The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced changes to the missionary program on Friday morning. These changes include missionaries using smartphones, new prospective missionary interview questions and consolidating missions.
“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, the managing director for the missionary department, in a press release. “And through that we’ve found opportunities where we think we can improve. Many of the changes we will talk about come from that analysis.”
After evaluating the mission program, the Missionary Department has announced three major areas that the missionary program will change:
Missionaries will use smartphones and other technology
Throughout the years, the LDS Church has adjusted its approach to missionary work according to available technology. For example, missionaries began using tablets in specific missions during the past few years. The number of missions using mobile devices has increased from 87 to 162.
Instead of tablets, missionaries in designated missions will now use smartphones and increase their use of technology in order to find people interested in religion. The Church says part of the reason for that adjustment is, in the world of Google, the online world is where people are asking their questions.
“‘How can I find peace in my life?’ or ‘Is there a God?’ There tends to be a pattern for people who are asking,” Crittenden said. “In a world of 7.4 billion people, many online are involved in that search. They look at the same kinds of websites and seek the same kind of information. And it’s possible for us then, because they’ve asked that question, to put content in front of them that might be of interest to them. We are able to reach those who are actually searching for the truth.”
Elder Brent H. Nielson, a General Authority Seventy, says the adjustments to the program follow the pattern Jesus Christ taught in the New Testament. When Christ returns to find his apostles unsuccessfully fishing following His resurrection, Christ instructs the apostles to “cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find” (John 21:6). The change in approach yielded abundant results.
“The lesson is that the fish were always there in the water, but Jesus directed the apostles where to find them,” Elder Nielson said. “Our circumstance is similar. God knows where to find those who are seeking truth, and that’s why we’re seeking better ways to find them. There are billions of people on earth. And here’s the amazing thing—we can now reach them in a focused way. That’s very exciting.”
A new set of interview questions for prospective missionaries
In an effort to improve the success and safety of each missionary, the Church has updated its interview questions for prospective missionaries. These are a standard set questions used worldwide that prospective missionaries can prepare for before applying to serve a mission. The Church hopes each young man and woman will know these questions years in advance, prepare for them and better understand the “rigorous requirements of missionary work.”
These 16 interview questions help evaluate the prospective missionary’s worthiness and ability to serve a mission.
The LDS Church will consolidate the 422 current missions. When President Thomas S. Monson announced the missionary age change in 2012, the Church saw a rapid increase in full-time missionaries from 58,000 to 88,000 missionaries. Over the past five years, that number has balanced out.
“We’ve leveled off to around 70,000 missionaries—still way up from the 58,000 we had,” Elder Nielson said. “In the orderly process of accommodating changes in our numbers, we’ll be slowly closing missions because we don’t need as many as we required for the great increase we experienced in 2012-13.”
Part of these changes includes the development in missionary training centers. President Henry B. Eyring dedicated the new buildings at the Provo MTC this past week. Another expansion was finished at the Philippines MTC and the Ghana MTC.
Read more about the missionary changes at mormonnewsroom.org.