Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"And into whatsoever house ye enter"

We had the missionaries over for dinner last night, and they dropped a bombshell of sorts. It's kind of relative I guess because my wife didn't seem all that fazed by the news. Perhaps one has to have served a full-time LDS mission for the magnitude of it really to sink in.... or maybe I'm just weird.

The blockbuster news according to our Elders is that, apparently, all state-side missionaries are in the process of moving in with local ward members. Not all at once of course. As apartment leases expire in each area of each mission, the Bishops of those wards, I am told, are being charged with finding families in their congregations for the missionaries to live with. I use the term "family" liberally here since those boarding the missionaries have to either be a single sister over 60 or a retired couple (or something along those lines). Our missionaries' lease expires next month so we were discussing their future housing prospects. We apparently don't have an eligible retired couple on hand, so the Elders say their fate has boiled down to one of two single sisters in the ward.

All I can say is AWKWARD. I can't imagine, after each long day of missionary work, having to head home to some ward member's house every night. You'd never get to fully decompress. Retreating to the friendly confines of the ole' missionary apartment, with its cheesy displays of Mormon stock-art, motivational posters, and the assorted collection of sidewalk furniture, was how I recharged for yet another day of brutal tracting in the blistering humid heat of the Virginia summer. It was especially choice to live with another set of Elders and get some break time from your companion, no matter how much you might have liked him.

With this new policy, although it might vary depending on who you live with, generally speaking you're ALWAYS going to have to be on your A-game. I know, I know, missionaries should be living up to a higher standard anyway, but even for missionaries that's asking a lot. Structurally, I'm told, the only requirement for the accommodations is that the missionaries have to have their own bedroom and bathroom. Which basically means they could have a shadow watching their every move. They'll most likely be sharing a kitchen, fridge, and cupboard space, not to mention the common areas. I can't see sitting around the house on a P-day having quite the same allure anymore.

Despite my aversion to the idea, the move makes sense on several levels. Economically, it's a boon. The D.C. South Mission alone has to rent some 50 apartments in and around Northern Virginia and that has to add up to around $75,000 to $100,000 a month. That's not chump change. You've got to figure each state-side mission will probably net anywhere between $400,000 to $1,000,000 or more in savings a year. According to Uncle Wiki, there are currently around 105 state-side missions, so the rental savings should total up to well over $50,000,000. That's a lot of scout camps, ward Christmas parties, and wheat for the Bishop's storehouse.

The policy also will likely result in more obedient missionaries. With Sister So-and-So lurking over their shoulders, it's a good bet that missionaries will be a little more precise about when they roll out of the sack, how they do their studies, when they leave their apartments, when they get back home, and when they sign off for the night. Oh... and those Elders who might otherwise be tempted to take a midnight stroll to the bowling alley down the street probably won't be so brazen (or so we hope).

Assuming the news is true though, I guess my only question is whether it's worth a missionary's sanity?

20 comments:

BA said...

I've heard of missionaries staying at members' homes when the house had a separate apartment or entrance or something. I would not like that...but it would be pretty cool to live in Gladys Knight's house, so maybe the Vegas missionaries can work something out.

Alifinale said...

That is crazy. My nephew is on his mission in Texas so I will have to see if that is happening for them too. How are these boys going to pull pranks on their companions like saran wrap on the toilets and what not?

Treidi said...

we lived downstairs from some members in Hereford England... it was a B&B and they made us hash browns, bacon, eggs, and toast every morning. I LOVED IT! I can see this change being very challenging in the long run. The new handbook is being created now. "missionary guide to member co-habitation" Page 3 third paragraph "If either Elder is experiencing stomach pain or potential flatuation they are to remove themselves outside the residence to pray, study scriptures, and maintain the spirit of the home."

PS-has the elder marc bohn legend stayed through to current DC missionaries???

blondemama said...

We were living with my parents in your parents (marc's) same stake and our bishop explained to our ward that this is the new policy but they were going to start it in our stake as kind of trial run. I didn't know it was going on everywhere. Missions are now $400 per month and they want to keep it that way. I think it kind of sucks but it is a good cost cutting idea. We also heard that the rules were that they prefer a seperate entrance/basement apartment but if that wasn't available they had to live in a somewhat seperate area with no TV in reach and have a day to themselves with laundry. They could live with pretty much anyone except those with teenage kids of the opposite sex. Also we were told that feeding them was not part of the deal. They would take care of their own meals. Crazy

Anonymous said...

Makes me glad I was a missionary back in the dark ages: no name tags, no dark suits, no hats, no living with members... no members.

melbo said...

I just kind of glad we don't fit the host profile. I love the missionaries better from a distance.

Rob said...

Yet another reason for kids to hope for a far-away mission in a developing country. I doubt they'll ask the missionaries to shack up with members who live in little huts any time soon. Of course there were probably plenty of softies in my mission who would have preferred a hot shower and living with someone's grandma over what they had...

