Mormon Missionaries – Rigid Rules

Latter-Day Saints missionaries are expected to abide by a long list of rules during their two years in the field.

While the rules may strike an outsider as excessive, missionaries Brigg Barron and Mark Williams said they welcome the structure and security they provide. Here are excerpts from a four-page list of rules for male Minnesota missionaries:

A dark-suited pair of Mormon missionaries may be the most recognizable symbol of the Utah-based LDS Church. […]

But you might not know that …

  • Male converts who are polygamous must divorce all but one wife and be interviewed by the mission president to be baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • In most of Africa, the Philippines, Southeast Asia and a few other hot locales (think Texas), missionaries don’t have to wear jackets (except for conferences). In Fiji and some other Pacific islands, elders (as young male missionaries are called) frequently don traditional skirts called lava-lava. […]
  • Last year, the church changed its dress code for “sister” (female) missionaries, allowing them to forgo pantyhose or stockings and to shorten their skirts above mid-calf. But the skirts are still required, according to the church’s website, “to cover the knees when sitting or standing.” […]
  • Female missionaries can have hair of any length but, if they color it, the church website says, it “should look natural and conservative.” Those who do color it, should “consider time, frequency and cost.” Perfume should not be “distracting or overpowering.”
  • The missionary rule book, which spells out every aspect of mission life from what time to wake up (6:30 a.m.) to the time to go to bed (10:30 p.m.) — and nearly everything in between — is found in a small booklet every missionary packs. It’s dubbed “the white Bible.”
  • Male missionaries are expected to maintain conservative, short hairstyles with a visible part. Sideburns can reach no lower than the middle of the ear. No bowl cuts, crew cuts, shaved or bleached hair, or wet-looks are allowed.
  • – Source: Mormon missions: Did you know … ? Salt Lake Tribune, Sep. 30, 2011

    Sharon Lindbloom, of the Mormon Coffee blog, writes:

    […]There is wisdom in setting up these sorts of rules. They are a hedge against false accusations.

    Several of the other rules have to do with safety or cleanliness: wear a bike helmet; clean the apartment for an hour every prep-day; dry clean suits often; do all bike repairs outside. When remembering that the missionaries are young men only 19-21 years old, any mother would say these sorts of rules are a must.

    But we should also remember that the LDS Church claims these young men have received a personal calling from Almighty God to go into the mission field. They have been individually prepared and equipped for their service: “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies,” said LDS President Harold B. Lee (quoted in Ensign, November 1995, 50).

    Because of this, some of the missionary rules seem out of place to me.


    Rather than supporting the idea that these young men “have been set apart for [their] sacred calling with the promise that the Spirit will be given as [they] meet the requirements set by the Lord” (Preach My Gospel, 4), these rules reflect an assumed immaturity (social and spiritual), plus a lack of trust in the missionaries’ judgment and inspiration.


    I don’t doubt that the Mormon Church’s long experience with their missionary program has necessitated the institution of such rules. What I don’t get is why we’re supposed to believe these kids have power and authority from God when even the LDS Church doesn’t seem to believe it.

    – Source: The Dos and Don’ts of Mormon Missionary Life, Sharon Lindbloom, Mormon Coffee