Okay, so you’ve decided to go on a mission. What next? The first step is to talk with your bishop. He is the one who will be able to open up the online recommendation system, enabling you to begin filling out your papers online.
Question: How do I fill out my mission papers?
Answer: The term “mission papers,” though standard, is now a little antiquated. In most cases, you will be able to use a simple and easy online recommendation system, available through the website for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. No paper necessary! Your bishop will need to get the application started for you, and then you will be free to log in and work on it at your own convenience.
Question: If I am in a Young Single Adult Ward, should I start my papers through my bishop there, or the bishop of my family ward?
Answer: In many areas, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has special wards or congregations set apart for young, unmarried adults between the ages of 18 and 30. For some, this is the only congregation they have ties to, but others also have a home ward, where their family goes (and often where the individual attended before deciding on going to the young single adult ward). If you have ties to more than one ward, begin by talking with the bishop of the ward you are currently attending (in other words, if you are at school attending a student ward, talk to that bishop; if you are home attending your family ward, talk to that bishop). He will be able to offer you guidance as to the best place to begin your papers. Note that only the bishop that currently holds your membership records can open the application for you. If you decide to start your papers through a different ward than the one you are currently attending, you need to talk to your ward’s executive secretary to have your membership records transferred to where you will be filling out your papers.
Question: How soon can I start my mission papers?
Answer: Mission papers can be submitted for review in Salt Lake beginning 120 DAYS before your availability date. This means that, when possible, you should begin filling out your mission papers two-four months before this date. Beginning early allows you plenty of time to collect all the information that you need and accomplish any tasks that may need completion before you are able to submit your papers (a list to follow later this week).
Question: When should I set my availability date?
Answer: The availability date is the earliest date that you are willing and able to leave and begin mission service. Church policy states that the earliest a young man may be recommended for missionary service is at 18, and young women may begin serving at 19. A young women’s availability date, however, does not necessarily need to be her 19th birthday. Keep in mind this quote by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“We are not suggesting that all young men (or women) will—or should—serve at this earlier age. Many will still prefer to start at age 19 or older…Young men or women should not begin their service before they are ready spiritually and temporally.”
When considering your availability date, be prayerful in considering things like school, work, and family. Some people will choose to leave as soon as possible, while others will want to wait for the end of a school semester, graduation, or a big event like a relative’s wedding before setting their availability date.