“24. Preparing and Recommending Missionaries,” General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (2020).
“24. Preparing and Recommending Missionaries,” General Handbook.
In this chapter, each mention of missionaries and missions refers to full-time missionary service unless otherwise noted.
Full-time missionary service is a privilege for members who are called through inspiration by the President of the Church. Missionary service is literally service to the Lord and His Church. Its objective is not primarily the personal development of a missionary, although righteous service invariably produces that result.
Missionaries who represent the Lord and His Church must be properly called and set apart (see Doctrine and Covenants 42:11). This calling is extended only to those who are worthy and able to accomplish it. Missionary service demands faith, desire, and consecration. Missionary candidates should have an eagerness and a desire to serve the Lord as His ambassadors. They should be filled with “faith, hope, charity and love” and have “an eye single to the glory of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:5).
The Lord expects each able young man to prepare spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially for missionary service. Personal preparation includes studying the gospel and the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, and building a testimony.
Preparing missionaries should be a high priority for parents, leaders, and teachers. Bishops and stake presidents have an especially important responsibility to identify and prepare worthy, qualified members for missionary service. They give special attention to helping young men prepare, especially those who seem uncertain about serving, and to helping young women prepare when they have a desire to serve.
The following suggestions will guide bishops and stake presidents in preparing missionaries:
Work with young men beginning at an early age, and with their parents, to help the young men develop the desire and worthiness to serve a mission.
Teach young members what will be expected of them when they serve missions. Let parents know what will be expected so they can help their children prepare for service. Share “Standard Interview Questions for Prospective Missionaries” with young members and their parents as part of their preparation (see the Missionary Online Recommendation System).
Call youth leaders who love missionary work and will help youth learn the gospel, build faith, and desire to serve the Lord.
Invite exemplary returned missionaries to speak about missionary work in sacrament meetings and on other occasions. Consider calling returned missionaries to serve with the Aaronic Priesthood quorums or the young women.
Encourage youth to attend seminary to strengthen missionary preparation.
Provide opportunities for prospective missionaries to serve in the Church, including service as ministering brothers and sisters. Ensure that young men and young women have opportunities to teach the gospel in quorum or class meetings and in other settings.
Encourage young people to have and, where possible, regularly use a limited-use temple recommend.
Arrange for prospective missionaries to participate in missionary preparation classes that are held outside regular Sunday meetings. The main resources for missionary preparation classes are the scriptures, Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ, and Preach My Gospel.
Encourage young people to share the gospel with friends and family members.
See 10.2.3 for additional suggestions.
In elders quorum and Relief Society meetings, leaders and teachers regularly discuss how parents can help their children prepare to serve as missionaries.
The bishop reviews Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ with each missionary candidate and his or her family. The bishop makes sure the candidate understands and is committed to abiding by the guidelines in that handbook. These guidelines concern personal conduct; language; dress and grooming; music and other media; computers; finances; staying together as companions; refraining from inappropriate contact—including with all children, with members of the opposite sex, and with members of the same sex; obeying local laws and customs; and communicating with family members.
Worthy single men ages 18–25 who are physically, mentally, and emotionally able are encouraged to serve missions. Missionary service is a priesthood responsibility of these brethren. Young men should be encouraged to begin preparing at a young age for missionary service. Once eligible, they should be encouraged to begin service as soon as they are prepared.
Single men ages 18–25 are called to serve for 24 months. Single men ages 26 and older are not called as missionaries.
Worthy single women ages 19 and older who are physically, mentally, and emotionally able may be recommended to serve missions.
Single women ages 19–39 usually are called to serve for 18 months. These sisters can make a valuable contribution in the mission field, and there is a continuing need for them to serve. Bishops may initiate discussions about missionary service with these sisters but should not pressure them to serve.
Single women ages 40 and older usually are called to serve for 12 or 18 months. Those assigned to serve outside their country of residence are called for 18 months. Bishops and stake presidents make sure these sisters are in good enough health to serve effectively as missionaries.
Couples usually are called to serve for 12, 18, or 24 months. A 6-month term of service is considered only for those in special situations, such as seasonal occupations. Couples serving outside their country of residence are called for at least 18 months. Qualifications and assignments for couples are outlined in 24.11.1 and 24.11.3.
Members are not eligible to serve missions if they:
Are not worthy as outlined in 24.5.2.
Would have to leave dependent children in the care of someone else.
Have been members of the Church for less than one year.
Are in debt and have not made definite arrangements to meet their obligations.
Are on legal probation or parole.
Are HIV positive, except when the disease is in remission.
Have been convicted of sexual abuse.
If priesthood leaders have questions about any of these restrictions, such as for a person who is on probation for a minor offense, they may contact the Missionary Department.
Couples who are still in childbearing years or who have unresolved marital problems are not called to serve missions.
In addition, the following members are not normally recommended to serve missions:
Brethren ages 25 and younger and sisters ages 39 and younger who have been divorced.
