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Chapter 4

"Without Purse or Scrip" Fundamentalists and Missionary Work 

Another area where Fundamentalists may be critical of the Church involves the present policy of financially supporting missionaries while they serve in their various fields of labor. Fundamentalists suggest that the only acceptable method of missionary work is to be done "without purse or scrip." Joseph Musser explained:

September 23, 1832, the Lord, in a revelation to Joseph Smith and six other Elders, re-confirmed the order of preaching the gospel to the world --- the Principle being followed by the ancient apostles. Said He:

And again I say unto you, my friends, for from henceforth I shall call you friends, it is expedient that I give unto you this commandment, that ye become even as my friends in days when I was with them, traveling to preach the gospel in my power;

For I suffered them not to have purse or scrip, neither two coats.

Therefore, let no man among you, for this commandment is unto all the faithful who are called of God in the church unto the ministry, from this hour take purse or scrip, that goeth forth to proclaim this gospel of the kingdom. (D&C 84:77-78, 86.)

This rule was followed in the present dispensation for many years, but now the original interpretation of the law has been changed, requiring the elders to travel with purse and scrip. (Truth 4:144-145.)

Joseph Musser has also written:

Church leaders boast much of the missionary system now in vogue, while pursuing a course diametrically opposite that which the Lord commands... Under God's plan elders go into the mission field depending entirely upon the Lord for guidance, sustenance and protection. This tends to keep them humble and better fitted to deliver their master's message. The plan also enables men of special spiritual attainments, but who are not endowed with worldly wealth, to perform missions, whereas today such men, though eminently qualified are denied the opportunity because of lack of means to meet their daily expenses... The law of God, as set forth remains unaltered, but the Church through its actions and attitude has invalidated or suspended it, requiring missionaries to be provided with monthly allowances, and that often time at an embarrassing sacrifice on the part of the parents and loved ones at home. Missionaries in the field have even been told that unless they can have more money furnished them they will be sent home before their missions are ended. The stock argument is that conditions have changed since the Savior announced that law, and men cannot comply with it today... God has not changed His law pertaining to missionary work... Then, in it missionary policy, has not the Church departed from this law of the gospel? (Truth 3:144-145.)

Regardless of whether or not Musser was correct in some of his descriptions of missionary work in the late 1930s, it is obvious that many of his criticisms are currently inaccurate. The changes made in the early 1990s unified missionary contributions and gave each missions (and mission president) the responsibility to remit maintenance funds to each individual missionary.

Nevertheless, it is obvious that missionaries today do not perform missionary work "without purse or scrip." Therefore the question arises (echoing from Fundamentalist critics), "Can the Lord change the proper method of financing missionary efforts in the latter days?"

Church members believe that through continuous revelation, the Lord has directed changes in the manner of economic support for His missionaries in our day. Similar changes occurred in the days of the Savior. When the first missionaries were sent out by the Savior, He commanded them to go without purse or scrip as stated:

These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into [any] city of the Samaritans enter ye not:

Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,

Nor scrip for [your] journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat. (Matt. 10:5, 9-10.)

We find, however, when the Lord commanded the Twelve as to their missionary service after his death, he told them to take both purse and scrip:

And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing.

Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take [it], and likewise [his] scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. (Luke 22:35-36)

It would seem other considerations and conditions brought about a change in the form of missionary service. The same thing has happened in our own dispensation. In the founding days, when the Saints were destitute, being driven from pillar to post, missionaries went without purse or scrip as commanded, relying on those they preached to for sustenance.

However, when the Saints settled in Utah, missionaries were, at times, provided with financial support. This started during Brigham Young's presidency. A missionary fund was first established to help support a missionary's family while he was away as well as to help him in getting to and from his field of labor. A short time later it was felt missionaries should pay their own way, not relying on means from investigators or converts poorer than themselves. As early as 1863, only fifteen years after the first pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, George A. Smith, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke of changing conditions that should alter the method of missionary service:

Circumstances have changed. When Presidents Young, Kimball and others left Nauvoo to go to England without purse or scrip, they left a few houseless, homeless people, a great proportion of them sick, lying out of doors, with no covering only the broad canopy of heaven, on the banks of the Mississippi, robbed of everything they possessed ... What is our condition now? We can hear occasionally from our brethren in England...

