Today, the Church announced several changes to be made in missionary work, including a new set of interview questions to be asked of prospective missionaries, a trimming of the number of missions to better fit the needs of each region of the world, replacing tablets with smartphones, and an increased use of technologies that help find those interested in religion.
“We have really been focused on looking at absolutely every element of missionary operations, starting from when a missionary is thinking about preparing, through the experience that he has on his mission, and even the time after that,” said Gary Crittenden, managing director of the Missionary Department. “And through that we’ve found opportunities where we think we can improve.”
Earlier today, I wrote about the new standard missionary interview questions for prospective missionaries that will provide uniformity across the world. Missionary work is rigorous, and some of the qualifications are to ensure that the prospective missionary is ready for the mental, emotional, and physical stress of a mission.
Parents and leaders can help young men and women become familiar with the standards and qualifications for missionary service long before they consider applying to become a missionary.
The Church places a priority on the safety of each missionary, which is not an easy task with a missionary force of nearly 70,000 serving around the world in a wide variety of circumstances.
In June, the Church conducted a physical safety survey of missionaries worldwide. The results of that survey will help the Church provide missionaries with safe apartments and training videos to foster more self-awareness.
Missionaries Who Return Home Early
For those who return home early (the most common reason being health challenges), the Church is always seeking ways to make the transition smooth and beneficial for the missionary.
“Their mission isn’t over [when they come home],” said Elder Brent H. Nielson, the Executive Director of the Missionary Department. “They now have an opportunity after they get better to perhaps complete their mission at home serving in Church Service missions and other opportunities. We’re working diligently to try to be sure they can complete their mission and have a positive experience.”
After the “Surge”
After the change in the ages for missionary service in 2012, the number of missionaries grew from 58,000 to 88,000 and the Church expanded the number of missions to 400. Now that the number of missionaries has leveled off to about 70,000, the Church will be reducing the number of missions to better fit the total number of missionaries and the needs in each area.
The Church has also expanded its missionary training centers in Provo, Utah, and in the Philippines, and finished the Ghana MTC this summer.
Using Technology to Organize, Find, and be Found
“Through nearly 200 years of missionary work, the Church has repeatedly recognized that methods and approaches need to be updated as cultures and technologies shift and change. Because the ways people communicate and interact are always in flux, especially for the rising generation, the Church has consulted with industry leaders in the technology world to learn how to improve.” (“A Primer on Coming Changes to the Missionary Program“)
Currently, missionaries in 87 missions use mobile devices. That will be increased to 162. Tablets will be replaced with smartphones, and in the future, most missionaries will arrive on their mission with a smartphone to assist them in their study, finding, and teaching.
The Church is also using online technologies to help connect with people who are asking life’s most important questions. When people search questions like “How can I find peace in my life?” or “Is there a God?”, the smart use of technology can help connect them with the gospel’s answers to those questions.
Read more in the article “A Primer on Coming Changes to the Missionary Program.”