Sisters who have submitted to an abortion or brethren or sisters who have performed, arranged for, paid for, or encouraged an abortion. This policy does not apply to persons who were involved in an abortion before they were baptized or for one of the reasons outlined in 38.6.1.
Brethren who have fathered or sisters who have given birth to a child out of wedlock, regardless of whether they have any current legal or financial responsibility for the child.
Members who are not physically, mentally, or emotionally able to withstand the rigors of missionary service (see 24.5.3).
If the bishop and stake president can strongly recommend that an exception is warranted because of unusual circumstances, the stake president may submit a recommendation for the First Presidency to consider. He submits the recommendation through the Missionary Department and includes specific details of the situation. Bishops and stake presidents should not request exceptions that are unwarranted or that they do not endorse without reservation.
When members do not qualify for missionary service, priesthood leaders give them Church callings in their stake or ward to help them grow and experience the blessings of service. Priesthood leaders could also recommend them as Church-service missionaries (see 24.12).
Bishops and stake presidents have the serious responsibility of identifying worthy, qualified members who are spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared for missionary service. The bishop and stake president should not submit a recommendation until they are fully satisfied that a candidate is prepared in each of these ways. They should be able to recommend each candidate without reservation.
While it is important to ensure that missionary candidates are well prepared, bishops and stake presidents should not impose preparatory or other requirements on candidates beyond those stated in this handbook.
The bishop and stake president conduct thorough, searching interviews with each missionary candidate. If the bishop and stake president have concerns about whether a person is able or worthy to serve a mission, they counsel together and discuss the concerns with the individual and his or her parents. This will help avoid the negative feelings that can result if a recommendation is returned or a missionary is sent home for failure to meet these standards.
If the bishop and stake president have questions about a person’s worthiness or ability to serve, the stake president may inquire of the Missionary Department (1-801-240-2179 or 1-800-453-3860, extension 2-2179) or the Area Presidency.
Only in the most urgent cases when the stake president or bishop is absent may either of them authorize a counselor to conduct a missionary recommendation interview. In a member district, the mission president may authorize his counselors to conduct missionary recommendation interviews as needed.
Missionary work demands clean hands and a pure heart. Missionary candidates are to be morally clean in every way and otherwise worthy to be the Lord’s representatives (see Doctrine and Covenants 38:42). They should be living exemplary lives. If the life of a missionary candidate needs reforming, that must happen well before he or she is recommended for missionary service. Because genuine, thorough repentance may take some time, some young men may need to wait until they are older than 18 to serve missions.
A person who has committed adultery, fornication, or other serious sin, or who has committed a serious violation of civil law, must repent before he or she may be recommended for missionary service. A prospective missionary must also overcome any addictions before being considered for missionary service.
Mere confession and refraining from a sin for a period of time do not on their own constitute repentance. There must also be evidence of a broken heart, a contrite spirit, and a lasting change of behavior (see Mosiah 5:2). The bishop and stake president are to confirm that the member is free of transgression for a sufficient time to manifest genuine repentance and to prepare spiritually for the temple and for a sacred mission call. This period could be as long as three years for multiple serious sins and should not be less than one year from the most recent serious sins. Questions about specific individuals may be directed to a General Authority in the Missionary Department, the Area Presidency, or a member of the Presidency of the Seventy.
A person who has been promiscuous with several partners or with one partner over an extended period of time in a relationship outside of marriage will not be considered for missionary service. Stake presidents and bishops help these individuals repent and provide them with other meaningful ways to serve the Lord.
If priesthood leaders believe that unusual circumstances or situations warrant an exception, the stake president may submit a recommendation for the First Presidency to consider. He submits the recommendation through the Missionary Department and includes specific details of the situation and a letter from the candidate describing the nature of his or her repentance. Bishops and stake presidents should not recommend exceptions that are unwarranted or that they do not endorse without reservation.
A recommendation for a candidate who has participated in same-sex activity during or after the last three teenage years will be reviewed by the Missionary Department.
Bishops and stake presidents teach prospective missionaries that to qualify for the needed guidance of the Spirit, they must resolve serious sins before entering the mission field. These leaders explain to missionary candidates that unless there are unusual circumstances, missionaries who are found to have entered the mission field without resolving serious sins with the bishop will be released early and returned home.
Missionary work is demanding. Members who have physical, mental, or emotional challenges that would prevent them from serving effectively are not called to missionary service. Experience indicates that those who, for example, suffer from serious emotional instability, are severely impaired visually, require a wheelchair or crutches, or are dependent on others to perform normal daily tasks should not be recommended for missionary service.
Missionary candidates who have previously had significant emotional challenges must be stabilized and confirmed to be fully functional before being recommended. A candidate who is dependent on medication for emotional stability must have demonstrated that he or she can fully function in the demanding environment of a mission with the medication before being recommended. The candidate must also commit to continue taking the medications unless otherwise authorized by a professional health care provider. The bishop includes in the recommendation forms a list of medications the person is taking.
