Missionary Policies

A friend received a letter from their mission announcing new policies specific to that particular mission (which mission is unimportant for purposes of this post; I want to use the letter as a springboard to think about best mission practices generally). I wanted to share a few thoughts about these proposed policies. First, the relevant extract from the letter:

Recent changes in the XYZ Mission have included the following standards and rules set forth for full-time missionaries and members within their respective wards and areas.

Working With Members (FT = Full time)

1. (FT) Missionaries are not to visit Active members in their homes unless a non-member is present to be taught or a meeting is being held at the Members home. (i.e. Ward Mission Correlation)

2. (FT) Missionaries are not allowed to eat meals with members after 6pm. The only exception to a meal would be to have a non-member present and being taught before or after the meal.

3. (FT) Missionaries may assist ward efforts in retention by visiting inactive and part member families only with a ministering brother or sister present. This way the member may preferably be the one to invite and fellowship the individual(s) to be taught the gospel lessons of conversion and return to activity.

4. (FT) Missionaries are to refuse service projects unless spontaneous and the effort will not take more than 10-15 minutes. It is not appropriate to serve Active Members.

5. (FT) Missionaries may only attend Thanksgiving and Christmas Ward Socials or Parties. Other activities or gatherings are not permitted. In the event of non-members being present, missionaries may introduce themselves, gather any offered items to leave with, and exit quickly to get back to work.

6. Members are to not have the missionaries address (i.e. no dropping off dinners). In case of emergencies, the Bishop and Ward Mission Leader should be the only individuals to have it.

7. (FT) Missionaries should allow Leaders and Ministers of assigned Members to give any sort of blessing. They may participate but not administer the ordinance.

I wanted to apprise you of these changes, so that you will understand when the missionaries have to turn down a request or offer from any of us that is inconsistent with the new rules.

First, I was curious about the genesis of these changes. I can think of three possibilities:

A. These policies could have been a suggestion from up the priesthood chain (IE either an AA70, a 70 or an Apostle). It’s also possible that this was done under the rubric of the “Unwritten Order of Things.” A friend was a missionary under Boyd K. Packer and he remembers President Packer had rules like this, so perhaps some of his acolytes in leadership are pushing for these kinds of things.

B. This may be a new MP with his own ideas about how things should be done and anxious to put them into effect.

C. This could be a(n over?) reaction to something that happened involving one or more missionaries in the mission. Or maybe there’s some other reason for these changes. There’s no way for us to know for sure.

Anyway, below are my quick, off the cuff thoughts on each of the mission’s new policies:

  1. The first new rule provides that FT missionaries may not visit Active members in their homes unless it is to teach a non-member or to participate in a necessary meeting. It is certainly his right to make this call if he so chooses. I personally find it a little bit surprising, because on my mission to Colorado in the late seventies our whole schtick was working closely with and through members. (My first MP didn’t believe in tracting; my second MP generally followed the program of his predecessor, but did ask us to tract an hour a day, I suppose to build character.) Admittedly this kind of an approach might not be practicable in areas where there are fewer members than in a place like Colorado. But that approach worked well for us. Utah was always the leader in baptisms among domestic missions, but we usually found ourselves neck and neck with Washington for second place. In my mission the average missionary baptized 24, but the best missionaries could crack 100. So it’s his call of course, but because of my experience I think cutting members out of the process is a mistake.
  2. At first I was confused by rule 2, because rule 1 had indicated only two circumstances in which FT missionaries could visit a member’s home, but then rule 2 comments on a third such circumstance (a dinner appointment). To clear this up I would add a parenthetical to rule 1, something like “(other than as described in rule 2 below).” I get the reason for this, as 6:00 pm and later is considered prime tracting time, and in general I don’t have a problem with it, provided that the MP understands that DAs will now become quite rare, and provided further that the missionary allowances are increased to compensate for the lack of DAs. The reason DAs will become a thing of the past is that members, just like nonmembers, tend not to get home before 6:00 pm, and even if there is a wife at home she cannot host the elders by herself. Certainly in any metropolitan area it will be a rare family that is able to sit down together for dinner at 5:00. So if he wants his troops out tracting promptly at 6:00 pm, that’s a fair call provided he takes into account the predictable impact this rule will have on DAs.
  3. FT missionaries may only visit inactive or part-member families if a ministering brother or sister is present. There is a well intentioned reason for this, as described in the second sentence.  And in an ideal world that might be the way this should work. But we don’t live in an ideal world. The presumption that most active members are actively seeking out their inactive member ministering assignments is quaint, but not very realistic. Our missionaries are the tip of the spear in this effort, and they report and coordinate with our Ward Council on people they’ve visited, needs they’ve encountered, and help families could use. Every Saturday night they give a detailed report to our Ward Council for consideration at our Sunday morning meeting, and I must say I’ve been very, very impressed by their work with these folks. Further, these are also prime contacts for missionary purposes. A really active member tends to live her life in a bit of a Mormon bubble, but an inactive member does not, and has family and friends that are not already members of the Church. My bias is showing, but I think helping one of these families for an hour is going to be way more productive than knocking doors for that same hour.
  4. This one was so poorly written I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. Is the first sentence an absolute rule and the second a throw-away comment on one reason for the rule? Or does the second sentence govern the interpretation of the first, and service is only so limited for active members? If this prohibits all but the most negligible service, I have to admit I’m very surprised by that. In our Area for years we’ve been trying to work with the missions to increase the amount of service work FT missionaries do, in particular through the Just Serve program. Also, it seems to me this rule is missing a bet with so many missionaries going home early, because getting away from the incessant demands of proselyting and spending some time serving one’s fellow man is simply good for the soul and may help some of those young people stay with it.
  5. My first thought on this one is that I don’t recall ever attending a Ward Thanksgiving party; that’s usually strictly a family celebration. So the only activity the FT missionaries can attend is a Christmas party, unless non-members are present, in which event they can make a brief appearance, grab some food, and then “get back to work,” which presumably means tracting. Again, I think this is short-sighted. A year ago I blogged about an event my Stake put on called International Night; we just recently held the second iteration of this party, and yes, our missionaries were there for the whole thing. In my opinion it would have been missionary malpractice for them not to be there. A substantial plurality of the people attending were non-members. There was music blaring, displays and taste portions of food representing numerous countries from around the world, then entertainment with lots of colorful folk dances and demonstrations. It was an event without the hard sell where friends and neighbors could feel comfortable and enjoy themselves in a low-stakes setting. This was an ideal time for the missionaries to meet these people and gain a comfort level with them without the high stakes salesmanship of showing up on their doorstep.
  6. If the missionaries cannot have dinner appointments after 6:00, I’m not sure what’s so bad about someone dropping off a dinner earlier. But that’s not something I’ve ever done, and I didn’t even realize it was a thing, so I have no problem with this rule. I am a little concerned that only the bishop and WML will know their address for emergency purposes; it’s not unusual for both to be out of town during the week at the same time. At the very least I would extend this to the full bishopric.
  7. I understand the rationale behind not having the missionaries give blessings or perform ordinances, and I’ve seen that rule in a few different places over the years. The missionaries are only there for a short time, and involving a member in those things may help to cement the new convert’s relationship with the ward. Personally, rather than an absolute rule I would like to see this stated as a preference, because we really need to take the wishes of the new member in mind. They might have a strong relationship with the missionary and not with the member, and if he or she really wants one of the missionaries to perform an ordinance, I think her wishes should control.

So what do you think about these policies? Agree, disagree, have tweaks to suggest? What if you were the AA70 and were given this as a draft by the MP for your review; what comments would you make?




  1. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    (4) is dumber than a bag of hammers hanging from a doorknob attached to a post mounted in a box of rocks. In the continental US, proselyting missionaries have had very little to do for at least a couple of decades, and yet the numbers swelled this decade because of the lowered age requirements. Putting them to work doing service is the only reasonable thing to do if you don’t want them going insane from boredom and/or getting up to mischief.

    I get the impression that a lot of MPs and not a few folks higher up the food chain yearn for the days in the ’50s and ’60s when you could knock doors and people might actually let you in for a conversation, and don’t understand how the Napoleon Hill PMA sales approach might not work anymore.

  2. Now I’m having bad flashbacks from my own mission. Our MP set up a number of such rules for the entire mission as a response to one or two missionaries’ misbehavior. By and large, the implementation did not go well, with all sorts of unintended consequences.

    My condolences to the missionaries in this mission.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Good point Hep about door contacting these days. Where I live it mostly just isn’t done anymore. In the rare occasion a stranger knocks on our door, my wife sort of freaks out, it’s so unusual. The only recent examples I can think of are people trying to get out the vote or people trying to get you to change your energy provider from Commonwealth Edison to some upstart. I’m fine with the political folks, and I shut down the energy salesmen in a hurry. It’s not like long ago when door-to-door salesmanship was a productive thing.

