The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday they will be making some changes to their missionary program.
Changes include a new set of interview questions for prospective missionaries, an increased use of technologies, and trimming the number of missions. Managing director Gary Crittenden said the changes come from analyzing 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,” Crittenden said.
The Church expanded the standard set of interview questions to ask prospective missionaries. “The hope is that each young man and woman will be familiar with them years before they formally prepare to serve so they have a more complete understanding of the rigorous requirements of mission,” a news release said.
Some of these interview questions deal specifically with the mental health of potential missionaries. One example is question number 15. “Have you ever been on medication or otherwise treated for any of the following conditions: attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or autism spectrum disorder (including Asperger’s)? If yes, please explain.”
Returned missionary Sarah Matheson said this open communication about mental health is a step in the right direction. “Mission presidents have to understand, bishops have to understand, parents have to understand that approaching a mental illness problem is so important and it can be done, You can do what you need to do and help people and be happy even while struggling with anxiety and depression or any other mental illness.”
Safety is a concern for those currently serving. The Church said they sent out a physical safety survey to missionaries in June of this year and are using the results to provide missionaries training videos.
The Church said they are also hoping to make the transition better for missionaries who return home early. General Authority Seventy Elder Brent H. Nielson said their mission isn’t over when they come home.
“They now have an opportunity after they get better to perhaps complete their mission at home serving in Church Service missions and other opportunities. We’re working diligently to try to be sure they can complete their mission and have a positive experience.”
Adjusting mission numbers
Five years ago the Church President Thomas S. Monson announced an expansion in the number of missions due to a “surge of growth”. The Church is now trimming those missions.
“We’ve leveled off to around 70,000 missionaries—still way up from the 58,000 we had,” Elder Nielson said. “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.”
As technology becomes more and more prevalent in today’s world, church leaders have decided to provide most missionaries with a smartphone to assist them in their studies. They say they will use the online world to identify those who may be interested in their teachings.
For more information about these changes click here.