Young missionaries who are significantly overweight experience difficulties dealing with the rigorous physical demands of a mission. These difficulties also affect their companions. Bishops and stake presidents should be sensitive and wise in considering whether individuals should be recommended for missions when their weight will adversely affect their service. If prospective missionaries are significantly overweight, local leaders should counsel with them about reducing their weight before the missionary recommendation forms are submitted. For weight guidelines, the bishop or stake president may contact the Missionary Department or the area office.
If the bishop and stake president are unsure about recommending a member who has any of these challenges, they may consult with the Missionary Department (1-801-240-2179 or 1-800-453-3860, extension 2-2179). They should not recommend exceptions that are unwarranted or that they do not endorse without reservation.
If a member who has serious challenges strongly desires to serve a mission but does not qualify, the bishop and stake president express love and gratitude for the member’s willingness to serve and explain that because of the circumstances, the member is honorably excused from missionary service for his or her own benefit and to avoid placing undue demands on mission leaders and companions.
These members should be encouraged to pursue such important endeavors as education, career development, temple preparation, and temple marriage. For those who have a strong desire to serve, the bishop may counsel with the stake president to identify local opportunities for Church or community service. See 24.12 for information about Church-service missionaries.
A prospective missionary who has a serious medical limitation, including any due to injury or illness, can be considered only with the recommendation of a competent medical authority. Before submitting the recommendation forms, the stake president should consult with the Missionary Department (1-801-240-2179 or 1-800-453-3860, extension 2-2179).
Outside the United States and Canada, missionary recommendation forms are submitted through the Area Presidency. Under their direction, the area medical adviser reviews all recommendation forms and identifies any unresolved medical and dental conditions or immunization issues that could affect the candidate’s ability to serve or the nature of the assignment.
If the area medical adviser feels that treatment is needed before a person is able to serve, he reviews the situation with the Area Presidency. They may return the missionary recommendation forms to the stake president, who ensures that the necessary treatment is arranged for. When the medical condition is resolved, the stake president may resubmit the forms.
The primary responsibility to provide financial support for missionary service lies with the individuals serving and their families. Generally, missionaries should not rely entirely on people outside of their families to finance missionary service.
Missionaries and their families should make appropriate sacrifices to help cover the cost of missionary service. It is better for a person to delay a mission for a time and earn money toward the cost of missionary service than to rely entirely on others. However, worthy missionary candidates should not be prevented from serving missions solely for financial reasons when they and their families have sacrificed according to their capability.
The ward missionary fund is used solely for donations relating to ward members who are serving as full-time missionaries. Ward missionary funds should not be sent directly to individual missionaries. Nor should ward missionary funds be used for any missionary activities in the ward or stake.
Stake presidents and bishops inform missionaries and others who contribute to the ward missionary fund that these contributions, including those that are prepaid (see 34.4.9), will not be refunded.
Members who wish to help missionaries whose home wards are in the members’ country of residence to meet their contribution commitments may donate to the missionary’s home ward missionary fund. Members who wish to help missionaries whose home wards are not in the members’ country of residence should donate instead to the General Missionary Fund (see 24.6.2).
The Church uses contributions to the General Missionary Fund in missionary efforts worldwide. These contributions may be used either to support missionaries or to finance other aspects of the Church’s missionary program. Contributions made to the General Missionary Fund will not be refunded and cannot be designated to cover the costs or contribution commitments of particular missionaries.
Missionaries, parents, other family members, and friends make commitments to contribute a specific amount to the Church’s ward missionary fund. This commitment amount is equalized in certain countries (see 188.8.131.52). In other countries, the commitment amount is not equalized (see 184.108.40.206). If necessary, the stake president or bishop may ask members within the stake or ward boundaries to contribute to the ward missionary fund. Budget and fast-offering funds may not be used to meet missionary contribution commitments.
The contribution commitment applies only to the following teaching missionaries:
Single men ages 18–25
Single women ages 19–39
The contribution commitment does not apply to missionary couples, sisters ages 40 and older, or Church-service missionaries.
The bishop ensures that the monthly contribution commitment amount for each missionary serving from his ward is available in the ward missionary fund. These contributions need to be available regardless of whether it is an equalized or nonequalized amount. Each month, Church headquarters withdraws the contribution commitment from the ward missionary fund. The Church uses such funds to cover overall missionary costs, which varies by location.
The Church has equalized the contribution commitment requested to help cover the overall costs for the service-related expenses of missionaries whose home wards are in designated countries. (Contact the area office for a list of these countries.) The commitment is the same regardless of where these missionaries serve. The equalized contribution amount is identified in instructions from Church headquarters.
Missionaries whose home wards are not in designated countries work with their stake presidents and bishops to establish a specific contribution commitment. The commitment amount will be determined according to guidelines established by the Area Presidency and based on appropriate sacrifice by the missionary and the family. This contribution commitment will apply regardless of where these missionaries serve.
