I spent two years in Brazil as an LDS (Mormon) Missionary. AMA

FOREWARNING: I am not familiar with the Mormon church beyond the extremes (cults) so be prepared for lots of stupid questions.

How does one become a missionary? Does it cost money, do you sign up? You go through an application process with your local clerical leaders (called bishops and stake presidents) and then you or your family will make monthly payments to the Church. The total cost is roughly US$10,000 for a 24 month mission.

Is it mandatory for everyone? Like a rite of passage, like Catholic confirmation or a Jewish Bat/Bar Mitzvah It is not mandatory, though it is expected (and there is a great amount of pressure from members of the church) of young men to serve a mission at the age of 18. Young women are able to serve at the age of 19 if they so choose.

If it isn't mandatory, what would you say, based on your church, is the percentage of people who become missionaries? Currently the church has 88,000+ missionaries serving worldwide. When I served (2011-2013) there was probably close to only half that around the world. The giant increase is because in late 2012, Church leadership changed the age limit from 19 (for males) and 21 (for females) to 18 and 19, respectively.

What do you DO as a missionary? Both as a broad idea and also what was your average day like? Every day we proselyte, where we knock on doors and invite people to hear the message we have to share about Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His church here on Earth. We also do service - for example, in Brazil, I helped to build houses for the homeless, restore old chapels, and I taught English as a second language to children and teenagers in schools. All of this is a volunteer service, no missionaries (as well as none of the local clergy) are compensated.

Did you get to choose where you went? I did not choose to go to Brazil (though if I had a choice now, I would still go there). We believe that the Church is advised by a sitting council consisting of a prophet and twelve apostles that receive direct revelation from God. They look over each missionary's application and, after prayer and receipt of revelation, send us a "mission call" letter in the mail telling us where we have been asked to serve for 24 months (or 18 months in the case of the young women).

My knowledge of the Mormon beliefs (that I'm pretty sure isn't just cult bullshit) is thus: something something dude with the most generic name (John Smith or something?) writes the Mormon book. Everyone who is in the religion dies and gets to be god of their own planet or something like that. Also, a guy should have more wives so as to be more . . . heavenly or something? But he shouldn't have more wives/families than he can take care of. And then there's some underwear that's special and also black people exist because they were once angels who refused to pick a side between good/evil.

Were all these things taught/practiced in your church? Which ones were, which weren't? Okay, Joseph Smith is his name - at the age of 14, God and Jesus Christ appeared to him and showed him a set of ancient writings that he was instructed to translate <- This is what is known as the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Smith did not write it, but rather it was translated from the writings of ancient prophets in the Americas and it spans a timeline of 600 years before Christ and 400 years after the death of Christ.

At the beginning of the church in the mid-late 1800's, the church did practice polygamy, though that is no longer practiced in the LDS church today.

We believe that after death, we can become like God. That is the whole goal is to be tried and tested here on Earth and prove that we are willing to live with God, after which we will be resurrected and rewarded with eternal life in His presence and we will be given dominion over our own "earths", because we have become like Him.

The underwear thing is not that it is "magic" - we wear a form of religious clothing under our clothes to represent our commitment to the Lord and as a constant reminder of the covenants we have made with Him and our willingness to keep the commandments. These are not "magic" or "secret", but sacred.

The "black people" thing is not entirely accurate, though I personally do not believe what you described. We don't know everything and we don't know why God did some things in the past or doesn't do certain things now. I won't answer because I do not know and I would rather not add to confusion with my own speculation.

Do they (the church) / you believe that the old/new testament is true or does the Mormon bible go against it? We definitely believe in and use the Bible (Old and New Testament) frequently. The Book of Mormon (not a "Mormon bible") does NOT go against it. The writings in both scriptures are completely in line with each other. It's almost good to think of the Bible as a description of what Christ did while here on Earth and the Book of Mormon as a description of why He did what He did.

Are you still practicing? Why or why not? Yes I am still fully active in the church. It has been a great source of faith, inspiration, and knowledge to me. The church is not malicious and does not desire bad or evil things on anyone. We promote goodness and service and charity. My faith has been a very formative part of my life and I likely would not be the man I am without my church or without the experiences I had on my mission in Brazil.

Were you born into the religion or did you join later? I was born into it. Generations and generations of my family are members of the church, dating all the way back to Joseph Smith himself.

Did you learn about the cults (sort of as a 'this isn't real these people are abusing the Word Of God lesson) or was it just not talked about? I have always been aware of the "cult" mentality that people associate with our Church, though it is not discussed within the church.

Do you celebrate Christian holidays (easter, christmas, etc.) AND are there any mormon-specific ones? There are no Mormon-specific ones (except for in Utah, there's a day called Pioneer Day). I do celebrate Christian holidays and am glad that I do! Christmas, Easter, all of it.

Seriously, is the underwear thing real? Can you explain it? I explained above.

Did you do the door-to-door thing just around town? I did it only in brazil during my mission. I never did it before or after. We knocked doors in cities, villages, apartment buildings, and just stopped people in the street and in parks to chat.

What are some misconceptions you've encountered about your religion that you can clear up? I will answer these in a subsequent post.

If you did the door-to-door thing, do you have any interesting stories from that time? I'll answer these in a subsequent post as well.

Thanks and sorry if any of my questions were offensive. I really do only know about the religion through my knowledge of cults, but I also realize those do not represent the actual religion. Like how Westboro Baptist Church is not a how actual Christians/Baptists are. Like I said in another comment, I am HAPPY to answer and respond to any and all questions regarding the Church. Please, feel free to PM me or ask any more you have.

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