A lot has changed since you went on a mission. 25 facts about today’s missionaries to help bridge the generation gap

Every August, faculty members at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, put out a “Mindset List” that introduces college professors across the country to the attitudes and experiences of their incoming freshman classes. First begun at Beloit College in Wisconsin in 1997 as a way to help professors update the cultural references they make in class, this list, which is updated every year, has served for almost twenty-five years as a useful reference for university faculty trying to understand the world their students inhabit. 

Last year’s Mindset List1 included important reminders that college freshmen in 2020 were the first class to grow up entirely in a post-9/11 world, that up until August 2021 the United States has had a military presence in Afghanistan from the time they were born, and that as far as they know, Vladimir Putin has always been the president of Russia. It also points out that the Harry Potter books have been banned somewhere in America continuously during their lifetimes, that these students’ reading habits include a wider diversity of voices than those of previous freshman classes, and that personal protective equipment (PPE) was beginning to influence their fashion choices.

As a father of a missionary who will be starting his virtual Missionary Training Center (MTC) experience next week, I have thought that a similar Mindset List for Latter-day Saint missionaries might be helpful and even entertaining, particularly for any parents, mission leaders, or anyone else who knows, loves, and works with missionaries.  

In his monumental 1989 talk, “Beware of Pride,” President Ezra Taft Benson pointed out that generation gaps are a feature of the sin of pride.2  Perhaps by considering the mindset and experiences of our young people currently embarking on missionary service, we can bridge such gaps and bring increased understanding among Latter-day Saints of different ages and generations. 

With that in mind, here’s a list of 25 interesting facts about 18- or 19-year-old missionaries now entering the mission field:

1. General conference has always been held in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

2. Their parents could have served missions behind the former Iron Curtain.4 

3. There have always been at least 100 temples in operation throughout the world.5 

4. While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has for most of their lives been the fourth largest church in the United States,6 there have always been more Latter-day Saints outside the United States than inside the United States,7 and more non-English speakers than English speakers among the Church membership.8 

5. The use of cell phones and tablets is commonplace in many missions, and many missionaries can regularly call home without waiting for Christmas or Mother’s Day.9

6. Elders now have the option to wear blue shirts without ties and many sister missionaries wear pants.10 

7. The traditional six missionary discussions had already been retired before many of them were born, and Preach My Gospel has been a primary missionary resource since many of them were in the nursery.11 

8. Daily exercise is now a part of the mission rules.12 

9. In addition to the Provo MTC, there are currently nine other countries with missionary training centers where missionaries may be assigned to begin their service: Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, England, Ghana, South Africa, New Zealand, and the Philippines.13 

10. In addition to missions all over the world, sister missionaries may be assigned to one of eleven temple visitors’ centers, as well as over a dozen church historical sites.14 

11. By the time they were born over 100 million copies of the Book of Mormon had already been published in more than 100 languages.15 

12. Ricks College has always been Brigham Young University–Idaho.16 

13. The Perpetual Education Fund has always existed.17 

14. They have always been able to find their ancestors at familysearch.org.18  

15. Worldwide church membership has always numbered in the double-digit millions.19 

16. By the time today’s new missionaries entered Primary, there were already eight quorums of the Seventy.20 

17. The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics brought worldwide attention to the Church when they were infants or not even born yet. 

18. The Gospel Topics essays have served as helpful resources from the time current missionaries entered the Young Men and Young Women programs.21 

19. Of the five U.S. presidential elections in their lifetimes, two have prominently featured serious Latter-day Saint candidates,22 and a Latter-day Saint has been either senate majority leader or senate minority leader for more than half their lives.23

20. Elders now beginning their missions were among the first to be able to perform proxy baptisms in the temple while priests and new sister missionaries were among the first young women who were able to witness these temple baptisms.24 

21. Resources like the Gospel Library app and Member Tools have been available since they were in elementary school.25 

22. Paying tithes and offerings online has been an option since before many of them were in their teens.26 

23. The lowered age for missionary service—18 for men and 19 for women—has been a reality for roughly half of their lives.27 

24. The Church has had at least one YouTube channel since before they were baptized, and the Latter-day Saints Channel (formerly the Mormon Channel) had been recognized as one of YouTube’s top brands since before they entered the Church youth program.29   

25. Tagalog, Cebuano, and Ilokano—three Philippine languages—have always been among the top ten most spoken languages among Latter-day Saints.30

What would you add to this list?

