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1945: President McKay raises the bar.
“In making your selection, however, please choose only young men and young women, who are worthy to represent the Church. The missionary field is not a reform school. True, it does bring about a reformation in those who need reforming. Missionary experience develops character, and brings the sincere laborer into spiritual contact with his Father in heaven, but no young man and no young woman should be sent out to be reformed. Stake and ward organizations of the Church are established for that purpose. We have been rather embarrassed even within the last few months, because of the insistence on the part of parents or, as in one case, of a bishop, that a young girl should go on a mission when she did not want to go; and, in another case, a young man who was unworthy.”1
1951: President McKay discourages Mothers with minor children from going on missions; reminds bishops that the mission age for women is 23, not 21.
“One relates to the interviewing of prospective missionaries by bishops. Will you please be more careful about recommending men about whose health may be a question. Missionary work is strenuous when it is done properly, and we do not like missionaries to go out and not do it properly. If there is any question about their health, please sit down and have a talk with them and tell them that their services here in the home missions will be just as acceptable to the Lord as their labors out in a foreign mission. The Lord would like them to live and serve. Do not put them under an environment that will probably aggravate some physical weakness. It is surprising how eagerly the young women and some married women seek calls to go on missions. We commend them for it, but the responsibility of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ rests upon the priesthood of the Church. It is quite possible now, in view of the present emergency, that we shall have to return to the standard age for young women, which is twenty-three. The last few months we have been calling young women twenty-one years of age when they have special qualifications. Bishops and presidents of stakes will please bear in mind that from now on they should not recommend young women under the age of twenty-three. That is merely returning to the standard already approved by the brethren. Now, that does not mean that the young girls who have already received calls or whom you have already interviewed who are only twenty-one may not have their recommendations completed. In this connection, we advise that mothers who have dependent children, that means children who are in their teens or under or unmarried, should not be called on missions even though the grandparents are willing to take care of the children. No nobler work in this world can be performed by any mother than to rear and love the children with whom God has blessed her. That is her duty, and that is far greater than going out into the world to proclaim the gospel, because somebody else can do that who does not bear the responsibility of rearing and loving the children who call her mother.”2
1959: President Hinckley begins using the word “referrals” in connection with missionary work.
(The word ‘referral’ of course wasn’t new, but this is the first time we could find ANYONE talking about referrals and missionary work in conference reports!)
“One of the most fruitful sources of contact for our missionaries lies in referrals sent to them. A member of the Church will suggest to an associate or a relative that he invite the missionaries to come to his home. President J. Leonard Love tells me that in the Northern California Mission their experience indicates that forty percent of the referrals given them join the Church. Think of it! Forty percent of the names sent to them result in convert baptisms! In the British Mission at one time it was discovered that sixty-eight percent of those who had come into the Church had made their first acquaintance with the doctrines through members of the Church.”3
1960: The word “referrals” catches on in general conference
“Into this great missionary movement of the Church have come prominently to the fore what we now call referrals. Some of our mission presidents love to call it ’sharing the gospel’…”4
1961: Using the modern telephone to follow up referrals
“Everything is being done to make the work of the missionaries more efficient and effective. The use of the telephone in tracting and to follow up referrals is a real effective, modern proselyting device.”5
1. David O. McKay, Conference Report, October 1945, pp. 111-114
2. David O. McKay, Conference Report, April 1951, pp. 80-83
3. Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, April 1959, pp. 119-121
4. Henry D. Moyle, Conference Report October 1960, pp. 83-85
5. Franklin D. Richards, Conference Report, October 1961, pp. 117-120