What Do Mormons Do On "Missions?"

A friend of mine and her family were just sent to Rome for a year on a “mission.”

What will they be doing? If they’re supposed to convert people to Mormonism, they didn’t give them TOO hard a location, did they?!

Since it’s a worldwide operation, you have to go everywhere. Mormons go on missions to places like Southern California and New York City as well.

But what do they DO?

The hand out literature and talk to people about converting. From what I’ve seen it’s a fairly soft sell approach. They’re mostly there to answer questions (I think).

The situation you describe (the family bit) sounds like a mission president calling (see below).

Mormons (technically The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is famous for sending missionaries all over the world. Most of these serve proselytizing missions where, indeed, the main purpose is to convert people to the Mormon faith. There are other types of missions ranging from humanitarian to tour guide duties.

The most common (and most famous) missionaries are the young men who are typically 19-26 years old and they (typically) serve 24 months. They are virtually all called on proselytizing missions. For young men it is considered a commandment to serve a mission.

The next most common type of missionary is the young women. They have a minimum age of 21 (there is technically no age limit) and serve for a period of 18 months. There is no official church mandate for sisters to serve a mission. Sisters are also commonly asked to fill proselytizing missions although is it not uncommon for them to be called to humanity or tour guide type service

Throughout the world there are around 330 missions and each one has a mission president. This position is filled by a male member of the church who typically lives with his family (children in college etc. often do not relocate with their parents). Mission presidents are each responsible for the missionaries in their care and for the proselytizing and other missionary work in their assigned area. They serve for a period of three years.

The final kind of missionary is the senior couple. These are older (typically retired) married couples who will serve in a number of different types of missions (though rarely proselytizing) These duties range form being temple workers (my parents are currently serving this type of mission) to humanitarian service, to genealogy specialists. The length of service for senior couples varies from a few months to two years.

Disclaimer: The above is my own response and in no way represents the official position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

See also Missionary Program FAQ.

Well they even send them here (Finland) and over 85% of Finns are Evangelical Lutherans. We have about 4000 mormons here. An average Finn will not open his/her door to a stranger, not even if there are two well-dressed young men knocking at the door. And those who open the door will probably not want to discuss mormonism in English anyways. So it isn’t that easy here either.
All About Mormons

“The final kind of missionary is the senior couple. These are older (typically retired) married couples who will serve in a number of different types of missions (though rarely proselytizing) These duties range form being temple workers (my parents are currently serving this type of mission) to humanitarian service, to genealogy specialists.”

—This may be it, as my friend and her husband are both in their 60s (though neither is retired and both are very active in businesses). I certainly hope they’re not in Rome to try and convert people; that would be one helluva how-do-you-do! I did tell her to say “hi-ya!” to the Pope from me, and not to go thinking she’s Anita Ekberg and jumping into the Trevi fountain.

Eve, There are a few different kind of missions. Young men 19-21 and young women 21-22 tend to serve proselytizing missions. There are also special service assignments which are welfare and humanitarian service oriented. Doctors and nurses serve in developing countries, skilled craftsmen serve building meeting houses and temples, agricultural experts teach better food production techniques. There are educational missions for teaching both secular and religious subjucts. There are family history research missions where they help trace their ancestral history. Not all but some of the people who sing in the Tabernacle Choir are on missions. Since it sounds like your friends whole family went, I would guess that the parents are serving as the “Mission President” for an area of the young men and young women missionaries. They are the ‘parents in the field’ so to speak. This is a link that gives a general overview of The Missionary Program.

Here it is welfare and humanitarian service.


When missionaries teach in foreign countries, they typically speak in that coutries language. My brother served his mission 15 years ago in Japan and spent three months learning the rudiments of the language in an intensive language study program before he left. They may also be called to serve foreign language mission in the U.S. We have several missionaries who are serving spanish speaking missions in Houston, Texas.

A few of them (well, one) call in bomb threats to stop their friends from going home.

But I suspect that’s not a technique listed in any mission handbook or endorsed by LDS authorities.

How do the missionaries support themselves financially for two years straight? Do they recieve an allowance from the church? Are they dependant upon donations? Part time jobs? Independantly wealthy?

From this link on The Missionary Program: “The missionaries or their families donate money to the Church to pay for their personal expenses. When his or her assignment is completed, the missionary returns to home to pursue vocational, academic or other personal goals.” Although, I know that in cases where a young person wants to serve and he or his family do not have the resources, the person or their family pay what they can and the church contributes to his/her support while he/she serves.


If they are like the ones I encounter here in Germany, they will be standing around in the shopping areas, trying to convert people. They generally don’t speak the language very well, either.

