Missionaries not allowed to swim because Satan controls the water


ocean_waveIt seems like all missionaries know that they should avoid water at all costs because Satan has more control over the water, but is this true.

The background for this myth comes from Doctrine and Covenants section 61:

On their return trip to Kirtland the Prophet and ten elders had traveled down the Missouri River in canoes. On the third day of the journey many dangers were experienced. Elder William W. Phelps, in daylight vision, saw the destroyer riding in power upon the face of the waters.

The following revelation was then received:

D&C 61:13-19

13 And now, behold, for your good I gave unto you a commandment concerning these things; and I, the Lord, will reason with you as with men in days of old.
14 Behold, I, the Lord, in the beginning blessed the waters; but in the last days, by the mouth of my servant John, I cursed the waters.
15 Wherefore, the days will come that no flesh shall be safe upon the waters.
16 And it shall be said in days to come that none is able to go up to the land of Zion upon the waters, but he that is upright in heart.
17 And, as I, the Lord, in the beginning cursed the land, even so in the last days have I blessed it, in its time, for the use of my saints, that they may partake the fatness thereof.
18 And now I give unto you a commandment that what I say unto one I say unto all, that you shall forewarn your brethren concerning these waters, that they come not in journeying upon them, lest their faith fail and they are caught in snares;
19 I, the Lord, have decreed, and the destroyer rideth upon the face thereof, and I revoke not the decree.

Note that the Lord specifies these waters. He does not say all water.

The connection between missionary policy and the reference to the “destroyer” riding the face of the waters in D&C 61 is a persistent Mormon urban legend. One must consider that LDS missionaries frequently travel by water to reach remote islands. Before the advent of modern air travel, all overseas missionaries were required to travel by ship to Europe, Asia, and other foreign lands. Missionaries, of course, bathe and perform baptisms in water.

The Church has a general policy prohibiting full-time missionaries from swimming. This is simply a safety precaution to prevent drowning or other water-related accidents. There are a number of other mission rules that vary depending upon the mission. For example, some missions prohibit missionaries from playing basketball or other physical sports. Rock climbing is usually a prohibited activity. Mission rules are designed to keep missionaries safe by preventing them from participating in high-risk physical activities.

No swimming – Satan controls water

8 thoughts on “No swimming – Satan controls water

  • September 3, 2020 at 9:22 pm

    We were reprimanded for soaking in a 3 feet deep x 30 feet across cattle trough because, you know …Satan. Sigh.

  • September 21, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    The destroyer is a servant of God — remember his work with the firstborn of Egypt. The destroyer is not the devil. See the earlier verse in this chapter:

    5 For I, the Lord, have decreed in mine anger many destructions upon the waters; yea, and especially upon these waters. (D&C 61:5)

    See also Topical Guide, Destroyer; plus Exodus 12 and Isaiah 49 for other examples of the mission of this servant of God.

    Satan does not have control of “these waters” or any others.

  • April 30, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Another way of interpreting it is that he cursed the water, and said to warn others about the waters that he just cursed

  • April 30, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    When I left on my mission in 1974, it was when we still did a 3-day orientation in the Mission Home in Salt Lake City and then went off to our respective missions or one of the three Language Training Missions. In that three-day orientation we were told that it was not because of these scriptures that there was a ban on missionaries swimming — it was purely a safety issue.

  • February 9, 2017 at 7:23 pm

    Probably has more to do with the church not wanting their young male missionaries to cast their eyes on females in (gasp!) bathing suits.

    • April 30, 2018 at 9:11 am

      … or even less. Ever been to Europe?

  • December 9, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    Plymouth, England 1980. Our zone was based on the south coast and we went on a boat trip to a near by island in the bay. Didn’t go swimming though!

  • October 16, 2016 at 2:57 am

    We weren’t allowed to swim when I served a mission 1973-1975,


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