Two leaders of the Missionary Department explain how senior missionary service contributes to the gathering of Israel

Elder Weatherford T. Clayton, a General Authority Seventy and an assistant executive director in the Church’s Missionary Department, sees a “huge need for senior missionaries to go out and bless the world.”

He joined the Church News podcast to discuss the worldwide impact of senior missionaries, along with Arthur Johnson, a Church employee who works in the Missionary Department as manager of senior missionary services. “There’s really just no end to all the different ways a senior couple and a senior sister can positively influence the missionary service experience for all involved,” Johnson said.

There are two different types of senior missionaries: Those who choose to serve away from home, and those who serve close to home as service missionaries. Both types of missionaries have a large number of opportunities to serve and work to gather Israel.

Senior missionary service provides a bridge between the need for good to be done in the world, and the good that Latter-day Saints are capable of doing, Johnson said. “Senior members go throughout the world and help lift, bless and strengthen people in ways that are just absolutely extraordinary.”

Listen to Episode 54: Elder Weatherford T. Clayton talks about the multigenerational blessings of senior missionary service

There are also several differences between the experience of young missionaries and senior missionaries. The senior missionary schedule is closer to 45 or 50 hours a week, there are more opportunities to communicate with family members at home, and senior missionaries have a variety of different assignments that enable them to perform a number of different functions.

“If you have an expertise, we can use it,” Elder Clayton said. “Medical training … legal experience … (there are) just a myriad number of things that people can do if they’ll think out of the box.”

A senior service missionary answers the phone at the Latter-day Saint employment resource center.
A senior service missionary answers the phone at the Latter-day Saint employment resource center. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

One of the best things about senior missionary couples, according to Johnson, is that because they have the opportunity to stay in an area much longer than a young missionary might, they serve as a bridge for newly baptized members to “stay rooted into the branch or their ward, because of their longevity and because of the relationships they build and construct with these members.” 

Elder Clayton, who served as president of the Canada Toronto Mission before his call as a general authority, believes that one of the greatest blessings of senior missionary service is the way that family members at home are blessed.

“As we give our all to the Lord … He can open the windows of heaven to bring forth blessings that our family needs, our children, our grandchildren, those in the extended family, our nearby friends even,” Elder Clayton said. “When we trust Him, then we open this magnificent opportunity for our family to be blessed — and not that we go on missions to have our families blessed — it’s just what happens when we’re out doing the work of heaven and helping others find Him.”

Some members may believe that missionary service is not a possibility because of financial constraints or family constraints, but as “local service missionary opportunities emerge, they realize that they can participate eight, 10, 12 hours a week in a variety of different ways and create missionary experiences for themselves and their families that they had previously never thought possible,” Johnson said.

A senior elder missionary assists a couple in family history research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.)
A senior elder missionary assists a couple in family history research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.) Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Senior members of the Church interested in serving a senior mission can visit SeniorMissionary.ChurchofJesusChrist.org and identify specific preferences that hold an appeal to them. As they share that information on the website, they’ll later receive a customized list of opportunities that will be available in the next nine, 12 and 15 months. From there, the senior member can choose to attach those preferences to their recommendation, and those become the preferences that the Brethren review.

“We hope that the senior member feels comfortable going out to the website, reviewing opportunities, speaking with others that have recently served as missionaries, and initiating this process or this experience on their own,” Johnson said.

Senior Latter-day Saints have decades of Church leadership and teaching experience that make them more qualified to serve than anyone among their peer group, Johnson said. 

Even so, as senior members prepare to serve a mission, it’s imperative to rely on the Lord for strength and guidance.

“If you go on your mission assuming that your training will be all that’s needed, you won’t be able to accomplish what you need to accomplish,” Elder Clayton said. “The Lord will guide you, He’ll direct you, He’ll open doors you don’t see, He’ll bring things to your memory that you learned 40 years ago that you need in the moment.”

“Our privilege is to work to help prepare the way for His return, and senior missionary service is part of that.”