Sunday, November 3, 2013

NSA Spying and Missionary Work

I have studiously attempted to avoid interjecting United States politics into “Blu Principles,” focusing instead on events that affect the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members. In this post, I discuss the impact of the revelation of NSA spying on missionary work but I make no judgment on the overall value of the program or the current administration.  I don’t know enough about spying to give even a qualified opinion.  Instead, I offer the opinion that the news of NSA spying may have a negative impact on missionary work. 

NSA spying has been ubiquitous, covering both friends and foes.  While our friends don’t mind spying on terrorist groups, they don’t like spying on them.  Ken Dilanian and Janet Stobart of the Los Angeles Times write in “White House OKd spying on allies, U.S. intelligence officials say” that

France, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Sweden have all publicly complained about the NSA surveillance operations, which reportedly captured private cellphone conversations by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among other foreign leaders.

I believe that there are two ways that news of NSA spying can harm missionary work.  First, governments might make it more difficult for missionaries from the United States to enter their countries by delaying or denying visas.  Second, in parts of the world, many believe that missionaries are an extension of the United States government working for the CIA.  I learned of this rumored relationship while in the Mission Training Center learning Spanish, the gospel and correct comportment.  We were taught that never, under any circumstance to insinuate that we worked with the CIA.  When I arrived in Argentina, I asked my Zone Leaders about this guidance suggesting that nobody would believe that the U.S. government would hire twenty year old men with limited capacity to speak Spanish and who wear what amounted to easily identifiable uniforms as spies.  They repeated the instructions that I had received earlier not to joke or insinuate that missionaries worked for the CIA.

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