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

Strategies of Mormon Missionaries


The missionaries are in the salvation business. They work hard to maximize the number of people that qualify to return home to their loving Father-God in heaven. Their creed is the fourth section of the D&C which includes the words:

For behold, the field is white already to harvest; and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul;

The field is white. This means that the world is full of souls that are eagerly waiting to hear the gospel. If the missionary isn't busy baptizing scores of people, it isn't the field's fault--the ready people are there in your area, waiting. It is the missionary's fault for not having enough faith or not working hard enough. And the missionary's own soul is in danger of perishing if he doesn't get his act together and thrust in his sickle harder.

At least that is how I was taught to interpret it.

This page is going to briefly review the strategies of the missionaries in their effort to maximize their harvest.

The missionaries put each of their contacts onto one of three lists. The first list is called the finding pool. This includes everybody the missionaries are trying to persuade to seriously investigate the church; that is their goal for everybody in this pool.

The second list is called the teaching pool. This is everybody who has heard at least one discussion and is continuing to investigate the church. Their goal is to help everybody in this pool make and keep the commitment to be baptized.

The third list is the baptizing and fellowshipping pool. These people are either making the final preparations for baptism or have been recently baptized. Their goal is to help everybody on this list get baptized and remain committed to devotion and activity to the church.

Every week they try to find at least a couple new families to put into the finding pool,  progress a few other families from the finding pool into the teaching pool, and progress a few others from the teaching pool into the baptism and fellowshipping pool and into the waters of baptism and faithful membership in the church.


The missionary companionship sits down in planning once a week and sets 6 proselyting goals for the week. Following are the 6 goals.  I also show the illustrated goals from the Missionary Guide to give you an idea of the desired magnitude of the goals:

  • New families you plan to add to your teaching pool: 4
  • Potential converts* you plan to have at sacrament meeting: 12
  • Discussions you plan to have resulting in return teaching appointments or baptism: 16
  • Nonmembers you plan to schedule for a firm baptismal date: 12
  • Potential converts* you plan to baptize: 5
  • Potential converts* you plan to baptize in the next 3 weeks: 16

They are taught not to look further than 3 weeks into the future. People should go from the finding pool to baptism in 3 weeks. The missionaries are promised that there are in fact people in their area who are looking for the gospel, and that if they work hard and have faith that they will find those people. If they set their goals with prayer and faith, God will reveal to them the appropriate goals, will endorse the goals, and will  then help them achieve the goals. The apostle Thomas S. Monson loves to say, "When you are on the Lord's errand, you are entitled to the Lord's help."

Weekly Planners

The missionaries are supposed to keep track of their time on 8.5 x 11 sheets of heavy paper called "Missionary Weekly Planners" (although in some missions, using a FranklinCovey planner or a Day-Timer is considered more cool among the missionaries). The page is oriented landscape. The front of the page has a header area to identify the missionary, his area, and the week, and then 6 boxes across the top for the week's 6 proselyting goals. It then has 7 columns for the 7 days of the week, broken down in half-hour increments from 6:30 A.M. to 9:30 P.M.

The back of the sheet has 24 rows for up to 24 families in the teaching pool. The columns are for family name, number of potential converts in the family, the source of the contact, the number of potential converts who attended church services that week, the number of potential converts scheduled for baptism, the date for which the baptism is scheduled, and 7 columns to record the contact made with each family on each of the week's 6 days. The back of the sheet is useful to see who is progressing and who isn't progressing, and whether the finding pool, teaching pool, or baptism and fellowshipping pool needs more attention.

Investigator Record

The missionaries have a 3-ring binder that they keep in their apartment called the Area Book. It is meant to be a relatively permanent fixture of the proselyting area. It might contain time-capsule information the missionaries want to leave for future missionaries, such as a map, their favorite store, the day the garbage is picked up, etc. But its main feature is a set of Investigator Records.

Every time somebody agrees to hear the second discussion, thereby entering the missionaries' teaching pool, an Investigator Record is formed for that investigator. It includes the name and address of the investigator, his or her spouse, and names and ages of their children. It has a space for the names and phone numbers of several LDS friends or relatives, the names of the missionaries teaching them, and a space to list "helpful information" about the investigator such as occupation, interests, beliefs, etc.

Every time the a discussion takes place it is recorded on that investigator's Investigator Record. It includes spaces for the date the discussion was given, their reaction to the discussion, the commitments they made, and what the missionaries plan to do to follow-up.

If and when an investigator drops out of the teaching pool, the missionaries record if the investigators read in the Book of Mormon, how many pages read, whether they attended church, and whether they prayed. The missionaries record why the ex-investigator discontinued investigating, and some helpful notes to the missionaries who may contact the investigator in the future, (The example from the Missionary Guide of helpful notes is "Although they claimed to be too busy for continued investigation, the Watkins family seemed to be a little afraid of pursuing their study of the gospel. Perhaps they felt pressured by friends to continue their 'worldly ways'" (Missionary Guide, p. 188))

The Investigator Record is then left in the area book as a referral source for future missionaries, and it has plenty of space for the future missionaries to record their interactions with the investigator.

The Investigator Record isn't entered into a central church database, although it easily could be. It's just a dusty record of local ghosts who have rejected the missionaries in the past. If your name is listed in there, you can expect the missionaries to be stopping by every 6 to 12 months to see if you are interested in changing your "worldly ways". If you drop out of the discussions and want to minimize your future contact with missionaries, it would be a good idea to explicitly request that they give you their Investigator Record on you, and leave no mention of you in the area book. As far as I am aware, I am the first person to suggest that investigators request that their investigator record be removed from the area book, so I don't know how the missionaries would react to this request. I am assuming they would comply, but I would make them come back to give me the copy of the Investigator record, and have them look me in the eye and promise that there isn't and won't be another record in the area book.

Or, you could send the missionaries notarized letters with copies to the mission president and the president of the church ordering them to remove your name from the area book. That might be going overboard, but many Americans are apparently quite uneasy about their privacy being invaded by corporate America, and I doubt that such people would like knowing that the Mormon missionaries are keeping records on them long after the missionaries are told to get lost.


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