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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.

The Church’s Statement on Race and the Priesthood

Black men giving priesthood blessingSince The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released a new statement on Race and the Priesthood in December 2013, there has been a lot of discussion on the subject. Many people have rightly praised the statement for setting straight some false concepts that had crept into the Church. Many, in my view, have also jumped to some conclusions that may or may not be well founded.

Below is a summary of the Chursh’s statement on Blacks and the Priesthood, and as a bonus, some of my thoughts and analysis on the subject. Most important is that future missionaries read the statement, do some follow up study of the scriptures and other sources cited, and be prepared to discuss the subject when and if it comes up during their missions.

Download a PDF copy of the Church’s
statement on Blacks and the Priesthood

Highlights from the Church’s Statement on Blacks and the Priesthood

The statement from the Church on Blacks and the Priesthood is 4 pages (6 with footnotes). I encourage you to read the statement in its entirety, but here are some of the quotes that stood out to me most:

  • “For much of its history—from the mid-1800s until 1978—the Church did not ordain men of black African descent to its priesthood or allow black men or women to participate in temple …ordinances.”
  • “During the first two decades of the Church’s existence, a few black men were ordained to the priesthood. One of these men, Elijah Abel, also participated in temple ceremonies. …There is no evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime.”
  • “In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood. …subsequent Church presidents restricted blacks from receiving the temple [ordinances]. …Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church.”
  • “President Young said that at some future day, black Church members would ‘have [all] the privilege and more’ enjoyed by other members.”
  • “The justifications for this restriction echoed the widespread ideas about racial inferiority that had been used to argue for the legalization of black ‘servitude’ in the Territory of Utah. According to one view, which had been promulgated in the United States from at least the 1730s, blacks descended from the same lineage as the biblical Cain, who slew his brother Abel. Those who accepted this view believed that God’s ‘curse’ on Cain was the mark of a dark skin.”
  • “The curse of Cain was often put forward as justification for the priesthood and temple restrictions. Around the turn of the century, another explanation gained currency: blacks were said to have been less than fully valiant in the premortal battle against Lucifer and, as a consequence, were restricted from priesthood and temple blessings.”
  • In the 1950s, “Church President David O. McKay emphasized that the restriction extended only to men of black African descent. The Church had always allowed Pacific Islanders to hold the priesthood, and President McKay clarified that black Fijians and Australian Aborigines could also be ordained to the priesthood.”
  • “Given the long history of withholding the priesthood from men of black African descent, Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter the policy… After praying for guidance, President McKay did not feel impressed to lift the ban.”
  • “While there were no limits on whom the Lord invited to ‘partake of his goodness’ through baptism, the priesthood and temple restrictions created significant barriers, a point made increasingly evident as the Church spread in international locations with diverse and mixed racial heritages.”
  • “Church leaders pondered promises made by prophets such as Brigham Young that black members would one day receive priesthood and temple blessings. In June 1978, after ‘spending many hours in the Upper Room of the [Salt Lake] Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance,’ Church President Spencer W. Kimball …received a revelation. …The revelation rescinded the restriction on priesthood ordination. It also extended the blessings of the temple to all worthy Latter-day Saints, men and women.”
  • “The Church began priesthood ordinations for men of African descent immediately, and black men and women entered temples throughout the world. Soon after the revelation, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle, spoke of new ‘light and knowledge’ that had erased previously ‘limited understanding.'”
  • “Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse, or that it reflects actions in a premortal life; that mixed-race marriages are a sin; or that blacks or people of any other race or ethnicity are inferior in any way to anyone else. Church leaders today unequivocally condemn all racism, past and present, in any form.”
  • “The Church proclaims that redemption through Jesus Christ is available to the entire human family on the conditions God has prescribed. It affirms that God is ‘no respecter of persons’ and emphatically declares that anyone who is righteous—regardless of race—is favored of Him.”

What the Church’s Statement Says and Does Not Say

The statement is clear on where the Church stands on this issue today. Race and national descent is not a factor in receiving the priesthood or receiving temple ordinances. The whole human family are children of God, he loves them all equally and invites all people, regardless of race or national origin, to come unto Christ, receive the ordinances of salvation, and partake of the blessings of the gospel here on earth and in Heaven.

