Mission rules

A brief exchange with Ardis on the blog got me thinking about idiosyncratic Mission rules.

In my first area, my companion fell off his bed onto his knee and damaged the ligaments.  As a result he was unable to walk for about three weeks.  During this time I tried to read voraciously but by the afternoon I became very frustrated with the lack of physical movement.  In order to alleviate this frustration I purchased a cheap skateboard and began to teach myself some basic tricks. For the next three weeks, in the late afternoon, my companion would hobble downstairs and sit on the step of our flat while he watched me pretend to do kick-flips.  Shortly thereafter, during a Zone conference, the Mission President announced, subsequent to hearing about a Missionary who owned a skateboard, that: ‘Missionaries do not use Skateboards’.

Shortly thereafter, in my second area, I remember being locked out our flat one night. After waiting until 10.15pm, I took a rock and smashed one of the small panes of glass and unlocked the door. Moments later the Zone leaders arrived and were a little miffed.  Once again, a few weeks later, a new rule was initiated in the mission: ‘Missionaries do not break the windows to their flats’.

In both cases I was responsible for these ad hoc and idiosyncratic mission rules.  I am sure that I was not the only one that was responsible for such unique mission rules.  At the same time, I bet there are Mission Presidents who were the source of their own rules.  My Mission President, for example, forbade the consumption of cola drinks.

What idiosyncratic rules existed in your mission?


  1. I was lucky enough to leave on my mission during the month of July. So exactly halfway through my mission we had a change of mission presidents because my first president’s three years were up. I learned a great lesson in obedience, and the differing governance of two very different priesthood leaders. For example, mission president Number One allowed us to do the traditional “burnings” (ties at the six month mark, a shirt at the 12 month point of your mission, slacks at 18 months, and the full suit at 24 months). This was declared anathema under mission president Number Two. Number One allowed us to listen to the local radio station that played continuous classical music. This was also banned under Number Two. And there were lots more small changes like that.

    The one that hit me most personally was “Missionaries Do Not Play Ultimate Frisbee”. Because of the large number of knee/ligament injuries in our mission it was outlawed, and I suppose punishable by death, or maybe just a lack of the Spirit. I’m not sure anyone tested it after Number Two slammed his fist down in zone conference. It is unique though to hear of different rules with different leaders. Aaron, it sounds like you had some real unique ones though where you served.

  2. This isn’t for my mission, but for the one I now live in. We had so many arbitrary changes to how and when the members were to have the missionaries over for dinner (certain days before 6 pm, others had to be with a nonmember and some days not at all) that we decided we could no longer keep track of it and just stopped inviting them over completely. (In our defense, we both work and do not get home before 6 p.m. And we have three teenagers involved in sports and drama.)

  3. I had a companion who asked the mission president if he could use in-line skates (rollerblades). Answer? No. A couple of weeks later some missionaries in that same district, fully aware that the mission president didn’t approve of in-line skating, used a P-day to do some skateboarding. They knew the mission president wouldn’t allow it if they asked, so they simply didn’t ask. Apparently, God has a sense of humor, because the missionary in our mission who cared the most about his looks took a turn at skateboarding and soon had a gash on his chin. He insisted on going to a health clinic and was initially told stitches wouldn’t do any good. He insisted and was given a single stitch.

  4. When spring came and the weather got nice, we weren’t supposed to be able to take off our suit jackets and just go out in white shirts until the mission president gave the all-clear to the mission. Whether we were hot or not. In Italy. Probably the least followed mission rule in our entire mission.

    It was also idiosyncratic for this particular mission president, who was very casual about most things. I remember being picked up at the airport as a bunch a greenies, and the APs had spiky hair, the sleeves on their short sleeve shirts were folded up like many Italians were doing at that time, and they were wearing very trendy pants and very unconservative shoes. The president felt (and I agreed) that as long as you were no less conservative than a typical Italian businessman (who tends to be a rather trendy dresser), you were dressed conservatively enough for the area.

    But not if you weren’t wearing a suit jacket until HE said it was hot enough to take it off.

  5. It was also against mission rules to take a running dive into the biggest and most historic fountain in the middle of Rome while wearing mission suit and tag. (Yes, someone apparently did that, and was escorted away by the police.)

  6. #1 Stan, we did have some strange ones. Although the Ultimate Frisbee rule seems pretty unique as well.

    #2 WaMo, that is so odd. That sort of local resistance is important in such circumstances.

    #3 Tim, people are strange.

    #4 & 5 Lorin, we had the suit jacket rule as well. I would have paid good money to that missionary dive into that fountain.

  7. Too many idiosyncratic and draconian rules wil depress me so I’m grateful for Lorin’s President, who sounds a bit like mine. On one Sunday he visited our Zone in Prince Edward Island (at short notice) – and following our meeting took us all out to McDonalds for lunch. His pragmatic reasoning was that if he hadn’t someone would have to work just as hard (and probably have to shop) making food for us all. He was a true spiritual giant, and didn’t feel the need to control our behaviour in every jot and tittle.

  8. Makes me wonder what the ancient Israelites were doing to get some of the rules they had to live with.

  9. We were forbidden from using the propane heater in our apartment. In Grenoble. In the Alps. In winter. With no alternate heat source, and no blankets.

    We were also not supposed to shop, even in a bakery, except on P-day. Ever try to eat a 4- or 5- or 6-day old French baguette?

  10. Logic that my mission president actually and openly applied:

    1. Blessings come from keeping commandments.
    2. Therefore, the more commandments you have, the more opportunities you have to receive blessings.
    3. Baptisms are a blessing.
    4. By creating more (arbitrary) rules for the missions, there will be more opportunities for blessings.
    5. If we abide by these new rules, we will have more baptisms in the mission.

  11. I was 15 years old when I joined The Church. My parents did not get home until 6pm. One time at 3pm shortly after I joined The Church I was razzing one of the Elders and he tossed me over his shoulder took me to the bathroom and gave me a swirlie (swirly?). So, 2 male missionaries one 19 one 21 were alone with a 15 yr old girl. Lifted her up bodily, made contact, and proceeded to flush her head in the toilet. There were no such thing as rules in the NYNY-N Mission!

    I also served my mini-mission across the river, and the Elders stayed in the Sisters’ apartment (along with 2 16 yr old girls) until 3 am hanging out. They laid in my bed even. But I was not in it at the time. President Rasband (now of the 70) was our Mission Pres.at the time.

  12. We had about a dozen changes of mission schedule. Under my first mission president, we did half our studying during the siesta, right after lunch (about 12:30-4 in the afternoon), because *everything* in Argentina closes between about noon and 5pm. It’s definitely the hottest point in the day. In fact, many businesses – like banks – were only open in the morning, until noon. (There were about a dozen little changes regarding language study and the like.)

    Then mission president #2 came in and, had the assistants not advised some restraint, would have turned the mission upside down in the first transfer, but one thing he did do was move all studying to the morning. Thus, on weekdays and P-days, we had about 1.5 hours of proselytizing before the siesta began. Fixed appointments became a necessity. Then came a series of 20+ “memorandums” that we had to print and place in our area books, such as:

    1. Do not give DVDs to members to give to friends. You must accompany them to deliver the DVDs. Don’t give DVDs to investigators.
    2. Missionaries will not stay for refreshments after baptisms.
    3. District meetings will take place at 11am.
    4. Write your converts every three months using the colored envelopes the mission will provide.
    5. Implementation of different schedules for the summer and winter.
    6. Take a picture of the bishop with his family and show it to investigators. (Actually a good suggestion.)
    7. Find 12 new investigators a week.
    8. You can teach single people of the opposite sex if they’re of a “mature age” and if the lesson takes place outside.

