Health Care for Missionaries: Usually Great, But Some Improvement May Be Needed

I called LDS headquarters this week to ask a few questions and raise some concerns about health care for missionaries (or rather, about what I hope are two unusual and exceptional cases). In the process, I spoke at length with several people in two different departments dealing with LDS missions and medical issues. I’ve also spoken with several missionaries and former missionaries. On the basis of these conversations, I agree that the Church does strive diligently to ensure that missionaries are safe, healthy, and get the care they need. There is a real effort to make sure that excellent care is given, and many millions are spent toward that end. I am also impressed with the statistics showing that serving a mission is remarkably safe and much healthier than the lifestyles of typical young people. And I am confident that in most missions, most missionaries receive an outstanding level of appropriate health care. However, I am also convinced that there is still room for improvement in the health care provided for missionaries in at least some missions. And frankly, after expressing some serious concerns, I feel that others did not fully grasp the potential seriousness of the situation (not the nurse I spoke to – she was great). Sure, I can understand why people there might not pay much attention to a complainer from Wisconsin. But one significant person eventually assured me that corrective action would be taken in one case that I raised, but as you may deduce from the details below, the disappointing result would only prove to be more fuel for my burning concern. There is a problem, perhaps a rare one but certainly a real one that needs to be addressed.

In posting my comments here, I do not mean to point fingers at any of the mission presidents and their wives in the Church. I hope that will be clear below.

By way of background, missionaries in need of non-emergency health care often are asked to call the mission president’s wife to discuss the problem. She may have the missionary talk with a Church-sponsored doctor over the phone to see if further attention is needed, or she may make recommendations on her own. If the missionary is sent to a doctor, the Church covers all the costs. Many millions are spent to ensure that good care is provided. I can see that requiring pre-approval before seeing a doctor in non-emergency situations makes sense when all the costs are being covered by a third party.

A problem arises, though, when the mission president’s wife does not accurately assess the situation. Even if we required them to have medical degrees, there are cases when a phone call is inadequate to understand the nature of an injury or illness. I respect them greatly for the work they do to watch after missionaries, but perhaps too much is being asked sometimes. In my opinion, the same problem applies to those missions where doctors hired by the Church are available by phone to approve (and screen) missionary requests to see a doctor. If a missionary feels that he or she needs to see a doctor, but the mission president’s wife or a long-distance doctor says no, what recourse does a missionary without his own insurance have? Perhaps we need some kind of backup system – perhaps a copay system for unauthorized office visits or a health care advocate/ombudsman a missionary can turn to when he or she is not satisfied with a recommendation.

Two Troubling Cases: May These Be Unique!

I know of two recent cases, hopefully two very exceptional cases, in two different missions, where missionaries correctly recognized that they needed to see a doctor but were told not to. More than one request was made, but they were all denied. In one case a frustrated member in a local missionary’s area, worried about the missionary’s sports injury from a preparation-day activity, gave up on the system after multiple requests for approval to see a physician and simply took the elder to a walk-in clinic at the expense of the member. The mission’s screeners had believed the injury to be minor and would not authorize a visit to a physician, even after a couple of concerned local members called various parties to intervene for the elder. However, X-rays confirmed that the missionary’s injury was more serious than the mission president’s wife and a remote Church doctor had recognized, and confirmed that a higher level of care was needed. In fact, the missionary will require surgery (relatively minor, fortunately).

Now that a correct diagnosis has been obtained – apparently this required a physically present physician using x-rays – I am confident that the surgery will be covered by the Church and that the missionary will get the care that he should have been getting several weeks ago. While it would have been best to see a physician right after the injury, I am hopeful that most of the problem can still be corrected. Though hopeful and grateful now that care has been initiated, I am unsettled by this event. Perhaps more than just a little unsettled. Local members were right to be concerned and a local member was right to buck the system by “smuggling” the missionary into a clinic to get x-rays. Glad he felt he had enough cash to spare to do that on his own. (Update: the Church’s Missionary Medical Department wishes to reimburse the member for wisely taking the elder into the clinic, so that’s good.)

