President Monson on the Divine Inspiration of Every Mission Call

President Thomas S. Monson has testified that divine inspiration attends each and every missionary assignment. He has said, “Too numerous to mention are the many instances where a particular call proved providential. This I know—divine inspiration attends such sacred assignments. We, with you, acknowledge the truth stated so simply in the Doctrine and Covenants: ‘If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work’ (D&C 4:3).” (See April 1979 General Conference talk titled, The Army of the Lord)

The following story  illustrates the principle of divine inspiration attending every missionary call and appears in President Monson’s biography, To the Rescue (see chapter 26):

“While attending a stake conference in Paris, France, Elder Monson indicated, as he often does, that he would like to hear from one of the missionaries. As he looked toward the back of the hall, he saw a tall young elder whom he recognized as a son of some friends of the Monsons. He called him forward. As the missionary spoke, Elder Monson seemed to see in his mind a picture of Heber J. Grant in a Japanese garden, the same painting that was produced as a cover for a pamphlet about this famed Church President. He didn’t tell anyone about the experience and even wondered what it meant, assuming that it may have been triggered by his knowledge that President Grant was this elder’s great-grandfather. When Elder Monson returned to Salt Lake City, he looked up the missionary’s parents to give them a report on their son. He learned that another son had just turned in his missionary papers. As Elder Monson later reviewed that missionary’s application, he knew why he had received the strong impression concerning President Grant. He changed the young missionary’s assignment to Tokyo—the city and land where his great-grandfather, Heber J. Grant, had opened the work. Not only did the missionary serve in the land so significant to the family, he was present for the dedication of the Japan Tokyo Temple, an occasion, Elder Monson knew, that would have pleased his great-grandfather immensely.”

Also in President Monson’s biography is the story of when he was again in a missionary assignment meeting and he returned several times to the mission assignment of one young man because he didn’t feel right about it. Finally, President Monson asked on of the Seventies who was assisting him to read to him the entire file of the young man. This time they noticed something they had missed in their initial review–“the young man had learned Spanish ‘at his mother’s knee.’ Elder Monson assigned him to a Spanish-speaking mission, and the Spirit said, ‘Yes.’ ‘It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord can motivate and direct the length and breadth of His kingdom,’ Elder Monson has said, ‘and yet have time to provide the inspiration on the call of a single missionary.'”
inspiration of call of missionary monson

President Monson has viewed tens of thousands of missionary applications while in the process of issuing an equal number of mission calls. Again quoting from his biography, President Monson has said, “Many are the faith-promoting experiences which have occurred in the assignment of missionaries. I so testify. Hardly an assignment day goes by when we don’t have it evidenced that our Heavenly Father has, in an unusual way, prompted us to send particular missionaries to serve in locations, only to learn that this has fulfilled their earnest prayers and, in many instances, the wishes and hopes of their families” (see chapter 26 of To the Rescue).

Transferred Are Also Inspired 

Not only are mission assignments inspired, but President Monson has taught that the transfers conducted by mission presidents are also inspired. Speaking at mission president seminar in 2011, President Thomas S. Monson spoke of this experience:

I recall, as a mission president in Canada [1959-1962], looking at our list of missionaries and feeling the definite inspiration to move one young man from the city of Belleville, Ontario, to Welland, Ontario. . . . The impression came so strongly that I made the transfer. The next week when I received a letter from his companion, tears came to my eyes when I read: “President Monson, I know you were inspired in sending Elder Smith to us in Welland. We are teaching ten Italian-speaking families whose English skills are limited. In my heart I had been praying for a companion who could speak Italian. You found the only missionary in the mission who spoke Italian.” I thought to myself as I read that line, “I knew nothing about whether or not that boy spoke Italian.” With a name like Smith, you don’t think he is going to speak Italian. I was unaware that his mother was Italian and that she had taught the boy to speak in her native tongue. By listening to the Spirit and transferring him, he was able to carry the gospel to those Italian families in Welland.” (see Missionary Work is Founded on the Doctrine of Christ)

Paying for your Mission

Summary: Figuring out how to pay for an LDS mission is one of the top things on the minds of youth and seniors who are planning to serve a mission soon. This article will discuss the process of paying for your mission.

