For those who are reading who may not know the missionary life, I'll give you a short re-cap of some of the missionary life, rules & lingo (common vocabulary) from MY knowledge (so I may need some correcting). I've included links (the underlined words) which can lead you to scriptures or references. Let me know if you have more questions!Q. Do missionaries get any time off?
A. Missionaries work 7 days a week. They have a day off (called a preparation day - or "P Day" for short) where they email home, do grocery shopping and laundry. P-Day ends at 6pm and then it's back to appointments. P-Day is Monday. So we get emailed from Elder Hogg on Mondays (the Missionary-Mom's Favorite Day of the week!!!). I will post here with pictures that he sends!
Q. When can you visit him? Do you get to talk to him?
A. Families do not go and visit their missionaries - although there are some special circumstances, but it is quite rare. Missionaries are only allowed to call - or Skype - home on Mother's Day and Christmas Day. (There are circumstances where they can choose another day other than Mother's Day.) There is no other communication during the 2 years. It's tough on Mom... but good for the missionary to focus and be less homesick. From experience - I know that if a missionary becomes ill or hospitalized, there are special circumstances where a call home is permitted. (We are planning a trip to Texas shortly after Elder Hogg returns home!)
Q. We always see 2 missionaries - never one... is that a rule?
A. Yes! Missionaries are at least in a companionship of two - and sometimes 3. A companionship is an Elder (or Sister) and his (her) partner. There are never one male/one female.. but either male companionships or female companionships. They live in an apartment and will always be within eyesight of each other (of course - with the utmost modesty. Yes - showering, bathroom is private.... some people actually ask about that!) Companions are always together, or partnered with other missionaries in at least pairs. This is scriptural. See Doctrine & Covenants 42:6, Matthew 18:20, 2 Corinthians 13:1.
Q. Why do we call him Elder? He's only 22!
A. Elder is an office the Church, as well as an office in the priesthood (like Deacon, Teacher, Bishop, Apostle, etc.). Those that are called to missionary work (men) are addressed as Elder plus their last name. Women are addressed as Sister and their last name. Elder is best explained from the entry in our Bible Dictionary (with scriptural references). From what I understand - it is used for missionaries so their ecclesiastical authority is recognized as they teach the Gospel around the world. I believe it also helps the missionary remember his responsibility, as well.
Q. What do missionaries wear?
A. The men wear white dress-shirts, conservative ties (no cartoon ties, etc), dark suit pants, or suits. Hair must be short. No jewelry except for a ring, if they wish, and a watch. Women wear modest, conservative shirts/skirts or dresses. Women's hair can't be colored with non-natural colors and must have a conservative style (length is not dictated). Women can wear necklaces/earrings that are conservative and not excessive. During P-day they can wear T-shirts and pants or longer shorts. When exercising they can wear t-shirts and longer shorts/jogging pants as well. Missionaries are not allowed to go swimming. Nametags must be worn - and visible - at all times. If winter coats or jackets are worn, the nametag is to be worn on the coat.
Q. Bike? Car? Walking?
A. Elder Hogg is in a bike area - but they have a car since they serve all of Plano as Spanish-speaking missionaries. They are limited in the amount of mileage they can drive - so often they will ride their bikes. Missionaries are to purchase - and own - their bikes/helmets/locks. In some areas around the world, missionaries do not have a bike or car - but walk several miles per day and/or rely on public transportation.
Q. If we see missionaries walking - can we offer to give them a ride?
A. Yes! However, don't be offended because they may decline the offer. There are several rules in accepting rides from people, including members. For instance, 2 male missionaries may not ride with a female who is alone. There are other rules - but it doesn't hurt to ask if you are willing!
Q. What do missionaries DO?!
A. I'll speak mostly for the missionaries serving in Brett's capacity. The short answer: Full-time missionaries are to teach the Gospel.
Long answer: Missionaries are servants of the Lord (aren't we all?).
During Elder Hogg's mission he will:
- Teach lessons to individuals and families wanting to learn more about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Assist in the needs of people of the area - including helping with service such as moving, yard work, and cleaning up after natural disasters.
- Teaching English in the community.
- Translating for people as needed for local services or for church services.
- Serve in their communities where needed.
- Provide ordinances - such as blessings of comfort, blessings for the sick, and they are authorized to baptize and confirm.
