Saturday, April 25, 2015

FAQs for Applying to Serve as a Senior Missionary

So You Want to Be an LDS Senior Missionary?

The follow Questions and Answers are based on our experience of receiving missionary calls to serve not only in the New York New York North mission (as member and leader support missionaries) but also in the Peru Lima East Mission (2008-2009, member and leader support missionaries) and in the Madrid Spain Temple (2012-2013, temple missionaries). Your experience might be different. Disclaimer: The answers below are our own personal opinions and do not necessarily represent the views of the LDS Church, our mission presidents, our temple president, or our fellow missionaries.

Q. I think a mission might be too hard. Would I be expected to keep the same rules as the young missionaries?
A. No. Many rules are of course the same, but as a senior missionary, you can go to bed and wake up whenever you want; take a nap if you feel you need one; call your children, grandchildren, bank, or whomever, whenever you have the need or want (within reason); watch TV, go to a movie, go swimming, and do other activities that young missionaries are not allowed to do. In the Missionary Handbook (the little white book), the section on Guidelines for Couples and Senior Sisters states that “Couples and sisters age 40 and older are not expected to follow the same proselyting schedule of younger missionaries. Some mission rules established for younger missionaries may not apply to you. You should still set standards and goals and follow the same dress and grooming standards listed for younger elders and sisters.”

Q. I think a mission might be too strenuous or too expensive.
A. Yes, some mission can be very strenuous because of all the walking or standing involved, but other missions are less physically demanding. You can indicate in your “application” (the Online Missionary Recommendation, which you will fill out) your physical limitations. You could also express your preference for a less physically demanding mission.

And yes, missions can be expensive. The four most expensive LDS mission in the world are England London, England London South, New York New York South, and New York New York North, in that order, at around $4000/month for a missionary couple. But other missions are much less expensive. The Online Recommendation Forms allow you to indicate your level of ability to pay, which is taken into account in your assignment. You can also talk to your family and/or your bishop about getting support beyond your own means.

Q. How could I leave my grandchildren for so long?
A. Hundreds of couples leave their grandchildren every year. If they can do it, so can you. What greater gift can you give to your grandchildren than your example of Church service and a family tradition of missionary service? 

Q. How do I go about “applying” to go on a mission?
A. Talk to your bishop. If he feels that you should leave his ward and serve a mission, he will set up the Online Missionary Recommendation System so that you can provide information that indicates your willingness and capacity to serve a full-time mission. After you complete all the requirements of the recommendation process, you will have a final interview with your bishop and stake president.

Q. How long does it take to complete and submit the forms on the Online Recommendation System?
Filling out the forms themselves takes about two hours per person (four hours per couple), but the real time-consuming tasks are getting your medical and dental exams/tests and getting back the results. From the time the bishop or ward clerk sets up the online recommendation system forms until you finalize and submit your part of the forms (but before your bishop and stake president interviews) can take over a month. For our mission to Spain, it was 4 weeks and 3 days. For our mission to New York, it took exactly 5 weeks.

Q. How long will it take to receive our call?
A. From the time your online recommendation form is finalized by your stake president to the time you receive your call letter in the mail is generally 3 to 6 weeks. Our experiences: Mission to Peru: 3 weeks, 2 days. Mission to Spain: 4 weeks, 3 days. Mission to New York: 5 weeks, 4 days (our call was held up a week because of medical issues that needed to be resolved).

Q. What medical tests are required?
A. Everyone needs a physical examination by a physician and a dental checkup by a dentist. Depending on your gender, age, and medical history, you might also need a mammogram, a colonoscopy, and a cardiac stress test. We had to do all of these for our mission to New York. The time from our first medical appointment to the last was one month.

Q. Can I request a specific mission location and assignment?
Yes. The current online recommendation forms have an entire section entitled “Assignment Preferences.” There you indicate your desired length of service (23, 18, 12, or 6 months) and location. For location, you can indicate inside your own country, outside your own country, or no preference. You can also mention any limitations, requests (for example, if a mission president has requested you), and preferences, including the location and type of assignment you prefer. We made requests for location and assignment for all three missions.

