Q: I am frustrated because lots of searching through the books I have, including the Mormon Encyclopedia, is not telling me when the program of using youthful males as missionaries became the norm within Mormonism. An article in the Encyclopedia mentions that initially the missionaries were usually married men who left their families for an unknown period. I know that the earlier format for studies with people by the young missionaries was published about 1960. But when did the two-by-two youthful ones originate, and what were the patterns between the “first generation” married men and the when the study format was published? If you know the answers to this set of questions I would be most grateful to have them, please.
A: Several members of the MSSA responded to this question.
Jan Shipps wrote:
In my own general research, the first mention I saw of the shift to young men came not long before World War II. I know that at the first of the war in Europe, the First Presidency was very much concerned about making sure that the American missionaries in Germany and other parts of continent could get home safely. There were lots of questions about whether missionaries would be drafted during World War II. But that does not tell us a lot.
Jonathan Stapley wrote:
The chapters in Mormonism: A Historical Encyclopedia by Reeve and Parshall on “Mormonism and Transition” and “Missiology” may be helpful. Additionally, Payne’s article on sister missionaries in New Scholarship on Latter-day Saint Women in the Twentieth Century will also be helpful.
David Heap wrote:
My mother was a missionary in the Northern States Mission around 1953, 54. She said there were a few married elders, called because of Korea. But she understood that was the last of them, and that early on the McKay Administration decided to end the calling of married brethren to serve missions. I am not sure on what basis she said that (she is now deceased)–whether it was common knowledge, or whether she learned from President McKay himself or his son, who was my mother’s uncle.
2 Replies to “Q: When did the program of using youthful males as missionaries become the norm within Mormonism?”
My father was called to the British Mission in 1923, at age 20. His younger brother John served there in the early 1930s, one of John’s companions being Gordon B. Hinckley. Some time in the past few years the Church News published a photo of a group of British missionaries including both my uncle and President Hinckley (as a young man). Most of the elders in the picture appeared to be of essentially the same age as those two young men. This suggests that the practice of calling younger singlemen was quite well established from the 1930s,if not indeed from the 1920s when my father served.
It seems to me that the aurthorities have a well planed stratergy for getting young people especially males to serve missions because 1. They are easy to control , manipulate ,influance and indocrinate than a full grown adult ,especially a new convert who is more likely to ask questions on their methods and strict rules: E.g …My son was a year in his mission when his grandmother was on her death bed and he was informed…he was reluctant to come home even for her funeral as he had asked permission but was discouraged perhaps subtley…he cited to me scripture when christ said to someone ”let the dead bury their dead ;” and also told me about a fellow missionary who had three members of his family die during his mission and wasn’t able to attend any of them…2. It is more likely due to disipline ,fellowship,and experience to remain active .