Thirty days after returning home from her mission in Berlin, Germany, Katelyn Duncan was engaged.

In LDS culture, being engaged that quickly is not uncommon. But what makes Katelyn’s story unusual is that she is engaged to her former district leader who she met on her mission in Berlin.

It’s been two years since the historic announcement lowering the age requirement for LDS young men and women to serve missions. While that announcement has helped the Church hasten the work, some unplanned outcomes may also be beginning to emerge as the first wave of “age-change” missionaries begin arriving home and prepare for marriage.

 

Author’s Note: The other day I saw this picture pop up on one of my returned missionary Facebook groups.
Mission Geek

 I’ve seen it shared a few times since then with people citing Elder D. Ronald Scharf and saying the General Authorities support missionaries marrying those they served with on their missions. I wanted to know the context of this quote and correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure there is no Elder D. Ronald Scharf.

Should couples feel the need to justify meeting on the mission? Below I share the stories of some couples I know who met on their missions. Should meeting on the mission be taboo? 

 

The math is pretty simple. Not only are the Elders and Sisters now closer in age, but also there are also more sisters than ever before. According to an article on the Church’s newsroom website, in the first year after the announcement lowering the ages for men and women to 18 and 19, respectively, the ratio of Elders to Sisters jumped from 6:1 to 3:1.

With those kind of numbers it probably shouldn’t be surprising that more and more couples are finding their ‘beginnings’ in the mission field, but the question is, is it right?

While Katelyn was serving in Berlin, she met her now husband, Brad Duncan. He was her third district leader.

“I instantly admired him for being such a stellar missionary,” Katelyn said. “Admiration is kind of dangerous for missionaries and grew into more significant feelings. Simultaneously, Brad’s admiration for me grew equally more significant, and so we told our mission president immediately about our significant feelings.”

When transfer calls came, Katelyn went to Dresden and Brad stayed in Berlin. For months, they were unable to communicate (since missionaries cannot write anyone of the opposite gender within mission boundaries).

The Duncan’s certainly are not the only couple to have confessed romantic feelings to their mission president; however, their story has an unexpected twist.

In January 2014, after months of not seeing or hearing from Brad, Katelyn received a phone call from her mission president. Brad had become ill, almost to the point of being sent home. The mission president had a dream that Katelyn and Brad should begin writing each other. Katelyn was instructed she could write Brad and they could email on p-days.

“Since January of 2014, Brad and I have been the most devoted of pen pals, emailing and hand writing every week,” Katelyn said. “He came home six weeks before I did, and I called Brad as soon as I was released as a missionary.”

After meeting each other’s families, Brad proposed to Katelyn. They married in December of 2014.

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Brad and Katelyn

Some couples develop feelings while on the mission but put the feelings aside to stay focused on the mission. Others develop their relationship by using the mission as a common ground to begin a friendship.

This was the case for Stanley and Sarah Dillon of the Charlotte, North Carolina Mission. For this couple, the new technology changes in the mission field including the introduction of iPads and the use of Facebook proselyting facilitated their relationship. Stanley and Sarah first met at a training meeting on how to implement the new iPads into the mission.

When they returned home, they were already friends on Facebook.

“This wasn’t weird since because we were an iPad mission all the missionaries were friends with each other, including elders and sisters, so that leaders could check and make sure we were posting appropriate things,” Sarah said. “Since he was my district leader and we were eventually in the same area we were friends already on Facebook.”

After a few conversations on Facebook and a few dates, Stanley and Sarah were dating. Now, they are married.

“I don’t feel weird telling people we met on our mission, but I feel like I have to explain that we didn’t even like each other at all on the mission,” Sarah said. “I didn’t like him at all, he was a weird elder in my opinion and he thought I was a crazy sister.”

Gladys Roberts also met her husband, Travis, on the mission. Unlike these other stories, she met him at the very end of the mission, on the plane ride home. They served in the Chile Santiago North Mission and at the airport, Gladys started a conversation with Travis. They had never been in the same district or zone. After returning home, they started dating.

“Sometimes I feel weird telling people we met on the mission because they might get the wrong idea but overall I explain we met at the airport and love telling the story to people,” Gladys said.

Dating someone from the mission create could create an instant ‘common ground’, something that can be really important in a relationship.

“They just know every sacrifice you made, how the people are, how challenging serving in that area is, and you have a tons of friends in common,” Gladys said.

 

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Gladys and Travis

At the time of President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement, several 18 year olds had to wait until May 2013 in order to graduate high school before leaving on a mission. These age-change Elders are beginning to return home and many, many sisters too.

Some may have questioned if these Elders were ready to serve at age 18. Now some may have to question if a 20-year-old returned missionary is ready for marriage, but surely no one could question a the virtues of a couple sealed in the temple who raise a family in the gospel. Is it at all possible that some couples were meant to meet on their missions?

