ABC News airs 'Mormons on a Mission' — an insider view of LDS missionaries
On October 6, 2012 At 3:05 am
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka the LDS Church and/or Mormon church) gave ABC News' Bob Woodruff rare access to missionaries who were serving their church in Louisiana.
According to ABC News, Mormonism is one of the fastest-growing churches in America and the world, and there is renewed interest in the church because of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon. The church remains much of a mystery to those outside the faith. For instance, some still associate Mormonism with polygamy, but the church banned polygamy in 1890. There are some breakaway fundamentalist sects that still practice it.
The missionary work is a demanding 2-year rite of passage for young Mormons. There are 55,000 missionaries serving around the world. Although young, the missionaries are given the title "Elder."
The LDS Church determines — with "divine guidance," they say — where missionaries are placed. Romney served in France, where he said that he "learned about rejection" in trying to convince the French to give up wine.
The two missionaries that ABC News spent time with also faced rejection in Louisiana, where many residents have their own deeply rooted Christian faith. "They don't understand that we're trying to add to that faith in Christ," one of the missionaries told Woodruff.
Mormons believe that after the resurrection of Jesus Christ described in the Christian New Testament, Jesus came to the ancient Americas in a journey described in the Book of Mormon.
Missionaries pay most of their own way and are only allowed to call home twice a year. They are required to turn in receipts to the church for everything, down to their gas miles.
The missionaries work in pairs and are pretty much together all of the time. When Woodruff asked about this practice, President Jim Wall of the Louisiana Baton Rouge Mission explained, "It's just for safety's sake. Somebody didn't wave a magic wand and take away all their — the dumb. Once in awhile they make bad choices. When you're with a companion, it's hard to make really bad choices."
Missionaries aren't allowed to watch television, make personal phone calls, or drink coffee or tea. They are expected to dress up, even in the heat.
The LDS Church tracks converts and says that nearly 300,000 were baptized in 2011.