Missionary Monies?

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Missionary Monies?

Post by mom3 » 21 Jul 2015, 22:07

I hope this won't become inflammatory but I have a serious Missionary Money question. I live in the U.S. on the West Coast. The missionaries in our area appear to live for free or close to it. They are housed in members homes, they are fed every night by the ward, they drive a mission car or bike, the ward also provides a food basket that has crackers, cereal, snacks, etc. Twice now we have had personal friends whose homes the missionaries are assigned to. They never pay rent, or buy groceries, or leave money for the home owner. To the best of our knowledge the host family receives a small stipened, and that is all.

My questions are?

1. Is this standard or just our area?

2. If standard then where does all that money go that missionaries have for their missions?

3. When and why did this become a standard? The missionaries of my era used their funds to pay rent, buy groceries, pay for bike repairs, clothing upkeep, etc. This was part of becoming an adult?

Any answers would be great. This kind of perplexes me.
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Re: Missionary Monies?

Post by Cnsl1 » 22 Jul 2015, 00:59

I've had the same question.

In our area, missionaries live with members and members are not compensated, or at least they weren't when I was actively involved in helping them find lodging a few years ago. Missionaries are also fed nearly every evening at members' homes, so the only meals they are paying for are breakfast and lunch.

I agree; when I was on my mission, I had to budget my money to pay for rent, food, utilities, etc., which helped me learn a little bit about what it would be like (although, there still wasn't much to worry about). Also, missions used to cost different monthly amounts depending on where you served. Often, more affluent families had missionaries in areas that were more expensive. Conversely, poorer families had missionaries in poorer, less expensive areas. I don't remember when the church generalized the missionary budget to $XXX per month. I don't know what it is anymore, but obviously that was helpful to the more affluent families and difficult for those families who didn't have as much money, or who had multiple missionaries out at once.

I also think that missionaries or their families now pay the monthly "fee" direct to the church, then expenses are allocated to each missionary depending on their need within the individual area, right? This seems a bit odd and controlling, but yet generalizes the process. On my mission, the rents were all averaged within the mission, but we had to take care of getting our own rent paid to the mission office.

So, the missionaries mentioned by mom3 are paying their monthly missionary contribution, but probably aren't getting that much allotment provided to them each month. Likely, some missions are still costing more than the generalized monthly contribution, but the church's very active and overt push to decrease THEIR costs and put that on to the members sure appears to be a corporate strategy to save revenue and increase profits. How else can it be explained? Help?

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Re: Missionary Monies?

Post by Minyan Man » 22 Jul 2015, 05:06

I live in the midwest. The mission here have their own apartments, cars & bikes.
Missionaries pay their own expenses. They do have evening dinner appointments with members.
My son went to college in California, it does get very expensive out there.
Maybe the church had to make some accommodations?

It will probably never be fair & equal.
In the very early days, the missionaries went without purse or script.
I think they lost a few along the way.

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Re: Missionary Monies?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 22 Jul 2015, 05:07

It is simple, really:

The Church gets the funds that are contributed, and those funds are used to subsidize missionaries who wouldn't be able to serve otherwise. There are thousands of missionaries serving now who wouldn't be able to serve otherwise.

Since most of us live in areas of relative wealth, compared to where many missionaries come from and serve, we tend to see the more extreme cost-saving measures that help missionaries in areas where they can't live with members and don't get fed regularly, for example. We also see missionaries (including many of our own kids) who, we assume, pay the monthly allocation that subsidizes someone else (or multiple others, in some countries).

This is one area where I have absolutely no problem with how the Church does it. The world-wide need is great enough that a consecration-like approach is a good thing.
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Re: Missionary Monies?

