends. Nice folks, huh?

      November 12, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
    • Missionary Mom

      My boys weren't forced to go on a mission, they wanted to go. They will both tell you that their mission didn't restrict them in anyway. It did quite the opposite. They said it was a far better education than college education they have both received. It has enhanced their skills in life. Both speak a foreign lanugage (fluently) they learned in the area they served. This skill alone has been a great asset to their career. They have learned to problem slove, speak pubicly, and lead in their jobs. Restrictive? I think it has given them more freedom than they have ever had. Hope this helps.

      November 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm |
    • Elizabeth

      I am married to a man with a family that is half Mormon. The other half ("our" half) is Jewish. It's quite a mix of traditions, let me tell you! I have a TREMENDOUS respect for the LDS Church after learning much about it through my husband's cousins and aunts and uncles. His cousins have gone on missions all over the US and the world - it is a major commitment to the Church by a young person, and usually involves time off from school, delaying plans for marriage, etc. Nonetheless, every one of my husband's cousins have looked forward to being called for a mission, and they have served gladly. Their experiences have shaped their adult lives in truly interesting ways, too.

      One cousin's mission in Brazil became the basis for his later employment in a multinational corporation, as he spoke Portuguese, Spanish, and English, as well as an Amazonian Indian language with some fluency. He learned the Portuguese and the Amazonian Indian dialect while on his mission. Some kids stay in the US, and while there seems to be derision about this, the PURPOSE of missions is to proselytize and bring new converts to the LDS Church. There is no shortage of potential converts in the US.

      My husband and I have invited LDS missionaries to our home for dinner for a night of home cooked food, talk, and board games (and no proselytizing...) , since we know how hard it is for these young people to be away for a long time. They must get permission to do this, but it is freely given. Whether these kids go to Kentucky, New Mexico, Kenya or New Guinea, connecting with people and having a sense of belonging can make a long mission a lot easier.

      The LDS Church is one of the few churches that continues to grow by leaps and bounds in an era where many churches are seeing losses in membership and support of their faiths. They must be doing something right. They certainly reach out to their youth and set out strong and clear expectations for them. They also provide good examples and value strong families - NO, they are not perfect, and there are plenty of failures in LDS families just like any families. I would have to say, though, that the LDS Church, as a body, works hard to support its members in maintaining strong families and good moral living (as they define it) in very concrete ways. It's a lot more than many religions do for their members.

      November 12, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
    • Muneef

      Prety face she is.
      Any way I think this missionary work is good idea and hope all religions and faith would do that in leading and helping others...
      I pray for them and God bless all those on faith.

      November 13, 2010 at 4:27 am |
    • Muneef

      You can see their faces shine brightly and those are the faces of the true believers while others you will not see this shine but dark or no shine you find their faces for being far from God and purity....

      November 13, 2010 at 4:38 am |
    • Keith

      I served a mission to Denmark at 19 and now I'm 62. My wife and I served a mission to NE England in 2009. We have friends in Denmark and England. We know the english way of life having lived there, not as tourists but as members of the sociiety and culture. We understand much about English history. I speak Danish now. I know Denmark. I accepted the restrictions voluntarily and my world is not smaller – rather it is much expanded.

      November 15, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
    • Shannon

      Hey, being a missionary is voluntary; no one is forced to go. It wouldn't be a "mission" where they teach others of their faith if they were sight seeing the whole time. My Dad, husband, and brother all served missions and LOVED them. It's not like jail at all. They spend 2 years meeting wonderful people from all walks of life, sharing messages of Christ, of hope, of faith. They see miracles happen as people turn to Christ and change their lives. By staying away from worldy things like movies and music, etc. they are able to focus on sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. After all, they only have 2 years and time flies by and they want to make the most of it. They have the rest of their lives to watch movies and travel and explore the world if they wish. Yes, Kentucky doesn't sound as exciting as Paris, but it's true, some people serve in the U.S. and some people go overseas. My family went to Portugal, Peru, & California! All learned new languages and helped others find happiness in their lives. Hope this gives you a few answers you were looking for. Look up the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and attend it and find out for yourself. There is so much misinformation out there that is crazy. Find out for yourself. Missionaries can teach you what we're all about!!

