Every now and then I check out some anti-Mormon material (it really isn’t all that scary if you’ve got a good head on your shoulders). Many sites offering help to “recovering ex-Latter-day Saints” have testimonials, and some of these testimonials are given by *GASP* former LDS missionaries!
It’s as if they expect us flee screaming, “Head for the hills! Take only what you can carry! Run for your lives, they’ve got former LDS missionaries!”
Those who’ve served missions or even spent time around LDS missionaries know that, while a mission is good for every missionary, not every missionary is good for a mission.
(That’s a tactful way to say that some missionaries are real dweebs.)
This appeal to authority (i.e., “look how a former LDS missionary is Christian now!”) is really irrelevant. Some missionaries are great, but other are horrid, and there is no simple way to tell which was which after they’ve come home.
These testimonials might as well be given by former NASA astronauts, or former Olympic gold medalists, or former airplane engineers, because those roles would have just as much potential influence on someone’s gospel knowledge as being an LDS missionary. This isn’t because missions are not invaluable, but rather because, again, not every missionary is good for a mission and we can’t know who is who.
Don’t get me wrong – most missionaries are fantastic. Many who go on a mission for the wrong reasons end up staying for the right reasons, and many who enter the mission field as immature, imperfect young people leave as better men and women. Most missionaries give dedicated, sincere service, and I am proud to have been numbered among those that have been missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is not a day that goes by when I am not influenced by my mission experience.
But there are bad apples among us, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a correlation between some of these bad apples and future “former LDS missionaries”.