Saturday, August 18, 2012

Q&A about Senior Missionaries in the Madrid Temple

Here is a list of questions and answers about serving as a full-time senior missionary in the Madrid Spain Temple.

Disclaimer. The answers are our personal opinions, for which we take full responsibility, and do not necessarily represent the views of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of the Madrid Temple Presidency, or of the other Madrid Temple Missionaries.

Q. If I want to serve as a temple missionary in Spain, what do I do?
A. You should write your desire to serve here in the narrative section of your missionary application. Also, ask your bishop and stake president to indicate in their narratives that you would like to serve here. We also recommend that you contact the LDS Temple Department to express your interest and to check on availability. Call (801) 240-5545 or (801) 240-5280; call toll free: (800) 453-3860 ext. 2-5545 or 2-5280.

Q. Shouldn’t I leave it up to the Church and the Lord to make the call?
A. The Church’s Senior Missionary Opportunities Bulletin states: “When they complete the Missionary Online Recommendation Forms, prospective senior missionaries are encouraged to indicate their interests and preferences regarding where and how they would like to serve. However, assignments are made by the Lord through His ordained Apostles, and prospective missionaries should be willing to serve wherever and in whatever capacity they are called.” See

Q. Did you request to be assigned at the Madrid Temple.
A. Yes. And so did most of the other senior missionaries here.

Q. How long does it take to get a visa to live in Spain?
A. If you already have a valid passport that won’t expire until six months after your planned return to the U.S., it takes three to eight months to get a visa. If you want to serve here, plan far ahead so you can begin your mission when you want to and not have to wait for your visa.

Q. How can I speed up the process of getting a visa?
A. We don’t know. It’s up to the Spanish government to issue the visa according to their schedule. Just make sure you have a current passport before you turn in your missionary papers and then turn in all the things requested by the Church Travel Office as soon as possible.


Q. Overall, how do you enjoy the work in the Madrid Temple.
A. We love it. Being in the temple five days a week helps us to grow spiritually. Having a great variety of assignments and challenges helps us grow emotionally. Learning the ordinances in other languages helps us grow mentally. Interacting with local ordinance workers, fellow temple missionaries, and patrons from all over the world helps us grow socially. Being a missionary here is a great experience. Continue reading to learn why.

Q. We heard that temple missions are hard. Is that true?
A. Yes and no. Working five days a week, seven to eight hours a day, can be physically demanding. Those who have feet problems have special challenges because we do a lot of walking and standing. But we find the temple work to be no more physically taxing than a typical job that senior missionaries might have had before their retirement. Although a temple mission may lack the flexibility of other types of missions, there are advantages to always knowing where you have to be and what you have to do.

Q. But is it emotionally and intellectually difficult?
A. At times, it can be. Some days are so busy we hardly have time to think, but other days are so slow that we feel a little bored. Most days are in between. Some days we do ordinances almost exclusively in Spanish, but other days we use mostly Portuguese. From time to time some of the temple workers might have to use English, French, Italian, or even Russian. (If you like languages, you’ll love this mission. But even if you’re weak in foreign languages, you will still be able to serve well and enjoy the work.) Some days there are special challenges that stretch us, but most days we just settle into a routine, relax, and enjoy being in the temple.

Q. Is working as a temple missionary similar to working in our local temple in the U.S.
A. Yes and no. The ordinances are, of course, the same, but work here is more varied because of the many languages involved. Also, there are fewer temple missionaries here so most of us are directly involved in handling unexpected changes in the daily schedule.

Q. Does time seem to go fast or slow?
A. To us, time seems to be flying. The days go quickly and the weeks zoom by.

Q. What is your work schedule?
A. We alternate weeks working in the morning and in the afternoon. Tuesday through Friday, the morning shift goes from 7:00 am to 2:00 pm, and the afternoon shift goes from 2:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Prayer meetings are 7:15 to 7:45 am and 2:15 to 2:45 pm. On Saturday, the morning shift stays the same but the afternoon shift goes from 1:00 to 7:00 pm.

Q. How many hours per week do you work?
A. The typical week involves about 37 hours of work.

Q. What special assignments are you given in the temple?
A. Some days we go early to be shift coordinator, to officiate during the first session of our shift, or to work at the recommend desk. During our shift, we may direct all the work for the day, direct the work in one area of the temple (for example, in the baptistry), or accompany a person who is coming to the temple for the first time. Most days we are assigned to do ordinances throughout the temple and we work whenever and wherever the coordinator asks us to.

