Mission farewell and homecoming

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Mormon Couple Missionary
Young men are encouraged to serve missions when they turn 18. Young women have the opportunity to serve when they turn 19. Young men and women must be unmarried to serve a mission, but retired couples can serve missions together, as long as health permits. These retired couples can serve several missions.

Missionaries often speak to the congregation during Sacrament Meeting when they depart on their missions, and when they return home. This is meant to be a single talk, according to Church policy. However, in the past, sacrament meetings in which missionaries spoke were called "farewells" and "homecomings," and the missionary and his or her family, instead of the bishop, would often end up selecting the program, especially in the case of "farewells." Every member of the family would often speak, and there would be special musical numbers.

Another traditional aspect of the "farewell" was an "open house" after the meeting, in which the family of the missionary would often open up their home to many guests.

In the October General Conference of 2002, President Gordon B. Hinckley presented a modification of this tradition. In some wards, "farewells" and "homecomings" ended up taking over far too many sacrament meetings. President Hinckley stated:

The First Presidency and the Twelve, after most prayerful and careful consideration, have reached the decision that the present program of missionary farewells should be modified.
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. There might be two or more departing missionaries who speak in the same service. The meeting will be entirely in the hands of the bishop and will not be arranged by the family. There will not be special music or anything of that kind.
We know this will be a great disappointment to many families. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and friends have participated in the past. We ask that you accept this decision. Where a farewell has already been arranged, it may go forward. But none in the traditional sense should be planned for the future. We are convinced that when all aspects of the situation are considered, this is a wise decision. Please accept it, my dear brethren. I extend this plea also to the sisters, particularly the mothers.
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.
Missionary service is such a wonderful experience that it brings with it its own generous reward. And when a missionary returns to his family and his ward, he may again be given opportunity to speak in a sacrament meeting.[1]

The greatest blessing after the acceptance and adjustment that has come since President Hinckley's talk, is the focus of sacrament meeting on the Savior Jesus Christ and on partaking of the sacrament.