"When They Called Us Jie Mei (Sister)" : An Autoethnographic and Narrative Study of Religious Development in Emerging Adulthood
Utah State University
The years from the late teens through the twenties increasingly have become an important area of study. The age range between 18 and 25 makes up a new, distinct developmental period that is referred to as "emerging adulthood." Recent work has suggested that individuals engage in their most extensive identity exploration during emerging adulthood. This study uses autoethnography and narrative biographical material to study emerging adulthood in the contexts of spiritual and personal growth. The study explored adult development among young women serving abroad as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The sample consisted of five women, including myself, all of whom shared similar background characteristics and served in the same mission. Interviews were conducted in which participants gave a unique description of their LDS mission experiences while responding to open-ended questions. Data analysis was done by gathering participants' stories and then "restory (ing)" them into a framework that made sense. Stories presented here were based on the primary themes identified in participant interviews and my own experiences. These themes included: it was the right decision to serve a mission, development happened through experiencing adversity and through positive experiences, the mission lifestyle either helped or deterred participants' growth and development, and the participants are who they are today because of this experience. Future longitudinal research could focus on how a mission has affected women's lives throughout adulthood, or on the relationship between exposure to other cultures and individual psychosocial development.