  4. I can imagine these policies might “work” and be practical . . . in Orem, UT.

    That’s about it. Would be huge detriment to the work in nearly all of the rest of the world. Perhaps that’s where the call was to: Orem. Or maybe that’s where the MP is from and has missed that his new mission is somewhere else. Otherwise, like HDP, my condolences to the missionaries in that mission. And the members. Yikes!

  5. Mr. Schmidt says:

    The restriction on dinner appointments was implemented in a very similar manner in the mission in my area – and obviously not many people had the missionaries over anymore. Ironically, I think people still tried to drum up enthusiasm to have the missionaries over for dinner, but as you note it just is nearly impossible to get home early enough for it.

    Generally, this would seem to me to be more an expression of lack of trust in the missionaries, and dare I say it a laziness in not trying to train missionaries in appropriate behavior and “follow the spirit” approaches. I’m personally more of a fan of training the missionaries on the right things to do, default things to do, and to roll with things when they come up. Service project winds up taking 4 hours? Roll with it, and see what good can come of it. Or at least help the missionaries know that in this life, most arbitrary rules are there for a reason, but may be deviated from for a reason (I think the “good Samaritan” story is a good example of this), especially as prompted by the spirit. Rigid adherence to arbitrary rules like this, in my mind, fosters the wrong mindset in our fresh-faced missionaries We want them to know and keep the commandments, of course–but don’t we want them to also learn to love people more than checklists? Isn’t that what I kept hearing in this last General Conference? Make a framework for each day, sure, but I would want the missionaries to be able to build in flexibility that responds to the unique demands of each day.

    I respect the desire to have the missionaries working hard at certain aspects, but overall this letter of instruction reminds me too much of what was tried in my area’s mission that seemed to just drive a wedge between the missionaries and the members. I know this is a lack of faith on my part, but as a practical matter I just don’t trust the missionaries myself with my friends and neighbors unless I can vet them myself beforehand. My relationship with my friends and neighbors, I would hope, will last much longer than some random missionary passing through – who could leave a lot of damage in their wake from some misguided effort to be “bold.”

  6. Heptaparaparshinokh says:

    Kevin: in general there’s a serious sales mentality to the missionary program that needs to go away yesterday.

  7. 1. Active members are a great source of referrals. Missionaries should be meeting with them regularly. Could they get around this by simply calling their visit a meeting?

    2. Where I served, it was traditionally lunch appointments that we would have most days, rather than dinner appointments, so I can’t totally picture exactly what the 6 pm deadline does. Of course, my brother served in a place where most of the year it was very dark and cold after 6 pm, so they had a hard time tracting that late, while I would be out talking to people well after 10 p.m. (oops!), and so I can understand that it is different in different missions.

    3. Inviting members is always a good idea. But it shouldn’t always be required.

    4. We should be doing more service, rather than less. There should be a minimum number of hours to report each week with other numbers. In the last couple years, I have had a couple sets of missionaries that I felt pretty close with, who we gave referrals to. Most other missionaries, I’ve not known them at all, and we haven’t given referrals to them, even when we have had dinner appointments. There was no relationship there. The reason I had gotten to know the ones I did was because of doing service projects together.

    5. Who cares if the missionaries are at ward events? Shouldn’t they be?

    6. Who cares if people know where the missionaries live? It’s not like they should be stopping by all the time. In one of my areas, we lived in the chapel. Not sure how you get around that. Maybe the rule should be that members can’t come in the missionary apartment. Depending on the size of the town/area, this could be hard to enforce, if it’s a small city where a lot of people know each other.

    7. I agree again on the recommendation part, but not the requirement. If someone asks for a blessing, you give them a blessing. You don’t say, no, let me see, I think we can come back on Thursday at 5 o’clock with another person to do it. You just do it.

    These rules are just perpetuating the leadership roulette issue that we commonly have in the church. We had a rule instituted that banned bicycles, because a missionary in another country in our Area was hurt on a bicycle. Later, another missionary in another country in our Area was robbed and hurt in the process because he couldn’t get his backpack off fast enough for the robbers. So the rule was we had to have bags with only one strap instead of two straps. These were rules handed down by the Area Presidency, not our Mission President. Our MP eventually told us we could use our bikes again when we asked since our area was so large with no reliable transportation options between the extreme ends.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    Mr. Schmidt, good point about the need for members to “vet” missionaries before giving them access to their worlds, which won’t happen if there is no interaction allowed. My bias here is that our current missionaries are simply outstanding, very impressive young people, and I think putting the cuffs on them is the wrong instinct.

  9. Sounds a lot like my mission’s rules (Argentina, 2007-2009). My second MP even prohibited us from saying for baptism refreshments, saying we should use that time for proselytizing.

    The motive was generally twofold: 1) stop missionaries from lollygagging (supposedly) and 2) get missionaries out of the picture as much as possible so that investigators/recent converts only establish close relationships with members, not missionaries.

  10. It seems like the MP is simultaneously trying to strengthen and weaken the members’ relationship with the missionaries. Which is weird. I’m a lot less likely to want the missionaries to come give the discussions in my home to my nonmember friends if I barely know the missionaries because I can’t have them over for dinner and they’re only allowed to stay at Trunk or Treat (the only ward activity to which I ever have, or ever will invite nonmember friends) for fifteen minutes before fleeing to the safety of their unlisted apartment. Sure, I could invite the missionaries and my hypothetical nonmember friend for a dinner together but I think we’ve all known enough missionaries who were overzealous or just plain weird, you’d want to vet them first before siccing them on people with whom you want to maintain a relationship long after Elder X is back on the BYU campus.

  11. We’ve seen a couple MPs try this sort of thing, especially the meal restrictions. I applaud the effort, but the rules are misguided and, in my experience, hurt the member/missionary relations and, consequently, missionary work in general. I’m rarely home before 6, so dinner with the missionaries became a gift card or cash. We missed the opportunities to have it children interact with the missionaries. We also lost the firsthand familiarity that would have made us more comfortable inviting non-member friends to meet with missionaries. It was as much a punishment for the members as it was for the missionaries. It didn’t last long either time.

  12. Our mission (new mission president) implemented something like this recently. It lasted a couple of weeks and then they walked it all back. Guidelines like these leave many missionaries with nothing to do.

  13. I have a really hard time with these rules, when I was younger I saw them as a protection.

    With a few more years behind me, they alarm me. We treat missionaries like slaves. We don’t trust them as adults with free agency. These rules take all the joy and rest that comes to these young men and women. It’s focusing all their efforts on work, work, work. Not just the work, but the worst parts of it. The dehumanizing and dispiriting elements, where they are constantly facing rejection. Members can remind these young men and women that they are appreciated and valued.

    No wonder so many have mental health issues. What adults would subject themselves to this? You need a certain naivete to put yourself through this. The mission president gets to rest, take vacations, talk to his family at home, and gets paid for the whole thing. Then he has the nerve to tighten the vice on these young men and women who feel like they are failing God himself if they push back.

    You look back at Joseph F Smith’s mission and so many other historical missions and they were nothing like this corporate slave model.

  14. Steve NYC says:

    This is some wacko trying to be some legendary mission president. I bet he told all the missionaries that the heavens will open and they will baptize a new stake or two and will be remember for generations for their sacrifice and obedience to the mission president’s revelation of a higher law.
    Guy is a clown. Will just serve to make two years misery.

  15. And regarding the dinner appointment thing: it’s to prevent dinner from conflicting with prime proselyting hours, and has been that way in the Missionary Handbook for years (in addition to dinner lasting . Of course, it also conflicts with prime dinner hours…

  16. I was in a mission that had even more Draconian policies than that. Luckily, it was the mission president just before mine, but we found one of his old, 8.5×11, 1/4-inch thick “mission handbooks” in one of our apartments (including a chart for when you were allowed to wear a sweater instead of a suit coat). The rebellion that that engendered took my mission president nearly two of his three years to root out. I know it’s not policy, but maybe it ought to be to have MPs get additional training in teenage psychology beyond just whatever they’ve had as parents before they go off and make up stuff like this.
    It does seem, though, specific enough that I can see it being a reaction to something that’s happened rather than just someone deciding to exercise unrighteous dominion. Maybe there’s been a member who’s been using the elders for “service projects” that look a lot like actual employment? And paying them by having pizza delivered every night? :)

  17. I was in Costa Rica 99-01. They had issues in neighboring mission with missionaries being served food that was moldy, unwashed, etc. It was the best some members could do in those areas. They came out with an Area wide rule about no standing dinner appointments. And promptly gave us $10 more a month. It was BS. in most areas we had less than 10 families willing to serve us food so for those that we had the relationship with we explained it to them and they extended an invitation every week. So we did comply, but it was lame. It also over penalized the latinos who didn’t have access to extra cash while most gringos were able to supplement. I was only there for six months of this situation but it was a bummer.

