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Friday, February 15, 2013

So You Want to Serve a Mission...

In response to Margie's comment from my last post, here's what I know about LDS missions.

image: ldsfamily.net

First, I need to quote from Brooke's post I just read at her blog (she's listed on my sidebar under "My Friends' Blogs"). She just worded it so well....

The fabulous Brooke
"in the LDS church, young men (and many young women) choose to give two years to missionary service. They put school, jobs, their personal life, and everything else on hold to travel to any one location around the world. They do not choose where they go. They are not compensated with money, college credit, or anything else. They spend every day serving others and telling them what true happiness is all about. To learn more, go to mormon.org."

#1's friend, Matt, serving in San Salvador
Young men can serve missions any time after 18-years-old as long as they have graduated from high school or obtained its equivalent. Young women can serve any time after they are 19. Retired couples can also serve, and from what I understand, have a lot more say in where they serve and how. Their rules are very different from younger missionaries.

image: runningwithlumpy.blogspot.com
In regard to these rules, they may be considered rather strict, but all missionaries go into this experience being aware of these rules and agreeing to obey them. In the mission I served, there were a few extra cultural rules we were to obey. We learned of these after we arrived in the country--not walking while chewing, not getting money out in the chapel, etc. Just some things that would make us more socially acceptable to those we served. Many foreign missions, I'm sure, have these.

Going on a mission is a choice. It is much more expected for young men than for young women, but it is a choice. Prospective missionaries can indicate the date they are available to begin their service on the papers they submit.

image: ratcliffefamily.org  
These forms are all available online and the majority of them are filled out electronically. A person who desires to serve a mission is directed to the site for these forms during an interview with his/her bishop. Every missionary, in order to complete their missionary papers successfully, has to have a medical and dental check up and an interview with his/her bishop and stake president.

The medical and dental forms are to be printed out and taken, along with a stamped envelope, at the times of appointments. They are to be sealed in the envelope and sent to the potential missionary's bishop. If there are medical or dental concerns that need to be resolved, those things must be done and resubmitted before the interviews. The missionary also submits a photo of him/herself.

In #1's case, the only medical hitch was a slightly elevated white blood cell count. The doctor had requested she return and have another test run four weeks after the first. #1 did this and had the results submitted to the bishop. Many young people have to have wisdom teeth removed, so they don't become a problem during the time of their service. Many of the medical issues are just things that need to be resolved so they don't interfere with the hard work of a missionary.

After the last interview, at the push of a button, the forms are submitted. The earliest they can be turned in is 120 days before the indicated date of availability.

Where a young person serves, isn't a choice. It is assigned by the leaders of the Church in Salt Lake City. Here is a link to a previous post that indicated many of the possibilities. Here are the details of that process:

 After the decision is made, a letter is sent to the missionary via the postal system. These letters are usually received within three weeks of the submission. Here's a little sampling for you (saw this first on Facebook. Pretty amazing!):


image: mtc.byu.edu 
When the call arrives, the mission is stated as well as the language a missionary will teach in, when the missionary will enter the MTC (Missionary Training Center), and how long he/she will be at the MTC. There are various centers throughout the world, so where one reports will often depend on where one is called to serve. Originally, I wrote that missionaries learning a foreign language stay in the MTC for two months and those speaking their native language stay for three weeks. That has changed. I just learned from a man who works at the MTC and commented on a Facebook post that questioned this very thing that:

"Native speakers stay 12 days. Latin, German, and Nordic languages stay six weeks either at Provo or other MTC. Asian, Russian, and other languages stay nine weeks."

With the increase in missionaries, I'm sure this is subject to change again and again as they try to find just what to do with the enormous influx.

Along with the letter is a map of the mission, any needed forms, and a list of needed supplies, including a list of appropriate clothing.

image: amazon.com
At this point in time, missions cost $400 a month. For young women, who serve 18 months, that comes to $7200. For young men, who serve for 2 years, it's $9600. There are other expenses--clothing, passport, etc. that need to be figured in too, though. For #1, we have figured that we need to have $8000 secured for her. We have also felt that a good portion of this money needs to be her responsibility. There is something about an increase in self-esteem as well as a feeling of ownership that comes with this process.

As I'm writing this, though, I'm realizing that I believe the missionary has to get him/herself to the MTC. This is something we need to add into our budget. Oops. Margie, I'm glad you asked this question.

The MTC entrance date will allow for time to acquire the needed supplies--typically a couple months; although we have a friend who recently received her call who was allowed 40 days. Then, there are those called to foreign countries that have a more complicated process to receiving a needed visa. These calls require six months or more to prepare. For some missions, special shots are required.

We laughed when I got to the MTC. I hadn't been required to get any shots, about which I was very relieved, until I got to Provo's MTC. Once there, they shared with us that every missionary had to have a measles shot. Provo had a measles epidemic going on at the time, so we went by shuttle to a health center for the immunization.

image: theodora.com
My brother and husband, though, both served in South American missions. They had to have a variety of vaccinations. My brother, who served in Cali, Colombia, often wrote about the gamma globulin shot, how huge the needle was, and the thickness of the injected substance. Nearly every letter had a drawing to illustrate the experience. Is it any wonder I was relieved with my call and the lack of required immunizations?

So, there you have it, the preparations for an LDS mission, in a nutshell. Our family is now in the waiting stage of this process. Late next week might just contain the moment of truth. Do you have a feeling about where she will go? Leave a comment, I'd love to read it.

image: missions.net

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