 

Questions? Comments? Thoughts? Write me! [email protected]

 

28 Responses

  1. Elissa

    I served a mission. Saw people that interested me – but there were all soo young (the elders – I was a sister). I didn’t meet my husband on my mission but we both served in the same mission – just at different times. We became friends when I got home as we knew the same people and places, so I understand the concept of same missions building friendships. I don’t believe there is a problem with people meeting on their mission. But I worry about the ones who are engaged days after getting home to someone from their mission. Or going on a date within a few days. That shows that things were discussed and emotions shared when they were on a mission. That is wrong. The mission time goes so quick – don’t short change it with a romance.

    Reply
    • sarajones

      I totaly agree with what you just said. As sisters we meet people on the field but everything should be considere after the mission, in order to stay focus on the most important, the lord’s work.

      Reply
    • Lilly

      I agreed with you. Because In these days I seen missionaries that are falling in love with women during their mission time. Also women that are bautized by them. They got married too fast too.But after that, their marriage is not a happy one or ended in divorce. I don’t know if is good or not to married some one that way. I’m not judging this but I finding weird. I prefer the way you did.

      Reply
    • Michael Maynor

      I agree with you as well. This was a big issue with my mission president. There were a couple of marriages that came from the Elders and the sisters but they didn’t happen until years after we were all home. That is completely different than people getting engaged days/months after returning. You know elders and sisters are getting infatuated. How can they focus on the work when they’re infatuated. I know that when I was dating my wife I could barely think about school that semester. I had to retake most of those classes.

      Reply
  2. Benjamin Nickel

    My wife and I met on our mission in San Diego California my last transfer back a year ago. She finished the transfer after and we were married in December as well. She’s the greatest blessing from my mission and in my life. It doesn’t happen for everyone, but I’m sure glad God brought her to me before I left.

    Reply
    • Erin

      While I’m sure meeting your future spouse was ONE of the great blessings resulting from your mission, we shouldn’t have the mindset that we served for ourselves or our personal gain…we serve the Lord and those we need to bring to Him.

      Reply
  3. Dara

    I think there’s nothing wrong with admiring someone as long as you didn’t do anything about it while on your mission. I met my husband in the mission. I didn’t expect we’d end up together after because I hated his guts back then and he thought I was a weirdo with curly hair. It didn’t cross my mind that I’d marry him up until 4 months after I came home when he was here in my city studying business. When he told me he developed feelings for me during those post-mission hangouts, the rest was history.

    Reply
  4. Analyn

    I met my first husband in the mission where I served too He was my Zone Leader. My life with him is a dream came true.He passed away in 2009 leaving me with 3 little children ?

    Reply
  5. Marc

    I met my wife in the last area I served in on my Mission. That was 8 years ago. We’ve been married for 7 years this year and have 3 girls.

    Reply
  6. glen

    When missionaries stay-true and faithful to the mission rules, such as these accounts did, it is perfectly appropriate, and will be a marriage based-on truth, love, respect, and gospel-centered principles. However, if done inappropriately, it starts the relationship on a tainted foundation that both will regret throughout the years.

    Reply
  7. Daniel

    Well, As for me, I met my wife on my mission when I was 22 months old on mission, As a matter of fact, I welcomed her into the mission because I was her first Zone-Leader/Office Missionary. Two months later, I went home to my country and later on, while on her mission, I wrote to her. Our mission president was aware of it and counseled us on how to manage it. I had to wait for twenty months after my mission (6 months after her mission) when we got married and sealed in the Johannesburg South Africa Temple. She is the best woman I could have ever known because we share the same mission principle taught by our mission president which has made us so happy in our home and increased our Faith in achieving our post-mission goals. The Gathering of Israel occurs in ways beyond our understanding and in mysterious ways. I think Heavenly Father knows best why He allows these marriages to occur in His Temple. We should not seek to counsel Him but obey His commandments, then we shall receive His promises in ways that we do not expect.

    Reply
  8. Bfwebster

    Back when I served a mission (1972-74), the standard answer — half-joking, half-serious — to the question as to why men could serve at 19 but women couldn’t serve until 21 was that the sisters would be so much more mature than the elders that they (the sisters) wouldn’t find the elders terribly interesting. When the lowering of ages for both groups was announced, I pretty much expected there would be a significant rise in couples who meet on their missions. I don’t know if that’s really the case (cf. difference between anecdotes and actual data), but it wouldn’t surprise me. I suspect that mission presidents just have to caution their missionaries that much more.

    Reply
  9. Amanda

    My husband and I met on our mission. And we LOVE telling people! It’s a big detail of our love story. We served in the same zone during my last transfer, and I think we only actually spoke twice. There were no feelings, we just met there. Then when he returned, and his mom posted on the mission facebook, I welcomed him home like I did with many other RM’s from our mission, and we began dating the following week. He was one of those elders that didn’t want to go when he was 19, but decided to go when he was 21. So we were the same age, which made it nice.
    There’s nothing inappropriate about meeting on the mission, as long as nothing inappropriate (in any way that could be deemed wrong for a missionary) happens on the mission.
    And you share the same love for the people and place that you served! I’m all for it.

