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The Daily Dish Back to School

Everything To Know About Mormon Missions Like Jack Barlow's

Lisa Barlow's oldest son has decided to be missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

By Casey Suglia

Season 4 of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City finds Lisa Barlow trying to accept her oldest son, Jack Barlow's decision to go on a two year long Mormon mission trip.

How to Watch

Watch The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City on Bravo on Tuesdays at 9/8c and next day on Peacock. Catch up on the Bravo App.

"When he told us, you know, I was crying because I hadn't been involved in the process," Lisa said to her husband, John Barlow, during Episode 1 of Season 4. "I think I'm still dealing with the emotion that I had no idea and he's been prepping for a year, and then it makes me think, you know, maybe he does need more time with me, or maybe he just wants less." 

But in that episode, when she asked Jack why he'd kept it a secret, she said he told her, “‘Because you and Dad are different than me.’”

In Season 4, Episode 6, Lisa explained more about his upbringing: "Jack has been raised non-orthodox, so I'm still processing everything."

Read on for more details about what it's like going on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church. 

What is a Mormon mission?

According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a mission is "a period of volunteer service, usually ranging from six to 24 months, when Church members devote themselves part-time or full-time to proselytizing, humanitarian assistance, or other service."

Missionaries' works is unpaid and self-funded.

RELATED: Lisa Barlow Shares an Update on Her Son Jack’s Post-Graduation Plans

As Lisa explained in the Season 4 premiere, "a mission is devoting two years of your life to serving others and teaching people about Jesus Christ. So, Jack's giving up two years of his life to basically help everyone but himself."

However, in some parts of the world where they serve, missionaries are not allowed to proselytize at all. 

According to Heather Gay — who served her mission in France — being even solely a proselytizing missionary is hard work. "It was like hard, knuckle breaking work," she said during Episode 2 of Season 4 of RHOSLC. "You were knocking on doors, selling the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It's all that it is, being a door-to-door salesman."

Lisa Barlow and son Jack Barlow pose for a photo together.

How long is a Mormon mission?

It depends. According to the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, "single men serve missions for two years and single woman serve missions for 18 months."

Most missionaries are between the ages of 18 and 25 years old, which is why someone like Jack would defer college to go on his mission. 

In an interview during Episode 5, Lisa said of Jack's mission, "The fact that I'm not going to have my son for two years is a lot for a mom." 

What do Mormons do on missions? 

Prior to embarking on their mission, missionaries train for up to three months, according to PBS, where they learn how to talk about the church's teachings and sometimes learn the language of the country to which they are going. 

A typical missionary wakes up early in the morning, according to the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter Day Saints, and spend their day visiting homes, following up on appointments, or meeting people in public places in order to proselytize and convince people to convert. One day a week is set aside for activities like laundry and sightseeing, and days typically end around 10:30 p.m. 

In her book, Bad Mormon, Heather described herself as a "very effective missionary." "I could get butts in seats, or bodies in the font, if you know what I mean," she wrote. "I held the record for most baptisms in our mission: 16 dunked in 18 months. The average for other missionaries was one or less."

Lisa Barlow, John Barlow, Jack Barlow Lavender Prom Suit

What are the Mormon mission rules? 

According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, missionaries must avoid traditional entertainment and parties — anything that might distract them from the mission at hand. They are, however, allowed to listen to music and read books about religion, according to PBS. 

Unmarried missionaries must work with a companion of the same gender 24 hours a day throughout their mission; only married spouses are allowed to work together. Missionaries also "cannot come within arms length of the opposite sex," according to PBS.

RELATED: Lisa Gives Her Son Jack an Emotional Send-Off: "My Whole Heart Is Breaking"

The experience can be transformative.

Heather noted during a recent episode of RHOSLC that Lisa might be surprised by Jack when he returns from his mission. "What I don't think she's prepared for is who he might be when he comes home," she said. "And I think she's in for a rude awakening."

Can missionaries contact their family and friends? 

Mormon missionaries are allowed to contact family members one day a week through text messages, phone calls, and/or video chatting, in addition to writing them emails and sending them letters. However, family members are asked to not initiate these calls, but wait for the missionary themselves to contact them, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 

Up until 2019, missionaries were only allowed to call home twice a year — on Christmas and Mother's Day — and only write letters or send emails once a week, according to NBC News.

Lisa Barlow and Jack Barlow smiling next to each other at a restaurant.

Where are Mormon mission trips conducted?

Anywhere, according to Lisa. "He could go to Idaho, he could go to Southern California," she said during Episode 1. Although Lisa was excited about the possibility of Jack going to a location where she could shop, like Milan, it's not up to her or Jack to decide where he serves his mission.

She told Meredith Marks in Season 4, Episode 5, "You know what's going to be really hard? When Jack gets his mission call, he could literally be called anywhere. We can't go see him, and he can't come home. I cry every day. I'm like a baby."

Church headquarters determine where each missionary is assigned to serve and missionaries are not allowed to request where they want to be assigned. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has 411 missions around the world, with the majority located in the United States and South America. So, Jack could well land in Southern California — or nearly anywhere else.

Where is Jack Barlow serving his mission?

In Season 4 Episode 8 of RHOSLC, Lisa threw Jack a party in honor of finding out where he would be serving his mission for two years. Guests got to eat cookies with “Elder Barlow” written on them — a reference to how missionaries refer to themselves while serving — chow down on a cake in the shape of a suitcase, and celebrate Jack’s big accomplishment.

“Getting your mission call, it’s a huge thing in Utah,” Lisa said in a confessional. “Like, a gender reveal party.”

Jack then revealed, in front of a room filled with his family and friends, that he would be serving in the Colombia Bogotá North Mission.

“I was expecting like, Europe, or something, or New York,” Lisa told party goers.

But Lisa has since come around to accepting Jack’s placement.

In a post on X (formerly called Twitter) after the episode aired, Lisa expressed her excitement surrounding his mission location. “We are soooo happy Jack was called to serve in Colombia,” she wrote. “He loves serving others and was so happy this is his call. He has so many friends that have served here and still are and we are sooo happy for him.”

Lisa Barlow sitting and talking to Jack Barlow.

What happens when a Mormon missionary comes home?

Things might be weird after being away from home for two years and having limited contact with your family. However, missionaries are expected to pick back up as normal with their every day lives, according to The Daily Universe.

After spending their days talking about their religion to strangers, missionaries get to go back home, often attend college, and share their "transformative" experiences with their communities, according to PBS.​​

You can see more of Lisa's family and learn more about Jack's decision to go on a mission by catching new episodes of RHOSLC Season 4 on Tuesdays at 9/8c on Bravo. 

Originally published Sep 28, 2023.

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