Missionaries approved to use e-mail


    By Lindsay Dickson

    More than 60,000 missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide will now have a more efficient way of getting news from home – e-mail.

    A letter released by The Church of Jesus Christ to mission presidents announced e-mail use, within limits, is now an approved form of communication for missionaries.

    Some of the specified conditions include writing only on preparation day, limiting communication to family members and covering their own costs.

    “They may use computers in libraries or in other appropriate public or commercial facilities,” the letter from President Boyd K. Packer said.

    President Ralph W. Smith of the Provo, Utah Mission said he is excited about the new program.

    “I think it will be a tremendous blessing – especially for the foreign missionaries,” he said.

    Smith said he has prepared a list of guidelines to help his missionaries appropriately use the newly available resource.

    The change in regulations will be especially helpful for one of his sister missionaries from Austria, he said. Since Sept. 11 letters have taken three times as long to get home, complicating the arrangements for her return.

    BYU religion professor Kelly Ogden, former president of the Santiago, Chile, East mission said he was very interested in the new policy since e-mail had been clearly banned for the past few years.

    Based on his own experience, Odgen said e-mail has the potential to greatly benefit missionaries and their families. While Ogden served in Chile, his son, serving in Columbia, was granted special permission to e-mail his family.

    “We loved receiving letters immediately rather than two months after he wrote them,” Ogden said.

    Although he liked the idea, he said he was concerned about the possible distraction of frequent contact and the risk of missionaries accessing inappropriate material on the Internet.

    He also emphasized the importance of church member support in preventing abuse of the privilege.

    News of the policy change has not yet reached all missions. Of seven mission homes contacted, only one had received official word.

    Others say the change will not affect them.

    Sister Slade of the Fiji, Suva mission said technology is so limited in their country that e-mail use by missionaries would not even be a possibility.

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