BYU women describe pressures to serve



    Pressure to go bar hopping is not usually a concern for single LDS women turning 21, but pressures to serve or not to serve a full-time mission are common.

    Of course there are women who do not feel pressure either way, but in a predominately LDS environment such as BYU or Ricks College some women feel as though they will be in the minority if they do not serve a mission. Others, who have a great desire to serve a mission, feel it is a struggle to get people to take them seriously when they express a desire to serve a mission.

    “It’s expected girls will go if they’re not engaged. It’s culturally the way people see it. I wonder if it’s a BYU thing, but I really don’t know,” said Elizabeth Mason, a senior from Longmont, Colo., majoring in anthropology.

    Mason said she has been asked when she was going on her mission. In one instance she responded by saying that it was not the right time. She said the inquirers did not want to ask her any more questions because they thought she was probably unworthy.

    “I feel like I have to explain I’ve really prayed about it,” Mason said.

    Here at BYU is where she knows the Lord wants her now, Mason said.

    It is not about seeing who will commit a year and a half to the Lord, Mason said. “It’s about personal revelation, following the Spirit and doing what God wants,” she said.

    Some women who have the desire to serve a mission but cannot for medical reasons also feel pressures.

    Emily Manwaring, a senior from West Bloomfield, Mich., majoring in English, said she had always wanted to serve a mission. When she was diagnosed with a condition that required her to take medication, it was recommended that she not go.

    Manwaring said she often got the impression from members in one of her wards that she didn’t know what she was talking about because she had not been on a mission.

    In another ward Manwaring attended, she said, “Literally our apartment was ostracized.” At the time she was rooming with younger girls who were all pre-mission in a ward where just about everyone was a returned missionary, Manwaring said.

    It is a big danger sign when the culture tells women to serve missions as if it were doctrinally significant when that is not the case, Manwaring said.

    Though Manwaring was not able to serve a mission, she said she’s still had plenty of missionary opportunities.

    Tammy Ebbert, a senior from San Antonio, Texas, majoring in family science, received her mission call to Paraguay. From the time she put her papers in to when she got her call, she started dating someone. After much fasting and prayer she decided she had better not serve her mission.

    She did not marry the person she was dating, but Ebbert she said she realizes God works in mysterious ways. There were events that unfolded in her life which she knew she needed to be here for.

    “People should try to be a little more understanding of women who are 21, unmarried and aren’t going on missions. They’re not bad people,” Ebbert said.

    Going on a mission to feel included in the elite crowd of LDS women would be a mistake of the first order, said Randy L. Bott, assistant professor in the Church History and Doctrine Department and former mission president of the California Fresno Mission.

    “I think we get too hung up in trying to be people pleasers rather than saying ‘What’s the Spirit whispering to me?’ Quite frankly, a mission is not for all girls,” Bott said.

    In April, President Gordon B. Hinckley told students at the Institute of Religion at Weber State University that the church will regard women who do not serve 18-month missions just as highly as those who do.

    “Girls should not feel pressure to go,” President Hinckley said.

    However, women who do have a strong desire to serve are encouraged to go.

    “Many young women have a desire to serve a full-time mission, and they are also welcome in the Lord’s service. This responsibility is not on them as it is on the elders, but they will receive rich blessings for their unselfish sacrifice. The Lord is pleased with their willingness to bring souls to him,” said Elder L. Tom Perry in the May 1992 General Conference.Some women say it is a struggle to persuade their family members, church leaders and advisers that they feel strong impressions to serve a mission.

    Danielle Smith, a senior from Monticello, Minn., majoring in biology, said that in addition to her father’s opposition, an adviser at Ricks College told her to stay home and get her MRS degree.

    Smith had always wanted to serve a mission.

    “I wrote it down as a goal when I was 12,” she said.

    Smith said she told her father that his opposition was contradicting Heavenly Father’s will for her to serve. She felt her earthly father was asking her to disobey her Heavenly Father. Eventually Smith said her father did help finance her mission, and he gained a testimony of her call as missionary to the California San Diego Mission.

    Missions are great, but not for everyone, Smith said. Everyone will get to serve the Lord and will learn valuable lessons in different ways, she said. Smith’s said her mission taught her how to be more charitable by her suffering for investigators, companions, elders and members.

    “You learn the gospel, you learn how to answer questions, you learn how to get answers to prayers more distinctly than you’ve ever gotten before,” Smith said.

    But if it comes down to a choice between serving a mission and getting married, don’t serve because you want to learn the gospel.

    “All blessings that would come to you as a single sister will also come to you as a wife and mother as you participate in missionary work,” Bott said.

    “College-age students are making the most important decisions in their lives,” said Timothy Bothell, an instructor in the Church History and Doctrine department.

    Students should seek the Lord’s help through prayer and be patient because revelation comes here a little and there a little, Bothell said.

    Denise Palmer, a senior majoring in public relations, said it was a struggle getting on her mission.

    After scheduling an interview with her stake president in preparation for sending in her papers, Palmer received a disturbing call. “We don’t have time to interview you because we have a lot of elders going on missions we need to interview,” was the message Palmer said she received from the stake.

    The stake did not offer to reschedule her an appointment, Palmer said. She called back herself a few weeks later and scheduled appointment. Palmer said it took seven and a half weeks for Palmer to receive her call.

    At her farewell, her father said, “If she hadn’t been so headstrong to go, she wouldn’t be going.”

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