This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
I came home from my LDS mission in 1975. A few days after arrival, I had an exit interview with the stake presidency and was formally released as a full-time servant of the Lord.
Note: Up until that moment, I was technically still a missionary even though I had stopped obeying the rules as soon as the plane cleared mission airspace.
After being released, I was asked to report on my mission. I told the stake presidency that I was glad I went, I learned a lot about myself, and what was important to me. They asked questions.
What had my mission been like? What were the conditions of the country? How many people did I baptize? Were there any particular trials? Would I go again?
Answers: Tough. Miserable. I didn't keep track. Other missionaries. No.
The final question came from the stake president. He wanted to know what I planned to do with my life now that my mission service was over.
"I'm going to Galveston, Texas, and shipping out as soon as I can get a merchant marine license."
Judging from the look on his face, he'd never gotten that answer before. He became concerned. What about school? What about marriage? What about church service?
Nope, uh-uh, and no. That would all have to wait. I was going to see the world on my own terms now. And nobody was going to change my mind.
A few days later, I knocked on a door for a routine visit. When it opened, the Spirit whispered unto me, "Holy $#i!" I was married five months later.
I get that my stake president was worried about my plan. There weren't many temples on boats back then. Still aren't. But all he could do was offer advice, none of which I was disposed to accept.
Some exit interviews don't go that well. A friend told me that his stake president had asked him to place his right hand on the Book of Mormon and covenant to attend the temple regularly.
Boone said he complied because, well, it was the stake president asking. Who was he, a mere returned missionary, to question a stake president?
I've since heard other rumors about things returned missionaries are pressured to do date specific girls, read the Book of Mormon every year, and vow to convert at least one person wherever they worked.
The strangest is also the most recent. It's a four-page contract that returned missionaries are expected to sign in some Utah County stake. Actually, it's "were" expected to sign. Once the news media caught wind of it, they stopped doing it.
The "Goal Planning and Personal Performance Contract for Returning Missionaries" asked returned missionaries to commit to the following:
Continue to dress modestly and act like a missionary.
Attend ALL (gotta love the emphasis here) Sunday meetings WEEKLY.
Enroll and attend institute weekly.
There's a bunch more. You can find the actual contract by going to: bit.ly/MissionaryContract
My personal favorite mandate was this one:
"I will associate with and date ONLY people who share a similar commitment to live the principles of the gospel."
Seriously, I wouldn't have signed that. What the hell had I been doing the last two years if not actively seeking out the association of people who didn't share a similar commitment to being Mormon? Furthermore, I couldn't wait to get away from other missionaries.
At the end of the document, there are four spaces for signatures the returned missionary, parents, bishop and stake president. All nice and legal and ripe for failure.
I understand the intent of the document, but I wonder if the author thought through the results. The last thing young men and women who just spent two years setting goals and failing need is more of the same.
Besides, life doesn't have a contract. It has a way of making liars and contract breakers out of all of us.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.