In a second and more serious case, a missionary’s repeated requests to see a doctor were allegedly denied by a well-meaning mission president’s wife. She thought the pains in his side might be due to inadequate fluids and recommended drinking water or Gatorade. He had appendicitis. Fortunately, the missionary is OK now, but I understand that he was worried and unsatisfied with the recommendation from the mission mom. His health could have been protected better by making it easier to see a doctor.

My dear brothers and sisters in the Missionary Department, although these two cases may be bizarre outliers in a system that normally works well to protect the health of missionaries at reasonable cost, they do point to a potential weakness in the system that might depend too much on the judgment of a well-meaning mission mom who typically is not a medical professional, or on the judgment of a remote physician who may feel a responsibility to cut back on seemingly unneeded doctor visits to prevent wasting Church funds. Could we consider a safety valve for those cases when a missionary really feels that a doctor’s attention is needed? I believe that health care for missionaries is remarkably good, but in at least a few cases it needs to be better.

I am also concerned that an unfair burden may be placed on mission presidents’ wives. All the ones I have known have been exemplary people, loving, diligent, and dedicated to the well-being of their missionaries. But I haven’t known any that were licensed nurses or physicians. Isn’t there a dangerous liability issue hanging over mission moms? I don’t know of any such lawsuits, but one medical disaster coupled with aggressive personal injury attorneys could create a huge nightmare for them and for the Church.

My final concern involves the ability of parents to know what’s happening with their missionaries. I can understand that mission presidents want families to just get upbeat news and not details of miseries from colds or other minor illnesses. But I believe that parents should expect to know the details of the health of their missionaries, if the missionaries want to share that. Unfortunately, many missionaries are told to stay positive and not discuss health problems. They may feel pressure to not talk about problems like pains in their side or a sports injury that isn’t healing. Look, they are adults and should be able to share whatever information they wish about their health. And who knows, perhaps a little more openness here could help serve as a safety valve, for increased awareness will bring increased accountability and perhaps improved health care access. I’m sure mission presidents, Church doctors, and leaders in the Missionary Department don’t want a flood of overly nervous parents calling in to second-guess the level of care that is being provided when someone isn’t feeling well, but as long as there isn’t a safety valve to deal with the exceptional cases like the two I’ve raised here, then maybe a few more calls from concerned members and parents will help.

For the record, my missionary son is not one of the two cases discussed above. His health has been fine, as far as I know. (Well, as far as I know – I mean, I haven’t heard anything negative, so I assume . . . oh oh . . .) And my oldest son who served in Argentina reports that he felt the health care provided was excellent, and the role of the missionary president’s wife there was a very helpful one. She was really looking out for the missionaries and made sure they got good care.

Now if there are possible flaws in the Church’s healthcare system for missionaries, it will be just one more reminder of how fallible all humans are, even those who serve the Church. Just as Moses the great prophet needed advice from his father-in-law to get him improve his inadequate management of the House of Israel, it’s possible that outside advice from ordinary members like you and me and the parents of missionaries might be needed in some department somewhere in Salt Lake City, like it or not.

If you respond to this post, please note that I am not looking for a forum to criticize Church leaders, to denounce the Church, or to post anonymous and highly questionable alleged horror stories of missionary maltreatment. We’ve had some nasty examples of that from deceptive anti-Mormons on this blog before. But I would especially appreciate suggestions on how we can better help our missionaries, how we might avoid the exceptional problems I have raised here, and how members and leaders can better care for and protect our missionaries. I would also appreciate comments on how we can deal with the issue of what missionaries do and don’t share with folks back home. And if I’m overreacting and being unfair in this post, let me know.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

35 thoughts on “Health Care for Missionaries: Usually Great, But Some Improvement May Be Needed

  1. And what about the health complications of many USA missionaries returning from South America where years later their hearts (or guts or what have you) are mostly ruined from some bug or worm they picked up?

  2. My experience in recent years has been that aggressive treatment for such illnesses has been given by the Church to missionaries during and after their mission (for some period of time, at least), and that results have been pretty good. But years ago I heard many stories of people who had long-term illnesses from their missions. I hope it’s much better now.

