Gerry Avant, Gerry Avant
PROVO — With the worldwide LDS missionary force surging due to the recent reduction in age for missionary service, church leaders on Sunday spoke via satellite to a global gathering of missionaries and local church officers and members, presenting innovative approaches to missionary work, including the use of the Internet by full-time missionaries in their work and the opening of local meetinghouses to guided tours.
Emanating from the Marriott Center on the campus of Brigham Young University, the Worldwide Leadership Broadcast featured pre-recorded messages from President Thomas S. Monson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and President Boyd K. Packer of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve, as well as live and pre-recorded presentations from other members of that quorum.
The broadcast was part of the annual training for new mission presidents, numbering 173 this year, more than ever before, gathered this week at the Provo Missionary Training Center for four days of instruction.
“To all the full-time missionaries sharing in this broadcast around the world, we say never again in your entire life are you going to be part of a zone conference this large!” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum the Twelve as he conducted the meeting.
“To the many members of the church gathered in innumerable locations, we affirm that ward and stake councils can no longer say of this great army of missionaries, ‘There they go.’ No, the hour is upon us in which we must now say, ‘Here they come.’ All of us must plan for and use this heaven-sent resource in the most productive way possible.”
The number of full-time missionaries worldwide has surged from some 52,000 to an unprecedented 70,274 after last October’s announcement that the age of eligibility for service would be lowered from 19 to 18 for men and from 21 to 19 for women. Fifty-eight new missions were created to accommodate the increase, bringing the total to 405.
“We have asked, ‘What will all these missionaries do?’ ” said Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve in his address. “Our answer is that they will do the same thing that missionaries have always done; they will follow the Savior Jesus Christ and preach his restored gospel.”
But in this digital age, that will now include the Internet as a method, he said, explaining that for people today, online media are often their main point of contact with others, even close friends.
“During less-productive times of the day — chiefly in the mornings — missionaries will use computers in meetinghouses and other church facilities to contact investigators and members, work with local priesthood leaders and missionary leaders, receive and contact referrals, follow up on commitments, confirm appointments and teach principles from [the missionary guide] “Preach My Gospel” using Mormon.org, Facebook, blogs, email and text messages,” Elder Perry said.
He added that Internet access and use of digital devices by missionaries will be introduced in phases over the next several months and into next year.
“Of course safety is paramount in this new frontier of missionary work,” Elder Perry said. “Mission presidents will monitor missionaries’ online work to help them remain safe in all they do.”
A complaint often received from people interested in the church is they build up courage to stop by an LDS house of worship only to find it locked and empty, Elder Perry noted. The meetinghouses will now be opened for guided tours by missionaries.
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