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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Louise Cole, March 16, 1995. Interview G-0157. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Expectations for men and women in the Mormon Church and its growth in the Southeast

Cole discusses the role of mission trips for young men and women in the Mormon Church. According to Cole, the Mormon Church encourages, but does not require, voluntary service and she describes the difference in mission trips for men and women. Women, as Cole explains, are asked to go on mission trips at a later age than are men because many women may become married, which the Church sees as a more important mission for women. Moreover, she describes the rapid growth of the Mormon Church in the Southeast, and specifically in North Carolina, during the 1970s and 1980s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Louise Cole, March 16, 1995. Interview G-0157. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

PRISCILLA C. MURPHY:
So, you've been in the Mormon Church your adult life. Have you been - and you say they, Mormons demand service - have you.
LOUISE COLE:
No, they don't demand it.
PRISCILLA C. MURPHY:
Well, they put an emphasis on it.
LOUISE COLE:
They put an emphasis on it and they ask you, it's totally voluntary. And you can do it or chose not to do it, it's up to you.
PRISCILLA C. MURPHY:
Right. Right. And in your life, what, I mean, did you do, I think it's a two-year, there's a missionary requirement?
LOUISE COLE:
Oh, the mission? No, uh uh. No, they usually want young men to do it when they turn 19, and again it's voluntary. But my, they ask young girls when they turn 21 if they would like to go on a mission, and usually the women go for 18 months instead of 2 years, and they don't go until they're 21. But when I turned 21 I was already married, so- you know - They feel that your mission as a wife and mother is more important than going on a mission for the Church. That's why they don't have girls go unless they reach the age of 21 and they're not married yet. Then they ask them if they'd like to go on a mission. But young men, they feel that it's really important and part of their priesthood calling, if you will, to go on a mission for two years. And so they're asked when they turn, you know, 18 if they're planning to go, and - um, I think then the Bishop, you know, if they want to go, then they start filling out their paper work about six months before they turned 19 to get all of their physical exam, dental work, optometry work done before they go, because many of them go to foreign countries where there's - you know - not very much medical help.
LOUISE COLE:
And it's also a growing experience for these young men. A lot of them, they go to college for one year, they don't know what they're going to do with the rest of their life, but they do know they're going to go on a mission. They go on a mission for two years, and most of them, um, come back and say - well, all of them come back and say it's the best experience they've ever had, their whole life. Of course, they're twenty-one at this time, but they also - it has been such a growing experience with them, because they have to be with another missionary twenty-four hours a day. They have to stay with another missionary, and - or another member of the Church. And they work, they go out tracting, they teach the missionary lessons.
PRISCILLA C. MURPHY:
Do the girls do the same thing?
LOUISE COLE:
Yes, absolutely, they have to stay together. And there's safety in numbers, and there's the safety factor, that's the reason that the Church wants them to stay together, at least in pairs, and so they - for that 2 years for the young men and a year-and-a-half for the girls, they have to stay together with their companion and they get transferred, you know - they'll go 2 months in one place and maybe 6 months in another place while they're on their mission, but they'll be assigned to mission. For instance, the state of North Carolina, years ago, the whole state was a mission. Actually before that, it was - Mid-Atlantic States Mission - that was actually centered in Washington, DC. And now there are, I think, 4 missions in the State of North Carolina. There's a Raleigh Mission, a Greensboro Mission, Charlotte Mission and a Goldsboro Mission. So I think there's actually 4 missions in the State of North Carolina, now. So it's, it's really - the Church is really growing extremely fast right now.