Starting in the Home
Elder M. Russell Ballard has spoken about creating a gospel-sharing home. I will discuss how to prepare to be a full-time missionary as an elder, a sister, or a couple.
The process begins in the home long before missionary age when parents instill in the minds and hearts of every young boy the concept of “when I go on a mission,” not “if I go on a mission.” Children are best taught gospel truths in the home where instruction can be adapted to the age and capacity of each child. In the home the whole armor of truth is tailor fit to the individual characteristics of each child. Parental teaching qualifies children for life and prepares worthy young men for the joy of missionary service. In the home a young girl can understand that her primary role is to be a wife and mother. Yet as that preparation unfolds there may be an opportunity to serve a full-time mission, provided recent counsel of the First Presidency is followed: “Worthy single women ages twenty-one and older … may be recommended to serve full-time missions. … These sisters can make a valuable contribution … , but they should not be pressured to serve. Bishops should not recommend them for missionary service if it will interfere with imminent marriage prospects.”
Many parents are using parts of the guide Preach My Gospel to stress the concepts that will bear fruit as their children’s testimonies mature while they are nurtured in the home. As a young boy you can learn how to fulfill your duty as a future priesthood bearer. You will be helped to understand and apply important teachings of the Lord. You will be strengthened to live worthily to be able to receive sacred temple ordinances and to serve a full-time mission. Such experiences will develop a foundation for the later blessing of your being a strong husband and father.
"Now Is the Time to Serve a Mission!", RICHARD G. SCOTT, April 2006
Assigning the Missionary a Call
After finishing our mission assignment, I was called by President Gordon B. Hinckley to serve as a Seventy in the Church. Part of my early training as a new General Authority included an opportunity to sit with members of the Twelve as they assigned missionaries to serve in one of the 300-plus missions of this great Church.
With the encouragement and permission of President Henry B. Eyring, I would like to relate to you an experience, very special to me, which I had with him several years ago when he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Each Apostle holds the keys of the kingdom and exercises them at the direction and assignment of the President of the Church. Elder Eyring was assigning missionaries to their fields of labor, and as part of my training, I was invited to observe.
I joined Elder Eyring early one morning in a room where several large computer screens had been prepared for the session. There was also a staff member from the Missionary Department who had been assigned to assist us that day.
First, we knelt together in prayer. I remember Elder Eyring using very sincere words, asking the Lord to bless him to know “perfectly” where the missionaries should be assigned. The word “perfectly” said much about the faith that Elder Eyring exhibited that day.
As the process began, a picture of the missionary to be assigned would come up on one of the computer screens. As each picture appeared, to me it was as if the missionary were in the room with us. Elder Eyring would then greet the missionary with his kind and endearing voice: “Good morning, Elder Reier or Sister Yang. How are you today?”
He told me that in his own mind he liked to think of where the missionaries would conclude their mission. This would aid him to know where they were to be assigned. Elder Eyring would then study the comments from the bishops and stake presidents, medical notes, and other issues relating to each missionary.
He then referred to another screen which displayed areas and missions across the world. Finally, as he was prompted by the Spirit, he would assign the missionary to his or her field of labor.
From others of the Twelve, I have learned that this general method is typical each week as Apostles of the Lord assign scores of missionaries to serve throughout the world.
Having served as a missionary in my own country in the Eastern States Mission a number of years ago, I was deeply moved by this experience. Also, having served as a mission president, I was grateful for a further witness in my heart that the missionaries I had received in New York City were sent to me by revelation.
After assigning a few missionaries, Elder Eyring turned to me as he pondered one particular missionary and said, “So, Brother Rasband, where do you think this missionary should go?” I was startled! I quietly suggested to Elder Eyring that I did not know and that I did not know I could know! He looked at me directly and simply said, “Brother Rasband, pay closer attention and you too can know!” With that, I pulled my chair a little closer to Elder Eyring and the computer screen, and I did pay much closer attention!
A couple of other times as the process moved along, Elder Eyring would turn to me and say, “Well, Brother Rasband, where do you feel this missionary should go?” I would name a particular mission, and Elder Eyring would look at me thoughtfully and say, “No, that’s not it!” He would then continue to assign the missionaries where he had felt prompted.
As we were nearing the completion of that assignment meeting, a picture of a certain missionary appeared on the screen. I had the strongest prompting, the strongest of the morning, that the missionary we had before us was to be assigned to Japan. I did not know that Elder Eyring was going to ask me on this one, but amazingly he did. I rather tentatively and humbly said to him, “Japan?” Elder Eyring responded immediately, “Yes, let’s go there.” And up on the computer screen the missions of Japan appeared. I instantly knew that the missionary was to go to the Japan Sapporo Mission.
