At the time of writing it is a week since Eleanor submitted her papers (application) to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a sister missionary she will serve for a period of 18 months. As she has prepared for this huge step the overwhelming question from people not of our faith is ‘Where is she going?’. Don’t get me wrong this is a question that we have as well, but we know that we won’t know for a while. Eleanor was unable to submit her papers until 120 days before her earliest start date- which in her case is her 19th birthday on 10th November. The process to get to the stage of submitting papers is an important one. She had to:
- Have medical and dental evaluations by our doctor and dentist. This is designed to highlight any limitations that the missionary may face and whether they are physically able to serve. The dentist was amazing but is the one Eleanor has been going to all her life and was interested in her forthcoming service. The doctor- not so much- but the evaluation and tests were done.
- An interview with the Bishop. This will have been unusual for Eleanor as I (her dad) am her Bishop. But it was an incredible experience for me (I can’t speak for her). We reviewed her papers and explored her motivation to serve, her testimony of the Saviour and the Restoration of the Gospel. Also her willingness to serve anywhere the Lord calls her to serve- this is important as it could be Leeds (though not Manchester) or Honolulu and everywhere in between. What we are sure of is wherever she is called it is where the Lord wants her to serve. As an aside I served my mission in Scotland.
- An interview with the Stake President. This will have covered much the same ground as the interview with the Bishop- but it is important that these two stages are gone through. The papers then sat with the Stake President until 13th July when he pressed submit and they were forwarded on.
So, how does the process of receiving her call work. After a brief check at the Area Office in Frankfurt to check all the paperwork is in order they are forwarded to Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City. One of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles is responsible for making the missionary assignments. Ronald Rasband (currently serving in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained in The Divine Call of a Missionary:
With the encouragement and permission of President Henry B. Eyring, I would like to relate to you an experience, very special to me, which I had with him several years ago when he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Each Apostle holds the keys of the kingdom and exercises them at the direction and assignment of the President of the Church. Elder Eyring was assigning missionaries to their fields of labor, and as part of my training, I was invited to observe.
I joined Elder Eyring early one morning in a room where several large computer screens had been prepared for the session. There was also a staff member from the Missionary Department who had been assigned to assist us that day.
First, we knelt together in prayer. I remember Elder Eyring using very sincere words, asking the Lord to bless him to know “perfectly” where the missionaries should be assigned. The word “perfectly” said much about the faith that Elder Eyring exhibited that day.
As the process began, a picture of the missionary to be assigned would come up on one of the computer screens. As each picture appeared, to me it was as if the missionary were in the room with us. Elder Eyring would then greet the missionary with his kind and endearing voice: “Good morning, Elder Reier or Sister Yang. How are you today?”
He told me that in his own mind he liked to think of where the missionaries would conclude their mission. This would aid him to know where they were to be assigned. Elder Eyring would then study the comments from the bishops and stake presidents, medical notes, and other issues relating to each missionary.
He then referred to another screen which displayed areas and missions across the world. Finally, as he was prompted by the Spirit, he would assign the missionary to his or her field of labour.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks, also of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, shared a similar experience along with some photographs:
I recently assigned missionaries, a sacred responsibility for which we always come fasting. I assigned 240, my share of the 1,047 (which includes young missionaries, senior couples, and senior sisters) whose papers were ready for assignment last week. We are assisted in this sacred experience by a member of the Missionary Department staff, who keeps records and manages the computer screens on which we view the essential information on elders and sisters and the needs (including languages) of our more than 400 missions in the world.
These pictures show Dwayne Saviano and I at work in that missionary assignment meeting.
To those of you who have served or will serve missions, thanks for your willingness to serve. We pray that the Lord will bless you in and for your missionary labours.
We do not know how long we will have to wait to receive the letter from the Prophet which assigns Eleanor to her field of labour. We are, at the same time, both excited and panicked. As a young missionary I left home at 18 excited for my service and the experience I was going to have. I never really considered the impact it would have on those I left behind- having a daughter prepare to serve the Lord helps me realise the sacrifice my mum made. It will be hard to have her away from us, but it is tempered by the knowledge that she is called by God to serve him and the people of [who knows?].