We should not send Elders there to beg of them a division of their scanty pittance, or to solicit aid in paying their passage back again to America, or to give them something to carry home to their families; not at all. God has given us possession of this goodly land; the labors of the brethren and the blessings of God have caused it to bud and blossom as the rose. Where desolation dwelt, now is the abode of plenty. We are under no necessity of sending forth the Elders of Israel in the condition that we have hitherto had to do; in fact, it would not be safe for a man to shoulder his valise and tramp through the States as the Elders used to do. Again, the places of our missionary labor are a long distance away, and it is important, when an Elder leaves here, that he should commence the exercise of his calling at the place he is destined to labor at the earliest practical moment. A few dollars contributed to this purpose will pass the Elders directly to the fields of labor to which they are appointed.. (JD 10:142-143.)

At the same time, Heber C. Kimball also voiced his approbation of those at home sustaining the missionaries in the field:

We want the families of those who are on missions to be supplied with the necessaries and comforts of life, and we do not want the Elders to beg from the poor that are scattered among the nations. We who first went did not have this done for us, but the circumstances are different now. We went to preach without purse or scrip, and there were men around who were ever ready to strip our families of what little they did possess; some of them are now dead. We went forth almost sick unto death to preach the Gospel, and when we called on the brethren in Kirtland they would not give us a cent, It was designed once in Nauvoo to raise a subscription for us, but Joseph said, "You shall not have a cent of it; you must go and make your own way;" but now the time is come when the Gospel is to be preached to all nations, and that, too, more quickly than it has ever been before, and it is the word of the Lord that we shall sustain the ministry at home. (JD 10:168.)

President Brigham Young lent his voice to the sustaining of missionaries in the filed in the following remarks:

Men laboring as missionaries, as teachers and preachers of the Gospel, in gathering the poor Saints, or in any other way to benefit the general good of the Saints upon the face of the earth and to do good to mankind, must be sustained, and we wish the Saints everywhere to impart of their substance, that the Priesthood may be sustained in fulfilling the law of the Lord... (JD 10:270.)

Other early General Authorities voiced a like sentiment, but let us permit John Taylor to sum it up in the following words:

In relation to these missionary operations which have been alluded to, I should like to see something done, I do not know that it is necessary to talk about it. We used to be in the habit of going without purse or scrip. That is the way I have travelled hundreds and thousands of miles, but then we felt as the disciples of old did. When we returned, if asked if we had lacked anything, we could say verily no. But there was a time afterwards when Jesus said--"Let him that has a purse take it with him, and let him that has no sword see his coat and buy one." We do not always remain in status quo. At that time we were the poorest people in the world, but now we are better off than the generality of mankind, and we are able to help one another, and there is no necessity for our missionaries to go under the circumstances they have done heretofore; and since it is the counsel that they shall not, why let us do what we can to help them.... (JD 12:48.)

An article in the Millennial Star later referred to this new instruction from the General Authorities:

At this time and now about 15 years ago, the word of the Lord came as of old that from that time forth those who should be called to go on missions should take their purse and scrip with them; and I well remember President John Taylor, according to President Young's instruction, preaching a powerful sermon on the subject, setting forth his reasons why it would, in the future be necessary for the missionaries to take purse and scrip with them. (Millennial Star 49:51.)

Undoubtedly preaching "without purse or scrip" has a purpose. George Q. Cannon explained the reasons the Lord has sent out missionaries in this fashion:

There are two objects to be accomplished by the Elders going out without purse or scrip upon the apostolic plan. In the first place, they learn for themselves that God lives and that He hears and answers prayer; in the second place, they test the world. The Savior says: "Whoso receiveth you receiveth me, and the same will feed you, and give you money. And he who feeds you, or clothes you, or gives you money, shall in now wise lose his reward; and he that doeth not these things is not my disciple; by this you may know my disciples."

