Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Research on Religion Podcast: "Allison Pond on Being a Mormon Missionary"

About a month ago we posted a story about American Idol star David Archuleta and his decision to serve a Mormon mission. The primary source for that story was an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal written by Allison Pond, a Deseret News editorial writer. Sister Pond is a former missionary who served in Rostov-na-donu, Russia.

One reader of Sister Pond's WSJ article was a gentleman named Anthony Gill, Ph.D. Dr. Gill's CV indicates that he is a professor of political science at the University of Washington, and also a senior fellow with the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion. After reading her story, Dr. Gill conducted an interview of Sister Pond about the experience of serving a Mormon mission. The interview was recorded and published today on the Institute's website. You can listen to the podcast of the interview here.

A related story in the Deseret News describes the interview:
Pond clearly and articulately explains her decision to serve a mission, life in the church's Missionary Training Center, the fears she encountered during her first day of street contacting in Russia and the positive overall experience her mission was for her — including some fun missionary moments. She also speaks about the unique religious world she encountered in Russia, as well as the benefits of her mission experience in her own life. 
"Missionaries are asked to do nothing less than defend a theology, which is really staggering when you think about it," Pond says during the 63-minute podcast. "None of these missionaries have been to divinity school. None of them have devoted their entire lives to this. It's just something they really believe in and they want to share ... and they rise to the occasion to become someone different and more converted."
It's a terrific interview, with great insights into the day-to-day experience of serving a mission, and well worth the time (slightly over an hour). Thanks to both Dr. Gill and Sister Pond for sharing it with us.

And since she's now been featured twice on Elliot's blog in just a month, here's a biography for Sister Pond, with a photo, from The Mormon Women Project:
Allison moved around quite a bit growing up, living in 16 houses by the age of 16 and attending kindergarten and first grade in Mexico City. She completed high school in Littleton, Colorado, and still thinks of Colorado as home. Allison received a BA in Journalism from Brigham Young University and a Master of Public Policy (MPP) from Georgetown University. She has lived in Russia several times as a teacher, a missionary and a fugitive from cubicle life. Allison loves good novels, staying up late and extra sharp cheddar cheese.  
Allison is an editorial writer and columnist for the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah. She previously worked on public opinion surveys about religion and politics at the Pew Research Center in Washington, DC.

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