The object of this page is to give you
a feel for what the people serving as missionaries--the real human beings
behind the name tags--are trying to accomplish as missionaries.
If you understand somebody’s goals, then you understand a lot about them.
People who have the academic training and credentials of theologians run
most churches. In contrast, men with the training and experience of
business leaders run the LDS Church. Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that
they run the Church like a business. One thing successful businessmen
absolutely love is quantitative goals to focus on. The single quantitative
goal that missionary are trained to focus on is number of convert baptisms. The first
sentence of The Missionary Guide says, "Your purpose as a
missionary is to help people come to Christ through the ordinances of
baptism and confirmation." Everything the missionaries do is geared around
getting baptisms—that is their bona fide objective.
There are many secondary objectives that missionaries have as they
serve their missions. Again, these vary a lot from missionary to
missionary. This list is to give a flavor for what individual
missionaries try to accomplish while in the mission field.
Grow as human beings. This objective might be less frequent than
you imagine. But a righteous secondary objective as somebody serves is
to form good habits, learn important things, and develop a deeper
- Collect some good stories. In the minds of many, the most
important moment of their missions is right after their missions when
they receive a hero’s welcome in their home congregation and an entire
worship service is dedicated to their homecoming with the returned
missionary as the keynote speaker. The missionary wants to have some
good stories to tell when that moment comes.
- Make friends. Being a missionary forces you to meet new people,
and there is a fantastic opportunity to develop many life long
friendships with both investigators and other missionaries. Many
missionaries take advantage of this.
- Pass the time. If I may be blunt on this point, being a
missionary isn't much fun. The rules
tether you 24-7 to a companion that you probably wouldn't choose to hang
around with 24 hours a day,
and you spend your time trying to convert people to a faith that they
have no interest in. It isn’t a fun lifestyle. All they want to do is do
their time so that they can get the certificate that says they finished
their missions and get all of the cultural benefits to which the bearer
of such a certificate is entitled.
- Find a mate. Although it is strongly discouraged, many
missionaries end up marrying people they met on their missions.
Missionaries are at the sexual peeks of their lives, and regardless of
their dedication and integrity to the rules, the biological imperative
of their physiology endures. Their job description causes them to continually meet many new people, and
the focus of the religion that they are preaching is marriage. Throw
all of that together, and many can’t help but think a lot about who they
are going to marry, and can’t help but wonder if they will meet that
person as a missionary.
- Perform Community Service. The Missionary Handbook says
missionaries are supposed to spend 4 off-peak hours a week performing
community service. Many missionaries relish the idea of actually
performing acts of service to others, rather than proselytizing their
religion—an activity that usually fees like a waste of time.
- Rise in the corporate ranks. Within each pair of
missionaries there is a junior companion
and a senior companion. The senior companion gets to be the captain of the
team, deciding what they will do and how they’ll do it. Companionships
are organized into districts led by district leaders—the top 20% of missionaries.
Districts are organized into zones led by zone leaders--the top
10% of missionaries. In the entire mission there are 2 Assistants to the President--the top 1% of
missionaries. The higher up you get in the organizational chart of the
mission, the more people you have under you to boss around, the more
freedom you have, the more prestigious your resume looks, and the more
time you spend doing leadership stuff rather than proselytizing stuff.
Now, the right attitude is supposed to be that you want to spend
all your time teaching investigators and thus shouldn’t want leadership.
But the reality is that most missionaries would rather be a
leader, and many missionaries obsessively covet leadership roles and
structure everything they do around maximizing their chances of getting
promoted within the corporate structure of the mission.