The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced changes to its missionary program that expand opportunities for missionaries unable to serve full-time proselyting missions.
Starting Jan. 2, 2019, all prospective missionaries in the U.S. and Canada will submit the same online missionary recommendation form regardless of health issues that may impede a proselyting mission, according to mormonnewsroom.org.
Currently, missionaries set to serve full-time proselyting missions use the missionary online recommendation system. The process includes health evaluations and interviews with local bishops and stake presidents.
Members who intend to serve a service mission search and apply for available Church-service opportunities through an online search engine. The application is then sent to Church leaders, who may choose to interview the prospective missionary, for approval. Upon approval, the missionaries receive their call from their stake presidents a few days later, according to LDS.org.
The announced changes consolidate the process. All prospective missionaries in the U.S. or Canada will use the same missionary online recommendation system and be assigned to either a proselyting or service mission. All calls will be issued by the president of the Church.
All missionaries will first be considered for proselyting missions, according to mormonnewsroom.org. Missionaries may be called to service missions for physical or mental health reasons. Missionaries who return home early from full-time proselyting missions for health reasons will also be considered for service missions.
Dixie State student Bradley Wade was set apart as a service missionary in September 2016, the day after returning home early from a full-time proselyting mission in Santiago, Chile. He completed a service mission in St. George, his hometown.
Wade said he thinks the changes to service missions will encourage more people to serve missions who may not have previously considered doing so.
“It’s an experience that I wouldn’t have traded for anything,” Wade said about his service mission. “Instead of coming home off my mission and being like, ‘Oh man, I just feel like I let everyone down,’ I was able just to transition into something that was just as honorable as anything else and was able to serve the Lord just like anybody else.”
According to Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, most missionaries will be called to serve proselyting missions.
Elder Renlund said service missionaries live at home and serve for either the Church or the local community. He said service missionaries make a “huge difference.”
“They’re dependable, they show up, they do the work,” Elder Renlund told mormonnewsroom.org about service missionaries. “They’re cheerful, they’re positive, they’re enthusiastic. They bring life and energy.”
Sister Synne Josefa Silva from Oslo, Norway, has been a service missionary since September.
Sister Silva initially reported to the France León Mission in June, where she spent one transfer before returning home to Oslo because of anxiety. As soon as Sister Silva returned home in August, she spoke to her stake president about completing a service mission.
“I was not ready to be done with my mission, and I knew that I had to continue,” Sister Silva said.
Sister Silva now serves as the referral manager in the Norway Oslo Mission. She works five days a week for about 11 hours a day in the mission office. In addition to her responsibilities as a referral manager, Sister Silva studies her scriptures, helps full-time missionaries with Norwegian and sometimes teaches lessons with the missionaries.
“I just love the fact that I’m sacrificing my time and setting my normal life on hold,” Sister Silva said. “I am not studying or working on the side. I’m not dating. I truly love the fact that I’m still doing the same sacrifice as a full-time missionary.”
A church service mission is more accommodating to Sister Silva’s anxiety, she said, as she can set her own schedule and set apart time for herself when she needs it.
“When I’m having a bad day, I can tell the mission president, ‘Hey, I’m not feeling good,'” Sister Silva said. “I don’t feel bad about it because I know I’m able to do the work when I’m here.”
Sister Silva called the changes to service missions “amazing.” She said the changes will give service missionaries an experience more similar to that of full-time proselyting missions, including getting a call from the president of the Church.
“It’s really important to make that foundation for service missionaries and give them motivation, like, ‘Yes, I am serving a mission. I’m giving and sacrificing my time to the Lord, and a prophet or one of the (members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) are recognizing this,” Sister Silva said. “It’s really empowering, starting off like that.”