Post by SilentDawning » 22 Jul 2015, 05:21

Not sure how it works now, but when I was a missionary in pricey California, I had to pay the members $200 per month to live in a room in their home. I paid for my own food. The mission provided a car but only if we were baptizing. We lost our car in a really hilly area in California because we weren't baptizing (due to my lack of skills at the time, not my lack of hard work) and ended up on bicycles. Members did have us over for dinner regularly (maybe 3 times a week), but we ate at home a lot, which we paid for out of our own funds.

To boot, I joined the church as a young adult, and my stake president made me stay home until I'd gotten out of my school debt and paid for 3/4 of my entire mission out of personal funds. This was in spite of having non-member parents that would not allow me to live at home if I was saving for a mission. I worked two low-income retail types of jobs to meet the financial obligations. A member let me live in their unfinished, unheated, uncooled attic for the last 10 months of my 2 year delay in serving a mission so I could save faster, which was nice, and my girlfriend let me use her car to get to one of my two part-time jobs.

If they have made it easier for missionaries now, that is good -- I don't really have a problem with it. The attitude of my Stake President was the beginning of my now contrarion attitudes toward some of the church's more egocentric policies. I felt he did not exemplify the miraculous situations I had read about in the Book of Mormon where people who dedicated themselves to missionary work received favored blessings. If anything, he placed an institutional obstacle in front of me. That obstacle prompted me question if everything I heard at church was for the cameras. And other leaders have confirmed this perception in a number of very powerful ways -- that we hear one set of miraculous stories on Sunday, but when money or church interests conflict with our personal interests as we pursue the gospel, church leaders choose the church interests almost every time.

However, I recognize that has been my experience, and others may have had different experiences.

Given the sacrifices some missionaries make to be out there for 70 hours a week at their own expense, I don't have a problem with them receiving some subsidies. I do have a problem with putting it all on the backs of the members though.
Last edited by SilentDawning on 22 Jul 2015, 05:48, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Missionary Monies?

Post by nibbler » 22 Jul 2015, 05:32

mom3 wrote:1. Is this standard or just our area?
It happens but I certainly don't think it's standard. There are lots of missionaries in my area and I only know of one set that is living with a member.

Missionaries get lots of meals and food but it doesn't cover all their meals and food. Food and fuel are crazy expensive these days.
mom3 wrote:2. If standard then where does all that money go that missionaries have for their missions?
I don't think the missionary program turns a profit, I think money saved in one area is used to subsidize other missions. One month's cost could have easily paid for 4 or 5 months in my mission. In other missions it probably takes the equivalent of two month's cost to cover one month of expenses.

There are many other things besides rent and food. It's probably low but I wonder what the health insurance premiums are on each missionary. Health insurance premiums have also gone through the roof in recent years.

How often do they adjust (inflate) the monthly cost of a mission?

I do wonder if MPs run missions like a small business. From time to time I hear someone talk about whether a stake or ward is in the "red" when it comes to fast offerings. Leaders might not care but it does come up in discussions from time to time. I wonder if missions are the same?
mom3 wrote:3. When and why did this become a standard? The missionaries of my era used their funds to pay rent, buy groceries, pay for bike repairs, clothing upkeep, etc. This was part of becoming an adult?
Missionaries these days are much younger than missionaries of your era. Missionaries today are 18, missionaries of your era are now, and I'm guessing here... in their 40s? ;)

Missions are stressful enough as is, this might be their attempt to alleviate some of the burdens. Maybe you have a "cushy" area. The MP sends missionaries that have become stressed out to your area for a little respite. Just a thought.

Speaking of stress, some missions have tightened the bolts so tight that things like taking the time to pay the rent and go grocery shopping are seen as distractions from the work. Seriously. The mission office takes care of things like bills and maintenance to make for one less thing that the missionaries have to worry about.
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Re: Missionary Monies?

Post by DarkJedi » 22 Jul 2015, 05:49

Having been a missionary in the days when we paid our own expenses (mid 80s) and having a son under the modern system I'll say I like the modern system much better.

