Is the LDS Church asking too much of its faithful members by asking them to shelter missionaries in their homes? This question has been a hot topic in ward houses across the land. Spirited conversations about the matter have in some instances disrupted sacrament meetings, and there are reports of high priests exchanging blows during their Sunday convocations.
An article in the July 21 Salt Lake Tribune alerted the general populace to the growing controversy. A church spokesman told the newspaper that the general authorities are seeking “to identify, interview and propose retired couples and others who have been selected and carefully screened by their bishops to meet established missionary housing guidelines.”
Those guidelines include a home environment that “protects missionaries from watching TV and videos/DVDs, playing video games, listening to inappropriate music and using computers.” The innovative program, authorities state, “is built on the principles of sacrifice and consecration.” But even good Mormons are wondering if these guidelines might be too stringent. Is home-hosting protection or house arrest? Is it consecration or incarceration?
Good Mormons are now searching their souls and asking themselves if they will answer the call when the bishop asks them to take in a couple of missionaries. (In a related story, church officials are contemplating changing the missionary configuration from two to three, the idea being that triangulation will keep the kids on their toes.)
We at City Weekly thought it would be a service to the community to provide some insight into the controversy by interviewing a retired couple who have already been hosting a pair of missionaries. Floyd and Miriam DeHaan, a sprightly couple in their late 60s, agreed to sit down and share their experience of having missionaries in their home, a spacious rambler in a prestigious east bench neighborhood.
Floyd is a retired Navy commander with a ruddy complexion and an impressive mane of shiny silver hair, not a strand of which strayed during the in-depth interview. Miriam, immaculately dressed in an orange tracksuit, frequently smoothed out imaginary wrinkles in the thigh portion of her pants and intermittently patted her jet-black coiffure as she expatiated on having missionaries in her home. City Weekly:
Generally speaking, what’s it been like to have missionaries living in your home? Floyd:
It’s been a pain in the— Miriam:
It’s been a blessing. They’re such lovely boys. Floyd:
They’re total slobs. They leave dirty dishes in the sink, they mess up the microwave, they— Miriam:
He exaggerates. Floyd:
If I had those kids on my ship, it would be a different story. Exaggerate? What about the bathroom? You never stop complaining about having to scrub down their disgusting bathroom, and how sometimes you can’t bear— Miriam:
I said no such thing. Anyway, these boys are doing the Lord’s work. Floyd:
In the bathroom? I wish they’d do the Lord’s work by lending a hand around the house or pulling weeds in the garden. CW:
Tell us about the actual living arrangements. Do the missionaries have a room in the basement? Floyd:
Are you kidding? That’s where I sleep now, on a cot by the ping-pong table. Miriam:
You had your choice between the cot and the sofa in the TV room. Do you want to trade me the cot for the sofa? CW:
Where to the missionaries bunk down? Miriam:
We consecrated our bedroom for the boys. We’ve got a California king-size in there, and it’s a lot more private and cozy for the boys. CW:
Don’t the guidelines specify twin beds or bunk beds? Floyd:
Bishop Harlow—he’s the one who pressured us into taking in the missionaries—came over and looked at the bed situation and gave it the thumbs up. A few years back, Miriam had a chain-link fence installed right down the middle of the bed and the bishop said if it worked for us, it would work for the missionaries. CW:
What about TV and the Internet? Floyd:
Supposedly verboten, but the TV’s warm when we come home from our dancing class at the senior center. But what really bugs me is all the time they spend playing ping-pong. It’s hard for me to sleep with the pinging and ponging. CW:
Has your testimony been strengthened? Miriam:
It burns in my bosom. Floyd:
I’m joining a monastery.