The service-related expenses of the missionaries listed under the previous headings are covered through contributions; however, additional expenses are paid with personal funds. These expenses include clothing purchases and repairs, bicycle purchases and repairs, medical costs not paid by the mission, and approved telephone calls home. Other personal expenses, which should be kept to a minimum, might include cameras, souvenirs, gifts, traffic fines, and damage to apartments or vehicles caused by the missionary’s misconduct or negligence. Bishops should encourage family members to donate the contribution commitment before sending personal funds to their missionaries.
For missionaries from countries that do not participate in the equalized contribution program, personal expenses for needed items while in the mission field may be paid by the mission if approved by the mission president. These items may include replacement clothing, bicycles, or medical and dental care.
Except as noted in the following paragraph, missionary couples and sisters ages 40 and older may not contribute to the ward missionary fund connected to their own missionary service.
Regardless of where they serve, missionary couples and sisters ages 40 and older whose home wards participate in the equalized contribution program contribute an assigned monthly housing and vehicle (if applicable) amount to their home ward missionary fund. The bishop ensures that the monthly housing and vehicle amounts are available in the ward missionary fund for each couple or sister. Each month, Church headquarters withdraws the housing and vehicle amounts from the ward missionary fund.
Church headquarters uses these funds to help cover the costs of missionary housing, transportation, and similar costs worldwide. The bishop may use other general contributions to the ward missionary fund to help cover the monthly housing and vehicle amounts for missionary couples and sisters ages 40 and older when they meet all of the following requirements:
The missionary’s home ward is in a country that is designated by the Church to participate in the equalized contribution program.
The missionary does not have adequate means to provide support.
Funds are available in the ward missionary fund.
Missionary couples whose home wards do not participate in the equalized contribution program contribute at least a minimum monthly amount to help cover missionary housing costs. This amount is established by the Area Presidency. Missionaries make their contributions to the General Missionary Fund through the ward or branch they attend in the mission field.
Missionary couples and sisters ages 40 and older are responsible for all personal expenses of missionary service that are not covered by the Church using ward missionary fund donations.
Sisters ages 40 and older from countries that are not designated to participate in the equalized contribution program are not called as full-time missionaries unless they can fully support themselves financially.
All missionaries are strongly encouraged to maintain their existing medical insurance while serving. Maintaining medical insurance conserves Church funds and helps missionaries avoid the need to prove insurability after their missions.
The bishop and stake president ensure that all missionary recommendation forms are prepared completely and accurately. The bishop or stake president sends these forms to the Missionary Department up to 120 days before the candidate’s birthday or availability date (whichever is later). Recommendation forms for couples may be submitted up to six months before their availability date. Instructions are provided on the recommendation forms.
When recommending couples for missions, leaders may confidentially recommend specific types of assignments for consideration. However, leaders should not make commitments about the assignment candidates will receive. Missionary candidates should be willing to accept any assignment.
Missionaries are called from their home ward. However, the bishop of an away-from-home ward, such as a young single adult ward, may process a missionary recommendation for the home ward. To do so, he must:
Obtain permission from the bishop of the home ward.
Ask him about the candidate’s worthiness, in preparation for conducting a worthiness interview.
Ask him for a letter endorsing the recommendation.
The name of the home ward and stake, the names of the bishop and stake president of those units, and the unit number of the home ward should be included on the recommendation.
A young single adult ward should never be assigned as the home ward for a missionary candidate. If a missionary candidate does not have a home ward, a family ward within the local stake or the ward to which the missionary plans to return after his or her mission should be designated as the home ward.
By following this procedure, the bishop of the away-from-home ward can ensure that all issues pertaining to worthiness; physical, mental, and emotional health; financial support; and point of departure are resolved before he submits a missionary recommendation. The president of the away-from-home stake ensures that this procedure is followed and that the letter from the home-ward bishop is submitted with the recommendation.
If a bishop processes a recommendation for a missionary candidate who has not lived in the ward continuously for at least one year, he confers with the bishop of the previous ward before proceeding.
The stake president, the bishop, the missionary candidate, and the family should not make any announcement about a mission call before the call is received.
The bishop continues to monitor the missionary’s progress after the mission call is received to help the missionary remain worthy of the sacred calling and continue his or her preparation. Bishops and stake presidents instruct newly called missionaries clearly regarding the seriousness and the consequences of transgressions after receiving the call.
The bishop also makes sure newly called missionaries comply promptly with all instructions from Church headquarters, such as securing passports, applying for visas, and acquiring appropriate clothing.
Newly called missionaries should also read or reread the Book of Mormon before they begin their missions.
