Woman: "So where did you serve your mission, dear?"
Me: "Oh, actually I didn't serve a mission. This guy is my mission *gestures toward husband*"
*Insert painfully unexpected awkward silence*
Husband: "Sarah is actually a recent convert to the church. How long has it been, honey? Almost 3 years?"
Woman: "Oh, well that's fine then! Tell us your story, dear!"
Now I have nothing against girls serving missions. I think it's awesome and it makes my heart really happy seeing more and more women in the mission field finding their voice, becoming more independent, and above all else serving their God. But this conversation totally took me off guard. I'd never had someone verbally disapprove of my decision to not go on a mission. I'd certain heard and read about other people feeling a little alienated for it, but never me! I was exempt! I was a convert!
But that really got me to thinking. I'd always separated myself from those who had grown up LDS and I had never truly grasped the heaviness of serving a mission. Ever since the age for mission-eligible women went from 21 to 19, though, there is a lot more pressure on girls to serve missions and if they don't there's some kind of stigma associated with it. It's like some unspoken requirement that if you don't go, you're somehow just not quite as good.
I know for a fact and deep within my heart that this is absolutely not the case. Prophets and apostles have saidspecifically that women are under no obligation to serve a mission. But this silly Mormon culture of ours likes to think otherwise.
I can sluff off the judgement easily just by throwing down my convert-card, but it's not that easy for other girls. Coming to the decision not to serve a mission can be just as difficult as serving one. I should know. I went through the same process myself (but that's a different story for a different time).
I know I'm a little late hopping on this bandwagon, but I think I offer a different perspective on this matter. It really shouldn't matter if you have some kind of "card' to throw for not serving a mission. You don't owe anyone any kind of explanation for why you chose to serve or why you didn't. Or alternatively, maybe you have an incredible story of how you came to that decision and sharing that story will help grow the testimonies of others. I know I've heard plenty of those stories in my almost-3-year tenure.
So to the ladies in my husband's old ward from back in June: no hard feelings. But maybe next time you can just ask us exactly how long I have left in school and why we don't have any kids yet instead.