They can be seen speaking to people on the streets of rural communities or in bustling metropolitan areas around the country. They can also be found not only throughout the United States, but also in various foreign speaking countries of the world. Some ride bicycles to and fro, some drive cars, and others walk many miles each day. Depending on the area where they are assigned, they may also be seen on local buses and trains and they travel from location to another throughout their day, but they are always seen traveling at least two-by-two. The mission is the same for each of them – to teach the restored gospel, and to bring souls unto Christ. Who is this valiant army of stripling warriors? They are missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A Rapid Increase in Those Willing to Serve
A Salt Lake Tribune article dated 15 August 2013, reports that there are presently 75,000 missionaries laboring in the Lord’s vineyard in more than 400 missions located throughout the world. This continuous influx of young men and young women, who can now begin serving full-time missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church by the media and others) as early as 18 years of age and 19 years of age respectively, comes as a result of the announcement of the lowering of age requirements made by President Thomas S. Monson, during the opening session of the October 2012 Semiannual General Conference.
Before the monumental announcement, The Church of Jesus Christ reported that there were some 58, 500 missionaries serving throughout the world. This significant growth in the number of missionaries now serving full-time missions represents a 28 percent increase in the worldwide missionary force. Read more
More and more new missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church— are making their temporary home in the new Missionary Training Center in Mexico City, Mexico. Just a few months ago, the 90-acre campus was home to Benemerito de las Americas, a high school owned by The Church of Jesus Christ that throughout its 50-year history served an estimated 23,000 students. As the missionaries are settling in, the former students, parents and faculty of the beloved school are moving forward with faith. 
The sprawling campus can easily accommodate up to 1,000 missionaries—nearly 10 times more than the previous building, which was near the Mexico City Temple and had a capacity of 125. So far, 733 elders and sisters (young men and women who are serving as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ) are receiving religious instruction and language training as well as learning teaching skills to prepare them for their service. The missionaries coming into the Mexico MTC are from North America as well as Central and South America; they will serve their Spanish-speaking missions in the United States and Central and South America.  Read more
Dictionary.com defines the word “conversion” as, “a change of attitude, emotion, or viewpoint from one of indifference, disbelief, or antagonism to one of acceptance, faith, or enthusiastic support, especially such a change in a person’s religion.” Therefore, to be converted entails a transformation of character, or nature of a person. In the spiritual sense, it is a change from sinfulness to righteousness. “It is such a significant change that the Lord and His prophets refer to it as a rebirth, a change of heart, and a baptism of fire.” 
24 For, said he, I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit. Read more
Ever since the announcement made by President and Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church by the media and others), Thomas S. Monson, during the opening session of the 182nd Semiannual General Conference, concerning the new age requirements for those desiring to serve full-time missions, more and more young men and young women are answering the call to serve.
President Monson gave these remarks concerning the prayerful decision to lower the age requirements:
I am pleased to announce that effective immediately all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of age 19. I am not suggesting that all young men will—or should—serve at this earlier age. Rather, based on individual circumstances as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available.
As we have prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service, we have also given consideration to the age at which a young woman might serve. Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21. Read more
A basic definition of the word “missionary” states, “A person sent on a religious mission, especially one sent to promote Christianity in a foreign country.” An even broader definition of the word “missionary” could state, “A person who is strongly in favor of a program or a set of principles who is sent on a mission by a church into an area for the purpose of attempting to persuade or convert others, or for other activities such as educational or hospital work.”
Following the announcement made by Thomas S. Monson, President and Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church), during the opening session of the 182nd Semiannual General Conference concerning the new age requirements for missionaries, eligible young men may begin serving a mission at age 18, and eligible young women may serve a mission starting at age 19. These young missionaries do not choose where they will serve, but humbly and willingly go on the Lord’s errand to work in whatever area of His vineyard they are needed. Young men serve for two years and young women serve for a period of 18 months. Some may serve their mission not far from home, while others may be called to serve in faraway distant lands, all with the same intent and purpose – to preach and teach the gospel, and to bring precious souls unto Christ. Read more
When most people think of Mormon missionaries, they visualize clean-cut, dedicated youth. But The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly called the Mormon Church) also sends out retired sisters and couples to serve in the “mission field,” and they are able to make a unique contribution in building God’s kingdom on earth. A late Mormon prophet counseled seniors in the LDS Church to “Lengthen Your Shuffle.” It’s a take-off on late prophet Spencer W. Kimball’s plea for all in the Church of Jesus Christ to “Lengthen Your Stride” in serving God and His children. Aging members of the Church are not to rest on their laurels and cease serving, but do what they can with their dwindling resources of money and health. The major resource seniors have to use in God’s service is their experience and knowledge gained over years of learning and serving. They can use these gifts to inspire and train others who are new in the gospel.
