I used to be a full-time Mormon missionary, and saw many situations where people wondered if missionaries are allowed to fall in love or date. For some odd reason, though, no one seemed to fall in love with me personally…. hm…. wonder why? 🙂
Mormon missionaries put their entire energy toward serving Heavenly Father during their missions, and do their work without the distractions of romantic love toward those they serve. Mormon missionaries are encouraged to date and marry when they complete their two-year or 18-month missions, but they are not permitted to date or have romantic relationships with the people where they serve.
So in short, no, missionaries are not permitted to date while serving their missions; they are encouraged, however, to date and marry after they return home.
What Are the Mission Rules?
Missionaries live by a strict code of rules while serving missions. Missionary service is voluntary and in most cases, the missionaries have saved up their own money for years before their missions to pay their own way. Thus, missionaries voluntarily follow these rules so that they can serve to the best of their ability during this time of their lives.
When I was a missionary, I honestly didn’t feel that the rules were restrictive. The rules simply helped me to see how I could best use my time in serving God during those two years without any distractions whatsoever.
Missionaries are given a handbook with the rules they are to follow while on their missions. Pertinent to this discussion is the following section:
“Never be alone with, flirt with, or associate in any other inappropriate way with anyone of the opposite sex. Do not telephone, write, e-mail, or accept calls or letters from anyone of the opposite sex living within or near mission boundaries. The only exceptions are for communications between sister missionaries and their mission leaders, mission-related telephone calls (such as calls to confirm appointments), and letters of support and encouragement to converts. Report immediately to your mission president any situation that might cause you or your companion to violate this standard. You and your companion should not visit or accept rides from individuals of the opposite sex unless another responsible adult of your own sex is also present. … Do not counsel members or non-members on personal problems. Refer members who need counseling or professional assistance to their bishop. If you feel a nonmember needs such assistance, talk with your mission president. Do not counsel missionaries of the opposite sex, even if you are serving in a leadership position. Such talk can lead to inappropriate feelings and relationships. Always refer such cases to your mission president.”
Why Don’t Missionaries Date While on Missions?
There is no celibacy requirement of preachers in the Mormon church. Mormon adult leaders and teachers are most commonly married. However, missionaries devote two years or 18-months of their lives to only teaching the gospel and do not date or endulge in romantic feelings during their service.
The purpose of this rule is really just to allow missionaries to focus on serving others.
The work of a missionary can change the life of many people as they come to know Jesus Christ and live by His teachings. On my mission, I saw families and individuals whose lives were totally changed for the better as they learned the gospel that I was able to introduce to them. I am glad that I chose to obey the mission rules so that I could focus on accomplishing that objective.
After I returned home from my mission, I met my wife, Emily, while we were both in college. We dated for a short time and then got engaged. We now have three little kids and have a wonderful life together.
What to Do If You Find Yourself Falling in Love With a Missionary
The best advice I have for you if you find yourself in this situation is to simply show respect for the missionary. You may find yourself falling in love and that, perhaps, can’t be helped. However, you should not do anything to create a distraction for that missionary even if they feel the same way. Allow them to accomplish the work they’ve sacrificed to perform. After their mission is over, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with reaching out to them.
While I was on my mission, I was sometimes attracted to girls I met who were about my same age. I didn’t stop being a man just because I was a missionary; however, those feelings were kept under the surface as it simply was not my focus. I was spending my time doing the Lord’s work and not really to seek my own desires. Thus, it wasn’t honestly very difficult to keep focus.
Please respect the missionaries as servants of Jesus Christ and help them to stay focused while on their missions. Because deep emotions are part of the conversion process, often romantic feelings can be misinterpreted in teaching situations. It is best to keep these feelings under the surface and instead of focus on the missionary’s message.
Do Missionaries Ever Marry People they Met on Their Mission?
Yes, sometimes they do. There are many occasions when missionaries who served together on their missions will later marry, or where a missionary returns to where he or she served after their mission and begins dating or marries someone they met while serving a mission; however, this is rarely the case because missionaries are simply not focused on dating while on a mission, so it is difficult for these feelings to grow while serving.