The bishopric usually invites newly called missionaries to speak in sacrament meeting just before they depart. The bishopric should make it clear that this is a regular sacrament meeting and is not to be a missionary farewell. The bishopric plans and conducts these meetings. Family members and friends of the missionary are not invited to speak. However, other departing or returning missionaries or other members may be invited to speak. As in all sacrament meetings, talks and music should be worshipful, faith promoting, and gospel oriented. The bishopric ensures that each missionary has sufficient time to deliver a spiritual message. The regular time of the sacrament meeting should not be extended.
Although it is valuable to have newly called missionaries speak in sacrament meeting, such talks should not dominate the sacrament meeting schedule to the exclusion of other valuable subjects and speakers.
Members should avoid practices that may detract from the sacred nature of a mission call or create unnecessary expense. Such practices include holding open houses for missionaries (except for family gatherings), sending formal printed announcements or invitations, printing special sacrament meeting programs, and forming reception lines at the meetinghouse after sacrament meeting.
Bishops review these guidelines with newly called missionaries and their families well before the departure date.
Where possible, unendowed missionaries should receive their own temple endowment after they receive their mission call (see 26.3.2).
The stake president sets apart all missionaries before they depart for a missionary training center (MTC) or directly to the field. Only in the most urgent cases when he is absent may the stake president assign one of his counselors to set apart a missionary.
The mission president sets apart missionaries who are called from districts in his mission. However, if it is not feasible for him to do so, he may assign one of his counselors to set apart a missionary. The district president does not set apart missionaries.
A young man should have the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred upon him and be ordained an elder before he is set apart as a missionary. If he needs to be set apart before his ordination can be sustained in a stake conference or stake general priesthood meeting, he is presented for a sustaining vote in his ward sacrament meeting. His name is then presented in the next general stake meeting to ratify the ordination.
A missionary is set apart as close as possible to his or her departure date. Even if the missionary will be traveling for some time between departure from home and arrival at the MTC or in the field, neither MTC leaders nor other priesthood leaders should be expected to set apart the missionary.
A day or two before a missionary is set apart, the stake president conducts an interview to confirm the missionary’s worthiness. This interview is also a good opportunity to review the missionary’s current medical status. If the missionary is not worthy or if there are serious unresolved medical problems, he or she is not set apart. The stake president notifies the Missionary Department (1-801-240-2179 or 1-800-453-3860, extension 2-2179).
The setting apart should be a special occasion. Family members and close friends may attend. The stake president speaks briefly to help them feel the sacredness and importance of the call.
The stake president follows the usual procedure for setting apart (see 18.11). First he sets the person apart as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assigned to labor in the mission to which he or she has been assigned. Then he adds a priesthood blessing as the Spirit directs. He may invite worthy Melchizedek Priesthood holders, such as the missionary’s father, to stand in the circle.
When a missionary is set apart, the setting apart should not be recorded. However, the missionary is encouraged to record in a personal journal the date of the setting apart, the name of the stake president who officiated, and parts of the blessing that were especially meaningful.
The stake president advises the missionary that after being set apart, he or she is a missionary and should live by missionary standards.
The Church pays the expenses of missionaries to travel to and from the field. For those who go to an MTC, the Church pays for their travel to the MTC and to the field. Travel arrangements are sent soon after the mission call.
When serving in their country of residence, couples and single women ages 40 and older may take their own vehicles with them. They are responsible for the operating and maintenance expenses for their vehicles, including insurance, repairs, and fuel. These missionaries will be given a travel allowance for the expense of driving their own vehicles to or from the field. Information on this reimbursement is available from the Church Travel Office. For questions, call 1-800-537-3537 or 1-801-240-5149.
Parents or other immediate family members may bring a missionary to an MTC but are not expected to do so. Those who must travel long distances are discouraged from going to an MTC. Family members will say farewell as the missionary’s luggage is unloaded from the vehicle. The MTC does not have an orientation or other meeting for families.
Families are discouraged from going to airports when missionaries leave the MTC.
Missionaries should not transport personal belongings of others to the mission field. Occasionally members ask missionaries to take items such as medications or special eyeglasses to the mission field if they are not available there. If such requests are made, the bishop or stake president directs them to the Missionary Department.
The mission president determines the placement of missionaries within the mission. However, stake presidents consult with bishops and recommend the number and location of missionaries to be assigned within the stake. The mission president then assigns missionaries according to available resources.
The stake president and mission president determine whether and to what extent Church members should provide housing and meals for missionaries.
With the approval of the mission president, missionary couples may on occasion serve in branch leadership positions. However, it is generally preferable for them to serve in a training capacity to help the local members fulfill these responsibilities.
In rare situations, younger missionaries may be assigned to serve in branch leadership positions. However, such assignments require the approval of the mission president and are made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration of all other options. If couples or younger missionaries are given such assignments, they serve only until a suitable local member can be called.
If missionaries are assigned to leadership positions in branches that are in a mission, including branch president, they are not set apart. The authority to act in any position in the mission is inherent in their setting apart as a missionary. If they perform a function that requires priesthood keys, such as conducting a baptism interview or presiding over a branch, they do so by assignment and the delegation of authority.
