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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
FILE - Missionaries from he MTC in Provo sing during the Saturday afternoon session of the 186th Semiannual General Conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016.

SALT LAKE CITY —Possible changes and flexibility in the daily schedules of the LDS Church's full-time missionaries were announced Wednesday in a meeting broadcast to missionaries and missionary training centers worldwide.

Mormon missionaries — in counsel with their respective mission presidents — now can customize their schedules to accommodate safety, local culture, health, productivity and other circumstances.

Another policy change announced at the meeting was a simplification of how missionaries report their productivity — the information known as "key indicators."

The changes were approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Currently, more than 71,000 missionaries are serving in the church's 422 missions.

“The most significant change in the schedule is to give the missionaries and also mission presidents the latitude to make the necessary decisions and adjustments in the daily work of the missionary,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who presides over the church's Missionary Executive Council.

Members of that council participated in Wednesday's two-hour training meeting, speaking of doctrine and principles regarding missionaries teaching, serving and inviting others to learn of the gospel of Jesus Christ as well as the missionaries' own personal growth and development.

Presently, the church's guidelines have missionaries arising at 6:30 a.m., with exercise, showering and dressing, breakfast and a series of study sessions occurring prior to leaving their residence for the day's proselyting. Typically, missionaries are to return to their living quarters by 9 p.m., conduct a planning session and retire to bed by 10:30 p.m.

A missionary's schedule now can be more flexible, depending on the culture of the region and country where the missionary is serving. For example, missionaries serving in Latin America may end up arising later and returning to their residence later, while in some African nations, their counterparts may get up earlier and return earlier.

Other adjustments included moving daily planning to the missionaries' morning schedule, with companionship study, language study and new missionary training allowed to be done both later in the day and outside of the missionaries' living quarters.

In addition to flexibility in daily schedules, the missionary's once-a-week "preparation day" has been adjusted with more flexibility and additional time for laundry, shopping, emailing or writing family and mission president, exercising and participating in recreational activities. Morning study time was tightened to just daily planning and personal study, with companion study, language study and new missionary training not required as part of the preparation day schedule.

“The thing I love about this new schedule is that it allows the missionaries to exercise their agency to determine how to best use their time,” said Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, Young Women general president and a member of the Missionary Executive Council. “It shows that the Lord trusts them to use their time wisely.”

Added Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “I think one other thing that’s intriguing about this is that this is a worldwide church and one size doesn’t fit all. So to be able to make that adjustment in areas and missions I think is very significant.”

The policy change is expected to improve the health and productivity of the missionaries, not only as they serve but leading to post-mission benefits as well, the leaders said.

“It will allow missionaries after the mission to make that smooth transition into their life and have that same flexibility as they have those same goals to continue to pray and to read their scriptures and to remain close to the Lord in their life,” said Elder Brent H. Nielson, a member of the Quorums of the Seventy and executive director of the LDS Church’s Missionary Department.

Missionaries will see a simplification of the key indicators of their proselyting and productivity. Those reporting numbers will focus solely on those who have been taught, baptized and confirmed; those being taught who have a baptismal date; those being taught who attend sacrament meeting; and new investigators.