Sunday, August 25, 2013

Follow up post on missionary service

Not too long ago there was a letter from the First Presidency of the Church sent to all the wards/branches that was to be read to the congregation. The topic of the letter was to encourage all the members of the church to donate generously to the general missionary fund. This was due in part to the huge increase of missionaries that are now serving and are projected to serve in the future due to the recent change in the age in which young men and young women may begin their service.

Being a numbers type of guy, I started doing some math. (This was also because my oldest son recently started his first job and has begun saving for his mission). And here's what I came up with:


The estimated cost of serving a missionary is currently around $12,000 for young men ($9,000 for young women). This is based on mission expenses of $500/month.

A young man will begin working the day he turns 16 and will leave for his mission the day he turns 18. (2 full years)

Minimum wage is $7.35/hr (this is currently what it is in Missouri-this will vary by location)

He will work an average of 20 hours/week.

After taxes, tithing, and miscellaneous expenses, he will save 60% of his gross pay for his mission.


He will make $147/week gross
He will make $88.20/week net (60% of his gross pay)
He will make $4,586.40/year net
He will make $9,172.80 in the two years he has to save for a mission
He will be short $2,827.20 in order to fully fund his mission.

So let's assume that he will be able to save 80% of his gross pay for his mission.

He will make $147/week gross
He will make $117.60/week net (80% of his gross pay)
He will make $6,115,20/year net
He will make $12,230.40 in the two years he has to save for a mission
He will make $230.40 cents over his estimated needs for a mission.

My guess is that in reality a young man will come somewhere in between these two scenarios, but as you can see it will be very difficult for a lot of our young men to earn enough to fully fund their own missions, especially in areas of the country/world that are not economically strong. And the same applies to a lot of the young women as well, although they have an extra year before they will leave and will only serve for a maximum of 18 months, so there is a little more flexibility, but not much.

Just something to think about.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Best Two Years...

Since the announcement changing the eligible age for full-time missionaries in the church, there's been a huge increase in the number of missionaries serving throughout the world. And my oldest son isn't too far away from leaving himself, so I've been thinking a lot about not only my experiences as a missionary but the experience in general.

Which got me thinking about this: How many times have we heard a returned missionary say that his mission was the best two years of his life? I had the opportunity a few years ago of being the ward mission leader. This gave me the privilege of working very closely with the full-time missionaries that were serving in our area. One of the things I would often tell them is that they day they returned home, they had my permission to say that their mission was the best two years of their lives, but if they were still saying that after more than two years had passed, then they were doing something wrong.

So I've been thinking about the 20 years or so that have passed since I was a full-time missionary, and started putting together some of the things that have happened in my life that I feel have made those the best two years of my life to that point. Here's a few:

1992-1994: Full time missionary service
1994-1996: Went back to college. Met/dated/engaged/married to Tabitha. Michael born (first child)
1996-1998: Benjamin born (second child)
1998-2000: Graduated from college. New job. Moved to Kentucky. Emilie born (third child).
2000-2002: Moved again. Birth, death, burial of Joseph (fourth child) (Part of the story here)
2002-2004: Moved again. New job. Nathanael (fifth child) born. Michael baptized.
2004-2006: Samuel (sixth child) born. Benjamin baptized. Purchased first home.
2006-2008: Timothy (seventh child) born. Upgraded to 12 passenger van.
2008-2010: Emilie baptized. Christopher (eight child) born. Liberty (ninth child) born.
2010-2012: Moved to Kansas City with new job. Juliana (tenth child) born. Open house, cultural celebration, dedication of Kansas City Temple. Nathanael baptized
2012-2014: Expecting child #11. Samuel baptized by Michael. Some things yet to be determined...

I guess the point is that life keeps getting better and better. Is everything perfect all the time? Of course not. Are there struggles and challenges and heartache and frustration and doubt? Of course there are. But the whole point of this life is to grow and learn and progress, and if we're doing our best to follow the Lord's plan for us, the blessings keep coming, and every year (or two or three) keeps getting better and better. And hopefully we can look back at the previous two years and honestly say those were the best two years of our lives, and look forward to the next two years and honestly say that those will be the best two years of our lives.

Additional reading suggestions:

When the Best Two Years are Over

Return of the Missionary

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Maybe it's not that funny after all...