    But let me make no mistake: the call to serve is a sacrifice. Though missionary health on the average is outstanding, there is a risk that the service will put you in harms way. That harm may be in the form of a parasite or even a bullet. As Christians willing to give our all for the Lord, we realize we may even die as a result of serving Him, but even that is not too much for the Lord to ask. Obviously, though, we want to do as much as possible to avoid unnecessary sacrifices of health and life. The Church wants the best healthcare they can provide for the missionaries – but I can see some opportunities for further improvement.

  3. As with you, Jeff, I give the caveat that I loved my mission and I would do it again, warts and all.

    However, I’m afraid those cases were not unique to me. I have serious asthma, so when I get a cold, I often get sinus infections, and other complications. On one occasion, I called the mission nurse (as directed) and she informed me that my nasty cough was simply a case of really bad bronchitis, and that I should gargle salt water to get rid of it (I’m certain she told me more things to do, but I do not recall them right now–bottom line: none seemed convincing as a solution). In a fit of defiance, I went to my specialist in my mission to have X-Rays done. I had pneumonia (walking pneumonia, but pneumonia nevertheless). I am quite happy to I did not hearken to the nurse’s counsel (and I’m grateful I did not “sustain” her as my leader, so I could disobey her guilt-free).

    The medical staff in my mission did everything they could to keep the missionaries away from doctors (and understandably so, as doctors are extremely expensive for 60,000 disease ridden young men–I had my personal insurance, so my visit did not affect the Church’s finances). This tendency, while is fair as a general rule, does not replace a good old fashioned check-up with someone who really knows what they are doing when the situation is sufficiently severe

  4. Great post, Jeff.

    I served in Brazil and came down with pneumonia, a urinary tract infection and intestinal/stomach problems caused by excessive antibiotics while treating the other ailments. My mission president was extremely supportive and made sure I received everything I needed.

    When I returned home, however, I learned that my treatment was being paid out of the fast offering funds and not by SLC. Upon learning that, I decided I would prefer to fund my own treatment and not put a burden on the fast offerings. I’m not sure why the mission department didn’t fund the treatments, they probably should have. Of course, all of the funds used are sacred. Not sure why I felt guilty having fast offerings pay for my treatment. Probably because I thought of the needy going without so I could get painful x-rays and other scope work performed.

    Anyhow, glad to hear you raised concerns with SLC. I hope things improve for all missions.

  5. On my mission it was the other way around. It was more like the missionaries would have a problem and try to “tough it out” with out telling anyone. If you called the mission home, they’d send you to a doctor. My ex-companion narced me out one time and had me sent in for a chest X-ray. It was nothing, but It was nice to know he cared. So, Jeff, can you pose a solution to your problem that is realistic?

  6. I’ve suggested two options, neither one of which seems totally unrealistic. (1) Missionaries can see a doctor without approval if they pay a copay, like $20. As with regular HMO coverage, this would discourage frivolous visits but still give the patient the opportunity to seek care if they really wanted it. Or, (2) If a missionary was denied permission to see a doctor and questioned the decision, a second opinion could be sought from a central health advocate office that they could call or appeal to. There needs to be recourse.

    And of course, I think part of the solution is not discouraging missionaries from sharing health information with those back home, if they wish to share it. This would increase accountability.

    But I’m interested in hearing what other solutions might work. There’s got to be a way to improve the system.

  7. FYI–the first solution was already in place in my mission. I think it certainly decreased frivolous visits (even though missionaries were just as likely to try to wrangle a free sick day out of the deal).

  8. My son who ended up coming home from his mission due to illness was treated VERY well in the field. I am VERY greatful to his Mission President.

    As retired teacher/school administrator I would be MORE than willing to help missionaries with questions about health issues. I also would be willing to get them to an appropriate Dr. when nescessary.

  9. This is a topic of frustration for me. While on my mission I hurt my back. I was, luckily, allowed to see a doctor a couple weeks after it happened (literally couldn’t walk for a few days, and then couldn’t get an appointment any sooner – I served in the U.S.) I got a diagnosis and a prescription for some painkillers and was sent on my way with instructions to return in 2 weeks to see if it was healing or if additional care was needed, and also for additional pain medication, if necessary.

