Introduction by President Greg Maxwell (Magrath Alberta Stake): Early in 2018, the Magrath Alberta Stake agreed to be a beta-stake that would have prospective missionaries receive their mission calls by email. A number of other international stakes are also piloting this approach. Receiving calls by conventional postal delivery services has proven to have its share of challenges. Delays were sometimes a problem. Some missionaries were made aware of their mission calls through inadvertent contact from the very mission that they were called to before their official calls had been received. We welcomed the opportunity to explore how email deliveries would affect those receiving mission calls.
I was informed that since seven young men in our stake had submitted their applications at the same time, and made their available dates for service the beginning of July, all were going to receive an email on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. This email would notify them that their call was ready and in their mission portal. As a result, the young men and their families decided on a progressive opening with friends and families. It was very similar to a traditional opening of a mission call; however, seven in one evening was exceptional. By the end, the whole town was a buzz, and the experiences were uplifting for each individual who was called to serve the Lord. (Doctrine & Covenants 4:3)
Editors’ Note: Because four of the seven young men had basketball practice after school, the group decided to begin progressive openings starting at 6:00 p.m. Each person would get 30 minutes, and this schedule worked well. The purpose was that all of these prospective elders could be together to support each other. Because Jeron Bennet lives 15 minutes out of town, he agreed to go first at the seminary building.
First Opening: Jeron Bennett (parents Tom and Mindy Bennett) 6:00 p.m.
Comments by Jeron: Never before in my life have I felt as much joy or excitement as I did when I opened my mission call. I was too happy to cry and had an overwhelming feeling of peace and readiness for my future ahead. I remember when I read the words 'Colorado Springs' it was music to my ears and sounded like the prettiest place on earth!
Being the first one to open that night, I became so excited for the other boys who were going to open their own calls and was so grateful for their willingness to serve the Lord as well. Since then, many other boys in our stake, who have just graduated, received their own mission calls. All of our lives are about to change dramatically, but it will be such a wonderful change that will bring all of us closer to our Lord and Savior—Jesus Christ. (Doctrine & Covenants 88:63)
Second Opening: Kaj Anderson (parents Ryan and Emily Anderson) 6:30 p.m.
Kaj: I was really excited to be a part of this new project. While I was apprehensive about the idea of getting an email, I was relieved at how fast the call came. I got the text telling me my call had arrived in biology, and I saw that a couple of the other boys had too. We were so anxious that there was no way we could concentrate during the rest of class. I was the second to open my call, and I can just remember the overwhelming feeling of love I felt from my Saviour and all my friends and family. Having us all open the same night gave us such a sense of unity. The Spirit was so strong at each boy's opening, and it seemed to grow as we went from house to house. We all felt it testify again and again that the Church is true and that we are called to a consecrated work. (2 Nephi 32:9)
Ryan: I am privileged to be in a dual role as father and bishop. Kaj is my son and Levi and Austin are in my ward. I received notice that my three priests had received their calls online. After I texted them that their calls would be coming soon, they all responded that they had already had received a text from the Mission Department indicating they could review their mission calls by tapping a hyperlink.
As we followed each of the future missionaries from home to home that evening, it was a special experience. It was a blessing to celebrate the evening with each family and their friends. Our home was filled with 80 youth to watch Kaj open his call. The spirit that these youth brought to our home was a great blessing to our family. (Exodus 32:29)
Third Opening: Levi Steed (parents Patrick and Denise Steed) 7:00 p.m.:
Denise: Levi sent me a text message, at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, telling me that his call was in his mission portal. As they gathered, I especially took note of the high school youth in our home: some not members of our Church, some from less active homes. One of the basketball coaches, the young men’s president, seminary teacher, bishops and their wives were also present. It truly was a gathering of the community. As a parent, I felt an overwhelming outpouring of love and support for our son.
I feel that this experience was very unifying for these young men. They have an attitude of watch-care to help each other prepare for their missions. Each mission location was exciting to find out, but the excitement of when they were going and that they were all going was even more important to each of the youth. I also feel a unity between us as parents supporting each other's children. (Romans 12:5)
Fourth Opening: Taylor Cook (parents Ron and Leisha Cook) 7:30 p.m.
Taylor: Receiving all of our mission calls on the same day was a really cool experience. The opening of my call would have been momentous on its own, but to be able to share that experience with six close friends (three of them cousins) was really exciting and something I will never forget. The camaraderie helped dispel some of the nervousness that I'm sure I would have felt normally. The main spiritual feeling that I got while watching everyone open their calls was that even though we are all going to different missions, we are all united in the same purpose—collectively spreading the gospel. (Doctrine & Covenants 133:8)
I believe this had a very large impact on the community. Since this is a small town of about 2000 people, everyone knows who you are. I know that my little brothers and extended family were especially excited to see me open my call. Others were brought to tears seeing us all share these joyous moments. One friend of mine who doesn't know if he wants to serve a mission came up and gave me a big hug. With tears in his eyes, he thanked me for being such a good example to him. I hope fervently that this will have a positive impact and will influence people who are on the fence to decide to serve a mission.
