While once trying to explain to a non-Mormon friend why missionaries had such a strict dress code, I talked about showing respect for others, about norms of economic equality between rich and poor missionaries, but none of it seemed to register. Finally I said, “Look, becoming a missionary is like joining the Army. They have a collective goal, and everything is focused on that goal, to the point where things that you might otherwise find bothersome really don’t matter. If you are so concerned about individuality that you resent having to wear a uniform, then you are probably out of place there.” That made sense to him.
That sparked a years-long reflection on my part about how many aspects of Christianity in general, and Mormonism in particular, make more sense if you remember the words of the hymn, “We are all enlisted ’til the conflict is o’er.” As I’ll explain in more detail below, points of doctrine or Church history that might be troubling and confusing become less so when one realizes that we are in a spiritual war.