The Mormon church
, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
to be technically correct, sends out young men and women to proselytize
, and promote
the LDS church for two (less for women) years. First, a few interesting facts about this process...
At the age of nineteen, young men are sent to the Missionary Training Center, or MTC, where they are taught the skills they will need to have a succesful mission. This includes a rigorous schedule of learning about the gospel of the LDS church, learning about the culture they're moving to, and possibly learning a new language to be able to communicate with the locals. MTC life is busy, and the missionaries are kept very busy this whole time. After a brief, teary reunion with their family at the airport, they are air-freighted to their destinations.
All young men are strongly encouraged to go on missions. In fact, in some communities, such as Orem and Provo, Utah (or "Happy Valley"), it's the expected standard.
Where does the funding for these globe-trotting missionaries come from? Actually, largely from the families of the missionaries. There is also a Missionary Fund charity contributed to by many LDS church members. It's an embarassment to an upstanding family in such communities to have a willful and rebellious youth unwilling to go. A great deal of time in Seminary, the LDS church's daily class for youths and teens, usually before or after school, is spent showing missionary propoganda such as "Called To Serve", a very well done movie showing faith inspiring clips of missionary life set to morally uplifting music.
However, even those who are doubtful of wanting to spend two years of their life teaching something they aren't sure that they believe in, often go on missions. Spending two years, free ride, in a foreign land is an interesting prospect, regardless of the background. Missionaries don't know where they are going on their mission until after applying for their mission. Church elders, through divine inspiration and the profile sent with the prospects application, decide where to send each elder. Very few are turned down.
Women are sent to the MTC at the age of (I believe, but this is running purely from memory and I may be off by a year either way) twenty one. While women missionaries are welcomed in the field by their male counterparts, as there are just some contacts that don't respond well to the typical missionary, women are generally discouraged from leaving on missions, particularly if they have a man they are seeing. It is much more valuable for the church to have a family producing new LDS children than to have a woman out doing missionary work.
Missionaries are taught a set of lesson plans to be taught to people. Each lesson acquaints the people they are teaching with a part of the LDS church, and often asks the students to make a promise such as avoiding drinking for a week. It is a common misconception that missionaries only "tract", or travel door to door trying to talk to people about the church. A great deal of missionary work includes clerical work, baptism, helping the disabled and elderly, community service, etc.
There are many restrictions on missionary life, such as they must avoid all large bodies of water except those used in religious functions. Also, the Holy Ghost goes to bed at midnight. Curfews are strict. All contact with members of the opposite sex is more or less restricted to religious functions.
After two long years, being kept busy with religion and helping people, at the peak of their sexual prime, most returned missionaries are ready to "get down to business." Unfortunately, they are thwarted here as well by strict religious rules requiring abstinence until marriage. And most returned missionaries are still very into their religion, having just come back from two years of constant exposure to it. So, it's not atypical that the first Mormon girl who comes along will be instantly recognized as "the one", and marriage ensues within a year of returning more often than not.
Many LDS leaders discourage recreational sex. Large families are encouraged. Combined with the couple fast and furiously making up for lost time, means there are many families of three or four children before the parents reach thirty.
A cynic might view the missionary program as a plan to take young people at their most inquisitive and sexually active, and isolate them from any sexual or mental stimulation. It could seem to such an individual that inciting young people to marry soon, with little thought about the consequences, and start a family, might be more valuable to the church than converts gained through proselytizing...