Leisha: I feel the whole community was affected in a positive way! I think it really helped all of us get excited about missionary work. I was worried that they might compare their calls about where they were going to serve, but they knew that each one had received the Lord’s call—specifically for them. Because of that, they all felt happy with their assignments. It was such a unifying experience for the boys, and a very memorable day.
Fifth Opening by: Paycen Blackmore (parents Ryan and Mindy Blackmore) 8:00 p.m
Paycen: Getting my mission call was definitely one of the most exciting things to have happened to me. To receive it by email at the same time as six of my best friends made it even better. Starting at the first call, there were probably over 30 people. Plus, others were viewing online. By the time it reached my house, we counted over 90 people. It was amazing to see the love and support that we received from so many in our community.
One of my favorite parts was seeing other boys in our stake, who were a little hesitant of going on a mission directly out of high school, immediately go to work to finish their mission papers. Presently, I know of at least five others in our small stake that have received mission calls, and another handful are just finishing their papers. In my family, my little brother has also mapped out all the cool things in my mission, including information about the Melbourne Australia Temple.
People wonder if sharing the night with the others made it less special. It did not. Our focus was not where we were going or the number of people at our openings. Instead, I felt overwhelmed and excited to serve. At the end of the day that is really what it’s about: humbling ourselves and preparing to serve the Lord wherever He needs and decides to send us. I know that Australia is where I need to be, and I am becoming more and more excited to serve. (Doctrine & Covenants 104:79)
Sixth Opening by: Austin Wocknitz (parents Brett and Michelle Wocknitz) 9:00 p.m.
Austin: On Sunday evening March 11, 2018 at our Stake Priest/Laurel Standard night, President Maxwell told each of us separately we would be receiving our calls on Tuesday afternoon. This made it feel a lot more real, which made me a bit more nervous, but getting to do it with my friends also made it a little easier. Tuesday morning, the seven of us talked together and decided what times would work best for our families.
Michelle: Nothing like this has ever happened in our small town. These boys have known each other their whole lives. When word got out that seven boys would be receiving their mission calls all on the same day, it spread like wildfire. What an amazing experience it was to go to these young men's homes and see people of all ages, especially their peers (some less active, some not of our faith) and feel their excitement for these boys.
At each mission call opening the group got bigger and bigger. At Austin's, my husband stopped counting people by the time he got to 100. Some might think this should have been more private with just close family members, but feeling the spirit in each home was an unforgettable experience. They took this opportunity to share the gospel in a new way. (1 Corinthians 12:4)
Austin: At first, I was kind of disappointed, but an email was a whole new experience itself. My call came a lot faster, and it also made it easy to find information about my mission. Instead of opening a letter, I am glad that I was able to be a part of these beta-testing emails. I think many others would also enjoy this new experience.
Seventh Opening by: Jack Bennett (parents Russ and Lindsay Barnett) 9:30 p.m.
Lindsay: To know what day the calls were coming was fantastic. We could plan and have people there to support Jack and the other boys. When Jack’s turn came, our house was so full that I stopped counting at 130 people. There was such a sense of love and support for all of these boys and their families.
President Maxwell came to our home a little early to print off the call. After Jack had signed into his portal, President Maxwell printed it and put it in an envelope for him to open. Everything about this experience was uplifting and a gentle reminder that our Saviour is very aware of us personally.
It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. My entire time in Magrath I have felt that my kids are watched over, and I in turn feel a sense of responsibility to these boys whom I love. I know that Jack and the others will represent our Saviour, and our Church to the best of their abilities! (Doctrine & Covenants 4:2)
Jack: Throughout that mission call day, we were continually checking our phones to see if any of us had received our calls yet. I can distinctly remember that Austin, Paycen, Jeron and I were sitting in chemistry at 3:00 and our phones went off. Austin grabbed his phone, then looked at me; then we looked at Paycen; then we looked at Jeron. Sure enough, our mission calls had come.
Not only did it unite us as young men, but it united all our families and community together as well. Our parents came to each of our call openings, and the anticipation hung in the air for them as well. The parents were all hugging each other because they could relate to having a member of their family leaving. It truly showed that we care about each other and that we are here for each other too.
I will be completely honest: I don't think there has been another moment in my life when I felt as much love as I had that night. The incredible thing was that the love kept building up at each house we went to, and every single person attending could feel it. The spirit was so strong. By the time we came to my house, my heart was just bursting with so much love. By the end, I was crying, as were many of the young men and young women. It was so wonderful to know that so many people were there to bring their support and love. (John 13:34-35)