8 Myths of Senior Missionary Service

Contributed By Marianne Holman Prescott, Church News staff writer

  • 8 September 2017

A senior missionary couple helps patrons and teaches them about doing family history work.

Article Highlights

  • Senior missionary service takes many different forms.
  • Senior missionaries have more flexibility than young missionaries.
  • The Church needs the talents and experience of senior missionaries.

“Your life is your preparation. You have valuable experience.” —Art Johnson, Family History Department 

PROVO, UTAH

For Mark and Terri Jacob from Orem, Utah, serving a mission together has been a dream since they were first married. Both served missions as young adults and have always wanted to serve together once their children were grown and out of the house.

Now, their youngest is a senior in high school, and the time they have been planning for is within reach. Even though they have been planning on serving a mission for years, now that it is almost here the couple recognizes there are a few things that need to happen before they are ready to go.

“You have to make that decision young because things come up along the way,” Terri said.

Whether it is finding someone to take care of their home, helping their family members to be ready for them to leave, or figuring out how to take care of other responsibilities, the couple has started the process so they will be able to accomplish their goal in 2019.

“Even with all of the planning and years of preparation,” Terri said, “it is a leap of faith no matter when you go.”

Now, more than ever, there are countless opportunities and ways for couple missionaries to serve around the world. Whether it is a call as a full-time missionary couple in a foreign land, as a Church-service missionary, or in a local assignment, there are hundreds of opportunities for couples—as well as single men and women—to choose from.

“Every mission president in the Church could use more full-time missionaries,” said Art Johnson, a workforce development manager in the Family History Department.

With possible assignments at Church headquarters, at a visitors’ center or historic site, in the Missionary Department, in the Church Educational System, helping with humanitarian aid, working at the Church farms or ranches, in family history, or assisting in addiction recovery, there is a place for all who are willing to serve.

With so many different options available, missionary service is easier than ever. Yet for many potential couple missionaries, “unknowns” about missionary service hold them back from submitting their papers.

“What is holding you back?” Johnson asked.

During a BYU Education Week presentation, Johnson walked listeners through eight myths associated with missionary service as a senior couple.

Common impediments include the “five f’s”—fear, family concerns, finances, finding the right mission opportunity, and flexibility. Although there are some requirements for missionary service, most important on the list is a desire to serve.

Myth 1: Now is not a good time; I have too many obstacles—finances, family circumstances, health, etc.

“If you wait for the perfect time, it may never be here,” Johnson said. “Don’t wait!”

Drawing from the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Johnson said in regards to family, “Those little darlings will be just fine, and I promise you will do things for them in the service of the Lord that, worlds without end, you could never do if you stayed home to hover over them. What greater gift could grandparents give their posterity than to say by deed as well as word, ‘In this family we serve missions!’” (“We Are All Enlisted,” Oct. 2011 general conference).

Recognizing the variety of missionary opportunities available, Johnson encouraged listeners to look for ways they can serve in their current circumstances. He encouraged listeners to look at their standing with the Lord; to do an honest self-assessment of their health, financial situation, and family concerns; to counsel with their spouse; and to talk with their family and priesthood leaders.

For some, full-time missionary service away from home will be the right place to serve. For others, serving a Church-service mission—with a little more flexibility in time and circumstances—will be right.

“Leaving family can also mean leaving for a few days a week on a [Church-service mission] assignment while you live at home,” Johnson said.

Church-service missions range from 8 to 40 hours a week and are flexible in the days and times a person or couple is available.

Myth 2: I will have to knock on doors, memorize and teach the lessons, or give a lot of talks.

While proselyting efforts are a part of missionary work, it is not a hard and fast requirement for missionaries to knock on doors or keep the same rigorous schedule that young missionaries do.

“Senior missionaries are not required to knock on doors, tract or proselyte, learn a foreign language, or maintain the same schedule as young missionaries,” Johnson said.

Rather than a strict schedule of do’s and don’ts, senior missionaries may be asked to help reactivate members, perform leadership roles, or assist the mission president in other roles.

“Your life is your preparation,” said Johnson. “You have valuable experience. You have raised a family and served in the Church—you have survived teenagers!”

In fact, sharing skills, talents, and abilities is encouraged to find the right fit for missionary service.

“Work your magic.”

Myth 3: I should wait for my priesthood leader to approach me.

In a Church where callings aren’t sought after, some couples may think they should wait until a priesthood leader approaches them about missionary service.

“We don’t seek out callings, but you can and should seek missionary opportunities,” Johnson said.

“Share with your priesthood leaders and the Brethren inspiration and impressions you’ve had about how you can uniquely contribute to the kingdom.”

Myth 4: I can only serve as a couple.

“The ways in which single senior members or couples can serve are virtually limitless,” Johnson said. “From mission office support and leadership training to family history, temple work, and humanitarian service, there is an opportunity to use almost any skill or talent with which the Lord has blessed you.”

Although full-time missionary service is limited to couples and single women, Church-service missionary opportunities are available to men and women, married or single. If a spouse isn’t able to serve, or a person doesn’t have a spouse, there are assignments available as a Church-service missionary.

“If you have fear of an assignment you don’t like, tell us about you—what do you like to do?” Johnson said. “Information begets inspiration.”

Myth 5: I will have the same rules and expectations as young missionaries do.

One major concern for many senior couples is communicating with families.

“Skype was made for grandchildren,” Johnson said. “Senior missionaries can Skype and communicate with their family as often as they like.”

Although there are specific rules in each mission, senior couples are not as limited in their activities as young missionaries. Their schedule is much more flexible and has different requirements than young missionaries. With permission from the mission president, couples are able to return home for critical family events.

Myth 6: I can pick my mission assignment.

While there isn’t a perfect guarantee that a couple will choose their mission call or area they are assigned to labor, senior couples do have a say in what type of missionary service they give—whether as a full-time or Church-service missionary.

A visit to lds.org/servicemissions will give an idea of Church-service mission assignments that are available. The website lds.org/callings/missionary/senior will provide information about full-time mission service.

Church-service missionaries present options to serve from or close to home. By looking at the options and working with a couple’s bishop and stake president, they are usually able to choose the arena the couple will serve.

For full-time missionary service, couples are encouraged to browse and search out specific experiences in which they are interested. A preference can be identified, but with full-time service, even with a preference given, “a mission call is still a mission call,” Johnson said.

Recognizing the quantity of requests to specific places, Johnson reminded listeners that although they will be considered, “there are no guarantees or commitments of specific calls. These are assignments made by the Brethren.”

Myth 7: The only available mission opportunities are across the world.

Although there is a great need for missionaries around the world, Johnson said there is just as great a need for missionaries serving Church-service missions in their area.

Sharing a story of a man with physical limitations, Johnson spoke of the great contributions the man made as a family history support missionary where he could sit down at a computer with little physical labor or movement.

Myth 8: The Church doesn’t need me.

“Feeling put out to pasture?” Johnson asked.

There are hundreds of opportunities that will accommodate specific circumstances and unique situations. Johnson reminded listeners of the great blessings that come from missionary service.

Drawing from the words of Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in his April 2001 general conference address, Johnson said, “Talk to couples who have served missions, and they will tell you of blessings poured out: [less-active] children activated, family members baptized, and testimonies strengthened because of their service.”