The statement is sufficiently vague, though, on the history of the practice and particularly the reason for the priesthood and temple restrictions. While it is easy to jump to other conclusions, the Church gives no official reason of why the priesthood restriction was in place. While it denounces previous explanations put forth by Church members and leaders, such as racial inferiority, lack of premortal valiance, and a curse as manifested by dark skin, no official explanation for the former policy is given.

The discussion of the reason for the restriction is sufficiently vague as to allow multiple interpretations. It would be easy for readers to interpret the statement as saying that the Church today believes that Brigham Young was wrong in putting the priesthood restriction in place. Yet the article never comes out and says that the priesthood restriction was improper or racist. In fact, it goes to great length to point out that the restriction was not based solely on race, but on a combination of race and nationality (Africa descent).  Therefore, one could also interpret the statement as saying there is no reason to believe the policy was not a result of divine inspiration to Brigham Young and the subsequent prophets and presidents of the Church.

The full reason for the restriction may never be known while we live on this earth. Each one of you will have to decide for yourself, if knowing the reason is important to you. What’s important to me is that we have the light and knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ through the scriptures, living prophets, and inspiration from the Holy Spirit. The Lord works in mysterious ways, and he is certainly doing a marvelous work and a wonder on the earth today. The blessings of the gospel are infinite and they can be enjoyed on earth and last throughout eternity. And missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the wonderful opportunity to bring these blessings to all the peoples of the earth. 

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.

LDS Missionary Clothing List

Summary: This article discusses the LDS missionary clothing list and other items to bring on your Mormon mission.

Mormon Missionary Suitcase

The General Instructions Checklist that you get in your mission call letter will tell you in more detail the clothing, luggage, and other items you will need to bring with you on your mission. There are slight variations between missions, and the letter from your mission president will advise you if that is that case. For the most part, though, the clothing, toiletries, and other items each missionary will need to bring on your mission is relatively standard. Also be advised to follow the missionary dress and grooming standards (which were updated in July 2013 to allow greater flexibility and more modern styles) when buying clothes for your mission.

Mission Clothing List: Elders Mission Clothing List: Sisters
  • 10 – 12 White shirts (some short sleeve and some long sleeve)
  • 2 Dark colored, Conservative Suits
  • 5 – 6 Pair of dress slacks
  • 5 – 6 Conservative ties
  • 8 – 10 Solid, dark colored socks
  • 2 Pairs of thick-soled, comfortable, conservative shoes.
  • 8 – 10 Pairs of temple garments
  • Waterproof, winter boots, as needed
  • Dark overcoat with liner, as needed
  • Pajamas, robe, and slippers, as needed
  • Dark raincoat, lightweight plastic or nylon
  • Cold-weather gear (gloves, scarf, ear-muffs, winter hat, thermals) as needed
  • Sweater(s), solid dark color, as needed
  • Umbrella
  • Pair of flip-flops/shower shoes
  • Shaving equipment
  • Deodorant and other toiletries
  • Set of work clothes and gym clothes (jeans, t-shirt, shorts, athletic shoes, etc.)
  • Small first-aid kit, and sewing kit
  • Alarm clock (wind-up or battery)
  • 2 Towels, washcloths
  • Twin-size bed sheets with pillowcase
  • Shoulder bag (no backpacks)
  • Sunscreen and lip balm, as needed
  • 4 – 5 Outfits of modest design: blouses, skirts, dresses, jackets, vests, jumpers, suits. Mid-calf length. Nothing tight-fitting, or baggy; no wrap-around skirts, t-shirts, polo-shirts, denims, or leathers.
  • 12 Pairs of nylons or knee-highs
  • 2 – 3 Pairs of shoes that are conservative and comfortable
  • 1 Pair of dress shoes
  • 1 Pair of winter boots
  • 8 – 10 Pairs of temple garments
  • Personal toiletries
  • Underclothing, modest and durable.
  • Dark winter coat
  • Pajamas, robe, and slippers, as needed
  • Dark raincoat, lightweight plastic or nylon
  • Cold-weather gear (gloves, scarf, ear-muffs, winter hat, thermals) as needed
  • Sweater(s), as needed
  • Umbrella
  • Pair of flip-flops/shower shoes
  • Set of work clothes and gym clothes (jeans, t-shirt, shorts, athletic shoes, etc.)
  • Small first-aid kit, and sewing kit
  • Alarm clock (wind-up or battery)
  • 2 Towels, washcloths
  • Twin-size bed sheets with pillowcase
  • Shoulder bag or purse (no backpacks)
  • Sunscreen and lip balm, as needed