Bubba said...

Heard about the same thing going on in Chicago.

I think it is outrageous to be honest. There's nothing better than going home at night, losing the shirt and tie, and slipping in to something more comfortable (G city).

Not to mention you're only outlet to the world, the phone. I enjoyed reporting in at night, or being a DL or ZL and being able to catch up with Elder's around the country. Talk about isolation.

Also, the last thing I want is two Elders using up all my hot water, making me feel guilty for watching football on Sunday, not allowing me to leave my wife home alone, not letting me have friends over late on Friday or Saturday, not letting me have nonmembers over to my house for dinner with out feeling proselyted to, Elder's bikes scratching the side of my car as they put them in the garage, and any of the other 100 awkward issues that will arise.

Bob C. said...

This is weird on so many levels...

Logan said...

Hmm. Do we have any statements from sources that are more official? Missionaries are often not the best sources for accurate details on missionary policy. Something along these lines is probably in the works, but I wouldn't be surprised if the specifics indicate something . . . less sweeping.

I would hate this as either a missionary or a member. Interesting theory about it increasing obedience, though. If that's behind this, it's a serious eye-roller. I love how obedience is now the end in itself, instead of a means.

Marc said...

BA - You'll have to tell Gladys about it when you move there next week.

Ali - I guess they could saran wrap Sister So-and-So's toilet... she might not have as much of a sense of humor about it though.

Treidi - I'm sure they're be the prime families to live with here too... Knowing most wards though, those families might end up being few and far between.

Marc said...

Blonde - Those were the old rules for living with members (i.e., there had to a separate entrance, etc.). If this is really going to be the policy from here on out, those rules will have to be relaxed. As for living arrangements, I think the elderly sister or couple requirement is more likely. As it stands now, missionaries aren't even supposed to go into the home if a woman's husband isn't home, even to teach. To go from that to living with a younger family is a pretty big leap. Moreover, since there have been a few high profile incidents of misconduct, missionaries aren't supposed to have that much contact with young children, I just can't see the Church having missionaries live with families that have young kids.

jonesy said...

my second area I lived with an older sister in the ward (we didn't have our own entrance, but we did have a seperate bath). Peggy Funk was her name. As you have mentioned, Marc, it was certainly a different experience. I think it'll be good. As for me, I knew that I didn't want to come back any earlier than 9:30 b/c we were afraid that Sister Funk would tell the bishop or mission president we weren't working hard enough. we were forced to stay out. It was no fun trying to share a kitchen also. No matter how clean we were, we were still sloppy teenagers to her. I did have one positive experience. November of 2001, I got a sneek peak of the last out of the world series when the Yankees lost to the Diamondbacks. She was watching it, and we had the door cracked open. Not too bad...

Marc said...

Rob - Yeah, I can't see this working too well abroad.

Logan - I haven't come across anything more official. I just know our mission is doing it, and I've been told by at least other five people in the last few days that they have family out in the field whose missions are doing the same thing. So maybe we can classify this as anecdotal+? :P On the obedience thing, amen. What ever happened to "he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant?" My mission rules were Mosaic enough as it was.

Marc said...

Jonesy - Nice... You've definitely got a better handle on the implications of this whole rumor then the rest of us. Did you feel like she was looking over your shoulder? Did she nag you about cleanliness? How much interaction did you have? Did you bolt house every P-day?

Oh... and Sister Funk watched the World Series?! Or did the TV just "happen" to find its way on?

jonesy said...

She totally nagged us all the time to keep things tidy and clean. it got real annoying. we didn't really feel like she was looking over our shoulder all the time, but we certainly felt her watching us. And we did feel some antagonism. I guess we were the first elders to live there in like two years. she had a previous bad experience with some jerk missioinaries, so she housed sisters forever. We always felt like she had it out for us since we replaced "her" sisters.

didn't interact too much, she usually just kept to herself. As for p-day, we would stay at the house as long as we could till she got home. One plus was we got to use her gas grill. That was sweet.

As for the World series...I promise she was watching...

Anonymous said...

So.......why not adult/retired males?

Marc said...

I'd assume older adult/retired males would be fine. The missionaries didn't mention them in our discussion, but that might just be because there are no single older men in our congregation. Younger single men might be fine too, but my gut tells me the Church would shy away from it. The living situation would entail more distractions than with an older couple. One would assume they'd be dating and more social.

Carrie Ann said...

Yeah, I think that's kind of weird, too, until I remember that I Lived with a member for a while on my mission and it wasn't weird except the poor lady had to look at my name tag every time she said my name for four months. We spent a lot of time in our tiny bedroom, I think. I pretty much only ate popcorn so I didn't use the kitchen much. She was nice. Maybe it wasn't weird because she was older, and you make a really good point about the cost of rent.

Marc said...

I've posted a copy of the apparent guidelines for the new policy that I came across on another blog today.