    Let me just say here that I was in excruciating pain. Never in my life have I experienced pain like this, and luckily I have not since.

    When I went to leave, the doctor’s office informed me that my insurer (the church) agreed to pay for this visit but no more because this was a pre-existing condition. I thought this was a mistake, so called to clear it up. Alas, no mistake. I had hurt my back years earlier, but it was an unrelated and different issue. However, I (apparently foolishly) had checked “yes” in that box on the medical form you fill out when you do your mission papers.

    I had no way of acquiring anywhere near enough funds to pay for the doctor on my own, so I never went back. The reason this was a problem was because he would not refill my pain medication prescription more than once without seeing him again. I stretched the medication out as long as I could by taking it only when I was in absolute agony, but it eventually ran out. I spent months unnecessarily in intense pain because of this.

    How to improve? Just let the missionaries see a doctor. It’s not that hard.

  10. Our mission presiden’ts wife worked a lot at preventative measures via educating us (part of mission newsletters, presentations at conferences, etc.). We all had thorough instructions on ‘worm treatments’ to be done every 6 monhts. We had to do them though … There were also clear directions on treating/drinking water. If you got sick, in many cases, there were free diagnostic clinics and the missionary would pay for medicine (which, BTW, you can get some potent stuff over the counter in Brazil). I assumed if something serious happened due to our service there would be a ‘workers comp.’ type of set up, but nothing was really formally explained. Oh .. and our mission ‘mom’ gave us Gamma Globulin (sp?) shots every 2-3 months. I didn’t envy her on that duty … but appreciated having her do it instead of the AP’s.

    I served in Brazil and am probably to blame for my own problems. Mine were limited to intestinal infections pretty much … but the fever that came with one of those was pretty nasty. I was one of those “Oh, I never told you about that time …” missionaries after I returned.

    On one ocassion, I had a cold that I couldn’t shake and had spent my month’s money on food/medicine & rent (along with transfer-related costs) and the mission forwarded me money to get the necessary medicine to finish getting better instead of having to wait and lapse further into the illness. They were very responsive … and my mission president was very no-nonsense about stuff. Had I been a ‘cry wolf’ type of Elder, I don’t know if I would have gotten that forward (A number of missionaries did not manage their money well and this was an issue at times). Also, keep in mind … my mission covered three entire states.

    Recently, we asked the Elders how it worked here (DC North Mission). They said they have insurance cards and pay co-pays for visits. They didn’t mention ‘pre-approval’ through anyone in the mission.

    It certainly is a tough balance. When the money comes out of your food/living expenses you’ll be less apt to ‘blow’ money/time unnecessarily. At the same time, you run the risk of someone ‘becoming a martyr’ and not seeking help when it is needed.

    I would imagine these described cases described are fairly unique, but the concern is understandable. I aso wonder how much health/nutrition education is done at both the missionary level and the ‘mission mom’ or equivalent level.

  11. My mission in Mexico handled the situation quite well, I think. My mission president was a physician, so we always spoke with him rather than his wife. If he thought you needed medical attention (or if he wasn’t totally sure that you didn’t), he’d send you to one of the doctors near your area that he’d already personally interviewed and approved. Missionaries were encouraged to seek out the physician’s care without checking with the president first if symptoms were more serious than those of a cold or “Montezuma’s Revenge.”

    Let me tell you, if there is one profession that I think should be preferred for mission presidents, it’s physicians. (Lawyers come in a close second!)

    One of the wonderful things about the Church is that it’s chock full of people willing to donate their time and their talents to the Lord’s work. If there’s a member in the area who is a physician, missionaries could be encouraged to go to him/her. The physician would be able to see the missionary in person and decide whether the condition merited treatment without costing the Church anything until treatment is deemed necessary.

  12. My mission mom (a Brazilian) was actually a licensed physician, and since prescriptions in Brazil are all over the counter, she could just tell me what to pick up when I was sick. She did a great job and provided very conscientious and professional help.

  13. Sounds like my case is more unusual than I thought. We must have had the lion’s share of missionaries feigned illness, I guess (at least relative to those seen on this post).