Q. Do you get formal training to perform these various duties?
A. Although we receive some formal training, most of what we learn is learned on the job. We just have to stay alert and ask lots of questions. Fortunately, almost all of the missionaries here had experience working in a temple in their home area or on a previous mission.


Q. How do you learn to give the ordinances in a language other than Spanish and English?
A. You have to learn mostly by informal training by other missionaries who already know the language.

Q. Would it help to study another language, besides English and Spanish, before going to Madrid?
A. Yes, tremendously. We estimate that the use of languages in the Madrid Temple is (very approximately) Spanish 65%, Portuguese 25%, French 6%, English 2%, Italian or other languages 2%. If you already know Spanish, it would be helpful to learn some Portuguese, at least enough to be able to read it with reasonable pronunciation.

Q. What if my spouse speaks Spanish but I don’t?
A. You’ll be just fine. Even with limited Spanish skills, temple missionaries are able to serve well and carry out their necessary duties. Because Spanish is phonetic, with a little practice, you will be able to read the ordinance cards and perform all the ordinances.

Q. Do you use the “tu” form (tutear) in addressing fellow temple workers?
A. Yes, quite often. Familiar singular is more common in Spain than in Latin American, so most of the Spanish and some of the American missionaries use the “tu” form.

Q. What about the “vosotros” form?
A. You hear the “vosotros” form regularly among the Spaniards, but the North Americans don’t use it. Even Spaniards usually use the “usted” form with temple co-workers, even when they use the “tu” form in talking with other individuals.

Q. Do I have to learn the “ceceo” (theta) form (in which “casa” and “caza” are pronounced differently) or can I use “seseo” (in which “casa” and “caza” are pronounced the same)?
A. Most, but not all, Spaniards use “ceceo,” whereas most of the North Americans learned Spanish in Latin American and therefore use “seseo” even here in Spain. Over 50% of the members of the Church who come to the temple have Latin American roots and use “seseo.”


Q. How many temple missionaries are there in Madrid?
A. Nine couples (five North American couples and four Spanish couples) and five senior single sisters (one from North America, two from Spain, one from France, and one from Holland). The relative numbers of North American couples and Spanish couples goes up and down over time.

Q. What are some of the formal social things that you do with other missionaries?
A. The full-time senior missionaries, as well as members of the temple and MTC presidencies, often join together for social activities. A monthly Temple Missionary Conference (formerly called Family Home Evening) is held the first Monday (usually) of the month at 1:00 pm. The event involves a potluck dinner and a talk by the temple president.

Q. Are there other informal events?
A. Yes, quite a few of them. We have birthday parties, restaurant outings, sightseeing events, and daytrips that involve three to 15 people, that are usually planned a day or two (or an hour or two) in advance. We usually average about two of these informal activities per month.

Q. What do you speak at these events, English or Spanish?
A. At the formal events, the language is Spanish. The informal events may involve a group of just the English-speaking missionaries or a group of just the Spanish missionaries, but when the two groups are mixed, we use both languages.


Q. What are the missionary apartments like?
A. The missionary apartments are located 50 steps from the temple! We love being able to see the temple from our apartment window. The couple’s apartments are about 750 square feet in size, with a kitchen (well equipped with oven, refrigerator, microwave, cupboards, dishes, silverware, knives, etc.), living room, bathroom, and bedroom (with queen-sized bed). We have air-conditioning, heat, Internet, cable TV, computer desk, etc.). The single sister’s live in comfortable but smaller studio apartments.

Q. Where do you do your laundry?
A. We do laundry in the laundromat in the basement of our apartment building. We use tokens (“fichas”) to start the washers and dryers. We obtain the fichas, free of charge, from the main desk of the apartment building whenever we need them.

Q. Do you have a phone in your apartment?
A. Every apartment is supplied with a phone that is part of the temple phone system. The missionaries can call each other and the temple using three-digit numbers. We can also use the phones for making local calls. We are charged for calls, but our bill has been less than one euro per month.

Q. What about calling long distance?
A. Most of the senior missionaries use Skype. We also have Skype, but we bought MagicJack, which uses a US number (ours is a Provo, Utah, number) and allows phone calls over the Internet. The phone calls are free (after paying an annual fee) anywhere in the U.S. to any phone (fixed or cell phone) and works just the same as if we were making a call from our home in Orem. MagicJack requires its own phone. Many of our “calls” home are via FaceTime on our iPads.