Missionary Luggage

Of course you will need luggage to carry your clothes and personal belongings.  Mormon missionaries are suggested to bring 3 pieces of luggage that follow these guidelines: Two large suitcases (that you could check at the airport) and one smaller bag (a carry-on). The first, larger, checked suitcase should be no larger than 62 dimensional inches (height plus width plus depth), and no heavier than 70 pounds. The second piece should be no larger than 55 dimensional inches and no heavier than 70 pounds. The smaller, carry-on bag should be no larger than 45 dimensional inches. For more information, see missionary clothing needs and what should I bring to the MTC?.

Missionary Books

Missionaries should bring their scriptures and they are also allowed to bring the following books, if they desire:

  • True to the Faith
  • Jesus the Christ, by James E. Talmage
  • Our Heritage: A Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Our Search for Happiness, By M. Russell Ballard
  • See the approved Missionary Reading List for more detail

What NOT to Bring on Your Mission

Do not bring the following items to the MTC or to the mission field:

  • Briefcases
  • Any books not listed above
  • Daily planners, including electronic planners
  • Laptop or other computers
  • Any video recording devices, or any video or DVD players
  • Cellular phones, pagers, e-mail devices, or unauthorized electronic equipment
  • Radios or clock radios
  • Musical instruments
  • Playing cards, games, footballs, soccer balls, or any other kind of sports or hobby equipment
  • Packages for other missionaries in the MTC or in the mission field
  • Weapons of any kind

For information on how much you can expect to spend on clothing and other items, see my related article: Cost To Get Ready To Go On A Mission.

What Does It Mean to Be Worthy to Serve a Mission

Youth going to the templeLet’s talk about what it means to be worthy to serve a mission. The prophets have long taught that every worthy young man should serve a mission, and that every young man should strive to be worthy. Worthiness requirements for missionaries are set forth in the scriptures and through the living prophets. Let’s first discuss what it means to be worthy to serve a mission according to the scriptures.

Worthiness Requirements from the Scriptures

Missionaries who represent the Lord and His Church must meet the qualifications revealed in section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord said: “O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day… And faith, hope, charity and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work. Remember faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, brotherly kindness, godliness, charity, humility, diligence” (D&C 4:2, 5-6). The scriptures also discuss how missionaries are required to be morally clean. See D&C 38:42 where the Lord said “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.”

Repentance of Serious Transgressions

A prospective missionary who has been guilty of serious sins such as violations of the law of chastity, drug abuse, serious crimes, or other sexual sins or serious transgressions must repent completely before they can be considered worthy to go on a mission. If this applies to you, your bishop and stake president must confirm that you have been free of transgression for sufficient time to manifest sincere repentance. This time period is generally one year from the most recent occurrence of a serious transgression, but could be as long as three years for multiple serious violations. You must show evidence of a broken heart and contrite spirit and demonstrate a lasting change of behavior, and follow the revealed steps of repentance.

Temple Worthy

Young people must also be worthy to enter the temple before they can be considered worthy to serve a full-time mission. We won’t go into detail on all the temple recommend topics here, but let’s hit the highlights. You must…

  • Believe in God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.
  • Have a testimony of the Atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ.
  • Have a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.
  • Be honest in all you say and do, attend Church meetings, and live in harmony with the teachings of our Savior and His Church.
  • Live the law of chastity.
  • Be a full-tithe payer.
  • Keep the Word of Wisdom.
  • Not support or affiliate with anti-Mormon groups or individuals.
  • Resolved any serious sins or misdeeds with priesthood authorities.

Origins of the Saying “Every Young Man Should Serve a Mission”

Most of you have probably heard many times that in the LDS Church, we expect every worthy young man to fulfill a mission. This is not new, every prophet since President Spencer W. Kimball has repeated that charge. Prior President Kimball, the Church had a large missionary program and many young men and young women served missions. But the expectation that everyone young male member should prepare and serve a mission wasn’t quite as strong then as it is today.