  14. The system usually works great? It works great in the instances that missionaries don’t need health care. Otherwise, are you sure it is usually works great?

    In my opinion, this type of problem isn’t even uncommon, much less unique.

    Here is my story. I’ve had arthritis since I was eleven. I fully disclosed the condition on the missionary application. I was sent to Argentina. The insufficient treatment for my chronic condition lead to a year of indescribable pain, climaxing in my ankle getting so swollen I couldn’t fit my foot into my shoes and literally couldn’t stand, much less walk. At 6’3”, I went from 180 pounds down to 150. My mother inferred something was wrong with my health and called the mission office. She was assured that I was perfectly fine. A couple of days later, the mission president consulted Salt Lake City about my latest doctor’s report, and they decided to send me home. Two days later I found myself on a plane back to America. When I landed in Miami I called home to let them know that I made it back to the states ok. They were shocked to receive the phone call; nobody had bothered to notify my family that I had been sent home, much less that there was anything wrong with my health.

    Anyway, may I suggest that it should be no harder for the church to give missionaries quality health care than it is for an HMO to give its members quality health care?

    But perhaps you are right, the system does usually work great. That is, it works great given how much the church is willing to spend on healthcare expenses for its missionary force. A better system is going to cost more money. Given the churches income, expenses, and balance sheet, how much is it willing to spend on missionary healthcare?

  15. Thanks for sharing that painful perspective, Roger. Ouch! I hope people are listening and understanding what can happen in some cases. I made a follow-up call to Salt Lake to report the x-ray results, and I think and hope there is a sincere desire to make the system better. Let’s see. But I’m sure that if President Hinckley were aware of some of these stories, rapid change would occur. He’s a man of decisive action, IMO.

    Anyway, I’ve got to run – time to update my “starry-eyed rhapsody about how you should fall in love with the LDS Church.” 😉

  16. I had an accident on my mission while riding a bike home during a snowstorm, crashed and then had to ride the bike upwards of 20 blocks to get home. To be honest, dealing with the mission mom was a struggle. My knee hurt like nothing I’d ever felt, but my complaints about it were regularly brushed off. I was on 800 mg of Naproxen every 4 hours on doctors orders and getting some wierd side effects but for some reason my requests to see the doctor before my scheduled visit were denied. We had gone through a change in mission presidents and the new MP wife did not understand the seriousness of my situation. This continued and I was put in a bike area, still on Naproxen and in feeling somewhat guilty about being down, worked very hard and succeeded in really mangling my knee on the inside. I was smart enough to keep my parents in on what was happening. They finally deduced from my letters home that somthing serious was happening, after I told them that i hadn’t been sleeping at night for a week or so due to the pain and they called my Stake President at home. It was amazing how quickly things changed, I was given a car 2 days after that, given permission to call my parents and sent home early because of the serious nature of my knee injury. While intensive physio has helped, I’ll never have full functions in my knee, and it was extraordinarly frustrating to have to go through all that. I remember the sheer exaustion after trying again and again to get district leaders, zone leaders. and the AP’s to listen to me about my knee. I still have trouble dealing with that, the impression I got was that they thought I was malingering and just wanted to take days off. I wish they would have belived me, and I honestly belive if I had not been put in that area with a bike I would have completed my mission. I would like to see the church take responsibility for the injuries caused on the mission. While some limited physiotherapy was paid for by the church, when I had a relapse recently I wasn’t covered in any way. Even with socialized medicine here in Canada, Physio is extremely expensive, and while I can get diagnosed right and left, I still can’t get the treatment I need to be free from my knee brace.

  17. I guess I either didn’t know about contacting the mission president’s wife or the policy wasn’t yet in place when I served in the Canada Montreal Mission 1986-87. When I got a severe, persistent cough with plentiful and colorful phlegm, it didn’t even occur to me to call her. I probably did report about it in my weekly letter, but the main thing I did was call a doctor and go. No asking permission, no assuming the Church would pay for it. (The Church never approved or paid for my doctor visits before my mission, so why should they while I was on my mission?) I saw a doctor, got a prescription, and paid for them with my own money (or the money my parents were providing for my support).

