by Robert John Stevens, October 22, 2017
On October 20, 2017, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released Standard Interview Questions for Prospective Missionaries (see also my saved copy).
If these new questions were in place, I wouldn’t have been able to serve a mission because I had a serious speech disorder—I stuttered so badly that when going door-to-door on my mission, people regularly slammed their front door before I could say my name.
In my first area, I ordered an $800 delayed auditory speech machine like the one BYU had my use for speech therapy about the time they filmed me for future study.
And yet my companions and I baptized dozens of people. At least two of those young men later served missions—one later became a speech pathologist.
I’ve only met one person who stutters worse than I did and he builds stain glass windows for Mormon temples.
Moses also had a speech disorder.
According to Mormon history, Jesus recruited Sidney Rigdon to speak for Joseph Smith who until the late 1830s was not mighty in speaking.
In the New Testament, we learn Saul consented to the stoning and murder of Christians and yet Jesus choose him. Saul (later named Paul) wouldn’t have qualified either under these new guidelines.
People who committed sin can relate to and guide those with similar problems. Jesus was required to feel the pain of all sins to accomplish his job.
The faithful will defend these qualifications as being inspired. The unfaithful may see them as uninspired, hypocritical and detrimental.
Response from a friend:
Having a focused conversation about a speech disorder to ensure the prospective missionary feels confident in their ability to proselyte seems pretty reasonable to me.
Yes, that’s true and a very good perspective—All discussions are reasonable. A church, entity or any government institution that discourages or shuns free and open discussion will have difficulty establishing the foundational mindset necessary to receive new inspiration necessary for advancements.
I felt confident that I could proselyte but if my Bishop asked me if I could say my name, teach a discussion or give a talk without severe stuttering, I would have admitted that I wasn’t confident I could. So would I have been denied going on a mission under the new rules?
I’ve observed that most close-minded people, especially those who are determined to comply with man-made rules, would enforce adherence.
Interestingly, note the phraseology on this subject used by Jesus in D&C 98:7 — “pertaining to law of man” — as though it was clear to Him the source of most laws.
As previously mentioned, our son Wesley was repeatedly denied missionary service because of his severe psoriasis. He was asked to interview with a psychiatrist who concluded that he was also depressed. Of course, Wesley was depressed–repeated denial of missionary service by “inspired Bishops.” Plus, who wouldn’t be if they had Wesley’s condition? Finally, a Bishop let him serve a local summer temple mission. He did. During his mission, his psoriasis mostly disappeared. He’s content. Work got done, he’s now a returned missionary dating a nice girl, and his future is bright.
Given regulations, without the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, most men will strictly abide by them. I think Jesus was clear about telestial leaning in Mark 2 when his disciples were plucking corn on the Sabbath. We could propose an unauthorized rephrasing for His solution, “Missionary work was made for man, and not man for missionary work: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the missionary work.”
I am sure the Twelve Apostles know that raising the bar will also increase virtue—That’s positive.
But if they want to discuss speech impediments, then why not also discuss impediments for all senses, including poor-functioning limbs? Where will it end?
Will Bishops also disqualify Tiny Tim? Consider this quote from A Christmas Carol:
“And how did little Tim behave?” asked Mrs Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart’s content.
“As good as gold,” said Bob, “and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.”
Wesley’s mission was further evidence to me that a one-size-fits-all approach fits only the laws of man. Youth no matter what their sins may be, or having undesirable physical or mental conditions, with or without a testimony should know there is a mission available for them–whether it be proselyting, temple, physical service, mentoring, etc. If a mission can elevate the missionary one notch and help others then would there be greater youth retention and more determination for future blessings?
I still question why my mission was cut short to 18 months due to Church policy and then later raised back to two years. To me, that is plausible evidence of fallibility that I’d like discussed.