Article

 



Mormon Couple Missionaries

Mormon Couple Missionaries

Understanding Mormon Culture

 

 

John Chapman, an Australian Bible teacher, said that there are two things that insulate from God, that is, money and natural goodness.  When I meet couple missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I instantly like them, but at the same time I become sad.  Many of them are pious living, honest and upright lives, and have dedicated their whole lives to serving the Mormon Church in various ways. What is it about these respectable people that makes me sad?  Because honest, hard-working people can be proud before God, trusting themselves to be good enough for God (Luke 18: 9-14).  “The better you are, the more you don’t think about your need to be forgiven.2 In fact, we cannot even reach our standard, let alone God’s.

 

The Mormon Church has put a lot of pressure on older couples to go on missions.  In the April 2001 General Conference, Elder Robert D. Hales, who is one of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “It is proper for a mature sister or a couple to let their priesthood leaders know that they are willing and able to serve a mission.” 3 “Couples who are in good health, with no permanent debilitating illness and who do not have dependent children at home, or are not in their childbearing years can serve a mission for 12, 18 or 24 months.” 4

 

Despite the Mormon Church’s push to recruit more senior missionaries, the church is 1,000 couples short.   “There are 2,111 senior couples and there is a need for 3,093 couples at present time.” 5

 

The official Statistical Report 2003 (below) shows “the growth and status of the Church as of December 31, 2003.”   The number of senior missionaries is small but they contribute to the growth of the Mormon Church.  How do they do this?  What is their role on mission?  Why do they go on a mission?

 

Elder Hale told about blessings missionary couples receive: inactive children activated, family members baptized, and testimony strengthened.6

 

He also said that four F’s often stand for those who want to serve a mission: Fear, Family concerns, Finances and Finding the right mission opportunity.7

 

Fear:  Many have fears of the unknown, no confidence in their scripture skills or their foreign language skills.  They, however, are assured that they normally do not have to “tract”  (hand out tracts door-to-door) nor are they expected to memorize discussions or maintain the rigid schedules of younger missionaries. 8 Elder Hale said, “Simply be yourself. Serve to the best of your ability, and the Lord will bless you.”9

 

Family concerns

 Elder Hale said,

    “What is asked of couple missionaries is less than half a tithe of the time they will spend on earth. In the  eternal perspective, a mission is but a few moments away from familiar settings, family, and having retirement fun with old friends.” 10

 

    “Couples are sometimes concerned that in their absence they will miss weddings, births, family reunions,      and other family events. We have learned that the impact on families while grandparents are on mission is worth a thousand sermons. Families are greatly strengthened as they pray for their parents and grandparents and read letters sent home which share their testimonies and the contribution they are making in the mission field.” 11

 

My present Institute teachers, a senior missionary couple from Utah, missed their youngest daughter’s wedding which took place shortly after she had returned from a mission in Germany. 

 

Finances:   The cost of mission can vary depending on the country of mission. A couple serving in Croatia will pay around US$1,000 a month, whereas a couple in England can pay up to US$3,000.12  Children are encouraged to assist their parents if necessary. 13

 

Finding the right mission opportunity: The way missionary couples serve is limitless. They serve in a mission office, in leadership training, family history, temple work, humanitarian service, church education etc.  Mission presidents all over the world need mission couples.  “Mission couples provide stability with their friendshipping and leadership skills in areas where the Mormon Church is in its infancy.”14 They reactivate the inactive.

 

They gain trust quickly.15  Mormon Church families were encouraged by the missionary couple’s dedication and love.  The stakes (like Anglican “dioceses”) were rejuvenated and the wards (local congregations) had full-time help in leadership and the work expected of members. 16 We hardly meet Australian leaders during daytime weekdays, as the Mormon Church has almost no paid workers. Senior couples teach Mormon Institute classes, answer the phone, open the entrance door (through the intercom) and follow up inactive members, conduct discussions with non-members and invite non - members to have dinner with them.  Senior missionaries normally live in small units with basic furnishing.    A missionary sister made delicious meals for us with a microwave oven and a portable electric flying pan, as their unit did not have an oven. 

