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Church announces adjustments to missionary work, will continue to call missionaries despite coronavirus concerns

Missionaries wait for President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prior to a devotional in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, on May 23, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Sisters Florence Meta and Lavei Taufa do their missionary work In Tonga, on May 22, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Sister Asia Kehl and Sister Romero watch President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prior to a missionary meeting in Montevideo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred
Missionaries listen during a meeting with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in Lima, Peru, on Oct. 20, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Sisters Lavei Taufa and Florence Meta do their missionary work In Tonga, on May 22, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Elders Jason Andersen and Chet Norman do their missionary work In Tonga, on May 22, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Sister Keily Gavarrete listens to instruction in the MTC in Guatemala on Aug 24, 2019. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced it will close the missionary training center effective January 2020. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Sister Norma Chavez, service missionary with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serves breakfast to refugees at a metropolitan area church in Phoenix, Arizona on Monday, Feb 11, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred
Sister missionaries smile after meeting with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Lima, Peru, on Oct. 20, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Sister Susan Whetten-Udall, service missionary with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serves breakfast to asylum seekers at a metropolitan area church in Phoenix, Arizona, on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Missionaries watch President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints prior to a missionary meeting in Montevideo, Uraguay on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred
President Craig Hill and his wife Judy talk about the MTC in Guatemala on Aug 24, 2019. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced it will close the missionary training center effective January 2020. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

In another response to the COVID-19 pandemic, temporary adjustments will be made to missionary work in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, leaders announced Monday morning.  

Missionaries will continue to be called to serve and assigned to labor in missions worldwide, according to a statement from Church leaders. “Missionary recommendations will continue to be received, and missionary assignments for worldwide service will continue to be made.”

However, in an effort to adapt to constantly changing conditions and out of “an abundance of caution,” Church leaders are implementing temporary adjustments to missionary service.

These changes include:

  • Young missionary elders currently serving in missions within the United States and Canada — who would complete their mission on or before Sept. 1, 2020 — may be released after they have served for 21 months. The length of service for sister missionaries serving in the United States and Canada will not be impacted by the adjustments.
  • Young missionaries with health issues and senior missionaries may be released from service.
  • Some missionaries may be temporarily reassigned to another mission.

“Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ remains a sacred priority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even in the current circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Church leaders in a statement. “We continue to monitor the spread of this condition and its impact on missionaries worldwide. We take very seriously the health and safety of our missionaries and of those they teach.”

Missionaries listen during a meeting with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in Lima, Peru, on Oct. 20, 2018.
Missionaries listen during a meeting with President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in Lima, Peru, on Oct. 20, 2018. | Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Young missionaries needing to work primarily from their apartments “will continue teaching using technology, studying the scriptures and “Preach My Gospel,” language learning, family history, online community service and other activities as identified by the mission president,” according to the statement.

In addition, “missionaries are encouraged to stay in contact with their families frequently and to take opportunities to leave their apartments for periods of exercise and fresh air, while observing wise guidelines for personal contact.”

Church leaders will continue to monitor conditions and make further adjustments as needed. “As a Church, we express our love and appreciation for all missionaries as they strive to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and share His love wherever they serve,” wrote leaders in the statement.

President Craig Hill and his wife Judy talk about the MTC in Guatemala on Aug 24, 2019.
President Craig Hill and his wife Judy talk about the MTC in Guatemala on Aug 24, 2019. | Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Missionary work has been impacted by epidemics during other times in history. 

Missionary work in Hong Kong was affected by the SARS outbreak in 2003. And following an outbreak of Ebola in Liberia, missionaries were moved out of the West African nation in August 2014; young missionaries returned in September 2015. Missionary work was also disrupted in Madagascar following an outbreak of the plague in October 2017.

In June 2009, the spread of swine flu prompted Church leaders to change MTC drop-off protocols. In addition, a suspected stomach flu/norovirus impacted 250 Latter-day Saint missionaries in the Provo Missionary Training Center in January 2013.

The Church slowed the expansion of Latter-day Saint missions during World War II. Missionary work continued, however, despite many men being drafted into military service. 

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