The Unauthorized Investigator's Guide to
The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints

Advice For Mormon Missionaries

Are you planning on going on a mission in the relatively near future?  If you are, you've probably already learned the following:

People with missionary experience love to give advice to new missionaries.

Here is my advice for Mormon missionaries and prospective missionaries who may be reading this.  Thank you for indulging me.

  1. Be your companion's best friend.  A missionary was once telling me about an experience he had with one of his companions.  His companion asked him why he seemed so quiet and depressed.  He replied, "The truth is, you aren't the kind of guy I'd choose to hang out with, if I had the choice."  The truth is, most of your companions aren't going to be the ones you'd choose to be companions with.  But the reality of missionary life is that that isn't a choice that you get to make.  But there is a choice you do have: you can choose to be an outstanding friend to the companion you are assigned to, or you can choose to endure the companionship the best you can and hope your next companion is better.  My advice is to chose the former.  Figure out how to be genuinely excited to be companions with every companion.  Figure out how to make them feel that if you had the choice, he is the companion you'd want to be with.  Be genuinely and endlessly curious about every chapter of their life leading up to you guys being stuck together.  In other words, do everything humanly possible to make the person who you spend all of your time with your best friend in the whole world.  At least for the time you spend together.
  2. Have empathy for your companion.  A couple of months before I finished my mission, I was assigned two brand-new missionaries.  I was the official trainer to one missionary, and the other missionary was temporarily assigned to our companionship while he waited for his Mexican visa.  The other missionaries in the zone called us "Loomis and the greenie squad."  What was so interesting about this threesome was that one of the greenies thought I was an unbearably lazy and trunky underachiever, while the other thought I was an exceedingly zealous workaholic.  What I learned is that people interpret the rules differently and have different valid and sincere ideas for how missionary work should be conducted.  You've got to figure out a way to harmonize your personal views of ideal missionary life with those of your companion.  Offer lots of suggestions for how you spend your time but also be flexible and try to do the things your companion wants to do, too.  And whatever choices you come to as a companionship, make the best of it and don't complain about it or resent it. Don't expect your companion to conform to doing everything that you want to do, and don't bear a grudge that your companion is different than you.
  3. Write in your journal about people and thoughts.  Only write about events when something interesting happens.  Don't waste your time writing about the boring, repetitive, and mundane drudgeries of missionary life.  Rather, focus your journal on thoughts and the people you meet.  Every day, choose to focus on a single person.  Tell about how you met them, what they are like, what their ideas are, and what you talk about when you are with them.  Record in your journal their address and phone number in case you want to send them a letter or Christmas card down the road.  You could even have them write a little message in your journal to help you remember them.  And also record your ideas.  Be brutally honest here.  Write about things you learn and what you are thinking about.  Leave a trail of how your thoughts grow and evolve.
  4. Remember that quitting is an option. If your earnest efforts at missionary work great you with the constant companionship of hypocrites and depression rather than with the companionship of the Spirit, do you have the moral right to quit you mission?  That is for you to decide of course, but I believe the answer is an unequivocal yes.  If honest introspection leads you to the conclusion that being on a mission isn't where you are supposed to be, then you should do the brave thing: assert your free agency and go home.


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If you have a question or would like to discuss these topics, I suggest that you go to a Mormon-related bulletin board (here are some recommendations). If you'd like to contact me with comments or feedback, you may send an email to