  13. Oh, and we had an hour-long talk once in which it was laid down that you weren’t to drink water while fasting.

  14. I have a long list of these from the Utah Provo Mission. A few of my favorites: Missionaries do not approach or teach polygamists (no joke – an Elder was threatened by a polygamist mafia type) Another: no wearing the WWJD bracelets (supposedly an “anti-Mormon” invented it).

  15. Robby S. says:

    Do you remember in the IDM when President Brighton made the rule that missionaries do not lick plates at dinner appointments? I think I remember him saying something like, “If you eat like a dog at home, don’t eat that way at dinner appointments.” Or something to that effect.
    My favorite though was after the sister’s conference when it was suddenly a rule that they HAD to wear makeup and HAD to shave their legs.
    I remember showing up to the following zone conference, and suddenly there were several sisters badly wearing makeup that I don’t think they had every learned how to apply properly…

  16. sbthatcher says:

    My mission president, who was the head of the Church’s missionary department for years (and, incidentally, came up with the term “Resolve Concerns” in the commitment pattern) insisted that we not wear a red tie because it would distract from our name tag. He was actually surprising “spirit of law” for someone who helped create the white handbook, but red ties were one thing that seemed to bother him.

  17. Of course, there is the rule *in the handbook* about eating with utensils as your hosts do. It seem superfluous for Latin America, where forks, spoons, and knives were used – until I ran into a family that said they’d once fed an (American) elder who ate spaghetti with his hands.

  18. No playing games that represented good and evil — because, of course, some poor elder would have to play as Evil. At the time my district was really into Lord of the Rings Risk for p-day and the mission home was in our area, so we figured it was directed at us. Our district leader, who had never watched a PG-13 film, tearfully confessed that the game made him want to watch the movies, which he’d never previously considered doing, so he supported the rule. I later discovered that it actually originated from a senior office Sister inspecting an apartment who was horrified to discover a pirate-themed game with looting and plundering. Luckily the No Bad Guys rule eventually withered on the vine and a year later a set of zone leaders introduced me to Star Wars: Epic Duals.

  19. During one of the AP’s Zone Conferences presentations we learned that we were never, under any circumstance, to use the phrase “Motherbear.” As in, “Man, that elder tracts like a motherbear!” Or “Holy motherbear, I’m tired.” I’m not sure how it began, but I assure you there was a dramatic increase in use of the term “motherbear” throughout the mission.

  20. I can’t think of a single mission rule my mission president “invented”. Yes I served in mission nirvana! Those kinds of rules would have driven me batty.

  21. “Missionaries do not eat at Hooters.” It wasn’t me, FYI, but I know who it was.

  22. Ah, you youngsters! I don’t recall, serving in southern France in the mid-1970s, anything coming close to these kinds of regulations. Maybe I’ve forgotten them? I do remember driving a Vespa for about a week before switching to a bicycle; going to movies; going to the theater (musicals and plays); biking to a vineyard and touring the underground cellars; visiting art museums and bookstores; accidentially walking through a clothing-optional portion of a beach to get to a branch picnic … I guess we didn’t need as much supervision? Or maybe the new rules are the result of our “freedom”?

  23. My father committed suicide when I was in the MTC. I had a very long discussion with the MTC president about whether I was allowed to go home to the funeral. He eventually related, on the condition that I keep my missionary nametag on the entire time, and pledged to obey mission rules, which included, “no hugging”, even at your father’s funeral.

    Once I was safely 2,000 miles away, I completely ignored this stupid rule.

    I was also told that if a member complemented me on my tie, I couldn’t wear it ever again. We called our mission presidency the Tie Taliban.

  24. i wore the damned hat anyway says:

    It was forbidden for us to wear beanie type hats in the winter even though the winters were long and severe with sub-zero temperatures common (ear muffs and scarves only!). The reasoning behind the rule was that beanies made us look unprofessional (!) and threatening. I disregarded the rule because a) both of my winters were in mountainous areas far in the north of this country and b) because to keep the rule inevitably meant way more time sitting in our apartment convalescing from the latest sickness. One comp took issue with my brazenness and declined to follow me in my rebellious behavior. I felt justified in my choice to disobey when, somewhat sadly, he developed pneumonia and we had to leave our area for a weekend so he could get treatment at a reputable hospital. The MP then made a rule that those in our area must wear full winter hats, whether beanie or otherwise.

    The area authority also announced a new rule he was instituting for us that we were only to take 4 minute showers since anything longer than that was “robbing the Lord.” I didn’t obey that one either but several of my mission friends promptly went out and purchased little clocks to put in their bathrooms.

    Missions are pretty whack in retrospect.

  25. #20- you’re not the only one- I’ve been racking my brain while reading these comments trying to think of rules my MP invented…and I got nothing.

    Well the one I CAN think of was not to go to the hospital or ER without first contacting the MP/wife unless you were seriously ill or wounded (this brought on by a measly sinus infection- one that was not serious enough to prevent the elder from going out and working the next day- the elder thought it was bad enough to merit a trip to the ER in the middle of the night and not return home until 6 am. Without notifying anyone. I say grab some sudafed and some painkillers and deal).

  26. #10-
    Sounds like we might have had the same mission president.

    At one point he got concerned that missionaries were sitting around their apartments waiting for the mail to come and thereby wasting the valuable time we should spend running from door to door, tracting out the unemployed, mentally ill, or welfare recipients who were longing to hear our message. Therefore, mail was ONLY to be read on Preparation Day.

    Gimmicks were another big thing. He lionized the elders who decided to have “John the Baptist Month” – trying for 100 hours of tracting and eating nothing but rice and honey (locusts not being available in the local markets).

    One of my brothers had to put up with a Mission President Wife who maintained that they should all eat nothing but boiled wheat kernals for breakfast.

  27. 1) We had to wear clothes over our garments while sleeping. Pretty tough rule to follow in Northern Mexico where the temperatures could still be 90 degrees at 9:30pm and our apartments did not have air conditioning….or sometimes, functioning fans. Missionaries usually ended up showering with clean clothes on before going to sleep, to help stay cool during the night.
    2) What we could spend our monthly allowance on was heavily regulated. We had many native Mexican missionaries buying electronics in the border towns (cheap stuff!) and sending it home. Or, in some cases, sending remittances to their family because the missionary had a nicer lifestyle than his family. The rules on how you could spend your money likely originated with these issues.
    3) In an ironic twist, we were told to use bikes despite the fact that a) they were quite unsafe b) friends in missions that pertained to the same Mexico North Area were told by their mission presidents that bikes were not allowed in the entire area.
    4) We had to get a Priesthood blessing before we could seek medical attention. It seems fairly common sense, but certain missionaries mistook that to mean their companion needed a blessing before they could go to the E.R. Clearly, the spirit of the rule was to push missionaries to seek a blessing to overcome common illnesses / ailments, not be a step in between getting hit by a car and going to the emergency room.

  28. That the LDS Church is like a cult is amusing – laughable even. That Mormon missions are often like a cult – is spot on.

  29. We went to Christmas midnight mass as a district, and found out later from a furious Mission President that that was against the rules. It was just one of the myriads of unannounced, after-the-fact rules that he threatened to send missionaries home for breaking.

    His wife’s funeral is today. May she finally have a chance to rest in peace.

  30. My son’s zone leaders told him that Mozart’s Requiem was not appropriate music for missionaries, but thankfully the mission president reversed that stupidity.

    I don’t remember many rules in my early 70s mission in Japan–just the usual ones in the white handbook. And, from nearly all the photographs I have, it appears that we had long hair, wide (and loud) ties, light-colored slacks in the summertime, and no name tags.

    Oh, and we went shopping every day–except Sunday. How else could one be expected to survive a long day of tracting or street contacting if there were no treats along the way.

    And, Ardis, you should have taken a 5-day-old baguette to the back of the MP’s head. That would have taught him!

  31. Oh, and that “wear clothes in addition to underwear to bed” rule is beyond ridiculous. If they had a problem with the neighbors looking in the windows, the could have suggested that you close the blinds!