The Church of Jesus Christ has a lay clergy. That is, there are no trained, professional priests or pastors to lead congregations or administer the affairs of the Church. As in the times of Christ and His original apostles and seventies, people are called from their earthly vocations and are taught by the Holy Spirit how to serve and lead in the kingdom. This means that lay members are “called” by those in authority above them (who are also called to positions of service) to serve in a temporary position. During a lifetime, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ will have delivered sermons, taught classes, planned activities, worked with children and youth, and exercised leadership in various ways. In many parts of the world, where there are few members of the LDS Church, people don’t know enough to serve well. They are beginners, and they need help to get started. Senior missionaries are there to help.
“Service missionaries,” of which there are over 20,000 at any given time, may serve locally near their homes or in far-away locations, part-time or full-time. As of 2012, the oldest service missionary in the Church was 98 years old. Obviously, there is no age limit. Full-time senior missionaries, however, need to have good physical health, good family health, and good financial health to be called into service in locations all over the world. They serve six, twelve, eighteen, or twenty-three months, and many serve multiple Mormon missions. They spend a short time in a Missionary Training Center before reporting to the mission field. Senior missionaries are not called to proselyte. There are Church Education Missionaries, Public Affairs Missionaries, Humanitarian Aid Missionaries, and Member-Leader Support Missionaries, among others.
My husband and I are 71 and 66 years old, respectively, and we are serving as Member-Leader Support missionaries in southeast Asia. Our mission is drawing to a close and will last for 18 months. Our local members number just over 100, and they are mainly of Chinese and Indian descent, having practiced Buddhism, Taoism, or Hinduism before their conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Our congregation has, during its 40-year history, functioned in English, with translation and some classes and materials in Chinese. This means that members here are not only just learning the gospel, they are working with English language teaching manuals after having been called to be teachers — something they never imagined they could do. One of our dear female members has actually had experience teaching in public schools, but they teach by rote. We teach by the spirit. She was asked to teach a class to youth on the Old Testament, which she had never read, and which she knew nothing about. My husband and I were able to coach her on teaching by the spirit, teaching people instead of material, mastering the Old Testament, and understanding the cultural context of the ancient Near East. She is soaring now, and is teaching New Testament.
Recently, a man in the congregation was called to be its president. He will serve in this capacity for about 5 years, and he is just getting an inkling of how much work this calling entails. My husband is getting him established, helping him learn was is expected, and teaching him how to do it. He will also help the new branch president call others as counselors and clerks, teachers, and auxiliary leaders to keep things humming along. The thrill is in watching these members grow spiritually and see their talents expand as they serve.
As senior missionaries, we are also an anchoring influence for the young missionaries in our area. They are far away from home, most for the first time. They are speaking a foreign language. We are their local grandpa and grandma while they are away from their parents.
Serving a senior Mormon mission has been very rewarding for us. We have found many ways to share not only gospel knowledge, but worldly knowledge as well. Sewing, health, even bicycle repair. Serving in God’s kingdom benefits everyone. The served, and those giving service.
And behold, 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).
During the opening session of the 182nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church), Thomas S. Monson, Prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ, announced that the age requirements for those wishing to serve full-time missions has been lowered to 18 years of age for young men and 19 years of age for young women. With that announcement came an influx of applications from young people who are willing and ready to answer the call to serve.
In order to accommodate the number of new missionaries that will be entering one of the 15 Missionary Training Centers (MTC) worldwide, of which the MTC in Provo, Utah is the largest, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced that it will close its church-owned Benemerito de las Americas high school in Mexico City this spring and reopen it as a new MTC starting in July. The new center, which LDS Church officials state will become the second-largest MTC in the world, will train between 1,200 and 2,000 new missionaries called to serve in Mexico and other Latin American countries every year. Students currently attending the high school will have to return to the Mexican public school system.
Elder Daniel L. Johnson, president of the Church’s Mexico Area, announced the change at a meeting at the facility in Mexico City on Tuesday, 29 January 2013. Elder Russell M. Nelson presided at the meeting and was accompanied by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and other Church leaders.
“The future lies before us,” Elder Nelson said. “Now, instead of hundreds being educated at Benemerito, thousands will be educated here at the MTC. Many of them will come from other nations.”
