Perhaps you have seen them in your area — missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They always travel and work two-by-two, as directed by the Lord.
Generally, the missionaries are young adults. More often than not, you’ve likely seen young men in dark suits with black name badges that say “Elder” (which means ‘teacher’) and their last name, along with the name of the Church. These young adults leave behind schooling, family, friends, and other pursuits to focus on serving the Lord for two years, generally around the age of 19.
Young women also sometimes will choose to serve. They can serve at the age of 21, and their missions last for 18 months. Similarly, senior missionaries serve in different capacities all over the world, also for 18 months. These seasoned missionaries are usually, but not always, married couples who have retired and have made the sacrifice to donate their time in the Lord’s service. Sometimes senior individuals and couples will serve more than one mission. Additionally, there are also married couples who serve for three years to preside over entire groups of around 150-200 missionaries (for example, see here and here).
What is missionary life like? Why do people choose to leave behind the comforts and rhythm of life, family, education, career goals for this service? What are the challenges and blessings of missionary service? With a new feature beginning tomorrow, through the personal stories of Mormon missionaries past and present, together we will explore the answers to these and other questions.
The feature will focus in particular on stories of Mormon women. We will include stories of women who are currently serving as missionaries, stories from women who served missions in the past, and also stories of what is called “member missionary” work — where Mormons seek to share the joy of their beliefs with others in their day-to-day lives. [Edited to add that we’d love to hear from missionary moms as well!] We invite those of you who have any such stories to share to send them to us at gmail, with either of the two usernames: ‘mormonwomen’ or ‘mormonwoman’
We hope that through our Missionary Mondays feature, you will not only learn more about Mormon missionary life, but will feel the joy that the gospel of Jesus Christ brings to our lives, and also to continue to get to know more about Who We Are as Mormon women.
(Don’t worry; we’ll still have our Weekly Question on Mondays as well!)
Following are some videos and links to introduce a little about how missionary life begins.
A mission begins with receiving a “mission call” — a letter from the leaders of the Church, assigning the individual or couple to any of over 300 locations all over the world. The opening of the call is usually a very significant event, shared with friends and family — with lots of oooos and ahhhhs to go around. Often, friends and family will make guesses of where the missionary will serve. You can see some of the different ways this event is made special…surrounded by family and friends, singing hymns to set the tone, going to the temple to open the call….
(The quality on the next video is not great, but it captures the joy of missionary service so well…..)
(There are many, many more videos on YouTube…we had a hard time choosing just a few here.)
Missionaries all attend a Missionary Training Center (MTC) (there are several located in different places around the world). The main center is located in Provo, UT. You can see a few pictures from MTC life here.
After a few weeks in the MTC, where missionaries study the gospel intensively, learn about how to teach and serve the people in their missions, and learn their language (where applicable), it’s on a plane and off to their area of service. Keep checking back on Mondays for more about Mormon missionary life! (You can also read more here.)