    In the hot humid summer days in Japan, the first thing we took off when we walked in the door, after our shoes, was our trousers. Otherwise we would have died of heatstroke.

  32. My first mission president got the idea that herbal tea was not only bad for missionaries but was actually against the word of wisdom. It took a visit from a general authority to set the region straight.

  33. When I was at the MTC We were allowed to play soccer but not Ultimate Frisbee. When I arrived in the Belgium Brussells Mission circa 1997 We were not allowed to play soccer but we could play ultimate Frisbee.

  34. Wow! I really cannot remember there being too many rules I hated as a missionary… except for one: we had to wear suit coats after 5 PM (in hot and humid Los Angeles California).

    I tend to believe this rule applied all year long (but I could be wrong). Needless to say, there were some nights we would get home absolutely drenched in our own sweat… only to have to wear the same suit coat the next day, so gross.

    Also, when I first got to my mission, the rule for music allowed was pretty relaxed. We could listen to classical or reasonably uplifting music, such as Enya, soundtracks such as Last of the Mohicans and even musicals as Les Miserables.

    That all changed when some Elders decided Pearl Jam was also reasonably uplifting. The result was of course a ridiculously strict rule: only Church hyms were allowed from then on. Yeah, not even those cheesy Michael McLane or Felicia Sorenson CDs were apt for missionaries anymore.

  35. I only remember two rules. The first was that we couldn’t listen to music. Period. The other was that we couldn’t eat at members’ homes unless there was also an investigator there.

  36. racerxisalive says:

    Some of the rules I remember from my mission in the Dominican Republic: No playing dominoes, ever. Supposedly at an earlier time in the mission, some missionaries found it much simpler to stay home and play dominoes that go tracting in the morning (which was often fruitless). No sunglasses except for on p-day, or unless you were driving a car (Sensible, but definitely not the rule in the neighboring mission, where all the missionaries looked like racoons). Allowed music included religious music of pretty much any type, instrumental movie soundtracks, and any Christmas music. No salsa, bachata, or merengue. Also, in spite of the prohibition in the white bible, we used motorcycles as cabs to get around areas fairly regularly.

    I only remember 2 rules that were added in response to missionaries actions mid-mission. 1) While dominican missionaries could continue to shave their heads, or have similarly very short haircuts, the rest of use were not to shave our heads. 2) They eventually banned Elders from wearing hemp necklaces and bracelets, due to some missionaries who would really go overboard on them.

  37. Oh, and I happen to be from Northern Mexico. Wearing clothes over your garments to sleep during the summer and with no air conditioning is nothing short from a cruel and unusual punishment, and is probably covered somewhere by the Geneva Conventions.

  38. Robby S., great to hear from you. I do not remember those rules but they really made me laugh.

    For those who have not yet read Ardis’ post about her MP need to go to her blog now and read it. Maybe someone could provide a link.

    Keep ’em coming. I am enjoying these.

  39. it's a series of tubes says:

    We went to Christmas midnight mass as a district

    Midnight masses at Lichfield and Lincoln cathedrals were highlights of my mission. Our MP encouraged us to attend.

    Advent Sunday services at Lichfield were also amazing.

    And Kristine – if you ever get a chance to play the piano or sing an English hymn or two in the chapterhouse at Lincoln, don’t pass it up. The acoustics are unreal. (FWIW, this room is featured prominently in the Da Vinci Code movie – the cryptex scene)

  40. A big rule change that came about just before I arrived in Japan was that missionaries were no longer allowed to visit the sento (neighborhood public bath). There was an older missionary in one of my apartments who used to reminisce about the good old days when he would go to the sento frequently. One day just before he was to go home, he told our companions that he needed to borrow me for the day for some zone business. We spent a fantastic afternoon in the sento, which became the only time I was able to go to one.

  41. Peter LLC says:

    Aside from a few onerous rules like “Don’t leave the mission!” and “Do missionary work!” I was fortunate to serve under two mission presidents who resisted the temptation to micromanage and reinvent wheels. Occasionally an AP would come along and challenge us to give up time-wasting distractions like guitars, but then teach us gospel principles using the Star Wars trilogy, so it all balanced out in the end.

  42. No basketball. No phone calls home, not for Christmas or Mother’s Day, not for anything. No calling investigators “investigators.” (They were “celestial candidates.”)

  43. Robby S and Aaron R. I do not know who you are, but I entered the IDM right as Brighton was leaving and was trained by an uptight elder who took idiosyncratic rules to a whole new level, even making me a study guide that I had to memorize and repeat to him during companionship study. The mission president transition was hard on him as the new MP immediately did away with all of those rules. He loosened just about everything and implemented a “spirit of the law” regime that ended up backfiring when missionaries started justifying Red Hot Chili Peppers and Boyz 2 Men as appropriate study music. Things quickly tightened back up.

  44. We had a Exactness checklist of about 30 questions, that we were required to keep track of every day and then bring to our interview with the misson pres. Most us just filled it in at the last minute, but the whole obedience lecture was given over and over again.

  45. One of our friends served in a Utah mission about 6 years ago. He contended with a myriad of super silly rules, brought on by members’ concern about The Very Appearance Of Evil. The silliest was ‘no eating intact lollipops’ because the white sick could be mistaken for a cigarette in one’s mouth. Breaking off the stick —and thus risking choking–was encouraged.

  46. My MP prohibited “synthetic swear words” . e.g. flip, fetch, etc. Similar to #19 Motherbear I guess. Also, I recall one of my companions, prior to my time in the mission (1987-1989), getting a loan from the mission office in order to buy contact lenses.

  47. Jeremiah says:

    In Japan in the 90s every missionary was required to eat “mugi” (cream of wheat) for breakfast every single morning for two years.

  48. Crap…I feel deprived…my mission President didn’t have any weird rules. In fact, when he found out we went to meet a local RM at Outback Steakhouse so I could meet Jordan Vajda (some may be familiar with him) or the time we went to mass on Christmas day (because church was cancelled do to snow) all he did was smile and said something to the degree to just be careful. I know we had staunch rules on what we could read, but it was on a case by case basis. He let me read all sorts of things he told other missionaries no.

  49. PS – the Outback Steakhouse trip was after 11pm.

  50. It was basically the white handbook in Japan 20 years ago…don’t remember anything out of the ordinary.
    But I do remember mugi! It was only one area but I remember the apartment getting a regular shipment from the Honbu (mission home) every month. We made all kinds of stuff with mugi, and even took some of it to our investigators as treats (what were we thinking!).

  51. It varies from ward to ward too- in my last ward the Bishop let the missionaries come to my house all the time to have dinner and hang out (divorced mom of three little kids) but my new Bishop won’t allow them to come in my house. Same stake, different bishops.

  52. Amy Tho213mpson says:
  53. Kevin Barney says:

    No. 48, I know who Jordan is; good for you!

    I don’t remember *any* rules from my mission.

  54. lindberg says:

    In Japan in the mid-80s, the only rules I recall that were over and above the “white bible” were that we were supposed by be up by 6:00 AM (rather than 6:30), and no music was allowed other than MoTab. Maybe there were more, but nothing odd enough that it sticks out in my mind.

  55. I had two mission presidents, the first of which had three 8.5″ x 11″ pages of additional rules, some of which were we couldn’t take showers with hair dryers and we weren’t allowed to wear green pants. When the 2nd President arrived and revised things to be just the white bible we jokingly referred to it as going from the Law of Moses to the Gospel of Christ.

  56. lindberg says:

    Oh yeah, and we did the summer/winter switch from suit coats to just white shirts (for the elders, obviously). There, we followed what happened in society at large, with school kids switching from winter to summer uniforms, etc.

