Mr. Burke introduces his story with a brief discussion of Mitt Romney's service as a missionary, and quotes him as saying:
“On a mission, your faith in Jesus Christ either evaporates or it becomes much deeper,” Romney later said. “For me it became much deeper.”The story notes that some 57,000 missionaries are currently serving missions throughout the world, with more than a million Mormons having served since the inception of the Church in 1830. Mr. Burke describes their shared experience:
Most Mormon missionaries endure a grueling regimen of prayer, study and proselytizing. They put careers and college on hold and move to mission fields where rejection is the norm. Some have been beaten, mocked, caught in gang crossfire, even killed. Romney himself was in a serious car accident and roughed up by a team of soused rugby players.
And yet, many Mormons say their faith flourished during the mission, as they discovered a genuine joy in sharing the gospel and encountered one of spirituality's central paradoxes: by surrendering the self, you often find it.
“In a lot of ways serving a mission is like going through a refiner’s fire,” said Rob Skidmore, who recalls bicycling in 100-degree heat and dodging paintballs fired from passing cars during his mission in Las Vegas from 2004-2006. “It’s an arduous process, but in the end all of the impurities have been burned out.”The story is well-written and fair, and worth a read. You can find it here.