The (not) farewell: 5 unique ways to celebrate your departing missionary

(Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom.)

(Photo courtesy Mormon Newsroom)

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.


Breanna Olaveson worked in the magazine industry before taking her writing from full-time to nap time with the birth of her first daughter. Her work has appeared in the Ensign, Liahona and New Era magazines, as well as Utah Valley Magazine, Utah Valley BusinessQ, Utah Valley Bride and the Provo Daily Herald. She lives in Utah county with her husband and three children. She blogs at

One Comment

  1. AvatarLiz Reply

    All of your suggestions are contrary to this direction. He says no public or large reception. He says they do not object to the FAMILY getting together, it does not say friends or members of the ward, he just says families. Also, this has been policy since 1966.
    Here is an excerpt from a 1971 New Era church policy article:

    Farewells—’Since September 1966, it has been Church policy that no missionary farewells be conducted in sacrament meetings. Failure to observe this policy in some areas makes it advisable to reiterate the policy concerning the recognition of departing missionaries: (1) The bishop or branch president should invite the departing missionary to speak in sacrament meeting, not as part of a farewell program, but simply as a sacrament meeting speaker concerning whom no special notice, publicity, or fanfare is given. (2) Farewell program leaflets and newspaper notices are not to be printed. (3) Collections are not to be taken up at the door; however, members may well be encouraged to contribute to a ward or branch missionary fund from which missionaries are assisted with travel and other expenses. Individuals are free to make personal contributions directly to missionaries. (4) Bishops and branch presidents should counsel families against holding receptions or open houses for departing missionaries; accordingly, announcements in church meetings of such receptions or open houses would be out of order.’

    If you know of this important policy, you won’t have hurt feelings when your good bishop or branch president counsels you against certain kinds of activities that are no longer in keeping with Church procedures.”

    It seems clear that, Yes, it does “mean families and friends can’t get together to send off the missionary they love.”

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