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10 Tips for Preparing Missionaries

young men preparing missionariesWhile the Lord expects each young person to do his or her own part to prepare spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially for missionary service, preparing missionaries should also be a high priority for parents and Church leaders. Parents should give special attention to helping their boys prepare to serve a full-time mission. Bishops, youth leaders, and other Church members also have an important role in helping young men and women qualify for missionary service.

The following 10 tips will help give guidance to parents and Church leaders in preparing missionaries:

  1. Desire: Work with young men beginning at an early age to help them develop the desire to serve a mission. One of the best ways to do this is to help them gain a testimony of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Hearing mission stories, from your own life or the experiences of others, is another powerful way to bring the spirit of missionary work. See one of my many article on motivating missionaries or check out my presentation on Gaining a Desire to Serve a Mission.
  2. Worthiness: Help young men and women to always remain worthy to serve a mission. Help them to know the commandments and be committed to obeying them, and pay particular attention to the law of chastity. Also help them know that the Lord is very willing to forgive when we make mistakes, and help them to understand the repentance process.
  3. Expectations: Teach young people what will be expected of them when they serve missions. Teach them about the mission rules and the schedule missionaries keep. Teach them about mission life and help them understand the missionary guidelines regarding personal conduct, language, dress and grooming, media, and communications to family and friends.
  4. Purpose: Help future missionaries to understand the doctrinal basis of missionary work and what their purpose will be as missionaries. That purpose is to: “Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”
  5. Seminary: Encourage youth to attend seminary. Seminary is available in just about every corner of the globe and will teach our youth important basic doctrines of the restored gospel and help them develop their testimony of the Savior.
  6. Leaders: If you are a bishop or stake president, the handbook encourages your to call youth leaders who love missionary work and will help the youth learn to love it as well. It also says to invite returned missionaries to speak about missionary work often in sacrament meetings and on other occasions.
  7. Service and Teaching: Provide opportunities for prospective missionaries to serve others, including serving in Church callings. Young men should serve as home teachers. The new youth curriculum also gives young men and women many opportunities to teach which will help them become better missionaries.
  8. Mission Prep Class: If possible, have the youth take a missionary preparation class. Most wards and stakes offer this class, and it is also taught in Institute. The main source material for the mission prep class is the scriptures, the Missionary Handbook, and Preach My Gospel. Young men and women should study these materials thoroughly as they prepare for their missions.
  9. Scriptures: A large part of mission preparation includes studying the gospel and gaining a personal testimony. Young people should read the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great price, and especially the Book of Mormon and have a testimony that these books contain the revealed word of God.
  10. Share: Encourage young people to share the gospel with their friends and family. As they open their mouth, share the gospel, and become missionaries in their everyday life, they will be blessed and see how the gospel blesses others. They will catch the spirit of missionary work and become great representatives of the Lord.

Mission Rules: The Missionary Handbook

Missionary HandbookThe Missionary Handbook documents the mission rules for full-time LDS missionaries. Obeying these rules will keep you safe as a missionary, and will help you be more productive and successful.

The Missionary Handbook is one of the main resources youth, parents, and priesthood leaders should use in preparing youth for the mission field. The LDS Church Handbook even instructs bishops to review the guidelines in the Missionary Handbook with each missionary candidate to make sure they understand and are committed to obey the mission rules. The Missionary Handbook outlines the rules on language, dress and grooming, music and media, finances, communicating with family and friends, and other behaviors and expectations of missionaries.

You can download the Missionary Handbook in PDF format from LDS.org or you  can buy the Missionary Handbook for $1 at store.lds.org. Let’s briefly talk about the major sections of Missionary Handbook.

Your Calling

The first section of the Missionary Handbook reinforces the sacred nature of your calling. As a missionary, you have been called of God by a prophet and set apart to represent the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church. Your purpose as a missionary is to “invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end” (Preach My Gospel, p. 1). How great is your calling! You will be a successful missionary as you internalize this purpose and more fully understand and fulfill your calling.

Missionary Conduct

Brigham Young once said to missionaries, “Let your minds be centered on your missions.” The mission rules help you to do that. As a missionary, you should conduct yourself at all times in such a way that everyone who sees you will recognize you as a representative of Jesus Christ.

