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.
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.
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.
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).