Usually I reveal my ignorance gradually over the course of a blog post, perhaps saving the big reveal for the end. This time I’ll get it out of the way up front. I know how spiritual growth and progress toward engagement with the church at an adult level works in lives more or less like my own: high school graduation and transition to elders quorum or Relief Society, starting college and going on a mission (in roughly that order), finishing college and getting married (in roughly that order), and starting a career and accepting adult church callings. What I don’t understand well, despite a need to do so, is how typical milestones of spiritual growth fit into the lives of those who opt for military service.
Certainly I know it’s possible. In the wards I’ve been part of, I’ve known many current and former service members who are devoted church members. Even so, military service typically comes at a critical time in people’s lives, often at the same time and potentially conflicting with the milestones of spiritual progress that I do understand. Moreover, military service typically comes at a stage of life – young adulthood and leaving home for the first time – and often holds greatest appeal for a demographic – young men – at heightened risk of drifting off into inactivity. So I have questions.
- What can families and wards do to encourage young people entering military service to remain active?
- What resources are available to support enlisted military personnel and their families?
- What’s the best approach to a mission, anyway? Both for those who can serve before or after their time in the military, and for those whose careers all but preclude missionary service?
- How do the typical hallmarks of church engagement – missions, priesthood ordination, temple endowment, and marriage, among others – fit in with the typical path of 2-6+ years of military enlistment following high school graduation?
I would be grateful for comments, useful links, and information about what has worked for you or people you know.