I always want to offer to send them off to Kosovo or somewhere. The way I figure it, if they (and the Jehova’s Witnesses) were really interested in saving souls (as opposed to gaining more tithing members) then they would go to third world countries or someplace where there are lots of battles. See, if you convert one of those folks, the chances are much better that he (or she) will die before changing his (or her) mind again. If you convert me (or someone else in a peaceful country with a high standard of living,) then I might just change my mind before I die. Maybe I could get converted to Mormonism. The Mormon goes his way, thinking that he has saved my soul. But, I live another twenty years, and my a Buddhist will (by example of his life, not so much by preaching at me) that Mormonism is crap, and that I should become a Buddhist. Minus one for the Mormons.

Of course, it is not about saving souls. It is all about gaining more members in the church, who will donate (or tithe) that much more into the church’s coffers.

I am not singling out the Mormons. Most nearly all “evangelising” religions get me this way. And I really wish that just once, I could hand one of those clowns a ticket to Kosovo. Money is of course a problem.

You can see a little about missionaries in a film called ORGAZMO, which is pretty funny but probably R rated. There was also another video that came out recently about them but it przetalizes later in it, but I forgot the name.

ORGAZMO is a South Park style spoof or the porn industry. The main character in this spoof is a missionary, but the film is not about missionaries and obviously is not an accurate depiction of missionaries. The intent of the film is obviously and intentionally extremely unflattering.

God’s Army is a really good movie. It was not produced by the church or members of the chuch. It is a fair, unbiased and accurate depiction of missionaries and the work they do that I have ever seen done.

I was once accosted by a couple Mormon missionaries.

I was walking along one evening and these two young men were walking bicycles the other way. They were young, probably 20 or so, and they wore black slacks, white shirts and narrow black ties. One of them stopped and said, “Excuse me, do you have the time?” I noticed he was wearing a watch, and pointed it out to him. He changed the subject. He said, “Are you familiar with The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints?”

“You mean the Mormons?” I said.

They looked at eachother, and then they looked back at me, and the guy asked, “Where did you hear that name?”

“From your T.V. commercials,” I said.

They looked at eachother again. Then they introduced themselves. I don’t remember their names, but they both began with `Elder.’ “Would you like to know a little more about our church?” they asked.

“No, but I’d be happy to take whatever literature you’re giving out for my collection.”

All they had was a little card with a picture of some building in Utah on it. I’ve got it somewhere. They asked me about my own beliefs, and I told them I’m a secular humorist. They looked at eachother. I explained, “I make fun of religion.” They nodded.

We kept on talking, right there in the middle of the sidewalk. I asked their views on some of the classic Christian dilemmas: free will, the problem of evil and so on. The usual. But when I got to the issue of God as the uncaused cause, it turns out that both of them believed that God probably evolved from a pre-cursor race not unlike our own. I asked if this was a common Mormon belief, and they said that it was, though they didn’t talk about it much to outsiders, since there was no evidence in scripture to support such a thing. I told them I thought that was wise. Some Christians, I’ve noticed, will get sola scriptura on your ass in a hurry.

Er, does this answer your question?

As a slight aside…

I have a coworker who just got back from his “mission”. He went to Sydney, Australia. He said that all he really did was daily go out, walk around with an armful of pamphlets, and try to interest people in the religion. The interesting part is that his “base camp”, a beach house where he was staying with several other young missionaries, was bordering on a beach where it was ok to go topless. They were all expressly forbidden by the church organization and chaperones from ever going to the beach, because of the chance that they might mistakenly see a woman’s breasts. The sin of temptation or something B) . So anyway, here was this kid, staying for the summer at a beach house, within sight of the most glorious surfing and fun that a kid from Utah could ever imagine, and he couldn’t go near it.

I felt sorry for the poor guy.

Well I’ll be damned. My friend studies Asian cultures and language and has done that for four years. He thought that, altough he is going to Japan for a year to study more this emester, he wouldn’t be able to talk about such complex concept as religion.
Ok I’ll grant that the mormons can say good day and so on in Finnish/Japanese after three months. In my experience they haven’t spoken Finnish when trying to convert someone here. To clarify the issue I’m speaking about the young men who we here associate missionaries here.

I’m fully aware that both Finnish and Japanese are extremely difficult languages. I did indicate that after three months of intensive (speaking is encouraged 24/7, religon/language lesson’s in language all day and additional studying evenings, all meetings held in language)they know the “rudiments” of the language. My apologies if you were offended. It was not my intent to imply that they all become fluent speakers, rather to explain that they make the effort to speak the language of the country where they serve.