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A look at Mormon missionary training process

Published: Monday, March 21 2011 11:00 a.m. MDT

When all of that is lined up, the application goes over to a member of the [Quorum of the] Twelve. We do not assign missionaries in the Missionary Department. That is all done at the Quorum of the Twelve level.

Every Friday morning, a member of the Twelve sits in a relatively small room in the Church Administration Building to make assignments. We send a staff person over with the database, if you will, with all of those missionaries who are prepared to be called and they make the assignment. And the member of the Twelve makes them individually, one by one, based on very sparse information that we show them on a computer screen as to their health, any language training they've had perhaps in high school and that's about it.

For example, if they have a particularly allergy — let's use the example of an allergy to cut grass — we will have in our database all of those missions where cut grass may be an issue. And so the assigning member of the Twelve can see that. Now he may wish to completely override that — that's his prerogative.

So nothing that we show that member of the Quorum of the Twelve restricts him in any way as to where that young missionary may serve. We also show the missions that are below complement – that is that need new missionaries — and those that have enough or are over complement. He can override those factors — and I have seen that happen. I've seen all of the above. I've sat in on a few of those meetings.

And it's a process of inspiration. I'm absolutely satisfied that that is the case. Every single name and picture is read and looked at and thought about and the assignment is made on an individual basis. The computer does not make assignments.

Question: You've spoken of your own mission – what did it mean for you serving in Germany?

Elder Hinckley: I mentioned before the interview that I'm returning to my own mission field tomorrow – after 50 years. I went out 50 years ago last month. And it did everything for me. In the intervening 50 years, there's probably not a day in my life that has gone by that I haven't thought of my mission — one experience or another. Mostly, of course, it is the people you meet — the members you meet, the nonmembers you meet, the people whom you helped come into the church.

It had a tremendous influence in my life. It gave me confidence — I was a backward, painfully shy boy when I went out — so painfully shy that I didn't think I could do it. By the time I got home, I was able to look people in the eye and talk to them with confidence. With all of the wonderful religious experiences and spiritual experiences we have aside, it is a wonderful way for a young man or a young woman to gain confidence, to gain poise, to gain the ability to deal with people and talk with people with confidence and to face life and face challenges.

Missions are a place where rejection happens every day, and it's healthy — it's a healthy thing for a young person to face rejection and to develop the faith and the tenacity and the perseverance to deal with it and to overcome it and to get up in the morning, to get dressed and go out and face it again. It builds strength — it builds spiritual strength, it builds emotional strength and it builds character.

Question: Back to the Provo MTC — you go there to accompany diplomats, consul generals, people specializing in linguistics training. What do these visitors say after they've been there?

Elder Hinckley: They're never quite prepared for what they feel, let alone what they see. And that always comes out.

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