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

Mormon Missionaries

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, young men are commanded to go on a mission when they turn 19.  Spencer W. Kimball said,

Every young man should serve a mission. It is not an option; it is your obligation (Church News, October 9, 1983).

Going on a mission is voluntary in the sense that keeping any of the church's commandments is voluntary, but the social pressure that the church and its culture place on the kids to fulfill this particular obligation is intense.

The links on this page are my attempt to give a little insight into the lives of the Mormon missionaries.  You'll find my opinions on missionary life are jaded, but sympathetic to the people who find themselves living it.  Have empathy for them.


The Life of a Mormon Missionary:  This is a short story that tries to give the reader a first-hand feel for what being a missionary is like.  Many facets of missionary life are missing, and many missionaries have experiences that don't resemble this. But when many missionaries dream about their missions, this is what it is like.

Why Serve:  Spending 2 years trying to convert others to your religion isn't what most 19-year olds would consider a good time.  This looks at the most common reasons why individuals choose to go.

Objectives:  What are missionaries really trying to accomplish?  Consider this.

Creed: In some missions, the missionaries memorize this creed and recite it whenever they meet.  It both inspires and puts pressure on them.

Rules:  The missionary's life is dominated by rules.  The core rules are in the infamous Missionary Handbook, commonly known as the "White Bible".  There are many rules in addition to these that tend to vary from mission to mission, but these are the basics.

Lock Your Heart:  Mission presidents often instruct their missionaries to carefully study this patronizing discourse.  It gives a lot of insight into the pressure missionaries are under.

Missionary Etiquette:  If you've read the preceding links, you've probably inferred the following things:

  • I really like missionaries.

  • I really don't like the way the church as an institution treats them.

  • I feel sorry for the poor guys.

Be good to the missionaries, please. This is how.

Advice for Missionaries: Like all returned missionaries, I feel compulsions to offer advice to those who are following the path I tread. 

Theobald Pontifex: The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler is one of the greatest novels in the English language.  Read some experts about how the semi-fictitious character Theobald decided to be a clergyman.

Offsite Links About Missionaries

Missionary Life by Spencer J. Condie.  An Encyclopedia of Mormonism article about life as a missionary.

Terror on Flight 789 by William Shunn. Arguably the most insightful and entertaining story about missionary life ever written. 

On Sin and Death: Mission Adventures of a 19 year-old. Even when people believe you, love you, and welcome you into their lives, being a missionary isn't easy.

Should You Go on a Mission? by Michael Carr. A thoughtful essay about some things to think about when deciding if you should serve a mission.

Integrity to Self Brings Peace by Wayne Rayner. A powerful story about life as a missionary from somebody who took his mission too seriously.

Get the Fire! by Nancy du Plessis.  A PBS documentary about the Mormon missionary experience.


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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