Missionaries Should Strive to Pay Their Own Way

young man paying tithingAs I’ve discussed in my article about the costs of serving an LDS Mission, Mormon missionaries are volunteers and pay their own expenses. The responsibility to provide financial support for a missionary lies first with the individual and second with the missionary’s family. Missionaries and their families should make appropriate sacrifices to provide financial support for a mission and they will be richly blessed in return. Church leaders have even said that it is better for a person to delay a mission for a time and earn their own money rather than to rely entirely on others (see the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions). However, Church leaders have also stressed that worthy potential missionaries should never be prevented from serving solely for financial reasons when they and their families have done all that they can to pay their way.

Equalized Contribution and the Ward Missionary Fund

Many years ago, the Church equalized the contribution required to pay for expenses of missionaries, regardless of where these missionaries are called to serve. For example, missionaries in the United States all pay $400 a month, and then depending on where they serve, missionaries are allotted a monthly allowance according to their needs. The $400 a month is sent to Church headquarters through the ward missionary fund. For each missionary from a ward who is serving a mission, the bishop ensures that the monthly contribution is available in the ward missionary fund each month.

[one_half last=”no”]As a side note, this is why the new online donation website is so great because it lets members all over the world donate to the missionary’s ward missionary fund, and thus help cover the costs the ward must come up with monthly to support missionaries.  It should also be noted that the equalized contribution applies only to young proselyting missionaries. It does not apply to senior missionary couples, missionaries in non-proselyting assignments, sisters ages 40 and older, or Church-service missionaries.[/one_half][one_half last=”yes”]mission savings calculator
Ideas for earning and saving money for your mission[/one_half]

While missionaries should avoid relying on people outside of their family for financial support, there are times when it may become necessary to ask others to help pay for your mission. If necessary, the stake president or bishop, in consultation with the family, may ask members in the stake or ward to contribute to a missionary’s support by donating to the ward missionary fund. This should only be done after all family sources of financial support have be exhausted.

Personal Funds for Extras

The $400 a month and associated monthly allowance missionaries receive is designed to cover food, lodging, transportation, and other missionary service-related expenses. Additional expenses a missionary might have are asked to be paid with personal funds. Missionaries are asked to bring or receive extra personal money for additional items that are personal or not a necessity. This includes clothing, bicycle purchases and repairs, medical costs not paid by the mission, photo processing, souvenirs, and gifts. These optional personal expenses should be kept to a minimum.

Supplemental Support from the General Missionary Fund

In some part of the world supplemental financial support from the Church’s General Missionary Fund is available for missionaries who are unable to support themselves, even with the help of family and their ward and stake. Church leaders in those areas of the world will know if they qualify for such assistance.

Click here to donate to the LDS Church General Missionary Fund

Financing Senior Couples and Other Non-Proselyting Missionaries

Senior missionary couples, sisters ages 40 and older, church-service missionaries, and young church-service missionaries are not able to finance their missions through the equalized contribution system. Costs for this missions vary greatly and these missionaries must pay their own expenses, or raise the necessary money from family and friends. It should be noted though, that senior missionary couples and sisters over 40, in some cases, may receive financial assistance from the ward missionary fund if they do not have adequate means to support themselves. Talk to your bishop or stake president for more information.

Missionary Farewell Talks

Mormon Missionaries Elder Smith and Lopez in Rosario Argentina SmilingWhen I left for my mission to Rosario Argentina in 1995, on the Sunday before I left there was held a farewell sacrament meeting for me. My grandma spoke, either my father or mother (or both) spoke, and I spoke. I rememeber my grandma and my father commenting on my good smile. I suppose if I had nothing else going for me in terms of missionary skills (Spanish language skills, gospel teaching skills, etc.) at least I had a good smile 🙂

While I believe my farewell sacrament meeting was completely appropriate, at this time period, back in the 1990s, not all missionary farewells were appropriate. In some instances, the entire sacrament meeting was virtually turned over to the family to do as they pleased, including at times, lengthy talks and elaborate musical numbers. Some families would send out invitations and hold reception lines at the church or do other things that would detract from the sacred nature of a mission call.

