Future missionaries, parents, church leaders, and often even non-members often wonder what are the requirements to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Usually they are wondering about full-time proselytizing missions the our young people perform, so I’ll put those requirements first, but I’ll also put further below the requirements for senior missionaries.
Requirements to Serve a Full-Time Mission for Young Adults
The Lord expects every young man who is able, and as many young women as have the desire, to prepare spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially and to serve a full-time mission. Full-time missionary service is a privilege, not a right, and in order to qualify for this privilege, young men and women should meet the qualifications I have summarized below. Additionally, potential missionaries will meet with their bishop and stake president to verify that the young man or woman is qualified to serve a mission by asking these standard missionary interview questions:
- Be Worthy: The Lord expects young men and women to obey the commandments, keep themselves clean and worthy, repent, keep the commandments, and live a righteous life. By so doing, they can have His Spirit and represent the Savior and His Church. For more information on this topic, see my post on what it means to be worthy to serve a mission.
- Meet Age Requirements: Men should be ages 18 through 25 and able to serve for 24 months. Women should be ages 19 and up and able to serve for 18 months. There are some rare exceptions to the 18 year old rule for young men. If a young man’s father is a mission president, they may be able to go at a younger age. More details on mission age requirements can be found here.
- Be Single and not a parent. People who have been divorced, young men who have fathered a child, or young women who have given birth to a child are not normally recommended to serve full-time missions. If exceptions were to occur, you would need to speak with your bishop to get his endorsement.
- Be Spiritually Prepared: Spiritual preparation means reading the scriptures and praying regularly, building faith in Jesus Christ, and developing a testimony of the Lord’s true Church. It also means living the commandments and being an example to others of what it means to be a true follower of the Savior. Preparing spiritually also includes studying and understanding gospel principles, attending Church meetings regularly, and honoring the priesthood if you are a young man.
- Be Physically Prepared: Missionary work can be very physically demanding. Many missionaries have to walk or ride bikes for as much as twelve hours a day. Before serving, a doctor must certify that the potential missionary is physically able to handle the work. A prospective missionary who has a physical disability or medical limitation may or may not be recommended to serve a mission depending on the severity of the issue. In many cases, people with physical disabilities or serious medical conditions can still be called to serve, but they often have restrictions placed on exactly how or where they go, or in some cases they are able to serve Church Service Missions.
- Be Financially Prepared: Missionaries are expected to financially pay for their own missions and future missionaries should begin at as early an age as possible to save money to pay for their mission expenses. Missionaries and their families should be prepared to make sacrifices to provide financial support for a mission. However, young people who are worthy should not be prevented from serving a mission solely for financial reasons when they and their families have made sacrifices according to their ability. See this article for ideas for earning money and saving for a mission.
- Be Mentally and Emotionally Prepared: A mission requires young people to be of sound mind and emotionally capable of living and working independently. Candidates for missionary service who have previously had significant mental or emotional challenges must be stabilized and confirmed by a medical professional to be fully functional before being recommended for a mission. Young people who have severe mental or emotional challenges are honorably excused from missionary service, though many of them can, if they desire, participate as a Church Service Missionary.
- Able to Receive Temple Endowment. Future missionaries are instructed to go to the temple to receive their endowment prior to starting their mission. This usually happens within a few weeks or a month of entering the MTC. This requirement also means, by implication, that potential missionaries should be a member for at least a year prior to beginning their missionary service.
- Melchizedek Priesthood Ordination for young men. Young men should be given the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordained to the office of an Elder prior to going on a mission and prior to receiving the temple endowment. Receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood, like many of the other steps above, requires preparation and worthiness.
- Receive Patriarchal Blessing. For many youth, they will receive their patriarchal blessing long before, sometimes years before, going on a mission. There is no set age for receiving a patriarchal blessing, but missionaries are required to get it before entering the mission field.
Young men and women who meet these requirements can set up an interview with their bishop, begin filling out the mission paperwork, and complete the other steps of the mission call process. Please remember that while full-time missionary service is a priesthood responsibility of young men, women should not feel obligated to serve missions.
Senior Couples’ Full-Time Missionary Requirements
Senior couples’ requirements to serve a mission are similar in many respects to the young people, with some differences.
- Age requirements: There really aren’t any, so long as the couple is physically, mentally, and emotionally able. There is a great variety of assignments that senior couples can be given ranging from some that are physically demanding to other that are not.
- Married. The couple should be married (obviously otherwise you wouldn’t be a couple). Elderly single women can serve full-time missions, but elderly single men usually do not.
- No children at home. The couple shouldn’t have any dependent children still living at home.
- Able to serve for between 6 months and 2 years. Senior couples have the flexibility to choose the length of a mission that works for them.
- Retired. Neither one of the couple should be engaged in full-time employment.