The English language is fascinating to me. I love discovering where our words have come from and what the original meanings were. We've taken words from Latin and Greek and German and French and Japanese and many more. It's also fun (to me at least) to find groups of words with the same root. For example, check out these words:

Sarcophagus: a stone coffin. (from Greek (lithos) sarkophagos, literally, flesh-eating stone, from sark- sarc- + phagein to eat)

Sarcomaa usually malignant tumour arising from connective tissue (from Greek sarkōma  fleshy growth)

Sarcoptic Mange: mange caused by burrowing mites of the genus Sarcoptes.

These are all words that are fairly unpleasant. Death, decay, disease, etc...not pleasant at all.

But there's another word with the same root as these ones, and I just found out about it recently and it's made me rethink how I interact with others. There was an article in the Ensign magazine last month that brought it to my attention. Here's the link and I highly recommend reading it.


Yep, the word sarcasm. Here's one definition I found online:


1. harsh or bitter derision or irony.
2. a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark: a review full of sarcasms.
Origin: 1570–80;  < Late Latin sarcasmus  < Greek sarkasmós,  derivative of sarkázein: to rend (flesh), sneer; 
To rend flesh...and all this time I thought sarcasm was a witty way of expressing humor making a point. So I started searching on to see what I could find about sarcasm and humor. Here are a few tidbits:
Brigham Young said that sarcastic and negative people “have little sense, and know not the difference between a happy smile of satisfaction to cheer the countenance of a friend, or a contemptuous sneer that brings the curses of man upon man” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [1997], 89). (link)

When we have a sarcastic, critical, judging, whining, blaming, or demanding attitude, we usually destroy good relationships. No one wants to be criticized, placed on the defensive, or misjudged.(link)

Another principle is to be cautious with humor. Loud, inappropriate laughter will offend the Spirit. A good sense of humor helps revelation; loud laughter does not. A sense of humor is an escape valve for the pressures of life. (link)

So it seems to me that humor can be a good thing, and often is. However, we need to be very cautious that our humor is not based on sarcasm, degradation, backbiting, insults, the "I'm just kidding" response, etc. These types of comments and humor can often figuratively "rend the flesh" causing spiritual and emotional death and decay, not only to the recipient of our remarks but to ourselves as well.

If you want a great example of the proper use of humor, I'd recommend going back and listening to President Gordon B. Hinckley's general conference addresses. (And you have to listen to the audio, since most of the time his comments were not published in the Ensign).

One time in particular stands out in my memory where he said something like this:

"I'd like to thank you all for being here today. We realize it's warm in here." (then he paused for effect and with a grin followed up with).  "It'll be a lot warmer if you don't repent"

Just some food for thought...  

Monday, August 5, 2013

A six mile metaphor for life

I love road trips, although driving 20 hours straight is a little more difficult now than when I was younger. We recently drove from Kansas City, MO to Provo, UT. It's a long drive. But I love seeing our country, even the boring parts like Kansas and Eastern Colorado. As we were driving along I-70, we had just come out of the Eisenhower Tunnel when I started seeing signs like this one:

I saw that and didn't think much of it. I figured truck drivers would see this and take the necessary precautions as they traveled this route the next 6 miles or so. It seemed like a pretty basic warning sign, letting drivers know about the upcoming potential dangers.
Then a couple miles down the road I saw this sign:

This one caught my attention a little more than the first sign did. I'm assuming that they needed to put this sign up because someone (or more than one someone) didn't pay attention to the first sign and ended up in some serious trouble. A runaway truck on a 7% grade at an elevation of around 9,000 feet with certain death on the left side of the road is not good. Which is why they also have these:

For those who may not be familiar with these, a runaway truck ramp is basically an off-ramp made with a deep layer of sand and/or gravel. This allows the truck to exit the interstate and come to a safe stop. It can then be towed out and repaired (which is both a difficult and expensive process). On this particular stretch of the highway I think they had two or three of these runaway truck ramps.

A few more miles down the road I saw this sign:

Again, there must have been incidents in the past where truck drivers just stopped paying attention after going 5 of the 6 miles and then got into some serious trouble. Or in other words, a failure to endure to the end could result in some pretty serious consequences.
So, in a 6 mile stretch of I-70, I was reminded of the following principles of our mortal life:

  • We are given directions (commandments) as we begin our mortal journey
  • We are given frequent reminders (from parents, teachers, local church leaders, general authorities, and our prophet)
  • When we mess up (sin) there is a way out-runaway truck ramps (repentance), but the process of getting back on the road is often difficult and painful.
  • We need to endure to the end-it doesn't matter if we make it 83.33% of the way, if we disregard the commandments near the end it can have serious consequences-to the point of being spiritually fatal.
I'm sure there's other lessons to be learned here, but that's enough for now. I'm on vacation after all.