Q. Does the Missionary Department assign you according to your preferences?
A. Almost always. For our missions to Peru and Spain, we requested Peru and the Madrid Temple, which were the places and assignments that we were called to. For our mission to New York, we originally requested the Trujillo Peru Temple, but Missionary Medical ruled that we could not leave the U.S., so we then changed our preference to “member and leader support” (which ended up being our assignment), but we did not specify a preference for where in the U.S.

Q. But shouldn’t we just leave the assignment up to our inspired leaders?
A. Even with your preferences, a member of the Council of the Twelve will make the final decision. The Senior Missionary Opportunities Bulletin states that “Prospective full-time senior missionaries are encouraged to state their preferences on the missionary recommendation form for missionary service. However, they should be willing to serve where called. Full-time senior missionaries are assigned by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and called by the President of the Church.” It is our opinion that specifying preferences helps our leaders make inspired calls. If you still feel hesitant to request a specific mission, just think of the sons of Mosiah. They requested a mission to the Lamanites. Their father-prophet then inquired of the Lord and, under inspiration, made the decision to let his sons serve in the land of the Lamanites. So requesting a specific mission has a scriptural basis.

Q. How can we find out the types, locations, and costs of missionary assignments?
A. Read the latest Senior Missionary Opportunities Bulletin by clicking this link:

Q. What is the difference between a member and leader support (MLS) mission and a proselyting mission?
MLS missions are proselyting missions. “Member support” involves not only strengthening the active members and reactivating the less active but also preaching the gospel to people so that they become members. If you are called as an MLS missionary, your mission president could give you any number of assignments, including working with a particular member district or branch in activating the less active and training and supporting the leaders. You could be called as a branch president, counselor in a branch or ward, clerk in a branch or ward, etc. In Scott’s case, he was called as counselor in the mission presidency during our mission to Peru. Other MLS missionaries are asked to serve in the mission office, to be in charge of mission vehicles, to inspect missionary apartments, etc.

Q. Will our mission president or supervisor give us specific, detailed assignments and schedules?
A. Not usually. You will be given a general assignment (one or more of the 27 types of assignments listed in the Senior Missionary Opportunities Bulletin) in your call letter from the prophet. For example, you could receive an assignment like MLS, mission office, young single adults, military relations, employment, or Perpetual Education Fund. But in most cases, you will have a huge range of options for specifically how you spend your time. In essence, most missionary couples have to “create” their own mission. Through the guidance of the Spirit and the approval of your mission president, you might choose (or be asked by local leaders) to give piano lessons (which Beverly did in Peru and Spain), teach Institute (which Scott did in Peru), knock on doors in proselyting work, strengthen members and seek their help in finding investigators, work one shift a week in the temple, or do any number of activities where you see a need. We knew two couples who had the same general assignment with the Perpetual Education Fund, but one couple spent most of their time in an office with regular visits to give training in wards and stakes, whereas the other couple spent very little time in the office and most of their time meeting one-on-one with members, helping them with their careers in general and with their education in particular.

So the answer to the question in general is no, you won’t be told everything you need to do. You should go on your mission with the attitude that you will “be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [your] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in [you], wherein [you] are agents unto [your]selves.” (D&C 58:27-28)

To cite our particular experience: While in Peru, Scott was given many responsibilities as counselor in the mission presidency, but we still had plenty of time to hold Family Home Evenings with member and investigators, visit the less active, feed the young missionaries on their Preparation Day and for Zone Conferences, and teach music lessons and Institute classes.

Even in Spain, where we spent eight hours per day during our temple shift, we also gave music lessons, helped organize luncheons for temple missionary conferences, helped organize farewell parties for departing temple missionaries, gave firesides and sacrament meeting talks at the Madrid MTC, and served as home teachers in the local ward.

May the Lord bless you in your desire to respond to the call to be a senior missionary.

If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to write us at