If you are considering serving a senior mission but have concerns that keep you from taking that first step, a new website can help you explore various options that fit your particular situation.
Seniormissionary.lds.org helps match an individual’s unique abilities, availability, and interests with current service opportunities, while taking into account any limitations or concerns the potential missionary may have.
“So many seniors want to serve but just don’t have a very good feel for what they can do,” said David Lake, a senior missionary who served a Church-service mission with FamilySearch in Salt Lake City. The website helps them see the options and possibilities.
According to Arthur Johnson, senior missionary services manager in the Church’s Missionary Department, seniormissionary.lds.org helps combat two common misconceptions about senior missionary service that can sometimes be stumbling blocks for senior members who want to serve a mission: “One, most senior missions involve knocking on doors or tracting (they don’t), and two, it is improper for senior members to search and review available opportunities (it’s perfectly OK to do so).”
Senior missionaries are needed in unique ways
“If you are tempted to think you’re not needed, let me reassure you that you are,” said President Russell M. Nelson. But rather than tracting, the Lord uses senior missionaries to bless others in ways other missionaries cannot. “Seniors strengthen the younger elders and sisters. They provide support that helps others to serve better in their own responsibilities. And can you imagine what it means to a leader who has only been a member for a few years to have ready access to seasoned Church members? Senior couples are often a literal answer to the prayers of bishops and branch presidents” (“Senior Missionary Moments,” Ensign or Liahona, April 2016).
“Senior missionaries are absolutely critical to our work,” agreed Elder Brent H. Nielson, General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department. “And we have thousands of them serving. But we only have about half of what we need.”
Seniors encouraged to explore service options
“Another common myth is that seniors have to wait until the bishop asks them to consider serving a mission,” Johnson said, when in reality, “we encourage them to reach out first and feel free to speak up and be open about how they want to serve.”
“We’re not saying that couples can pick and choose their own missionary assignments,” explained Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “A call is still a call. ... [But] 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” (in “Senior Missionaries: Needed, Blessed, and Loved,” Ensign or Liahona, April 2016).
Those calls are made possible, according to Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “by the great love of the Savior that His servants know where these wonderful young men and women, senior missionaries, and senior couple missionaries are to serve” (“The Divine Call of a Missionary,” April 2010 general conference).
“Our hope is that exploring the site will help create a revelatory experience for the potential missionary that complements the revelatory experience of his or her priesthood leaders and, later, that of the apostle issuing the call,” said Johnson.
Members don’t have to log in to seniormissionary.lds.org or even let their priesthood leaders know they are considering a mission until they are ready to begin the recommendation process. “[The website] allows a couple in their very own home to sit down at their own computer and the world opens up to them,” said Elder Nielson. Instead of having to go to their bishop or stake president and ask, ‘What are the options?’ They can see at a glance all the opportunities all around the world.”
As part of the “investigation” phase, senior members visiting the website consider a variety of different service experiences, such as working with mission presidents, humanitarian aid, Church education, self-reliance, family history, temples or others. Members who are available to serve immediately or in the future may search, mark their favorites and access additional resources, such as a cost breakdown for each full-time service assignment. In addition to searching based upon individual preferences, visitors can search for missions indicated as a critical need. Opportunities are updated continuously.
Exploring the site allows members to find ideal service experiences without feeling pressure. Members may recognize opportunities they know they could do but also some they haven’t thought of before. Some members may be surprised at the variety of available missionary assignments that would suit them very well.
David Ellefson, a senior missionary who served with his wife, Linda, at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City, said one of the website’s most valuable resources is the “contact person [for each service opportunity] and their phone number so that any questions can be answered by a knowledgeable person.”
So that the website can identify appropriate opportunities, seniors also share information about themselves — when and how long they are available to serve, where they prefer to serve, available finances, family support and the level of healthcare they would require.
Members are also asked to include any worries they may have about serving a mission.
Once an individual or a couple enters their preferences, the website generates a list of the available opportunities, as well as particular opportunities Church leaders have identified as being most critical to the work.
After individuals mark all the assignments that interest them, adjustable search filters help refine the list of opportunities currently available, or visitors can search the list by personal budget, availability date, name, role, mission, country or language.
The new website also has 20 different videos highlighting various missionary opportunities, which Lake said “show what senior missionaries are doing in various assignments around the world ... [and] really help others see what they can do as a senior missionary.”
Church leaders have encouraged seniors who are able to leave home to consider full-time, away-from-home missionary service as their first choice.
“I promise you will do things for [your grandchildren] in the service of the Lord that, worlds without end, you could never do if you stayed home to hover over them,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “What greater gift could grandparents give their posterity than to say by deed as well as word, 'In this family we serve missions!'” (“We Are All Enlisted,” October 2011 general conference).
“We really need [senior missionaries] in places where the Church is growing,” said Elder Nielson. “And when they go out with their experience, it’s unbelievable what happens. Our 18- and 19‐year‐old missionaries are wonderful, but to have the experience of a person who has been in the Church for many years and has served in other leadership positions to come into an area that’s a developing area, it makes all the difference. They can teach these new priesthood leaders how to do their callings.”
For those members unable to serve full-time away from home due to health, family, or financial constraints, Church-service missionary service offers a fulfilling and worthy experience.
Lake said that he and his wife, Margene, wanted to serve a full-time mission but because they have two disabled daughters, one of whom requires around-the-clock care, they were able to find a Church-service mission with FamilySearch on Temple Square manning a reception desk twice a week. “This was a wonderful experience for us all," he said, “as both daughters were able to serve with us for two years.”
A desire to serve
Regardless of the type of mission, President Nelson offered this advice and assurance: “Couples [or individuals] might get on their knees and ask Heavenly Father if the time is right for them to serve a mission together. Of all the qualifications, a desire to serve may be the most important (see Doctrine and Covenants 4:3)” (“Senior Missionary Moments”).
For additional questions and information, call 1-833-767-6477 (USA and Canada) or 801-240-0897. Callers will be connected to a senior missionary who can answer questions about senior missionary service. Email support is also available at [email protected]