President Russell M. Nelson declared: “Through a lifetime of service in this Church, I have learned that it really doesn’t matter where one serves. What the Lord cares about is how one serves” (“Ministering with the Power and Authority of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 68).
Each service missionary is provided a customized mission experience uniquely tailored to his or her talents, skills, and gifts. During the course of their missions, it is common for service missionaries to serve in multiple assignments, including approved charitable organizations, Church operations, and stake-assigned service opportunities. Throughout their missions, service missionaries are under the ecclesiastical direction of their stake presidents.
Missionary Recommendation Process
All worthy young men and young women who have a desire to serve a mission and are felt to be capable of serving either a teaching mission or a service mission complete an online recommendation that is processed by their stake president. A stake president may honorably excuse a young man or young woman from missionary service if he is confident the candidate is incapable of serving either type of mission.
The application for all missionaries includes evaluations by the bishop, the stake president, and medical professionals. The Quorum of the Twelve and General Authority Seventies oversee the mission recommendation process.
A missionary candidate does not choose which kind of mission he or she will serve. All applicants are considered first for teaching missions. Young men and women whose circumstances are best suited for a service mission are called as service missionaries. If an applicant is called as a service missionary, the service is tailored to the applicant’s unique talents, skills, and gifts and to the local environment.
A stake president does not determine whether an applicant is called to a teaching mission or a service mission. During the application process, stake presidents continue to provide information as requested by the Missionary Department. If a candidate will not be called to a teaching mission, a representative from the Missionary Department will counsel with the stake president before a service mission call is issued. The stake president uses judgment to determine whether he should notify the applicant and family that a service mission call is forthcoming.
On the application, bishops and stake presidents answer the question “Does this candidate have a serious physical, mental, or emotional limitation that should be considered when assigned?” If the answer is yes, priesthood leaders will be asked to provide additional information. Priesthood leaders should also discuss with the candidate the possibility of being honorably excused.
Some missionaries initially assigned to a teaching mission will not be able to complete their missions for a variety of reasons. The determination that a teaching missionary is incapable of continuing is made by the mission president in consultation with the mission health council, the Missionary Department, and the missionary’s stake president.
When the determination has been made that a teaching missionary will return home, a second determination will be made, as explained below, as to whether the missionary should be released or reassigned to a service mission. A representative from the Missionary Department notifies the stake president of the early-returning missionary. Prior to the return of the missionary, the stake president counsels with the missionary, mission president, parents, and service mission leaders to assess the desire, circumstances, and ability of the missionary to continue serving as a service missionary. If the stake president releases the missionary, he notifies the Missionary Department. If reassignment is to be considered, a customized service mission plan is created in consultation with the missionary, his or her family, and a service mission leader, if one is called. If reassignment is recommended, the missionary will receive a service mission reassignment by the Quorum of the Twelve.
Service Mission Resources
Service Mission Office
The Service Mission Office is located at Church headquarters and is staffed by Church employees and senior service missionaries.
The Service Mission Office works closely with the Missionary Department staff in the missionary recommendation process and provides support to local priesthood leaders, service mission leaders (see below), and Church and community charitable operations. The headquarters Service Mission Office provides training, resources, and information to service mission leaders to help service missionaries be successful.
Service Mission Leaders
Where needed, the Area Presidency authorizes an Area Seventy to call a mature couple to be service mission leaders. These leaders serve as a liaison between stake presidents, charitable organizations, and Church operations to identify potential assignments. The service mission leaders work closely with Public Affairs and JustServe.org. These leaders help service missionaries meet the expectations of the organizations.
Service mission leaders assist stake presidents in having regular contact with a service missionary, reviewing how he or she is performing, and providing feedback. These leaders may also, with the approval of the stake president, help provide fulfilling experiences for the service missionary, such as temple service or gatherings with other service missionaries. The stake president remains ecclesiastically responsible for the service missionary.
Service mission leaders receive training from the headquarters Service Mission Office.
External Operations Managers
The external operations managers are individuals responsible at the service organization, such as bishops’ storehouses and soup kitchens. They help each service missionary have a genuine service missionary experience while serving at the assigned location. They also help service missionaries successfully complete their service assignments. They reinforce the service missionaries’ personal commitment to the standards in the Service Missionary Handbook.