We test the world in this manner and prove whether they will receive the servants of God and supply their simple wants when they travel preaching the Gospel without salary or pay of a pecuniary character; but looking unto the Lord for the reward that He has promised to bestow. (JD 26:282.)

However, as should be obvious, it is very possible for missionaries to "learn for themselves that God lives" and to also "test the world" without specifically preaching "without purse or scrip." This understanding helps us to comprehend how the Lord is able to change such directives.

In contrast, Joseph Musser seems to assert that the law of missionary service stated in D&C 84 could never be changed. That is, once God defined a method for financing the missionary efforts, He could never update that approach to correspond to changing needs. It appears Musser felt additional revelation on the subject could not be given:

Here [D&C 84:86] the Lord lays forth His law. All who are called to preach the "gospel of the kingdom" must "from this hour"; [Sept. 22, 1832], not take purse or scrip that goes forth to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom... This is an eternal law. Its repeal has never been made public by revelation." (See Truth 4:112.)

Perhaps Musser was just unaware of the many directives quoted earlier in this chapter which show that the Lord. inspired His Church leaders to make the changes (in missionary financing) which would allow missionary work to go forward and be more effective. Bringing souls to Christ is obviously the paramount consideration here.

As the missionary work expanded worldwide, the Lord instructed that missionaries could pay their own way. For many years preaching without purse and scrip was still carried on in some parts of the World. In fact, this practice has continued, in certain missions where it was legally permitted, until the present day.


Fundamentalists obvious seek to follow fundamental doctrines. However, it is puzzling that there seems to be little missionary work performed by them. That is, they assume no responsibility or obligation, as an organization, to actively proselyte. Some of them lay the burden of preaching the gospel to the world solely on the Church.(1) Others seem to imply that their efforts with polygamy currently absolve them of need to share the gospel in a world-wide missionary program.

Notwithstanding, Joseph Musser wrote that the responsibility of preaching the gospel to the world rests solely on his alleged Priesthood Council (Council of Friends), and not on the Church (which is an "appendage" organization).

Upon them (Priesthood Council of High Priest Apostles) rested the responsibility of bearing the gospel message to the world --- Their testimony being immediately in force upon all the world --- with power to rend the kingdoms of the world, which power pertains only to this order of the Priesthood and not primarily to appendage callings. (Supplement p. 103.)

For Fundamentalists who believe Musser to have been a prophet, it is a bit confusing that nothing has been done to implement this work. Brigham Young suggested that we should always be willing to go forth and preach:

A man or woman who would not spend his or her life in building up the kingdom of God on the earth, without a companion, and travel and preach valise in hand, is not worthy of God or his kingdom, and they never will be crowned, they cannot be crowned; the sacrifice must be complete. (JD 17:159.)

One of the primary messages of the Doctrine and Covenants is that of missionary work. Certainly the Lord seems more concerned with the performance of missionary work than with plural marriage in that volume. It appears that our obedience to other commandments could never justify ignoring this directive. Stated another way, there seems to be no precedent to explain how Fundamentalists could be following fundamental teachings without sending forth missionaries "two by two" (D&C 42:6, 52:10 etc.):

Therefore, go ye into all the world; and unto whatsoever place ye cannot go ye shall send, that the testimony may go from you into all the world unto every creature.

And as I said unto mine apostles, even so I say unto you, for you are mine apostles, even God's high priests; ye are they whom my Father hath given me; ye are my friends;

Therefore, as I said unto mine apostles I say unto you again, that every soul who believeth on your words, and is baptized by water for the remission of sins, shall receive the Holy Ghost.

And this revelation unto you, and commandment, is in force from this very hour upon all the world, and the gospel is unto all who have not received it. (D&C 84:62-64, 75.)


In the early days of the restoration the Lord commanded that missionary work should be performed "without purse or scrip." (D&C 84:77-78, 86.) Through continuous revelation, the Lord changed the approach just as He did in New Testament times (Luke 22:35-36). Today, missionaries are allowed to preach while carrying purse and scrip.

It appears that Fundamentalists perform virtually no missionary work.



1. Gems 1:9-10.