President Kimball’s Landmark Address on Missionary Work

spencerwkimball_thumbIn 1974, President Kimball gave a landmark address that changed the way we Mormons view the missionary service of young men. Thomas S. Monson, then a member of the Quourm of the Twelve Apostles, said President Kimball’s talk “had profound and deep influence on all who heard it.” Elder Monson further said that “the impact of his dynamics as a missionary-oriented person…have set in motion factors which have resulted in one of the greatest upsurges in missionary work that we have ever seen” (Status Report on Missionary Work, Ensign, October 1977).

This is what President Spencer W. Kimball said:

“The question has been often asked, Is the mission program one of compulsion? And the answer, of course, is no. Everyone is given his free agency. The question is asked: Should every young man fill a mission? And the answer of the Church is yes, and the answer of the Lord is yes. Enlarging this answer we say: Certainly every male member of the Church should fill a mission, like he should pay his tithing, like he should attend his meetings, like he should keep his life clean and free from the ugliness of the world and plan a celestial marriage in the temple of the Lord” (Spencer W. Kimball, “Planning for a Full and Abundant Life”, Ensign, May 1974, 86).

Every Prophet Since Then Has Repeated the Call

Since President Kimball’s memorable address, every prophet of the Lord has repeated that message, that every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. After President Kimball, came Ezra Taft Benson as the prophet and President of the Church. This is what he said:

“The Lord wants every young man to serve a full-time mission. Currently, only a fifth of the eligible young men in the Church are serving full-time missions. This is not pleasing to the Lord. We can do better. We must do better. Not only should a mission be regarded as a priesthood duty, but every young man should look forward to this experience with great joy and anticipation. What a privilege—what a sacred privilege—to serve the Lord full time for two years with all your heart, might, mind, and strength.

You can do nothing more important. School can wait. Scholarships can be deferred. Occupational goals can be postponed. Yes, even temple marriage should wait until after a young man has served an honorable full-time mission for the Lord.” (Ensign, May 1986, pp. 44–45).

Then Howard W. Hunter became Church President, and this is what he said:

“Earlier prophets have taught that every able, worthy young man should serve a full-time mission. I emphasize this need today” (Howard W. Hunter, “Follow the Son of God”, Ensign, Nov. 1994, 87).

Many of you young people may be too young to remember presidents Kimball, Benson, and Hunter.  But hopefully, many of you still remember President Gordon B. Hinckley. This is what he said:

“I throw out a challenge to every young man within this vast congregation tonight. Prepare yourself now to be worthy to serve the Lord as a full-time missionary. He has said, ‘If ye are prepared ye shall not fear’ (D&C 38:30). Prepare to consecrate two years of your lives to this sacred service. That will in effect constitute a tithe on the first twenty years of your lives” (Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1995, 70; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 51–52).

And of course our living prophet today is President Thomas S. Monson, and he has repeated the call:

“I repeat what prophets have long taught—that every worthy, able young man should prepare to serve a mission. Missionary service is a priesthood duty—an obligation the Lord expects of us who have been given so very much. Young men, I admonish you to prepare for service as a missionary. Keep yourselves clean and pure and worthy to represent the Lord” (President Thomas S. Monson, As We Meet Together Again, October 2010).

I hope all young men, if there ever was a doubt, now know with certainty that the prophet of God expects them to serve a mission. As President Kimball said, the Church will never force you to go because that would be contrary to the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But full-time missionary service is the duty of every able young man, and we hope you will choose to accept the assignment.

Young men, we need you to be missionaries. Start preparing now. Keep yourself worthy, study the scriptures, learn how to become an effective missionary, and prepare yourself in all other ways to be a representative of the Lord for two years. Serve with honor and faithfulness and the Lord will bless you. May all the young men out there heed this call from the prophet is my prayerful desire.

Sister Missionaries, What Made You Decide to Serve?