Peter Eubanks is a professor from Richmond, VA. He served in the France Paris mission from 1997 to 1999.  

You may also like: 2 missionaries appeared on TV in the country Georgia—now they have more people interested in the gospel than they can keep up with


Notes

1. Read last year’s complete list here: https://www.marist.edu/mindset-list
2. “Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride” (see https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1989/04/beware-of-pride?lang=eng).
3. General Conference has been held in the Conference Center since the April 2000 General Conference (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/a-brief-history-of-general-conference?lang=eng).
4. Proselyting missionaries first entered many of the countries of Eastern Europe in 1989 (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/1998/10/reflections-on-establishing-the-gospel-in-eastern-europe?lang=eng). 
5. The 100th temple of the Church of Jesus Christ—the Boston Temple—was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley on Oct. 1, 2000 (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/temples-have-proliferated-in-20-years-since-smaller-design-announced?lang=eng)
6. This has been the case since at least 2005 (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/liahona/2005/08/news-of-the-church/church-now-fourth-largest-in-the-u-s-growth-continues-worldwide?lang=eng). 
7. This has been the case since 1996, several years before 18-and 19-year old missionaries were born (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/1996/03/news-of-the-church/more-members-now-outside-u-s-than-in-u-s?lang=eng). 
8. The Church reached this milestone in September 2000 (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2000/09/news-of-the-church/historic-milestone-achieved-more-non-english-speaking-members-now-than-english-speaking?lang=eng). 
9. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/latter-day-saint-missionaries-can-now-call-text-home-weekly-first-presidency-announces?lang=eng 
10. https://www.thechurchnews.com/global/2020-06-12/new-missionary-attire-elders-blue-shirts-no-ties-186693 
11. https://rsc.byu.edu/vol-14-no-1-2013/history-preach-my-gospel
12. See Section 4.2 of the Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ, entitled “Exercise” (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/missionary-standards-for-disciples-of-jesus-christ/4-physical-well-being?lang=eng). 
13. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/callings/missionary/missionary-training-centers?lang=eng
14. For a list of Visitors’ Centers where sister missionaries may serve, see https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/locations/visitors-centers?lang=eng) and for a list of Historic Sites where they may serve, see https://history.churchofjesuschrist.org/landing/historic-sites
15. The 100 millionth copy of the Book of Mormon was printed in February 2000 (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2000/05/news-of-the-church/100-million-copies-of-the-book-of-mormon?lang=eng), and the Book of Mormon reached its 100th language of translation that same year (https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/book-of-mormon). 
16. This happened June 21, 2000. (https://www.byui.edu/foundational-addresses/announcement-ricks-college-to-become-byu-idaho)
17. The Perpetual Education Fund was created in March 2001 (https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/perpetual-education-fund). 
18. This revolutionary website has been available since 1999 (https://media.familysearch.org/familysearch-celebrates-20-years-online/). 
19. The Church reached a membership of 10 million in November 1997 (https://www.thechurchnews.com/archives/1997-11-01/10-million-members-worldwide-129173). 
20. These quorums of the Seventy were announced in July 2005 (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2005/07/news-of-the-church/seventh-and-eighth-quorums-of-the-seventy-announced?lang=eng). 
21. The Gospel Topics essays were first introduced in November 2013 (https://www.deseret.com/2016/12/26/20602980/essays-on-mormon-history-doctrine-find-new-visibility-in-official-app-sunday-school#a-new-push-by-the-lds-church-ensures-that-after-an-initial-soft-launch-more-mormons-will-engage-with-groundbreaking-rigorous-essays-sanctioned-by-church-leaders-the-development-underscores-the-essays-importance). 
22. The 2008 Republican Presidential Primary prominently featured former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and the 2012 Presidential Election prominently featured both Romney and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.
23. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) was U.S. Senate Majority Leader from 2007 to 2015 and Senate Minority Leader from 2005 to 2007 and 2015 to 2017.
24. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/age-changes-for-youth-progression-and-ordination-announced?lang=eng, https://kutv.com/news/local/lds-church-to-allow-women-to-be-witnesses-for-temple-sealings-baptisms
Lead image: ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
61991.jpg

Share
Stay in the loop!
Enter your email to receive updates on our LDS Living content