What do Mormons believe about missionary work? - the fact and myth cheat sheet
This is part of the Mormon fact and myth cheat sheet on this website. The main list of Mormon facts and Myths can be found here. This section specifically discusses Mormon belief about missionary work.
This is a compilation of facts and myths about Mormon beliefs compiled from comments and other resources. I add things to this list as I run into them so this list has more information on it than I have had time to write about in detail. Some of these can be uncommonly random.
Some of these comments may have been collected from someone that is trying to imply that Mormons won't tell you about these things. This is partially accurate simply because we don't actually believe in many of these things. On a similar note, I have pulled some of this information from several "campaigns" which claim that they just want to help us Mormons realize the error of our ways. However, most of these campaigns are not actually targeted to Mormons. They are targeted to those who are not Mormon and may be curious about what we really believe. In war and politics it is known as a "disinformation" campaign and it's used to keep other people in the dark or doubtful of factual information. If these campaigns were intended to target Mormons, they would talk to us directly, instead of referring to Mormons in the third person as "they," and they would use our real teachings to try and convince us of our error.
You may notice that after the first sentence, these descriptions are written in a way so that anyone can quote them if they need to. The disadvantage to this is that there are some things that get repeated in the explanations more than once. It should be noted that this site is not an official source for Mormon doctrine, so if you're going to quote from this site I would recommend that you point out the sources or link back to this page so readers can verify accurate sources for themselves. I have also bolded some things in each statement to help identify the key points.
Speaking of repeating stuff, this introduction is fairly standard on the other fact and myth pages so you can probably skip it on the next one without missing much.
Editing and referencing is still an ongoing process for this page.
Mormon belief about missionary work
"Mormons leave their homes for two years to perform missionary service":
This is true.
Many Mormons serve voluntary missions to places all over the world where the governments allow proselyting. Men are usually called to serve for about 2 years, whereas women are usually called to serve for about 18 months. The length may vary depending on special circumstances. Most of these missions are proselyting missions, but the church also has humanitarian and other missions. Older couples can also serve together on missions.
"Mormon missionaries are unpaid":
This is true.
Mormon missionaries are volunteers who use their own time and money to serve a mission. The LDS church covers most expenses with housing and transportation.
"Some Mormons serve missions to secret areas like China or the Middle East":
This is false. This is a good read for China specifically.
Mormons do not serve proselyting missions in areas of the world where it is not allowed by the government. The LDS church has plainly stated that all missionary work of any kind is coordinated with local governments and done in an approved manner 'through the front door.' One of the primary tenants of the LDS religion is to obey the law of the land, so it would be more damaging for the LDS church to break the law of the land to teach people not to break the law of the land. The LDS church has refuted this idea on several occasions.
"Mormon men who do not serve a mission are excommunicated":
This is false.
Thomas S. Monson, the current president of the LDS church, did not serve a mission when he was at the appropriate age. Neither did any of the members of the current First Presidency of the LDS church. Mormon men who do not serve missions are welcomed in the church just like everyone else. Latter-day saint men are asked to serve a mission, but declining a mission does not affect their standing in the church.