  18. Truckers Atlas says:

    Sheesh. And soon these missionaries will lose an extra hour of the safe haven provided by Sunday church!

  19. Our missionaries have to be fed at 4pm and out of our house by 5. It’s nearly impossible for everyone in our ward except empty nesters, so everyone basically sign up to drop dinner off at the missionary’s apartments. Even this is a hard thing to do because 4pm is a busy time for most families. We’ve also given the missionaries rides home on rainy/stormy days when we see them and they always appreciate it so much. We couldn’t do this unless we knew their address. It’s good for the members to serve the missionaries and vice versa. Severing this relationship isn’t good for anyone.

  20. *dinner lasting at max an hour, that is.

  21. I heard there was a White Handbook that pretty much spelled out missionary behavior. Sorry but this MP sounds like a control freak.

  22. gotta keep squeezing the blood outta that stone

  23. I wonder how these rules are generated? Does a mission president simply decree them to his missionaries? Do they grow out of some kind of council? One would hope that there are doctrines and principles attached to these rules so they at least have context and make sense in the geography where they are applied. And if these are correctives or “protections” because of specific abuses, how many such cases existed to result in a blanket rule change?

    Easy to take pot shots from the sidelines, but a lot of these seem counterintuitive with a unified approach. On the other hand, if a bunch of 18-year olds prefer to spend their time in the comfortable home of members for hours-long meals into the evening when they could otherwise be teaching, then maybe it makes sense to reign them in a bit.

    One hopes that these are presented to missionaries in a situation in which the missionaries understand the principles so that they can apply the rules properly.

  24. These rules are in full force in our New England mission–we can’t feed the elders here after 6 p.m. Missionaries here told us that one of the reasons is because potential investigators are no longer available until after 6 p.m., that there are no longer people at home during the day and–almost all homes are dual income homes these days–the only folks at home anymore are either disabled or unemployed or retired. I am not sure how I feel about that. I was also told that this came from higher up than their mission president.

    As a returned missionary myself, what really gets me is this one: “Missionaries may only attend Thanksgiving and Christmas Ward Socials or Parties. Other activities or gatherings are not permitted.” Recent stats show more and more missionaries returning home due to mental health issues, and barring them from positive associations with members–that much-needed validation and respite from the grueling tracting and constant rejection–is going to result in more mental health returns, mark my word. WHY are church leaders retrenching into more and more hard-nosed and draconian policies of late? We need more women in charge, to help enact more people-friendly policies. This is just ridiculous.

  25. I think these rules are terrible. As recently as the 2013 “Hastening the Work” initiative, members and missionaries were supposed to find ways to work together. More concerning to me is how this will deepen the isolation of the missionaries. Missions can be profoundly lonely, especially if you’re not getting along with your companion. Forming healthy, appropriate relationships with members can provide a much-needed rest for the soul. And in cases where the companion is abusive, this is downright dangerous. Missionaries wasting time with members has always been a problem, but isolating missionaries like this is a recipe for a mental health disaster.

  26. nobody, really says:

    I had a mission president who flat-out told us “You will be blessed for following rules, therefore, you will be more blessed for following more rules”. So he came up with complete nonsense like “You are only allowed to read mail on P-day”, and “Dinner appointments are to be between 4 and 5 PM only”. But the worst was when he decided that 7 to 9 AM was just as prime for street contacting as 5-9 PM. We were to be up at 6:30 and out the door by 7 AM to contact people as they went to work. He wanted missionaries out on street corners, bothering people as they went to subways, got on busses, and even suggested we stand in office parking lots to contact people on their way into buildings. He promised new stakes of converts, legendary status, future callings as General Authorities, and life eternal. “Go to coffee shops and teach the Word of Wisdom. Hand out pass-along cards at intersections. Ride a random bus and don’t get off until you have borne testimony of the Restoration to every person.”

    We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. We have also learned that almost all men don’t think they are in the category of almost all men. It turned out this particular mission president was an old law firm rival of the mission president in New York City, and the entire point of these exercises was to beat NYC baptism stats.

  27. Seems to be multiple motives going on here, one seems to be aimed at the missionaries that hang out with members too much, the other perhaps is putting more pressure on the ward members to participate to do their part in the ‘fellowshipping’ of investigators and recent converts and that sort of thing.

    I guess I can understand that, but overall these stipulations seems foolish and unnecessary. It has to be for some mission in Utah or elsewhere in the mormon corridor.

    In my mission in Texas there was an old crippled guy that lived in an apartment below us and he was getting evicted from his apartment for some reason, he was a former priest or something.

    A woman who was in is former congregation or something flagged us down the day before and asked us to help, saying that while she wasn’t interested in our religion she said she knew we (missionaries in general) were “good Christian boys”. We agreed to help thinking it would only take a couple of hours, we also tried to get our ward to help as well as the other missionaries in our district and their wards.

    The other missionaries put in a few hours combined but I seem to remember a companionship leaving to tract or something because they had already hit their maximum amount of service time for that week. Another companionship helped a lot more by coming back between their appointments to help. No members from 3 of the local wards came except for a semi-active member that helped drive the 30 ft moving truck the lady rented.

    The guy was being moved to somewhere outside of the mission boundaries and we contacted the elders who were in that area and they showed up to unload for about 20 minutes and left for reasons I don’t remember and we never saw them again.

    We finally got everything loaded, it was after midnight and we dropped the truck off somewhere in near the new residence around 2 AM. It was mostly the two of us and the semi-active member that did the lion’s share of the work, the old lady took care of moving the crippled priest to somewhere and did try to help pack, but she looked to be in her 50’s-60’s and was a smoker, she couldn’t do a whole lot without getting coughing fits.

    Anyway, these people literally had no one to help them and I can’t imagine saying “no” to them or helping for only 25 minutes or something.

  28. The Gospel is true. The Church is true. That’s pretty much it! If it were my son, I’d suggest that he “keep his head down” and let the Spirit guide him.

  29. DougArcher says:

    As others have said, in almost every mission in the world, this would leave the missionaries essentially nothing to do. Another example of leadership overreach, enabled by an obedience culture, little oversight, and almost no recourse for missionaries or members to have their opinions heard.

  30. I am currently serving in a mission presidency. These are truly some of the least productive things I have seen from a mission perspective. Literally, Members are the KEY to missionary work. Sigh.

  31. Mark Williams says:

    This is a liberal version of our mission rules from the Netherlands mission from ‘70-72. Going back to “good old days.” We would never had thought of service because we were too busy getting rejected along the doors or while street boarding.

  32. I wonder what this Mission President imagines the missionaries doing when they “get back to work.” What does he think missionary “work” consists of?

  33. Lena M Hansen says:

    17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God. Mosiah 2

    The way to combat the lack of baptisms is more service/charity, not less. Who cares if its members who are being helped. Service to “fellowbeings” does not stipulate member or non-member. The neighbors will see the missionaries serving and are more likely to strike up a conversation. the missionaries will become Christlike. It’s futile to apply Babylon guidelines and rules to Zion. Its just not going to work. You would think after 60 or so years, a charitable approach is best would be apparent.

    29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.
    30 Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish. 2 Nephi 26

  34. Heather B from SC says:

    Well, I’m a single woman, so since I can’t have elders over, and wouldn’t be able to drop off dinners, that means nothing from me.

  35. On my mission, there were several areas where I felt we were used primarily as four spare hands for whatever the branch or ward wanted. One Brother had several chores on his farm that he just assumed the whatever Elders were present would jump to help.

    Likewise, many members would have us over for dinner and we would be stuck there for two or more hours; say the appointment was for 6:00, the meal often wouldn’t be ready until 6:30, we’d wrap up at 7:15 or so and leave a message, and then be wrapped into playing a game or something obscure with the family.

    These interactions were generally pleasant, and on rare occasions would eventually veer into referrals or other more explicit missionary activities… but only rarely. Generally, they were time sucks and distractions.

    All this is to say that I can definitely see circumstances where these policies are needed, even if temporarily to just break a missionary-member culture.

  36. This cult is creepy. Missions are two years of brainwashing. Stop trying to shove your insanity down other people’s throats. Joseph Smith was a liar and a sexual predator and anyone with even an 1/8th of a brain knows it.

  37. jaxjensen says:

    Every single one of these things is just plain stupid. EVERY ONE!

  38. Mormon:
    “With a few more years behind me, they alarm me. We treat missionaries like slaves. We don’t trust them as adults with free agency. These rules take all the joy and rest that comes to these young men and women. It’s focusing all their efforts on work, work, work. Not just the work, but the worst parts of it. The dehumanizing and dispiriting elements, where they are constantly facing rejection. Members can remind these young men and women that they are appreciated and valued.

