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Mormon Missionaries – Rigid Rules


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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:

  • All missionaries wear a part and comb their hair to the side. You will be the minority and feel out of place if you do not.
  • Cut hair above the ears and neck. Do not buzz in a part or buzz your head. You should have a line between your hair and shirt collar.
  • Sideburns are not allowed. Shave all sideburns above the middle of
    the ear.
  • Dry clean suits frequently and wear a crease in the pants.
  • Please only wear nice business style ties. Flashy or bright ties that attract attention should not be worn. This includes, but is not limited to, ’70s style polyester, pink, and purple-based ties.
  • Refrain from using slang (i.e., hey, like, sucks, freakin’, you’re the man, chill, dang, cool, etc.). Be dignified in your speech. Quiet dignity will open doors.
  • All cars must be vacuumed and washed every preparation day [one day
    a week when chores are performed].
  • It is required to clean apartments for one hour (the first hour) every preparation day.
  • Do all bike repairs outside of the apartment.
  • Make sure carpet is covered where bikes are stored to prevent stains. Bike stains are the biggest reason why we lose our deposit money.
  • Always wear a helmet.
  • You may only call other missionaries within your district. … You may not call single converts of the opposite sex.
  • You may call home [only] on Mother’s Day and Christmas for 45 minutes.
  • Missionaries may only access mldsmail.net, lds.org, mormon.org and josephsmith.net.
  • Internet usage [allowed only one day a week] is only permissible if companions can see each other’s screens. No exceptions.
  • Missionaries may not drink caffeine.
  • Missionaries may only e-mail family. This may include immediate family as well as cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. If you receive e-mail from someone not in this category, you may respond only to tell him or her not to e-mail.
  • The following music is approved: Especially For Youth, church-produced music, LDS hymns, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, appropriate Christmas music (i.e., no rock) and classical music.
  • Please strictly follow the Elbow Rule: Always be near enough to your companion to hear him at a whisper while outside of the apartment. Do not separate for long periods of time within the apartment.
  • Always obey the Rule of Three: In order to enter a home to teach or visit a member or nonmember, there must be three men or three women 16 or older present in the same room. A person in the next room does not count. … The only exception to this rule is that you may enter the home of a person of the opposite sex who is 70 or older. If a person 70 or older is home with someone younger than 70, you must follow the normal Rule of Three.
  • Do not become too familiar with children. Children, of nonmembers as well as members, may not sit on your lap. Tickling and hugging are strictly prohibited.
  • The Mall of America is off limits to missionaries.
  • Missionaries may watch “The Other Side of Heaven” [a movie by Mormon filmmaker Mitch Davis] on preparation day only. No TVs may be in missionary apartments.
  • Letter writing is only allowed on preparation day during preparation hours.
  • OYM! [to] everyone (Open Your Mouth!)
  • LYB! (Lock Your Bike!)
  • 100% on the plan [seven days a week for two years, with only minor variations on preparation days and Sundays]: Out of bed by 6:30 a.m. (not 6:31). One full hour of personal and companionship studies (not 59 minutes). Out of the apartment by 10 a.m. (not 10:01). One hour for lunch at the most. One hour for dinner, the latest time being from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Be out of the members’ houses by 6 p.m. (not 6:01). Be in by 9 p.m. If you are teaching, you may be out until 9:30 p.m. at the latest. Plan the next day’s activities starting right when you get in the apartment. Be either in your bed or praying by 10:30 p.m. (not 10:31).
  • Source: 2006 expectations list for Minnesota missionaries
    – Source: Young missionaries live by rigid rules, February 09, 2007, Star Tribune

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


    1. Mormon Missionaries
    2. Mormon Missionaries - Rigid Rules
    3. Mormon Missionaries - Research Resources

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    Category: Mormon Missionaries
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    First published (or major update) on Sunday, August 19, 2007.
    Last updated on July 07, 2024.

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