Missionary Leadership
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“Missionary Leadership,” Missionary Handbook (2010), 55–68

“Missionary Leadership,” Missionary Handbook, 55–68

Missionary Leadership

“Our leaders were mighty men in the faith of the Lord; and they taught the people the ways of the Lord” (Jarom 1:7).

“Now it was the custom among all the Nephites to appoint for their chief captains … some one that had the spirit of revelation and also prophecy” (3 Nephi 3:19).

Your mission president assigns missionary leaders to help him direct the work and to help you and the other missionaries successfully fulfill your purpose. Among the leadership assignments in the mission are trainers, senior companions, district leaders, zone leaders, and assistants to the president.

Leadership assignments must never be viewed as a way to obtain personal recognition or advancement, but rather as opportunities to serve others, to develop greater love, and to learn (see Ezekiel 33–34; 2 Nephi 26:29–30). Like all callings in the Church, each assignment has its own importance; an assistant to the president is no more important than any other missionary (see 1 Corinthians 12:14–31; Alma 1:26).

A missionary companionship is the basic unit of missionary service. Successful missionary work and appropriate missionary conduct begin in the companionship under the leadership of the senior companion.

The assignment to serve as a leader is a sacred trust from the Lord through the mission president, and both the president and the Lord will receive an accounting of this responsibility (see D&C 72:3; 104:11–12). The principles of gospel leadership affect the success of every phase of the work.

Ministering and Administering

“Jesus … said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them.

“But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;

“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25–28).

A missionary leader must be an effective administrator in keeping order and carrying out the work of the mission. A leader’s most important influence, however, comes through ministering to others in harmony with the Savior’s teachings and example (see 3 Nephi 27:21, 27).

Leaders should study the scriptures and the teachings of modern prophets to learn the principles of Christlike leadership. They should be sensitive to the needs of others and prayerfully seek ways to strengthen them (see Luke 22:32). Their goal is not merely to supervise or motivate, but to lift, encourage, inspire, and bless.


A good leader sets an example of gospel living and devoted, selfless service to God and His children. A leader strives to:

  • Exercise faith in Jesus Christ. A leader strengthens his or her testimony of the Savior, the plan of happiness, and the message of the Restoration and acts on that testimony. A leader has a vision of the purpose of missionary work and relies on the Lord to achieve worthy goals.

  • Repent and become more like the Savior. A leader lives the gospel and maintains a high standard of righteousness. A leader works to overcome weaknesses and shortcomings and to develop his or her attributes and skills as a missionary.

  • Keep covenants. A leader is motivated by a firm belief that he or she has made sacred covenants with God and that those covenants include representing the Lord, obeying the commandments (including mission standards), and serving others.

  • Receive the Holy Ghost. Having the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, a leader seeks to be worthy and ready for the gifts of the Spirit (for example, through prayer and scripture study). A leader strives to recognize and follow the promptings of the Spirit.

  • Endure to the end. A leader keeps an eye single to the glory of God and works hard throughout his or her mission.

Missionary leaders set an example in the way they carry out their missionary work. They work diligently in their proselyting area in addition to fulfilling their leadership responsibilities. A leader’s proselyting area should be a model for other missionaries. They can learn from it and use it as a pattern for their own work. Leaders must teach through example how to plan, how to find and teach investigators, and how to work with local Church leaders and members. Leaders should also recognize that they can learn much from the missionaries they serve.


“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

“By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile. …

“Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:41–42, 45).

By living the gospel of Jesus Christ, a leader develops Christlike attributes (see Preach My Gospel, chapter 6), including love, humility, obedience, and hard work. A leader helps other missionaries most when they feel the leader’s love. They should feel that the leader is motivated by a sincere concern for their welfare, not by his or her own interests. Leaders should always act in such a way that the other missionaries can recognize the leader’s strict obedience to the Lord and commitment to following his or her leaders, especially the mission president. By developing and exercising Christlike attributes, leaders earn respect and trust, which enable them to help those they serve.

