The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced changes to the recommendation process for young missionary candidates. These expanded opportunities will allow more young people to serve as missionaries in various capacities that meet their personal needs or circumstances. A letter was sent to Church leaders on November 16 to share these changes.
Beginning January 2, 2019, all young men and women in the United States and Canada — including those who may not be able to serve a proselyting mission due to health reasons — will use the same online recommendation process. They will complete recommendation forms, participate in interviews with their local Church leaders and undergo evaluations by medical professionals. Candidates will then receive a call from the president of the Church to serve either a proselyting or service mission.
“Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ will always be the primary purpose of missionary service,” said Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “so the Lord, through His leaders, will call most young people to find, teach and baptize converts. They will be assigned to one of the 407 missions all over the world.”
Those called as service missionaries live at home and serve at Church operations, with nonprofit and charitable community organizations or in other assignments approved by their local Church leaders. The service missionary program has been tested in various locations since 2014 and recently expanded to the entire United States and Canada.
“They make a huge difference,” said Elder Renlund of service missionaries. “They’re dependable, they show up, they do the work. They’re cheerful, they’re positive, they’re enthusiastic. They bring life and energy.”
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.
Additionally, proselyting missionaries who return home early due to accident, illness or other health conditions may be reassigned as service missionaries for the remainder of their missions.
That’s what happened to Elder Gavin Zierden, who is now a service missionary working with California State Parks in San Diego.
“I came home on a Thursday, and then that Sunday I was a missionary again,” he said. “I went from proselyting missionary to service missionary in a matter of days.”
Elder Joseph Horne, 21, from Holladay, Utah, returned from the California San Fernando Mission earlier this year because of a health issue. He now serves as a missionary in the Church’s Publishing Services Department, providing technical and user support for the Gospel Library app.
“It’s the service to the Lord that matters,” said Elder Horne.
Sister Carmen Juarez, 24, from Provo, Utah, was called to a service mission due to ongoing health challenges. In addition to supporting the Gospel Library app, Sister Juarez provides leadership and training to new service missionaries and has grown tremendously from the experience.
Service missionaries adhere to very similar standards of conduct as proselyting missionaries.
Leaders at community organizations who interact with service missionaries applaud their work and diligence.
“Every single program in our agency that has had the opportunity to work with these missionaries sings their praises about their reliability, their willingness to do whatever you ask them to do with a smile and with warmth,” said Dr. Robert Moser, executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of San Diego.
“This is serving the Lord as a missionary and bringing to pass God’s work,” said Elder Renlund. “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.”
Sister Emily Watson, 22, from South Jordan, Utah, serves at the LDS Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City. She feels her experience, while different from a proselyting mission, is just as important to God’s work.
“I’ve grown to love this mission as much as I would have loved a proselyting mission,” said Sister Watson. “You’re still a missionary. You wear the badge. You are called elder or sister, and the Lord loves what you’re doing. I feel that every day.”
Like all members of the Church, service missionaries are encouraged to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in every circumstance through their examples of goodness and Christlike service.
Additional information is available at www.lds.org/service-missionary.
Aleah is a graduate of Southern Virginia University, where she studied English, Creative Writing, and Dance. She now works full time as a marketing and product manager, writer, and editor. Aleah served a mission in California and loves baking, Lang Leav poetry, Gaynor Minden pointe shoes, and Bollywood movies.