The Mormon Scriptures teach that the purpose of life is a test to
see if we will do everything that God commands us to (Abraham
3:25). Once we get pretty advanced in the game God might push
the envelope on this and command us to do something totally bizarre
and immoral such as killing our children (Genesis 22:2), but most of
us never reach that level.
The Mormon missionary is given
innumerable opportunities every day to show God that he will
obey. The missionary's life is defined by rules.
The rules dictate who he will be with, what he does with each hour
of the week, which books he may read, and that he won't receive
information about the world through radio, TV, newspapers,
magazines, or the Internet. And he is assigned a vigilante to
follow him around 24-7 to make sure he obeys. A church video
about missionary life has a scene depicting a missionary reading the
newspaper. That missionary was breaking the rules.
Last night, my wife saw me reading the Missionary
Guide. It brought back all sorts of nasty memories from
her mission and she said I must be a masochist for reading it.
I laughed at that, but now I'm wondering if she had a point--just
thinking about the mission rules is painful to me. As a
missionary, I felt that the mission, God's church, and ultimately
God himself despised individuality and freedom. My efforts to
obey the mission rules resulted in immeasurable amounts of emotional
and physical pain. I have had Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
since I was a child, and it was impossible to take care of my body
and obey the missionary rules. So, I tortured my body
throughout my mission, and abused it to the point where I literally
couldn't stand, much less walk.
The mission rules caused my body permanent damage, and
did serious damage to my emotional health--I've been home for over
10 years and apparently I still haven't completely recovered.
What follows are the rules from The Missionary
Handbook (commonly known as the "White Bible"). It is a
little booklet that the missionaries where in their shirt
pocket. There are many rules the missionary is subjected to
that aren't in the White Bible, but these are the basics. I am
frequently asked if I am serious about these rules. The answer
is yes. A few parenthetical comments have been added.
As you think about these rules, it is worth also
considering psychologist Steven Hassan's BITE model. Hassan
asserts that if a group passes a certain threshold of manipulating
its members behaviors, thoughts, emotions, and access to
information, the group is rightly categorized as a cult and is
exercising destructive mind control. You can read about his
You may decide for yourself if such manipulation exists, if it is
harmful, and whether or not the Mormon missionary experience is a
good example of this phenomenon. Here
is a like that brings the BITE model to bear on the Mormon
As you read these rules you will likely get the
impression that being a missionary isn't a pleasant thing to
be. If you do get that impression, you are right. So if
you have the chance to interact with them, be nice to the poor
- Learn and obey all missionary rules.
- Keep your thoughts, words, and actions in harmony with the
- Read only books, magazines, and other material
authorized by the Church.
- Don't debate or argue.
- Center your mind on your mission.
- Dress conservatively. Elders: white shirts, conservative ties,
and business suits. Sisters: conservative colors and skirts that
cover your knees. No floor-length skirts or
- Cut your hair regularly.
- Keep your hair clean and neatly combed at all times in the
- Be neat and clean.
- Bathe frequently.
- Use deodorant.
- Polish your shoes.
- Iron your shirt and business suit.
- Arise at 6:30 A.M.
- Study for 2 hours every morning.
- Proselytize for 10 hours between 9:30 A.M. and 9:30
- Turn off your lights at 10:30 P.M.
- Exercise regularly.
- Write in your journal regularly.
- Follow the "Missionary Gospel Study Program" (31157) for your
- Regularly study the Missionary Guide and the
- Attend Sunday priesthood or Relief Society meetings, Sunday
School, and sacrament meeting.
- Attend the general session of Stake Conference.
- Attend general conference broadcasts if available.
- Avoid all other church meetings unless you have a special
assignment or are brining an investigator.
- Proselytize as much as possible on weekends and holidays because
this is when you'll find people home.
- End your preparation day at 6:00 P.M. and proselytize from 6:00
P.M. to 9:30 P.M.
- Wear your missionary uniform in public on preparation day
while not engaged in recreational activities.
- Arise at 6:30 on preparation day and study for 2 hours from
the approved books.
- Take care of your physical preparation for the week on
preparation day: wash your clothes, clean your apartment, wash
your car, get your haircut, and shop for groceries.
- Write to your parents every week on preparation day.
- Write less frequently to your siblings, friends, and
- Don't communicate with any friends or acquaintances that are
within or close to your mission boundaries, except as a part of
official mission business.
- Plan safe, wholesome, and uplifting activities for preparation
- Stay with your companion during all activities.
- Do not go on road trips.
- Do not leave your assigned area without permission ("District
leaders must approve travel outside your area within the district;
zone leaders must approve travel outside your district within the
zone; and the mission president must approve travel outside the
- Do not watch television.
- Do not view unauthorized videocassettes.
- Do not listen to the radio.
- Do not listen to unauthorized audiocassettes or
- Do not participate in musical groups.
- Do not participate in athletic teams.
- Do not sponsor athletic teams.
- Do not engage in contact sports.
- Do not engage in water sports.
- Do not engage in winter sports.
- Do not engage in motorcycling.
- Do not engage in horseback riding.
- Do not engage in mountain climbing.
- Do not embark on a private boat.
- Do not embark in a private airplane.
- Do not handle firearms.
- Do not handle explosives.
- Do not swim.
- Do not play full court basketball.
- Do not play basketball in leagues.
- Do not play basketball in tournaments.
- You may play half-court basketball.
- Never be alone.
- Seek advice from your mission president if your companion is
- Be loyal to your companion.
- Ask your mission president for help if your companion doesn’t
obey the rules.
- Pray with your companion every day.
- Study with your companion every day.
