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Reader voices: What I wish I knew when I opened the mission call

If you think it seems more people are leaving on missions than usual, you would be right. Yet, we have yet to see the true tidal wave. Many are waiting for the end of school before they prepare to leave on a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I was among the first wave to get my call after the age was changed. I never thought I would serve a mission, but that's a different story. Whether planned since junior Primary or, like me, your plans recently changed, the moment you open your call is an exciting, nerve-wracking, life-changing event. For many, it only happens once.

If you only have one shot, you probably want to make the most of it, right? Here are some tips from personal experience to make that moment as special as possible.

Just as the choice of when to serve a Mormon mission is personal, so is how you open the call. I don't mean the choice of a harpoon or tearing open the famous white envelope with your teeth. I mean, do you want to open it alone inside a bathroom, or do you want to include all your friends and relations and the mailman and the boy from the store check-out line?

As long as I can remember, my family has held a shindig for call openings. It was expected I do the same. The choice to serve a mission for the LDS Church is very close and personal for me, so I chose to be surrounded by loved ones. I only had my direct family and a handful of my closest friends. Do what you want, and decide before you pull it out of the mailbox.

If you do a shindig and decide to get pizza, keep the hot pizza boxes away from the envelope. The steam will slowly and torturously undo the sealing. This can work in your advantage if you plan on secretly opening your call before publicly doing so. Just be sure to reseal so you don't get discovered.

The LDS Church's Missionary Department is smart. They put a thick white paper in front of the letter announcing your call. Putting it up to the light or trying to see through the envelope won't work. See previous paragraph.

This next one is a biggy. If you are only opening your call with both your parents, your dog, or your entire tri-city area, be present in the moment. This moment will only happen once. Don't get into a whirl trying to make and answer phone calls while talking with the people who are with you. Take it one at a time. Soak it all in. All I can remember is that I had about half a slice of pizza. If it wasn't for written proof, I probably wouldn't even remember where I'm assigned.

We all have a number of people to contact after the call. There's your bishop, your old bishop, your home ward or student bishop, your stake presidents, Grandma Flo, Auntie Beth, crazy old roommates and a great many others. Keep a list so you don't leave anyone out. Write it on a Post-it or keep it in your phone. When things calm down a little more, you can make the calls without leaving out anyone.

With your call comes a booklet. You probably won't even read it until late that night. This booklet contains information about your mission such as your mission president, mission location, packing list and other need-to-know information. If you are with others, most likely they will have it and read it before you do. In fact, they will probably know more about your mission than you will by the end of the night.

It's very common that, for a while, you will feel like you don't know anything about your mission. Don't worry about this. You will realize you know more than you think. Once you are confident in your knowledge about your area, you'll quickly realize you still don't know anything. This is the way learning goes with any subject.

Keep the white envelope you get with the call and booklet. You can use it to save mission-related things, like passport pictures, fingerprints, receipts to track envelopes and anything else. When you need your vaccine records, they're filed away neatly with all your other mission things.

Overall, make it your own. Do what you want to do. This is a big moment in every missionary's life. Remember why you are doing it. God speed!

Aubrey Farnsworth received her mission call to the Adriatic North Croatian Mission in January and reported to the Missionary Training Center on May 29. She writes a blog on making ordinary life extraordinary at