    No wonder so many have mental health issues. What adults would subject themselves to this? ”


  39. By far the most positive comment I hear from people who don’t know very much about the church is, “They take care of their own.” They often have examples of member neighbors or acquaintances who’ve had help moving, building a fence, repairing storm damage, or being brought meals. They may know nothing else other than that. To then put rules on missionaries to prevent them from helping people who’s one good impression of the church is that they help each other is unimaginably short sighted. Actions are so much louder than words. The baptism rate is abysmal in the US. More tracting isn’t going to make it better, but real investments in meaningful service could. Even if it didn’t result in a baptism, it reinforces those positive impressions that people in this church care for and take care of one another which might result in a baptism down the road. Everyone, including the missionaries, walk away feeling good about the work and the church. How many non-members and missionaries feel good when they walk away from a tracting contact? Very few.

    SoraBird I agree. Women are by far the most valuable and least tapped resource. Corporate America is finally starting to figure it out. I’ve seen it in my own corporate career. When women are well represented many problems are avoided and stuff gets done. Not one or two and not when told not to “talk to much.” When they are represented in enough numbers to speak up, play off one another, and are listened to for more than five minutes. I know that’s hard what with our screechy voices…

  40. Thank you Helen. I appreciate your perspective.

  41. I struggle to think how my children as possible future missionaries would thrive in this setting. The recent article on Wheat & Tares regarding the varying leadership styles of different generations is germane here. By my own observation, the Traditionalist/Boomer generations are struggling profoundly with many of the recent changes at church, such as HP combining with Elders, how to properly minister w/out structure, adapting teaching styles to the new Come Follow Me curriculum, and holding effective councils where vulnerability and collaboration is encouraged.
    It is no surprise that this resistance to change can carry over with mission presidents. It’s possible that for many millennials, a mission feels like regression & retrenchment rather than progress. With increasing numbers of millennials returning home from missions, we need to look at mission leadership as a possible cause.

  42. Similar rules have popped up in our mission. I believe they are wide spread.

  43. What do I think of those proposals? Not too much. I UNDERSTAND why some of them are being enforced the way they are, but overall it seems to be designed to make the missionaries less available to serve — which is one of the big purposes OF a mission, or so I thought.

  44. MPs = leadership roulette at its worst.

    Best missionary experiences of my long ago European mission: (1) the naive period of ignorance of and unknowing breaking of a number of mission rules in order to establish a relationship of trust and teaching with an interested investigator, (2) Ezra Taft Benson telling me that mission rules were nothing but a compilation of advice from years of mission experience and were to be ignored when they got in the way of teaching the gospel, (3) traveling out of my area on a weekly basis to teach an “investigator” who had been active in the Church for 8 years, but had refused to be baptized until she had the 6 discussions from a missionary she trusted to know what he was saying when he spoke her language (she picked me one week before I was transferred out).

    I was lucky to have an MP who was not as rule-bound and authoritarian as some others (even if he also failed to give the missionaries any kind of empathy or spiritual leadership and may have abused is position in some other ways). The risk of MP leadership roulette is so high that I will not encourage any teenager to go on a mission. Too bad — it had turned out to be one of the most difficult, but most valuable experiences of my life. It would have been a disaster had I had an MP like the one who promulgated these rules.

  45. “(2) Ezra Taft Benson telling me that mission rules were nothing but a compilation of advice from years of mission experience and were to be ignored when they got in the way of teaching the gospel”

    Is this in writing somewhere? Because I would love to have it on my short reference list for various occasions.

  46. Yikes. Those rules cannot possibly last for very long

  47. These are almost carbon copies of the rules my mission president enacted in my mission. Fun fact, my mission president now works for the missionary department as an Area Seventy.

    I can honestly say that these rules were implemented due to missionaries abusing support from members in our area and spending too much “prime proselyting time” (i.e after 6 PM) hanging out with the cooler members of their wards.

    The rules were nothing short of demoralizing for the missionaries and members in my mission. Here’s hoping that these aren’t church-wide changes.

  48. By the time I got to #6 I was certain this was a spoof. Talk about sucking any remaining joy out of it. Dementors the lot of them

  49. As a single sister I have often dropped off meals at the missionaries apartments because they can’t come to my house. I have al treated many missionaries to lunch in a public place. This is a service I like to perform and one I can do.

  50. This perplexes me a bit, but unfortunately is not too surprising. Having served as a mission president I know that the training includes pleas to not make up your own rules. Of course the circumstances of each mission have to come into play in some cases, but training the missionaries to use good judgment and follow the Spirit is the key to happy and successful missionaries, just as it’s the key to happy Church membership in life outside the mission.

  51. sgnm, Not in writing so far as I know. It was in a private, personal interview between me and ETB in connection with a mission conference. He asked whether I had any concerns. At age 20 I was still concerned that in the SLC mission home (for a week before going to the LTM in Provo) a GA had told us that mission rules were commandments of God and that we could not have the spirit with us if we broke any of them. One rule I mentioned to ETB was the be-in-bed at 10:00pm rule. It meant that, to comply, we would have to walk out in the middle of a discussion with one of the few investigators in our mission in order to use public transportation to cross the city in time to comply with the rule. ETB was first angry at the unnamed GA (who remained unnamed), and then commented as I reported above. I know of nothing like this written by ETB.

  52. All of this “sounds good in the conference room,” but is unrealistic. Members need to have a modicum of trust with missionaries before entrusting their friends with them. I’ve seen some gung-ho elders (never sisters!) alienate folks who won’t commit to baptism on the first visit. If I was still a member, do you think I would want to expose my friends to that? Hell no.

    Rather than make these hard and fast rules, which are probably in place due to abuses (multi-hour DA’s, lack of work, etc.), leave it up to the local mission leaders, DLs, and ZLs to monitor the activities of companionships they might be concerned about.

    Distancing the missionaries from the members is a very bad idea. I understand that the “new church connection” should be with members and not missionaries, but members know about transfers and there is no reason there cannot be a lasting but perhaps later distant connection.

    As for less active members. Missionaries are “disinterested third parties” where the individual may feel more apt to disclose why they’re not going to church and not to people they have known in the ward or branch. Honestly, when it came to missionaries, the sisters were FAR better than this than elders. Those sisters in my area (who tract my neighborhood every 3-4 years) actually got me to attend a baptism once. They didn’t care I wasn’t a member, they saw I was a good person, wasn’t rude or condescending like the elders were. Now, that baptismal service was the last one (the bishop was a complete dick, a little whiny bitch) so I wasn’t going to go back, but hey, I risked bursting into flame by crossing over the threshold of the local building at the invitation of those sisters!

    I feel for the missionaries, especially the very young at 18… they don’t have any life or post-school experience to work through this. It will be interesting in the long-run how these strict policies work out and how long it will take to go back to “normal.”

  53. Our ward just got merged into a new mission. One of the new rules is that missionaries can not lift over 20 lbs. Apparently too many were bring injured during moves. I thought the rule silly but consider myself blessed we’re not in the OP mission. Yeesh.

  54. In my mission we were told for several months that we should not attend church services unless we had an investigator. I broke that rule 100% until it was repealed.

    The sky is the limit for untamed zeal.

  55. Although I served many moon ago, knocking on doors during dinnertime was the best way to get people angry.

  56. ljhopkins2 says:

    This sort of soul-crushing nonsense – enabled by “a little authority” – will send some missionaries home now and leave others regretting that they traded a part of their humanity for “obedience” for the rest of their lives.

  57. it's a series of tubes says:

    Everything about this is bad. Wrong. Demoralizing. Terrible. ljhopkins2 hit it right on the head.

  58. I served in the same mission as the OP, more or less, a few years prior. The assumption is always the missionary has the full support of a mom, dad, and extended family. That is not always the case. Breaking a few selected rules kept me going.

    Back in the Paleozoic Era, there was not the emphasis on members feeding the missionaries. Maybe a couple times a week.

  59. The mission should be at least as much about converting the missionaries, whose testimonies are fledgling at best, as about teaching potential converts. I have felt the strength and gospel knowledge gained in missions served decades earlier in most of the wards I’ve attended. The mission is fundamental for building testimonies in future church leaders. If missionaries are not in a position to feel the love and support of the members of the ward, how can they teach investigators? Conversing with the missionaries after dinner about the gospel, hearing their messages and sharing our own testimonies, teaching with the missionaries when possible — these are all sweet experiences, and I think they bless the missionaries, the members, and any investigators involved. The Savior loved and nurtured his own apostles with his teaching; why shouldn’t we members, whose testimonies have often been tried by our own life experiences, share our strength with the missionaries? A missionary who feels part of the faith community of the ward is, IMO, going to be much more comfortable, eager, and convincing in teaching about the gospel and the Restored Church than one who is being treated with suspicion, mistrust, and Puritanical harshness. We had a period in our mission like this, and it took years to get the members back in the habit and having the desire to feed the missionaries and have them in our homes. When members and missionaries are part of a tight-knit loving community, the light of the gospel will flow freely. I do not believe these rules are of the Lord, who taught us two commandments: Love God; Love your neighbor; and implicit in that, serve those whom you love.