In October 2002, President Gordon B. Hinckley put that practice of missionary farewells to rest. Said he:

“Now we have an interesting custom in the Church. Departing missionaries are accorded a farewell. In some wards this has become a problem. Between outgoing missionaries and returning missionaries, most sacrament meetings are devoted to farewells and homecomings.

No one else in the Church has a farewell when entering a particular service. We never have a special farewell-type meeting for a newly called bishop, for a stake president, for a Relief Society president, for a General Authority, or anyone else of whom I can think. Why should we have missionary farewells?

The First Presidency and the Twelve, after most prayerful and careful consideration, have reached the decision that the present program of missionary farewells should be modified.

The departing missionary will be given opportunity to speak in a sacrament meeting for 15 or 20 minutes. But parents and siblings will not be invited to do so. There might be two or more departing missionaries who speak in the same service. The meeting will be entirely in the hands of the bishop and will not be arranged by the family.

…We are convinced that when all aspects of the situation are considered, this is a wise decision. Please accept it, my dear brethren. I extend this plea also to the sisters, particularly the mothers.

We hope also that holding elaborate open houses after the sacrament meeting at which the missionary speaks will not prevail. Members of the family may wish to get together. We have no objection to this. However, we ask that there be no public reception to which large numbers are invited.

Missionary service is such a wonderful experience that it brings with it its own generous reward. And when a missionary returns to his family and his ward, he may again be given opportunity to speak in a sacrament meeting.” (To Men of the Priesthood, General Conference, October 2002)

sacrament meeting speakerSince that time, newly called missionaries have continued to be, as they should be, invited to speak in sacrament meeting a week or two before they depart. And while the sacrament program is not a farewell meeting, it is still the missionary’s farewell talk and most people still refer to it as the missionary farewell.

Priesthood leaders and missionaries should remember the following guideline with regard to missionary farewells:

  • It is a regular sacrament meeting, not a missionary farewell meeting.
  • The bishopric will plan and conduct this meeting, including assigning topics and musical numbers, as they normally do, making sure they are worshipful, faith promoting, and gospel oriented.
  • Family members and friends of the missionary should not be invited to speak so people don’t get the impression that the meeting is a missionary farewell.
  • If there are other departing or returning missionaries around the same time, they can and should be invited to speak in the same sacrament meeting.
  • Missionary talks should not dominate the sacrament meeting schedule to the exclusion of other valuable subjects and speakers.
  • The regular time of the sacrament meeting should not be extended.
  • Members should avoid holding open houses for missionaries (except for family gatherings).

Related Article: How to Write a Talk

Young Men Must be 18 to Receive the Priesthood

young men - future missionariesI would like to revisit the subject regarding the age in which young men may be given the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordained to the office of an Elder. This issue arises because many young men would like to begin their missions on the day they turn 18, since 18 is the age requirement.

I have, on occasion, been asked: “If a 17 year old has received his mission call to begin serving shortly after turning 18, can he be ordained an Elder prior to his 18th birthday?” The answer from the First Presidency is no. Young Men must be 18 years old to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.

This policy comes in a letter, dated February 14, 2013, from the First Presidency of the Church. It states:

“With the recent change in policy regarding young men entering full-time missionary service at age 18, some young men will receive their mission calls while still attending high school, secondary schooling, or the equivalent. However, in no case may prospective missionaries be endowed while still attending these secondary schools. Bishops and stake presidents should ensure that all worthy men receive the Melchizedek Priesthood prior to being endowed. A young man must be at least 18 years of age to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood even if he has received a mission call.” (Signed Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring, and Deiter F. Uchtdorf)

This policy was reiterated in another First Presidency letter dated November 10, 2014:

“Some young men are now receiving mission calls before they are 18 years old. However, bishops and stake presidents are to ensure that all worthy men have reached their 18th birthday before they receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Eighteen-year-old young men may receive the Melchizedek Priesthood while in high school or another secondary school, but they should not receive their temple endowment while attending such a school.” (Signed Thomas S. Monson, Henry B. Eyring, and Deiter F. Uchtdorf)

Now, the question still remains about what to do about ordaining a young man to the Melchizedek Priesthood and getting his endowment when he is to begin his missionary service on or soon after his 18th birthday. I think the answer is clear that you wait until the young man has turned 18, even if that means getting the priesthood, the temple endowment, and entering the MTC all on the same day. I think it is safe to assume, though, that that won’t be necessary. The Church will generally give young men a mission report date that builds in sufficient time after their 18th birthday to get the priesthood and go through the temple before reporting to the MTC. So young men, if it is your desire to start your mission on your 18th birthday, that probably won’t happen, but a couple weeks after you turn 18 is still very realistic.

