In 2002, President Gordon B. Hinckley, who was then president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, mentioned the common practice of hosting a missionary “farewell” on a Sunday prior to the departure of a full-time missionary. These often included talks and special musical numbers from members of the missionary’s family and concluded with an open house reception at the missionary’s home immediately after sacrament meeting.
Though these types of sacrament meeting farewells were once encouraged, they were minimized in 2002 when President Hinckley said that 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.” He continued, “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.”
However, that doesn’t mean families and friends can’t get together to send off the missionary they love. Here are a few unique ideas for celebrating your departing missionary without the Sunday open house.
1. Celebrate the mission call (and that’s all)
Many missionaries choose to invite family and friends to watch them open their mission calls. Because many of the missionary’s loved ones are present, why not combine this with the farewell celebration? Families can invite friends, neighbors and extended family members to be there for the mission call opening, have some food and share their love for the missionary. You might even consider inviting guests to bring a letter for the missionary that can then be compiled into a book of advice and encouragement.
2. Host an open house closer to departure
Because of the structure of sacrament meeting schedules, some missionaries may speak in sacrament meeting weeks before their actual departure. In these cases, it may make more sense to host an open house for the departing missionary the Sunday evening just prior to departure. This will make the event feel more immediate and will be a more fitting farewell party than one held several weeks in advance. Plus, you won’t be asking everyone to skip all of their other church meetings.
3. Make it a surprise party
Wonderful as post-sacrament meeting lunches are, they’re not much of a surprise. If your missionary is expecting a traditional get-together, you might consider throwing a surprise farewell party the night before. This will allow any family traveling long distances for the occasion to be there and won’t require too much additional planning (since you were planning on hosting the party the next day anyway).
4. Celebrate at a restaurant
Mom and Dad may be able to enjoy the celebration more if someone else does the cooking. This is a great alternative to an open house for families who don’t have a lot of room to host a party, and if guests purchase their own meals, can also help alleviate a financial burden from the family. Celebrating your missionary’s departure at his or her favorite restaurant is a great way to honor him/her and can be much less stressful than an open house.
5. Push the celebration back a few hours
If the day your missionary speaks in church is really, truly the only day that family and friends can celebrate, you can always push the celebration back a few hours — after all, they understand when a wedding reception is a few hours after the temple ceremony. Pushing the celebration to Sunday evening can also make it so more people can come — Sundays are busy days — and will ensure that everyone can relax and enjoy the party.