OREM — The LDS Church will announce the creation of at least two new missions next year, based on social media posts and other reports.
The Deseret News has confirmed that the new missions will be based in Orem, Utah, and Yakima, Washington.
News began to leak about new missions and mission president assignments in dribs and drabs earlier this week for two reasons. First, internal mission letters about the changes leaked out on social media and to news media. The letters informed missionaries in the Utah Provo Mission and the Washington Kennewick Mission that their missions will split on July 1, 2015, to create the new missions.
Second, Wednesday was the first day that new mission presidents who will begin serving in July could start to tell family and friends about their assignments. Some family and friends have passed that information along via social media.
The church won't confirm reports of the new missions and isn't expected to make an announcement until at least January.
“Announcements regarding missions are made by the First Presidency," church spokesman Dale Jones said. "Additional information will be provided at the appropriate time.”
For Utah Mormons, news of a new mission in Orem — the 10th in Utah — is interesting. Some might even consider it a "cool tidbit."
That was the phrase used in a Facebook post about the new mission on the Orem city website Thursday afternoon. That word, and the post itself, drew criticism from several commenters who felt the city was promoting a religion.
The city deleted the post and posted an apology in its place.
"Earlier today we posted about the LDS Church creating a Utah Orem Mission," the apology said. "Numerous people expressed their feelings that the City shouldn't be promoting a specific religion or church. Of course, that wasn't our intent. We apologize to anyone that felt that this was divisive, and not the role of government to be sharing this information. Our intent was to share something of general interest to the community. To prevent further feelings of divisiveness, we decided to remove our previous post."
Orem spokesman Steve Downs said the city learned about the Orem mission from a newspaper reporter. City officials had no direct information from the church and posted the news as "cool tidbit."
"This is information of general interest to the community of Orem," Downs told the Deseret News. "A church with a strong presence in our state is establishing an office in our city with the word 'Orem' in the title."
City staff replaced the post with the apology in an effort to avoid divisiveness.
"We've only deleted posts a couple of times since I've been here," said Downs, who has worked for Orem for about a year, "when we've felt like maybe there was a way to word information in a way that was less divisive."
The Provo mission now extends from western Utah County to the Colorado border and from the Point of the Mountain south to Goshen and Santaquin.
The new Orem mission boundaries will extend from Orem north to the Point of the Mountain. Early indications are it may include some area from what now is part of a southern Salt Lake mission.
There are now nine missions in Utah, with six in Salt Lake City and one each in Ogden, Provo and St. George.
In 1989, the church's Salt Lake City North and South missions split to create the Provo and Ogden missions.
The St. George mission split off from the Provo mission in 2010.
The Yakima mission will be the eighth in Washington, and the split will be the second for the Kennewick Mission in two years. Last year, the Kennewick Mission spun off the new Washington Vancouver Mission in the southern end of the state.
The Washington Kennewick Mission newsletter described how the mission would split.
The Washington Kennewick Mission will cover eight LDS stakes — the Kennewick, Kennewick East, Richland, West Richland, Pasco, Pasco North, Hermiston and Walla Walla stakes.
A stake is an organization of multiple congregations, like a diocese.
The Washington Yakima Mission will be comprised of seven stakes — the Yakima, Selah, Wenatchee, Othello, Moses Lake and Ephrata stakes from the Washington Kennewick Mission and The Dalles Oregon Stake from the Washington Vancouver Mission.
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