No, Hong Kong doesn’t count

The following notice was placed in today’s (12/23/2006) Church News:

A rumor has been circulating that select members are being called on missions to China.  The rumor claims that someone in a relative’s ward, or in a friend’s ward, received a letter extending a mission call but the field of service was left blank.

According to the rumor, the individual was instructed to call a phone number and then was "patched through to President Gordon B. Hinckley," who then asked if the prospective missionary would be willing to serve a three-year mission to mainland China, the first year consisting only of humanitarian service.

The Church News has been advised that this rumor has no foundation.  No such mission calls have been extended.

I don’t know how long this rumor has been circulating, but it was quite widespread back in 1998-99 when I was preparing for my own call to serve.  The way it is written above was exactly how it was told to me.  In hindsight, I can’t believe I let myself get swept up in the excitement that I might be one of the fabled few to open up China to the restored gospel.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the Church is rife with these kinds of "faith-promoting rumors," many of them started by well-meaning but misguided seminary and institute teachers. (No comment.) hosted a site dedicated to debunking such tales, but you can now find it at this address. Among the other well-known tales the site addresses is the famous "Youth Were Generals in the War in Heaven" quote and the "Free the Birdies" tale, the latter of which has some true elements but also a fair amount of embellishment.

Believe me, when the Church begins sending missionaries to China, you can be sure we’ll hear about it through the proper channels (i.e., in General Conference, the Church News, the Ensign, or in a media press release – probably all of the above). If you believe otherwise, I hear that Steve Martin is secretly attending LDS sacrament services somewhere in Los Angeles . . .

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