In regards to the announcement, The Church of Jesus Christ issued the following statement on Tuesday, 29 January 2013, to the news media:
Church leaders announced today that the Church-owned high school Benemerito de las Americas near Mexico City will become a training center for missionaries who will serve in Mexico and North, Central and South America.
Church leaders made the decision after considering every immediate alternative that could alleviate the demand at the Church’s other missionary training centers around the world, including the MTC in Provo, Utah. 
Elder Nelson gratefully acknowledged the cooperation of Church leaders and members in Mexico.
“We extend praise and gratitude to students, staff, faculty, families and graduates. You have made of this place a sacred and special location,” Elder Nelson said.
“This hallowed ground where we stand today will become more sacred with each passing year,” Elder Nelson said. “Better, higher and holier purposes will be served in the future than we’ve ever known before.” 
Elder Holland noted the sadness expressed by both students and families at the announcement of the closure of an important educational and cultural resource for the Latter-day Saints of Mexico. Benemerito was established in 1964, and has experienced the blessing of having 23,000 graduates during its 49 year history.
“I see tears in your eyes,” Elder Holland observed. “Tears are the price we pay for sacrifice and love.”
“Instead of a few hundred educated here each year, many thousands will be trained each year,” he said. “Many will come from other countries. They will receive training, but they will also learn to love Mexico, its language and its people.
“This hallowed ground where we sit tonight will become more and more sacred with each passing year,” Elder Holland continued. “Better, higher and holier purposes will be fulfilled here that will bless the lives of generations yet unborn and help them become what God intends that we become.”
In that way, Elder Holland said, this transition for the facility “will be a blessing to the entire world.” 
Mormon missionaries experience many miracles during their missionary service, and they often write home about them. Missionaries also write about their daily routine. We have excerpted some letters home from Mormon missionaries to show you what they do and experience.
From Richard & Fara (Elder and Sister Robbins) in the U.K.:
Two Sunday’s ago, while setting in church one of our great members leaned back to me and asked if I would give him a blessing after Sacrament meeting. (A blessing is a special gift of inspiration through the Holy Ghost, given to those in need, by one holding Christ’s original priesthood authority. A pretty stunning thing.) I told him I would. This man is a very faithful saint.
After the meeting I grabbed the Elders Quorum President (men are organized into quorums in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Savior’s re-established Church) and we went into a classroom with him. He told us he had a very sore tooth and it had abscessed and the doctor told him he would have to have it pulled but couldn’t do it for about a week and a half. I gave him a priesthood blessing and was directed to tell him the tooth would give him no more problems. This last Sunday I asked him how his tooth was and was told there was no pain at all and the doctor advised him against having it pulled. This was a simple occasion but let us know that the Lord is not going to forget his faithful servants.
We have also been given the job now to teach the Gospel Principles lessons on Sunday (Mormons invite those of all faiths to learn of Christ’s doctrine and the fulness of His gospel and plan of happiness. The class for those learning about the Gospel is known as Gospel Principles). We’re thankful for any way we can stay busy for the Lord.
It has become very evident in our lives that the true source of all of this spirit is the people we know. We simply know that all the joy we feel is not possible without loved ones to share it with. Love takes on a whole new meaning when you step away from it and observe from a distance its true significance.
We have become so close and reliant on the Lord that our relationship to him has become much closer which always results in an increase of love. Of course you cannot develop a love for the Savior without developing a great degree of esteem and admiration for Him. When we consider all that He has done for us this esteem become true adoration.
From Sister Shiri Stevens serving in the Boston Mission:
This week has been full of miracles and I am eternally grateful that I get to be a part of it! One thing that has really touched my heart this week is how our whole purpose here is to come to know God. In John 17:3 we read that Eternal life is knowing God. And God’s purpose is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. What a joyous fact that we are truly living eternal life right now as we strive to come to know Heavenly Father. I pray that we are all doing those things necessary to build a firm relationship with him so that we will know him when we see him again.
I was blessed to be close to Heavenly Father as we had the opportunity to got to the temple yesterday (because of the Holiday – our zone was invited again). I must say this might be one step above conference for me. I love being in the house of the Lord. It is a unique blessing to each of us as we keep ourselves worthy to be in the Lord’s presence. I am so grateful for the eternal blessings of salvation and exaltation found in the temple. It was particularly special to me because it was one year ago yesterday that I went through the temple for the first time myself. Many things were the same as they had been a year ago in the Mt. Timpanogos temple, which was a sweet reminder of that beautiful day. I am grateful for all those who surrounded me then and continue to do so in spirit as I am blessed with those surrounding me now. I pray we will all be able to sit down together in the presence of our Lord one day.
