It appears that a new instruction manual to bishops requires certain “waiting periods” for prospective missionaries who commit certain sins, which are specifically enumerated. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
The only reason that I can think that it is a good thing is that it standardizes the waiting period. This way, bishop A who is more strict than bishop B is required to follow the same guidelines.
However, this very process of standardization also strikes me as creating a whole new set of problems. First, it doesn’t distinguish between various degrees and types of sin. If a pre-missionary “pets” once with his girlfriend of three years, there is no difference in the waiting period from the pre-missionary who had sex numerous times with several partners.
Second, these waiting periods don’t deter sins. They aren’t public, so no one knows. But even when they become public, they are seen as standards which can be worked around. On a pre-missionary’s 18th birthday, he can have sex for the last time. These waiting periods seem to encourage teenagers to miss the message.
Third, this whole process of standarizing repentence periods strikes me as belonging to a Christian tradition of proscribed penitence, which I thought we Mormons didn’t beleive in. Say your “Hail Mary’s”, wait a year, and viola, you’re now forgiven. This seems to me to profoundly miss the point of the atonement. We don’t do this for others who sin in similar ways, why do we single out these pre-missionaries? This practice seems completely non-scriptural.
Finally, these policies function to publically shame prospective missionaries in such a way as to actually discourage repentence and the desire to serve a mission. They make teenagers who have sinned feel unworthy and frustrated by a beaurocratic requirement that they feel is contrary to the principles of the gospel. Rather than have to admit that they have to “wait a year” and let family and friends express dissapointment, speculate about the nature of the sins, and constantly check-up on them, many prospective missionaries find that it is easier and more accepted if they simply say that they don’t want to go.
Perhaps I am missing something?