I recently read this Businessweek article, God's MBAs: Why Mormon Missions Produce Leaders. So here's my opinion as a former missionary and recent MBA grad:
First off, it would be important to note that there is a disproportionately large number of non-religious people among the educated and wealthy in our society. Serving a Mormon mission does not guarantee success in business or politics, but it can sure help. Nevertheless, it was nice to read such a positive piece about missionaries in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in a major news publication. I'm still rather surprised they would write about such a topic.
The missionary experience is a truly incredible opportunity. From a business angle, you develop keen leadership traits as well as perfect your skills in sales and marketing. You learn how to really care about people and build sincere relationships of trust. You work 16+ hours a day, seven days a week. You study your guts out because you have to know the entire Bible and Book of Mormon as well as other religious scripts and dialogs like the back of your hand. Some lucky missionaries even get to learn Spanish, Russian, Japanese or Mandarin on top of everything else. The best experience of all comes in dealing with and handling objections because you develop the moxie to persist in making that call or knocking on that door after hundreds rejections.
In my opinion, I believe that no matter what religion you subscribe to, when a young man hits the age of 19, he needs to leave home, move far away (a third world country if at all possible), wear a uniform every day, get a short hair cut, give up girls, cars, music, television, movies, concerts, cell phones, facebook and the pursuit of money to live on a very small budget and just serve people - in other words, actually step outside oneself for once and learn some charity. Just imagine what this would do for the world we live in.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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