 

Senior couples give encouragement and aspiration to young missionaries, as they are role models of Mormon living and offer mature thinking to the younger missionaries.17   In their younger days, senior missionaries went on mission and many later had distinguished careers in the worldly sense.  They can be everyone’s granddads or grand mums!  Many I have met had sold their family homes (and cars) shortly before going on mission, as they no longer needed huge houses as they no longer have dependent children.  A Japanese Mormon, who completed his mission some time ago, told me that in the future he would like to go on mission with his future wife.

 

Mormon couple missionaries are zealous for God. They are told to gain eternal life (‘exaltation’ or ‘having an eternal family’) by keeping the commandments of the Mormon Church perfectly.  Apostle Paul once shared this misplaced zeal.  In Romans 10:1-4   Paul prays for the salvation of his Jewish brothers and sisters.  Jews have zeal for God but they do not have knowledge of God’s ways and purposes that matches their undoubted zeal.18 Saint Paul’s prayer for Romans 10:1-4 is my prayer.

 

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.  2For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. 3For, they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”(KJV)

 

Conclusion

Mormons are told that their church is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (Doctrine & Covenants 1:30) and therefore they have responsibility to preach the restored gospel to the ends of the earth (Doctrine & Covenant 133:34-40). The way for senior missionaries to serve the Mormon Church is limitless. They may provide leadership for the branches and wards they are in and reactivate the inactive. They are absolutely loved by many Mormons. Getting to know them makes me humble myself before God. Many senior missionaries I have met are men or women of integrity and loving people, but they do not know that Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Human effort, no matter how sincere, can never be a substitute for the righteousness God graciously offers by faith.19 God offers eternal life to men and women on only one condition: an open declaration of belief in the risen Christ as Lord (Romans 10:5-13).20 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”(Romans 10:13). Certainly salvation here means eternal life, not resurrection from the dead.

 

 

 

Statistical Report 2003  (From The April 2004 General Conference Report)

Number of church units
Stakes…………………………………………………………2,624

Missions………………………………………………………….337

Districts………………………………………………………….644

Wards and Branches………………………………..26,237

 

Church Membership
 

The total membership……………………….11,985,254

Increase in children of Record………………… 99,457

Converts baptised…………………………………….242,923                                                      

 

Missionaries
 

Full-Time Missionaries……………………………… 56,237

 
Temples

Temples Dedicated during 2003…………………………..2

(Brisbane, Australia, Redlands, California)

Temples in Operation………………………………………….116                                   


Notes

 

1.        John Chapman, “Too Good for Heaven” in” Telling the Gospel’s Truth” video (Sydney, The Department of Evangelism).  

2.        Ibid

3.        The April 2001General Conference Report

      4.   Ed J.Pinegar, The Urgent Need for Senior Missionaries, www. meridianmagazine.com/missionaryjournry/

        5.   Alex Saint-Jean, The LDS Church continues its search for couple missionaries, 3 September, 2004, BYU NewsNet, http://newsnet.byu.edu/

      6.    The April 2001General Conference Report

      7.   Ibid

      8.   Ibid

      9  Ibid

     10.   Ibid

     11.   The April 2001General Conference Report

      12.    Alex Saint-Jean

      13.  The April 2001General Conference Report  .

      14.  Ibid

      15.   Ed J.Pinegar    

      16.  Ibid

17.  Ibid

18.     Douglas Moo, ROMANS in the “New Bible Commentary” (Leicester, IVP, 1994) p.1145

19.     Life Application Bible-New International Version (Tyndale and Zondervan, 1991) P.2046

20.     Edited and Produced by David and Pax Alexander, Lion Handbook to the Bible (Oxford, Lion Publishing, 1989) p.585