The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is one of the most active modern practitioners of missionary work, with over fifty thousand full-time missionaries worldwide, as of the end of 2009.
Commonly referred to as Mormon missionaries, most LDS Church missionaries are single young men and women in their late teens and early twenties and are assigned to a mission of the church, which is usually far from the missionary’s home. Missionaries do not receive a salary for the work they undertake, and themselves or their families financially support most. Throughout the history of the church, over one million missionaries have been sent on missions.
Nationwide, less than 1 percent of Hispanics are Mormon, compared to almost 70 percent Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center. Worldwide, Hispanics make up the fastest growing contingent of Mormon converts, church leaders said.
In Virginia recently a group of new Mormon missionaries arrived. In homes, speaking Spanish, the Mormons kept their message simple and repeated their invite to their Church, which includes a service translated into Spanish and carried through headphones.
“We go a lot off trial-and-error,” Mormon Elder Carter Campbell, 20, said of the language challenge. Like other elders and sisters, as the missionaries are known, Campbell learned Spanish in six weeks. “It’s hard to persuade in Spanish,” he said. “How to get to the hearts of the people?”
During lessons in homes, missionaries try to help individuals grow, not change, they said. In the case of speaking to Catholic Hispanics, the goal is reaching common ground.
The Mormon Church first deployed Spanish-speaking missionaries in the over 20 years ago, it is only this year that they plan to expand their outreach to Hispanics and further increase their fastest growing population.