- Assist the ward in events and efforts of helping them with new converts or those returning back to the Church.
- Serve other missionaries, when needed. (Such as when Brett was hospitalized - he was the receiver of much missionary service!!)
Everything they do is under the direction of the Bishops in the wards they serve, their District leaders, Zone leaders and Mission President)
There are other missionaries in the church - such as when my sister did a "service mission" from her home providing call-desk help for FamilySearch.org!! There are many mission opportunities in the church - including for all of us to teach and be examples! But most people think of "missionaries" as the full-time men and women that serve in the same capacity that Elder Hogg is serving right now... dedicated service away from home for a period of two years.
Q. What if they are sick? Do they stay home?
A. Yes - they can stay home. The companion stays home, as well, of course. If it is something a little more serious, there is a Mission Nurse, or they can go to a clinic/urgent care facility - or hospital, if needed. Most of the time, if they have a cold/flu - then they rest for a day or two and study and keep to a schedule as much as possible. Often the "healthy" companion will still work making phone calls, and setting schedules (or re-scheduling for missed lessons).
Q. What are the apartments like?
A. Messy - haha! Missionaries are asked to keep tidy apartments (but I've heard some stories in many areas). They have a couch, table/chairs, twin beds, dressers. No TV. They are regular 1-bedroom apartments with full kitchen in most areas (a little less humble in other countries). Leases are obtained and maintained by the mission office.
Q. Can they listen to music or watch TV?
A. No TV, Newspapers, News broadcasts, etc. They don't keep up on local news or national news events. Of course if anything catastrophic happens - the mission office communicates with the missionaries. They are allowed to listen to classical music, or church music performed by contemporary artists. And of course, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir! Haha!! Some areas are more strict with music choices. They are not allowed to use headphones - but can listen through a speaker.
Q. How long does a missionary stay in one place?
A. You'll often hear Brett (or other full-time missionaries) say the word "Transfer" as a span of time. A transfer is a 6-week period. Some missionaries will stay in an area for several transfer periods. Missionaries are often told a couple days before the transfer date (the same date for all missionaries in that mission area) if they are to be moved to a different area. Missionaries can stay in one area for 1 transfer time period - or several! I've heard some missionaries stay on one area even up to a year (although it's very rare). They are transferred to train other missionaries coming in.. to accommodate others that are leaving.. or if the mission president needs to make a change in an area for a myriad of other reasons. Brett's transfers are on Wednesdays - the next date is 3/8. Don't send packages too close to the transfer date or they may sit for awhile before it gets paired back up with the missionary at his/her new assignment!
Q. How much do they get? Who pays for the mission?
A. For some people, it's hard to believe, but the missionary and/or family pays for their mission - and sometimes additional friends/family members offer to contribute. The Church has evened out the mission cost so that all missionaries pay the same - regardless if they are serving in Cambodia, Milwaukee, Tokyo, or Seattle. The mission can be paid each month - or all at once (we are paying monthly). While they are on their mission - their housing and utilities are paid by the mission office. They are given a SMALL stipend to pay for their groceries and incidentals each month... which is why, in most areas, the missionaries will be invited to member's homes for meals several times each week, or why some people will give them groceries or take them out to eat. They live very frugally (is that a word?). And it's why mom and others send fun packages with goodies!
Vocabulary (to the best of my ability):
District: 4-5 companionships
Zone: Several Districts (usually a 1-2 cities or areas)
Mission Area: Can encompass a piece of one state - or even a few states. The Texas Dallas mission (as you might have read in Brett's assignment letter) encompasses The City of Dallas (not Fort Worth - that's a separate mission) and areas most in East Texas, plus a southern sliver of Oklahoma and a little bit of Arkansas.
Ward: A congregation of the church... usually 50-250 families (this varies greatly). Wards are separated geographically. If a branch or ward contains too many members, then it can split into another ward.
Branch: A small congregation... usually less than 100 people in Sunday attendance. When a branch has enough priesthood holders, then it will become a ward.
Stake: Usually 8-15 units (wards/branches).
Bishop: The ecclesiastical leader of the ward (pastor). Bishops are not paid; there is no paid clergy of the LDS church (although some leaders get traveling stipends, etc.)
Let me know if there is more you would like to know! If something comes up in an email from Elder Hogg, I will explain it in the email (my comments will be in BLUE).