  • Language: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29). As a missionary, you should avoid slang and inappropriately casual language, even in your apartment with your companion. Refined, dignified language will identify you as a servant of the Lord.  You should refer to other missionaries as “Elder” or “Sister” and their surnames, not by their first names, nicknames, or surnames alone.
  • Dress and Grooming: A missionary’s appearance is often the first message others receive, and it should support what you say. Therefore, you will be expected to wear conservative, professional clothing that is consistent with your sacred calling. Be neat and clean. Never allow your appearance or your behavior to draw attention away from your message or your calling.
  • Schedule: Time is one of the most precious resources Heavenly Father has given you. This period when you are able to serve the Lord with all your time is extremely short. Use it fully and wisely, and follow the Missionary Schedule.
  • Study: “Treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85). Follow the guidelines for personal and companion study each morning. Focus your study on the scriptures and the approved missionary reading list. If you are learning a new language, study it throughout your mission to improve your communication skills.
  • Preparation Day: Use preparation day to take care of personal needs, such as writing to your family, washing clothes, getting a haircut, cleaning your apartment, shopping, and washing your car. P-day ends by 6:00 p.m after which you should proselyte until the end of the evening.
  • Communicating with Family: Write to your family each week on preparation day and share your spiritual experiences. If approved in your mission, this can do this over email. You are allowed to call your parents twice a year, on Christmas and Mother’s Day. Visits from family members, friends, and acquaintances are against Church policy.
  • Entertainment: To keep your focus on the Lord and the missionary work, you should avoid worldly entertainment. You should not watch television, go to movies, listen to the radio, or use the Internet (except to communicate with your family or mission president). You may only listen to music that is consistent with the sacred spirit of your calling.
  • Law of Chastity: You are expected to strictly obey the law of chastity, which forbids sexual relationships of any kind outside of marriage between husband and wife. Always be with your companion and this will help protect you.
  • Your Companion: “Ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two, in my name, lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump” (D&C 42:6). It is extremely important that you stay with your companion at all times. This is the pattern established by the Lord.  The testimonies of two companions support each other in bearing witness of the truth. The only times you should be separated from your assigned companion is when you are in the bathroom.
  • Relationships with the Opposite Sex: Never be alone with, flirt with, or associate in any other inappropriate way with someone of the opposite sex. You and your companion should not visit or accept rides from individuals of the  opposite sex unless another responsible adult of your own sex is also present.
  • Community Service: “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). You should look for opportunities to serve those around you—investigators, Church members, your companion, and the people you meet. You should seek opportunities for service projects in the community each week. Although you should serve out of a sincere desire to help others, look for teaching opportunities that arise from your service.

Physical and Temporal Well-Being:

  • Finances: The money you receive on your mission is sacred because it represents sacrifices by you, your family, and others. Budget your money and spend it wisely. Use your monthly mission allowance for rent, groceries, personal grooming items, laundry, cleaning supplies, haircuts, postage, and transportation. Keep a reserve fund with enough cash that you could travel to mission home if you were not able to obtain money through the normal way. Read this article for more info on the LDS Mission Cost.
  • Housing: Your housing should be safe, clean, and economical and allow you to maintain privacy and the dignity of your calling. Clean your apartment each p-day or as needed. Follow maintenance guidelines established by your mission president and your landlord. Your mission president or others he assigns will inspect your living quarters regularly.
  • Bicycles: If you ride a bicycle, learn bicycle safety rules, use caution, obey all traffic rules, and use proper hand signals. Avoid riding after dark, in heavy traffic, or in bad weather. Always wear a helmet. Make sure your bicycle has a working headlight and taillight and clearly visible reflectors.
  • Automobiles: Use of a mission-owned vehicle is a privilege afforded some missionaries. If you do not obey the rules, though, you may lose this privilege. Drive only mission-owned vehicles. Do not give rides to anyone other than full-time missionaries.  Stay within established mileage limitations and obey all other car-related rules such as one missionary being outside the vehicle to direct while the other is backing up.
  • Health: Try to keep in good health so that you can serve with all your heart, might, mind, and strength. Exercise daily and if you need medical care, call your mission president immediately. He will know where the best medical care can be obtained. Visits to a physician or other healthcare professional should be authorized in advance by your mission president, though in an emergency, get help immediately and then inform your mission president as soon as possible.
  • Security: Listen to and follow the promptings of the Spirit, which can warn you of danger. Travel after dark only in lighted areas, and stay away from unsafe areas. Avoid situations that could lead to confrontations such as public demonstrations. Never become involved in political or commercial activities or in discussions or arguments on political or economic topics.

Mission Leadership and Organization

  • Missionary Organization: Your mission is led by a mission president who will help you maintain your spiritual and temporal welfare and help you fulfill your purpose as a missionary. You and your companion will be assigned to a specific area to work in where you represent the Lord and are responsible for doing His will. You are expected to remain in this area at all times unless you have permission from your leaders to leave. The mission president will assign district and zone leaders to help strengthen, support, and train you in your work. He also assigns two elders as assistants to help him plan, prepare, and present training and supervise the work throughout the mission.
  • Leadership: Most missionaries will have the opportunity to fill a leadership role. Among the leadership assignments you may receive as a missionary are trainer, senior companion, district leader, zone leader, and assistant to the president. Leadership assignments, like other church callings, should not be viewed as a way to obtain personal advancement, but rather as opportunities to serve others. Leadership assignments are a sacred trust you will receive from the Lord through the mission president.
  • Ministering and Administering: Leaders should study the scriptures and the teachings of modern prophets to learn the principles of Christlike leadership. They should be sensitive to the needs of others and prayerfully seek ways to strengthen them (see Luke 22:32). Their goal is not merely to supervise or motivate, but to lift, encourage, inspire, and bless.
  • Example: A good leader sets an example of gospel living and selfless service to God and His children. Missionary leaders should set an example in the way they carry out their missionary work. They work hard, obey the rules, and their proselyting area should be a model for other missionaries. Leaders must teach through example how to plan, how to find and teach investigators, and how to work with local Church leaders and members.
  • Attributes: It is important for all missionaries, especially leaders, to live the gospel of Jesus Christ and develop Christlike attributes including love, humility, unity, obedience, and hard work. By exercising Christlike attributes, leaders earn respect and trust, which enable them to help those they serve.
  • Companion Exchanges: Exchanges are when missionaries switch companions for training purposes. They should not be used just to change companions or to get together with a friend. During the companion exchange, the leader should take part in as many aspects of missionary work as possible, including finding, teaching, studying, and daily planning. In a spirit of love, he gives the missionary specific, constructive feedback on what he does well and how he can improve.