Q. Do you have a Spain cell phone?
A. Yes, we do. Some missionaries do and some don't. They are good for handing emergencies and for other purposes. There prepago (prepaid) plans that require little or no minimum amount of purchased phone time and have not monthly charge. We bought a phone for 31 euros, and it came with 30 euros worth of phone time; i.e., the phone itself was only 1 euro.

Q. Is exercise equipment available in the apartment building?
A. Yes. Actually, it's located in a room just off the adjacent underground parking terrace. It includes two NordicTrack treadmills, a home gym set for strength training with a good variety of exercises, an elliptical trainer, a (little) step-master, a recumbent exercycle, and a receiver and speaker for music. There is also a track and swimming pool less than a block away, which you can use for a small fee. There are also walking/jogging/biking trails in the nearby area.

Q. Are there stores and shops nearby?
A. Yes. We have four grocery stores within two blocks of our apartment. In the same area, there are also barber and beauty shops, a computer store, a hardware store, Chinese stores (that carry cheap odds and ends, similar to a Dollar store), etc. Slightly farther away by public transportation are large supermarkets (WalMart type stores) and malls.

Q. When you aren’t working or aren’t involved in social activities, what do you do?
A. This varies from one missionary to another. Activities include studying the scriptures and languages, taking day trips to the museums or parks, editing and posting pictures, making posts to blogs, writing in personal journals, working on Family History, watching Fox News, BYUtv, or other programs on the cable TV, and of course, fixing meals, cleaning, and doing laundry.

Q. Do you eat in the temple cafeteria (el comedor del templo)?
A. We do occasionally. The cafeteria is open from noon to 3:00 pm, so sometimes we go there right after our morning shift. The food is good and reasonably priced compared to Spanish restaurants. (On Thanksgiving Day, the manager/chef prepares a big turkey dinner for the American missionaries. We enjoyed the meal this year, November 2012).

Q. Where do you attend church?
A. We attend church at the ward in the chapel right by our apartment building. However, as missionaries, there is no requirement to attend this specific ward rather than another one.

Q. Do you have opportunities to serve at the MTC or in the local ward?
A. Sometimes. The MTC president often asks the temple missionaries to speak in sacrament meeting or at firesides at the MTC. Earlier, one of the temple missionaries served as a counselor in the MTC presidency. In the local ward, some of us have been asked to teach an occasional priesthood class, do home teaching, or to play the piano in Primary or Relief Society.


Q. How do you get around?
A. Madrid has a wonderful bus and metro (subway) system. You can use the Internet to determine how to go from any point (A) to any point (B) in the city, either by bus or by metro or a combination of the two. The website is

Q. How close are bus stops and subway stations?
A. One bus stop is right next to the temple. Other bus stops and the metro stop are about two blocks away. From those bus and metro stops, you can go just about anywhere in Spain!

Q. What about travel outside Madrid?
A. For locations outside the city of Madrid but still within the Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid (like a county), you can still use the above website to locate buses or subways. The main train company, Renfe, also has Cercanías, which are trains that travel from the city of Madrid to outlying areas. For cities farther away, you can take other trains or take the highspeed AVE (Alta Velocidad). The AVE (the word ave means bird) travels upwards of 186 miles per hour, so it can get you to distant cities in a short amount of time. We have also rented a car from time to time to go to places that aren't easily reached by bus or train.

Q. Is travel inside Spain expensive?
A. Travel within the Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid is almost free if you are 65 years old or older. Once you apply for and receive an Abono Transporte, you pay approximately 11.50 euros per month and have unlimited transportation. For travel to distant cities, you can get a Tarjeta Dorada (Gold Card), which gives you a 40% discount on Renfe train travel, provided you are 65 or older. You can buy train tickets (including AVE tickets) online by going to  


Q. Do you have opportunities to travel and do sightseeing?
A. If you love travel and sightseeing, you couldn’t come to a better place than Spain! There are nine  UNESCO World Heritage cities within two hours of Madrid. We have been all nine (listed in order of what we liked the most to the one we liked the least): Córdoba, Segovia, Toledo, Ávila, Cuenca, Salamanca, El Escorial, Alcalá de Henares, and Aranguez. All of these places have amazing histories; most have beautiful palaces, interesting castles, charming plazas, ancient Roman walls and bridges, and old city centers.

