On February 15, 2019, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made an exciting announcement about the youth full-time missionary program. “Effective immediately, missionaries are authorized to communicate with their families each week on preparation day via text messages, online messaging, phone calls, and video chat in addition to letters and emails.” (That’s from the Missionary Department memo to Church leaders called “Missionaries Communicating with Their Families“.)
In additional to the weekly calls on preparation day (p-day) that are now allowed, missionaries also are encouraged to communicate with their families on special occasions such as their parents’ birthdays and other holidays of significance in the missionary’s home country or culture (like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.). It should also be noted that missionaries are still encouraged to write letters or emails to their family and friends to share their spiritual experiences and to have a good written record of the mission.
Prior to this announcement, and as long as I can remember, young missionaries had been only allowed two phone calls home per year, once on Mother’s Day and once on Christmas. This mission rule was designed to help missionaries stay focused on their job of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, and there were other practical reasons for the rule. When I went on my mission to Argentina, which was only about 20 years ago, long distance phone calls would cost an arm and a leg, making the cost of calling home very often prohibitive. Nowadays, however, phone calls, even international ones, are relatively inexpensive and video chats can often take place at no charge. I suspect this change in communication technology and costs is one of the reasons for the policy change.
Included in the announcement from the Church on this topic, they released a video of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf explaining some of the reasons why the Church has made this change. He lists the following as an explanation of why Church leadership has instituted these new mission communication rules and the benefits we can all expect to see:
- Missionaries love their families want to share their experiences with people back home.
- Families want to hear what their missionaries are doing.
- Part of the joy of missionary work is sharing what you do with your loved ones.
- The Church hopes that a closer connection between missionaries and their families will stem from this.
- Both missionaries and families should feel more comfortable with the situation of youth being away from home for two years or 18 months.
- Missionaries will more motivate than even to go out and serve the lord with even brighter heart and a more joyful countenance.
Here are a few other important things to remember from the communication from the Church on this topic:
- The missionary needs to be the one who initiates the phone call, text, or video chat.
- The call and chats are meant to take place on the missionary’s preparation day (p-day).
- If the family has a need to contact their missionary directly, they should contact the mission president first.
- If a missionary’s parents live in two different locations, the missionary may contact each parent separately.
- It is not expected that missionaries will call or video chat with their parents every week.
- Missionaries should be wise in determining the duration of phone calls and video chats, be considerate of their companions and keep in mind the purpose of their service, to invite people to follow Jesus Christ.
I personally feel that this is a positive move. I believe missionaries will now be able to get an extra boost of comfort and reassurance from their families that will help them serve with more confidence, energy, and enthusiasm. In the next few years my children will be old enough to serve missions and our family, particularly my wife, will be greatly comforted to know that she’ll be able to talk to her children once a week, hear their voice, and receive extra reassurance that they are well and that they are doing great work to build the kingdom of God.