If missionaries are assigned to leadership positions in branches that are in a stake, they are set apart under the direction of the stake presidency. They are not members of the high priests quorum.
Missionaries and their families must not be asked to provide financial support for members who live in areas where the missionaries are serving.
Missionaries should not ask friends, relatives, or members of their home wards to join them in special fasts.
The Church encourages missionaries to communicate weekly with their families using whatever approved method works best for them and their family and is cost effective. This may vary based on their circumstances and schedules each week. It is not expected that all missionaries will call or video chat with their parents weekly.
As an alternative to regular mail, missionaries may use email to communicate with their families on preparation day, according to guidelines that have been approved in the mission.
If a missionary in the field (including an MTC) suffers a physical or emotional disability that prevents effective missionary service, he or she is returned home for treatment. A representative of the Missionary Department will explain to the stake president whether the missionary has been released or placed on medical leave and what steps should be taken.
If a member of a missionary’s immediate family dies, the Church encourages the missionary to remain in the field. However, with approval from his or her mission president, the missionary may view the funeral services via streaming (see 29.6.4).
If the missionary and his or her family choose to have the missionary return home, he or she may be allowed to return at the family’s expense. The stake president may request such an exception through the Missionary Department.
The home ward retains the membership records, accepts any tithing contributions, and records the tithing status of missionaries who serve under the direction of a mission president. Missionaries pay fast offerings through the ward in which they are serving.
The home ward retains the membership records, accepts any tithing contributions, and records the tithing status of missionaries who serve under the direction of a temple president or Area President. These missionaries receive any needed ecclesiastical support, including counseling, from the temple president or Area President. They receive temple recommends from their home priesthood leaders or from local priesthood leaders.
Membership records of full-time missionaries at Church headquarters who do not serve under the direction of a mission president should be in the ward where they live during their service. Normally they pay tithing and other offerings through that ward. However, if they move from their home ward to serve at Church headquarters, they may pay tithing through their home ward if they desire. The bishop of the ward in which they live during their service interviews them for temple recommend renewals and provides any other needed ecclesiastical support.
Missionaries should complete the full term of service for which they are called. Under normal circumstances, neither they nor their parents should request early releases or extensions of service.
Missionaries should travel directly home from their missions. Any other travel is permitted only when the missionary is accompanied by at least one parent or guardian.
The Church discourages parents from picking up missionaries. However, if parents request this privilege, they should understand that:
Their plans must be based on the release date established by the mission president.
They should not request a change in the release date to accommodate other travel plans or commitments.
They should inform the mission president or the Church Travel Office at least three months in advance if they plan to travel with their missionary.
They are expected to make their own travel arrangements, including lodging and meals.
Missionaries must dress and conduct themselves according to missionary standards during travel from their missions because they are not released until they report to their stake presidents. They should not impose on members, mission presidents, missionaries, or other missions as they travel home.
All qualified, endowed missionaries should have a valid temple recommend when they are released. The procedure for issuing a temple recommend to a returning missionary varies depending on the age of the missionary.
When young missionaries are released, they benefit from frequent interviews with priesthood leaders during the time when they are making the transition from the intense spiritual focus of missionary service to the varied pursuits of daily life.
To help facilitate this, the mission president conducts a worthiness interview with each young returning missionary and issues a temple recommend that is valid for only 90 days. The mission president writes an issue date on the temple recommend that will cause it to expire in 90 days. Such a recommend requires only the interview by the mission president and the signatures of the president and the missionary. If the missionary already has a valid temple recommend at the time of this interview, the mission president requests it and destroys it when he issues the 90-day recommend.
Local priesthood leaders interview the returned missionary near the conclusion of the 90-day temple recommend expiration period. If the returned missionary is worthy, a new temple recommend is issued with the normal expiration period of two years.
If a returning senior missionary’s temple recommend is about to expire, the mission president conducts a temple recommend interview as part of the final interview and issues a new recommend. Such a recommend requires only the interview by the mission president and the signatures of the president and the missionary.
If a missionary who is sent home early because of a belated confession or a serious sin holds a temple recommend, the mission president requests the recommend. The bishop and stake president may issue a new temple recommend when the person is worthy.
It is recommended that only immediate family members go to the airport to pick up missionaries who are returning at the completion of their missions.
The stake president releases returning missionaries from missionary service and gives them the release certificate he has received from the mission president. He commends them for their service and invites them to report on their mission. He also inquires about their conduct while traveling home.
In a member district, the mission president may authorize his counselors to interview and release returning missionaries as needed.
When releasing missionaries, the stake president also interviews them. This interview is an important opportunity to help missionaries build on their mission experiences and commit to continue on a lifelong path of spiritual growth and service. The stake president should devote enough time to these interviews to:
Discern missionaries’ strengths and needs, then help them set goals and make plans that will build on the good habits they have developed and that will have power in their daily lives.
Review the importance of doing what is necessary to continue feeling the Spirit daily.
