Missionary Program

The Church’s missionary program is one of its most recognized characteristics. Mormon
missionaries can be seen on the streets of hundreds of major cities in the world as well as in
thousands of smaller communities. The missionary effort is based on the New Testament pattern
of missionaries serving in pairs, teaching the gospel and baptizing believers in the name of Jesus
Christ (see, for example, the work of Peter and John in the New Testament book of Acts).

More than 50,000 missionaries are serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints at any one time, mostly young people under the age of 25. Missionaries are sent only to
countries where governments allow the Church to operate this program, and where they are
granted the visa designated by government authorities. In some parts of the world, missionaries
are sent only to serve humanitarian or other specialized missions. Those missionaries do not

Missionaries serve on a voluntary basis. If they are willing to serve, they inform their local
leaders, and prepare an application for service that is relayed to Church headquarters. They
subsequently receive an assignment from Church headquarters to serve in one of 350 specific
geographic organizations (each called a “mission”). Missionaries do not request their area of
assignment and do not know beforehand whether or not they will be required to learn a foreign

Missionaries can be single men between the ages of 19 and 25, single women over the age of 21
or retired couples. Missionaries work with a companion of the same gender during their mission,
with the exception of couples, who work with their spouse. Single men serve missions for two
years and single women serve missions for 18 months. Male missionaries are addressed with the
title “Elder” and women are addressed with the title “Sister.”

Missionaries are not paid for their services. In fact, missionaries are asked to save for and fund
their own missions — except for transportation costs to and from their field of labor. Financially
disadvantaged individuals may be assisted by family, friends, or other Church members. In a
church that has only a lay ministry, the time of missionary service functions as a kind of novitiate,
which helps prepare young missionaries for a lifetime of service in their home congregations and

Prior to going to their assigned area, missionaries spend a short period of time at one of 15
missionary training centers throughout the world. There they learn how to teach the gospel in an
orderly and clear way and, if necessary, they begin to learn the language of the people they will
be teaching. The largest training center is in Provo, Utah, with additional centers in Argentina,
Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, England, Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico, New
Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, Spain and South Africa.

A typical missionary day begins by waking at 6:30 a.m. for personal study. The day is spent
proselytizing by following up on appointments, visiting homes or, as allowed by local law,
meeting people in the street or other public places. Missionaries treat the beliefs of others with
respect. They invite interested persons to learn more of the teachings of Jesus Christ, and to pray
to receive confirmation of the truthfulness of what they are taught. Missionaries are taught to
avoid contention, criticism of other faiths, disrespect of local customs, and coercion of any type.
Missionaries end their day by 10:30 p.m.

Contacts with family and friends during this time of service are limited to letters and occasional
phone calls to family at special times. Missionaries avoid entertainment, parties or other
activities common to this age-group during the time they are on their missions, so they can focus
entirely on the work of serving and of teaching others the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When missionaries complete their term of service, they return to their home country.
Missionaries do not serve extended terms beyond their assignments of 18-24 months. The
Church does not have professional missionaries who spend their lives in missionary service.
After completing their missions, young men and women return home, complete their education,
marry and have children, and launch their chosen careers. The training in Church leadership
gained during their mission serves as a foundation for a lifetime of part-time volunteer service in
local congregations. Missionaries typically return home with great affection for the people and
the areas where they served, and they remain devoted ambassadors of those nations and peoples,
often using their acquired language skills and cultural knowledge in their professions.

Additional Resources

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