Q. What do you do during the two weeks that the temple is closed for cleaning?
A. The temple is closed twice a year for cleaning (in June and January). This allows the missionaries time to travel, at their own expense. Last June, we took a guided bus tour of Northern Spain and Portugal. Next January, we have arranged a 150-day trip by rental car to southern Spain and to Barcelona. Some couples fly to the U.S. or travel through other parts of Europe. Some go on cruises. The temple president must approve these trips, especially if the travel is outside the temple district area.


Q. Is Spain safe?
A. Yes, if you are careful. The biggest problem is pick-pocketing. About half of the North American temple missionaries here have been pick-pocketed! Several lost their residency card, passport, credit cards, and money. Professional pick-pockets are exceptionally adept at recognizing weaknesses, causing distractions, and taking wallets and purses from pockets and backpacks.

Q. So what’s the solution to avoid being pick-pocketed?
A. Wear an over-the-shoulder zippered purse. Even men in Spain wear a “man-purse.”

Q. Is the missionary apartment building secure?
A. Yes. Entry to the elevator and to the rooms is by electronic keys. Temple security employees watch the area 24-7. We haven’t heard of any security problems occurring here on the Spain Temple Square.


Q. What temple clothes should I take to serve in the Madrid Temple?
A. The best advice is to follow the clothing recommendations from the Church, which you will receive soon after getting your call and which recommends two white suits. However, you can probably get by with one white suit, one pair of white shoes, eight pairs of white sox, and eight white shirts. If you need more, you can buy them at the Church Distribution Center here.  

Q. What about Sunday-type clothes?
A. You should bring two suits and one pair of dress shoes (men) and enough dresses and shoes (women) to go to and from the temple daily and to go to church weekly.

Q. What about casual clothes?
A. Most senior missionaries feel that they didn’t bring enough casual clothes for the time they are not in the temple. You will wear casual clothes during the hours you are not in the temple, on Mondays (preparation day), and during the temple closing. If you get here and find out you didn’t bring enough casual clothes, you can always buy more here.

Q. What is the luggage limitation from the U.S.?
A. In spite of what the Delta website says or what someone at Delta tells you on the phone, you are allowed only one free bag on flights from the U.S. to Spain. It’s about $100 for one extra bag and $250 for a second extra bag! If what you want to bring won’t fit in one or two bags, you can ship things or buy them here.

Q. What is the weather like (so I can plan the clothes to bring)?
A. Hot in the summer (it was 106° F here on Aug 10, 2012) and cold in the winter. We haven’t spent a winter here, but we have been told that it’s cold, about like Salt Lake City, but with less snow.

Q. Should I bring an international drivers license?
A. Yes. They are simple to obtain. Just take your US driver license to a local AAA office and AAA will issue the license. We don’t plan on using ours much because public transportation is so good. However, some of the wonderful places we want to visit are not accessible by bus, so we might rent a car for a day and drive there.

Q. Should I bring a laptop computer or iPad?
A. Definitely yes. The apartments have Internet. We bought a WiFi router after we got here so we have wireless connection to our two laptops and our two iPads. We enjoy our iPads because they have all the scriptures in English and Spanish, the hymnal in English and Spanish, an excellent Spanish-English dictionary, access to the Church magazines in English and Spanish, apps that help you get around Madrid, FaceTime for talking live and on-screen with our family at home, and other helpful apps.

Q. Is there anything not on the Church’s list of recommended things to bring that I should bring?
A. Yes. Bring a white, fitted, queen-sized sheet. You will be issued sheets, but not fitted ones. Other things that you might want to bring are root beer extract and gravy mix, which are about the only things that we’ve looked for and haven’t found in Madrid.


Q. How much does it cost to live in Madrid as temple workers.
A. The official published amount is US$1400 per month per couple, which seems about right. US$500 of that goes to our home ward for our lodging in the missionary apartment next to the temple. We don’t pay for utilities or for Internet.

Q. How do you obtain money?
A. We use the ATM (a block from the temple) to withdraw cash. Our bank allows us to withdraw up to about 350 euros per day, so we don’t have to go to the ATM often. For large purchases and sometimes for convenience, we use our credit card, which is accepted at all the main stores and restaurants. You’ll need your passport or your Spain residency card as identification in using your credit card.


  1. WOW! You're awesome- you know that right? If I were old enough to go on a mission this would be such a big help.

  2. Thanks again for all the great tips. I can't remember if I asked you previously, but what is the app you have for the Spanish Hymns? Gospel Library only has a simplified hymnal.

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  4. Don't know if you're still serving there, but this is the best FAQ info ever. Thanks so much for sharing.