Elder Eyring did not ask me the exact name of the mission, but he did assign that missionary to the Japan Sapporo Mission.
Privately in my heart I was deeply touched and sincerely grateful to the Lord for allowing me to experience the prompting to know where that missionary should go.
At the end of the meeting Elder Eyring bore his witness to me of the love of the Savior, which He has for each missionary assigned to go out into the world and preach the restored gospel. He said that it is by the great love of the Savior that His servants know where these wonderful young men and women, senior missionaries, and senior couple missionaries are to serve. I had a further witness that morning that every missionary called in this Church, and assigned or reassigned to a particular mission, is called by revelation from the Lord God Almighty through one of these, His servants.
"The Divine Call of a Missionary", RONALD A. RASBAND, April 2010
Receiving the 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.
Mission 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
For more information on each item in the packet, the article was found here (Mission Call Letter), a Mormon Mission Prep site.
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.”
The letters frequently contain expressions of faith in the Savior and gratitude for His sacrifice. The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote, “It is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action” (Lectures on Faith, 1:10). Faith, to be saving faith, must center in Christ and move one to obey Him, to follow His example. 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.”
Some letters describe long periods of repentance, of experiences like Alma’s, in which he was “racked with torment” and “harrowed up by the memory of my many sins” (Alma 36:17). Gratefully, they also speak of the “exquisite and sweet” joy that comes through repentance and forgiveness (see Alma 36:21).
“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.
The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “It is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God” (Lectures on Faith, 6:7.) The thought of giving up something we dearly treasure can be difficult, even painful. Yet the Lord abundantly compensates for any sacrifice.
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
The Principle of Becoming
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught us most effectively about the challenge to become something instead of just doing expected things or performing certain actions:
“The Apostle Paul taught that the Lord’s teachings and teachers were given that we may all attain ‘the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ (Eph. 4:13). This process requires far more than acquiring knowledge. It is not even enough for us to be convinced of the gospel; we must act and think so that we are converted by it. In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something. …
“… It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become” (“The Challenge to Become,” Liahona, Jan. 2001, 40; Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32).
Brethren, the challenge to become applies precisely and perfectly to missionary preparation. Obviously, the process of becoming a missionary does not require a young man to wear a white shirt and tie to school every day or to follow the missionary guidelines for going to bed and getting up, although most parents certainly would support that idea. But you can increase in your desire to serve God (see D&C 4:3), and you can begin to think as missionaries think, to read what missionaries read, to pray as missionaries pray, and to feel what missionaries feel. You can avoid the worldly influences that cause the Holy Ghost to withdraw, and you can grow in confidence in recognizing and responding to spiritual promptings. Line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, you can gradually become the missionary you hope to be and the missionary the Savior expects.
You will not suddenly or magically be transformed into a prepared and obedient missionary on the day you walk through the front door of the Missionary Training Center. What you have become in the days and months and years prior to your missionary service is what you will be in the MTC. In fact, the nature of the transition through which you will pass in the MTC will be a strong indicator of your progress in becoming a missionary.
As you enter the MTC, you obviously will miss your family, and many aspects of your daily schedule will be new and challenging. But for a young man well on his way to becoming a missionary, the basic adjustment to the rigors of missionary work and lifestyle will not be overwhelming, burdensome, or constraining. Thus, a key element of raising the bar includes working to become a missionary before going on a mission.
Fathers, do you understand your role in helping your son to become a missionary before he goes on a mission? You and your wife are key in the process of his becoming a missionary. Priesthood and auxiliary leaders, do you recognize your responsibility to assist parents and to help every young man become a missionary before he goes on a mission? The bar also has been raised for parents and for all members of the Church. Prayerful pondering of the principle of becoming will invite inspiration tailored to the specific needs of your son or to the young men whom you serve.
The preparation I am describing is not oriented only toward your missionary service as a 19- or 20- or 21-year-old young man. Brethren, you are preparing for a lifetime of missionary work. As holders of the priesthood, we are missionaries always. If you truly progress in the process of becoming a missionary, both before going on a mission and in the mission field, then when the day arrives for your honorable release as a full-time missionary, you will depart from your field of labor and return to your family—but you will never cease your missionary service. A priesthood holder is a missionary at all times and in all places. A missionary is who and what we are as bearers of the priesthood and as the seed of Abraham.
"Becoming a Missionary", DAVID A. BEDNAR, October 2005