“What are senior couples required to do on a mission?” Ensign, June 1989, 28–29
Bruce T. Harper, manager of missionary prefield services, Church Missionary Department. With the current expansion of the Lord’s work throughout the world, additional needs and opportunities are opening up that didn’t exist even ten years ago. A marvelous opportunity awaits qualified missionary couples who can bring their maturity, experience, and talents to the missionary effort. At a recent general conference, Elder David B. Haight said, “The goal of every physically able couple in the Church, just as it is for every 19-year-old young man in the Church, should be to serve a mission.” (Ensign, May 1987, p. 61.)
When we think of full-time missionary service, we often picture young missionaries tracting door to door, and that may seem rather intimidating to older couples. All missionaries—including couples—do have a basic responsibility for sharing the gospel, but couples are able to fulfill that opportunity and provide many other services in very diverse ways.
Although couples are asked to live according to mission rules as much as possible, they can work with their mission president to adapt their work and their schedule to their needs and abilities. Most couples have productive ways of sharing the gospel other than tracting. Because of their experience and abilities, they can create sharing opportunities that are not available to younger missionaries.
For example, one missionary couple—both former teachers—visited several public schools, explained why they were in the area, and volunteered to help at the schools (in any way they could). They made many friends for themselves and for the Church. At the end of the year, school leaders and students presented them with a plaque as a token of their appreciation. But even more rewarding were the opportunities they had found to share the gospel because of the friendships they had built through selfless service.
In addition to their basic responsibility for sharing the gospel, couples are usually given an “additional assignment,” which makes use of their expertise and interests. These additional assignments fall into the following categories:
Most often, couples are called with an additional assignment in leadership and member work. They spend a part of their time working with members—for example, training leaders, strengthening wards and branches, fellowshipping new members, or activating less-active members.
If couples have clerical skills, they may be assigned to work in the mission office.
Some couples are called to work in public communications, dealing with the media or helping with community relations.
Couples may be called to serve in a temple.
A few couples serve in education assignments; they teach in or administer seminary, institute, or Church school programs.
There are also some couples who serve in welfare services functions, working with ecclesiastical or temporal officers to help Church members deal with temporal problems.
When they submit their missionary recommendation, couples have the opportunity to express which of these assignments interest them most. These interests are considered in determining their assignments.
Couples also have the opportunity to choose whether they will serve for eighteen or twelve months. Those assigned to missions outside their native lands serve for eighteen months.
Couples generally are not assigned to missions where they must speak a foreign language unless they already have some ability in the language or have expressed an interest in such an assignment. And rarely are they assigned to developing areas of the world unless they have had experience in such areas.
To ensure that couples’ assignments will allow their needs to be met, the Church asks that they fill out medical forms to provide information about their health. Like all missionaries, couples are carefully assigned and their health needs are carefully considered.
In any case, couples should remember that a mission call comes from the Lord, through the President of the Church. They should be willing to serve where called.
The requirements for a couple to serve a full-time mission are relatively few. They should have no dependent children living at home and should have sufficient resources (including those from family and from local Church units) to support themselves on their mission. They must be in good health and be able to meet the physical demands of missionary work. In addition, they should both be under the age of seventy.
Couples can begin early to prepare for a mission. You might begin by asking yourselves what you can do to strengthen yourselves spiritually and to gain a greater understanding of the gospel. (See D&C 88:77–81.) You should be taking specific steps to preserve your health so that you will be able to serve wherever you might be needed. And you might start a missionary savings account.
You also might begin to learn a second language. (In particular, the needs for Spanish- and French-speaking couples are urgent.) Studies suggest that many couples could be successful at learning a new language; attitude and love are much more important than age.
The opportunity to serve a mission together can be one of the crowning experiences of a couple’s life together. Few rewards compare with the joy that comes from seeing lives change for the better. From these experiences we can, like Alma the Younger, proclaim:
“I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
“Yea, and now behold, … the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors.” (Alma 36:24–25.)