Inside the UK’s Mormon missionary boot camp

Every year, thousands of young Mormons go on missions to try to recruit others into the religion. The BBC was given access to their UK boot camp, where they learn how to teach Mormon beliefs and use social media to reach potential converts.

When 19-year-old Rebekah Cooper started her mission, she had to give up her first name, stop making phone calls to her friends and surrender any time to be on her own, other than to use the toilet or shower.

Known only as Sister Cooper during her religious mission, she also began a strictly-planned daily schedule – of prayer, study, exercise, volunteering in the community and seeking out potential converts – starting at 06:30 every morning and ending with a nightly curfew.

Along with general Mormon rules based on religious scriptures like a ban on premarital sex and drinking tea and coffee, missionaries aren’t allowed to stay out late or watch TV or movies. Typical Gen Z pastimes like gaming and TikTok are also forbidden.

Rebekah is one of tens of thousands of young Mormons around the world who volunteer to take part in missions every year, with the goal of recruiting others to join the religious group.

Most are aged under 25 and live away from home for up to two years – and the biggest training centre in Europe for these young missionaries is located in Chorley, Lancashire. TV cameras were allowed into the training centre for a BBC documentary The Mormons Are Coming.

Officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the Church believes in Jesus but is separate from other Christian groups. It has more than 16 million members and has the largest full-time missionary force in the world.

Awareness of these young missionaries has grown in recent years thanks to the Broadway and West End musical – The Book of Mormon. Some missionaries even try to find converts by speaking to theatre-goers outside of venues putting on the production.

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Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself. Veteran of a thousand psychic wars. I have seen the fnords. Deplatformed on Tumblr and Twitter.

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