I never had very much exposure to missionaries growing up in Elko, NV. I have few memories of ever seeing missionaries around town or at church, though I knew who they were and what they looked like. I was even baptized by one of them, though I can’t recall ever seeing him again before or after the baptism. I had never had any relatives or close friends serve missions. I knew of people serving missions, but never really knew anyone who served.
I had been on splits once with them sometime between the ages of 16 and 18. I remember having to move a pile of crash cymbals from the seat of my pickup truck to give one of them a place to sit. We visited what must have been either a less active or part-member family, and I’m pretty sure I fell asleep during the discussion.
I had a number of primary and secondary sources of knowledge about missionaries. After all, most adult male members of the church had served missions and shared stories frequently, and secondhand stories about missionaries are common, but I had virtually no first-hand experience with missionaries that would shape my understanding of what missionaries did, how they act, or what role they served in the church.
Needless to say, I was naive at best when I embarked on my own mission in the year 2000. I have always pondered whether my lack of knowledge was to my benefit or my detriment, but I haven’t reached any conclusions yet. It seems nowadays the church is encouraging members to spend more time directly with the missionaries than they used to, or it might just be that the ratio of missionaries to members is much higher in MN than it ever was in NV.