  60. Kevin Barney says:

    Chadwick, I’ve heard stories about missions with that rule, that you can only attend church with an investigator. That just blows my mind!

  61. A rule against attending church without an investigator is just a license for the missionaries to go inactive, right?

  62. thankful I served in Korea in the 70’s. We were taught correct principles and governed ourselves, given much latitude and had many wonderful experiences. I don’t think I would want to serve with the list of rules you mentioned. So many good things would have never happened if it were any other way.

  63. Tongue Untied says:

    It’s this kind of mission climate that caused me to go bonkers at the end of my mission. Not the limitations on interactions with members: our whole mission depended upon that. It was the cumbersome and overwhelming rules, and rules on top of rules, and rules to clarify the rules, and rules just because. I used to joke that we were even directed on which foot to start with when we left the house. It got so that you couldn’t remember which rule you might be breaking. And all of that on top of the expectation to perform, as calculated by all of those numbers of everything. By the end of my mission, I had lost twenty pounds, I had stopped menstruating entirely, and my digestive system was a total wreck, not from food but from anxiety. After I got home, I used to wake up every morning with my fists clenched so tightly that my fingernails were dug into my palms. That lasted for weeks. But I did teach a lot of people who were baptized, so I guess it was worth it? And in spite of eating a meal at members’ homes almost every day for my entire mission.

  64. As I’m re-thinking the rule to attend church services only with investigators, I pulled out my mission journal from the garage. I don’t think we know what happened exactly; we know that in our stake the ward mission leaders told us we were not to attend without investigators. I’m not sure if that was under the direction of the SP. It seems after about eight weeks someone finally informed the MP, and the ban was lifted. I was a junior companion at the time; it never entered my mind to verify this with my MP; I assumed authority was authority and went along with it (though as I mentioned, during that eight weeks, we either attended anyway (for at least Sacrament meeting) or we would go grab a random homeless person off the street into the chapel).

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  65. Jarom Johns says:

    When I was on my mission back in the 1980s, we had lots of dinner appointments with the members. This was helpful because we were able to get to know the members and know which investigators would match up with the right members for teaching discussions.

    Several years ago when we lived in another mission the mission president instituted rules like these. It became a pain to feed the missionaries because it had to be before 6 p.m. it was stressful the few times we tried to do it and we finally stopped. Once we had a friend who was interested in the church and we asked the friend and the missionaries over for dinner. We didn’t know the missionaries very well, if we had known them better we would not have invited our friend over, as it was a complete disaster. The initial encounter was a clash of personalities between our non member friend and one of the missionaries. Had we been able to get to know the missionaries better we could have made a better decision about bringing them together.

    By not allowing the missionaries to become an integral part of the ward does a disservice in so many ways. The least of which is to inspire the youth to go on a mission when they are old enough. The biggest reason I went on a mission is due to the influence of the missionaries who spent time in our home and we got to know. We knew who they were teaching and how they were progressing in the gospel and I could see that these missionaries really enjoyed what they were doing and I wanted to have that experience when I got older. I I have three children and our oldest was interested in going on a mission because of the influence of the missionaries who visit our home. The two younger children do not remember so much the missionaries being at our home and neither one has any desire to go on a mission. I’m not blaming anyone for their lack of Desire, but it could have been a help to them had the mission rules allowed them to have dinner with us without a non-member.

  66. jasonford818 says:

    What is the mystery? The missionaries have been socializing with members more than they have been proselytizing.

  67. I don’t like these rules in the sense that I would chafe under them.
    I don’t like these rules in the sense that they seem impractical and unworkable and ultimately self-defeating.
    But most of all I’m impressed by a horror of the lottery going on. A new missionary has no choice. The members have no choice. Even if there are areas and missions where these rules make sense, even if there are young men and women for whom these rules make sense, there’s no choice in the system. Not even information with which to make choices. The sense of oppression is overwhelming.
    Maybe that’s just proof that I’m not cut out for LDS missions or mission practices any longer.

  68. Right there with you, Chris.

  69. Sidebottom says:

    I was fortunate to have a MP who knew that the qualities that made him successful in his career were in opposition to the qualities that made a good priesthood leader. I wish we could weed out the evil men who impose toxic corporate cultures on what’s ostensibly still the Lord’s work.

  70. Some rules are dumb says:

    We had a similar rule limiting attendance at ward activities without an investigator present. We also were only allowed to attend general conference with an investigator present. We were all desperate to have investigators attend so that we could go. Imagine how isolated and tormented a missionary must be in their daily lives to actually want to attend a ward activity or Saturday afternoon general conference. Every one of us was that missionary. I feel the pain and anxiety returning just reading this, and I think I enjoyed my mission more than most.

  71. “which mission is unimportant for purposes of this post”

    Not so, if it’s in the Zion Curtain, it’s a world of difference.

  72. Left Field says:

    In my 1978-80 mission, the rule was that missionaries were supposed to attend sacrament meeting and (if applicable) priesthood. Sunday School was only if we had investigators. Otherwise, we were supposed to be out teaching or knocking on doors. I was assigned to a couple of wards with a nonmember spouse who regularly attended, and we always counted that as an investigator, and went to Sunday School. Towards the end of my mission, they instituted the three-hour block, and the No Sunday School rule didn’t make sense any more, so they just did away with it.

  73. I served in the Utah Provo Mission and these rules have a very familiar ring to them.

  74. I was a recent ward mission leader for over 5 years. I saw many knee jerk rule sets initiated by well intentioned MPs. Many of the rules of this post are extreme and are not sustainable and will not be obeyed well because of their obvious (except to the MP) weaknesses. It’s sad to see them cropping up. For the work to go forward the ward must trust the missionaries and that trust is earned through interaction. For the missionaries to do well they must feel that trust and feel trust from the MP. Most of the rules in this post are a big vote of no trust, no confidence by the MP toward members and his missionaries.

  75. Geoff - Aus says:

    I served in 1968 in Ireland, where there was a civil war between the catholics and the protestants. The only mission rule I remember was to get back to your digs, if you heard gunfire. I did have a DL whose girlfriend came from california to visit and they went off together for a week. We never had a meal with a member. I returned a little more cynical but still active.
    In our ward now they try to have meals each night for the missionaries with members. There seem recently to be a lot of missionaries from third world countries, that seem to be on missions as part of their training in how the church operates. Rules like these would be a great help when they are young bishops or branch presidents back home. They could become little dictators, and separate the sheep from the goats.

  76. My biggest concern with rules like this is that the isn’t any flexibility. I have no problem at all with an MP advising his missionaries to try to schedule dinner appointments earlier, to keep them short, to encourage members to give blessings, etc., and to follow the proportions of the holy spirit and learn to exercise your own judgment. But making these rules with no flexibility betrays a lack of trust for missionaries, sends a message to the missionaries that they aren’t trusted and can’t be trusted, and deprived them of valuable opportunities to learn how to exercise judgment and be sensitive to the direction of the spirit, which are essential for any kind of dinner future service in the church.

  77. Without all these rules, how else are you going to blame the fact that low baptism numbers are the result of the elders not being obedient enough to every. Single . Rule . With . Exactness! ???

  78. Eric Facer says:

    The objective of these rules may not have been to improve the quality of missionary work but to impress the mission president’s minders in SLC. The secret to advancing within many organizations is to identify the prevailing ideology and then embrace and advocate it with more zeal than your superiors.

    Kevin, you ask the wrong question in the last sentence of your post. How WE would counsel this mission president regarding his draconian proposals is of little importance since it is unlikely any of us will ever be an AA70. The important question is: How would your garden-variety AA70 react to this mission president’s new rules? I suspect he probably would have endorsed them enthusiastically. Perhaps he would have offered a suggestion or two, but in the end he would have commended the MP for his zealotry. (No double entendre intended with the “MP” abbreviation. Well, okay, maybe there was.)

    I realize I am being a bit jaded, but as Lily Tomlin once observed: “No matter how cynical you become, it’s never enough to keep up.”

  79. @Jan, I disagree. I am a returned missionary, born and raised in the mission field and can attest that the blame for low baptisms does not belong to the missionaries! We host them in our home often and can attest they are almost all good, obedient, and pure souls. The reason baptisms have fallen is because today’s investigators have the Internet–they can Google the church and find out about our shoddy treatment of LGBTQs, abuse survivors, and African Americans. They are digging up the CES letter, MormonLeaks, ProtectLDSChildren, and the MoFem sites that reveal how poorly our women are treated by the men in power–THAT is what hurts missionary stats. It has nothing to do with the missionaries. The missionaries themselves are doing a great job.