So this week was a challenging week to say the least but at the same time it was such an awesome week! Obviously, being a fairly new missionary myself I am not all that great in Tagalog yet and having the new challenge of being a trainer of a brand new missionary is quite the challenge. Just a little bit about my “anak” or “kid” the missionary that I am training. He is really quiet and fairly shy so I have been doing basically all of the talking to individuals and almost all of the teaching… Last week this would have seemed like a impossible task because of my lack of ability to speak and understand Tagalog fluently, but over the last week it has been awesome to see the Lord working and communicating with His children through me and my brand new found ability to speak Tagalog. I can definitely see the Lord blessing me and my Tagalog so that this companionship of two new missionaries can work and be effective.
During the opening session of the 182nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church), President and Prophet of the Church, Thomas S. Monson made an important announcement regarding missionary service. The announcement was of particular interest to those young men and young women who desire to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ, laboring in the Lord’s vineyard by teaching and preaching the precious truths of His gospel. To the surprise and delight of members worldwide, President Monson announced that effective immediately, men may now begin serving missions at age 18 and women at age 19. The previous age for beginning missionary service was 19 years of age for young men and 21 for young women.
“I am not suggesting that all young men will — or should — serve at this earlier age,” President Monson said. Rather, he said, the option is now available based on individual circumstances, as well as upon a determination by local Church leaders. (Read President Monson’s full remarks.) 
Following the announcement made during the Saturday morning session, a press conference was held concerning the new age requirements in which Elders Russell M. Nelson and Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder David F. Evans of the Seventy shared additional information about this change in policy.
Elder Holland revealed that very few people were aware this change would be announced. Nearly all of the General Authorities—except for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—all mission presidents, university presidents and admissions officers, and all MTC administrators were unaware of the change until President Monson made the announcement. 
It is to be noted that over the past decade permission has been granted in 48 countries to allow young men at age 18 to serve full-time missions, and the experience has been very positive. With President Monson’s announcement, the Church will now have a single policy worldwide. Currently there are approximately 58,000 missionaries serving full-time. Church leaders are hoping that by lowering the age requirements more prospective missionaries will be able to answer the call to serve.
In directing his remarks to the young men and young women of The Church of Jesus Christ, Elder Holland further commented,
“God is hastening His work. And He needs more and more willing and worthy missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to an often dark and fearful world. . . This isn’t about you. It is about the sweet and pure message you are being asked to bear.” 
Elder Nelson emphasized that the change in age requirements is an option, not an edict:
“These age adjustments are new options now available to bishops in evaluating what is best for each of their youth,” he said. He continued, “Young men and young women should not begin their service before they are ready spiritually and temporally.” 
Elder Nelson also reminded everyone that there still remains important considerations for the timing of missionary service such as schooling, family circumstances, health, and so forth.
Since President Monson’s appeal for more full-time and couple missionaries two years ago, during October 2010 Semiannual General Conference, the response by Church members has been great—the number of full-time Elders serving has increased by six percent; the number of Sisters by 12 percent, and the number of couples by 18 percent. 
Elder Holland also elaborated on some details and some changes that will have to be made in light of the new policy: 
- Prospective missionaries will be asked to enhance their pre-mission preparation, including total personal worthiness supplemented by gospel study (especially the Book of Mormon), seminary and Institute classes, and systematic study of Preach My Gospel.
- Time at each of the Church’s 15 Missionary Training Centers (MTCs) will be reduced by one-third for all missionaries.
- At the Church’s flagship MTC in Provo, Utah, new instructors and staff will have to be hired and the amount of housing will have to be increased almost immediately. The Church is considering comparable expansion at some other MTCs, but is not planning on building any new MTCs at this time.
- Missionaries will benefit from a recently implemented 12-week training course being administered in the mission field through mission presidents. The program is designed to improve every missionary’s teaching skills while in the field.
- The Church is considering adding new missions in the future. Until those new missions are created, the existing 347 missions will absorb any increase in the number of missionaries.
- Prospective missionaries may be recommended by their Bishop and Stake President for full-time service 120 days prior to their birthday or to their availability date (which takes into account high school graduation or its equivalent). Young men may enter the MTC after graduating and reaching 18 years of age. Women may enter after their 19th birthday. No adjustment has been made to the upper age limit (25 years for young men, no limit for young women).