  57. hawkgrrrl says:

    En route to a mission conference, I held up our district’s inter-island flight (by only a few minutes) because I was “shooting the moon” in a game of Hearts, and I wouldn’t let them leave until we finished the game. Then, when we got to the mission conference, I shared my pack of gum with all the other missionaries (I was only being polite). The MP started with telling us all that it was unseemly for missionaries to be chewing gum (but bad breath was de rigeur apparently) and that drinking cola and playing with face cards were also against the rules.

    We had one rule that I lobbied to have changed that eventually did change (probably due to a fellow missionary whose dad was a GA, nobody cared what I thought) which was that missionaries who didn’t bring investigators with them to the chapel weren’t allowed to go to church. The leaders would actually police the church to kick you out if your investigators didn’t show up.

  58. I do emphasize with mission presidents. It has to be terrifying to be responsible for 200 young men and women scattered over hundreds of miles in many cases, but I do think the more rules you have, the more disobedience you will have. I don’t think the ones that are mostly about common sense are helpful and invite scorn for legitimate rules.

  59. Long time passing. In Austria after WWII people would go to the Holy Land for Easter and Christmas. I think that the companionship would even tract down the two sides of the street simultaneously. We did not do that, but we went to movies and read International Newsweek and Frankfurter Allgemein. I bought two mopeds, other missionaries bought motorcycles. We picked grapes in the wine harvest. In a famous evening, after a rousing zone conference, my companion and I had no appointments and it was too late to get any, went bowling at the only American lanes in Vienna. One of our best investigators was a young late 20 something woman with whom we played Canasta. We spent a long Sunday taking her to Church, to lunch and back home. (We were way out in the boonies.) Eat your hearts out. We were probably the only elders who saw “Verfeurung am Strand” because I mistranslated Verfeurung as kidnapping instead of seduction, on the beach. We were too chagrined to get up and leave in the middle.

    Rules are made for the lowest common denominator, obviously. Is it not possible to make a general rule, like do not get involved with women on your mission, and let that general rule cover everything? Do rules really stop bad stuff from happening anyway? You would think the good people would stay good, the bad ones will find a way around.

    I do not know the answer. Being a free spirit and somewhat ADD, I like the few rules scenario.

  60. Kevin Barney says:

    hawkgrrrl, wow, I’ve never heard of anything like the no investigators = no church rule. Just wow. As a missionary, I would have strictly complied with that rule, out of spite if nothing else.

  61. Yes, well, also in defense of Mission Presidents, there are pros and cons to each approach. The question is, what kind of apostasy do you want to deal with? I had two MPs, one was a laid-back, hands-off kinda guy and the other was a rule-making hardliner (and an attorney, not coincidentally). During the first administration, the most relaxed missionaries were being straight up ridiculous and sitting around, watching movies, hanging out, etc. During the second administration, the Pharisees took power and went mad with it. I’m sure the Lord notices the same patterns in his children. When he makes strict rules, he gets Pharisees, when he tries to leave it up to us, he gets lots of lukewarm. It’s nigh unto impossible to really strike a perfect balance, especially when strict to some people is relaxed to others.

  62. Wow. The memories these comments bring back. Many of my mission’s rules have been covered by others. But, here’s my favorite. Italy, summer, mid-90’s.

    APs phone a zone leader (a former companion of mine, one of my favorites) in another city to ask him a question. AP’s report back to MP that they need to call the ZL later, since he was taking a nap. MP stares and asks, “Is he sick?” Ummmm, no…

    And thus began the “NO NAPS” rule. You made your bed when you woke up in the AM, and didn’t touch it until bedtime, not even during our 2 hour midday siesta. And I was at the end of a 7 month office stint, during which I longed to be back in the field so I could take a nap during lunch.

    My non-member sister was in a public service commercial that aired in the L.A. area while I was on my mission. She mailed me a copy to watch, and I was made by my DL and ZL to feel like a massive sinner for watching a non-church video.

  63. And, WaMo #2, the ever-shifting missionary dinner rules are impossible to navigate where I live. We haven’t had the elders over in close to a year. Ironically, in our last stake conference the SP exhorted those of us with children to invite the missionaries into our homes so that our children could benefit from their example and experiences.

  64. My husband’s mission president made a rule that no one was allowed to sing “Master the Tempest is Raging” like pirates.

  65. Left Field says:

    We were supposed to go to priesthood and sacrament meeting regardless, but Sunday school was only if you had investigators. Usually, we found a way around it. Some wards had “dry Mormons” who attended regularly. As long as there was a technical nonmember in attendance (or we failed to notice that he didn’t show up), we were kosher to stay for Sunday School. Late in my mission, the consolidated meeting schedule was instituted, and I think the rule was scrapped.

    We went to midnight mass one Christmas at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine with the full blessing of the mission president. I visited services at quite a few other churches. I also went to several baseball games. We only needed permission if we had to leave our area or stay out late. Shea Stadium was in my area for awhile, so we could see the Mets without needing permission whenever they had a day game on preparation day.

  66. kamschron says:

    A rule against climbing volcanoes was briefly discontinued but had to be revived after a missionary became lost on a volcano trek. He suffered some minor injuries along the way, but he luckily had survival skills that helped him to stay alive while a rescue party of his fellow missionaries searched for several days before finding him.

  67. These have been hilarious. I love hearing about all the crazies in the church who think the most obscure things are important.

    In the ward I live in right now, the missionaries have some tight regulations on dinner appointments. I also know for awhile they were not allowed to wear anything over their suit jackets. I live in the Pacific Northwest, which means fairly cold winters, but more importantly, constant rain. Poor elders were always cold and wet.

  68. To switch gears here, BYU-Hawaii had a rule where your shorts had to be at the middle of the knee. It got so bad that students would undo their belts before entering any building. No one could ever figure out just where the middle of the kneecap was.

  69. Our mission rules:

    Drink whatever cola the people living in a township brought you…don’t bring up whatever obscure thing you think supports no caffeine.

    Don’t have more than one full day fast a month…but you may fast for a few hours here and there for specific investigators.

    Specific to me and my companion…we were required to take a nap every day…this may or may not have been related to an accidental fire that we didn’t cause,did put out, but were too tired to be even slightly concerned about.

    He was very spirit of the law which is surprising…they opened our mission with him to fix some very specific, very bad problems with missionaries in the area.

    We had a fabulous mission president. He caught an extremely rare disease on his mission and died shortly after he went home.

  70. Bonjo I would love to have the missionaries over for dinner- my sons have even asked why they don’t come over anymore. I can’t bring myself to tell them it’s because the church believes their mother cannot be trusted around 19 year old boys, even with her children present.

  71. No really crazy rules that I remember. The seasonal suit jacket rule was one when I got to the mission. There were fixed days. Our MP reminded us during a zone conference in a friendly way. I had never heard it and I do not know if anyone in our district even knew about it either.
    In South America, we had some food and health rules that were well outside of the white bible, but reasonable for 20 year old gringos that did not know a lot about the subjects. Both my MPs became GAs.

  72. I must’ve gotten lucky in Finland. Almost all the elders I worked with were very obedient, and we were allowed to strip naked for priesthood sauna, followed by a dip in a mostly frozen lake.

  73. emh: That no rain coat rule is cruel and unusual. I know, I live in the region. I wouldn’t stand for my son having to follow such a ridiculous rule. In fact, I would probably travel to the mission to personally give the president a piece of my mind.

  74. I served in La Paz Bolivia in the late 90’s. Our mission was not known for rules but for a lack there of. After a few months most were made aware that the only real rule was “don’t have sex”. Most things up until said rule happened (use your imaginations) and nobody was sent home. Examples: kissing a girl you recently baptized, becoming a dentist, heavy drinking, locking up your new gringo companion in your room so you could go clubbing, dissapearing for 3 days, finding out you fathered a child several years before the mission. Our mission president also went on hunting trips in the Amazon to shoot wild boar. I slept in a sleeping bag my whole mission, proselyted jeans, gave animals priesthood blessings, and had no running water/electricity/etc at 14,000 ft in the Andes. It was amazing.

