Missionary work in 2021: Spotlight on hybrid training, reopened MTCs

The training of new missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took a spotlight in 2021, as missionary training centers reopened and a new phased approach of training for most new missionaries means the first third is still done online in their homes and the last two-thirds continuing on-site in one of 10 MTCs worldwide.

With 2020 given to nearly a full year of COVID-19 pandemic changes, restrictions and precautions across the globe, missionary work last year for the Church saw plenty of releases and reassignments of full-time missionaries, elders and sisters hunkered down in residence and working via digital technology and social media, and new missionaries trained in “home MTC” after the pandemic-forced closure of the Church’s MTCs.

As in-person interactions increased in 2021, full-time missionaries continued to use technology to contact and teach online, with digital efforts and social media making it easier to involve participating members. Missionary efforts expanded to include “Love, Share, Invite” — a principle-based approached to sharing the gospel that was introduced at the Seminar for New Mission Leaders.

The Oval common area at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021.
The Oval common area at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, on Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. Credit: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

MTCs reopen with hybrid training model

On June 23, the Provo (Utah) Missionary Training Center welcomed new missionaries for the first time in 14 months after the Church closed all 10 MTCs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With MTCs resuming on-site training, the phased approach of training allows missionaries to continue to experience many of the positive elements of online training realized during the pandemic period of training new missionaries.

Online training continues to originate from the MTCs worldwide, with missionaries meeting — via videoconferencing — their companions, instructors and other new missionaries in classroom groups or “districts.” 

By the end of 2021, all 10 MTCs worldwide had opened and language options had expanded; however, the New Zealand MTC remains paused as of late December because of local pandemic precautions.

Some missionaries worldwide are still training only online because of personal choices with vaccinations, mission-location assignments being affected by travel restrictions and COVID-19 precautions, and limited on-site operations and language offerings at the MTCs.

Other 2021 notables for missionary-related events include:

Seminar for new leaders again a virtual event

For the second consecutive year, the annual Seminar for New Mission Leaders was held virtually, with 109 couples participating remotely rather than in person at the Provo Missionary Training Center. Members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and other Church leaders spoke during sessions broadcast June 24-26 from the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City and other Church headquarters locations.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles conducts a session of the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on June 26, 2021, broadcast from the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles conducts a session of the 2021 Seminar for New Mission Leaders on June 26, 2021, broadcast from the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

New missions in Hawaii, Rwanda

The Church added two new missions in as many weeks in December, with the first being the Hawaii Laie Mission. Created from the Hawaii Honolulu Mission, the Laie mission will open mid-January 2022 and include the Laie Hawaii Temple Visitors’ Center. The new Rwanda Kigali Mission, which opens in July 2022, will be the Church’s 409th mission worldwide and the first in the African nation.

Missionary shot at meetinghouse

Elder M. Michael Fauber, serving in the Alabama Birmingham Mission, sustained serious injuries in an unprovoked Dec. 3 shooting near Birmingham. The 18-year-old from Dayton, Ohio, was hospitalized after he was shot multiple times, with four gunshot wounds to his body and a fifth bullet barely grazing his head.

Elder Fauber later was discharged from the hospital, returning home the week of Christmas. Also, police have arrested a suspect in the shooting, where a man had entered a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse for an activity and started shooting before fleeing in a vehicle.

Assault at multizone conference in Mexico

Seventy full-time missionaries were reported safe following an incident during a Nov. 12 multizone conference in a Torreón, Mexico, meetinghouse, as two men entered armed with guns and demanded cellphones, tablets and wallets.

The robbers intimidated the 13 sisters and 57 elders, with a few hit or kicked during the incident. The mission president and his companion — President Alfredo Zanudo and Sister Guadalupe Zanudo — were also assaulted and threatened with a knife. After the men fled the scene, local police were called, with no one needing additional medical care.

Missionary deaths

Elder Samuel Joseph Iseh Jr. of the Nigeria Lagos Mission passed away Jan. 1, of a “sudden health episode”; Elder Jake Smith of the Arkansas Little Rock Mission died in a Jan. 7 car accident; Elder Saintlouis Pointdujours Dortilus of the Haiti Port-au-Prince Mission died of health complications on Jan. 27; and Elder Fernando Antonio Ramos Garcia of the El Salvador San Salvador West/Belize Mission drowned on March 3.

Also, Elder Luke Masakazu Carter and Elder Eli Jon Fowler of  the Texas Forth Worth Mission lost their lives in a May 18 two-vehicle car accident; Elder Tyson Gene Haycock and Elder Michael Austin Davis of the New Mexico Farmington Mission died in a July 22 head-on collision; and Elder Tshiama Anaclet Tshiama of the Cote d’Ivoire Abidjan East Mission, passed away unexpectedly Dec. 19, with preliminary reports suggesting it was the result of an undiagnosed medical condition.

Missionaries moved out of Ethiopia

Because of increased concerns about civil unrest in Ethiopia, the Church temporarily moved its full-time missionaries serving in the Ethiopia Addis Ababa Mission out of the country and into neighboring Kenya in November. Sixty missionaries — including the mission president and companion — were temporarily being housed in Kenya, which borders Ethiopia to the south.

Connecting returned missionaries, mission leaders

All former Latter-day Saint missionaries who have served since 2000 have the option of sharing their contact information with their former mission leaders through a new Mission Directory in the Member Tools app. By opting into this directory in Member Accounts, a former missionary allows mission leaders to see his or her name (including maiden and married surname), avatar picture, individual and household phone numbers and email addresses. 

The intake processing of missionaries at the Ghana Missionary Training Center in June 2021 in Accra, Ghana.
The intake processing of missionaries at the Ghana Missionary Training Center in June 2021 in Accra, Ghana. Credit: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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