The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday an update to guidelines regarding communication between full-time missionaries and their families.
Effective immediately, the Church’s 65,000 missionaries are authorized to communicate with their families each week on preparation day by text messages, online messaging, phone calls and video chats in addition to letters and emails. Previously, missionaries only communicated with their families via phone calls or video chats twice a year — on Christmas and on Mother’s Day.
“Regular communication with their families is an important part of a missionary’s service,” said the First Presidency in a statement. “One of the major purposes of this adjustment is to encourage families to be more involved in their missionary’s efforts and experiences.”
The significant adaptations to missionary communication are the result of the “options, possibilities and technologies now offered in some parts of the world,” said Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Church’s Missionary Executive Council.
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Communication, from missionary training centers and the mission field, should occur on the missionary’s preparation day and be initiated by the missionary. Missionaries are asked to use good judgment in determining the length of phone calls and video chats and to be considerate of their companions.
With the new advances in technology, this communication should take place at little or no cost to the Church, the missionaries or their families.
In those few locations where families or missionaries do not have access to computers or phones, missionaries are encouraged to continue using their current means of communication.
In addition to weekly communication, missionaries are also encouraged to contact family on other special occasions such as Christmas, Mother's Day, Father's Day, parents' birthdays and other culturally significant holidays.
“We encourage missionaries to communicate with their families each week using whatever approved method missionaries decide,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “This may vary based on their circumstances, locations and schedules for that week. It is not expected that all missionaries will call or video chat with their parents every week. The precise manner of communication is left up to the missionary as he or she decides what will best meet their needs.”
Elder Uchtdorf said the new guidelines offer several additional benefits including accommodating varied family circumstances, as well as better supporting those missionaries who would benefit from increased personal contact with family at home.
“As families, we love our missionaries,” he said. “Missionaries love their families. They want to communicate with them.”
Elder Uchtdorf called this communication — made possible by technology — a wonderful thing. “We communicate with our Heavenly Father every day, and we would like to have our families communicate with the missionaries every week — maybe by letter or maybe by email, or now maybe by video chats or phone calls. This is an addition which brings more confidence, more peace.”
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He rejected the philosophy that calling home more than twice a year will weaken or distract missionaries.
“Our missionaries are pretty tough,” said Elder Uchtdorf. “They receive rejection every day. They have tough weather conditions. They have to learn a lot. They have to work with new cultures, with new circumstances. But above all, they know in their hearts and minds that they are servants and representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Further, Elder Uchtdorf said new options of communication with home will be a motivating force, not a distraction. After their communication with families — in whatever form the missionaries select — they can “go out there and serve the Lord with even a brighter heart, a more joyful countenance.” They can smile at the people they meet and teach and say, “‘I just talked to my parents. They send their greetings and they send their love.’”
Church leaders trust the missionaries, he said. “They do this very well on Christmas or whatever the occasion is. We are confident that this will be very nicely done among the missionary companionships.”
Increased communication can help to unify missionaries and their families in this “great and marvelous work,” said Elder Uchtdorf. Missionaries can share with their families “the wonderful experiences they have in the field.”
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Increased communication may also help missionaries who are homesick and could benefit from the “comforting voice of their parents,” said Elder Uchtdorf.
To avoid disruption to missionary schedules, family members are asked not to initiate calls or chats but instead wait for the missionary to contact them on his or her weekly preparation day. If a missionary’s parents live in different locations, he or she may contact each parent separately.
Parents should remember that the missionaries have an important work to do. “They are called to bring the gospel message to all the world. They are called to find, teach, baptize and help people to become disciples of Jesus Christ. They are the ones in charge of communication.”
Missionaries “initiate the call to their parents because they have a schedule they want to fulfill. Missionaries and parents can plan ahead to find a time convenient to both. On preparation day, missionaries want to prepare physically, mentally and spiritually for the rest of the week. They know best which time would be best for them to call home.”
Elder Uchtdorf added, “The Lord loves the missionaries and their families. We are confident that the expanded ways of weekly communication between missionaries and their families by letters, emails, online messaging, video chats or phone calls will have a positive effect on the efforts to gather Israel, both in the mission field and at home.”