      November 16, 2010 at 9:36 am |
    • LDS on LSD

      Poor girl... One year of her life wasted in proselytizing and spreading a fraud only stupid Americans would believe in.

      November 18, 2010 at 10:04 pm |
    • Eric

      Great questions, Frogist. I'll let you read the myriad of responses to get your answer. I was going to respond to them until I saw about fifty that said what I would have. Instead, at the risk of encouraging a theological debate and hoping that I wont, I thought it might be good to respond to those who have thrown a couple of barbs at the LDS church.

      First, to the people throwing the word "cult" around in their posts, please read the definition of "cult" here: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/cult. There are variations on the theme, but every official definition I've read (dictionary definitions – not those written by pastors trying to sell something) says essentially the same thing: a cult is a group of people united by a particular system of beliefs. EVERY group sharing similar beliefs, religious or no, is by definition a cult. Consequently, this means that EVERYBODY at some level belongs to one cult or another. Please stop throwing around words that you think are insulting; start thinking and find a logical, informed, and coherent way to discuss differences in beliefs.

      Second, to those saying that Mormons are not Christian because they do not believe in Jesus Christ. That argument always sounds like "You're wrong because I say so" to me. The logic doesn't work. They profess, as do all "real Christians" that Jesus is the Son of God, and they worship him as such. Saying they are not Christian does not mean they are not – it simply means that you think or have been told they are not, and have decided not to think about it any more.

      Finally, to those who argue that the LDS church cannot be correct because of "that nut Joseph Smith" and his claim that he talked to God, consider that pretty much every major religion in the world has the same thing. Jews have Moses. Muslims have Mohammed, Catholics have Peter. Even most mainstream Christians – whose belief system precludes any modern revelation from God – will go listen to a Pastor who, when pressed, will claim that he/she was called by God to teach (I've talked to a number of these, and am still not sure how that works unless God tells them). Bottom line is, we're all in the same boat here – it's just a question of how recently that boat was constructed.

      November 22, 2010 at 6:21 pm |
    • windy

      this is volunentary and the young men and young women that go on these missions are paid for by the the person or family going. that being said if you want to go and are unable to pay for it the ward you go to church with will usually help and pay for it. My own children can not wait to join the missionary ranks!

      November 25, 2010 at 11:21 am |
    • msstacylynn

      Frogist, you are missing the point of a mission.
      A mission is a voluntary decision, it is not mandatory but is encouraged. All missionaries; male, female and senior couples CHOOSe to go on a mission of their own free will. They do not go on missions to see the world they go on a mission to serve the Lord and to spread the word of Christ.
      The reason for the strict lifestyle while in the mission feild is to focus your attention on your reason for being there not on the things of the world.
      They do this to gain a closer relationship to their God. To sacrifice their lives for the one who gave his for them. It is only 2 years of their lives, then they return home and go on with normal lives. It is not a sentence it is a privledge. Not ALL are allowed to go. Strict morals must be maintained before and during the mission. The missionary is representing the church and their conduct must reflect the values of the church.
      Some decide it is too difficult and leave the mission early. There is not a punishment for this decision. They are free to return to their homes with full membership intact.
      A mission as an exercise in self disipline and devotion to a power higher than yourself. It is about sacrifice and love. They are not forced to go they choose to go.
      Most people who return from their mission say it was the best two years of their life. A mission builds character, that will stay with the person for their entire lives. I would say it is more like the Peace Corps than the military or college, you choose to go to serve and help others.

      December 2, 2010 at 12:55 am |
    • Nonnie

      It's a choice. If you want to go you fill out an application. Both men and women go. There used to be more men that went on missions but in today's modern world there are many more women that go on missions. They go to let the world know that there is a Savior Jesus Christ and that he lives.

      December 12, 2010 at 4:01 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.