Date of Award

12-2019

Degree Type

Report

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

English

First Advisor

Lynne McNeill

Second Advisor

Lisa Gabbert

Third Advisor

Rebecca Andersen

Abstract

In my thesis I explore the role of mission decision narratives of women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Before 2012, women could not serve missions until age 21. Once the minimum age was changed to 19 in October of 2012, many more women were able to serve on mission as the opportunity was less likely to disrupt their education or romantic relationships. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, missions are seen as a priesthood duty for men but a matter of choice for women. This ability to choose and the narrative that follows plays an important role for women and the church overall. The question “How did you decide to serve a mission?” is a relatively frequently asked question of Latter-day Saint women and the story that follows is indicative of the view women have of themselves and their relationship with God. Many women struggle greatly looking for the answer and this very struggle can serve as the genesis of their tangible identity in the church and can come to define their spiritual identity.

My thesis discusses the scholarly work that relates to personal revelation narratives and Latter-day Saint folklore in general. I highlight Tom Mould’s pivotal work and discuss the space in which my research fits and creates new understanding of Latter-day Saint women and culture. I then present my research in which I interviewed seven women who served missions after October 2012. I analyzed themes and ideas expressed in these interviews, seeking out common patterns and seeming anomalies. Each woman that I interviewed was fairly different in personality and temperament, yet there were common threads between all of them. Each struggled to make the decision, many received timely and oracle-like advice from family members or friends.

Ultimately, I have found that these stories are an important way to acknowledge a space in which women exist in the church and in which their identities are created and celebrated. It is vital to understand that the decision to go on a mission is not just a momentary experience but a reflection of what a religious community cares about and how religious beliefs are put into action by women who believe them.

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