  80. (Pardon, Jan–I misread your comment. Thought you were blaming the missionaries. I understand the gist now, lol)

  81. Madsenmel says:

    I just have one comment about the service rule: in my ward there was a crotchety old lady who was capable of doing things for herself but constantly expected the missionaries to do everything for her. Mow her lawn once a week, weed her vegetable garden, wash her dishes, do laundry. And because she was so crotchety and had lived in the ward for so long (and probably partially to get out of doing missionary work) the missionaries would do everything for her. She treated them like personal slaves and never fed them or anything. A new set of sisters told her that they couldn’t come and cook her dinner because they had a teaching appointment and she talked so badly about them that they eventually had to be transferred out. She had been a missionary herself years ago and felt she was entitled to service since her husband had died a few years ago. Once the new ward mission leader found out he had a firm talk with her, but I can see where this rule might have to be implemented in some wards…but no service to members? Surely some ward service projects could benefit from missionaries being there!

  82. Bro. Jones says:

    I find it astounding that anyone considers the dinner hour a good time for proselytizing. If anyone came to my door while my family was eating dinner, I would not receive them.

    I did not serve an LDS mission, but I occasionally volunteered to go on “splits” with the missionaries. In one US ward, the MP asked us to go tracting on Thanksgiving Day. Not a single person had kind words for us, and I completely understand: who in the world wants to interrupt preparation for a major holiday meal (or even the meal itself) to talk with missionaries? Idiocy. Nothing was accomplished.

  83. Eric, I could be wrong, but I don’t think AA70s have any priesthood keys over mission presidents. I don’t think they don’t need to endorse or approve mission rules, and I don’t think they get to overrule them either. I think that comes from the twelve.

  84. That is, the twelve don’t approve mission rules, but they can overrule them. Of course that doesn’t mean that MPs don’t listen to AA70s.

  85. Eric Facer says:

    JKC, you may be correct, but I believe you have missed the point of my comment.

    Whether an AA70 has any authority to approve or overrule a particular mission president’s rules is irrelevant to the question that Kevin posed or my reformulation of his question. Rather, the question is: How would the AA70 have REACTED to them? Would he have QUESTIONED the wisdom of the rules? Would he have COUNSELED the mission president to soften them or proceed full-steam ahead?

    Whether an AA70 has any authority over, or priesthood keys with respect to, a mission president wouldn’t dissuade an MP who aspires to higher office from trying to impress someone whose calling is, according to Elder Earl C. Tingey, to “tour missions and train mission presidents” and who reports to the Seventy leadership in Salt Lake.

  86. I really think it is high time that the wife of the MP is getting a say and veto in things like the rule-making and decisions of her husband. We need a better balance in male/female influence in this church. All around, at every level!

  87. Far enough, Eric. But the answer to your questions depends very much on the personality and perspective of the particular AA70, and there are a variety. I don’t think there really is a “garden variety” AA70. I think there’s a range of differing approaches.

  88. Eric Facer says:

    I pray that you are right, JKC.

  89. tbh, the general trend probably depends a lot more on the presidency of the 70, and on the leadership of the missionary department than on individual AA70s.

  90. As to how Area Authority 70’s might respond, I think you are a little too jaded. I’ve known many of them, and can think of only one who might have responded as you suggest. Most would have been horrified.

  91. Another point on the influence of Area Authority 70’s. They meet with the mission president(s) in their area frequently, as well as with the stake presidents and the mission president together in a quarterly mission council meeting. They tend to have a great deal of influence.

  92. The Twelve do not generally get involved. In most of the world, any local variations on rules come from or are approved by the Area Presidency. Traditionally in the US there were no Area Presidencies, and a member of the Presidency of the Seventy was assigned to cover. Practically speaking, that role was fulfilled through the Area Seventy assigned to the mission. In my own experience, there was very little, if any, discussion of additional rules that were not physical safety rules.

  93. Curt, I think you’re right. Of course that depends on the mission president. I’ve known at least a couple that are mindful of the limits of the authority of AA70s and the lack of authority of missionary personnel and won’t hesitate to disagree with them on a matter that’s within their calling. But I imagine that most are fairly compliant with AA70 suggestions.

  94. This is depressing. I’m glad we didn’t have such rules on my mission. In my home area we have had some rules implemented on the full-time missionary, but nothing so draconian as these. i feel bad for these missionaries and the members in the area.

  95. Happy Hubby says:

    This is my “grumpy Hubby” response :-)

    If this was in the mission I lived in, I would write the mission president and sarcastically say, “Thanks for letting us members off the hook. Since we won’t get to know the missionaries really at all, missionary work will not be on our minds. Thanks for removing that stress! But I do worry for the Elders and Sisters in our mission. I actually don’t know what they are to do with all that their time as the baptisms will be few.”

    If it was a mission my kid was serving I wouldn’t be so nice. I would express how I feel this is going to “break” many more missionaries as this is emotionally hard for them to do. I feel he will have more missionaries leave early and even those that don’t will come away from a mission without any love, but more of “I survived.” I already had one kid stick to his mission with a MP that was hard nosed (even confirmed by an A70). Quite a bit of therapy to repair the damage that occurred (and I HOPE it is repaired).

    Now that I think about it, I should be just as concerned about the missionaries in my home ward. So I probably would send to the local MP the snarky message, then switch to the second one to be more clear.

    I really wish they would allow nearly 100% service missions. I remember decades ago that they had “service missionaries” that did things like teach sanitation basics and occasionally they would teach. I think this would be a great option to have for our youth. We have culturally made the marriage prospects for non-RM’s fairly low (increasing the chances they will leave or be inactive in the church). And we are surprised when we have astonishingly high numbers of youth “falling away.” DUH!

  96. I’m with Bro Jones: “I find it astounding that anyone considers the dinner hour a good time for proselytizing. If anyone came to my door while my family was eating dinner, I would not receive them.”

    The CojColds church leaders just need to accept the fact that door-knocking is an antiquated way of advertising/getting the word out to the masses anymore and that people don’t want to be bothered in their domiciles anymore, period. There is a reason that traveling salesmen are extinct, yo! There’s a reason we all use apps, scan codes, and other innovations to reach the masses with our sales pitches nowadays, and a lot of it has to do with people’s fierce desire for privacy and concerns over safety in an increasingly unsafe world. Leave us alone, don’t knock on our doors, we don’t answer and we train our kids not to answer. Stranger danger and all that compels us to turn missionaries away, no matter how squeaky clean and cute they glow. Dinosaur brethren who refuse allow any innovation or creativity in the younger generations’ gospel-sharing techniques are taking out the resulting lack of success on innocent missionaries by cutting off their access to the only people in the mission field who value, care for, and feed them during their years of selfless sacrifice for the Lord. What a cruel strategy.

  97. We knew which members would feed us and let us watch TV. We knew which members would let us lost at their house all evening. I think this is an effort to combat perceived missionary laziness.

  98. Kevin Barney says:

    Happy Hubby, nothing official yet, but I have it on pretty good authority that pure service missions are in development and will become an option at some point.

  99. Missionaries may not buy propane torches
    Missionaries may not buy switchblades

    These were actual written addenda to the local mission rules I learned about when I was chatting with a companionship. There were many others that were compiled in a “Welcome to the Mission” binder that was given to each new missionary.

    Sometimes we look at rules and think, really, why would you need to spell that out? Recall that common sense sometimes is lacking in the still maturing minds of 18 year old Elders and sometimes 19 year old sisters often out on their own for the first time. The rule impacts everyone but unfortunately it’s really written for the minority who lack good judgment.

    Every mission rule generally emanates from at least one if not multiple incidents that happened either in the experience of the Mission President or to another Mission President he knows.
    Sometimes however they come direct from the visit of a Seventy or Apostle and sometimes those rules are overreactions to an offhand comment by said visiting authorities.

    As for these rules there’s an underlying principle to each of them. Whether or not they accomplish the overarching goal of engaging members and helping bring new converts into the Church is debatable.

    1. Not visiting Active Members really should say: “We’re concerned about some of you who spend whole afternoons over at a favorite member’s home who just loves to dote on the missionaries in an excessive manner.” Sometimes the missionaries are at fault, sometimes the member is at fault. I’ve known some of both.

    2. Cannot eat meals with members after 6 PM really should say: “The optimal time for finding and meeting with people who stable have 9-5 jobs is most likely the early evening and you should schedule your time for eating your evening meal at an earlier time in the day to avoid less effective usage of that time.” The problem with this thinking is that it ignores that there are whole segments of the population who work second and third shifts.

    3. Cannot visit less active members without a ministering Brother or Sister present should read: “FT missionaries can have a fantastic impact on helping fellowship less active members and they are a rich resource for finding new people to teach, however; engaging a ministering brother or sister as part of your visits helps deepen more lasting connections with those who live permanently in the Ward boundary and leads to greater long term outcomes for all involved.”