Guidelines for Couples and Senior Sisters

Couples and sisters age 40 and older are not expected to follow the same proselyting schedule of younger missionaries, though most of the other rules still apply. As older missionaries, the younger missionary will look to you as an example. Be aware that to meet the needs in your area, your mission president may assign you responsibilities other than those you received with your call. Even if you have an office role or a non-proselyting assignment, all missionaries should seek to share the gospel.

Conclusion

Living the missionary rules found in the Missionary Handbook will help you feel the spirit of missionary work. When you accepted your call, you promised to live by these standards. Always keep in mind the importance of your call and strive to magnify your calling. As you obey the rules you will show the Lord your love for Him, earn the trust and confidence of members and nonmembers, and qualify for the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

“Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the willing and obedient shall eat the good of the land of Zion in these last days” (D&C 64: 34).

Missionary Schedule

Missionary Studying ScripturesMormon missionaries are expected to work hard, be obedient, and keep a strict schedule. Following the missionary’s daily schedule as prescribed in the Missionary Handbook is an important aspect of being in the right place at the right time. This schedule is a major part of mission rules and obeying these rules as a missionary will keep you safe and blessed. Abiding by the schedule will also help you to do the things you are supposed to do at the times you are supposed to do them. Here’s a quick overview of the daily routine:

  • 6:30 a.m. Wake up, pray, exercise, and do other preparation for the day.
  • 7:30 a.m. Breakfast.
  • 8:00 a.m. Personal study: the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, chapters from Preach My Gospel, etc. with an emphasis on the doctrines of the missionary lessons.
  • 9:00 a.m. Companion study: share what you have learned during personal study, prepare to teach, and confirm plans for the day.
  • 10:00 a.m. Language study for 30 to 60 minutes, if necessary and approved by your mission president.
  • 10:00 a.m. Begin proselyting: teaching appointments, finding people to teach, open your mouth, etc.
  • Lunch and Dinner: You may take an hour for lunch and an hour for dinner at times that fit best with proselyting. Normally, dinner should be finished no later than 6:00 p.m.
  • 9:00 – 9:30 p.m. Return to the apartment and plan the next day’s activities. Write in journal, prepare for bed, pray.
  • 10:30 p.m. Go to bed.
  • This schedule may vary a little in some countries and missions. For example, in the Rosario Argentina mission, where I served from 1995 to 1997, we were expected to be out proselytizing by 9am and we had our companionship study after lunch when the rest of the country was taking a siesta (nap).

Missionaries are expected to follow this schedule every day, except on preparation day (P-Day). P-day gives missionaries time to do laundry, go shopping, and have some recreational activities, but it ends around dinner time (6:00 P.M.), after which missionaries are expected to carry out their normal proselytizing schedule.

Even when it is hot, or snowy, or rainy, or cold, it is important for missionaries to keep this schedule. As missionaries do so, the Lord will bless them, for God “doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you” (Mosiah 2:24).

It is important for missionaries to be out of their apartment, meeting people, and sharing their testimony at the most opportune times. If it is mid-morning, 10:30-ish, and missionaries are still in their apartment, then they are not where you are supposed to be. But if, at that time, they are knocking doors, meeting people, and sharing their testimony, then the Lord will bless their efforts and help them find people he has chosen to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

If missionaries linger at a member’s home after a dinner appointment and have been there for long past the prescribed hour, then they are not keeping the missionary schedule. If, rather, missionaries keep their dinner appointments brief, thank the members for their hospitality, and get on their way to your next teaching appointment, then they are working hard and being obedient and the Lord will bless them to be a better instrument in His hands.

Finding Juan Carlos Lopez by Keeping the Schedule

Had I not been obedient to the missionary daily schedule, I would have missed out on many opportunities to meet families and eventually see them join the true Church of Jesus Christ. Once, when I had just been transferred, I arrived in my new area around 8:30 in the morning. It would have been easy to justify lingering longer in the apartment to unpack my suitcases, but by 9am we knew we were supposed to be out working, so we hit the pavement. It just so happened that within minutes of leaving the apartment, my companion and I first met Juan Carlos Lopez, who eventually got baptized. Had we chosen to disobey the rules and not keep the missionary schedule, then we may never had met Juan Carlos.

As missionaries are obedient to the mission rules, including the daily schedule, they will have the Spirit in greater measure. They will be guided by God and be more successful in their important labors.