“Missionary Conduct,” Missionary Handbook (2010), 7–42
“Missionary Conduct,” Missionary Handbook, 7–42
“They did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:35).
President Brigham Young taught, “If you go on a mission to preach the Gospel with lightness and frivolity in your hearts, looking for this and that, and to learn what is in the world, … you will go and return in vain. … Let your minds be centered on your missions” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe , p. 325).
Strive to represent the Lord according to the highest standards of obedience and conduct. Keep your words, thoughts, and actions in harmony with the message of His gospel. Righteous conduct will influence your effectiveness as a missionary and your personal salvation. Your conduct also affects the trust and confidence nonmembers, members, and other missionaries have in you. Conduct yourself at all times in such a way that everyone who sees you will recognize you as a representative of Jesus Christ.
“He that speaketh, whose spirit is contrite, whose language is meek and edifieth, the same is of God if he obey mine ordinances” (D&C 52:16).
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).
Language is one of your most powerful tools. Be conscious of how you speak, and strive for humility, dignity, and simplicity in your language. Refined, dignified language will clearly identify you as a servant of the Lord.
Avoid slang and inappropriately casual language, even in your apartment with your companion or in letters to your family. Show respect for others by using appropriate language, including correct forms of the word you in cultures where that is important.
Express your respect for Heavenly Father by using the language of prayer appropriate in the language you are speaking. The special language of prayer follows different forms in different languages. Some languages have intimate or familiar words used only in addressing family and very close friends. Other languages have forms of address that express great respect, such as words used only when speaking to a king or other person of high rank. The principle, however, is generally the same. We should always pray to Heavenly Father in words that speakers of the specific language associate with love, respect, reverence, and closeness.
Also express respect for others by the way you refer to them. Refer to other missionaries, including your companion, as “Elder” or “Sister” and their surnames, not by their first names, nicknames, or surnames alone. Refer to missionary leaders by their correct titles (such as district leader), not by abbreviations or slang forms.
Address Church leaders by their titles, such as “Bishop” or “President.” Address members and investigators as “Brother” or “Sister” with their surnames.
Appropriate dress and grooming will help you earn respect and trust. Your appearance is often the first message others receive, and it should support what you say. Therefore, wear conservative, professional clothing that is consistent with your sacred calling.
Be neat and clean. Bathe daily, if possible. Use deodorant. Keep your clothes clean, mended, and wrinkle-free. Never allow your appearance or your behavior to draw attention away from your message or your calling.
Suits. Suits should be of a traditional business style in dark, conservative colors. Always wear a white shirt with a tie that is conservative in color, pattern, width, and length. If you are allowed to work without a jacket, wear dress slacks with a white shirt and tie.
Shoes. Shoes should be black, dark brown, or cordovan. They should be made of material that can be polished. Keep them clean and polished. Socks should be a solid, dark color that matches the slacks. Do not wear boots unless your mission president authorizes them.
Hair. Keep your hair relatively short (not clipped too close) and evenly tapered. Extreme or faddish styles— including spiked, permed, or bleached hair or a shaved head—are not appropriate. Sideburns should reach no lower than the middle of the ear. (See the pictures of a missionary haircut included with your call packet.) Elders should shave each day.
Jewelry. Do not wear earrings, necklaces, or any kind of bracelets (except those with a medical purpose). Tattoos, nose rings, other body piercings, or toe rings are not acceptable.
Modesty. Maintain a high standard of modesty. Wear clothing that:
Is neither too tight nor too loose.
Is not transparent or revealing in any way, such as sheer, tight, or stretch fabrics.
Does not draw attention to any part of the body.
Is not casual, wrinkled, sloppy, or faddish.
Clothing should be professional in style and present a clean, well-groomed appearance.
Outfits. Outfits should consist of suits, skirt-and-blouse combinations, skirt-and-jacket combinations, dresses, or jumpers. They should be tailored to fit well and be conservative in style and color. Skirts should reach mid-calf or longer; if there is a slit, it should not reach above the knee. T-shirts, sweatshirts, golf-style shirts, or other casual shirts, pants, and pantsuits are inappropriate.