    4. No planned service projects and no serving Active members should say: “A FT missionary’s call is to find ways to serve within their area in ways that can have a material impact on those in need within the community. Because we cannot guarantee consistent support of a fixed schedule project short term projects are preferred. You should look for small ways to serve the members in your area that can build a stronger relationship with them but these projects should not take up a significant portion of your day unless so guided by the Spirit. We are also trying to protect you from getting sucked into becoming the service arm of the Ward for those with long term, chronic needs that should be handled by the Ward and the Community.”

    I actually saw significant benefits from serving at the local food bank when I was a missionary and this was a regularly scheduled twice a week effort for 3 hours in the morning. We built real trust with the community and had fantastic reasons to visit people in their homes as we brought food deliveries to them.

    5. Missionaries may only attend Christmas and Thanksgiving socials should say: “Halloween is holiday whose celebration is a victory for Satan and if you’re going to keep the Spirit with you then avoid any such celebrations at all costs.” Just kidding, what it really should say is, “Any Ward social where you can invite non members or encounter non members in a non-threatening manner is an excellent opportunity for fellowshipping and building relationships of trust that can lead to teaching opportunities. Unfortunately some of your compatriots have found them as an opportunity to slack off and flirt with the opposite sex – especially in areas where they are responsible for a whole Stake they can fill up an entire month’s schedule with these kinds of activities – and you are encouraged to rat them out to the APs.”

    6. No one else should know the missionaries’ address should say: “We’re concerned about the potential for creepy guys or clingy girls showing up at FT Missionary apartments so the Ward should not publish their address in the directory. It would be preferred if you could pick up your meals from members and could meet them in a public place for them to pick you up and give you rides to meet with investigators.We realize that the ideal is not always workable so be judicious in who in the Ward knows where you live.”

    7. Members and Leaders should give blessings should say: “FT missionaries should seek to involve ministering brothers / leaders in the Ward where possible when blessings are requested so that greater insight of problems and needs can be established and shared across the stewardship for these members. However, if there is a member in dire need of a blessing and no one else is immediately available, please administer care in the manner that the Savior you represent would.”

  100. Thank you, Alain. Well said. When I was a missionary, this is how I viewed most rules. Fortunately I had mission presidents who also had such views. I tried to do the same for my missionaries. You are right that many of them are still lacking in judgment, but that’s no excuse for not teaching them. The principles you’ve laid out are the kinds of things we taught constantly in district meetings and zone conferences. Hopefully some of it stuck.

  101. @Mormon nailed it. These kids are volunteers. Keeping that in mind, all of these rules (and many in the handbook) are patently ridiculous.

  102. “You are right that many of them are still lacking in judgment, but that’s no excuse for not teaching them.” Amen to that, Curt.

  103. Kevin Barney says:

    I like your rewrites, Alain. The problem with the original set is they draw incomprehensible and impractical bright lines. Articulating the actual principles you’re worried about and allowing pragmatic flexibility would go a long way to making this kind of thing actually workable.

  104. And approaching it as Alain suggests, rather than with inflexible rules, has the added benefit of teaching missionaries how to practice using common sense & judgment, and following the promptings of the spirit to figure out what’s the best thing to do in a given situation. Not only will it avoid unintended consequences of rigid rule-following, it will make them better teachers and better future leaders in the church.

  105. Kevin, I learned early on that pragmatic flexibility was often anathema to priesthood leadership in a Mission. I was also guilty of taking a bed and putting it in the doorway between two rooms so that my companion and I could directly and momentarily violate the two rules in the white bible that said:

    1. You and your companion should sleep in the same room
    2. You and your companion should sleep in separate beds

    Sanity comes from recognizing the absurdity present in any hierarchical system and finding ways to root it out or work around it.

  106. My approach to church service is, “Act like you’re bound by covenant to serve, but treat other people like they’re volunteers.” That is not the approach of mission presidents.

  107. I suspect that many of these rules were because of something stupid earlier missionaries had done. My mission president’s assignment when he was called was to enforce some discipline that was lacking from the previous mission president. The previous MP’s rules were relatively lax, and even those were abused by enterprising missionaries, some of whom were sent home under disciplinary action. When he got a chance to lighten up, he did. I could tell he didn’t like his role (he was good friends with the previous MP), but he understood it.

  108. We almost never tracted in the evening on my Missouri mission. I can see the logic behind doing it, but I don’t think it’s as much of a no-brainer as some of the comments imply.

  109. “… but treat other people like they’re volunteers.”

    I’ve got dozens of letters from the 1st Pres calling new mission presidents, 1920-1950. A great many of them include a line about remembering that their missionaries are idealistic young people desiring to serve the Lord, not employees to be commanded and driven by the mission president. I have no idea whether current calls carry such warnings, but it seems that it was very much on the minds of Heber J. Grant and George Albert Smith — a caution based on experience, maybe?

  110. Ryan Mullen says:

    “Act like you’re bound by covenant to serve, but treat other people like they’re volunteers.”

    Words to live by.

  111. On my mission the rule was to not be in anyone’s home for more than an hour. Member or Non-member.
    I remember from a series of exchanges with the missionaries in the ward over hearing from certain women in the ward about their favorite missionaries. It was a companionship (or two) from about a year earlier. One woman said how they’d show up every day, hang out at her house, eat her food, play games and socialize from about 10 a.m. to noon, and then leave. Another said the same thing but the time was from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and the other one was from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. All of the women mentioned how much they loved these missionaries; and bemoaned how the current set of Elders don’t do that.
    I was taken aback, not only where they staying for more than an hour, they were also in the house without another male there. I thought that most actives members in the ward would help keep missionaries following the rules; not praise those who didn’t. These weren’t less active families, these were STP families.
    Missionaries who follow the rules just aren’t any fun I guess.

  112. Billy Possum says:

    Reading these rules, I smell a (semi-retired) lawyer. The capitalized terms are particularly telling.

    I’m with Mr. Bumble: “If the law supposes that…the law is an ass.”

  113. I have served as a MP and a counselor to 4 MPs as well as an A70. There is not a calling in church with as much autonomy as MP. The missionary department for the most part leaves you alone and they have practically not ability to judge a mission and its effectiveness other than the key indicator reports that the missionaries enter every week. There are around 420 missions in the church and the vast majority of mission presidents do a great job. Sadly a post like this highlights an aberration. Every year the 1P and Q12 instruct all the new mission presidents. I have listened to at least 20 years of those seminars and can tell you that the message has been consistent – “Do not create new rules.”

    I am highly doubtful that these ruled come from anyone other than the MP or perhaps an overly zealous A70. The key to successful missions is creating disciples not soldiers. When a missionary understands that key difference they do not need rules or restrictions. Nonetheless MPs come into the calling with their personal philosophy and so despite the counsel of the Brethren we have 420 different interpretations of missionary work.

    We were a new mission that drew from two legacy missions, one with super strict and additional rules and the other fairly lax. For the first couple of months I had missionaries calling and asking what the rule was for such and such. Finally in a conference one day after fielding a bunch of these questions I said, “Look I’m not Moses and your not the children of Israel. Get the spirit of discipleship and it will all work out.” You have to trust them.

    We had some unique circumstances with extremely high inactivity rates. In our first MLC we put one question on the table – “What do you want to find in 10 or 20 years when you bring your family back to see your mission.” The resounding answer was a strong Church. It caused us to rethink everything and we made a lot of adjustments that this post cannot go into. Bottom line is that we trusted our missionaries and they knew it. We asked them to do at least 6-10 hours a week service, we had them serve in ward callings, we called to additional APs to rove the mission meeting with church leaders, community organizations and government leaders to arrange service opportunities.

    Here are the results: lessons doubled, baptisms increased by 40%, church attendance doubled after 6 years of declines. The most important changes that are not really measurable is that disobedience was extremely minimal. Our early return rates for all reasons, health, mental health, worthiness, belated confessions were the lowest in the area by far. But the problem is that the MD never is able to measure what is happening in a mission. All they really see is a few statistics. Once a year a GA comes for a tour of the mission and depending on the mission they may or may not get a real feel for what is happening.

    Bottom line, treat missionaries like the servants we expect them to be and they will rise to the level of expectation. And to the rest of relax and don’t let one or two missions with nutty rules get to you.

  114. DLCROC, that’s a pretty blithe dismissal of the damage being done to hundreds of missionaries and members in “one or two missions with nutty rules.” Unless all the commenters who shared their own experiences went to the same mission, it also appears that it’s a few more than “one or two.” I was fortunate to have a mostly wonderful first half of my mission in a Northeastern US state in the mid-90s with a mission president who was wise and trusted his missionaries. The second half was a little more difficult, as we had a new mission president who came straight from the Missionary Department (he is still employed there, as far as I know) and who brought a host of new and restrictive rules. They were nothing so drastic as what’s being described here, but different enough from the old way of doing things that they along with his, shall we say, un-nuanced view of appropriate behavior caused a serious backlash that rippled through the mission for more than a year. I am sad to say that although my mission was an overwhelmingly positive experience, I do not want my sons to serve because missions seem to be increasingly about social pressure to conform within the mission while isolating missionaries from members and each other and forcing them to have intrusive conversations about the gospel with unwilling strangers, whether in their houses, by text or online.

