M. Russell Ballard’s “Raising the Bar” address was delivered in the October 2002 general conference. (Yes, it was that long ago, and yes, you really are that old.) The quote everyone seems to use from it is:
Please understand this: The bar that is the standard for missionary service is being raised.To my mind, though, the most interesting thing was stated very near the end of the address (emphasis added):
Upon you bishops and you stake presidents rests the responsibility to recommend only those young men and women whom you judge to be spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to face today’s realities of missionary work. Brethren, judge wisely and remember: Not every young man needs to be called to serve away from his home; some may best serve under your direction as ward missionaries.
In my observation, however, this has been pretty much ignored—the goal is still to get every male 19-year-old in the church to serve as a full-time missionary, and those that don’t are viewed as failures on the part of the young men’s program leadership and/or the priesthood leadership of the ward and/or the young man himself (or, possibly most often, on the part of all three). And even if that’s not the view in a particular case, there’s certainly still a cultural bias against a young adult male in the church who opts (for whatever reason) not to serve as a full-time missionary.
And so, as is always the case when i notice something like this, my question is deceptively simple: Why?