Conference Report
Mission Calls and Selective Service
Elder Gordon B. Hinckley
Of the Council of the Twelve Apostles

Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, October 1965, pp. 99-103

I suppose, brethren, that not in a long while have we had a communication which has brought greater disappointment than did the First Presidency's letter of September 22nd, placing restrictions on the number of young men who may be recommended for missions. No one feels more concerned than I over the thought that possibly some of our young men who have counted on and dreamed of missions may not be able to go, at least in the immediate future.

Draft Officials Cooperative

I want to say that what has been done has been done voluntarily. For the past fifteen years I have worked with draft officials in matters affecting our missionary program. From the national director on down through state directors and local board members, I have found them to be reasonable, fair, and disposed to be cooperative when they understand our program. Only two weeks ago General [Lewis B.] Hershey was in Salt Lake City and met President McKay and said in the course of that interview that it had been a pleasure to work with this Church over the years in this difficult matter, and particularly so in comparison with some other organizations with whom he had had to deal. We have come a long way since the days of the Korean War, when we had such serious misunderstandings. At that time under the inspired direction of President McKay and under the wise counseling of President Stephen L Richards, his first counselor, we set about to establish a legal and legislative history so that we might know where we stood should there develop such a situation as we are faced with today.

Rights of the Church: The Obligations of Citizens

The repeated findings of the presidential appeal boards and the testimony of national Selective Service officials before both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees leave no doubt concerning the right of the Church to select, ordain, and send on missions such young men as we feel to call under our established procedures, and the eligibility of these young men for ministerial classifications. On the other hand, we recognize that the Selective Service System has an obligation under the law to meet certain requirements and quotas and that every young man in the United States who is a citizen, or who is in the United States as an alien under certain circumstances, has a military obligation imposed by the law. I should like to add parenthetically that the local draft boards did not write the law, that we did not write the law, and that our young men did not write the law. Congress wrote the law, and if you have complaints to make concerning the law, don't blame the draft board; more appropriately, you might write your congressman.

We have an obligation to uphold and sustain the law (A of F 1:12), as President Tanner made clear this morning. Local draft boards are made up of local citizens who perform without remuneration what at times must be for many of them an unpleasant duty. They deserve understanding rather than recrimination. They do not establish policies and regulations of their own. These are determined by national headquarters. I want to emphasize that we are not the enemy of Selective Service and that Selective Service is not our enemy.

Now as you know, draft calls have increased from about 8,000 in April to 34,600 for November. To meet these calls, national Selective Service headquarters, through state offices, imposes quotas on local boards. The boards must meet their quotas. If one young man cannot go for one reason or another, then some other Young man must go in his place. We should bear this fact in mind.

I have wanted to set forth these general principles as a preamble to what I wish to say briefly about our specific problem.

About 45 percent of our entire full-time missionary force comes from stakes within the area of Utah. It will be readily apparent to all that any appreciable increase in the number of young men sent on missions at a time when draft calls have been increased more than 400 percent could quickly result in serious tensions within local communities. These matters are likely to become emotional issues without regard to the facts. Parenthetically, I should like to mention one or two facts.

Deferment for Missionary Service, and School

Our figures indicate that for comparable periods we have sent only 4 percent more young men on missions during 1965 than we sent during 1964. The natural growth of the Church would account for that increase. Actually, with all of the emphasis placed on getting more young men on missions that has been given in stake conferences, antedating by many months the increased draft calls, we might reasonably have expected a larger increase. I have said this only to set the record straight, that except for possibly an occasional instance there has been no apparent abuse on the part of bishops and stake presidents and no apparent effort on the part of young men to go on missions to escape the draft, as some may have inferred. Why should there be? Under present regulations a young man may continue in school and qualify for deferment. But because tensions were beginning to build in some communities, as more and more young men were ordered for induction while other young men were going on missions, Utah Selective Service officials came to us and requested our cooperation in setting up a program to provide some restraint and control on the number of young men sent on missions, and thus make it possible for local boards to anticipate the number of young men in whose behalf the Church might request ministerial classifications. This program was designed to permit approximately the same number to go this year as went last. We thought their request to be reasonable and in the best interests of the Church, the Selective Service System, and the young men themselves. The letter of September 22nd was the result.

We recognize that there has been some serious disappointment. We have been assured that if it becomes apparent that the program as announced places too tight a restriction and results in injustices, the entire matter will be discussed, and if feasible, adjustments will be made.