So to summarize:

  • Missionaries must receive the temple endowment before starting their missionary service.
  • Young men must be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood before receiving their temple endowment.
  • Young men cannot be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood until they are 18 years old.
  • A missionary starting his mission on his 18th birthday is highly unlikely, but a couple weeks later is very possible.

Setting Apart Missionaries

setting apart a missionaryWe believe that men and women “must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel” (Article of Faith 5). When a priesthood leader lays his hands upon the head of a missionary to give him or her authority to preach the gospel, we call it being “set apart” (see D&C 68:14 and D&C 107: 74).

Every missionary should be set apart by their stake president before they depart for the missionary training center (MTC). Only in rare circumstances would someone besides the stake president conduct the setting apart. The setting apart of missionaries should take place as close as possible to his or her departure date. Once the young man or woman is set apart, he or she is a missionary and is expected to obey all the mission rules and standards.

As an example, if a new missionary is leaving on a Tuesday to fly to the MTC to begin their mission, the stake president will generally make arrangements with the family to set apart the missionary on the Sunday or Monday before he or she leaves. (See my related article on traveling to and entering the MTC.)

A day or two before setting apart missionaries, stake presidents are asked to conduct one final interview to confirm the missionary’s worthiness. By this time, missionaries should have received their temple endowment, and young men should have had the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon them and been ordained to the office of an elder.

The setting apart should be a special occasion where family members and close friends come together to share in the event. The setting apart of missionaries may take place at the church, in the stake president’s office, or in the family’s home, as directed by the presiding priesthood leader.

At the setting apart, the stake president will usually make a few remarks to help those present understand the sacredness and importance of the mission call. He will then lay his hands on the head of the missionary, set him or her apart as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assigned to labor in the specific mission he or she has been called to. He will then usually pronounce additional words of priesthood blessing as the Spirit directs. Worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holders, such as the missionary’s father, may be invited by the stake president to stand in the circle during the setting apart.

The Church requests that, when setting apart missionaries, the blessing should not be recorded. However, missionaries are encouraged to write about it in their personal journal, making particular note of the parts of the blessing that were especially meaningful to them.

Missionary Service for Members with Physical, Mental, and Emotional Challenges

young man in wheelchairI am often asked about the possibility of missionary service for young people who face physical, mental, or emotional challenges. These members can sometimes serve full-time or church-service missions, though in some circumstances they will not be able to do so. Below I will give some general direction and guidelines, but please be aware that every case is unique and your local priesthood leaders (bishop and stake president) are best suited to provide definitive answers to these questions.

Missionary Work is Demanding

Missionary work is physically, mentally, or emotionally demanding. The daily mission schedule requires missionaries to put in long hours, seven days a week, which can cause physical, mental, and emotional drain. Please check out some of my previous articles on working hard and preparing emotionally for a mission.

Young men and women who have serious physical, mental, or emotional challenges that would prevent them from serving effectively do not generally serve full-time missions. Local priesthood leaders are counselled not to recommend members for missionary service if they suffer from serious emotional instability, are severely physically impaired, or are dependent on others to perform normal daily tasks.

Clearing Up Issues Prior to Service

Potential missionaries who have previously had significant physical, mental, or emotional challenges must be stabilized and confirmed to be fully functional before their bishop will recommended them for full-time missionary service. A member who is dependent on medication for emotional stability may serve a mission provided that he or she has demonstrated the ability to fully function in a demanding mission-like environment with the use of the medication. Such candidates must also commit to continue taking the medications throughout their mission unless otherwise authorized by a doctor. On the mission application form, the candidate or bishop should include a list of medications the potential missionary is taking.

