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Mormon Missionary Experiences and Subsequent Religiosity among Returned Missionaries in Utah

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For more content, please see Le Fait Missionnaire.

This qualitative research examined Mormon missionary experiences and their impacts on the religiosity of returned missionaries living in Utah. Based on open-ended surveys completed by those who served a mission for the Mormon Church, this research analyzed how missionary experiences increased the religiosity of most missionaries, as well as reasons why some respondents felt their missionary experiences decreased their religious level. This paper also examined the missionary experiences of those who later dropped out of Mormonism – why their missionary experiences failed to strengthen their commitment while they convinced others to join the Mormon Church. This paper found that men and women faced different challenges during their mission, and mission experiences also affected men’s and women’s religiosity differently. In addition, although those who served in Western Europe faced the highest rate of rejection during their mission, they reported higher religious and spiritual levels than their counterparts. The paper concludes with the development of a grounded theory arguing that the impact of the Mormon missionary experiences on missionaries’ subsequent religiosity corresponds to a process of maximizing social acceptance and minimizing social rejections among various social groups. Résumé Cet article est le résultat d’une recherche qualitative traitant des expériences vécues par des missionnaires mormons et de l’impact qu’elles ont eu sur leur propre religiosité après leur retour en Utah. Sur la base de questionnaires non-directifs adressés à des missionnaires ayant servi pour l’Eglise mormone, cette recherche analyse les raisons pour lesquelles l’expérience missionnaire a exacerbé la religiosité de la plupart des missionnaires tout en essayant de comprendre pourquoi certaines des personnes interviewées ont éprouvé à leur retour des sentiments contraires. L’article se penche aussi sur les expériences faites par les personnes ayant par la suite tourné le dos au mormonisme : pourquoi ces expériences ne leur ont-elles pas permis de renforcer leur propre engagement alors même que ces missionnaires ont réussi à convaincre d’autres personnes de rejoindre l’Eglise mormone ? Les résultats présentés ici montrent que hommes et femmes ont fait face à des défis différents durant leur mission, et que la pratique missionnaire a eu un impact différent sur la religiosité des hommes et des femmes. Par ailleurs, bien que les missionnaires ayant servi en Europe de l’Ouest sont ceux qui ont essuyé le plus haut taux de refus pendant leur mission, ils ont fait état d’un engagement religieux et spirituel plus élevé que leurs collègues ayant servi ailleurs. L’article se termine en élaborant une « théorie de terrain » (grounded theory) selon laquelle l’impact de la pratique missionnaire mormone sur la religiosité des missionnaires dépend d’un processus qui permet de maximiser les expériences d’accueil favorable tout en minimisant les cas de rejet au sein de différents groupes sociaux.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Behavioral Science, Utah Valley University, USA


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