On Mission Hierarchy, Gender, and Organizational Communication

In support of RAH’s Sister Missionary Leadership Project over at fMh, here’s a post about my mission originally published at Both Sides Now in July of last year.

In our mission we had APs and “Traveling Elders” who assisted with a lot of the nuts and bolts of mission organization (for a primer on the organizational structure of LDS missions, see here). They acted as extra eyes and ears for the Mission President (MP), traveling around the mission area and checking in with different companionships, helping to arrange apartments, discussing difficulties in different areas or companionships, etc. Because mission rules prevented the young Elders from visiting one-on-one with the Sister missionaries, the MP created a calling he dubbed the “Coordinating Sister.” It was the Coordinating Sister’s job, once or twice a month, to travel around the mission area with her companion, work with other Sister missionaries, and then report back to the MP. From my vantage point it was a very helpful calling, since mission culture and rules meant not only that Sisters were often more isolated than Elders, but also that they typically felt very inhibited about discussing problems in companionships with their District or Zone Leaders or even with the MP. (I should probably note that neither I nor any of my companions served as the Coordinating Sister.)
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Distal Effects of Missionary Age Changes

Kent Larsen at T&S has a great list of possible effects of the changes in minimum missionary ages that President Monson announced in Conference. Many of the effects discussed are straightforward and closely tied to missionary work (e.g. enrollment at BYU), but others are more weakly tied and more speculative (e.g., divorce rate). I want to push things out even father, and guess about other possible changes in the Church that are completely unrelated to missionary work, but that might be made more likely by the missionary age change. Read More

The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin

. . . the more star systems will slip through your fingers.

You probably remember Princess Leia saying this to Governor Tarkin right before he started trying to impress her with the size of his battle station. But I’m not here to talk about battle station size or who might be compensating for what. Instead, I’m interested in Leia’s point about unintended consequences: sometimes pushing directly for some outcome can actually make that outcome less likely.

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“Gotcha” questions for GAs

A recent guest poster at fMh asked for suggestions about what question she might pose to a visiting Seventy who had agreed to a Q&A session with members as part of stake conference. In a post at Nine Moons, Rusty pointed out that many of the questions seemed to be “gotcha questions,” intended to make a point rather than to genuinely seek information. (Several commenters on the fMh thread made a similar point.) I agree with Rusty. Many of the questions did appear not to be serious attempts to get information, but more attempts to show the Seventy up. That being said, I really liked a lot of the “gotcha questions.” I began to wonder why so many people thought of asking them.

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Something Different in the First Presidency Letter?

Yesterday a letter from the First Presidency was read in my ward’s sacrament meeting. It sounded like the standard letter that’s sent every so often asking members to please not write to Salt Lake about our concerns but instead to talk to our bishops or branch presidents.

But at the end I thought I heard something different from what these letters usually sound like. There was a bit where I think they said if you have a question or concern that your stake/district/mission president agrees might be helpful to bring up to the general leadership of the Church, your president can write about it to them on your behalf. Read More