Weight Issues

Experience has shown that young people who are significantly overweight experience many difficulties dealing with the physical demands of a mission. These difficulties also affect companions and mission leaders, therefore, bishops and stake presidents are counselled to consider whether individuals’ weight will adversely affect their service before recommending them for a mission. I don’t know of any specific weight guidelines, but potential missionaries, parents, and leaders should counsel with local medical professionals during the mission application process or call the Church Missionary Department if they have further questions on any of these issues related to physical, mental, and emotional health.

Local priesthood leaders are counselled not to ask the Church for exceptions to these rules. They are instructed not to recommend young people for full-time missionary service unless they can do so without reservations.

Other Options

If a member has serious physical, mental, and emotional challenges, they are honorably excused from missionary service. Such individuals should not be made to feel unworthy or inadequate before the Lord. These members should be encouraged to continue to pursue important milestones in life such as an education, career development, and temple preparation. If these individuals continue to have a strong desire to serve a mission, the bishop and stake president may be able to help them identify local options for Church service including Church-service missionary opportunities.

Prospective Missionary Devotional

Below is a prospective missionary devotional that you can download and present in your ward or stake. It is designed for high school seniors and others planning to submit their mission papers within the next year. I put it together at the request of our stake presidency for them to present in a fireside setting. It is divided into three sections, so each member of the stake presidency can present a part. The first part of the slide presentation talks about preparing for a mission temporally and spiritually. The second section discusses the mission call process, and the third part talks about some final things new missionaries need to do in preparation for their mission such as getting the priesthood and going to the temple. Feel free to use it in your stakes and wards, let me know how it goes, and contact me if you have any questions. Click here to download the Prospective Missionary Devotional[slideshare id=29781684&doc=prospectivemissionarydevotional-mmp-140107161200-phpapp02]

There are 50 slides. If you go quickly through the slide deck, you can get through it in about an hour. But if you take your time and go slowly, it can take up to two hours to present.

Missionary Age Requirements

Summary: This article discusses the age qualifications for serving a full-time Mormon mission for young men, young women, senior couples, and Church service missionaries.

missionary family on stairsYoung Men

Single men between the ages of 18 and 25 are eligible to serve a full-time mission for the LDS Church. These young men are generally called to serve for 24 months. Once single men reach the age of 26, the Church will no longer consider their application to be called as a missionary.

Young men and women should also be worthy and prepared to serve a mission. For more information, see my article on what it means to be worthy to serve a mission and my other article on requirements to serve a mission.

Women

Single women are eligible to serve a mission if they are 19 years old or older. The eligibility age difference between the young men and the women is to emphasize that full-time missionary work is a priesthood duty of the men, while women are not under that same obligation. Though not a duty in the same sense as it is for men, women make a valuable and unique contribution in the mission field, and the Lord needs and welcomes their service.

Single women between the ages 21 through 39 are usually called to serve for 18 months.  Single women over the age of 40 are usually called on non-proselyting missions (temple missions, welfare missions, office support, family history, etc.) and serve for 12 or 18 months. For more information, see the sister missionary page which has links to many sister missionary related topics including advice for young women considering a mission, and an article from former sister missionaries explaining what made them decide to serve.

Couples

There is no specific age requirement for older couples to serve a mission together. In order for married couples to be eligible to serve a mission, they must no longer be be working full-time and, if they will be serving away from home, they must not have any dependent children living in their home. Senior couples can be called to serve for 6, 12, 18, or 24 months depending on their capabilities and the mission they are called to fulfill.

Church-Service Missionaries

Church-service missions are a good alternative when worthy men and women are not able to serve full-time missions because of health, financial, family, or other challenges.  There is no maximum age, but men should be at least 18 years old, and women should be at least 19 to be a Church-service missionary. Church-service missionaries can be called for a term of anywhere from 6 to 24 months. They usually work between 8 and 32 hours a week and live at home while they are serving.

