After breaking up with my ex-fiancé (as I talked about in Age-Old Arguments, and How They Changed My Life), I was at a loss as at what to do. Two of my sisters were married, and one of which already had an abundance of children.
I wasn’t the perfect Mormon girl who had gone on her mission to spread the gospel. I joined the military. That shocked my parents enough, but they got over it when they heard that I was the one that the drill sergeants wouldn’t swear around. But after I got to my first duty station and got my first serious boyfriend, I lost my virginity (I’m not liking that phrase, but after searching for another way of wording it, it’s the least awkward). But after ending my engagement, I started thinking that maybe now I could go on my mission.
Now the Church is weird about missions. The men, while not technically required to go on one, are strongly encouraged to do so. At the time it was at the age of 19 that they could go. For women, who could go if you weren’t already married and making babies yet, you could go at 21. The ages have since been lowered (I think it’s now 18 for men and 19 for women, but it’s changed in the time that I haven’t been attending, so I can’t specifically say).
There’s underlying misogyny here, beyond the age differences. Men’s missions are for two years, but women’s are only for 18 months. I get the feeling that they don’t want the women gone too long to ruin their chance at marriage. Before my sister got married, she was about to put in her mission papers (you fill out forms saying you want to go, send them to Church headquarters, and then you wait for your “Mission Call” which comes in the mail and tells you where you’ll be going. You don’t get to choose where you’ll be headed). She had recently met my now brother-in-law, who said he would wait for her.
Here’s what really pissed me off, even at the time. My sister’s bishop didn’t want her to go. He strongly counselled her to stay home and get married. Why? Because he had a family member who went on her mission and ended up unmarried well past her thirties. So therefore, he didn’t like women to go on missions. That’s not their place. Missions make women spinsters.
Okay, getting back from my tangent…
As a single woman, I could go on my mission at any time. Unlike men, who have a “too old age limit” at which point they can no longer go (because then they need to settle down) women can go on a mission any time once they’re old enough. And they can keep going as many times as they wish. (You cover the cost of your own mission, and you can’t work during the mission, so I don’t see this as being a thing, even if it’s technically allowed.)
The problem is, if you’re not a virgin, you can’t go on your mission. There are all kinds of stringent rules the Church has, and certain ones they consider to be too great, even if you go through the repentance process, to go on your mission. There’s a verse somewhere about an impure or unclean vessel that they used as an analogy, with the gist of it being, “Sorry, you sinned by having sex/masturbating/heavy kissing/anything that’s against the Law of Chastity, so you’re no longer pure and clean. We can’t send a dirty woman (or man) out on a mission. You’re disqualified if you ever want to go.”
I considered lying about it. What was one more lie to my bishop when I was basically lying to everyone in my family by keeping my history to myself? This made me think about repentance, and question the whole process. Didn’t they say that through repentance one is “made clean”? Why then would someone who had repented, even if it was as serious as a sexual sin (the second-worst thing you can do, next to murder…..according to the Church) be too unclean to serve?
There’s a couple reasons I can think of. Maybe repentance is a made up thing, because sin isn’t real, and since it’s a concept made by men, they still have their preexisting notions attached to it. If God is perfect and can forgive perfectly, then why wouldn’t one be able to repent after that? Did they not repent hard enough? Maybe the men running the Church are so repressed and control hungry that they can’t stand the idea of anyone going outside the allowed bounds before going out to recruit and giving the impression that Mormons are people too.
And we can’t have that, can we? How else will we remain a “peculiar people”?