Mormon Missionaries

by Keith

mormon-missionariesThe word mission is defined as “an important assignment carried out for political, religious, or commercial purposes, typically involving travel” or “a group of people taking part in such an assignment.” A missionary, then, is defined as “a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities such as educational or hospital work” or “a person strongly in favor of a program, set of principles, etc., who attempts to persuade or convert others.” Consistent with these definitions, a Mormon mission is when members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as the often misnamed “Mormon Church” is officially known) are given the assignment to fulfill the great commission given by the Savior Himself to go into all the world and actively share their faith with others.

At the age of 19 years, young Latter-day Saint (LDS) men are encouraged to leave their homes and dedicate two years of their lives to full-time missionary work: preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. The decision to serve a mission is completely voluntary, and the costs of the mission are covered by the individuals going on a mission or by their families. In some special cases, supplemental financial help to pay for the mission is received from the home Ward or Branch (congregation) of the missionary. Former church president Spencer W. Kimball was once asked, “Should every young man who is a member of the Church fill a mission?” His response to the question was, “Yes, every worthy young man should fill a mission. The Lord expects it of him. And if he is not now worthy to fill a mission, then he should start at once to qualify himself” (From “President Kimball Speaks Out on Being a Missionary,” New Era, May 1981). Every church president since Kimball has extended the call to all worthy, eligible young men, to prayerfully consider and faithfully prepare to serve a full-time mission.

Young LDS women can serve a one-and-a-half-year mission when they turn 21 years of age. Regarding sister missionaries, former church president Gordon B. Hinckley said, “They perform a remarkable work. They can get in homes where the elders [male missionaries] cannot. But it should be kept in mind that young sisters are not under obligation to go on missions. They should not feel that they have a duty comparable to that of young men, but some will wish to go. If so, they should counsel with their bishop as well as their parents” (From “To the Bishops of the Church,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, June 2004).

Married couples who are retired from the full-time work force are encouraged to go on proselytizing missions, humanitarian missions, and other types of missions. Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “I feel a deep responsibility to speak to you today about a pressing need in the Church. My greatest hope is that as I speak, the Holy Ghost will touch hearts, and somewhere a spouse or two will quietly nudge his or her companion, and a moment of truth will occur. I will speak on the urgent need for more mature couples to serve in the mission field.” (From Robert D. Hales, “Couple Missionaries: A Time to Serve,” Ensign, May 2001).

These are just a few of the different types of missions that a member could serve. There are various other types of missions that are available, such as Church Service Missions and Temple Missions. Even older single women and young people who because of health reasons cannot serve a full-time mission are still able to serve a mission if they so desire. Thanks to modern technology and the internet, missionaries who start on a full-time mission, but are sent home prematurely because of health and medical reasons, are able to finish out their mission by serving as online missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The First Presidency letter dated 30 January 2004, further instructed Bishops and Branch Presidents as follows concerning missionary service, “For those [youth honorably excused from full-time missionary labors] . . . , bishops may . . . identify appropriate local opportunities for Church or community service for a specified period of time (usually 6 to 24 months).”

Nearly all Mormon missionaries serve what is known as proselytizing missions in which they devote the majority of their time to teaching the fundamentals of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Missionaries also spend time performing community and personal services for others. These missionaries come from many different areas with diverse backgrounds, cultures, and language differences. Regardless if they serve their mission at home, in another part of the United States, or abroad in a country that is totally foreign to them, the one commonality that they all share is that they have been called by the Lord to serve, and therefore, they are on the Lord’s errand.

keithKeith L. Brown is a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and serves as the Ward Mission Leader in the Annapolis, Maryland Ward.

Additional Resources:

Meet a Mormon Missionary

Mormon View of Jesus Christ

Mormon Scripture: the Book of Mormon

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