  115. DLCROC, Thanks for your report. For the most part it is encouraging, though from my quizzing returned missionaries from multiple missions about 50 years ago, the nutty [and counter-productive] rules problem was then in far more than “one or two missions.” I wonder if you would have had the same results as MP in one of the continental European missions.

    The damage done to missionaries and the church by nutty rules and rogue MPs and the risk of its repetition are great enough that I remain unable to encourage any teenager to go — at least not without full disclosure of the existence of such nutty rules and of MPs more interested in the statistics they report and in the possibility of their own ecclesiastical advancement than in building the church or the missionaries — and not without disclosure of the unpredictability as to whether any particular prospective missionary will be sent to one of those overly-restrictive, spirit-killing, and/or high-pressure sales-force hell holes, from which no honorable escape is possible. Accordingly, it is best that I am not involved in preparing young missionaries to serve. The problem of enduring to the end of one of those missions was bad enough for young men going at age 19. I suspect it would be worse for those going at age 18.

    How is it that the MD can’t tell “what is happening in a mission” but you somehow know that the “vast majority of mission presidents do a great job” and that there are only “one or two” with nutty rules? I hope you are right. Most missions and MPs are invisible to me. The majority of the small sample of MPs I have had personal acquaintance with or second hand reports on were not doing a great job of leading or ministering to either missionaries or members.

    It could help greatly if there were many more reports of MPs trusting missionaries seeing them rise to the expectation. Thanks for yours. I wish there were more like it and more commonly known. Maybe there are and I have just missed them.

  116. DLCROC:

    Oh that all MPs had your attitude! My second MP in his first year must have issued about 25 “memoranda,” or additional rules we were instructed to print and include in our Area Books — including the one I mentioned above, forbidding missionary attendance at post-baptism refreshments; instituting proselytizing hours during the siesta (in order to accord with the Handbook’s schedule); instituting the dinner hour (which made little sense in a country with its main meal midday and where no one ate dinner at that time, if at all); and more.

  117. I’m of an age where the men I grew up with are serving as mission presidents. Recognizing the many flaws in “two types” thinking, I do see friends who think first about the missionaries, and friends who think first about their next “promotion” in the Church. I suspect it makes a difference.

  118. “Missionaries who follow the rules just aren’t any fun I guess.”


  119. Let’s just overprogram everything and take the working of the Spirit completely out of the Church. These rules were written by a bureaucrat.

  120. Jack Hughes says:

    I thought the intent behind the new ministering initiative (of which I consider missionary work to be a part) was to encourage innovation and get away from old arbitrary rules and self-imposed constraints. Even the upcoming change to 2-hour church seems to be founded in the idea that individual members and families are being trusted more to take charge of their own spiritual development, rather than rely fully on the institutional Church. Ridiculous rules like these run contrary to that.

  121. Kevin Barney says:

    DLCROC, thanks for sharing your on the ground experience.

  122. @ChristianKimball Thank youngor your comment! Numbers-obsessed men have been the bane of my entire existence in the church. On my mission, I learned that when I focused on people and Christ, obedience and blessings naturally followed anyway; same goes for post-missionnservice in the church, but I have pretty much thrown in the towel and quit caring about serving in the LDS spree due to numbers men who were more intent on cranking out temple recommend holders and manipulating people into mormon-bots via incentives (welfare, conditional friendship, etc) than actually ministering as Christ does, so I now focus my ministering efforts outside the church and try to lead people to Him outside of any institution.

  123. I apologize if I seemed dismissive of the damage done to missionaries in some missions. I know it can be real. I have seen it with a family member. I was lucky I suppose to have a MP that was wonderful and shaped my views and philosophy of missionary work. I agree completely that the numbers men have done and still do damage. We never reported numbers to our missionaries. To me that was the beauty to see that their motivations had nothing to do with recognition. We had no leadership ladder. It was not uncommon to call young missionaries as ZLs and former ZLs as junior comps in our mission.

    I saw first hand the damage done in an earlier era in the country where we served by an undue focus on numbers and still have a hard time trying not to judge some of those men I know that implemented those policies. I can say that the Q12 and 1P care and when word gets to them about things out of wack they take notice. I have seen MPs released.

    Pres. Hinckley was profoundly influenced by things he saw in South America that planted the seeds for Preach My Gospel and his seminal sermon “Feed My Lambs Feed My Sheep.” One of the main purposes of PMG was to strengthen missionaries and to avoid extremes in missionary work. Yet we still have fallible men called to positions as MPs who bring with them their own baggage and theories. The Brethren to their best to train but sometimes MPs just don’t listen.

    Missionaries should never be judged on numbers or ranked yet occasionally it still happens. Last year I heard from one of my former missionaries that his brother’s MP sent out a monthly ranking of the missionaries based on their numbers. That kind of nonsense is totally unacceptable and as I said the MD has no way of knowing that level of detail a mission. I sent a note to one of the Presidents of the 70 and the practice was immediately stopped. So my point is if you hear of an aberration never hesitate let one of the senior Brethren know. They do listen.

  124. DLCROC, or at least one of them listened once to a former MP, MPcounselor, AA70. It remains unknown they would listen to members who have not so risen in the ranks. My very limited experience with 5 of the 70s, several Regional Representatives, and a couple Area Authority 70s has been that they are much more interested in talking and decision making, and in one case judging without first getting information, than they have been in listening. Again, I hope your experience is the majority and that my small sample an aberration.

  125. Happy Hubby says:

    Thanks for your comments DLCROC. It sounds to me like we need to train our missionaries on what a MP stepping over the line is and how to report this to parents and the missionary department. I have had to fight with my own kids on missions when they said, “Dad, you are not my mission president.” I responded, “You are right. I am your Dad and I trump your mission president.” My son didn’t agree – and hence why he had to go into therapy when he got back home.

  126. nobody, really says:

    Happy Hubby, we *do* train our missionaries on what to do when somebody is stepping over the line. We have old Church News pronouncements that “when the Prophet speaks, the thinking has been done”. We have plenty of commenters on this blog letting us know that priesthood authority is always correct, and that they say goodbye and will be there at the judgment bar to testify that we are wrong for questioning. We have are told that no Bishop, no Stake President, no Mission President, will ever lead us astray – even the ones in MLM scams or abusive situations. We are told in the Handbooks that we are not to write letters to General Authorities, that these letters will be simply forwarded back to our bishops and stake presidents.

    In short, we are told to sit down and shut up, even when an abuse of power is going on.

    The only thing we can do is teach our kids that church authorities only have the power that we choose to give them. We *do* have the power to say “No, that won’t work for my family. We won’t be participating.” It is okay to say no to Scouts, to seminary, to Mutual, to special fasts, to Amway or “investment opportunities”, to annual interviews, whatever. Missions are probably the hardest one, since we have such a rite-of-passage stigma attached, and being sent home can mess a person up permanently.

  127. Byron Ball says:

    We have similar rules right now in the Idaho falls mission

  128. your food allergy is fake says:

    And similar new rules here in the NE USA. Something seems to be happening beyond just one rogue MP.

  129. It comes around about every three to five years here, usually sent around a few months after the arrival of a new mission president. The last time they announced it in our Relief Society, I leaned over to the sister next to me and said, “How long is it going to last this time? One month? Two?” She looked scandalized that I would suggest such a thing but it ended up lasting just a few weeks. The length of time it lasts may be an indicator of the reasonableness of the mission president, or the amount of common sense he has. Ours is good, hence the limited duration.

  130. Some of this sounds like directives that are coming down from Area Presidencies, but at least a portion of the rules sound distinctly like a Mission President who has served for many years as a Junior High School Principal.

  131. I had a strict mission like this 30 years ago. We had even more rules than this! Sisters weren’t allowed to wear perfume etc. It was psychologically harmful. De-humanising. The rules seemed to expect the worst from the missionaries. Understandably, there was one missionary sent home from every district I served in due to immoral behaviour, but this should be dealt with before a missionary leaves. Bishops and Stake Presidents have a responsibility to vet prospective missionaries so that missions are free to do the beautiful work. The attitude that every young man is expected to be in the field, especially the expectation by families and how their standing looks in the Church if their child doesn’t go, and the attitude by leaders that if they put a struggling young man in the field it might make a man of him is what needs to change. Rules like above come about as a knee jerk reaction to the mis-behaviour of a few who penalise the rest. It’s not good.

  132. I think these rules are going to lead to depression and loss of testimony. It’s all about community. Take that away and we are back to Boyd K Packerisms.

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