A mission, in the context we will discuss today, is the geographical administrative area to which missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are assigned. As of September 2022, there were 411 missions of the Church. Most missions are named after the location of the mission headquarters and the nomenclature is usually in the Country City format. For example, I went to the Argentina Rosario Mission, and my daughter is in the Portugal Lisbon Mission. The Church had 62,544 missionaries at the end of 2022, so if you do the math, that’s roughly 150 missionaries per mission.
The mission president is over a mission and has responsibility for all the missionary work and missionaries in his mission. I won’t go into his role in this post, but I have written in the past about the role of a mission president, his duties and relationship with missionaries. The mission president and his wife are both set apart as missionaries and leaders of the mission overall.
The mission president also assigns two young missionary elders to serve in a companionship as assistants to the mission president. Assistants to the President (APs) conduct companion exchanges with zone leaders, provide training in mission leadership councils and zone conferences, and may also provide counsel regarding missionary transfers or leadership assignments to the mission president.
To organize each mission, it is sub-divided further into geographic zones, districts, and proselyting areas. Each of these groupings has missionaries who serve in leadership roles, so let’s explore this organization and the mission leadership hierarchy.
Zones and Zone Leadership
Each mission is divided into zones (usually 5 to 7 of them) with about 20 to 30 missionaries per zone. In organizing zones, mission presidents usually follow stake and ward (local congregation) boundary lines. Two missionary elders are assigned to serve in a companionship as zone leaders and they are responsible for the training and welfare of all missionaries in their zone. They have an assigned teaching area and the same responsibilities of other missionaries but have the added responsibility to teach the district leaders through companion exchanges and visits to district meetings. They also interview baptismal candidates who have been taught by the district leaders and assist the mission president in teaching and training at zone conferences.
Two sisters are also assigned to serve in a companionship as sister training leaders (STLs) in the zone. They are responsible for the training and welfare of sister missionaries in the zone. They lead, train, and conduct companion exchanges with the other sister missionaries in their zone or zones. STLs only conduct companion exchanges with sisters, and zone leaders only conduct exchanges with elders. STLs, like zone leaders, also assist the mission president and district leaders in training meetings and zone conferences.
Districts and District Leadership
A zone is divided into districts. Generally two to four proselyting areas (four to eight missionaries) within a zone form a district, and districts usually follow ward and branch boundaries. One elder is assigned to serve as a district leader and his responsibility is to lead, train, and counsel with missionaries in his district. He conducts a weekly district meeting and conducts baptismal interviews of people who other missionaries in the district have taught. He also conducts companion exchanges with other elders in his district.
Proselyting Areas, Companionships, Senior Companions, and Trainers
A proselyting or teaching area is a specific geographical area within a district that is assigned to a missionary companionship. A companionship is two missionaries who are assigned to stay together always (like the buddy system). In some cases, due to numbers and logistics, a companionship may be composed of three missionaries (I’ve even heard of four missionary companionships, but that is extremely rare).
Missionaries are to work within their teaching area and only leave for specifically approved reasons such as going to Church on Sunday, if applicable, or district meetings or zone conferences. Missionaries should rely on the Holy Spirit for inspiration on how they should conduct missionary work in their areas and should take initiative and be anxiously engaged in achieving their purpose as missionaries (invite others to come unto Christ). Each missionary companionship including APs, zone leaders, STLs, and district leaders has a proselyting area.
One missionary in each companionship is always assigned to be the senior companion. The senior comp leads the companionship by word and example in accomplishing missionary work, keeping mission rules, and following the daily schedule. If the junior companion is a brand-new missionary, the senior comp is also a trainer. A trainer should train a new missionary with love, patience, and empathy, and respect the contributions of the new missionary and treat him or her as an equal companion.