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Why don’t missionaries get to choose where they serve?

When I was 18 and applying for a mission, I dreamed and wondered where I would go on my mission. I had always wanted to go to Scotland or Ireland for 2 years. That sounded pretty fun. Additionally, at the time, I did not want to learn a language. I wanted to go foreign but did not want to learn a language. So when the day came, I was anxious and excited to get my mission call and see where I had been called to. So where was I called? Taipei, Taiwan. So I did go foreign, but not where I wanted and I got to learn one of the hardest languages for English speakers. I loved every minute of my mission and looking back, I would not want to go anywhere else. As I have reflected back on my mission, I have wondered, why are we called by inspiration to where we are to serve rather than getting to choose where we serve?

The fifth article of faith states that:

We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.

(Emphasis added)

So right there in the articles of faith, we are taught that missionaries are to be called by prophecy. As with all things in the gospel, agency could, theoretically, be exercised to go against God’s will and send people out without the use of prophecy by those in authority to preach. But if we did this, we would be going out without God’s authority.

Beyond just simply being told that we must be called by prophecy to have the authority to preach the gospel, our Heavenly Father knows where each of us is needed. In a 2015 General Conference talk, Elder Ballard shared the process of how missionaries are called:

A member of the Quorum of the Twelve assigns every missionary to his or her mission. Although this is done without a traditional face-to-face interview, technology and revelation combine to provide an experience that is remarkably intimate and personal. Let me tell you how this happens.
Your photograph comes up on a computer screen, together with key information provided by your bishop and stake president. When your picture appears, we look into your eyes and review your answers to the missionary recommendation questions. For that brief moment, it seems as if you are present and responding to us directly.
As we look at your photograph, we trust that you have cleared in every way the “raised bar” required today to be a faithful, successful missionary. Then, by the power of the Spirit of the Lord and under the direction of President Thomas S. Monson, we assign you to one of the Church’s 406 worldwide missions.
How grateful I am that an inspired Apostle called me to serve in Taiwan rather than me picking my perfect vacation spot. In Taiwan, I grew spiritually and was able to serve the people there. To all the missionaries preparing to graduate high school and serve missions, thank you for serving and know that your call is inspired by our Heavenly Father!

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