Mission Call Process Overview

One of the most frequent questions I get on Mormon Mission Prep is about the process of starting the paperwork, getting the application in, and details about when and how the mission call comes. This article is designed to give a high-level overview of the mission call process, from meeting with the bishop, to fill out your mission papers, to getting your call letter from the prophet. For more details on the time to expect each step in the process to take, see my article Mission Application Timeline.

lds mission call process overview

The picture above is a good illustration of the step by step process for doing the paper work and getting the mission call. Below is more detail on each step:

Before the Paper Work

  • Prepare spiritually: Study the gospel, read the scriptures, pray and build a testimony of the Savior, His Atonement, and His restored Church including Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon (so be sure to read it!). Keep yourself spiritually clean and worthy to serve a mission.
  • Prepare temporally: Save money, stay physically fit, and remove any obstacles such as unpaid debts, legal issues, weight and health problems. Familiarize yourself with the requirements to serve a mission.

The Application Processmissionarymeetwithbishop

  • Meet with the Bishop: At least four months before you’re able to leave on a mission, set an appointment with your bishop for a personal interview.  He will give you the mission application form, or the information you need to log on to the online missionary recommendation system if the online system is available in your area. Your bishop will also conduct a thorough worthiness interview at this time. He will discuss the qualifications to serve a mission and help you through the repentance process if their are any sins you need to clear up before going on a mission.
  • Doctor and Dentist Visits: Make appointments with your doctor and dentist for evaluations. In the paper work the bishop will give you will be medical forms that they will need to fill out.
  • Missionary Candidate Information: There are several sections of personal information to complete, and whether you do it online or on the paper application it will be the same.  You’ll fill out background information about yourself, including your desire and ability to learn a language, your schooling, and how your mission will be financed. You’ll be asked to submit a photo (uploading it or mailing it in) with your application, so make sure that in this photo you are dressed according to missionary standards (i.e. conservative hair and clothing styles, etc. See my post on Missionary Dress and Grooming Standards).
  • Meet with the Bishop Again: Set another appointment with your bishop after all of the forms are completed, and he will review the application. He will conduct a thorough interview to determine your worthiness to serve a mission, your ability to serve, and your testimony of the Savior and the restored gospel.
  • Meet with the Stake President: After your interview with the bishop, he will tell you how to set up and appointment with the stake president.  Your bishop and stake president will complete some additional parts including their own written recommendations for your missionary service.  This will be the final step before the application is sent to Church headquarters (usually done by the Stake Clerk).

Receiving the Mission Callmissioncall

  • Assigned to a Mission by Prophecy: Your mission application is received by the Church and you are assigned to a specific mission by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who has been authorized by the President of the Church. The mission assignment comes after prayer and revelation. See my article about how missionaries are called by God for more information on this process.
  • Mission Call Letter: After the mission call is made, a packet is mailed to you.  It will contain information on your assigned mission, the date to report to the Missionary Training Center (MTC), a list of specific items you should bring with you, and other helpful information. See my article on the mission call letter for more information about what you’ll find in the mission call packet.

Each Call Is Inspired

Though there are a lot of mechanical steps to go through in the process of getting your mission call, it’s important not to lose site of the spiritual–the spiritual preparation by the missionary and the spirit of revelation in the issuing of the mission call.  Here is what President Henry B. Eyring said about the inspiration of each mission call:

“I have had [many] experiences feeling of the Holy Ghost…But I’ve never felt what I have felt as I have…participated in the assigning of missionaries…Because of technology, it is possible for us to have your picture and the information about you displayed. And then quickly, on that same screen, all the missions of the Church with all of their needs are displayed. Within minutes, and sometimes less than a minute, the impression comes so powerfully that it would be, if it were a single instance, something that you would never forget. Can you imagine sitting there for hours at a time, having that happen time after time without interruption? I testify to you that it is real…[The Lord] somehow not only knows you but loves you enough to ensure that your call is where He needs you to go to teach the children of our Heavenly Father.” (Pres. Henry B. Eyring, “Called of God,” address delivered at the Missionary Training Center, Aug. 26, 1997).

Acceptance Letter

Woman Writing a LetterReading your mission call letter that your receive from the prophet assigning you to your field of labor is always nerve raking and exciting. Most people will pause, celebrate, cry, or all of the above after reading the line that says “you are assigned to labor in the ________ mission.”

