Articles in this category are about everyday aspects of life while on a mission as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Arriving in Your Mission

airplane-landing-over-city After your time in the MTC is up, generally 3 or 9 weeks, you will travel to your assigned mission. That might mean a drive down the street or a flight half way around the world. Arriving in your mission, for many missionaries, means culture-shock and fear of the unknown. Arriving in your mission as a new missionary is a different experience in every mission and for every missionary. But usually your mission president will see to it that you are properly oriented and taken care of when you arrive.

I recently wrote about the MTC when my brother, Michael, had just entered there.  Now he has left the MTC and he arrived in Poland this week.  Michael’s mission president took time to write about his arrival and the various activities he and the other new missionaries went through when they first arrived in the country. I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast Michael’s experience arriving in Poland with my experience arriving in my mission in Argentina.Misionaries-Warsaw-Castle-Old-Town2

Arriving in the Poland, Warsaw Mission

From Torben Engbjerg, President of the Poland Warsaw Mission: “The new group of missionaries was met at the Frederic Chopin Airport here in Warsaw by my wife and I and our Assistants. Everyone seemed very excited to be here. We followed our normal procedure when receiving new missionaries. After having put their luggage in the mission van and bringing it to the mission home, we took them all to the “Rynek” (old market square), in the old city of Warsaw, where they were met by other missionaries with the assignment to give this new group of missionaries a first impression of street contacting in Poland. The weather was wonderful today, with the first signs of spring, the sun shining, as you will see in the pictures, so everything was perfect for them to have a great experience.

Elder-Smith-street-contacting-Warsaw-Old-Town-2“[In the] early evening we fed them pizza in the mission home, after which they were allowed to retire early to bed, in order to quickly get over the jet-lag. So they are now sound asleep here in the mission home as I am writing this. Tomorrow we are going to have introductory meetings in the mission office in the morning.  In the afternoon the Assistants will take them on a brief sightseeing tour of Warsaw, after which they will be brought back to the mission home for their first interviews, the official welcome dinner and a testimony meeting.

“On Thursday morning we will again take them to the mission office for further instructions and to be introduced to their first companion/trainer, who will come to pick them up from their various work areas. This moment is always filled with excitement and a bit of nervous feelings, before they all go by train, tram, or bus to their various work destinations.”

Arriving in the Argentina, Rosario Mission

rosario-international-airportI arrived in Rosario Argentina in December of 1995. Getting off the airplane I was nearly floored by the hot, muggy weather (remember, the seasons there are opposite those of the United States). Another thing that struck me was the military guards posted at the airport, carrying rifles and looking very intimidating. Two missionaries from the mission office met us (me and two or three other missionaries) at the airport and took us directly to the mission home. At the mission home we got a brief tour of the mission office, a building directly behind the residence of the mission president and his family.  Then the mission president and his wife spoke to us for an hour or so. A couple of highlights from that meeting were:

  • I got gently reprimanded by the mission president for not taking notes. As the meeting began, I was in a bit of a haze, but I was paying close attention to the mission president and his wife.  I hadn’t even noticed when the other missionaries whipped out a pen and paper and began taking copious notes. I quickly followed suit.
  • drinking-water-argentinaThe mission president’s wife told us we could follow the missionary guidelines and only drink filtered or bottled water.  Of course then we’d have to turn down water at the homes of members and non-members alike when they offered us a cold drink.  Alternatively, she said, we could just drink the water, have diarrhea for a few days, then get used to it and then be able to drink the local tap water.  I opted for the second alternative.
  • Lastly, I remember the mission president telling us that though the missionary guide said preparation day lasted until 6pm and could be used to go site seeing, there were no good sites to see in Argentina.  Therefore our p-day would end at 4pm, thus giving us 2 more hours of proselytizing each week.

After the group meeting, each of the new missionaries had a one on one interview with the mission president. In that meeting he told us about our first assigned area and who our first companion/trainer would be.  After that, and within a few hours of arriving in Rosario, I was on a bus, all by myself, on my way to a city two hours to the north called Paraná.  Boy that was a scary bus ride.  I remember at every stop leaning over to the guy next to me and asking him in my broken Spanish, “Es esta ciudad Paraná?” (Is this city Paraná?). He and the bus driver were kind enough to make sure I got off at the right place.

So that was my experience arriving in my mission.  What was yours?

