I served as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Romania for two years. During that time, we were allowed to send weekly emails, as well as periodic letters and packages to our family. We were also allowed two phone calls home per year—one on Christmas, and the other on Mother’s Day.
A major change to that policy was just announced today:
Effective immediately, missionaries may communicate with their families on their weekly preparation day via text messages, online messaging, phone calls and video chat in addition to letters and emails.
My wife sent me this article, and my first reaction was that I would have struggled with this policy. Here is an example of the flexibility being introduced:
We encourage missionaries to communicate with their families each week using whatever approved method missionaries decide. This may vary based on their circumstances, locations and schedules for that week. It is not expected that all missionaries will call or video chat with their parents every week. The precise manner of communication is left up to the missionary as he or she decides what will best meet their needs.
I am not sure that I would have been able to make judgment calls at that level. The official notice to leaders states:
When communicating with their families, missionaries should be wise in considering the duration of phone calls and video chats. In making these decisions, they should be considerate of their companions and keep in mind the purpose of their service.
This kind of decision-making requires a level of emotional maturity that is challenging to attain. As someone with OCD, which often manifests as excessive and unhealthy guilt, I would have had an extremely hard time making those kinds of decisions. I said to my wife:
I feel like this requires us as parents to teach our kids how to make decisions in a totally different way than I was capable of at that age.
I am excited to see the effect this kind of freedom will have on young people. (Missionaries from our church typically serve under the age of 25.) They are already in a formative period of life. Having the opportunity to learn the skills required for complex emotional judgment calls will be of great benefit to them. This level of ambiguity is a much more accurate reflection of the demands of real life outside of a sheltered environment such as a full-time mission.
I need to make sure that I become comfortable navigating these waters myself. Only then will I be able to pass these abilities on to my children.