Shoes. Shoes should be practical, comfortable, and attractive. Flat-soled shoes or shoes with low heels are best. Avoid boot-style, bulky footwear unless your mission president authorizes it.
Accessories. Jewelry and other accessories should be simple and should not attract attention. Do not wear more than one earring in each ear. Tattoos, nose rings, other body piercings, or toe rings are not acceptable.
Hair and Makeup. Wash your hair frequently. The style and length of your hair should be easy to manage and should not call attention to itself. Makeup also should not call attention to itself.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Time is one of the most precious resources Heavenly Father has given you. The period when you are able to serve the Lord with all your time and all your efforts is extremely short. Use it fully and wisely. Such an opportunity is a privilege.
Arise, pray, exercise (30 minutes), and prepare for the day.
Personal study: the Book of Mormon, other scriptures, missionary library, and Preach My Gospel. Emphasize the doctrines of the missionary lessons.
Companion study: share what you have learned during personal study, prepare to teach, practice teaching, study chapters from Preach My Gospel, and confirm plans for the day.
Begin proselyting (or language study for 30 to 60 minutes).
You may take an hour for lunch and additional study and an hour for dinner at times during the day that fit best with your proselyting time. Normally, dinner should be finished no later than 6:00 p.m.
Return to living quarters (unless teaching a lesson; then return by 9:30), and plan the next day’s activities (30 minutes). Write in your journal, prepare for bed, pray.
Retire to bed.
Hold a weekly planning session with your companion on a day and at a time set by your mission president (see Preach My Gospel, pp. 147–50). Hold a daily planning session with your companion at the end of each day (see Preach My Gospel, p. 150). Confirm plans for the day just before you go out to work each morning.
“Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men” (D&C 11:21).
“Treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man” (D&C 84:85).
Use the important hours before 10:00 a.m. to prepare to serve the Lord. Follow guidelines for personal study and companion study each morning (see Preach My Gospel, pp. viii–ix, 17–26). Focus your study on the standard works, the approved missionary library (see Preach My Gospel, p. viii), and the Church magazines. Study only these materials.
Show your respect for the word of the Lord by taking good care of your scriptures (for example, by keeping them in a protective case).
If you are learning a language, continue to study it throughout your mission for at least 30 to 60 minutes each day at 10:00 a.m., unless your mission president directs otherwise (see Preach My Gospel, pp. viii, 127–35). During this time, plan language learning activities to use with your companion during the day. Speak your assigned mission language as much as possible.
“That thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day” (D&C 59:9).
On Sunday, spend as much time as possible proselyting. Sundays, Saturdays, and holidays are excellent opportunities for finding and teaching because many families are together and are at home.
Attend regular Sunday meetings (sacrament meeting, Sunday School, priesthood meeting, and Relief Society) and Sunday general sessions of stake conference. Attend broadcasts of general conference if they are available.
When invited by the bishop, attend the part of priesthood executive committee or ward council meetings when missionary work is discussed. Also attend the weekly coordination meeting with the ward mission leader. You will not normally attend other Church meetings unless invited to do so.
Always be an example in your conduct at meetings, especially in reverence. In Church meetings you and your companion normally sit in the congregation with investigators and members. Do not sit on the stand unless you have a part on the program. Avoid gathering with groups of missionaries. Mingle instead with investigators and members, and help them build friendships.
Arrange for members to bring investigators to Church meetings, or bring them yourselves if members are not available. (Investigators are not to be given rides in mission vehicles; see “Automobiles,” p. 48.)
The monthly fast is adequate for most purposes. You may occasionally fast for a special reason, but do not fast for more than 24 hours at a time. Do not ask people at home to join you in special fasts. (See “Tithing and Fast Offerings,” p. 45, for information on contributing a fast offering.)
“See that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).
