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