Additional Mission Expenses

mission souvenirsReaders, I need your help.  Many people have asked me about additional mission expenses for items not covered by the normal monthly allowance. I have written previously about the LDS Mission Cost and Saving for a Mission, yet there are uncovered expenses that are not intended to used with the monthly allowance such as photography, souvenirs or dining splurges.  Many future missionaries and their parents are curious about these un-included expenses and would like to plan for them.

I need your help to answer this question in a more complete way for those parents and future missionaries. My mission was long ago, and specific to Argentina of course, so things now and in other parts of the world may be different from my experience. But this is how I would answer the question…

From my experience, an extra $20 to $50 a month would be nice depending on what your family can afford and what kind of souvenirs you intend to buy and other splurges you may want.  It is important to remember, though, that your companion may not have any extra spending money, so you should be sensitive to their situation.

Anything above and beyond the monthly allowance given missionaries truly is discretionary, therefore it is difficult to give much further guidance.  The missionary program is designed so missionaries can get along just fine without any extra money beyond the monthly allowance.  On the other hand, though, it sure is nice to have a little extra cushion, especially for young people who may not be frugal or may not have learned practical steps for mission prep like managing money well.

I’m interested in all of your thoughts, though, so please comment below to add to or correct my response. Thanks.

Mission Companions

Mormon Mission Companion CollageMormon missionaries always work in companionships of two (occasionally three).  The reasons for this are for spiritual and physical protection, but most importantly, because it is a mandate from the Lord.

Why Missionaries Travel in Pairs

The Lord has commanded missionaries, in D&C 42:6, “Ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two.”  Missionaries will be more powerful in their teaching if they work together in unity.  As it says in 2 Corinthians 13:1 “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.”

Senior Companion

In companionships, one missionary, usually the younger or less experienced one, is the junior companion, and the other is the senior companion.  I had a reader once email me and ask the requirements to become a senior companion.  I told him that when a mission president thinks a missionary is ready for the responsibility and is prompted by the spirit, then he would make that missionary a senior companion.  Therefore, how and when a missionary becomes the senior companion would differ from mission to mission, depending on the mission president and the prompting of the Holy Ghost.

My recommendation to this young man was to not worry even for a moment about getting “promoted” to senior companion status.  I advised him to take President Hinckley’s counsel to “forget yourself and go to work.”*   Just seek to be the best missionary you can be, and you will be an instrument in the hands of the Lord.  Obey the mission rules, work hard, enjoy your mission, and it will be a success regardless of whether or not you are the senior companion.

Companionships Lead to Lifelong Friendships

Many missionaries will make friendships with their mission companions that will last a lifetime.  Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, in his November 1997 Ensign talk titled, Valued Companions, said:

“Companionships also constitute the basic organization in the 318 missions of the Church. Just as the disciples of old, our more than 56,000 missionaries go two by two “into all the world” to proclaim the good news of the gospel. In this wonderful work of saving souls, there is tremendous fellowship and camaraderie. When Alma was reunited with the sons of Mosiah after 14 years of missionary service, he “did rejoice exceedingly to see his brethren; and what added more to his joy, they were still his brethren in the Lord.” Missionary reunions are still a great time of rejoicing.”

Companionship Inventory

Missionary companions are instructed to stay together always with reasonable exceptions for showering and using the bathroom. Missionaries are encouraged to learn how to work with and love their companions, but when you are with someone 24/7, it is likely that conflict may occur.  When disagreements occur between companions, they are encouraged to try to work it out them themselves before contacting their district or zone leaders.  Your mission president is also likely to ask, in interviews or through your weekly letters, how well you are getting along with your companion.mormon missionary companionship inventory

One thing missionaries are asked to do to keep harmony in their companionship and to quickly resolve disputes is to have a weekly companionship inventory meeting.  In this meeting, mission companions should:

  • Discuss their relationship and resolve conflicts.
  • Talk through any challenges that might be preventing the two from working together in unity.
  • Set goals to improve their relationship.
  • Start and end with prayer so as to have the Spirit of the Lord present.

Learning to get along with your mission companion will be excellent practice for getting along with your eternal companion (your wife), and keeping harmony and love always in that relationship.

How NOT to Conduct Companionship Inventory

In conclusion, here’s a funny video I found on YouTube showing how NOT to conduct a companionship inventory.


*Actually, that quote is what President Hinckley’s father told him in a letter during his mission.

What is a Mormon Mission?

What is a Mormon mission? On the surface that may seem like a silly question because most of the audience knows exactly what it is already. But I believe, for the benefit of future missionaries as well as for non-Mormon friends that come to this site, it is worth discussing.

