Missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serve all around the world, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to all who will listen. Elder Jeffery R. Holland has stated, "Every truth that a missionary...teaches is only an appendage to the central message of all time--that Jesus is the Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, the Holy Messiah, the Promised One, the Savior and Redeemer of the World."
This week, we put together a list of 10 facts about Mormon missionaries that may surprise you:
1. Over 1.1 million Mormon men and women have served full-time missions for the Church since its founding in 1830.
2. The number of full-time Mormon missionaries has increased from 43,651 in 1990 to 85,039 as of March 31, 2014. Single male missionaries (“elders”) serve for 24 months, and single female missionaries (“sister missionaries”) serve for 18 months.
3. Before President Thomas S. Monson lowered the age of availability for all male missionaries to 18 and for all female missionaries to 19 in October 2012, the age of availability for male missionaries was first lowered to 18 in Germany, the United Kingdom, Albania, Cape Verde, Spain, Italy and all of South America to accommodate educational and military requirements. As of March 31, 2014, the breakdown of missionaries is 64% elders, 28% sisters, 8% seniors.
4. Although elders and sister missionaries email or write letters home weekly during their missions, they are allowed just two phone calls home per year: one on Mother’s Day and one on Christmas.
5. Mormon missionaries and their families fund their own missions—except for transportation to and from their field of labor—and are not paid for their services. In recent years, the Church has implemented a program to equalize missionary costs across the globe: each missionary contributes $400 a month to cover mission costs.
6. There are now 15 Missionary Training Centers (MTCs) around the world, where missionaries spend the initial 3-8 weeks of their assignments learning the basics of missionary service. Only the largest MTC, located in Provo, Utah, near Brigham Young University, teaches foreign languages. In total, 55 languages are taught at the Provo MTC by a staff of over 1,200 teachers. It ranks second among the nation’s largest on-site language schools, behind only the U.S. Defense Department’s Language Institute in Monterey, California. In addition to living accommodations and classrooms, the Provo MTC includes a gymnasium/auditorium, a massive kitchen and cafeteria, a health clinic, a bookstore, a laundry, a travel department, a barbershop and so on. It is about to undergo a major expansion to accommodate the rising number of missionaries. During 2010, missionaries at the Provo MTC consumed 200,400 apples; 163,430 pounds of bananas; 10,893 gallons of ice cream; and the equivalent of 684,800 eggs.
7. Approximately 283,000 converts were baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide during 2013.
8. Missionaries do not choose where they serve. The missionary application they submit to Church headquarters contains basic information (e.g., what languages they speak, how interested they are in learning a new language, their performance in school, their ancestors’ nationalities), and a member of the Church’s presiding Quorum of the 12 Apostles prayerfully assigns each missionary to one of 405 missions around the world. About 2-3 weeks after submitting an application, prospective missionaries receive a large envelope from church headquarters that announces where the missionary will serve. Anticipation is understandably off the charts when opening the letter that reveals where a future missionary will serve around the world. (Here is a great video of new missionaries opening their mission calls.)
9. 160 million copies of the Book of Mormon have been published and are freely distributed by missionaries around the world.
10. About 80 physicians serve as full-time volunteer missionaries around the world so mission presidents have access to the best medical advice right within the boundaries of their own areas. Also, an additional 200 volunteer nurses and others with medical and health-care backgrounds assist the missionaries.