21990_000_007From your first talk with the bishop or branch president until that exciting white envelope arrives—here’s a look at what happens and when.
Without question, receiving the call is one of the most exciting—and agonizing—steps in a prospective missionary’s life. If you have ever wondered what happens to the missionary recommendation papers during those few suspenseful weeks after they leave the stake or district president’s hands until they materialize as a mission call in the mailbox, read on. You’ll learn what happens every step of the way and receive valuable information on how to complete your papers successfully.
Completing Your Papers
About four months before you are able to leave on your mission, set an appointment with your bishop or branch president for a personal interview and to receive the missionary recommendation papers. These papers include a checklist for completing the papers, missionary recommendation and priesthood leaders’ forms, health and dental records, and insurance forms.
On the missionary recommendation form, you will share information about yourself, including your background, your desire and ability to learn a language, your schooling, and how your mission will be financed. In order to provide a completely accurate portrayal of yourself, you—not your mom, not your dad—should fill out this form. Be completely open and honest about your desires and abilities.
Attach to this form a photograph of yourself dressed and groomed according to missionary standards. Remember that, along with reading the personal information you provide, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles will look at your picture as he seeks inspiration on where you are to be called. This photo will also be forwarded to your mission president after you are assigned. The first impression you give of yourself to the mission president is extremely important.
As you begin working on your recommendation form, set appointments right away with your dentist and doctor for evaluations. Seeing these health professionals early can save you from having to delay your mission if there are problems to be resolved. Your own and your doctor’s thorough and frank assessments about your health on your medical forms are important considerations in your mission assignment.
When these forms are completed and any health problems resolved, see your bishop or branch president for another interview with him. If he feels you are worthy and ready, he will refer you to your stake or mission president for an interview. If there is any transgression in your life that has not yet been properly resolved, don’t delay seeking the help of your priesthood leaders. No prospective missionaries should suppose they can ignore an unresolved transgression and be at peace with themselves. If confession is put off, a mission call could be postponed or canceled. A missionary may be sent home in order to allow for proper time to fully complete the repentance process.
Processing Your Papers
After your priesthood leaders have confirmed you are ready in every way to serve, they will complete the priesthood leader’s comments and suggestions form and send the information to the area office. The information from the papers is input onto a computer disk using software provided by the Missionary Department. This electronic system allows the department to process some 35,000 calls a year.
The disk and hard copy of your recommendation are then sent from your area office to the Missionary Department in Salt Lake City, where the information from the disk is downloaded into the Missionary Department computer system. If the forms are incomplete or arrive more than 90 days before the date you are available to begin serving, they may be returned to your Area President with instructions to submit them again or remedy any problems.
Next, a committee of doctors reviews your health and dental records to be sure they are complete and to confirm you are physically and emotionally prepared to handle the rigors of a full-time mission.
After your recommendation forms have passed through these processes, you are ready to be assigned.
Assigning Your Call
Each missionary is called of God through the President of the Church. Specific mission assignments are made by members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles who have been assigned and authorized to do so by the prophet.
Each week, depending on the number of missionaries to be assigned, two to four members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles meet in separate rooms at Church headquarters. There, after kneeling in prayer and asking for divine guidance, each sits down before a computer screen. On that screen, one at a time, prospective missionaries’ pictures and personal information appear, along with the current needs of all of the Church’s missions. Each missionary is personally assigned to a specific mission.
Elder Thomas S. Monson, while a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “This I know—divine inspiration attends such sacred assignments” (“The Army of the Lord,” Ensign, May 1979, 36).
Receiving Your Call
After you are called and assigned, your call letter and packet of mission information are soon mailed to you. The call process takes from two to six weeks, depending on where you live and the proper completion of your papers before they are sent in.
Anyone who has had the experience of opening a mission call knows what a thrilling and spiritual experience it can be. When Joel Hiller of Taylorsville, Utah, saw the white envelope his mother had placed on the kitchen table, his heart jumped, and he could hardly wait until his family and two close friends were able to join him at his home a few hours later.
After what seemed like the longest three hours of Joel’s life, major excitement erupted as everyone gathered together, talking, laughing, and speculating. But a spiritual calm suddenly filled the room as Joel opened the envelope and began to read aloud the words of the prophet: “Dear Elder Hiller, You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Joel describes what he experienced as he continued reading the letter: “I felt honored to be called, and the Spirit bore an immediate witness that this was the right thing and the right mission for me. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”