All those who have callings that put them in the position of influencing others for good should prayerfully and repeatedly ponder the Lord’s teachings to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants 121:34–46.


Leaders inspire and support those they serve. In addition to setting a strong example, they:

  • Represent the mission president in carrying out his plans for the mission.

  • Convey information and direction from the mission president promptly and clearly.

  • Inspire others to have a spirit of love, unity, obedience, and hard work.

  • Encourage missionaries to live a high standard of obedience, especially by living the first principles of the gospel.

  • Help missionaries become powerful and fruitful in each phase of missionary work, including finding and teaching investigators and working with members.

  • Teach other missionaries in companionship study, companion exchanges, district meetings, and other settings.

  • Discuss the progress of the missionaries’ contacts in companionship planning sessions, in district meetings, during weekly call-in reports, and in other interactions with missionaries.

  • Share with the mission president and with other leaders (when appropriate) information on the progress and needs of the missionaries. Leaders are especially sensitive to needs and situations that could present dangers to a missionary’s spiritual or physical well-being and make sure the mission president knows about these matters.

  • Correct missionaries’ conduct when needed (see D&C 121:41–44).

Opportunities to lead other missionaries should never be treated lightly. A leader should never tolerate or participate in inappropriate activities. Opportunities to correct the attitudes or behavior of other missionaries are important teaching moments. When handled with love, these opportunities build faithfulness and effectiveness in those who may otherwise fall short of what the Lord expects of them. When problems are not resolved, leaders should seek help from other leaders or the mission president.

Missionary leaders should always remember that their loyalty is first to the Lord, then to their mission president, then to the missionaries.


Among the most important training opportunities are companionship planning sessions, district meetings, and zone conferences. In these meetings, senior companions, district leaders, and zone leaders, under the direction of the mission president, train the missionaries and coordinate the work (see Preach My Gospel, p. ix).

Companion Exchanges

Normally at least once every transfer cycle, a district leader works with each elder in his district and zone leaders work with district leaders in their zone. The assistants to the president regularly conduct companion exchanges with zone leaders. Under the direction of the mission president, zone leaders and the assistants to the president may also work with other elders to assist in their training.

Companion exchanges are conducted by leaders to train missionaries. They should not be used just to change companions, to get together with a friend, or to get away from a companion. Other missionaries do not conduct companion exchanges unless authorized by the mission president.

Companion exchanges should be planned in advance and should normally last 24 hours. The leader may bring the other missionary to his own area or work in the other missionary’s area. Usually the leader’s companion and the other missionary’s companion work in the other proselyting area.

During the companion exchange, the leader should take part in as many phases of missionary work as possible, including finding, teaching, companionship study, language study (as appropriate), and daily planning. He should review and discuss the missionary’s area book and daily planner.

The leader teaches by example. In a spirit of love, he gives the missionary specific, direct, constructive feedback on what he does well and how he can improve. He helps the missionary understand and apply principles from Preach My Gospel, and he gives leadership training.

At the end of the exchange he reviews with the missionary what has happened and what has been learned during the exchange. He helps the missionary set goals and make plans. The leader reports on the exchange in his weekly letter to the mission president.

Sisters do not take part in companion exchanges with elders. For training purposes, the mission president may assign experienced sisters to conduct companion exchanges with other sisters, applying the principles discussed in this section. Their companions also work together. The sister who conducted the companion exchange should report on the exchange to the mission president and to the other sister’s district leader.

Baptismal Interviews

District leaders interview baptismal candidates taught by other missionaries in their district (including those taught by zone leaders in the district). Candidates taught by district leaders are interviewed by zone leaders (see Preach My Gospel, chapter 12). If the district leader or zone leaders who would normally conduct an interview cannot do so, the mission president may assign another leader to conduct the interview—normally another district or zone leader or one of the assistants to the president.

The bishop conducts baptismal interviews for eight-year-old children if at least one parent is a member and for excommunicated persons.