The number of senior missionaries serving missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has increased in recent years. Many of these volunteers travel overseas and are therefore immersed in a different culture. Some of them adjust successfully and others do not. The purpose of this research was to assess senior missionaries' perceptions of the type of preparation they made and training they received before departure, the expectations they had of their assignment, the people and way of life in the islands, and the accuracy of those expectations, the challenges they faced, the factors that they felt helped them adjust to these challenges, the advice they would give to future senior missionaries, and the recommendations if any they would give to improve their training.

Participants consisted of 37 senior missionaries currently serving on the islands of Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, and Kiribati. The instrument used in this study was a questionnaire containing both quantitative and qualitative questions.

Analysis of the quantitative data showed that subjects identified their previous experience living in the country and conversations with other Americans who had been to the country as the most helpful way to prepare for their assignment. The subjects felt that the most helpful aspect of the formal training was training that focused on their specific area of responsibility. The subjects reported having some challenges with the climate, the people, and the language barriers they encountered. Factors that were identified as being very helpful to participants in adjusting to the challenges included spiritual factors (such as prayer and scripture study), building good relationships with the local people and other missionary couples, maintaining contact with home, maintaining a positive attitude, striving to be tolerant, support from non-native supervisors, and staying active/busy.

Analysis of the qualitative data showed that the participants felt that learning some of the host language, and learning more about the host culture prior to departure would be particularly beneficial. They also indicated that although training was provided prior to departure, the training needed to be more specific to their individual assignments, and it needed to involve some language and cultural training. In addition, it was also apparent that regardless of whether or not the missionaries had had previous experience living overseas, most of the subjects had a good idea what they where undertaking before they left home.



College and Department

Humanities; Linguistics and English Language



Date Submitted


Document Type





Cross-cultural orientation, Intercultural communication