In October 2012, President Monson made a historic announcement, lowering the minimum age requirement for full-time missionaries: Young women could serve at age 19 rather than 21, and young men could serve at age 18 instead of age 19. Since that unprecedented change, many other important changes and updates to Church missionary service have followed. Here’s a timeline of the most significant and substantial updates affecting missionaries over the last decade.
Early 2013: Missionaries begin social media proselyting
Missionaries in the New York Rochester Mission began exploring the use of social media for missionary work in March 2010, according to Church News. After their mission president Michael Hemingway returned to work for the Missionary Department, he shares what he learned with department leadership, and a strategy is rolled out for missionaries to use Facebook and digital devices for proselyting and communication. By 2014, 20 missions are using social media. In 2015, the program is expanded to 80 missions and later to 160 missions within just a few years.
Summer 2013: Provo MTC “West Campus” is established
To house the huge increase of new full-time missionaries, two local apartment complexes about a mile away from the main Provo MTC campus are leased for missionary training and housing.
April 2013: New mission leadership council roles are established
Due in part to the influx of thousands of young missionaries responding to the new age requirements for missionary service, the Church announces that a new missionary leadership council is to be organized for each mission. This council now includes the mission president and his wife, assistants to the president, zone leaders, and a new role: sister training leaders.
April 2013: 58 new missions are created
In the opening remarks of the next general conference after the age-requirement announcement, President Thomas S. Monson says, “We have 65,634 full-time missionaries serving, with over 20,000 more who have received their calls but who have not yet entered a missionary training center and over 6,000 more in the interview process with their bishops and stake presidents. It has been necessary for us to create 58 new missions to accommodate the increased numbers of missionaries.”
November 2014: The Provo MTC “West Campus” is closed
The Raintree Apartments and BYU-owned WyView Park, spaces that were used to house and teach additional missionaries, are no longer used for missionary purposes and resume housing college students.
October 2017: A new Provo MTC is dedicated
The new Provo MTC campus includes two new six-story buildings with 200 classrooms, more than 100 practice teaching rooms, and 13 computer labs. Before his dedicatory prayer, President Henry B. Eyring said that missionaries at the MTC will learn to support each other and to listen to each other—as well as to the Holy Spirit.
June 2018: Updated “Preach My Gospel” is released
A new edition of the Church’s guide to missionary service, “Preach My Gospel,” is announced. The new updates include a reduction in the number of “key indicators” missionaries record and report and replacing outdated references to “home and visiting teaching” with “ministering.”
September 2018: Mission calls are now delivered online
As reported by Church News, “The new, online call letter process will also allow missionaries to speed up possible visa applications and to often report earlier to their assigned missionary training center.”
December 2018: New attire and grooming guidelines for sister missionaries
A First Presidency letter announces that Latter-day Saint sister missionaries can wear pants during regular missionary activities, including during normal training activities at missionary training centers.
February 2019: The Church closes several international MTCs
The Church’s Missionary Training Centers in Spain, Chile, Argentina, and the Dominican Republic close, due in part to the capacity of the new Mexico City MTC. The Guatemala MTC is closed in September 2019 as well.
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February 2019: Updates made to missionary communication with family
The First Presidency announces that missionaries can call and text home weekly. “Regular communication with their families is an important part of a missionary’s service,” the First Presidency statement reads. “One of the major purposes of this adjustment is to encourage families to be more involved in their missionary’s efforts and experiences.”
November 2019: Updated missionary handbook is released
The “Missionary Standards for Disciples of Jesus Christ” is updated for the first time since 2010. Missionaries commonly use this handbook for guidance on dealing with a variety of situations, and this new version includes additions about enhanced missionary safety, cultural sensitivity, using technology, and managing stress and mental health challenges.
January 2020: All missionaries are approved to have access to a smartphone
Under the direction of President Nelson, approval is given for every missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to have access to a smartphone. Elder Brent H. Nielson later tells Church News, “Way back in 2014, under the direction … of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, we had begun the process of figuring out how to do missionary work using these devices. When the world closed down, our missionaries stepped forward and performed a miracle.”
February 2020: Missionary evacuations begin due to COVID-19
Beginning in February and over the course of the next several months, many missionaries are sent home. In March 2020, the First Presidency announces that “substantial numbers of missionaries will likely need to be returned to their home nations to continue their service.”
March 2020: MTC training becomes remote due to COVID-19
A statement from the First Presidency says that “Missionary training centers (MTCs) worldwide will not receive new missionaries. MTC training for missionaries will take place through technology, and missionaries will be sent to their assigned mission as soon as possible.”
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March 2020: New service options for missionaries due to COVID-19
In a Church Newsroom statement, the First Presidency announces that missionaries can be temporarily released, reassigned, or choose to delay their service. You can read the full announcement here.
June 2020: New attire exceptions for missionaries
Exceptions are approved by the First Presidency for Area Presidencies to adjust missionary attire “to improve and maintain missionary dignity, safety, effectiveness, approachability, and cultural sensitivity while properly representing the Lord and His Church.” These approved exceptions include blue shirts and no ties.
November 2020: Missionaries are assigned to serve beyond home countries again
Church Spokesman Daniel Woodruff announces that missionary assignments are “deliberate and cautious” and that “the safety of our missionaries and those they serve is our top priority.”
June 2021: MTCs begin to reopen with hybrid in-person/online training
The Church’s Missionary Training Centers in Ghana, Provo, and New Zealand all resume limited on-site training. More international MTCs resume in-person training over the coming months.
Today, most missionaries’ MTC experiences are still a hybrid of virtual and in-person training—half of their time is spent at home participating in online lessons, and the other half of the time is spent living and learning on site at one of the Church’s 10 MTCs around the world.