Like many mission leaders, Steve and Becky Larson, who presided over the Peru Lima Central Mission from 2015 to 2018, do their best to keep in contact with the missionaries they served with — using methods such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Zoom.
But some of their former missionaries aren’t on social media. Some have been married and changed their names. Some live in places where internet is not readily available. And some have new phone numbers or addresses.
Now, missionaries who served with the Larsons — as well as 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.
“We hope that former mission leaders and missionaries will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to stay connected, because these relationships are important to both,” said Elder Marcus B. Nash, a General Authority Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department. “Missions are full of life-changing experiences and relationships can continue to bless, teach, and strengthen missionaries, mission leaders, their families, those they taught and the whole Church, if kept alive.”
Steve and Becky Larson said they are looking forward to reconnecting with their former missionaries that choose to share their contact information.
“I think this is a remarkable opportunity, very inspired,” Steve Larson said. “There is a very sacred relationship between mission leaders and missionaries. That relationship, I believe, is blessed by the Spirit as we work together through the Holy Ghost in the mission field. … And that relationship, because of its sacred nature, continues after the full-time missionary service ends.”
For Becky Larson, the missionaries are “like our secondary children.”
“We learn so much about them and we care about what’s going on with them,” she said. “Even if we haven’t heard from them for a while, we still worry about them, and we want to know what’s going on in their life.”
How the Mission Directory works
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.
Mission leaders can use this information to more easily communicate with missionaries both individually or as a group. Missionaries will not be able to see mission leaders’ information from Member Tools, nor information about other missionaries.
Former and current mission leaders will receive in-app notifications in Member Tools to remind them they can connect with their former missionaries and let them know who has recently opted in. They can also email former missionaries directly from Member Tools.
Member Tools shares the contact information that is currently listed in an individual’s Church records, so those interested in opting into the directory may want to confirm that information in their Member Account is current.
Importance of relationships
From Steve Larson’s perspective, the relationship between a mission leader and missionary “provides a tremendous bond to uplift and strengthen one another.”
“It’s remarkable how much we learned and continue to learn from the missionaries, and the strengthening that we receive from the missionaries when we interact with them,” Steve Larson said. “We have learned and been strengthened more by them and from them than we could ever give back to them.”
Becky Larson said she felt there came a blessing with their stewardship to see their missionaries as the Savior does.
“You could just see the power and the potential in them that sometimes they struggle to see in themselves,” she said. “So I think this is such a miraculous tool to allow us to hopefully contact them … so that they know that they have a friend out there that would be just grateful to hear from them.”
Steve Larson added: “There are few things that can turn a difficult day into a really wonderful day [more] than having an interaction with one of our returned missionaries. …
“We want to know what they’re doing, no matter where they may be in life. We want every returned missionary we served with to know that the Lord loves them and has His arms open to receive them, that there is always hope, and they will never be abandoned by the Savior.”
Some missionaries’ records may not appear in the directory, due to lack of service records or contact information. For those who don’t see their information or need directions for how to opt in, see the FAQ titled “Helping Missionaries and Leaders Stay Connected.”
According to the FAQ, additional phases of the Mission Directory for missionaries who served before 2000 will be released later. Members will receive a notification when their mission is added to the database.