- Plan your work with your companion every day.
- Take time at least once a week for companionship
- Seek to be one in spirit and purpose and help each other
- Always address your companion as Elder or Sister.
- Sleep in the same bedroom as your companion.
- Do not sleep in the same bed as your companion.
- Do not arise before your companion.
- Do not retire after your companion. (apparently, being
together is more important than getting the correct amount of
sleep that your unique body requires.)
- Frequently study with your companion the Missionary
Guide section on companions.
- Never be alone with anyone of the opposite sex.
- Never associate inappropriately with anyone of the opposite
sex (conversely, they don't mention whether or not it is against
the rules to associate inappropriately with anyone of the same
- Do not flirt.
- Do not date.
- Do not communicate via phone or letter with anyone of the
opposite sex living within or near mission boundaries.
- Do not visit a single or divorced person of the opposite sex
unless accompanied by a couple or another adult member of your
- Try to teach single investigators in a member’s home or have
missionaries of the same sex teach them.
- Always follow the above rules, even if the situation seems
- Use the commitment pattern to get referrals from
- Keep your dinner visits with member briefs and during the
customary dinner hour in the area.
- Remember to say thank you to those who feed you.
- Visit members and nonmembers only at appropriate
- Do not counsel or give medical treatment.
- Do not stay in the homes of people when they are on
- Only write letters to family members and friends at
- Do not telephone parents (in some areas, the mission
president will make an exception to this rule and will allow 2
phone calls per year: one on Christmas and one on Mother's
day. But the actual rule in the handbook does not give any
exceptions. In my mission, the mission president affirmed
that the rule in the handbook is unambiguous: Don't telephone your
parents, no exceptions).
- Do not telephone relatives.
- Do not telephone friends.
- Do not telephone girlfriends.
- Contact your mission president in case of an
- Take problems and questions to your mission
- Do not write to the President of the Church or to other
General Authorities. Letters from missionaries to General
Authorities are referred back to the mission president (There are
no checks, balances, or appeals when it comes to the authority of
the mission president).
- Respect the customs, traditions, and property of the people
who you are trying to convert (I have to wonder, isn't it
intrinsically disrespectful to their customs and traditions when
your purpose for engaging them is to convert them from their
customs and traditions and to yours?)
- Obey all mission rules.
- Obey the laws of the land.
- Do not get involved in politics.
- Do not get involved in commercial activities.
- Do not give any information about the area.
- Respect the customs and cultures of those who you are trying
to convert to your own customs and culture.
- Respect the beliefs, practices, and sites of other
- Do not say or write anything bad about the political and
cultural circumstances where you serve.
- Do not become involved in adoption proceedings.
- Do not suggest or encourage emigration. (This rule is a
bit ironic, given the now-defunct doctrine of gathering the
believers to Zion)
- Be courteous.
- Provide community service.
- Do not provide community service that isn’t approved by your
- Do not provide more than 4 hours a week of community
- Do not provide community service during the evening, weekend
or holidays—those are peek proselytizing times.
- Your mission president must approve your housing.
- Keep your housing unit clean.
- Do not live with single or divorced people of the opposite
- Do not live where the spouse is frequently absent.
- Your living unit must have a private bath and
- You may occasionally fast for a special reason, but generally
the monthly fast is sufficient.
- Do not fast longer than 24 hours at a time.
- Do not ask friends, relatives, and members to join in special
fasts for investigators. (I wonder if this is because prayer and
fasting doesn't cause strangers to convert and consequently proves
to be a faith-demoting experience).
- Maintain your health.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Sleep from 10:30 to 6:30.
- Follow the approved exercise program.
- Keep your body, clothes, dishes, linens, towels and housing
- Dispose of your garbage properly and promptly.
- Follow the safety rules for all of your stuff.
- Seek medical care if you are in an accident or become
- Be immunized.
- Spend your money only on things relating to your
- Budget your money carefully.
- Keep a record of what you spend.
- Do not spend more than your companion.
- Do not loan money.
- Do not borrow money.
- Keep a reserve fund of $50 to $100 at all times for
- Pay your bills before leaving an area.
- Pay cash for all resale literature and supplies ordered from
the mission office.
- Do not waste money on souvenirs.
- Do not waste money on unnecessary items.
- Be a frugal photographer.
- Do not accumulate excess baggage.
- Obey custom laws and regulations.
- Pay fast offerings each fast Sunday to the bishop or branch
president where you serve.
- Pay tithing on outside sources of income (i.e. interest) to
your home bishop or branch president.
- Evaluate your funds a few months before the end of your
mission. If you have more than you need, ask that less be sent so
that you can return home without excess money.
- Do not drive without a license.
- Drive only Church-owned vehicles.
- Do not drive members’ cars.
- Do not drive nonmembers’ cars.
- Do not give rides to members or investigators in Church-owned
cars. (A few investigators have asked me why the
missionaries are reluctant to offer them a ride to church.
The answer: giving rides is against the rules).
- Use cars only on approved mission business.
- Use cars only within the assigned geographical area.
- Be conscious of safety at all times.
- Drive defensively.
- Wear your seat belt.
- Pray for the Lord’s protection while driving.
- If your companion is driving, assist him or her.
- Do not tamper with the vehicle’s odometer.
- Know bicycle safety rules.
- Use extreme caution on your bicycle.
- Do not ride your bicycle after dark.
- Do not ride your bicycle in heavy traffic.
- Do not ride your bicycle in adverse weather conditions.
- Go directly to your new area when transferred.
- Find your new companion without delay when
- Have a maximum of two suitcases and a briefcase.