Survey: Will you serve a Senior Mission?

March 9, 2007    By: Matt W. @ 11:44 am   Category: Life,Mormon Culture/Practices

I was intending to throw this up at Blogger of Jared, but they appear to be down. So, while Conner and Eric give that blog a healing blessing of some sort, I thought I’d ask for input here. Besides, now that Geoff has turned the corner, and this is no longer the speculative theology blog, but just another general mormonalia blog, perhaps this is as good a home as any.

So, I ask you, will you serve a Senior mission? Why or Why not?

I committed to do so as I began my own Junior mission years ago, but as time has gone on, I am less sure I will be able to keep that commitment. As I see it, there are three requirements to be a senior missionary.

1. Desire
2. Health
3. Wealth

I have the desire (at 29, and only 5 years after returning from my first mission, this is not hard.) but I have no idea about the health issue and the third factor plays closely into it, and I am very skeptical that I will ever have the wealth to retire, or take even a 1 year hiatus from Work.

And as for Desire Health and Wealth, those who have the desire to serve are typically better in health than those who do not have the desire to serve. Those who have the health to serve are younger or have had better medical care, and thus have been better at gaining wealth to serve. So, in a way, desire and health are both connected to whether we have the wealth to serve. So it boils down to our capability to get gain.

Now, I am not going to inherit millions, I’m not good looking enough or talented enough for movies or sports, and in this post modern world, so If I want to be a senior missionary, two options are available.

The harder one is to dedicate my current whole life to getting rich, and divert all my energy through this. The problem here is that many I know who have done this have ended up falling away from the church due to an eventual degradation of standards that comes along with focusing on finances and not people.

The easier option and the one with the highest probability of having the wealth to retire and serve enjoyable missions, it seems, are those who go into the military or some other form of government job where retirement or pension is available. For those of us hoping our 401K is going to pan out, there certainly are no guarantees that our health is going to be sufficient to go hang around in India, Africa, or some other third world opportunity when we are 65+ years old.

Now you may say to yourself, c’mon Matt, the military doesn’t pay anything! You’re right, but being in 20 years, you get more than enough (The most expensive senior missions I have seen are $4500 a month in London, but the ones in Argentina are less than 1k a month for the couple) to serve a full-time mission without worrying about eating after the mission, and you are senior mission eligible at or before age 50 instead of 65….

So, my last question is this: If I really want to be a senior missionary, should I quit working in the private sector, suck it up, and join the Army? Or am I not really desirous to be a missionary because I am not willing to “pay the price” to get there?

Maybe I should have titled this post, How much Cash does a Man Need?


  1. Will I? I don’t know. Do I want to? Absolutely.

    I fantasise about being a missionary with my wife.

    Comment by Kim Siever — March 9, 2007 @ 1:10 pm

  2. I want to serve a Senior mission! I’ve been fantasizing about giving a talk and throwing out the words, “when I was on my _first_ mission…” I haven’t yet heard a woman say that.

    As for the funds–
    1. Please don’t join the Army.
    2. Set aside $20.00 a week, or a month (your McDonald’s money!)
    3. Have 10 kids, each of which can give you $50 a month when you’re out there!

    Comment by Bored in Vernal — March 9, 2007 @ 2:12 pm

  3. From the day I retire until the day I kick the bucket, I plan to spend about 2/3 of that time on missionS.

    As for the funds, well, I just keep buying those powerball tickets.

    Comment by Mark IV — March 9, 2007 @ 3:19 pm

  4. My parents are of very, very modest means. They served senior missions in Kenya, Philippines, Washington, D.C. and Korea.

    My father’s Parkinson’s disease is the only thing that stopped them from serving again.

    You can serve a senior mission with pretty much not more than social security. As my mom said, it is just as cheap to live on a mission as it is at home.

    Comment by Stephen M (Ethesis) — March 9, 2007 @ 4:44 pm

  5. I plan on going. I think my wife wants to as well. Maybe I should ask her.

    Comment by Spencer J — March 9, 2007 @ 5:34 pm

  6. My wife wants to, but I have absolutely no desire to. She served a mission in Canada at age 22, I joined the church at age 29. I just can’t imagine doing that.

    Comment by Phouchg — March 9, 2007 @ 6:25 pm

  7. I’ve been thinking about your post most of the day. First of all, I like the comment that Stephan made (4), I haven’t ever assumed that the cost of a mission would be great than living here in the states, and as long as I kepy myself out of major debt and would hopefully find myself with my house paid off, etc. that I’d be financially in a place to serve a mission. You mentioned the costs of serving in London and Argentina, where are you getting these figures?

