Missionary Farewell Talks

Mormon Missionaries Elder Smith and Lopez in Rosario Argentina SmilingWhen I left for my mission to Rosario Argentina in 1995, on the Sunday before I left there was held a farewell sacrament meeting for me. My grandma spoke, either my father or mother (or both) spoke, and I spoke. I remember my grandma and my father commenting on my good smile. I suppose if I had nothing else going for me in terms of missionary skills (Spanish language skills, gospel teaching skills, etc.) at least I had a good smile 🙂

While I believe my farewell sacrament meeting was completely appropriate, at this time period, back in the 1990s, not all missionary farewells were appropriate. In some instances, the entire sacrament meeting was virtually turned over to the family to do as they pleased, including at times, lengthy talks and elaborate musical numbers. Some families would send out invitations and hold reception lines at the church or do other things that would detract from the sacred nature of a mission call.

In October 2002, President Gordon B. Hinckley put that practice of missionary farewells to rest. Said he:

“Now we have an interesting custom in the Church. Departing missionaries are accorded a farewell. In some wards this has become a problem. Between outgoing missionaries and returning missionaries, most sacrament meetings are devoted to farewells and homecomings.

No one else in the Church has a farewell when entering a particular service. We never have a special farewell-type meeting for a newly called bishop, for a stake president, for a Relief Society president, for a General Authority, or anyone else of whom I can think. Why should we have missionary farewells?

The First Presidency and the Twelve, after most prayerful and careful consideration, have reached the decision that the present program of missionary farewells should be modified.

The departing missionary will be given opportunity to speak in a sacrament meeting for 15 or 20 minutes. But parents and siblings will not be invited to do so. There might be two or more departing missionaries who speak in the same service. The meeting will be entirely in the hands of the bishop and will not be arranged by the family.

…We are convinced that when all aspects of the situation are considered, this is a wise decision. Please accept it, my dear brethren. I extend this plea also to the sisters, particularly the mothers.

We hope also that holding elaborate open houses after the sacrament meeting at which the missionary speaks will not prevail. Members of the family may wish to get together. We have no objection to this. However, we ask that there be no public reception to which large numbers are invited.

Missionary service is such a wonderful experience that it brings with it its own generous reward. And when a missionary returns to his family and his ward, he may again be given opportunity to speak in a sacrament meeting.” (To Men of the Priesthood, General Conference, October 2002)

sacrament meeting speakerSince that time, newly called missionaries have continued to be, as they should be, invited to speak in sacrament meeting a week or two before they depart. And while the sacrament program is not a farewell meeting, it is still the missionary’s farewell talk and most people still refer to it as the missionary farewell.

Priesthood leaders and missionaries should remember the following guideline with regard to missionary farewells:

  • It is a regular sacrament meeting, not a missionary farewell meeting.
  • The bishopric will plan and conduct this meeting, including assigning topics and musical numbers, as they normally do, making sure they are worshipful, faith promoting, and gospel oriented.
  • Family members and friends of the missionary should not be invited to speak so people don’t get the impression that the meeting is a missionary farewell.
  • If there are other departing or returning missionaries around the same time, they can and should be invited to speak in the same sacrament meeting.
  • Missionary talks should not dominate the sacrament meeting schedule to the exclusion of other valuable subjects and speakers.
  • The regular time of the sacrament meeting should not be extended.
  • Members should avoid holding open houses for missionaries (except for family gatherings).

Related Article: How to Write a Talk

6 replies
  1. Aaron
    Aaron says:

    Hi, I’m Preparing to serve a mission and was wondering how long it is between your availability date and when you can send your papers in? I’ve heard 90 day, 120 days, and six months.

    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      My understanding is that it is 120 days. A few year ago, it was 90, but when they lowered the age in 2012, there was a large influx of applications and the church needed more time to process them, so they increased it to 120 days. Check out my article about the mission application timeline for more details. Good luck, and God bless you on your mission.

    • Sean
      Sean says:

      I put my availability date about 120 days after I submitted my papers, however, the official call has me leaving closer to 6 months after I sent the papers in.

      • Jimmy
        Jimmy says:

        Sean, I think what you have experienced is relatively common. It would be rare for you to receive the call to begin your mission the week of your availability date. That could happen, but generally it will be a few weeks after your availability date. Eight weeks after your availability date is a little long, but not uncommon. Good luck on your mission and God bless you.

    • Eric Mecham
      Eric Mecham says:

      I put my papers in with my availability date actually past so I don’t think it matters too much just whenever you are comfortable with leaving.

  2. Mateo Feletoa
    Mateo Feletoa says:

    Thank you for this. I got into a bit of an argument with Bishop over this issue. I understand now that we shouldn’t prioritize Missionary farewells and homecomings over the true importance of the meeting, the renewal of our covenants through the sacrament. I need to apologize to my Bishop now. Thanks again!


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