Sister Missionaries Serving“My patriarchal blessing talks about me serving a full-time mission. After I graduated from Ricks College, I turned 21, and I wasn’t dating anyone at the time. I knew what my blessing stated, but felt I should still pray about serving. It took a few months before I got my answer. It was during my scripture study. I KNEW that I was suppose to serve, and I had the desire to serve. I felt so blessed to have the gospel. I felt in debt to the Lord.” JoLynn Hansen, Texas, Houston East Spanish Speaking Mission

“Growing up I always felt like I was going to go on a mission and had the desire to go. When my 21st birthday was approaching I prayed about it and got the impression not to go. I was shocked and mostly frustrated that my righteous desires were being met with an answer that I didn’t want. About 6 months after that I then felt the urge ‘Go and go now.’ I fought the feelings off for about 3 months until I finally talked to the bishop. I always had the feeling God would ask me to go when it wasn’t easy for me to go, when I had finally been accepted to a major I wanted and I finally felt like things were going ‘perfectly’ in my life. I’m so glad I listened– even though it was hard. My mission has blessed my life and will continue to bless me and my future prosperity forever, I know this.” Emily Craghead, Arizona Tucson Mission

“When I was about 12 another sister from my home ward went on a mission and I thought she was a great example. Since that time I knew I wanted to go. My patriarchal blessing also confirmed this decision.” Laura Daniels, Argentina Neuquen Mission

“My family means the world to me, and it is a huge blessing to know that I have the opportunity to be with them for all eternity, and I wanted more people to know of this opportunity that Heavenly Father has given to us.” Jessica Rex, Arizona Tucson Mission

“I had always thought that it would be really neat to go on a mission, but I never thought very serious about it until one day during a study group at BYU. We were studying for a final and one of the girls there had served a mission. I asked her a few questions about her mission, and the only thing that I remember her saying is that it was the best decision that she had ever made. I immediately felt a strong impression that I needed to make that decision for myself. I prayed about it shortly after that study group and felt so strongly that I needed to serve a mission. I have NEVER regretted my decision to serve a mission. It has blessed my life in ways that I never would have imagined. I would do it all over again, and hope to one day when I am able again.” Katie Gividen, Russia Rostov-na-Dony Mission

“The spirit pestered me for years until I finally gave in at age 23.” Kristin Wardle Sokol, New York Utica Mission

“God. I didn’t plan to go, but when fasting for direction in my life, I got a distinct impression to serve. And so I did. I’m SO glad I did.” Patti Rokus, Temple Square Visitors Center Mission

“When I was 19, I knew some missionaries who were just awesome. My dad had served a mission, and I have an aunt who served. Those missionaries had a light and life about them that was so contagious, and I wanted that, and I wanted to share it. One of the biggest reasons I decided to serve were some statistics I heard about returned missionaries and their children being married in the temple. They said that if the father was a returned missionary, about two thirds of the children were married in the temple, but if both mother and father were returned missionaries, it jumped up to over 90%. I thought there was no greater blessing I could give my future, (and now current) children, than that extra boost towards temple marriage! Now this doesn’t mean that if you don’t serve, your children won’t be married in the temple, but for me, it was an impetus and a blessing! I had the desire, and the Lord blessed me with the ability to serve a mission, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that!” Wendi Condie, Montana Billings Mission

What are your thoughts? If you’re a returned sister missionary, what made you decide to go? Please share your comments.

Mission Call Letter

An important step in the LDS Mission Call Process, and one that is the focus of much anticipation for the future missionary as well as family and friends, is receiving the mission call letter. After you’ve fill out your mission papers and submitted the application, it is a very anxious few weeks that you have to wait before finding out where you have been called to serve. And while those few weeks may seem like an eternity, eventually that envelope will arrive from church headquarters.

