Monday , September 11, 2017 - 5:15 AM
The Standard-Examiner is launching a new project this week, called My Black Nametag, that seeks to document how the call to serve a mission impacts individuals and communities.
For many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, going on a mission is a rite of passage and an essential part of being a good member of the church. As such, it is a huge part of LDS culture and has a large influence on life in Utah, where members of the church remain a majority of the population.
With this project, we especially want to initiate conversations about the challenges and opportunities missionary work provides and examine how this important part of Mormon culture influences the broader community.
Our goal is not to promote or make the church look good, nor is it to attack the church, missionary work or Mormon culture. Our goal is to provide a safe, open place where people feel free to openly share their personal experiences and where we can examine the influence of this part of the church in a fair and objective way.
That’s why we’re asking for all sorts of stories. We want to hear from people who had great experiences on missions and who remain active members of the church. We equally want to hear from people who regret going on a mission. And from people who came home early from their missions. We want to know why some people choose not to go on missions despite the pressure to serve. And we want to know why some converts and other people who normally wouldn’t be expected to go decide to serve anyway.
We’ll use the submitted stories to influence our own reporting going forward as we have journalists talk to church leaders, researchers and other experts on missionary work for future articles, videos and other reports.
We are posting anonymous submissions because we recognize the stories we’re asking for deeply personal accounts — sometimes these stories have never been shared, even with close loved ones. But nonetheless, these are formative experiences and they are, in many ways, widely relatable. The struggles and triumphs we all face help us understand each other better.
The submissions will be lightly edited for Associated Press style, syntaxical clarity and to maintain the anonymity of all parties in the post. But we want to let people tell their story their way, so we won’t change the substance or tone of any submission.
We’re using the nametag icon to help Mormons quickly identify the site as relating to missionary work and to have a visual way to summarize and share the stories on the site.
You can read the stories and submit your own at MyBlackNametag.com and you can follow the project at facebook.com/MyBlackNametag or at instagram.com/MyBlackNametag. You can also sign up for email updates as stories are posted on the site.
Quotes from some of the stories on My Black Nametag:
“We would like to think that we were able to be of some service to the people in our area, and later to the missionaries and the mission presidency we helped support through our office duties. But there can be no doubt that the primary beneficiaries of our missionary service was ourselves. Heavenly Father has led us, guided us, walked beside us, helped us find the way and showed us all we had to do to find the joy and the blessings He wanted us to find.
“Yes, our mission may have blessed others. But it truly did bless us.”
“I learned that members of the church I belonged to could be good people and still have faulty ideas. I learned that sooner or later, truth and goodness and the love God has for all of us wins out. I have tried to live this way in my attitude towards other races, creeds, colors, national origins and religions. I think that's a pretty good result of having served a mission.”
“I feel that, in hindsight, my mission changed me for the better. It taught me to stand up for what I believe in. And it taught me social skills I was lacking. In an ironic way, it was those things I learned on my mission that helped me as I came to reject the teachings of the LDS church and became a non-denominational Christian.
“Even now, I hold no anger or animosity towards that part of my past, and the role the church played in it. Instead, I know this was part of the journey God had for me, to get where I am today.”
“I value and treasure the experiences I had, and all the many things I learned. It helped me to grow up. I learned, at least to some extent, how to get along and live with others. I learned how to work. My testimony and understanding of the gospel grew exponentially during my mission. I learned to truly love the people in my mission and why I should be concerned for the welfare of each of them.”
Read more at MyBlackNametag.com.