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?