Latter-day Saints react as more details unfold about changes to missionary training, general conference

Many Latter-day Saints have been affected by the recent announcements regarding the COVID-19 virus and general conference, missionary training centers and stake conferences.

On Wednesday, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced that the public will not be admitted to the Conference Center in Salt Lake City for the upcoming April general conference.

They also announced missionaries scheduled to enter missionary training centers in Provo, Utah, or Preston, England, will be trained remotely by video conference. Stake and leadership conferences and other large gatherings will be postponed in Asia, Europe and North America.

Read more: Changes to general conference, missionary training, stake conferences announced by the Church in response to coronavirus

As Church members learned of the news, many questions arose regarding what online training for missionaries will look like and how MTC teachers will be affected. Below are a few thoughts from the England MTC president and prospective missionaries, as well as reactions to general conference being closed to the public.

Missionary training

Beginning March 16, missionaries scheduled to enter the Provo MTC or England MTC will be trained online.

President Creg D. Ostler, president of the England MTC, said details are still unfolding about how this will work.

He said he understands teachers at the England MTC “will be teaching the missionaries leaving from Europe, in these time zones here, for any languages we have the capacity for,” including Russian, Spanish, Italian, Greek and French. “We don’t yet know exactly how that will be set up.”

The England Missionary Training Center.
The England Missionary Training Center. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Of how the changes will impact him as an ecclesiastical leader, he said, “we think that the stake presidents will be the ecclesiastical leaders for those who are being trained at home, so we don’t really quite know what the impact is yet.”

There are currently 60 missionaries at the England MTC and the last group will leave early April. “We’re just loving the missionaries we have here right now and keeping them healthy and enjoying our time with them. And we’ll just have faith about whatever happens in the future.”

Many missionaries at the England MTC have received reassignments and are “moving forward with faith,” he said. “It’s really quite inspirational to see. They come from all of different countries here. They’re just ready to serve wherever they’re called.” 

Sarah Evans, from Gilbert, Arizona, received her call to the Italy Milan Mission back in November and will be reassigned due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. She said she received an email from the Church on Wednesday with instructions for online missionary training.

“I will still be set apart and be required to follow missionary standards and conduct, including dress. They will be mailing me all my books, etc. and my name tag,” she said.

Missionaries walk along the walkway outside the expansion of the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.
Missionaries walk along the walkway outside the expansion of the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

“I’ll have six hours of online video class a day, will have personal study, I’ll be assigned a companion remotely and we will hold companionship study each day over video chat. I’ll be given missionary things to do on evenings and weekends so I won’t just be ‘sitting around.'”

As she continues to await her reassignment, Evans said, “I’m learning more than ever to trust the Lord and His plan for me.”

What will happen at the Provo MTC? Missionary center transitions as new arrivals greeted on Wednesday

Eva Fawson, 19, has her mission call to the Alpine German-Speaking Mission. She was scheduled to enter the England Missionary Training Center on April 15 and will now be training online from home.

“At first, I was kind of sad because that wasn’t really what I had prepared for or mentally gotten ready for,” she said. “I’d hoped that I would still be able to go the MTC, but of course, it’s smarter to stay safe and I appreciate that.”

Missionaries listen to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak at a Sunday evening devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center on June 23, 2019.
Missionaries listen to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak at a Sunday evening devotional at the Provo Missionary Training Center on June 23, 2019. Credit: Leslie Nilsson, Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

After reflecting more on the announcement, she said she is grateful for the unique training opportunity. “Personally, I count myself lucky to be somebody who gets to try something different in the age of technology. We are so blessed that we can even have this option, that we don’t have to postpone our missions.

“I think it’ll be an interesting new way to grow. Obviously God has a plan in store, and we’ve just got to trust that.”

Jenna Calta, who will be serving in the Florida Fort Lauderdale Mission and was scheduled to enter the Provo MTC on March 18, shared similar thoughts.

“At first I was upset that I wouldn’t be able to experience the MTC, but then I realized that God has a plan, and He will help provide me with the tools that I need for my mission whether I am in the MTC or not.”

General conference

Wendi Johnson, from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and her 17-year-old daughter Kristen had tickets for the Saturday evening and Sunday morning sessions of April general conference. This would have been their first time to attend.

People enter the Conference Center for the Sunday morning session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019.
People enter the Conference Center for the Sunday morning session of the 189th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2019. Credit: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

“My first thought when I heard the news was, ‘Oh no! We won’t get to go to conference? What about our flights?’” she said. “My next thought was, ‘I completely and totally understand the precaution from our leaders.’ … I am thankful for living prophets to lead and guide us throughout these perilous times.”

The Church’s home-centered approach has been a blessing during this time of the COVID-19 virus, she said. “While I see the change to Church curriculum as a way to incentivize more families to actively take part in their own learning, I also see the inspiration in having the tools in our own home, should Sunday services be canceled at some time in the future due to health concerns.”

The following responses to the announcements have been gathered from Facebook: