LDS missionary calls issued after the death of Prophet Thomas S. Monson and before the ordination of President Russel M. Nelson contained a historically unique signature: Russell M. Nelson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles.
This may be the first time in modern history mission calls have been signed by someone who didn’t hold the title of church president, said Alexander L. Baugh, department chair of BYU’s Department of Church History and Doctrine.
Previously, church leaders would wait until the calling of the next prophet to issue mission calls.
“I think we can safely say that in the early period of the church mission calls were called a little bit differently,” Baugh said. “In more recent times, as the interim between the death of the president and the sustaining of the new one has become a few short days, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve would wait until the final ordination and reorganization of the First Presidency to begin again the process of approving mission calls.”
Hannah Richins, a soon-to-be missionary who received her call Jan. 13, is one of the missionaries who received a unique call signed by President Nelson.
Richins expressed her excitement at having a highly unique mission call.
“I had waited for my call for a very long time and I was getting super anxious about it,” Richins said. “It’s really crazy that someone else is signing the calls, rather than President Monson.”
Katie Powell is another missionary sister expecting her call.
“I think it’s really exciting that they’re still sending them out,” Powell said.
Powell said she believes the church has not put a halt on calls like it did in the past because missionary work has a been a big theme among leaders lately.
“They’ve really been pushing missionary work, and so I think they’ve really been sticking with that,” Powell said.
The church has heavily emphasized missionary work in recent years. Missionary work was a hallmark of President Monson’s presidency, with his significant changes and expansions, including the missionary age change announced in 2012.
Continuing to send out mission calls before the First Presidency was organized seems to be a continuation of that missionary movement.
“Rather than delay, the church moves forward,” Baugh said. “It just demonstrates the need to keep the work moving onward and upward.”