Some of you will choose to open the mission call packet in private, in your bedroom, or perhaps you’ll get away to somewhere in nature.  Many of you will gather around with your close family, and others will open the packet in the presence of a large number of family and friends.  Many will even have a virtual gathering, over the phone or using video conferencing, as they open their mission call packet. However you choose to do it, opening and reading your mission call letter will bring many feelings: spiritual confirmations, excitement, and tears of joy.

family-gathered-to-read-mission-callMission Call Packet

About two to four weeks after the Church receives your mission application, an envelope will arrive from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Office of the First Presidency. The packet generally contains these items:

  • The Call Letter from the Prophet
  • A Letter from your Mission President
  • A Letter from the MTC President
  • General Instructions Checklist, including a list of clothing and other items to bring

Call Letter from the Prophet

When you open your call packet, the first letter you will see will be the call letter from the prophet. It will be addressed to you and will say, “Dear Elder or Sister _______, You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the _______ mission.” This is the point where people tend to erupt into cheers and tears.  Once you’re able to continue, the letter will go on to tell you the language you will be speaking during your mission, and it will tell you where and when to report to the Missionary Training Center.

The letter will tell you your purpose as a missionary, “to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.” In the letter, the prophet also will ask you to work to become an effective missionary, to remain worthy, and he will mention some of the blessings of faithful missionary service. Finally, the letter from the prophet asks you to send a written acceptance letter, and then it is signed by our living prophet, the president of the Church.

mission-call-letter-pointing-fingerLetter from your Mission President

Another major piece of your mission call packet will be a welcome and orientation letter from the mission president with whom you will be serving. He will express his testimony of mission work and his gratitude for your choice to serve a mission. He will express his joy and congratulations that you will be joining his mission and be engaged together in the greatest cause in the entire world.  He will remind you that, as a missionary, you will become an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ. He will encourage you to continue reading the scriptures and preparing spiritually, including acquainting yourself with the Preach My Gospel manual. He may tell you a little about the people and places of your mission and encourage you to learn to love the people where you will serve. He may also have mission-specific instructions, in addition to those general instructions you will receive from Church headquarters, such as clothing that may differ from the norm due to weather conditions in your mission.

Letter from the MTC President

In the mission call packet, you will also receive instructions and a congratulatory letter from the president of the MTC where you will be receiving your missionary training. He will also express his gratitude for your decision to serve the Lord, and his excitement about your arrival to the Missionary Training Center. He will advise you of medical issues that need to be addressed prior to your arrival such as getting a seasonal flu shot. The letter will almost certainly discuss MTC arrival times, transportation, and other information you will need to know about getting started on your mission.  There will also be information such as your mailing address and email address, as well as contact phone numbers and web site addresses you can get more information.

General Instructions Checklist

missionary-suitcaseThe General Instructions Checklist will tell you the things you need to do right away, and things you’ll need to do before entering the MTC. It will advise you to complete any medical tests, treatments, and dental work before entering the MTC, including obtaining all required vaccinations outlined in the medical information section of the call packet. It will advise you to continue to prepare spiritually through prayer, and scripture study, especially studying the Book of Mormon. It will instruct you go to the temple to receive your endowment, and receive a patriarchal blessing, if you had not previously done those items. It will advise you of clothing, luggage, and other items to bring on your mission, and to get a missionary hair cut before arriving at the MTC and to be sure to show up in missionary attire.

There are slight variations between missions, and your mission president will advise you if that is that case, but for the most part, the clothing each missionary will need to bring is pretty standard.

Mission Clothing List: Elders Mission Clothing List: Sisters
  • 10 – 12 White shirts (some short sleeve and some long sleeve)
  • 2 Dark colored, Conservative Suits
  • 5 – 6 Pair of dress slacks
  • 5 – 6 Conservative ties
  • 8 – 10 Solid, dark colored socks
  • 2 Pairs of thick-soled, comfortable, conservative shoes.
  • 8 – 10 Pairs of temple garments
  • Waterproof, winter boots, as needed
  • Dark overcoat with liner, as needed
  • Pajamas, robe, and slippers, as needed
  • Dark raincoat, lightweight plastic or nylon
  • Cold-weather gear (gloves, scarf, ear-muffs, winter hat, thermals) as needed
  • Sweater(s), solid dark color, as needed
  • Umbrella
  • Pair of flip-flops/shower shoes
  • Shaving equipment
  • Deodorant and other toiletries
  • Set of work clothes and gym clothes (jeans, t-shirt, shorts, athletic shoes, etc.)
  • Small first-aid kit
  • Alarm clock (wind-up or battery)
  • 2 Towels, washcloths
  • Twin-size bed sheets with pillowcase
  • Backpack
  • 4 – 5 Outfits of modest design: blouses, skirts, dresses, jackets, vests, jumpers, suits. Mid-calf length. Nothing tight-fitting, or baggy; no wrap-around skirts, t-shirts, polo-shirts, denims, or leathers.
  • 12 Pairs of nylons or knee-highs
  • 2 – 3 Pairs of shoes that are conservative and comfortable
  • 1 Pair of dress shoes
  • 1 Pair of winter boots
  • 8 – 10 Pairs of temple garments
  • Personal toiletries
  • Underclothing, modest and durable.
  • Dark winter coat
  • Pajamas, robe, and slippers, as needed
  • Dark raincoat, lightweight plastic or nylon
  • Cold-weather gear (gloves, scarf, ear-muffs, winter hat, thermals) as needed
  • Sweater(s), as needed
  • Umbrella
  • Pair of flip-flops/shower shoes
  • Set of work clothes and gym clothes (jeans, t-shirt, shorts, athletic shoes, etc.)
  • Small first-aid kit
  • Alarm clock (wind-up or battery)
  • 2 Towels, washcloths
  • Twin-size bed sheets with pillowcase
  • Backpack

