Conversations about the religious and spiritual life on the other side of fundamentalism
108:  Daniel Lancaster:  The Story and Psychology of a Mormon Missionary in Jamaica

108: Daniel Lancaster: The Story and Psychology of a Mormon Missionary in Jamaica

In this episode author Daniel Lancaster and I discuss  his  book “Iron Gates:  The Story and Psychology of a Mormon Missionary in Jamaica.”  Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 1.46.40 PM

Daniel Lancaster did what thousands of young Mormons will do every year – serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).  Daniel’s autoethnography is a narrative about that experience – the way he understood it 10 years later – with the training and eye of a psychotherapist. His is a story about grief, growth, spirituality, and human connection; all set in the backdrop of a tropical island that juxtaposes so much of what the LDS faith has come to be known for.   Daniel’s intention was to create an honest dialogue about missionary service, and  to acknowledge the reality of mission-related trauma, which is experienced by so many but spoken of by so few.



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  1. JLH

    I really enjoyed this podcast. I loved the dialogue about embracing complexity. And, as a psychologist in training, I appreciated Daniel’s psychological insights, which can really help us understand our experiences and create a cohesive narrative. I may pick up the book.

    I don’t know that I would say my mission was traumatic but there were certainly elements that I questioned. As a sister missionary, I was outside the hierarchy (in a sense), and yet it determined my role as a missionary. The result was a gradual loss of self and a growing resentment for the patriarchal structure of the Church. I still remember my mission president telling the elders at zone conferences that the harder they worked, the more beautiful their wives would be. He said this while refusing to look at the sisters sitting in the pew in front of him.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the discussion on complexity. It’s probably the single most important item that I would like to stress about all of this. As you noted, labeling your mission as traumatic may not be relevant, but you definitely experienced some psychospiritual blows from your service (courtesy, among other things, of the patriarchy–which is why I noted my belief that sister missionaries may be at greater risk of mission trauma than young men are). My biggest drive in writing this book is to hope for a more complex and genuine discussion of missionary service. Thank you for your commentary.

  2. Kendrick

    Very enlightening interview. I was a missionary in Jamaica and knew Daniel and respected his dimeanor and his genuine love for what he did. I still have a beautiful maroon poly tie he gave me the day he went home. I can say my experience was very similar and I still am tying to do my best to process it all. Amidst all the discrepancies of church protocol and unintended authority blunders that missions create, I gained a greater awareness of what a true disciple of Christ should be by analyzing the various complexed details of my mission as Daniel explains in this interview. Thanks for putting it out there. Nuff respect

  3. Charles

    Great interview. I wanted to comment on one of Gina’s questions regarding the frequency of missionary transfers. I’m sure keeping things fresh to keep baptism rates up has something to do with it like Daniel indicated, but I think it has more to do with logistics.

    In my mission we had 300 missionaries with anywhere between 6 to 30 missionaries arriving from the MTC or going home every 6 weeks. If a departing missionary is training during his last transfer, the mission president can’t replace him with a brand new missionary from the MTC. He would transfer a different missionary with more experience into that companionship. The mission president also has to address companionships where missionaries are writing to the president every week asking for a change, or where there are major disobedience issues. All this creates a domino effect and they end up changing half the companionships in the mission each transfer. I know missionaries like to think the mission president is fasting and praying about their assignments, but it’s really not that inspired.

  4. Ophelia

    Good interview, but if you’re going to share facts about the cultural compenents of a society that differs from yours, please get the facts straight. This is particularly important when describing an African-descended population towards whom many hold conscious or unconscious bias.

    Patois or “patwa”, the spoken dialect, is not some mumbo jumbo crazy hybrid of Spanish and mysterious native languages. It is simply derived from English–the English spoken by slave owners from Great Britain, often with African dialectic construction. Enslaved Africans were transported to Jamaica in the same way they were brought to North and South America.

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