Every August, faculty members at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, put out a “Mindset List” that introduces college professors across the country to the attitudes and experiences of their incoming freshman classes. First begun at Beloit College in Wisconsin in 1997 as a way to help professors update the cultural references they make in class, this list, which is updated every year, has served for almost twenty-five years as a useful reference for university faculty trying to understand the world their students inhabit.
Last year’s Mindset List1 included important reminders that college freshmen in 2020 were the first class to grow up entirely in a post-9/11 world, that up until August 2021 the United States has had a military presence in Afghanistan from the time they were born, and that as far as they know, Vladimir Putin has always been the president of Russia. It also points out that the Harry Potter books have been banned somewhere in America continuously during their lifetimes, that these students’ reading habits include a wider diversity of voices than those of previous freshman classes, and that personal protective equipment (PPE) was beginning to influence their fashion choices.
As a father of a missionary who will be starting his virtual Missionary Training Center (MTC) experience next week, I have thought that a similar Mindset List for Latter-day Saint missionaries might be helpful and even entertaining, particularly for any parents, mission leaders, or anyone else who knows, loves, and works with missionaries.
In his monumental 1989 talk, “Beware of Pride,” President Ezra Taft Benson pointed out that generation gaps are a feature of the sin of pride.2 Perhaps by considering the mindset and experiences of our young people currently embarking on missionary service, we can bridge such gaps and bring increased understanding among Latter-day Saints of different ages and generations.
With that in mind, here’s a list of 25 interesting facts about 18- or 19-year-old missionaries now entering the mission field:
1. General conference has always been held in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.3
2. Their parents could have served missions behind the former Iron Curtain.4
3. There have always been at least 100 temples in operation throughout the world.5
4. While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has for most of their lives been the fourth largest church in the United States,6 there have always been more Latter-day Saints outside the United States than inside the United States,7 and more non-English speakers than English speakers among the Church membership.8
5. The use of cell phones and tablets is commonplace in many missions, and many missionaries can regularly call home without waiting for Christmas or Mother’s Day.9
6. Elders now have the option to wear blue shirts without ties and many sister missionaries wear pants.10
7. The traditional six missionary discussions had already been retired before many of them were born, and Preach My Gospel has been a primary missionary resource since many of them were in the nursery.11
8. Daily exercise is now a part of the mission rules.12
9. In addition to the Provo MTC, there are currently nine other countries with missionary training centers where missionaries may be assigned to begin their service: Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, England, Ghana, South Africa, New Zealand, and the Philippines.13
10. In addition to missions all over the world, sister missionaries may be assigned to one of eleven temple visitors’ centers, as well as over a dozen church historical sites.14
11. By the time they were born over 100 million copies of the Book of Mormon had already been published in more than 100 languages.15
12. Ricks College has always been Brigham Young University–Idaho.16
13. The Perpetual Education Fund has always existed.17
14. They have always been able to find their ancestors at familysearch.org.18
15. Worldwide church membership has always numbered in the double-digit millions.19
16. By the time today’s new missionaries entered Primary, there were already eight quorums of the Seventy.20
17. The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics brought worldwide attention to the Church when they were infants or not even born yet.
18. The Gospel Topics essays have served as helpful resources from the time current missionaries entered the Young Men and Young Women programs.21
19. Of the five U.S. presidential elections in their lifetimes, two have prominently featured serious Latter-day Saint candidates,22 and a Latter-day Saint has been either senate majority leader or senate minority leader for more than half their lives.23
20. Elders now beginning their missions were among the first to be able to perform proxy baptisms in the temple while priests and new sister missionaries were among the first young women who were able to witness these temple baptisms.24
21. Resources like the Gospel Library app and Member Tools have been available since they were in elementary school.25
22. Paying tithes and offerings online has been an option since before many of them were in their teens.26
23. The lowered age for missionary service—18 for men and 19 for women—has been a reality for roughly half of their lives.27
24. The Church has had at least one YouTube channel since before they were baptized, and the Latter-day Saints Channel (formerly the Mormon Channel) had been recognized as one of YouTube’s top brands since before they entered the Church youth program.29
25. Tagalog, Cebuano, and Ilokano—three Philippine languages—have always been among the top ten most spoken languages among Latter-day Saints.30
What would you add to this list?
Peter Eubanks is a professor from Richmond, VA. He served in the France Paris mission from 1997 to 1999.