Of course you will need luggage to carry your clothes and personal belongings.  Mormon missionaries are suggested to bring 3 pieces of luggage that follow these guidelines: Two large suitcases (that you could check at the airport) and one smaller bag (a carry-on). The first, larger, checked suitcase should be no larger than 62 dimensional inches (height plus width plus depth), and no heavier than 70 pounds. The second piece should be no larger than 55 dimensional inches and no heavier than 70 pounds. The smaller, carry-on bag should be no larger than 45 dimensional inches. For more information, see missionary clothing needs and what should I bring to the MTC?.

Other Miscellaneous Items

mission-call-letter-in-mailboxAll together the packet can be a dozen or more pages depending on your mission and circumstances. There is frequently included a short biographical sketch of the mission president and his wife, an outline of behavior expected of missionaries, guidelines for getting ready for the mission, a section on missionary dress standards, medical requirements, a map of your mission, a short description of the area in which you will serve, and Church contact information if you have further questions.

No matter where you are called to serve, remember that missionaries are called by God through prophecy and revelation to our living prophets and apostles.  It is an extreme privilege to serve as an ambassador of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to represent his true Church on the earth today, and to be an instrument in His hands to bring people into His fold for their eternal salvation.

Mission Application Timeline

Today I want to talk in more detail about the mission application timeline, the steps involved in the mission call process, when to begin, and how long to expect the steps to take. Please note that all times are approximate. Your individual circumstances may vary.

I have previously written about mission papers and the process for applying to go on a mission. That post dealt with the process from a high-level, perhaps too high of a level, because I still get a lot of questions on precisely when to initiate the steps in the application process. Below I will attempt to answer some of these common questions; let’s hope I succeed.

Mormon Mission Application Timeline

Availability Date

calendarAs you can see in the chart above, the timing for when to start the application process depends on your availability date. So your first step will be to determine the date you are available to start serving a full-time mission.  Your availability date will be, at the earliest, the day your turn 18 if you’re a young man, or the day you turn 19 if you are a young woman.  Your availability date cannot be prior to this birthday, but could be later depending on circumstances such as schooling, etc.

Five Months Prior: Start Application Process

About five months prior to the date you are available to start serving, you will want to begin the application process. Starting your mission papers is done by first setting up a meeting with your bishop.  He will go over the spiritual and physical requirements to serve a mission.  He will tell you about the application process and he will either give you the paper work or give you directions to log in to the mission papers website (the Missionary Online Recommendation System).

You will want to make an appointment to go to the doctor and dentist at this time to have them fill out the medical forms necessary to complete the application. If you have known dental issues you may want to go to the dentist even earlier. This is also a good time to start taking the Church’s missionary preparation class and temple preparation course if you haven’t taken them yet. And if you haven’t gotten your patriarchal blessing by this point, you’ll want to make arrangements to do that as well.