When you read to the end of the letter, though, you will notice that the prophet asks you to “please send your written acceptance promptly.” I’m not aware of any specific deadline for writing this letter. I assume promptly means within days or a week at most. I also presume if you don’t send that acceptance letter within a couple of weeks, you or your stake president will be getting a call from the Church’s Missionary Department.

When I received my mission call, way back  in the 1990s, acceptance letters were sent through the mail (snail mail, that is). Nowadays, acceptance letters are sent through the same missionary online recommendation system you used to send in your original application. You’ll log in and sending in your acceptance letter will be as easy as sending an email.

Now, with regard to what should be included in your acceptance letter, Elder David B. Haight, formerly of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, once spoke about the mission call acceptance letter. You may want to read his words as you consider what to say in your letter.

Included in the packet is a page that may go unnoticed at first. It is a form, the Missionary Call Acceptance. This is a personal letter in which the missionary, addressing the First Presidency, formally accepts his or her missionary call. The form contains 15 lines on which the missionary expresses feelings about the singular opportunity of serving the Lord. The letters are usually handwritten, brief, and direct. Yet these few words speak volumes and convey deep meaning. Behind each one is a faith-promoting story.

“My Savior has blessed me more than I ever imagined. He gave His life for me. The least I can do is give Him two years of my life.”

…In accepting a call to serve, the missionary is expressing sufficient faith to act on his or her beliefs. Blessings will inevitably follow, as so many returned missionaries can testify. Faith in the Savior becomes an anchor to the soul.

“I can’t express the happiness and joy I feel as I accept this call to serve. I am ready and willing to commit two years of my life to preaching the gospel.”

In the acceptance letter, many missionaries state, “I gratefully accept my call to serve.” But I wonder how many missionaries realize the implications of the word accept. It means to receive willingly something given or offered; to respond favorably to; consider right and proper. It also means to be admitted into a group or community. In a gospel sense, it implies submission to the will of the Lord and willingness to follow the prophet, who extends the call. The mission “call” is to serve the Lord with all one’s heart, might, mind, and strength. The mission “assignment” is to serve in the assigned field of labor. The acceptance letter implies willingness to accept both the call and the assignment as the Lord’s will.

“Preparing for my mission has been a long struggle. After deciding to serve a mission, it took almost one and one-half years to overcome problems in my conduct.”

…“Deciding to go on a mission wasn’t easy. Having a strong passion for the game of baseball made it hard.”

Numerous acceptance letters speak of sacrifice. The young man quoted above was well on his way to fulfilling a life-long dream to play baseball in college, and then perhaps enjoy a career in professional baseball. After ponderous and prayerful thought, however, the answer was certain: he was to serve the Lord. Once the decision was made, his priorities in life became clear.

…Prospective missionaries write about giving up a prized car, a girlfriend, music, a lucrative job, and many other things. Too many allow such worldly treasures to blind them to spiritual opportunity and divert them from their foreordained mission. On the other hand, we are continually amazed and gratified by those who forsake all to serve the Lord.

“Just two short years ago, I did not have any purpose in life. When I walked the streets, I was scared that people would ask, ‘How are you?’ Finally, two missionaries helped me find the love of Christ. I will find people who have the same feelings I had and show them the purpose of life.”

Mormon wrote, “Perfect love casteth out all fear” (Moro. 8:16). When prospective missionaries learn of life’s purpose and of the Lord’s love, they gain the courage to act in spite of fears. In doing so, they learn the fears were an illusion, a creation of their minds. The Lord repeatedly assures missionaries that He will give them strength to succeed in the face of obstacles. “He that trembleth under my power shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom” (D&C 52:17). President Harold B. Lee often stated, “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies.”

…Missionary Call Acceptance letters reveal a wealth of spirituality and faith. My own faith is continually strengthened by those who accept calls to serve God, who allow their love for the Lord to overshadow their fears, and who submit willingly to the call of our living prophet. I pray always that every eligible young man, and also every young woman who so desires, may experience the wondrous adventure of a mission.

A Spiritual Adventure, David B. Haight, New Era, June 2000.