The tool, which is available on LDS.org, is designed to help young men and women consider the timing of their service and leave when they are best prepared. Young men are eligible to serve as missionaries for 24 months beginning at age 18, while young women can serve for 18 months beginning at age 19. More than 65,000 missionaries currently serve in 407 missions around the world.
“Prospective missionaries should be prayerful and thoughtful as they determine the best time to begin their missionary service,” said Elder Brent H. Nielson, executive director of the Missionary Department. “In some cases, they may leave as soon as they turn 18 or 19. In other cases, they may decide to spend a little extra time preparing. That decision is best left up to the missionary and their parents as they prayerfully consider their circumstances.”
Many missionaries have traditionally begun their service based on the school year, often leaving during the summer months. Yet, according to Elder Nielson, there are some advantages to leaving during non-peak times, especially between November and May.
“Missionaries who spend a semester at college or working can gain useful life experiences that will prepare them for service,” Elder Nielson said. “They can have more individual attention in the missionary training center and be assigned to a more experienced first companion as they arrive in the field when they leave at a non-peak time.”
The mission planning tool is easy to use. Prospective missionaries can input their desired release date and will be prompted when to submit their application forms to increase the likelihood of returning at that time. They can also input the date they anticipate submitting their application to see when they will most likely enter the MTC.
The tool is also designed to help reduce the likelihood of a missionary asking to return home a few weeks early for school, work opportunities, or family events.
“This planning tool uses actual data updating continuously based on the Church’s missionary needs worldwide,” said Elder Nielson. “While it does not guarantee a missionary will leave on a certain date, it will help our young men and women be more deliberate and thoughtful as they decide when they will be best prepared to serve the Lord as a missionary.”
Planning When to Serve a Mission
If you want to start or finish your mission at a certain time, the Submission Planning Tool and the Mission Release Date Planning Tool can help you determine when to submit your recommendation. You and your family should also prayerfully consider the following points when deciding when to submit your recommendation.
Choosing the Right Time
When President Thomas S. Monson announced that young men could serve missions at age 18 and young women could serve at age 19, he added: “I am not suggesting that all young men [or young women] will—or should—serve at this earlier age. Rather, based on individual circumstances as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available” (“Welcome to Conference,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 4–5).
Many prospective missionaries plan their availability date—the earliest date they will be available to begin serving—based on the school year. In the Northern Hemisphere, this means that a high number of missionaries begin their service in July, August, or September. If this schedule is the best option for you, you are encouraged to plan your service accordingly.
However, you may benefit from taking a few more months to prepare for missionary service. If you might normally begin service in July, August, or September, choosing to start your mission between November and May could allow you to gain useful life experience that will help you prepare for a mission, such as serving in the temple, attending a semester of college, working to save money, living with roommates, or attending a young single adult ward.
In addition, if you start your service outside of peak times, you will typically receive more attention at the missionary training center (MTC) and in the field and be trained by more experienced missionaries.
Choosing to spend more time preparing to serve does not mean you are any less willing, worthy, or obedient. Your family, friends, and leaders can help you prepare by encouraging you to choose the best timing option for you.
Balancing the Number of Missionaries
Beginning missionary service in November through May also helps balance the number of missionaries starting their missions throughout the year. Many missionaries start their service in July, August, and September, while fewer missionaries start between November and May.
This peak in the number of missionaries can lead to crowding at MTCs and create challenges for mission presidents, who must adjust for a fluctuating missionary force at different times of the year.
The planning tools can help you determine the submission and availability dates that will allow you to begin serving or return home on your desired start or release date. The submission date is the day the stake president submits the recommendation, and the availability date is the earliest date a missionary is available to begin service.
Remember that completing medical exams and recommendation forms can take up to several months. Be sure to allow yourself enough time to fill out the recommendation early enough for your stake president to submit it by the desired date.
Please note that stake presidents cannot submit a recommendation more than 120 days before your availability date. Any special timing considerations should be included on the recommendation form.
Mission Release Date Planning Tool
This tool will help you determine which submission and availability dates will increase your chances of being released by a certain date.