  75. Tracy M – I have teamed up with a single mom to feed the missionaries. It was great. I plan to do it again soon. I have also been known to feed the missionaries on the deck when my husband didn’t arrive home. And once I took them pizza. Now that the weather is nicer maybe the park might be a good place.

  76. PostScript says:

    I had the “blessing” of serving in two different missions: I served in Ogden for 2 months while waiting for my visa to come through to go to Hungary. What I discovered was this: the number of mission-specific rules is directly proportionate to the lack of busy-ness of the mission president. In other words, mission presidents who don’t really have much to do seem to have the time needed to dream up arbitrary rules. Two rule examples from Ogden: we weren’t allowed to do anything on P-day for recreation other than jogging. No basketball, no volleyball, no anything. We were also not allowed to leave the apartment unless dressed in prosyliting clothes. I’m not sure that he was smart enough to realize that his rules meant that missionaries were supposed to go jogging in white shirts and ties! It seemed there was a rule against everything. Oh, yeah: we weren’t allowed to take second helpings if eating with a member.

    When I got to Hungary, I discovered that there weren’t any rules. The mission president actually had better things to do with his time. We were expected to be good missionaries, and follow the Missionary Handbook, but were unburdened by arbitrary rules.

  77. Geoff - A says:

    In the Irish mission in the late 60 we had some. We had to wear hats whenever outdoors. (Some people mistook us for carholic priests and let us in. Getting in was a rare experience.
    We had to go to our digs whenever we heard gunfire. (there was a war on)
    We had to live in accomodation where food was supplied (cooking wastes so much time) My first area we lived in a guest house in the off season and our landlady fed us 4 fried meals a day. I put on over a stone in the first month. I lost it again in the next area because the landlady would let her cat taste our food before we got there. Cat hairs are horible to eat.

    We were not allowed out of our area except for church. One place i stayed did not have a bath or hot water, so we went to the public baths (in the city) but only when we had street boards once a month.

    I had a missionary companion who had a large reel to reel tape deck and an extensive music collection -Beatles, monkies, mommas and pappas etc. Another companion had a playboy collection.

    I was never righteous enogh to make DL. I was companion to one whose girlfriend came to visit from california. They disapeared together for a week.
    6 weeks before the end of my mission we had a conferenc broadcast, which included a talk to get married ASAP after mission so I phoned up girlfriend and proposed. Married 6 weeks after got home 43 years ago.

  78. For the first part of my mission we were not allowed to use the phones in our apartments. We could receive phone calls, but we could not make any phone calls out. I think there had been major abuse of the phones at some point in the past and the mission had been paying too much in phone bills. It was a big, fat pain in the butt, because we got a certain amount of money in phone cards for the month and if we wanted to make a call we had to go outside to the pay phone and make our calls that way; if your phone cards ran out before the month was up, then you got to use your food/expense money to buy more time. Surprisingly, my mission president wasn’t actually very strict about other rules and other than the phone thing there were quite a lot of rather flagrantly apostate activities going on with the missionaries. But, at least we were calling each other on pay phones to do them :) Thankfully when we switched mission president’s halfway through the new one decided that we could be trusted to use the phones in our apartments appropriately.

  79. whizzbang says:

    California Arcadia late 90’s-Wow, where do I even begin-No being at Church past sacrament if you didn’t have an investigator. No general conference or other broadcasts unless you had an investigator-April ’99 GC, I recall running when we saw the Zls show up for conference when we were there “illegally”. No going home during the day whatsoever, you had to have permission which was very, very unlikely to get and if you got caught as I did on two ocassions hell was had. We had “The Walk” every single article of clothing had a rule about it. Shoes had to have a design on them, ties were business conservative and not passed the belt buckle whatsoever, shirts were ironed every day, socks were all one color-dark. Your hair was parted and gelled every day. No backpacks in church buildings. DAs were over by six pm, no exceptions. Those were the ones I recall. When I first came out we had meetings on P-days until Elder John Madsen told the MP to stop that so we had them at 730 tues. morning and if you were a DL, ZL you had no p-day and your life sucked, APs wasn’t much better. Our mission was split into three factions of elders, guys who loved and craved authority, guys who hated those guys and guys like me who were in the middle and thought the other two groups were total losers and just do the work regardless of what you called yourself. I recall one elder got a petition with 25 missionaries signatures to get an AP released and he mailed it to the Area Pres. and boy that hit the fan. Oh yeah no tatoo’s! a bunch of missionaries were getting them done and the MP caught on and said if you got one you would be sent home. One of my coms from Idaho got a “CTR” tatoo but couldn’t afford to get the shield done until he got home so just had the “CTR” part

  80. I was close to Richard Hinckley while he was MP in Salt Lake. He told the most amazing stories: Elder borrowing a carto drive himself to his psychiatrist. He received a phone call in the wee hours of the morning asking him if it was okay for missionaries to be visiting some girls at that hour. I believe he was behind the raising the bar movement.

  81. whizzbang says:

    @80-I have a friend who served with Richard Hinckley, Elder Smith

  82. Do not lick knives was a rule in my mission. I always wondered what poor elder cut his tongue to create that one.

    When I started my mission, we had several pages of rules like that. Most were ignored by almost everyone.

    I served in Spain in the mid 90s. For six months I had one of the only native spaniards in my mission as a comp. His attitude was that he was going to do what he wanted to do no matter what. I could follow along and chaperone or stay home alone. I almost always stuck with him which led to more crazy stories than I can begin to write. My mission president told me at one point, “just make sure we don’t have to send him home.”

  83. Zion's Yank says:

    Probably the most amazing rule in the Washington [State] Mission circa 1971 was, “Always eliminate regularly, be clean inside as well as outside.” The mission president was a former collegiate athlete, (from several decades earlier), and that might have been “advice” from his football coach. I never, nor did any to the Elders I knew, ever need instruction on those
    particular bodily functions.

  84. Other than what Ron said above about soccer-Frisbee (no soccer in France?!), I don’t recall too much. I served one year each under two Presidents and the difference was night and day. The first one had serious favoritism issues; certain things were absolutely off-limits!… unless he liked you, in which case, you could do whatever you wanted. He never learned names or remembered anything about individuals. The second one was actually stricter, but applied everything more reasonably and evenly, and actually cared about the missionaries. It felt less strict with him.

    There was a period of a few months were we were required to get up an extra half-hour early and exercise, but it turned out that was the APs putting words in his mouth. I mentioned that among some other mission experiences here.

  85. I’m not sure it was in the handbook at the tim, as I lost mine almost immediately upon arriving in Argentina, but I think that they added the rule about no horseback riding after a couple of ZLs fell and were injured. I wonder how the Eleders in Bolivia, whose only means of transport at the time was horseback, reacted to this?

  86. Ela Annette says:

    Was I suppose to give my son who just left for the MTC a heads-up on wacko-MP’s? Holy Cow! I warned him about everything else but not that and now wished I would have. The only lecture we received at a Zone Conf was not to try to corner an insect in the car while driving. I think my MP dealt with problems individually but didn’t impose mission-wide sanctions as I don’t remember any of the weirdness some of you had to endure!

  87. I have been chuckling throughout the comments. Thanks, everyone! My first MP was one of those who designated a day when we could quit wearing our suit coats everywhere. When my second MP arrived and it started to get very warm, he didn’t give clearance to go to shirtsleeves. Finally the AP’s asked if it was OK to ditch the coats. He said, “If it’s warm, take off your coat.” (In my mind, he has a quizzical expression, but I wasn’t actually there.) So much for the specificity of the prior regime!

