Changes to the recommendation process for prospective missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have just been announced. Service missionary candidates will apply the same way as proselyting missionary candidates, through an online portal, and their mission calls will likewise come from the prophet.
“Their call will be from the prophet,” said Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a video on MormonNewsroom.org. “They will apply just like every other missionary to full-time missionary service.”
Additionally, missionaries who are not able to complete a proselyting mission due to mental, physical and emotional health reasons may be able to transfer to a service mission for the remainder of their mission.
“These changes will affect the lives of young people and their parents in the U.S. and Canada in a significant way,” said Ben Porter, managing director over the service mission programs of the Church.
Missionary candidates don’t get to pick their type of mission. Mission assignments are made under priesthood keys by prophets and apostles based on the information provided in the application, which includes various evaluations.
During the recommendation process, all candidates will be considered first for full-time proselyting missions. Those unable to be called as proselyting missionaries for physical, mental or emotional reasons may be called as service missionaries. In some cases, candidates will be honorably excused from any formal missionary service.
Called to serve
If a candidate will not be called to a proselyting mission, a representative from the Church's Missionary Department will counsel with the stake president before a service mission call is issued. Those called as service missionaries will work with their stake president and local facilitators to find the best service opportunities for them.
“The Lord said if you have desires to serve, you are called to the work,” said Elder Renlund. “This is serving the Lord as a missionary and bringing to pass God's work. … (Service missionaries) bring great blessings to themselves, but more importantly, as they are doing this work, they’re blessing Heavenly Father’s children in unique ways.”
According to the updated website Service Missionary website, “A service missionary is called by the Lord through His prophet to serve in an environment uniquely tailored to his or her talents, skills and gifts.”
What it means to be a service missionary
When reoccurring health problems prevented Schuyler Mickelson from completing her proselyting mission in Boston, Massachusetts, she was “devastated and really sad. I was depressed for months and months,” she said.
But an opportunity to serve as a young Church-service missionary at Church headquarters “changed everything for me,” she said. “It gave me a purpose and made me feel like I had worth and could contribute to the Lord’s work.”
Changes to the Church’s missionary programs announced Nov. 16 will further expand service opportunities for worthy young adults like Schuyler who desire to serve a mission.
Mickelson has an extensive background in music. Being a service missionary in the Church’s Music Department on the new hymnbook project was a great fit for what she had to offer. “It felt like a big blessing because I was working on the best project for the skills and talents I have been developing since I was young.” She hopes other missionaries can have a similar experience.
Service missionaries serve on Church farms in Florida and Texas or in departments at Church headquarters in Utah, or they help with seminary and institute enrollment and other stake-assigned service opportunities. Catholic Charities, Habitat for Humanity, and the California Old Towne state park are some of the non-Latter-day Saint organizations that currently use service missionaries. “The Church is always looking for more partners who need service volunteers,” said Porter.
Service missionaries serve anywhere from six months to two years, live at home, and serve locally. “They make a huge difference,” said Elder Renlund. “They’re dependable, they show up, they do the work. They’re cheerful, they’re positive, they’re enthusiastic. They bring life and energy.”
Proselyting missionaries from the United States or Canada who are not able to complete their missions due to mental, physical and emotional health reasons may have the option of transferring to a service mission, if approved by their stake president.
Regardless of the type of mission someone is called to, the Lord is behind the call and equally values all service rendered in His name. According to the updated Service Missionary website, “Service missions are acceptable offerings to the Lord when a proselyting mission is not possible. … All missionaries represent the Lord and are His agents in the work of salvation.”
“They go about doing good, just like the Savior did,” said Elder Renlund.
Parents and potential missionary candidates are encouraged to visit the Service Missionary website and then talk to their bishops about their desire and eligibility to serve.