Encourage missionaries to choose and prepare for their life’s work.
Ask missionaries to commit to pay a full tithing, be active in the Church, and serve faithfully in Church callings and assignments throughout their lives.
Encourage them to maintain high standards of conduct, including dress and grooming.
The stake president also encourages young returning missionaries to live worthy of and prepare for marriage in the temple. However, he should not suggest or imply that they should be married within a specified time.
In addition to their interview with the stake president, missionaries report to the stake presidency and high council in a high council meeting.
As soon as practical, the bishopric of the home ward schedules missionaries to speak in a sacrament meeting. Missionaries should be given sufficient time to share spiritual experiences and bear testimony. Their talks should build faith and encourage youth to serve missions. The stake presidency may also assign them to speak in other sacrament meetings as companions to high councilors.
The stake president counsels returning missionaries to teach the gospel in the talks they give. As missionaries speak in sacrament meetings, they should share experiences that strengthen faith in Jesus Christ, build testimonies, encourage members to live and share the gospel, and illustrate gospel principles. They should avoid travelogues, inappropriate stories about their companions or others, disparaging remarks about the areas in which they served, and other matters that would be inappropriate for a servant of the Lord to discuss in the sacred setting of a sacrament meeting.
Priesthood leaders promptly call recently returned missionaries to Church positions. Elders quorum and Relief Society leaders also assign every returned missionary as a ministering brother or ministering sister.
Bishops and stake presidents prayerfully consider which couples in their units could be called to serve as missionaries. Bishops may interview them to determine availability, ask them to prepare for mission calls, and help them complete and submit the recommendation forms as outlined in 24.7.
Couples who are recommended for missionary service must no longer be engaged in full-time employment. If they will be serving away from home, they must not have any dependent children living at home. Bishops and stake presidents take special care to make sure that couples are in good enough health to serve effectively as missionaries.
Information on missionary opportunities for couples can be found at ChurchofJesusChrist.org. Stake presidents and bishops can use this information to identify opportunities for members they are encouraging to serve. The bishop may confidentially recommend specific assignments for these members. However, he should not make commitments about the assignments a member will receive. Missionary candidates should be willing to accept any assignment.
General Authorities, mission presidents, temple presidents, and Church department heads may also identify couples who might be recommended for missionary service. The names of these members should be submitted to the Missionary Department. Representatives of the Missionary Department will then contact the stake president. He confers with the bishop to consider each prospective missionary’s health, ability and willingness to serve, and other circumstances. The bishop then meets with the members and encourages them to complete the missionary recommendation forms. If the recommendation is approved, the President of the Church issues a letter of call.
Where there are large concentrations of members, the Area Presidency coordinates with stake presidents to identify couples who could fill local missionary needs in mission offices, visitors’ centers, employment centers, family history centers, temples, and Church Educational System offices. Couples for these assignments could include those who are not able to leave their homes but desire to serve at least 32 hours per week. These missionaries may receive live-at-home mission calls from the President of the Church. Recommendations for such missionaries are submitted in the normal manner.
Those who can serve fewer than 32 hours per week may still be given local assignments and are called by their stake president, as specified in 24.12.
Bishops, stake presidents, and others who are encouraging couples to serve missions should understand that these members may have some anxiety because of inaccurate preconceptions about what will be expected of them. Leaders can reassure prospective missionary couples that they will not be asked to meet the same standards in work hours or other activities that are expected of younger missionaries. Couples will be allowed some flexibility in setting their own goals and schedules based on personal needs, the requirements of their assignments, and guidance from the person who presides over them.
Missionary couples and sisters ages 40 and older are responsible for their own health care expenses and must have adequate health insurance for their mission assignments. If the insurance coverage of those living away from home is not adequate for their assignment, Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators (DMBA) will send them information on additional insurance they may purchase. Missionaries who need additional coverage but do not enroll in the DMBA plan must provide proof of adequate coverage before they begin serving.
To the extent possible, all missionaries should participate in sharing the gospel. Senior missionaries may also be asked to help train leaders, fellowship new members, and work with less-active members. In addition to these basic assignments, senior missionaries, sister missionaries over the age of 40, and some sisters under age 40 may receive one or more of the following assignments as part of their mission call:
Church Educational System
Visitors’ centers and historic sites
Perpetual Education Fund
In response to local needs, mission presidents may change these assignments in consultation with the headquarters departments that supervise the original assignment.
For information about senior missionaries serving as officers in local units, see 24.9.4.
Release letters and certificates for senior missionaries are prepared under the direction of the person who oversees their assignment. As with all missionaries, these missionaries are released by their stake president.
The Church-service missionary program provides service opportunities for worthy members around the world. Church-service missionaries typically work for Church departments. Except for those serving in mission offices, they do not usually serve under the direction of a full-time mission president. The use of Church-service missionaries is not intended to diminish emphasis on full-time missionary service.