Numerous questions have been raised by church officers from other states where the problem is not so acute. We have felt that the program should be the same throughout the nation. There is wisdom in consistency and uniformity, and the more nearly we stay with uniform procedures, the stronger our position in dealing with problems. We ask, therefore, that until we have had opportunity to observe the effects of the announced program over a period of months, that you follow it and not attempt negotiation with local officials in your particular cities or states. We shall keep close to the matter and shall be available for consultation with you at any time.

The Plan of the Church for Cooperation with Selective Service

Now very quickly, by way of amplifying and clarifying some points in the letter: The effective periods set up are periods of six months, one missionary per ward each six months, the dates being October 1st to March 31st inclusive, and April 1st to September 30th. The governing date will be the date of the letter of call, and if there be any local board members from the state of Utah who are listening to this tonight, I hope that they will not indulge in any speculative discussion on this matter until they have talked with the state Selective Service director or the deputy state director, with whom we have spent many hours in meetings.

Ward and branch quotas will be transferable within the area of the stake under the direction of the stake president, but will not be transferable at this time between the various stakes. No young man who has actually received notice of induction should be recommended for a mission. However, notice to report for preinduction physical examination should not be regarded as a notice for induction. It will not be unusual to find a young man who even though he has been called for a mission is ordered to report for preinduction physical examination. He must take that examination; and if there are any conflicting dates involved, I think that if you get in touch with us we can iron out those problems. We do not suggest that you go to boards and hasten examinations with the thought that some young men may be declared IV-F and may be able to go without being counted against the quotas.

Classifications not Under Quotas

Men in the following classifications will not be counted against the quotas. I would like to take just a moment to explain these classifications:

I-D are men with reserve classifications most of whom have served under the so-called six months' program. Their status may be subject to adjustment, depending on what happens concerning the reserves, and you should not consider that as a fixed situation governing the future.

I-Y are men given temporary deferments because of physical handicaps.

IV-A are for the most part men who have served two or more years on active duty.

IV-F are men who are disqualified for physical or mental reasons. I want to say that many men who have IV-F classifications can still be effective missionaries.

V-A are men 26 years of age or over and have no current military obligation.

Members of student Wards; Church Builders

Young men sent from student wards will be counted against the quotas of their home wards, although there may be some converts to the Church who have a student ward as a home ward.

Church builders who are out of their own wards and Indian students under the placement program will be considered as are students. No young man should be recommended for a mission more than thirty days in advance of his nineteenth birthday, and all recommendations concerning missionaries should give in detail the draft classification called for on the recommendation form, and also the name of the ward and the stake whose quota will be used by that particular individual.

Measures for maintaining missionary work

Now, brethren, we can do several things to keep the work going without a serious reduction in results:

1. We can strengthen our stake missions, which, in terms of hours spent, are far more fruitful in converts than are our full-time missions in terms of hours spent.

2. We can resolve that each one of us will be a missionary as President McKay has requested from this pulpit.

3. Bishops can and should appraise the older couples in their wards who might be eligible for missionary service and who can give needed service under some circumstances.

Plans and Saving for Missionary Service

Several bishops have been in during the last few days and have said that our young men have been saving money for years to go on missions. What shall they do? I say keep saving and praying. I think that every priesthood holder in the Church ought to pray for peace, and I have the faith that the Lord will hear and heed those prayers.

We know that wars will come upon the earth. The word of prophecy is clear on that. But somehow I feel satisfied that God will hear our prayers and that most of those young men who want to go on missions will have the opportunity to go on missions. Some who may not have the opportunity may help others to go. Some years ago a letter came to the office of the First Presidency reading substantially as follows:

"Dear Brethren:

"All my life I have dreamed of going on a mission. I saved my money to that end. Then during the Korean War I was wounded, and I now carry a metal plate in my head. Because of that you and my doctors have said that I should not go on a regular mission. I work hard all day shoveling sand in a brick and tile factory. From my small wages I have been able to add to my savings account. I have now withdrawn my savings and am sending you herewith a cashier's check for $1,500. Since I cannot go, please use it to help some worthy boy who can. I will share my savings with him and hope that he will share with me his joy as he labors in the ministry of the Lord."

I hope that each young man who has been saving will go on saving and praying and preparing for that day when every boy who desires to go may go, and that in the meantime we shall have the faith to accept this program and live with it, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.