The past few years The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has seen several changes. One branch that has seen drastic changes is missionary work. Within the past two years, missionaries have seen improvements in everything from the dress code to the use of smartphones.
One of the biggest and most exciting changes for missionaries was the update to communication guidelines between missionaries and their families. Missionaries now have the ability to call, online message, video chat, or text home every week on P-day.
In a statement from the Church, the First Presidency said, “Regular communication with their families is an important part of a missionary’s service. One of the major purposes of this adjustment is to encourage families to be more involved in their missionary’s efforts and experiences.”
New Focus on Safety
The Church released a 12-part video series entitled, “The SafetyZone” which teaches missionaries life experiences through real-life examples. The purpose of the series is to teach missionaries situational awareness, obedience to the country’s laws, mission rules, and respect for people in the areas where they serve.
The missionary handbook, “Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ,” was replaced and updated with a new version to guide missionaries worldwide. Missionaries can refer to the handbook for a variety of situations to seek guidance for how to appropriately respond. The handbook is designed to help missionaries gain skills and habits which will assist them both in the field and after they return home.
The handbook includes a new section about safety in the mission field. It also formalizes the new communication policy, which were both mentioned above. To accompany the new handbook, a supplemental online document was also made available to missionaries, giving them further details on health, safety, proper use of technology, and missionary leadership responsibilities.
Changes to the Recommend Process
November 2018, the Church changed the recommendation process for young missionaries, allowing a bigger opportunity for more youth to serve a mission. All young men and women who live in the United States and Canada—including individuals who previously were unable to serve a proselyting mission due to health reasons—will go through the same process when receiving their mission call. Candidates will complete recommendation forms, participate in interviews with their local Church leaders and undergo evaluations by medical professionals, just as all proselyting missionaries would, and will then receive a call from the president of the Church to serve either a proselyting or service mission.
New Dress Code for Sister Missionaries
In December 2018, the Church made a big change for the sister missionaries! Sisters can expand their wardrobe to include pants because they now have the option to wear pants during regular missionary activities. Sister missionaries were instructed to continue to wear dresses or skirts when attending the temple and during Sunday worship services, leadership and zone conferences, baptismal services, and missionary training center devotionals.
The change was made in hopes of furthering protection for sisters against extreme weather and vector-borne diseases such as Zika, dengue fever, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, and malaria. In areas where for cultural reasons it is not accepted for women to wear pants, sister missionaries can wear ankle-length skirts for protection.
Mission Calls are Digital
Missionaries now receive their calls via technology instead of via mail. Before, missionaries would have to wait several weeks to get their mission call in the mail. Now, the missionary receives a call or text letting them know their call is ready to be viewed. As soon as it’s convenient, the missionary can open their call on their smartphone, tablet, or computer. In addition to cutting down on waiting time, this change will help the Church expedite visa applications and save on postage costs.
Besides the digital call letter, missionaries can also immediately access all mission materials online, including maps, country information, and lists of items to bring. Call letters and related materials have the option to be printed and downloaded for remembrance and record keeping.
Missionaries now have a greater opportunity to teach investigators online. This includes contacting via social media, as well as messaging investigators in teaching centers worldwide.
Missionaries in the teaching center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah, are teaching in 41 languages. The facility is one of the Church’s 20 online teaching centers embracing the new technology. Sister missionaries in the teaching centers engage with people around the world who reach out to them via ComeUntoChrist.org (Mormon.org) to learn more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. These video chat interactions resemble traditional lessons with prayer and scripture reading.
“Our missionaries are growing up using technology. … They are using this technology in their missionary work to do it more effectively and more efficiently,” said Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president, who serves on the Church’s Missionary Executive Council.
Elder Brent H. Nielson of the Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department believes this method of teaching will expand. “This generation of young men and young women are really comfortable communicating online. They buy everything online and text their friends. This is how they communicate.”
In 2017, more than 600 missionaries taught over 140,000 people online in more than 30 languages. The missionaries participated in nearly 350,000 chats and more than 90,000 phone calls.
Clearly missionary work in constantly changing and adapting to the ever-changing world.
This article was written by Madi Wickham, a staff writer for ThirdHour.org.