    Reply
  10. Wendy R

    We need to stop saying that “it is wrong” to date so soon after the mission if both served in the same mission. Who are we to say if the reason they served together was to get to know each other? That’s what’s so wrong with this, not the fact that people may date someone they met on the mission, but people sticking their noses in none of their business when they do once they return home. Seriously.

    Reply
  11. Janet Daniel

    If a couple begin their marriage and keep up the practices they observed while on their missions, I think it would strengthen the marriage immensely. Friend while on a mission, yes, but courtship no. Courtship is an important step in a marriage and should continue afterward, but you have to learn how. A mission is an excellent beginning, for all the right reasons.

    Reply
  12. Brent

    Elder Richard G Scott visited our mission in 2001 and gave a talk to our entire mission which is rare to have the whole mission together. Part of his talk had to do with meeting your spouse while you are on your mission. He said that if you are truly serving the Lord on your mission with your entire heart that you will not find your spouse while you are on your mission. He said that if you feel that someone you met on your mission while you are on your mission is to be your future spouse than you are not serving the Lord properly. Whatever the experience that others have had on their mission, this was the message from an Apostle of the Lord.

    Reply
    • kt

      My husband and I met while we were on our missions (and have been married for less than a month now). I understand that Elder Scott is a apostle of the Lord, but, well, when the message came to me from God telling me that I needed to marry this weird Elder, I was so ticked. I was in my third transfer, opening a new area with my golden/greenie companion (who was in her second transfer). I was doing everything I could to be obedient, in the strictest sense, and do the work, while loving the people and learning our mission language (German). I hadn’t considered this Elder as anything other than an Elder.

      I respect, admire, and love Elder Scott, but this comment was true for your mission, and those missionaries, at that time; not for every mission, to all missionaries, at all times.

      Reply
    • Rachel

      You do have to understand that the Lord’s will for His children can be different for different areas and different times. Maybe that was a message for your mission that God knew that none of you Elders and Sisters were going to marry the right person that He made for you if you met them on the mission.

      Reply
  13. Steven

    My wife and I served in the same district on our missions. We have been happily married for 21 years.

    Reply
  14. Amy

    My husband and I met on our missions. As a result, our relationship started as a friendship. 27 years later we have four children; one returned missionary son, another returning in November. Our daughter has a strong testimony, our younger daughter is developing hers. Why? Because we started our marriage strong with principles we both learned as missionaries. And we are a missionary family. We continued that lifestyle in our marriage together. Ridiculous comments on here about how it’s inappropriate. You see that person for what they really are because there’s no stupid games and flirting. You observe that person in spiritual situations. You know if they’re a hard worker or a goof off missionary. It doesn’t matter that you served a mission, it matters what kind of a mission you served. You know that very important question when you served in the same mission as your spouse.

    Reply
  15. JR

    I find it odd this article didn’t even mention the famed “Lock Your Heart” talk from President Kimball, which is included in the missionary handbook, which missionaries are to have on them at all times.

    Reply
  16. Zach

    My mission president and his wife actually encouraged that we seek out the sisters we served with. He knew their worth and that they had served very well. He expressly cautioned against it while on the mission, but he said that God puts people in our lives for a reason and that we shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn from such amazing people.

    I got back from my mission and August and don’t find it weird at all. Marriage is between 2 people and the Lord. If you feel like she/he is the one, and you marry in God’s house, who are we to judge how they met? Each story is different. I personally am very grateful for the friendships I developed in the mission and if one of the sisters asked to go out I would say yes in a heartbeat!

    Reply
  17. David

    President Kimball gave a talk now known as, “Lock Your Hearts.” He made it about as clear as can be, “So, can I impress that again? LOCK YOUR HEARTS and leave the key at home! Wherever you live, leave the key home with your folks. And your heart – it’s only that part of it that deals with people generally that you open up. We just can’t tolerate it, can we? We can’t individually; we can’t totally. Someone said, ‘Well, is there any harm to marry a Mexican girl if you are working in Mexico!’ No, that isn’t any crime, but it proves that some missionary has had his heart open! He has unlocked it! Is it wrong to marry a German girl when you have been on a German mission? Why no, there is no crime in that, if you met her some other way. But when you meet her in the mission field and you have opened your heart, I tell you it isn’t right, and you have shortchanged your mission! Just keep your hearts locked.”

    Reply
    • Ken Madsen

      This becomes a judgment call. It is when the Lord knows those who’s hearts are locked that he can do his best work of blessing and rewarding his servants in his own way. To judge every such marriage is like judging Joseph in Egypt. Example 1: If Joseph’s heart was locked, Potiphar’s wife would not have gotten his coat. Example 2: If Joseph’s political aspirations were locked he would not have arrived second to the throne of Pharaoh. Neither example is true according to the scriptures. Examples abound on both sides concerning true missionary service. I am sure there were some with locked hearts who were selfish in other ways while serving. Some, since returning from a mission have made more of their missionary language skills than the Lord ever got from their service. Thankfully, it is the Lord who knows our hearts, and it is the Lord, alone who will be our judge.

      Reply

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