Use preparation day to take care of personal needs, such as writing to your family, washing clothes, getting a haircut, cleaning your apartment, shopping, and washing the car, if you have been assigned one to use. Also use this day to prepare so that you can give full attention to proselyting during the rest of the week.
Arise at 6:30 a.m., and follow the regular study schedule. Preparation day ends by 6:00 p.m. Proselyte from 6:00 p.m. to the end of the evening.
On preparation day, wear regular missionary clothes in public. If this clothing is not appropriate for a specific activity, make sure that you maintain a clean, modest appearance. Look for opportunities during the day to find people to teach.
Write to your family each week on preparation day. Limit correspondence with others. Share your spiritual experiences. Never include anything confidential, sensitive, or negative about the areas where you serve.
E-Mail. You may communicate with your family and mission president by e-mail, according to approved guidelines. Use only MyLDSMail.net, the filtered service established by the Church. Do not use any other e-mail service or any other Internet service or site that has not been authorized.
Use e-mail only on preparation day. You may use computers in public places, such as libraries or appropriate businesses that offer Internet access. While using computers, always stay next to your companion so that you can see each other’s monitors. Do not use members’ computers. If you misuse e-mail or computers, you may lose the privilege of using e-mail.
As your call letter states, you are “expected to devote all your time and attention to serving the Lord, leaving behind all other personal affairs.” Do not become preoccupied with communicating with family and friends. Except as outlined under “Family Members and Friends” (see p. 37), you should communicate with family and friends only on preparation day.
Cultural and recreational activities should help you work more productively during the rest of the week. You may, for example, visit such places as historical sites, cultural centers, museums, art galleries, zoos, and special exhibits. Use mission vehicles only for official purposes or as authorized by your mission president.
Stay with your companion during all activities. Stay in your area unless you receive permission to leave it.
Avoid gathering in large groups of missionaries when you visit public places.
Safety. Recreational activities should be safe. Never go swimming or take part in water sports. Avoid activities that may restrict your physical ability the rest of the week or cause injury. These activities include (but are not limited to) contact sports; winter sports; motorcycling; horseback riding; mountain or rock climbing; riding in private boats or airplanes; handling firearms, fireworks, or explosives of any kind; or similar activities.
If you play basketball, volleyball, or another sport, do not allow the situation to become intense or competitive. (For example, do not keep score.) The purpose of recreational activity is exercise that will help you meet the physical demands of your work. Competitive games easily lead to injury or fatigue, which interfere with the work. If you play basketball, play only half court.
If a temple is available, you may attend the temple according to the schedule and guidelines established by your mission president, in coordination with the local temple president.
You should always have a current temple recommend, even if you are not able to attend the temple. Ask your mission president for a temple recommend interview before your recommend expires.
Wearing the Temple Garment. Wearing the temple garment is the sacred privilege of those who have taken upon themselves the covenants of the temple. The garment is a constant reminder of these covenants. When properly worn, it provides protection against temptation and evil.
Endowed members should wear the garment both night and day, according to the instructions given in the endowment. You should not adjust the garment or wear it contrary to instructions in order to fit different styles of clothing, even when such clothing may be generally accepted. When two-piece garments are used, both pieces should always be worn.
You should not remove, either entirely or partially, the garment for activities that can reasonably be done with the garment worn properly under the clothing. Nor should you remove it to lounge around your quarters. When you must remove the garment, you should put it back on as soon as possible.
The garment should never be left on the floor. When garments need to be washed, they should be placed in a laundry basket or bag until they can be properly washed and dried.
As you carefully follow these principles, you will be guided by the Holy Spirit in considering your personal commitment to wear the garment. This sacred covenant is between you and the Lord, and the proper wearing of the garment is an outward expression of your inner commitment to follow the Savior, Jesus Christ.
“O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. …
“And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work” (D&C 4:2, 5).
To keep your eye single to the Lord and His work, avoid all forms of worldly entertainment.
