We’ve all seen them: young men in dark suits, white shirts, and ties, often on bicycles or walking the streets of our hometowns. Or perhaps we’ve answered the door to find a pair of young women in conservative skirts and shoes, scriptures in hand, offering to share a message about Jesus Christ. Missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes called the “Mormon Church” by the media, come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and ages, but they all have one thing in common: a burning desire to share their love for their Savior, Jesus Christ, and the knowledge they have of His gospel as taught by His Church on the earth today.
Who can Be a Mormon Missionary?
Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are encouraged to serve missions at various times during their lives. Mormon young men are taught from an early age that the Lord wants them to serve a mission when they reach the age of 19 if they are physically and financially able to do so. They spend their teenage years preparing for their missions by studying the scriptures, getting a good education, and saving their money so they can afford to spend two years spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ during their young adulthood. Young women, also, frequently prepare for and serve missions, although they must be 21 years of age to receive a mission call and typically only serve for 18 months. Other Mormon single adults often serve as missionaries, as do older couples. All missionaries serve as unpaid volunteers and are responsible for their own expenses during their missions, although family members, friends, and congregations frequently contribute to the cause.
Missionaries serve throughout the world, wherever they are allowed to preach. There are more than 50,000 full-time Mormon missionaries serving today. Many serve in their own countries, speaking their native languages; others travel across the world to preach the gospel in one of many foreign languages, which they may learn in as little as four to eight weeks in an immersive course offered at one of several missionary training centers throughout the world. Some missionaries go from door to door, teaching anyone who would like to listen. Some missionaries serve as tour guides at church historical sites, or in visitors centers. Some missionaries serve in temples, or mission offices. Still others serve humanitarian missions, reaching out to improve others’ lives by offering medical care or other expertise.
If you were to ask missionaries why they serve, all would mention their love for the Lord, Jesus Christ, and their desire to help others of God’s children feel His love for them. Missionaries teach the basics of the gospel of Jesus Christ: faith, repentance, baptism by immersion, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. They teach that keeping God’s commandments leads to happiness and peace in this life and in the life to come. Mormon missionaries also teach about the restoration of the original Christian church, as organized by Jesus and by His apostles, through the modern-day prophet Joseph Smith. Missionaries introduce the teachings of modern prophets as well, and the teachings about the Savior found in The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which is the religious record of an ancient people who lived in the Americas both before and during the time of Christ’s mission on the earth. Missionaries know that by understanding the truth about Jesus Christ, God’s children on the earth today can make the choices that lead to happiness and peace.
Mormon missionaries feel a deep love for the people they seek to serve. Far away from home and family, they have left behind jobs and education, recreation and romantic interests to labor daily at their own expense to share the gospel of Christ. Nothing makes a missionary happier than to have the chance to testify to you. The next time you see missionaries, think about inviting them in. Offer them a drink or a sandwich, and listen to what they have to say. It will make their day–and it just might make yours as well.