My son serves in a poor South American mission and does not have a car or bike (they all walk or take the bus). In each area he has lived in there have been at least two sets of missionaries per small apartment. He is fed every day by members. There is no doubt in my mind that his mission does not actually cost $400/month. That does not bother me in the least, however, because I recognize that there are missions where it costs more than the $400 per month and I recognize there are missionaries serving who could not without church support/subsidies. It all comes out in the wash and I don't think the church is profiting monetarily from the endeavor - and in fact I believe it is subsidized further by tithing.

FWIW in my area in the east, our missionaries live in their own apartments and our ward is not large enough that both sets are fed daily. They do have cars but the mileage is limited and members do give them rides (our ward is geographically large). Another FWIW, my son said his MP recently talked to them about being more responsible with their money (which the MP termed as "the Lord's funds"). There are pluses and minuses to both systems, again overall I like the modern system better.

So to answer the questions:

1. I think this is not uncommon but I don't think anywhere near the majority of missionaries live this way. I don't believe it is standard.

2. Answered above - it's sort of a big nebulous pot.

3. I agree that the old system had advantages and that's why I like it in retrospect. The standardized cost came out in the early 90s as I recall. In my mission we were not permitted to live with members in the 80s, I don't recall when that changed but I do recall that about the same time costs were standardized there was a push to more often feed the missionaries. (In my mission were lucky to have been fed 2-3 times per week.)
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Re: Missionary Monies?

Post by NightSG » 22 Jul 2015, 07:36

DarkJedi wrote:My son serves in a poor South American mission and does not have a car or bike (they all walk or take the bus). In each area he has lived in there have been at least two sets of missionaries per small apartment. He is fed every day by members.
I have a friend serving in South America right now. She hasn't mentioned how often she gets a meal from members, but did say in her area it is considered rude not to offer snacks to missionaries of any faith, (and rude to refuse the offered food as well) so they spend most of the day grazing from investigator to investigator. It's a poor farming area, so a lot of what is offered is fresh fruit, vegetables, beans or rice. She mentioned that there have been days she realized at dinner time that she hadn't actually had lunch, but had eaten so much she couldn't eat anything else.

IMO, it seems like her mission so far has been a great learning experience for her; she's from a quite well-off family, and she's commented a few times about seeing happy, faithful families living in a house smaller than her bedroom back home, without electricity or running water, and how that has given her a better picture of what "the necessities of life and protection" really are, especially when these are the people who bring out enough beans, rice and fruit to feed a dozen missionaries, then speak of the blessings they have in their lives.

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Re: Missionary Monies?

Post by On Own Now » 22 Jul 2015, 11:03

Mom3, it's a great question; one I've thought about before as well, but as has been pointed out, it's largely an attribute of missionaries serving in areas where there is a higher LDS population.

In areas where it is feasible, the Church goes to great lengths to SAVE money. This is so that across the world, the cost is still low. I mean, $400/month is not burdensome by first-world standards and I applaud the Church for keeping efficiency high and expenses low.

FWIW, My missionary children, both foreign and domestic, have all lived in apartments and been responsible for their own groceries and laundry using funds allocated to them. They have eaten at members (or investigators) homes, but have also cooked for themselves, probably half-time.

Beyond just the balancing, the missions have lots of expenses that do not get down to the individual missionaries. Cars, fuel, train-travel, air travel, office rental, and the mission home itself.

Many years ago, I served my mission in Latin America among mostly poor people. I can count on one finger the number of times I ate a meal at a member's house. It was a simple but delicious chicken and rice dish prepared just for the special occasion. In addition, I served with many missionaries who were from poor families. They would have been unable to serve if not subsidized by the Church's Missionary Fund. The same thing is true today, and probably increasing.
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Re: Missionary Monies?

Post by EnglishMormon » 22 Jul 2015, 12:02

The church pays for a flat where I'm from and the missionary's (poor ones) get given a small budget and members feed them but its not mandatory to do so, missionary's use public transport

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