    The other question I’ve wondered is what is the condition and liklihood of receiving aid from the ward missionary fund to serve as senior missioanries? I would figure that there would be resources there. I’m excited enough about serving I’m not going to let money get in the way. I’m also not going to risk the already rampent materialism i’ve bought into as a member of this culture have even more sway in my life by seeking riches in the name of God. That’s not a slippery slope I’m feeling strong enough to tread now.

    Comment by Steve — March 9, 2007 @ 11:25 pm

  8. My father taught at Ricks College his entire career, and is now serving a mission in Kenya. I think if one lives a simple practical life and avoids the big divorce they should be able to swing retirement and a mission.

    Comment by Eric Nielson — March 10, 2007 @ 6:46 am

  9. I am in my early fifties, my last child has now left home, and I could easily serve a mission if I wanted to. When I was younger, I was sure I would. But I am not sure now. It seems like a great many senior missionaries don’t actually do anything meaningful. I know too many who become paper shufflers in a mission or other church bureaucracy. Others seem to go through the motions of something, but I don’t know what. I have known a few missionary couples in the area in which I live, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out what they actually do with their time. I just know I don’t want to do whatever it is that they are doing. Of course I know of other examples, particularly humanitarian service missions, that seem like they would be very satisfying. I would seriously consider doing something like that.

    Comment by Gary — March 10, 2007 @ 8:49 am

  10. It seems like a great many senior missionaries don’t actually do anything meaningful.

    Are you serious? We love senior missionaries. In the stake where I live, the stake president felt that the stake needed to grow, but he wasn’t sure where or how. He asked for four pairs of senior missionaries, each of whom was assigned an area to canvass the members of record who were less active, to find out whether they would attend if there was a church closer, etc. Three of the four determined that there was interest, so three new branches were formed.

    Many new members were baptized, and buildings bought/renovated/constructed. The missionaries helped with that process. One of the branches blossomed into a ward, and needed another new building just a few years later. They got a full-sized ward building, which was a good thing because they now have the largest Primary in the stake.

    But they have so many converts that the leadership needs lots of training, and they also don’t have much depth in music. So senior missionaries can really help with those things.

    Because of the new units and growth, part of the stake was split off.

    Plus we have senior missionaries at our local Institute who do amazing work.

    Last year when our family was out in Utah for General Conference, we happened to meet one of the senior pairs assigned to that stake growth effort. It was all I could do to keep from kissing their feet, and I’ve never had that urge before. Those folks made a huge difference, permanently changing the landscape of the church in my area.

    FWIW, senior missionaries get a much greater say over where they are willing to serve than young missionaries.

    Comment by Naismith — March 11, 2007 @ 5:00 am

  11. Thanks all for your comments. I will try to respond to all in 1.

    Estimated full-time senior mission costs can be found here.

    I am more worred that about finances in that:

    1. You come home from missions, so you have to be able to afford to go on a mission in a foreign country, and still pay for your home back home. (Water, Power, Taxes.) and you have to do this while being unemployed. I don’t think the choice is between not working at home and not working on a mission. It is between having to work to eat etc. and going on a mission.
    2. Social Security might not survive past 2010, much less until when I am 67 years old and can retire.
    3. Senior Couples do get to pick their missions. Some do look like paper pusher missions(Mission Office, Church History, Temple), but others are employment specialist, humanitarian aid, music specialists, leadership training, CES, and even proselyting.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 11, 2007 @ 9:00 am

  12. Wow Naismith — that was a great comment. Thanks for that inspiring perspective. It matches my experiences with senior missionaries too. In areas where the church needs strengthening good senior missionaries are like angels sent from heaven.

    Comment by Geoff J — March 11, 2007 @ 9:30 am

  13. Are single older men allowed to serve missions? I know that single older women can serve missions but I am not sure about men.

    Comment by Michael — March 12, 2007 @ 6:27 am

  14. Michael, I’d suggest you take that to your Bishop and Stake President. While I don’t know of any examples of this, that does not mean it is impossible.

    Comment by Matt W. — March 12, 2007 @ 6:40 am

  15. Thanks Matt. I will check into it. There have to be opportunities somewhere.

    Comment by Michael — March 12, 2007 @ 6:45 am

  16. Several of my former youth leaders are on missions now. They just sold their homes and left…most go on mission after mission after mission and don’t need a home to come back to. One of them had a child of theirs take over the home and if they have a couple of months in between missions they have a place to stay. Maybe when they are done with all their missions they will rent an apartment or buy a small house.