The real preparation for a young man or young woman to serve a mission, however, begins in the home. Elder Holland emphasized that parents need to become actively involved in this preparation process as it is not the sole responsibility of the Mission Department, MTC, or local Church leaders to direct everything.
Regarding lowering the age requirement for women, Elder Holland explained that while it is not an obligation for young Latter-day Saint women to serve missions, “those who do serve are stunningly successful and we enthusiastically welcome your service.” He said, “Personally, I am absolutely delighted if this change in policy allows many, many more young women to serve.” 
It should also be carefully noted that missionaries receive their assignment from Church headquarters and are sent only to countries where governments allow the Church to operate. Missionaries do not request their area of assignment and do not know beforehand whether they will be required to learn a language. Missionary work is voluntary. Missionaries fund their own missions — except for their transportation to and from their assigned mission — and are not paid for their services. 
Mark Albright, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church), has served as a Mission President, Temple Ordinance Worker, Stake President, Bishop, High Councilman, and Seminary Teacher. He recently published an article for Meridian Magazine titled Missionary Moment: A Miracle on Temple Square Brings Change in Rome.
The article is based on a letter that he received from someone who attended a fireside where former U.S. Senator Gordon H. Smith of Oregon who is currently serving as an Area Seventy and President of the National Association of Broadcasters located in Washington D.C. During the course of the fireside Elder Smith shared an experience regarding two Italian Sister missionaries serving in the Utah Temple Square Mission that helped influence an important governmental decision in Italy concerning the new LDS Temple in Rome, Italy.
Elder Smith recounts that while he was serving as a U.S. Senator he received a telephone call from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf who was serving at that time as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The Church of Jesus Christ was interested in building a new temple in Italy (later annouced on 4 October 2008 by Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, during the Semiannual General Conference), and needed to acquire formal governmental recognition for the church from the Italian government. Elder Uchtdorf inquired of Senator Smith if he would be able to assist in arranging a meeting with the appropriate government officials in Rome. Senator Smith not only agreed to help set up the meeting, but he also agreed to also fly to Rome to help with the presentation.
The Italian official supervising religious affairs in Italy was a gracious and knowledgeable woman who asked the Assistant Minister to join the meeting. Senator Smith introduced Elder Uchtdorf as an Apostle from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then made mention of some references in the NATO treaty which included the United States and Italy. Elder Uchtdorf then talked about The Church of Jesus Christ and how its larger presence in Italy would both benefit and bless the people of Italy. He further explained the problems the members and missionaries were facing due to the fact that the LDS Church was not fully recognized as a religion, but rather as a charitable organization.
The government official referred to her assistant and asked for his opinion regarding the matter.
The Assistant Minister replied that he had recently been on a visit to the United States with his family, and had toured Temple Square in Salt Lake City during his trip. The assistant went on to explain that when they arrived at Temple Square their tour guides were two young Italian Sister missionaries. According to the assistant, the two Sister missionaries were very impressive and glowed with energy and enthusiasm. He then said in effect: “If the Mormon Church can raise such outstanding young people as I saw serving there in Utah, then by all means you should give the LDS church all the recognition they need to build their temple here in Italy! I hope they can raise up thousands of young people here in Italy like the ones I met in Utah!” 
That comment seemed to have the appropriate effect and the meeting concluded successfully. Italy President Giorgio Napolitano signed the Intesa con lo Stato, or legal agreement, on 30 July 2012. In contrast to the 1993 legislation that recognized the Church of Jesus Christ as only a charitable institution, the Church is now officially recognized as a religious denomination, along with the Catholic Church and a few others. The first meeting with President Uchtdorf (Elder Uchtdorf had become a member of the First Presidency on 3 February 2008) was the beginning of this important process that culminated in the final signed agreement. 
Elder Smith concluded his remarks by commenting that those two unnamed Italian Sister missionaries serving on Temple Square may never know of their important contribution or what they accomplished by just having the spirit with them and being such marvelous examples during the brief tour of the museum and Temple grounds with the Assistant Minister. The two missionaries had no knowledge that they were giving a tour to an important Italian government official, or that an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ would fly to Rome to meet with the official, and that the missionary experience that the official had while in visiting Temple Square in Utah would have such a tremendous impact on the outcome of that meeting. Had the missionaries acted inappropriately during that encounter with the Italian government official, the outcome could have been much different.
Construction of the Rome, Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began on 23 October 2010 with a groundbreaking ceremony. The Temple will likely serve church members in Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, as well as the 23,430 church members who live in Italy.