Four Months Prior: Submit Paper Work

missionary meet with stake president

The process of going to the doctor and dentist, filling out the application, getting your photo, meeting with your bishop and stake president, etc. generally takes at least a month.  The last step of the paper work, meeting with the stake president, generally takes place around four months before you would like to begin your mission. Actually, I don’t think you are even allowed to submit your paperwork more than 4 months, 120 days, prior to your availability date. The stake president then submits your mission application to Church Headquarters.

Three Months Prior: Receive Mission Call Letter

After the application is submitted, depending on several factors, you should get your mission call letter in about 2 to 4 weeks.  That letter will have your mission assignment and the date you should report to the MTC.  The Church normally tries to allow two to four months between the issuing of the call and the beginning of the mission.  In the packet you receive from Church Headquarters will also be additional instructions and information from your mission president specific to your mission.

Two Months Prior: Melchizedek Priesthood Ordination for Men 

After receiving your call, if young men have not yet been given the Melchizedek Priesthood and ordained to the office of an Elder, that should take place at this time. Young men need to be advanced to an Elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood prior to going to the temple. This is also the time, if you haven’t done so yet, to start shopping for all the items you need to bring on your mission. Your mission call packet will have details on clothes and other items specific to your mission, but for a general list of items check out my LDS missionary clothing list.

One Month Prior: Go To The Temple 

sister mission call letter

LDS temples are an integral part of missionary work and missionaries generally go to the holy temple to receive their endowment just prior to leaving on their mission.  Through the temple endowment, missionaries receive knowledge, power, and protection from on high to do their work.  The Church also has a seven-lesson temple preparation course that future missionaries ought to take.  Talk to your bishop about arrangements for this class; you’ll probably want to start taking this course around the same time you start your missionary application.

Conclusion

That’s it.  Here’s a recap of the steps of the mission application timeline.

  • First, determine your availability date.
  • 5 months prior: Start the application process by meeting with your bishop.
  • 4 months prior: Submit the paper work (generally done by the stake after your interview with the stake president).
  • 3 months prior: Receive your mission call letter and further preparation instructions specific to your mission.
  • 2 months prior: Young men should be ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood and office of an Elder.
  • 1 month prior: Go to the temple to receive your endowment.

Then it’s off to the MTC and your mission.  Good luck and may God bless and be with you.

Temple Is Important Part of Mission Preparation

I received my temple endowment in 1995, in the Washington, DC Temple just prior to leaving for my mission to Rosario, Argentina.  It was a sweet experience as I was surrounded by my parents and other extended family.  All Mormon missionaries receive their temple endowment prior to embarking in missionary service.  Receiving the Mormon temple endowment is an important part of mission preparation because it gives individuals spiritual knowledge and power that will help them better serve the Lord.  The demands of missionary service require spiritual strength, and the temple blessings bring power to worthy missionaries. This power comes through the greater understanding of Heavenly Father’s plan, and the sacred covenants and blessings obtained only in the temple.

Here some statement by current and past prophets and apostles regarding the importance of missionaries receiving their temple endowment.

  • President Howard W. Hunter taught, “Let us prepare every missionary to go to the temple worthily and to make that experience an even greater highlight than receiving the mission call” (Ensign, Nov. 1994, 88).
  • “Going to the temple for your own endowment… [is] an integral part of your mission preparation…You cannot do this work alone. We have to have heaven’s help, we have to have the ‘gifts’ of God…This work is so serious and the adversary’s opposition to it so great that we need every divine power to enhance our effort and move the Church
    steadily forward” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Apr. 25, 1997).
  • “Missionaries …are not fully qualified to go forth, preach the gospel, and build up the kingdom, unless they have the gift of the Holy Ghost and also are endowed with power from on high…[that is] given only in the Lord’s Temple” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary)
  • The Lord “called all the missionaries to Kirtland in the early day of the Church to receive endowments in the temple erected there. He said this was so that they could go out with greater power from on high and with greater protection” (Doctrines of Salvation, Bruce R. McConkie).
  • Elder David B. Haight,”The temple endowment gives knowledge that, when acted upon, provides strength and conviction of truth.” (A Light unto the World [1997], 49).
[colored_box color=”green”]Read a related article on how the temple is and integral part of mission work for missionaries and new converts.[/colored_box]

Here is a great video produced by the Church on why Mormons build temples.

Go to the Mormon Missionary Preparation YouTube Channel.