    Tracy M, please invite someone over and then have the missionaries come to dinner. I heard a good example of that recently: a single sister who went to her neighbor and said, “I’d like the young missionaries from my church to come to dinner, but they can’t come unless I have another adult there. Would you join us?” He said yes — and afterwards, offered to come the next time, too.

  88. anonymousgideon says:

    I served in two missions: Hell and Heaven.

    HELL: California Arcadia Mission under President Steward, 1999-2000, while waiting on my visa. Under President Steward’s leadership, I learned that the Pharisees were alive and thriving within the Church. My “favorite” experiences in Hell: (1) There was a rule that missionaries could not go home without finding someone to commit to baptism on that particular day. This led to frantic and damaging tracting at 8:55 pm. (2) Our ZL informed us at a zone meeting that he had received a “covenant” from the Lord, approved by the MP, that we would baptize 33 people during the upcoming month, and in exchange for keeping this “covenant,” we would get to go to a local amusement park on p-day. The ZL then asked everyone to kneel in prayer and enter into the covenant. Needless to say, if I hadn’t possessed a testimony BEFORE arriving, I never would have stayed in the Church. I felt, and still feel, pity and sadness for the missionaries who had to remain there when I left.

    HEAVEN: Spain Málaga Mission under President Madsen. There were basically two mission rules, to my knowledge. First, follow the white handbook, unless otherwise instructed. Second, follow the Spirit, no matter what. A summary of President Madsen’s spiritual management philosophy could be summarized by this quote from him: “If you ever have a question regarding whether you should or should not do something, look at your nametag, remember who you represent, and decide accordingly.” He remains, and forever shall remain, one of my spiritual heroes. He taught me how to live the Gospel.

  89. I don’t remember many rules being preached by my MP in late-70’s Germany. We would hear about rule changes occassionally from the zone leaders, usually because of something some missionary had done. We were warned by a visiting GA to stay away from border checkpoints with East Germany (must have been a great story there, but we didn’t hear it), and we were limited to MoTab music (MoTab singing My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean was ok; Bach was not…), though my recollection is that the music “rule” moved a few times during the mission.

    We had, I think, a certain temperature below which we were to wear our suit coats (30 or 35 C sticks in my head — it had to be very hot to take them off).

    When I arrived in the mission, I found a binder with lots of mission rules and advice (a “handbook” of sorts) — only later did I realize it was from the old mission president. The only rule I took from that was to write my mother once a week, and everyone else with less frequency. That turned out to be a great blessing for my girlfriend (who later became my wife) and me, since we no longer had the pressure of fascinating weekly letters… But I don’t really think it was a rule — no one ever talked about it.

    Oh, and we did wear hats in the winter — because an MP in Norway found it helped to reduce illness among his missionaries. But with that directive (and almost any other) there was some explanation attached.

  90. whizzbang says:

    @88-I too served under that regime, although Pres. Steward was a spiritual a guy as I have ever known but the APs were pulling the wool over his eyes BIG time! Feb. ’99 zone conf. the tatoo controversy hit the fan and other things and he was livid! things somewhat changed after that but not much. Who were you with?

  91. Once when my husband was eating dinner in the MTC, he saw a sign next to a box of chopsticks saying, “Please take only one chopstick.” His companion got photographic evidence.

  92. @Hawkgrrl (#57)- RE: the no church rule…what the what? How did the MP justify that? Denying missionaries the sacrament for the sake of numbers?

  93. Devorah (91), if I’m ever a mission president, those are exactly the kinds of rules I will implement.

    I learned from one of the best, though. My mission president had a hobby of starting rumors through the office elders just to see how quickly and in what distorted form they would come back.

  94. anonymousgideon says:

    @whizzbang (90): I served with Elders Garcia and Wilson. They were good missionaries. Waited on my visa for 20 days. Worst time of my life.

    I was unaware of any tattoo controversy.

    I also recall being so sick (about ten days in) that I blacked out while riding my bike. (I was a pretty healthy guy, too, so THAT was unusual, especially when coupled with the intense concurrent diarrhea.) When I asked to see a doctor, I was denied permission by the APs. I then complained about it to the President Steward in my weekly letter, wondering why I was not allowed to see a doctor when I was truly sick. Sadly, “someone” in the mission home decided to send that particular letter to my father, who was not a member of the Church. Dad then sent me a copy of that letter, which I received once in Spain, and he asked me if I was TRULY enjoying my mission as much as my letters made it seem, since my letter to President Steward certainly made it seem like I was unhappy. I then had to be honest with Dad about the whole experience. One of my greatest regrets is not being forthright with my Dad about the experience while it was occurring. I was so caught up in my desire to paint the Church in a fair light for him that I lied to him about my condition.

    I only had one “meeting” with President Steward, and it was horrific. I’d rather forget it ever happened, and I pray that my own sons don’t have similar experiences.

  95. casteluzzo says:

    Through a bizarre set of circumstances, I had four different mission presidents during my 18-month mission.

    MP#1: We had to get up on time, but there was no set bedtime. My trainer routinely stayed up till midnight. We didn’t have to even wear nylons, at least in the summer.
    Then his wife was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and they went home.
    MP#2: This was right after Elder Holland had moved to Chile as area authority, so we got one of his counselors as our interim mission president. Among many other draconian changes, our MTC-approved wardrobes were no longer considered formal enough for this mission. All the sister missionaries had to go shopping for new clothes.
    MP#3: After a few months, we got a new mission president, and everything was back to cool and laid-back (well, for the mission, at least).
    Then his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and they went home.
    MP#4: They convinced a mission president who was supposed to start his term later that year to start early and fill in for our mission until the regular rotation brought in a new mission president for us (which blessedly occurred right after I went home, thus preventing me from having five mission presidents). Things were craziest under this president. I don’t know if it was his idea or the assistants’ idea, but they instituted “Sacrifice Week,” during which we had to get up an hour early, go to bed an hour late, skip our study time, and just pound the pavement all day long. It actually lasted two weeks, which may have been the longest/tiredest two weeks of my life (at least pre-parenthood).

    I remember waiting for our plane on my way home from the mission, and making awkward small talk with my new mission president, who wouldn’t have even known my name if I weren’t wearing a name tag. Weird.

  96. I served in Fiji and never had an American companion. Best mission ever — I wore khakis and burkenstocks my whole mission. All of the rules (local and otherwise) were routinely ignored by all of my Polynesian companions; we basically just tried to get them out of bed by 10:00 and not have them drink too much grog.

    My favorite local rule was not to proselytize or leave the flat during a hurricane because you might get hit on the head by a flying coconut. There were also some beaches that we were not supposed to go to because there were lots of topless sunbathers there, but I don’t think that was an actual rule. Good times.

  97. whizzbang says:

    @94- I trained E. Garcia, but they switched him to spanish work so I don’t know how he did there. From what you describe it sounds like what our mission was like! sad but true and the pharisee scene was alive and very, very rampant. I knew an Elder in ’98 who smashed into a van and got injured, bike wrecked and what was worse was the van owner was suing him for damages. He took it to the MP, Swenson, (if you have ever heard the term Swensonites that’s where it originates from!) anyways he blew off the missionary. So the elder wasn’t rich, family in the midwest so he told his woes to this family at a DA and it turned out the guy was a lawyer and he took the case for free and counter-sued the van owner and he won and got the elder a thousand bucks!

  98. tracy, 51: does a bishop really have any say over missionaries? maybe a polite “thanks bishop, but mission rules say neither the missionaries nor i require your permission”

  99. Binary Search Tree says:

    dave, 98: it doesn’t really matter if he does or doesn’t. as soon as the bishop thinks the missionaries are disregarding him, he’s going to immediately begin disregarding them. when that happens, all effective missionary work in the ward has more-or-less ended. the missionaries can still go out and work, but without the ward (represented by the bishop and the ward council) backing their efforts, it will bear no fruit.