Do not watch television, go to movies, listen to the radio, or use the Internet (except to communicate with your family or your mission president or as otherwise authorized). Watch only videos or DVDs that have been authorized by the Church or your mission president. Do not listen to audio recordings that are not in harmony with the following guidelines. Do not use headphones; they isolate you from your companion.
Listen only to music that is consistent with the sacred spirit of your calling. Music should invite the Spirit, help you focus on the work, and direct your thoughts and feelings to the Savior. Do not listen to music that pulls your thoughts away from your work, merely entertains, has romantic lyrics or overtones, or dulls your spiritual sensitivity by its tempo, beat, loudness, lyrics, or intensity.
Listening to music must never interfere with your personal preparation or proselyting.
If you have any questions about music, discuss them with your mission president.
You should not use unauthorized electronic or video equipment.
You are not authorized to have a personal computer. Do not use a computer except to communicate with your family or your mission president (see “E-Mail,” p. 20). Your mission president may assign you to use a mission computer, or he may authorize you to use a computer for proselyting purposes (for example, to introduce nonmembers to family history). Computer or electronic games of any kind are not authorized.
Your mission president will advise you on the appropriate use of cameras. Do not use cameras while you are proselyting. Be careful never to look like a tourist. Do not spend a lot of money on camera equipment and supplies.
Read only books, magazines, and other materials authorized by the Church (see “Study,” pp. 15–16).
You should not take part in or sponsor musical groups, athletic teams, clubs, or similar groups.
Pornography in any form is a serious transgression of God’s commandments. It drives the Spirit away, leads to other transgressions, and is highly addictive. Strictly avoid situations in which you might read, see, or hear pornographic material. Protect your companion from this spiritually destructive danger. You will find great protection as you obey the basic standards of missionary conduct, including the instructions in this section.
“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou shalt not steal; neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6).
“He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out” (D&C 42:23).
“Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).
You are expected to obey strictly the law of chastity, which forbids sexual conduct of any kind outside of marriage between husband and wife.
Violations of the law of chastity—including touching the private parts of another person, whether under or over clothing—are criminal conduct in some areas. If the victim is a minor, penalties can be severe, including imprisonment. Even false charges can take months to investigate and may disrupt or end missionary service.
To help yourself obey the law of chastity and to protect yourself from such charges, always remain with your companion. Never be alone with anyone else, male or female, adult, youth, or child (except as explained in “Stay Together” on pp. 30–32).
Help your companion stay away from situations that could lead to problems and avoid “all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). See the following section for further guidelines on companion relationships.
“Ye shall go forth in the power of my Spirit, preaching my gospel, two by two, in my name, lifting up your voices as with the sound of a trump, declaring my word like unto angels of God” (D&C 42:6).
Preaching the gospel two by two is the pattern established by the Lord. The testimonies of two companions support each other in proclaiming the truth and bearing witness of it.
Companions support each other in other phases of their work. They help each other learn and grow. They strengthen each other in times of difficulty. They can provide protection from physical danger, false charges, and temptation.
Love and respect your companions (see 1 John 4:7, 20–21). Look for good in each companion. Find ways to serve each other. Work together in a spirit of unity (see D&C 38:27). Study together every day. Pray together frequently throughout each day. Talk with each other openly and frequently. Contention will drive the Spirit away (see 3 Nephi 11:29).
Support your companion’s righteous actions; do not criticize him or her to other missionaries or members. If correction is necessary, give it constructively, respectfully, and privately (see D&C 121:41–44). If your companion is struggling with the work or in personal matters, be sensitive to those problems and seek advice from your mission president.
Stay Together. Never be alone. It is extremely important that you stay with your companion at all times. Staying together means staying within sight and hearing of each other. The only times you should be separated from your assigned companion are when you are in an interview with the mission president, on a companion exchange, or in the bathroom. (For guidelines on baptismal interviews, see Preach My Gospel, p. 205.)
Never make exceptions to this standard for activities that seem innocent but take you away from each other, including being in different rooms in the same building or in a home. Situations that seem harmless at the beginning can quickly lead to serious problems.