A mission, whether religious in nature or not, is defined as “a specific task with which a person or a group is charged.” A religious mission is “a ministry commissioned by a religious organization to propagate its faith.”  Consistent with these definitions from Webster, a Mormon mission is when members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the official name of the Mormon Church) are given the task to actively share their faith with others.mormon missionaries talking to man in street

Varieties of a Mormon Mission

Proselytizing Missions: Nearly all Mormon missionaries serve proselytizing missions in which they devote the majority of their time to teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to those unfamiliar with our faith. All missionaries also spend time in community and personal service to others.  The Church even recently announced missionaries will be using Facebook in their work to meet and teach people. Missionaries teach the fundamentals of the gospel of Jesus Christ:

  • that God is our Heavenly Father, He loves us and has a plan for our eternal happiness.
  • that Jesus Christ is our Savior and only by following his teachings can we receive salvation.
  • that Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Lord’s instrument in restoring the gospel of Jesus Christ after a long period of apostasy.
  • that repentance and baptism are the gateway to eternal life.
  • that through prayer and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God guides each of us.

Young Men:  At age 18, young Mormon men are asked to leave their homes for two years and dedicate their lives to missionary service.  Former Church President Spencer W. Kimball was asked a few years ago, “Should every young man who is a member of the Church fill a mission?” He responded with this answer: “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 then has reiterated that call for all young men to serve a full-time mission.

Young Women: Young Mormon women, called sister missionaries, can go on a one and a half year mission when they turn 19 years old.  Former Church President Gordon B. Hinckley has said, regarding  young sister missionaries, “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)

Senior Couples: When married couples are no longer in  the full-time work force, they are encouraged to go on a proselytizing missions, humanitarian missions, and other types of missions.  Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said this of senior missionaries: “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)

church service missionariesChurch Service Missions, Temple Missions, and Others: The types of missions mentioned above are the most common, but there are a wide variety of other types of missions available for older single women, for young people who for health reasons can’t serve a full-time mission, and for others.  “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).” (From First Presidency letter, Jan. 30, 2004). See my article for more information on Church Service Missions.

Preparation Day

missionary zone activity on p-day

What is Preparation Day (p-day)?

Preparation day (or P-Day as it is often referred to) is a missionary’s once a week chance to do big shopping trips, get together with other missionaries in the zone, play sports, do laundry, and write letters or emails home to family and friends  Preparation day is the one day a week in which missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints get a break from their regular daily schedule of teaching, studying, and proselytizing.

It is called preparation day because it is designed to help missionaries prepare physically and emotionally for the week ahead. P-day, in my mission, was on Mondays, though the day of the week may vary from mission to mission. Preparation day ends around dinner time (about 6:00 P.M.), after which missionaries are expected to carry on normal proselytizing activities.  At least, those are the p-day instructions outlined in the mission schedule in the missionary handbook; when I got to my mission, I found a slight alteration to that policy. 
rosario argentina mission home fisherton

A Shortened P-Day in My Mission

When I arrived in Argentina, it was late December and in the middle of a long, hot, muggy summer (remember the seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere). At the airport to meet us were a couple of the office Elders, and they took me and the other new Elders and Sister missionaries to the mission home located in the Rosario, Argentina suburb of Fisherton. The mission home was big and in a nice area of town and soon we met our mission president and his wife.

The introductory meeting with the mission president lasted an hour or two.  He inspired and uplifted us, shared some scriptures, and reviewed the mission rules, both those in the printed missionary handbook and one specific to the Rosario Mission. One of the mission-specific rules was regarding p-day. In the missionary handbook, it said to use preparation day to see cultural and historical sites in the countries where you serve. The mission president told us that there were not many sites worth seeing in our area, therefore he was cutting p-day short by two hours.  Preparation day would end at 4 o’clock for us, and this would give us a couple of extra hours each week to do missionary work. monumento bandera flag monument rosario argentina

This shortened preparation day was a disappointment to me at first, but I soon realized it wasn’t a big deal. I still had plenty of time to do my shopping, write my letters home, and I even got to play basketball a few times. And though there weren’t a whole lot of cultural or historical sites in the places I served, I did make it to the Argentina Monumento a la Bandera (Flag Monument, pictured to the left).

Conclusion

I hope you future missionaries remember to make good use of your preparation day.  Don’t forget to write a letter or email to your parents every p-day.  By making wise use of your time on this day, you will be better prepared throughout the week to do the work of the Lord.