    Comment by Pam J — March 12, 2007 @ 5:44 pm

  17. We recently moved to Lagos, Nigeria because of my husband’s job. Last month I had a chance to visit with two of the senior couples in our mission. Neither were thrilled to be called to Nigeria (they said around 60% of seniors called to Africa turned down the call after it was received), but the one sister who had been out longer told me that this experience had been a real highlight of her life. She said she hates to think about all she would have missed out on if they hadn’t accepted this assignment. It was clear that she and her husband have done some great work, with the CES system and young adults and other church leadership assignments. I enjoyed her attitude when she told about how she just disregarded the mission rules she didn’t think were right (rules to protect the missionaries like not having members come to their apartments and not giving financial help directly). I hope I don’t get her into trouble — but she said “it’s our mission, we’re paying our own money to be here and we can decide some things for ourselves about what we will do and how we will help.” Seniors have a lot more leverage and flexibility with rules and activities than the young missionaries. Anyway, I was very impressed with these senior couples and their willingness to leave their comfortable homes and venture to a very difficult place like Nigeria. They are providing a great service here.

    Comment by CW — March 15, 2007 @ 9:17 am

  18. CW: That’s awesome. Thanks. What does your husband do for work that requires him to be in Nigeria? Do you have kids? If so, What is school for them like?

    My wife really wants to go to Africa when we go, but hey, it’s 30 years until that can even be remotely possible, so who knows…

    Comment by Matt W. — March 15, 2007 @ 10:19 am

  19. (with apologies for the OT response)
    Matt W:
    My husband works in the oil industry. Our children are grown, but there is an American school here and everybody I’ve talked to who has kids in the school raves about it and says they love it. When I’ve visited the school campus, I’ve always been impressed with the feel of it. Living in Lagos is a real adventure. The spirit I feel from the Nigerian Saints is fabulous. I’m really enjoying it.

    Comment by CW — March 16, 2007 @ 6:03 am

  20. CW: Thanks, I find that interesting. Maybe I’ll have to get into the Oil Biz someday. And no apologies necassary for being off topic. It’s my post. :)

    Comment by Matt W. — March 16, 2007 @ 7:18 am

    1–Yes, single brethren who admit to being over 40 years old, CAN serve a mission, however, it would be a part-time service mission close to home. Talk with your local Bishop or Branch President.
    2–Whoever informed the person who said that “senior missionaries” do not do anything meaningful is entirely uninformed. We have seniors who are serving in C.A. who manage to teach church members in all SEVEN countries how to obtain resources to: provide wheelchairs for those in need, provide well water for communities who suffer a severe water shortage, provide school kits, school desks and textbooks to educate children. Others are teaching wards and stakes how to audit their financial records (in all 7 countries). There is a shortage of ward members who are able to play the piano and lead music here so we have senior couples who teach how to use a church-owned keyboard and lead music in their respective chapels. We have an Area Medical Advisor who manages the health care for young missionaries in all 7 countries and Registered Nurses who volunteer their time and own expenses to care for around 180 missionaries in each mission around the world. Medical personnel in the church are on-call 24 hours/day 7 days/week.
    3–I am presently finishing the last 2 months of an 18 month mission term. Will return home to take care of some things that were left standing, finish up a bunch of sewing so I’ll have clothes to wear, finish up some difficult challenges in our family genealogy research then … apply for the next mission before heading to the eastern part of the country to tie up loose ends on my grandmother’s lineage research. By the time I return from that next summer, the next Call to Serve should be in my mailbox.
    4–On the church web site, there is this message:
    “For Able-bodied Seniors,there are three major sins: sins of commission,sins of omission and sins of NO MISSION.”
    5–Temple Missionaries: They work from 430 a.m. until around 3 pm 5 days each week. There are times when they must work 12 hour shifts. There is a dire shortage of temple missionaries who can serve patrons in languages other than english. For those who are proficient in American Sign Language, there is an extreme shortage of interpreters throughout the entire Church as well as in the temples.
    6–Get out of that rut, let your adult children & grandchildren carry on with their lives, stop allowing your birth certificates to expire and put in your mission service applications now.
    7–Also on the church web site is this message:
    “What’s the best thing you can give your grandchildren? A good example! SERVE A MISSION!”

    Comment by C FitzGerald — November 7, 2007 @ 3:11 pm