Have you ever seen the 18-year-old guys in a white shirt and tie with a name tag riding a bike? Or the 19-year-old girl who wears a name tag and skirt also riding a bike? These are the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You may also know us as Mormons because we read The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. On a mission, we volunteer for a period of time (24 months for the guys and 18 months for the girls) to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with whatever area of the world we are called to serve in. I say "called to serve in" because we don't get to choose where we go. After we volunteer to serve, the LDS Church assigns us to an area of the world, divinely inspired by God. (Curious to know more about how a mission call is assigned? Click Here). I have been called to serve in Romania and will be learning to speak Romanian, but there are many different areas where missionaries can serve. Many of my friends have served in foreign areas such as Mexico, Ukraine, England, Russia, China, France, Uganda, Spain, Chile, and Ecuador. I've also had friends serve stateside in places like New York, Florida, Washington, Texas, and California.
As a missionary and official representative of the LDS church, we are responsible for a couple of things: 1) share with people that Jesus the Christ is real and that He loves them and 2) teach people that there is life after this and that there is a plan of happiness for each and every one of us. It's a pretty great message. You may be wondering why any 18-year-old boy or 19-year-old girl would sacrifice a year and a half to two years of their lives to teach complete strangers about God. Well, the thing is, devoted disciples of Jesus Christ (whether they're LDS or not) have been and always will be valiant missionaries. A missionary is a follower of Christ who testifies of Him as the Redeemer and proclaims the truths of His gospel. The Church of Jesus Christ is a missionary church. As it says in the New Testament:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:19–20).
David A. Bednar describes missionary work perfectly in his October 2014 General Conference Address:
"As LDS missionaries, we aren't trying to sell you a product. We do not receive prizes or bonus points in any kind of heavenly contest. It's not our goal to simply increase the numerical size of the Church and, most importantly, we are not attempting to coerce you to believe as we do. Our message is a simple one: we are inviting you to hear the restored truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ so you can study, ponder, pray, and come to know for yourself if the things we are sharing with you are true. Some of you may respond, “But I already believe in Jesus and follow His teachings,” or “I am not sure if God really exists.” Our invitations to you are not an attempt to diminish your religious tradition or life experience. Bring all that you know is true, good, and praiseworthy—and test our message. Just as Jesus beckoned two of His disciples to “come and see” (John 1:39), so we urge you to come and see if the restored gospel of Jesus Christ enlarges and enriches that which you already believe to be true."
But, this is only one part of our mission. As missionaries we also help in any way we can through humanitarian aid and community service. I keep saying "we" because missionaries serving a full-time mission go everywhere in pairs. We call them a companionship. From day one in the MTC (missionary training center) you are assigned to be with a companion. There are only same-gender companions and you rotate every few weeks or so. There are a couple of reasons to have a companion: first of all, it's safer. Sending 18-year-old boys and 19-year-old girls to foreign areas to knock on doors of complete strangers would cause every mother to have a heart attack. So, we send them two by two! I know it still sounds crazy, but honestly, missionaries are safe. Everyone has someone looking out for them and companionships check in on other companionships, so everybody is accounted for. We also don't use personal electronics while we're on a mission (so, no cell phones, iPads, music players, or laptops) except for emailing family and friends once a week on what we call "P-day" which is our personal day.
But, that's basically an LDS mission in a nutshell: two people of the same gender living together in a foreign place knocking on stranger's doors asking if they can come in and share a message about Jesus Christ. And it is awesome.
In all seriousness though, serving an LDS mission is a huge sacrifice that brings unbelievable blessings. I have personally witnessed so many of my good friends become some of the most amazing people because of their service. Is it hard? Yes. Is it scary? Absolutely. Is it worth it? More than I can even describe. It's like what our late Prophet Gordon B. Hinkley used to say---------------------------------->