  100. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    1. The only music allowed was hymns or Motab. (Although I still remember a companion that jumped rope outside shirtless to Billy Idol every morning.)
    2. Listening to tape recordings made by family was not allowed. If they sent you one before you told them it was against the rules, you could listen to it once…prompting me to never tell them about the rule.
    3. Going to the sento (neighborhood public bath) was not only allowed, but the mission president had the AP’s take all nte newly arriving missionaries there on there first night in Japan. (He claimed it counteracted the effects of jet lag–and it seemed to work alright.
    4. Masturbating was the reason for the fall of Rome according to MP #1 (so other Elder’s told me from personal interviews with him).
    5. With MP #1, we were allowed to meet the pair of Sister’s in the district and guide them to a female investigator’s residence and introduce them as the missionaries that would be teaching them. Under MP #2, we were told to just give the Sisters the contacts address and let them go introduce themselves.
    6. As I was leaving, MP#2 introduced a ‘no direct forwarding of missionary email rule’. Apparently when directly forwarding email for an Elder that had been transferred, those little ‘hello’s written on the back of the envelop were frowned upon. All mail received for missionaries that had been transferred was to be sent to the mission home where it would be re-forwarded.
    7. Mugi was encouraged, but not required. (And I wouldn’t call Mugi the same as Cream of Wheat). My kids LOVE Mugi–crazy, I know.
    8. The Sisters in my district got permission to wear nylon rain pants under their dresses when bike riding on cold rainy days, to cover the gap between their long raincoats and their rain boots, which I thought showed pretty awesome determination on their part.
    9. No ‘mod, skinny ties’–per visiting member of the 70.

  101. b.s.t, you’re right of course. i suppose im much more willing to tell my bishop to f.o.a.d, on things like this mainly because ive worked w him long enough in a number of leadership roles that he knows me and my personality…like ray has said in a number of other posts, if you are otherwise actively trying to help the ward and those you attend with, you can be a little idiosincratic.

  102. @ #100, Jumping rope shirtless to Billy Idol = badass.

  103. I served in Japan in the immediate aftermath of the Ammon Project and, therefore, had an entire extra mission-specific “green handbook” (having been copied on green paper and cut to size to fit inside the white one) of special special rules to keep us from going off the reservation as many Ammon missionaries had (and, I suspect, to retrain members as to what they should expect of missionaries).

    Since we studied both handbooks at the same time, I am not exactly clear on which rules were in which at this point. As best I can remember, though, we were especially prohibited from riding in a car EVER, staying in a house for a meal or a lesson for more than an hour, even if they didn’t start cooking until you arrived, only church music, and only if you had memorized everything, we could not leave our areas or congregate with other missionaries on P-days (so if you were never assigned to Kyoto, you didn’t see it–no sightseeing!), never leave the apartment in anything less than full missionary dress, if sporting, you could only change into sports clothes on site and were supposed to where your tags. We also couldn’t shake hands for more than 3 seconds. For real.

    But, we could use the Sento, which is probably attributable to the fact that I had a Japanese MP.

  104. One time during a zone leader council I was at (I hate when stories start like this because it sounds like bragging, but I promise it’s relevant), our mission president almost banned recreational activities on preparation day until zone leaders inspected missionaries’ apartments to make sure they were cleaned well enough. (He was new.) Fortunately, his counselor told him, in his most serious voice, “President, if you make this decision, I promise you that you will regret it within three weeks.”

  105. Ooh, I just remembered another thing. One time we had a guy come from Church HQ, I believe, and tell us that we were supposed to have a four-second following distance whenever we were driving.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever tried doing this on a freeway, but it’s impossible, because people keep changing lanes in front of you.

  106. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    @103 No Kyoto…sad deal. We were allowed to go once during my mission with permission from the MP and it wasn’t even in our mission!

  107. @Bonjo (#62) I was just about to post about the no-nap rule in my Italy mish (96-98)…So frustrating! If indeed that was its genesis…ugh. I loved dearly my MP, but that one rule was so hard. I had a DL who used to “pray” for a good 40 minutes prostrate on his bed each day.

    I also served in an area that covered Venice, and we were not allowed to proselyte there. I’m sure there were many past stories about missionaries living it up big time in Venice, hence the rule. My MP said that once the rest of Italy was converted, we could work on Venice. That said, we took any chance we could to do less-active work w/ members who lived in Venice proper. ;)

  108. Cymbaline says:

    I served in the Japan Fukuoka mission from ’90 to ’92. I don’t remember many whacked-out custom rules in our mission. I didn’t really try to find out what the exact rules were for music in our mission, because then I’d have to stop listening to my tape of Joe Satriani, the Alan Parsons Project and Robin Trower.

    I think there was a rule about not playing with face cards; we got around that by playing poker with Uno cards.

  109. 108 – Dr. Strange is always changing size.

  110. Brad Hawkins says:

    At a Zone meeting there was one totally hot sister who showed up in a long, form fitting jean skirt, it looked painted on. We Elders were all agog but the very next day the Mission Wife sent out a memo of no jean skirts. I’m sure that sister was deeply embarrassed. The mental image of her held fast for a long, long time.

  111. hawkgrrrl says:

    92 Duffy & 62 Kevin Barney – eventually the rule was changed to what Whizzbang’s was in #79: “No being at Church past sacrament if you didn’t have an investigator.” Before that, we just didn’t go. In one area, we hadn’t been to church for six weeks, then we showed up one week with two families to be baptized on the same day. Then we were back to not being allowed to attend.

    I complained to the president that my greenie, who had been completely inactive for years before her mission, told me she “didn’t go on a mission to go inactive again.” So then we were told we could take the sacrament only. Several months later, we were all allowed to go to the meetings. I had further complained that members were all really new and sometimes teaching false doctrine. There was one guy who kept alluding to stuff from the temple and winking at everyone like “I know something you don’t know” since almost nobody else had been to the temple.

  112. If missionaries don’t go to church who’s going to encourage the branch president to move past his jehovah’s witness bible? Who’s going to intersperse some Jesus into the UFO testimony meeting?

  113. rpallred says:

    @9—Ardis, I also served in Grenoble…but we had radiant heat, so no problem. But wow, it could get cold there!

    I don’t remember any bizarre rules. I do remember that we had an extra 30 minutes of language study in the morning and so had an extra 30 minutes of scripture study after lunch.

  114. OK, Hawgrrrl wins (and anyone else that was forbidden from going to any part of church without investigators). That is straight-up crazy.

  115. My MP was a convert of 8 years when he was called to serve in his native country. He was very relaxed with the rules. I had a senior comp who asked if he could spend an extra hour at the Internet cafe on p-day playing computer games. MP said as long as we still had time to complete our other errands it was fine by him. We were allowed to stay past midnight on New Years Eve at the home of a US Foreign Service family after a native sister missionary politely called our MP directly, which is usually against the rules (should have gone through ZL then AP) to ask our (native) MP if we could stay as long as they drove us directly home afterwards. Heck, he didn’t even know that missionaries weren’t supposed to go swimming on the mish. We didn’t anyways, but it was funny that he didn’t even know about that rule. We occasionally even traveled solo without comps (I did an overnight bus ride solo) if the schedule/finances made more sense that way.

  116. whizzbang says:

    @hawkgrrrl- I finally another someone else who sympathizes with not being able to go to church on their mission!!! IT WAS THE DUMBEST RULE EVER! as I say I remember running from the Zls when we didn’t have anyone to attend GC but we went anyways. It was at the 18th month mark of my mission that the rule was changed that we could attend church but the ZLs didn’t tell anyone until the MP found out they didn’t and he said in zone conference that you could so it was only a month left for me that I actually attended all three meetings, I had before when I had someone who stayed the full 3 hours but…

  117. Meldrum the Less says:

    My first companion, a colorful legend, had a different approach to mission rules. He argued that there were no mission rules against pushing purple elephants out of airplanes because no missionary had ever tried it. Who knows, it might flatten houses, but then again purple elephants might be able to fly. His conclusion was that every mission rule represented something that at least one missionary had tried and a person in authority had forbidden.