Church-service missionaries are normally called for 6–24 months. They serve at least 8 hours a week and typically fewer than 32 hours. They usually live at home while they are serving. Men should be at least 18 years of age, and women should be at least 19. There is no maximum age.
Church-service missions are often a good alternative when worthy members are not able to serve full-time missions because of health, financial, family, or other challenges (see 24.5.3).
Church-service missionaries are called by their stake president and set apart by their bishop as outlined in 24.12.3.
The bishop may counsel with the stake president to identify local opportunities for members who desire to serve as Church-service missionaries. Examples of possible assignments are listed below:
Welfare: bishops’ storehouses, canneries, Deseret Industries, and employment resource centers. Additional opportunities in the Salt Lake City area: Deseret Manufacturing, Humanitarian Center, and Welfare Square
Church Educational System: receptionist, office work, and computer support; student recruiting and enrollment; institute hosting; training; teaching some classes at seminaries and institutes
Church-owned farms, ranches, and recreational properties
Physical Facilities: building inspection and maintenance
Special local projects
Church History: Church History Museum and Church History Library in Salt Lake City, including Library Services, Collections Development, Preservation Services, and Joseph Smith Papers
Family History: Family History Library in Salt Lake City, regional family history libraries, and worldwide FamilySearch support
Materials Management: distribution centers, food services, and fleet services (primarily in Salt Lake City)
Other departments and operations unique to Church headquarters: member locator services, building hosting, Conference Center events, and area offices
Stake presidents, bishops, and members are encouraged to use the following resources to identify and obtain information about Church-service missionary opportunities:
In the United States and Canada:
Outside the United States and Canada:
As with full-time missionaries, the bishop and stake president ensure that each prospective Church-service missionary is worthy to hold a temple recommend. They also ensure that he or she is physically, mentally, and emotionally able to perform the duties of the calling. Prospective missionaries should be able to support themselves financially, including all living expenses, insurance, and medical and dental expenses. Members should not be called on a Church-service mission if the mission responsibilities would keep them from fulfilling their responsibilities to care for dependent children who live at home.
A member, bishop, or stake president may initiate an inquiry into a suitable Church-service missionary opportunity. After an opportunity has been identified, the bishop or the member contacts a representative of the department or other entity that posted the position to determine whether it is still available and whether the member is able to fulfill the requirements. The representative’s contact information is posted on the website with the position.
If the Church-service opportunity is still available and the member meets the requirements, the bishop conducts a worthiness interview. The bishop and the member complete a Recommendation for Church-Service Missionary form. The bishop notes the recommended service opportunity, signs the form, and forwards it to the stake president. The stake president then interviews the member for worthiness, signs the form if he approves, and sends it to the director of Church-service missionaries at Church headquarters or to the Church-service missionary coordinator in his area.
Church-service missionaries are called by their stake president. They are set apart by their bishop. After the recommendation form has been processed at Church headquarters or with the local coordinator, the stake president is notified so he can extend the calling. At this time, the stake president also gives the missionary a call letter that is provided by the Church-service missionary coordinator in his area. The stake president advises the bishop of the calling and asks him to set the missionary apart.
After the calling is issued, the missionary contacts the Church department representative to work out pertinent details.
Bishops and stake presidents give appropriate recognition to members who are called as Church-service missionaries. This recognition includes communicating their callings to members of the ward or stake. It also could include inviting missionaries to report on their service in appropriate meetings.
Church-service missionaries should provide their own transportation to their primary workplace. If a mission assignment requires additional travel, those expenses may be reimbursable.
Church-service missionaries are supervised by and trained under the direction of the department in which they serve. Normally they are not trained at a missionary training center.
All Church-service missionaries are entirely responsible for their own medical needs, including dental and eye expenses and prescription drugs.
Near the end of the assigned period, the term of service may be extended if the missionary wants to extend and the service is still needed. The extension may be for varying increments, not to exceed 30 months in total service. The department coordinator reviews the extension request with the stake president. If the stake president approves the request, he advises the missionary and notifies the missionary’s bishop.
Toward the end of a Church-service mission, the department coordinator informs the stake president when the mission will end. At the conclusion of the mission, the stake president releases the missionary and advises the bishop. The stake president also gives the member a release certificate that is provided by the Church-service missionary coordinator in his area.
At least six months should pass before those who are released receive another Church-service mission call. Any exceptions must be approved by the stake president.
Church-service missionaries are encouraged to serve in stake or ward callings at the discretion of local leaders as long as these callings do not interfere with the Church-service missionary assignment.
Callings to assist with activation efforts or to help strengthen members in wards are made by local leaders. These callings are not processed as Church-service mission calls. This guideline applies even if members will serve outside their home wards.
Many opportunities for Church service are available for members, including those who do not hold a current temple recommend, and for nonmembers. These individuals are volunteers rather than missionaries. Volunteers may serve in areas such as family history centers, FamilySearch indexing, and welfare production projects and canneries.