    All this was in the days when a missionary’s support wasn’t paid through the Church. My money simply came from home, first from my own savings (which, I confess, were not huge) and then from my father. Our expenses were like that, too: When I lived in a high-rent apartment I paid high rent and when I lived in a low-rent apartment I paid low rent. I do think it’s valuable that mission funding is done on a more equal, united-order basis now.

  18. In the final analysis 18-year olds are legal adults and responsible for themselves.

    If a missionary is really sick, and the MP or APs don’t believe him, he’s still sick. Someone else’s mistaken belief doesn’t change facts.

    In the United States at least, emergency care can’t legally be denied someone who shows up at a hospital’s emergency room.

    My father was a doctor, and I remember him dismissing many legitimate problems I had when I was little. I had to complain about a broken finger for 2 weeks before he finally had it X-rayed to shut me up, and it turned out it did have a hairline fracture.

    It really hurts when people in authority over you don’t believe you or don’t take you seriously. But when it comes to a matter of your health and safety, you have to do what you have to do.

    A mission president only has ecclesiastical authority over a missionary. It’s not like missionaries are slaves or indentured servants.

    There is ALWAYS the option to disobey an “order.” And, in the case of an unrighteous order that is preventing a missionary from getting needed medical care, then it is almost a DUTY to disobey it, almost like in the military.

    I can’t think of any occasion when church leaders said that members or missionaries must obey church authorities to the point of ignoring injuries or illness.

    The MP or APs can be straightened out later when all the facts are in, but the foremost duty of missionaries is to stay healthy. Sick missionaries can’t preach the gospel.

  19. This is an interesting subject. It’d be interesting to do some kind of controlled, scientific -type poll among RMs, to find out how big the problem really is. Not that I have any idea where money for that sort of thing would come from. I certainly don’t have either the money or the know how, but it would be interesting, none the less.

    My husband was another of these missionaries that was sick on his mission. In Chile, for cultrual reasons, they don’t let the missionaries do their own cooking or laundry (and maybe some other things, I’m not sure exactly) they have “Mamitas” to do it for them – families that are paid to house & care for the missionaries. Unfortunately, my husband’s experience was that the Mamitas were more interested in the money they received, and often shorted the missionaries the food that they should have been receiving. To make a long story short, he came home with chronic fatigue syndrome, lead copper & zinc poisoning, and sun poisioning. (His hair was thinning, and they were not allowed hats, although they were right at the equator.) The doctor that he saw when he got back said that had he finished the final months of his mission, rather than being sent home for medical reasons, he would most likely have come home in a pine box. And all this, after he DID see a Chilean doctor! They told him it was all in his head.

  20. Maybe the problem isn’t with the missionary medical program. Problems come from the people adminitering the program. Perhaps we just need to train leaders more appropriately. Missionaries are adults and can take responsability for themselves and their care.

  21. If you respond to this post, please note that I am not looking for a forum to criticize Church leaders, to denounce the Church, or to post anonymous and highly questionable alleged horror stories of missionary maltreatment.
    Why is it that the horror stories are highly questionable but the faith promoting miracles we read on your site are beyond reproach?
    Must be strange to see things through your tinted glasses.

  22. Who said the horror stories are questionable? I had a horror story of my own on my mission. It was not the prime reason, but it was on my list of complaints of why I left the church.

    Sh–, er, poo-poo occurs.

    I was surprised to see Jeff raise the point at all. It’s very unlike him to say anything that reflects negatively on the church. But young men’s health, and perhaps their lives are at stake.

    And I agree with him. If the anecdotes he’s related are true, things need improving.

    If Mission Mom’s are going to pre-screen over the phone, they need to take what the missionary says seriously. And if a missionary thinks he is truly sick or injured, he needs to seek medical help regardless of what mission authorities tell him. No one in the church is required to suffer like that.

    Back in my day, in the 80’s, there was not enough follow up to check to see whether RM’s brought any bugs back with them.

    And if you went to a regular General Practioner, or internal medicine doctor here in the states, they most often don’t know how to test for tropical diseases such as parasite infections. My doc did a stool test, but he didn’t know to do a blood test too.