    Since he was generally distrustful of all authority he deduced that hidden beneath every petty mission rule was a good idea. It was only a matter of figuring out how to make it work. So we carefully studied every mission rule and thought of every possible way we could break these rules and achieve success. I was astonished how well this approach worked and he was the most creative and successful missionary I ever worked with.

    This is a gospel of repentance. if you have a zillion meaningless rules and you never break any of them you have no need for repentance. But if you define yourself as a sinner in need of repentance, then breaking petty mission rules becomes a vehicle of living the gospel. (This does not apply to criminal activity that obviously and severely injuries others) His motto: Breaking mission rules, the key to success and happiness.

  118. My mission president had a steady trickle of knee-jerk rules after missionaries did stupid stuff. He was so exasperated each time he made a new one that I could hardly fault him. Some I remember:

    1. No basketball on P-day (too many injuries – church ball/only testosterone outlet)
    2. Missionaries cannot give other missionaries haircuts: barbers only
    3. OK, you can listen to music other than MoTab, but please tell your mothers to stop calling me to ask why they can’t send you such-and-such CD
    4. A few months after #3: Forget it, back to MoTab
    5. You cannot get together with any other missionary companionship for any reason on P-day (Thanks guy who said at his apartment inspection that his apartment was dirty because our all-day zone get togethers at the arcade took up too much time.)

    He was a southern gentleman for whom sharp appearance and formal speech were paramount. On day 1 in the mission we were informed that we could never say “Yeah, yep, nah, nope”. It was “Yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am. I also remember shining my shoes a LOT as a source of personal/mission pride; have only done it a score or so times in the fifteen years since.

  119. Mark Brown says:

    “Missionaries cannot give other missionaries haircuts”


  120. Kevin Barney says:

    Our mission culture was huge on shined shoes and, to a lesser extent, starched collars. Guys became experts in the art of shoe shining (Lincoln, not Kiwi, for example). As you pulled up for zone conferences you would see guys carefully pulling their dress shoes from the trunk of their car, and taking them inside to change into them; they were for show only, not everyday mucking around.

  121. #118 Cort, you reminded me that my mission president charged us 1DM any time he heard an elder use the word “guy.” I can only imagine how he’d respond to “dude.” (To this day I feel a twinge of guilt if I refer to the missionaries as guys.

  122. @118 —Oh yeah. We had that one about haircuts too. “You have enough to get a nice haircut, get a nice haircut.”

  123. On leaving the area, that was one rule frequently violated at MPs implicit order. Our mission was shaped like a comma, and to transfer from one end to the other, you took a straight-line route… which more often than not meant taking the TGV out of the mission boundaries to Paris, changing to another train, and riding back in to the mission boundaries. Traveling alone on a train for multiple hours, outside the mission boundary, was a unique mental experience for a missionary, half expecting to be sexually assaulted by brazen French women who, unable to resist the magnetism of American missionary, would surely prey on one traveling alone.

  124. I can only pity you Japanese missionaries who weren’t righteous enough to be assigned to serve in Kyoto.

    And, before I worked in Kyoto, our mission president had no problem approving our traveling up from Osaka-fu for the Gion Matsuri.

  125. I thought traveling alone as a missionary for purposes of transfers was pretty common, at least outside the U.S. I took one long train ride from the southern-most district in the mission to the northern-most district. That just may have been the best four hours of my mission. Not that anything particularly interesting happened, except that I got a much-needed break from always having a companion with me.

  126. I can’t imagine how you fought off the unruly hordes, Ben.

    We also traveled alone on transfers, unless there was another missionary traveling in the same direction and whose schedule matched your own. But, we stayed in the mission boundaries–but only because there was no need to go outside them.

  127. #125 Tim, the first time I transferred I had to travel on a train with one of the sisters from a neighboring area. The mission bought our train tickets, and had us sitting together… We actually ended up teaching a discussion together to someone sitting by us. It felt really weird at first.

  128. I think this thread aptly demonstrates the Hobson’s choice given to MPs. Too few rules and you find your missionaries are listening to Pearl Jam and spending tracting time playing X-Box. Too many, and you end up with rules like “Don’t lick your knife.” Adding complication to that is that you’re dealing with 20-year-old punks, many of whom are really, really immature (or at least I was). Or, in other words, what Syphax said in 61.

  129. whizzbang says:

    @128- I can verify that! Something I am noticing in the Winnipeg mission is you have a strict MP and lots of rules and stuff, bad things go on, then a new MP comes in and relaxes the rules and things get better for a time and then things can get bad again and the new MP comes in and says hey that shouldn’t be and tightens things up again. I know it happens elsewhere but I see it here. It comes down to some kind of balance

  130. one of our unique mission rules was how we handled splits…I guess the MP wanted sisters to have the opportunity also. There were only 12 sisters in the entire mission…so most splits were 2 elders and 1 sister. It was unique.

  131. A group of us were scheduled to fly home on the same day and everyone except me was going to Utah/Idaho/Arizona on the same flight while I was going to Germany on a separate flight, about 4 hours later. After the other missionaries departed my MP looked at his watch and asked if I could be trusted to be alone alone at the airport and to get myself on my plane. I responeded affirmatively and he said some nice things about me, gave me a hug, and left.

    I only had about an hour to myself because a couple of families I worked with came to airport to see me off. It was different and more pleasant to be alone with the families instead of with a companion. I made the plane just fine, but ended up sitting near a local who was also a swimmer for the University of Alabama and when he realized I am American yakked and yakked when I wanted to be left alone to watch South Africa fade away as the plane climbed through take off.

  132. adair_from_ns says:

    Ron and Ben S. I heard that the no soccer rule came from somebody breaking a member kid’s leg or something to that effect.

    As to burning ties/pants/suits we didn’t have a rule about it but we did end up with an elder in the hospital for a few weeks after he decided that pants were best burned in situ.

  133. Ben S. Funny you should mention that. Your train trip from Mulhouse to Toucoing was really freaking long. Couple that with the fact that Shaw left Really early in the morning and I was a basket case sitting in that tiny apartment alone. Finally I couldn’t take it any more and I walked down to the Aldi. Probably to get something with sugar in it after being deprived for so long. (my first companion wouldn’t let me eat any refined sugar)
    Being a missionary story, some member saw me and had a nice old freakout about me being out alone. I explained that since I didn’t currently have a companion, I wasn’t technically without mine.
    Now in retrospect I’m surprised that we never saw a “Missionaries do not go to Aldi alone on transfer day.”
    Do you ever make it to Utah Ben?

    132, are you a Belgium Bruxelles alum?

  134. Thank you all for such a lively discussion; I’ve been laughing and crying at the same time, remembering the “ginormous” change between our former military attache mission president to the Idaho potato farmer mission president in my mission (Peru, 1982-1983). I really do feel sorry for the MP’s for this huge scout camp they have to run, but I feel even more sorry for the often more mature sister missionaries who have to put up with all this kind of crap because of the interplay between the MP and the immature elders. So, I married one of the sister missionaries!

  135. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    Oh yeah, I forgot…we were told not to refer to members, elders, sisters, investigators…etc as “studs”.

  136. adair_from_ns says:

    Ron. Yes, former Belgium Brussels alum, 99-2000, showed up in Nancy a few months after Ben S. left (if I remember my mission legends correctly).

  137. micahburnett says:

    Each month at zone conference our president added an additional 20-30 rules. This eventually culminated into something known as the Celestial Missionary Worksheet which consisted of a hundred or so rules in 6pt type with grids to check off if you obeyed the rule. If all were obeyed for a certain time period you were able to wear a lapel pin of the Temple to denote your excellent qualifications as a missionary.

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