Five years have passed since President Thomas S. Monson announced an age change for full-time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October 2012. Since then, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have made many adjustments to full-time missionary service, including schedule flexibility, new dress standards and added leadership opportunities. Read more about those changes over the past five years below:
Sisters in leadership
Only six months after President Monson announced the missionary age change in 2012, the LDS Church announced new leadership opportunities for sister missionaries.
“Today, women now . . . serve in new positions as sister training leaders, participate on the new mission leadership councils, train elders and sisters in district, zone and mission meetings, are responsible for the welfare of all other sister missionaries and report directly to the mission president or his wife on sisters' issues,” said the Deseret News.
Previously, sister missionaries had few leadership opportunities besides that of senior companion, and their new roles have brought added success to their missions, the article stated.
An increase in numbers
Deseret News held an exclusive interview with Elder David F. Evans of the First Quorum of the Seventy one year after the missionary age change. According to the article, there were 58,000 missionaries in October 2012. In October 2013, those numbers had jumped to approximately 80,000.
“Right now, as compared to a year ago, there are about 11,000 more sisters serving, and about 10,000 more elders serving and hundreds of additional couples who are serving,” Elder Evans said.
The increase of LDS missionaries also made a large impact on the surrounding community, including “Utah area colleges and universities, businesses, and even college sports teams,” Deseret News reported.
The LDS Church opened 58 new missions in July 2013 in an attempt to accommodate the influx of new missionaries since 2012. According to the Deseret News, the new missions were created in areas where missionaries had already been working, including California, Arizona, Idaho, Washington, Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines and western Africa.
As of 2016, sister missionaries were encouraged to wear slacks in areas where the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses were present, said the Deseret News. Previously, sister missionaries wore dresses or skirts exclusively.
The article also stated that in areas where it is not culturally acceptable for women to wear dress slacks, “sister missionaries will be able to wear long dresses to cover their legs to protect against mosquito bites.”
In January 2017, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles approved changes to missionaries’ daily schedules, the Deseret News reported. According to the article, missionaries typically arise at 6:30 a.m. and return to their living quarters by 10:30 p.m., but those times are now more flexible.
“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,” the article said.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said the missionary changes reflected the growth of the church, which had 422 missions throughout the world at the time.
“I think one other thing that’s intriguing about this is that this is a worldwide church and one size doesn’t fit all,” he said. “So to be able to make that adjustment in areas and missions I think is very significant.”
Missionary Training Centers
The LDS Church’s Missionary Training Center (MTC) expansion was built to accommodate the increase of full-time missionaries, said the Deseret News. The building, which has 200 additional classrooms, open spaces and new artwork, has 3,700 missionaries and trains in 55 different languages. The Philippines MTC was also recently renovated and a new MTC was constructed in Ghana.