Editor’s Note, January 31, 2019: Yesterday, the Church announced that they have created new mission planning tools that helps prospective missionaries understand when they should submit their application to increase the likelihood of starting and ending their service at the right time. I will write more about these tools later in another post. Until then, the Mission Release Date Planning Tool and Mission Submission Planning Tool can be found on the Church’s website.
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.
As 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
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
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.
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.