Missionary Preparation: When Should I Serve?

Prepare now so that you will be ready to serve when the time is right. As you prayerfully consult with your parents and Church leaders, you can know when you are ready.

Missionary Preparation for Young Men

When changes to the missionary age eligibility were announced, it is possible your “life plan” was altered and you’re no longer sure when you should go. When to serve a mission is an important decision. Read on to find helpful suggestions about when to serve and how to prepare so that you’ll be ready whenever the Lord needs you.

When Can I Go?

Young men can now go on missions at age 18, provided they have completed high school. But because they can serve earlier doesn’t mean they have to. In a press conference after the age changes were announced, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles clarified, “We are not suggesting that all young men will—or should—serve at this earlier age. Many will still prefer to start at age 19 or older.”

Whether you decide to go earlier or later, you may submit your papers up to 120 days before you wish to begin your mission service. Regardless of when you go, you should be ready to meet the spiritual and physical demands. Remember that the important thing is not how old you are, but how prepared you are.

“If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work; ...  and faith, hope, charity, and love, with an eye single to the glory of God, qualify him for the work” (D&C 4:3–5).

How Can I Prepare?

If you haven’t done so already, develop and stick to a daily routine of scripture study. Aside from studying the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, study Preach My Gospel and The Missionary Handbook. You should be able to teach the lessons found in chapter three of Preach My Gospel and should have a personal testimony. You don’t need to have all the answers, but you should know how to find the answers you need through study and prayer. And it is OK if you feel that you need improvement in some areas. Make a plan to strengthen your weaknesses, and stick to that plan.

Missionaries must also be able to take care of themselves, including doing laundry, sewing on buttons, making meals, living on a budget, and so forth. Be sure to practice proper hygiene and make sure you are up to the physical demands. This may mean learning new skills or how to live a more healthy lifestyle.

What Should I Do about College?

If you plan to attend college, it is a good idea to go ahead and apply on the normal deadlines while you are still in high school. Once you're accepted, you can apply for a deferral at most colleges should you decide to serve right after graduating. This will help you be prepared to continue to progress after your mission.

How Will I Know When I'm Ready for a Mission?

Meeting with your bishop will help you know when you are ready to serve. Elder Nelson explained, “These age adjustments are new options now available to bishops in evaluating what is best for each of his youth. Young men or women should not begin their service before they are ready spiritually and temporally.” Many factors, such as school, health, worthiness, finances, and preparation, affect when you should serve. Prayerfully consider all of your options. Consistent prayer and regular meetings with your local priesthood leaders will help you know when you are sufficiently prepared.

Financial Preparation

Missionaries and their families should make appropriate sacrifices to provide financial support for a mission. Counsel with your parents and bishop regarding your specific situation.

How Do I Start the Recommendation Process?

If you and your bishop have determined that you are ready, your bishop will set up an online account that allows you to access the online missionary recommendation system and begin your mission paperwork. Things you will need to do include getting a doctor’s physical, updating your immunizations, and obtaining dental clearance. You will also be asked to provide some personal information and send a picture of yourself.

When Can I Go to the Temple?

One of the greatest blessings associated with preparing for your mission is the opportunity to receive the temple endowment after receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood and your mission call. You and your parents should work with your bishop to decide when you are ready to make and keep those sacred covenants. Study the temple preparation handbook and make sure your conduct is in line with temple worthiness standards.

Prepare Now

Prepare now so that you will be ready to serve when the time is right. As you prayerfully consult with your parents and Church leaders, you can know when you are ready.