  23. Ditto to Book. Jeff is referring to a very specific case in which about everything and the kitchen sink supposedly happened to the missionary, from illness, to corrupt mission president, to corrupt companion–all in way happy, convenient little package (for the low, low price of your tithing money–right…)

    Indeed, I also have my own little “horror” experience (though I will spare all the repetition of it here). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–even with my negative experiences, I would do it again.

    The missionary work is no less true in spite of false accusations, pneumonia, and sinus infections.

  24. Jeff said: “If you respond to this post, please note that I am not looking for a forum to criticize Church leaders, to denounce the Church, or to post anonymous and highly questionable alleged horror stories of missionary maltreatment.”

    Like I said, Some of us do have horror stories that we or others have experienced. Jeff in the above quote ‘highly questionable alleged horror stories’ lists these as questionable. Why? because they do not promote the faith? Rose colored glasses.

    Walker, please tell me where this “a very specific case in which about everything and the kitchen sink supposedly happened to the missionary, from illness, to corrupt mission president, to corrupt companion–all in way happy, convenient little package (for the low, low price of your tithing money–right…)” is stated? I did not see Jeff post that. Would you mind telling me how you know that, unless you are a mind reader. SMM

  25. Anon at 3:48.

    Jeff’s statement “If you respond to this post please note that I am not looking for a forum to ….. post anonymous and highly questionable alleged horror stories of missionary maltreatment.”

    is in the original post, not in a comment, so it can’t be directed at something that was posted later as a comment.

    It’s not in response to anything in
    this thread because it _started_ the thread.

    And, using my super-powers of comprehending written English at a literal level, I believe that it is a statement of his desire or hope, as indicated by the phrase “I am not looking for…”

    Dude, I feel for whatever illnesses or injuries you sustained on your mission. And I’m terribly sorry if you did not receive an adequate level of care in the field, or at home as follow-up. And I completely understand how some missionary leaders, both elders and the mission president, sometimes don’t take seriously what sick/injured missionaries say. Add those up, and they could be tragedies in the making.

    But it sounds to me like you’re already disaffected with the church. If I’m wrong, and you are still active in church, try working within the system to get help with your health care to resolve any lingering issues with accident/illness sustained on your mission.

    If you’re not open to working within the church structure to get medical treatment for those injuries/illnesses, then see a lawyer.

  26. The concept of “My mission president/APs/companion didn’t let me see a doctor” thing reminds me of a horrific experience I had in kindergarden. It was over 40 years ago, so I suppose I can reveal the shame of it now.

    There was a rule in kindergarden, that you couldn’t go to the bathroom without raising your hand and getting permission from the teacher. And you couldn’t speak in class without raising your hand and having the teacher call on you. This was back in the early 60’s, and teachers were allowed to paddle children who misbehaved.

    One day, the teacher divided the class into two groups, and took one group over to the other side of the class and read to them. My group was still at our desks.

    I had to go to the bathroom, and I raised my hand. At the time, I thought she saw me, but either she didn’t, or she just ignored me. I kept my hand up waving frantically, and became desperate trying to hold it in, because I knew that the teacher paddled kids who left their seats without permission.

    Well, she never let me go to the bathroom, and eventually I couldn’t hold it any more so I peed my pants, afraid of being paddled for leaving my seat or speaking out without permission. (Afterwards I was allowed to go to the bathroom and clean up.)

    And I cried about it the rest of the day. And I complained to my parents that the teacher wouldn’t let me go to the bathroom.

    It never occurred to me before then that I could have just disobeyed the rules, and gone to the bathroom without permission. It never occurred to me back then that sometimes some things can outweigh “the rules.”

  27. Yes, I thought that strange as well. Why are the horror stories questionable but every faith promoting story is self evident? The church and its missions are run by amatures, it is quite likely that most often they do not know what they are doing. Therefore, everyone has a horror story to tell. Not surprising and not unexpected. And certainly not questionable to anyone that looks at both sides of the issues.

  28. bookslinger, NO one that served an honorable mission would ever have that attitude. Rules are not to be bent and the message you send is that it is OK. It is not and that attitude gets young boys sent home without honor, a honor that they can never get back.

