Upon serving a Mission, I felt that the majority of the time, members were very respectful to the work that we were doing and treated us like we truly were servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Occasionally, however, we ran into situations that were either inappropriate or uncomfortable. I thought I might write up a quick set of etiquette tips to see how well you’re doing with the relationship between the Full-Time Missionaries currently serving in your Ward.
When inviting Missionaries to dinner, try and do your best to keep it under an hour. Although this isn’t a strict rule, the time given to Missionaries is sacred and should be used to eat, share a quick message, ask for referrals, and then leave. When members and/or investigators and coaxing the Missionaries to stay longer, it’s difficult to leave. Often, the Elders/Sisters have appointments in the evenings, as this is the best time to find people at home.
If Missionaries are involved in some sort of service project that you are hosting, or other activity, make sure to let them know that they are not constrained by any time restrictions and are free to go if they have other obligations. Every minute that you keep them from their work, is another minute that could be used teaching and finding.
Don’t pay a compliment to one Missionary without also paying a compliment to his/her nearby companion. Be sensitive to the fact that the Missionary and their companion are literally together 24/7, and relatively speaking, don’t have a “personal” life. Obviously, they do, but while serving the Lord, you are with a companion constantly. I’ve seen often that one Missionary tends to be more charismatic, more outgoing, or even more good-looking. They tend to get more attention than his/her companion.
Upon entering a member’s home, or vehicle, the Missionaries are the guests. It’s hard for them to speak up and say, “Would it be okay if we turned off the music?” or “Would it be okay if we turned off the TV?” when they aren’t really in control with the situation. Missionaries have very strict rules regarding the media. Try and do your best to keep distractions to a minimum. Radio, Television, Movies, Computers, etc. Also, don’t invite Missionaries to stay and watch a movie with you. It places them in an awkward situation.
Imagine that you’re trying to give up sweets, and then you enter into a home that has a giant chocolate cake on the table. It’s difficult. So be courteous.
4) Personal Relationships
Do your best to not ask Missionaries about their girlfriends or boyfriends back home. It’s difficult trying to concentrate on the work when it’s constantly being brought up. The Elder/Sister themselves probably has a hard enough time focusing on the work as it is without people consistently asking them about their personal relationships back home.
If asking, you may hit a sore spot, as well. “Dear John” and “Dear Jane” letters are pretty common on Missionaries. You don’t want to ask a Missionary about their significant other to find out that they were recently dumped via e-mail or letter.
Missionaries are assigned their companions, not allowed to choose. More often than not, Missionaries are placed with people that they would rather not be with. Either together or on a one-on-one conversation, it’s a good idea not to ask a Missionary how well they are getting along with their assigned companion. If you’re really curious, you can probably just observe by watching how they interact with each other.
The Mission President, Zone Leaders, and District Leaders (all Missionary leadership) have all been placed in these positions to handle conflicts between companionships. Allow them to do their job rather than prying.
This goes along with point number four, more or less. When speaking with Missionaries, do your best to keep the conversation related to the work. Instead of asking about home, family, school, work, etc., try and change the conversation to the work. Ask them how their investigators are doing, how the member-missionary work is progressing, and what you can do to help them in their sacred work.
There’s a common misconception that the number of baptisms is an indicator of success, which it’s not. In my Mission, I saw absolutely horribly lazy Missionaries baptizing every weekend, while my companion and I were working incredibly hard with little to no success. While I believe that most Missionaries do have the number in their mind, it’s best not to ask them.
Instead, ask them questions that are related, but not quite so direct: “Are you Elders/Sister having a lot of success finding new investigators?”, “How was the work in your last area?”, “Who is your favorite investigator you’ve ever taught?”, or other similar questions.
Missionaries are not Bible Scholars, nor do they know everything about Church Doctrine. Yes, they may have lots of scriptural knowledge, but please do not call them out in class to put an end to a doctrinal debate, or to answer an obscure question. Missionaries’ purpose is to study and teach the basics, and that’s often what they know. Any other questions should be directed to personal study or the Bishop.
Do not ask an Elder or Sister for their first name. While serving the Lord, their first name is “Elder” or “Sister.” I saw on my Mission frequently that members would find out a first name of a Missionary (either by asking, or Facebook stalking), and then proceed to refer to them by their first name. The members may mean well by doing this, but we have to remember that Missionaries have a sacred calling, and this title shows respect. For this reason, we call “President Monson” by “President” instead of “Thomas.” Same goes for the Apostles, or even the Bishop.
Missionaries have very strict rules when it comes to staying in-contact with investigators, converts, and members in past areas. After the Missionary has been transferred, don’t expect them to stay in contact with you. Phone calls are almost always prohibited, as well as letters and e-mails to people currently living within the Mission boundaries. After the Missionary has gone home, they can absolutely stay in contact with you. But while serving, they need to be worried and focused on serving the people in their new area, and not past ones.