The stereotypical Mormon missionary is a male in his late teens or early 20s. Although a large percentage of the roughly 52,000 Mormon missionaries fit that stereotype, females typically in their 20s (although they may be older) may also choose to become a Mormon missionary, and married couples where both are at least 40 and have no children living at home may choose to become a missionary couple. Married people may not serve a mission without their spouse.
Although not all Mormon missionaries fit the stereotypical mold, there are many characteristics that pertain to all or at least most Mormon missionaries. All Mormon missionaries volunteer to go on a mission. This means that they are not paid for their work. Instead, they have to pay for the opportunity to go on a mission although many do get financial assistance from family and friends. For young male missionaries, they serve for two years. Females go for eighteen months. Married couples who choose to go on a Mormon mission together serve for different amounts of time depending upon their circumstances, but most go for 12, 18, or 23 months.
Those who choose to serve a Mormon mission choose to do it out of love of their religion. They want to share their beliefs with others. For most unmarried missionaries, this is done through the process of going door-to-door, knocking on doors and sharing a message with those willing to listen. They may also get “referrals” from other Mormons meaning someone suggests a friend who may want to hear the Mormon message. Typically couples do not go door-to-door preaching the Mormon gospel message. They may instead be involved in things like service or administrative duties.
Mormon missionaries also serve in companionships. With married couples, they will be each others’ companion for the duration of their entire mission. Unmarried missionaries will switch companions several times throughout the duration of their mission although all of their companions will be of their same gender. Typically, unmarried missionaries still go in groups of two although sometimes their will be three missionaries placed together for a short period. During their time as missionary companions, Mormon missionaries spent basically 24/7 with the other person. Patience can become important during this time.
Before Mormon missionaries leave on their mission, they receive a “mission call” which is basically a piece of paper letting them know where they will be going on their mission. They might be called to a location in their own country, or they might be called to a country on the other side of the world or anywhere in-between. Couples going on a mission together sometimes get a little say in where they are going, but the most that unmarried Mormon missionaries get a say in is whether they’d rather go foreign or domestic (although this request is not always honored).
During the course of their mission, Mormon missionaries have little interaction with their families (although the rules are a little more lenient concerning couples on missions). Young men and women on missions get two phone calls home a year, one on Christmas and the other on Mothers’ Day. The rest of their correspondence with family and friends is done through letters and emails which are typically permitted to be exchanged on a certain day each week.
During the course of their missions, young missionaries “leave the world behind.” This means no dating, and most media becomes a no-no during this time. Instead of watching popular movies and listening to the latest music, Mormon missionaries dedicate their lives to reading the scriptures, sharing their religion with others, and overall serving the Lord as thanks for all He has provided for them. Rules are a little more lenient when it comes to older couples who are serving missions, but their purpose is still the same, to dedicate a portion of their lives to building up God’s kingdom through sharing their religion with others through preaching and service.