The missionary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of its most recognized features. Mormon missionaries can be seen on the streets of major cities, in uncounted smaller communities, and in rural backwaters throughout the world.
The Mormon missionary effort is based on the New Testament pattern of missionaries serving in pairs, teaching the gospel and baptizing believers in the name of Jesus Christ (see, for example, the work of Peter and John in the book of Acts).
More than 50,000 missionaries are serving missions for the Church at any one time. Most are young people under the age of 25, although increasing numbers of retired couples also serve missions in many countries.
Missionaries work with a companion of the same gender during their mission, with the exception of couples, who work with their spouse.
Single men serve missions for two years and single women serve missions for 18 months. After their missions they return home to study, work, raise a family and pursue other interests.
Missionaries do not request their area of assignment and do not know beforehand whether they will be required to learn a language. Prior to going to their assigned area, missionaries spend a short period of time at one of 15 missionary training centers throughout the world. There they learn how to teach the gospel in an orderly and clear way and, if necessary, they begin to learn the language of the people they will be teaching. The largest training center is in Provo, Utah, with additional centers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, England, Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa and Spain.
Male missionaries are addressed with the title “Elder” and women are addressed with the title “Sister.”
Missionary work is voluntary. Missionaries fund their own missions and are not paid for their services.
Contacts with family and friends during this time of service are limited, and missionaries avoid entertainment, parties or other activities common to this age-group as long as they are on their missions, so they can focus entirely on the work of serving and of teaching others the gospel of Jesus Christ.
For many young Mormons, serving a mission is an act of faith accompanied by significant personal sacrifice. In the following short video, Elder Neil A. Andersen describes the experience of Sid Going, a New Zealander who set aside a promising career in professional sports to fulfil what he felt was his duty to God — to serve a two-year mission for the Church.
The Lord’s Church has always been a missionary church. Jesus Christ’s life was the perfect example of missionary work. During His ministry on earth, he taught the gospel at all times, in all places, and to all kinds of people. Jesus taught the educated men in the temple, the sinners, the faithful and the unbelieving. He also called apostles and other disciples to preach the gospel so more people could hear about the blessings of His gospel. Most of their preaching during Christ’s life was to their own people, the Jews. After Jesus was resurrected, He visited His apostles and sent them to preach to the gentiles. He commanded them, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).