  29. Anon @3:48

    He didn’t post it on this thread. We were having a discussion on these lines some months ago when a fellow pulled drive-by and told us a whopper of a story. I’m not saying it was untrue, but it was just so far outside my experience–which, like I said, was anything but rose colored–that it seemed a little-far fetched.

    And I can actually sympathize with Book on this one, cuz I actually followed his advice once on my mission, which advice ended up saving me a lot of grief (mission nurse said I had bronchitis and that I didn’t need a doc; I thought otherwise, went to a doc, and found out I had pneumonia–pleasant eh?) I’m not saying that a random whim merits disobedience. But when it comes to matters of health/survival, you need to take care of yourself. If the mission doc tells you wrongly (remember, you have not sustained him as your leader in any regard) and when your MP will not let you have the proper procedures done (which also happened to me–the only reason I could go was because we promised him to pay for it ourselves), then that alone should not prevent the receipt of adequate medical care.

    I could share more about my mission medical experience (which was but a small part of an otherwise wonderful experience), but I think y’all get the point.

  30. Kansas:
    “Rules are not to be bent and the message you send is that it is OK.”

    All rules exist in a hierarchical form. Many of ther “higher rules” are unwritten, like “stay alive” or even “stay healthy.” Wait, I think “do what you can to stay healthy” IS a mission rule.

    For instance, the unwritten rule to “leave the building when it’s on fire” supercedes the rule to be in bed with lights out at 10pm. If your apartment building catches fire after 10pm, you have to break the curfew rule and get out of bed and leave the apartment. I don’t see a problem with self-preservation overriding the curfew rule.

    Now that we’ve established that there ARE exceptions to “rules” (ie, “don’t stay in a burning building”, or “don’t pee in your pants”) the question becomes “What’s the hierarchy of rules?”

    If the teacher won’t answer your raised hand, is it then okay to go to the bathroom without the teacher’s permission in order to avoid peeing your pants?

    Is it okay for a missionary to see a doctor without mission-office approval if the office doesn’t believe you’re sick/injured, but the missionary thinks he really is?

    If a missionary goes to see a doctor without pre-approval, and the doctor CONFIRMS that the missionary REALLY WAS sick or injured, what is the mission president going to do? Send that missionary home for disobedience? I don’t think so.

    I can’t imagine a MP disciplining a missionary in that situation, and if so, I would have no problem defending that missionary, and telling the church missionary department (the MP’s bosses) about that.

    I admire Jeff for standing up for what’s right in matters of preserving the health of missionaries. I suspect he was the one who took a missionary to a clinic at his own expense.

  31. A few months ago we had a rabid anti posing as a sweet investigator who was exposed, and then became virulent. At that time a whopper of a horror story from an alleged missionary was posted here and is still posted on his own blog where extreme anti-Mormon lies abound, including libelous insinuations against me. The guy is just sick.

    I’m encouraging open discussion here, but when extreme and anonymous rantings are posted, they’ll be cut.

    But wake up, guys – the very existence of this post is evidence that I’m willing to discuss flaws in the Church. I haven’t deleted any stories posted here – none of them so far are anonymous rantings without any credibility. But I didn’t want to signal to the sickos out there that they could start fabricating and posting horror stories of their own here to demean the Church.

  32. uThe bottom line here is that if your son goes to most parts of South America or Central Africa he is going to get sick and that sickness will most likely follow him home no matter what the mission president’s wife does. Serving in a third world country has it down side which is parasites and other chronic illness and there is little you or the missionary can do about it. I have at least ten friends who served in Brazil and all of them came home with chronic illness and looked pretty wasted. They were all athletes and in superb health before their mission.I think the Church should be more aggressive in South America and Africa and actually provide some sort of church storehouse where the missionaries can shop for food and water. The Church has the money to do it and should do it. These kids are sacrificing enough and don’t need to be saddled with some intestinal fungus that ruins there life when they return.

  33. I was not allowed to leave the MTC for an illness and I was not allowed to see a doctor. Finally the receptionist disobeyed and called the doctor. I left my mission. It took 2 years and then the church apologized. I went on a second mission. This time when I needed a doctor, I did not ask I just went to one.

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