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Thinking about a senior mission? Here are the answers to all your questions

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Sister Valerie Bowen and Elder Bruce Bowen spend some time sight-seeing along the Appalachian Trail on one of their preparation days. Photo courtesy of Sister Valerie Bowen and Elder Bruce Bowen.

As more young men and women heed President Russell M. Nelson’s prophetic call to serve full-time missions, more senior missionaries and couples will likely be needed as well.

In fact, in areas where senior missionaries are scarce, young missionaries are sometimes asked to manage the important office work that would normally be done by senior sisters and couples.

For example, Elder Brayden Christensen, who recently returned from the Chile Rancagua Mission, spent a year serving in the mission office. Because they had no senior missionaries, he split his days, spending half his time finding and teaching and spending the other half serving as an office secretary, visa specialist, technology specialist, social media specialist, and referral secretary—all at the same time.

If a mission emergency came up, like if a missionary got in an accident, if someone lost their phone, if an apartment needed an urgent repair, or if packages came to the office and needed an in-person confirmation of delivery, he and his companion had to cancel teaching appointments and take care of urgent office responsibilities first—responsibilities that, he says, were usually handled by senior missionaries, when they’d had them.

And the scarcity in senior missionaries serving worldwide is only increasing. Michael Rawson, former president of the Detroit Michigan Mission, told Deseret News, “The couples we worked with were amazing. They report to the field with strength that the young single missionaries do not have due primarily to age, experience and maturity in the gospel ... The only problem was, we didn't have enough of them.”

In 2011, after the Church made significant changes to the cost and length of service for senior missions, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland pleaded, “Our message to all of our mature couples is simple: we dearly need you. We are doing everything we can to make it as convenient as possible for you to go. The Lord promises unlimited blessings to his servants in the vineyard. So please—go. The times cry out for it. There are people who need you.”

And in a 2004 general conference talk, then-Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “No senior missionary finds it convenient to leave. Neither did Joseph or Brigham or John or Wilford. They had children and grandchildren too. They loved their families not one whit less, but they also loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him. Someday we may meet these stalwarts who helped to establish this dispensation. Then will we rejoice that we did not seek the shadows when a call to missionary service came from the prophet, even in the autumn years of our lives.”

So what does it take to serve as a senior missionary? Here’s an overview and answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

(Many of the answers below are taken directly from the Church’s Senior Missionary portal. For more answers and information, click here.)

Who can serve as a senior missionary?

Members of the Church who are over the age of 40, have no dependent children under the age of 18 living in the home, have received their temple endowment and hold a current temple recommend can be recommended for senior missionary service.

There is not an upper age limit for senior missionary service as long as you are physically able to meet the needs of the assignment.

How long will I serve for?

Couples can request to serve for 6, 12, 18, or 23 months. Senior sisters can serve for 12, 18, or 23 months.

Where will I serve?

As part of the application process, senior sisters and couples are invited to include “preferred opportunities” for their missionary service.

“We're not saying that couples can pick and choose their own missionary assignments,” Elder Holland says. “A call is still a call. … But different from our 19-year-old elders who go where they are called, we talk to our senior couples about their service preferences, and every consideration is given to letting them serve where and how they want to serve.”

To help Church leaders determine the best assignment for you, they will take into account the following factors:

  1. Needs of the Church
  2. Your desires and preferences
  3. Length of time you are available
  4. Date of availability
  5. Personal health needs
  6. Finances available to support yourself while serving
  7. Background and experience (work and church)
  8. Language skills
  9. Technical and computer/office skills

How much will it cost?

You are responsible for your own mission expenses, and the estimated costs for specific mission opportunities on the Senior Missionary search portal currently range from $1,400 to $5,200 per month.

The Church will pay for or provide a per diem allowance for senior missionary travel directly to the mission if serving in their resident country, regardless of the length of service. All other expenses are your responsibility: housing, food, personal care items, transportation within the mission, medical care, phone service, insurance premiums, etc. New for 2023: Basic internet service is now included for all senior missionaries.
Additional costs may vary by the type of missionary assignment, location, and individual lifestyle.

What are the physical requirements for senior missionaries?

Sufficient physical, mental, and emotional health are required to serve a mission, and some assignments and locations have more stringent health requirements than others. Talk to your local priesthood leader if you have questions about your specific circumstances.

Will I spend time in an MTC?

Most assignments will include attending the MTC for a period of 5 to 7 days for Preach My Gospel training. If you have an additional assignment (e.g. welfare, CES, or Family History), you typically will have an additional 2 to 5 days of training.

What will my daily schedule consist of? Will I be walking a lot or finding new people to teach?

As a senior missionary, you are not expected to engage in all the same types of teaching activities as younger missionaries. Some assignments include opportunities to share the gospel, reactivate and rescue less-active members, help retain new converts, strengthen young single adults, and support local leaders in stakes, wards, branches, and districts.

Do senior missionaries get preparation days (“P days”) like young missionaries do? Is there any down time, or are we working from sun-up to sun-down?

You should expect to work at least 32 hours per week. Most assignments require 40 or more hours per week. However, you will not be expected to maintain the same rigorous schedule and pace as young missionaries. You will have more flexibility in your daily goals and schedule, which may include opportunities for rest.

Can I continue working in my professional career remotely while serving as a senior missionary?

No. Missionary service requires full dedication to the service of the Lord and His Church. If you still need to work during your service, consider a service missionary assignment.

Will we be allowed to communicate with family back home?

Senior missionaries communicate with family members through email, phone calls, video chats, etc., and are encouraged to do so frequently.

Can our family come visit us on our mission?

With the permission of your mission president or in-field ecclesiastical leader, you may receive visits from your immediate family members.

If we have an important family event (birth of a baby, wedding, funeral, etc.), can we go home for that?

You may request a leave of absence for an important family event. These requests are often approved but require authorization from mission leaders. Travel and other costs are at your own expense, and your leave should not exceed 10 days.

I have a specific skill set (health care, legal, foreign language, etc.) I’d like to use on my mission. How can I request an opportunity like that?

Senior missionaries can add opportunity, location, and language preferences to their applications. Click here to search for all the opportunities currently available to senior missionaries, including health care, humanitarian, legal, temple work, etc.

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