If you live in an apartment with more than one room, always sleep in the same room as your companion, but not in the same bed. Arise and retire at the same time as your companion. Do not stay up late or get up early to be alone.
Obey the standards of missionary conduct and the rules of the mission. If you notice any inappropriate situation or behavior, discuss it with your companion. If the matter is not resolved, have the courage and love for your companion to ask your mission president for help. Violations of missionary standards may threaten your companion’s effectiveness and even his or her salvation. Care enough for your companion to ask for help from your mission president before a problem becomes serious. Your loyalty is first to the Lord, then to your mission president, then to your companion.
If your companion leaves you, inform your mission president immediately.
Be aware that you have a responsibility to protect your companion from physical and spiritual danger. If you do not fulfill this responsibility and your companion engages in serious misconduct, you may be subject to Church disciplinary action.
Companion Exchanges. Normally, you should go on companion exchanges only with mission leaders or as otherwise authorized by your mission president. However, when you and your companion have more teaching appointments than you can handle by yourselves, you may arrange through the ward mission leader for a responsible Church member of your own sex to go with each of you so you can cover more than one appointment at a time. Normally these members should be adults, but with your mission president’s permission you may go with priest-age young men.
Transfers. Unless otherwise directed by your mission president, go directly to your new area when you are transferred and meet your new companion without delay. If your companion is transferring but you are staying in the area, make arrangements with your district or zone leader so that you are never alone.
Support and respect those assigned by your mission president as district leaders, zone leaders, and assistants to the president (see Hebrews 13:17). If the conduct of a missionary leader appears inconsistent with the standards in this handbook, discuss it with your mission president, not with other missionaries.
Never be alone with, flirt with, or associate in any other inappropriate way with anyone of the opposite sex. Do not telephone, write, e-mail, or accept calls or letters from anyone of the opposite sex living within or near mission boundaries. The only exceptions are for communications between sister missionaries and their mission leaders, mission-related telephone calls (such as calls to confirm appointments), and letters of support and encouragement to converts (see “Communicating with Converts” on pp. 36–37). Report immediately to your mission president any situation that might cause you or your companion to violate this standard.
You and your companion should not visit or accept rides from individuals of the opposite sex unless another responsible adult of your own sex is also present. Always obey this rule, even if the situation seems harmless. You can often avoid these situations if you emphasize teaching families and involve members in every teaching appointment, if at all possible.
Do not counsel members or nonmembers on personal problems. Refer members who need counseling or professional assistance to their bishop. If you feel a nonmember needs such assistance, talk with your mission president.
Do not counsel missionaries of the opposite sex, even if you are serving in a leadership position. Such talk can lead to inappropriate feelings and relationships. Always refer such cases to your mission president.
The following guidelines apply to all missionaries, regardless of age or sex.
Because of increasing legal complexities, be extremely careful around children. If charges of inappropriate behavior are made, you may find yourself involved in a lengthy court case. If you are found guilty, you could face a substantial jail sentence and Church disciplinary action.
As in all other relationships, never be alone with a child. Avoid any behavior that could be misunderstood or could appear to be inappropriate, including tickling, changing diapers, holding children, and allowing children to sit on your lap. Never babysit children of any age.
Coordinate your visits and efforts with members with the ward mission leader. When you visit, talk to, or eat with members, your primary purpose should be to strengthen them (see D&C 108:7) and help them fulfill their missionary responsibilities. Ask them whom they know that you could teach. Do everything you can to build their confidence in you as a dedicated, powerful servant of the Lord.
Do not visit or call members early in the morning, late in the evening, or on Monday evenings (unless you are invited to present a missionary lesson in a family home evening).
Your mission president will decide with the stake president to what extent members will provide meals for missionaries. Meal appointments should be an hour or less and should not interfere with prime proselyting time. Ask the ward mission leader to emphasize having less-active and part-member families and investigators provide meals. Ask members whom they know that you could teach, just as you would in any other visit.
