The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has announced changes to its missionary program including consolidating some missions, increasing the use of technology and better preparing potential missionaries for service.
In a statement released Friday, the LDS Church said it will make these changes going forward to make missionaries more effective and prepared.
“We have really been focused on looking at absolutely every element of missionary operations, starting from when a missionary is thinking about preparing, through the experience that he has on his mission, and even the time after that,” said Gary Crittenden, managing director of the missionary department. “And through that we’ve found opportunities where we think we can improve. Many of the changes we will talk about come from that analysis.”
The need for these changes has grown since the 2012 announcement that lowered the ages at which missionaries could serve.
Prior to that announcement there were about 58,000 missionaries. There are about 70,000 serving now, but during its peak there were 88,000 missionaries serving, according to the release.
As a result, the church will be reducing the number of missions currently 400 located around the world.
“In the orderly process of accommodating changes in our numbers, we’ll be slowly closing missions because we don’t need as many as we required for the great increase we experienced in 2012-13,” Elder Brent H. Nielson, member of the Quorum of the Seventy, who represents the missionary department, said.
The church will also be shifting the way missionaries use technology in the coming months, according to the release.
The release states only 87 missions use mobile devices, but will soon be increased to 162. Many missionaries will arrive on their missions with a smartphone to help them better connect with those they serve and teach.
They have also approved a list of standard interview questions all potential missionaries can expect to be asked so they “have a more complete understanding of the rigorous requirements of missionary work,” the statement reads.
Many of the questions focus on the missionaries’ worthiness, their commitment to commandments and their individual testimonies.
The statement also mentions they are hoping to make things safer for missionaries and provide other options for those who return home early.