Mormon Missions and Missionary Structure
Part of the organization of the Mormon Church is the Mormon missions. A mission of the Church refers to the geographical area in which Mormon missionaries proselyte. Every missionary in the Mormon Church is called to serve in a particular mission and generally stays there throughout his or her missionary service. Boundaries are established according to the organization of the stakes and districts (geographical divisions of the Mormon Church containing several congregations). Today there are approximately 340 missions in the Mormon Church throughout the world.
Missions are organized according to need. The more missionaries needed in a particular area, the more missions are created. These missions are parallel to the regular ecclesiastical organization of the Church, but cooperate extensively with it. Each mission is presided over by a mission president and two counselors. The mission president is actually a volunteer missionary similar to those over whom he serves, except that he is married and may even bring children along. Mission presidents and their families move to the missions over which they preside for a period of up to three years and housing and certain expenses are provided for. His counselors, however, are local members who assist him in his administrative duties. As President he presides over the mission, assigns companionships, counsels with the missionaries, and oversees administration of any mission owned property such as offices, cars, and so forth. He also has two missionary assistants called Assistants to the President (usually abbreviated A.P.’s) who help oversee the missionaries. These are young men called from the pool of young missionaries called to serve in the area.
The First Presidency of the Mormon Church calls and assigns mission presidents, and the Missionary Committee of the Church, consisting of members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and members of the Quorums of the Seventy, oversee missionary operations. Beneath this committee are Area Presidencies, comprised of members of the Quorums of the Seventy and the mission presidents. Each mission is divided into zones and districts supervised by zone and district leaders. These leaders are drawn from the missionaries themselves and help coordinate missionary work, distribute materials, plan and conduct conferences and in-service training, and help the missionaries deal with problems such as injury, illness, and so forth.
Typically, at least one companionship of missionaries (and sometimes two or three depending on the amount of missionary work in an area) is assigned to every congregation, called a ward or branch. They work with ward missionaries, who are local members assigned to help the missionary work. The ward missionaries are supervised by a ward mission leader who reports to the bishop, in the case of a ward, or branch president. Through the ward mission leader the missionaries coordinate baptismal services and assist new members in being integrated into the congregation. It is, however, important to remember that this seemingly complex organization is run by lay members, most of whom live and work in the areas in which they perform their church service. The Mormon Church has no professional clergy, and all offices in the Church, excepting those of missionary and mission president are held by local members.