You share responsibility for strengthening your converts in the Church. You may not be able to continue to visit them, but you can write them occasionally and encourage them. An occasional note will reassure and comfort them and rekindle the joy they felt at the time of their conversion. After you have been transferred from the ward or branch, receive your mission president’s authorization before communicating with converts of the opposite sex while you are still in the mission field. Use the mission office address as the return address on any correspondence with converts.
When you go home, do not forget those you have taught. At all times live worthy of their trust. Write them occasionally and encourage them to be faithful.
You may telephone your parents on Christmas and one other time during the year (usually Mother’s Day), according to guidelines from your mission president. Take care that these calls do not pull your thoughts away from your service or create a financial problem for your family. Keep them short (preferably no longer than 30 or 40 minutes). Other than these calls, do not telephone family members or friends unless you have permission from your mission president.
Visits from family members, friends, and acquaintances are against Church policy. The impact of such visits may extend far beyond the visit itself, both before and after the visit and among other missionaries. It can often take some time for missionaries to refocus on their callings and their work. While expressing your love and your desire to share your experiences with them after you have been released, help those who may want to visit you to understand the importance of maintaining singleness of heart and mind on the work of the Lord (see Matthew 10:37–39; Luke 9:61–62).
Do not ask family members or friends at home to donate to local causes where you are serving.
Contact your mission president if there is an emergency in your family. Notify the mission office if your parents change their address, e-mail address, or telephone number or if your home ward or stake changes.
Do not write directly to the First Presidency, other General Authorities, or Church headquarters. Communications from missionaries are referred back to the mission president. If you have questions or concerns, discuss them with your mission president. Do not call Church headquarters unless your mission president asks you to call for him.
“I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17).
You have been called of God to serve His children. That service can take many forms. You should look for opportunities to serve those around you—investigators, Church members, your companion, and the people you meet.
In addition to unplanned acts of service, you should seek opportunities for service projects in the community each week. Your mission president should approve all community service activities.
Except for emergencies, limit planned service activities to daytime hours on days other than weekends, holidays, or preparation days. Stay with your companion during all service activities.
Do not participate in activities that could put your health or safety at risk, create a legal liability for you or for the Church, or put you in an inappropriate situation. Because of increasing legal complexities surrounding relationships with children, do not give service in such places as schools or day-care centers.
Do not commit yourselves to a project that could become difficult to continue or could cause problems if you need to discontinue it. Your service should not replace the efforts of priesthood quorums and auxiliaries, especially in meeting the needs of members. Do not become involved in commercial activities. Service activities should not increase your expenses.
Although you should serve out of a sincere desire to help others, look for teaching opportunities that arise from your service. For additional guidelines on service, see Preach My Gospel, pp. 168–70.
Obey all laws of the land, including passport and visa requirements, traffic laws, driver’s license requirements, border regulations, and customs laws. Respect the culture, customs, traditions, religious beliefs and practices, and sacred sites in the area where you serve. Do not proselyte at or near the houses of worship of other faiths.
When eating meals with or otherwise visiting members or nonmembers, always act in harmony with the highest standards of consideration and courtesy, observing local customs of etiquette and the common practices of the culture. Be thoughtful by not eating too much if food is in short supply. Always express your thanks. Follow the host or hostess in the use of utensils, and chew food with a closed mouth.
Never suggest that people emigrate to another country, even for work or schooling. You should not become involved in adoptions. Do not ask your family or people from your home area to sponsor or become involved in these activities.
Do not ask for or accept money or sponsorship from members or others in your mission area. If you are serving in a country other than your own, you must return to your own country without delay at the end of your mission. A missionary’s failure to return home can make it more difficult for the Church to obtain visas for future missionaries.
Remember that you are recognized as a missionary even before you talk with people. Do not do anything that is inappropriate or offensive, such as chewing gum in public. Such practices take away from your image as a minister of Jesus Christ.
In many countries, placing flyers, pamphlets, or other materials in or on mailboxes or on the windshield of parked cars is a violation of local laws.