More older couples are urgently needed to serve missions and provide leadership support to new members.

Elder Earl C. Tingey of the Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department underscored the situation when he said: "There is a great need for missionary couples, particularly in the area of leadership, proselyting and retention."According to the Missionary Department, the current group of missionary couples serving in leadership and proselyting is many hundreds fewer than are needed.

Missionaries are also wanted for other areas of service, such as in the Church Educational System, humanitarian, mission offices, temples and family history, "but the greatest need is in leadership," said Elder Tingey.

Couples who serve leadership/proselyting missions, he said, typically would be assigned to a branch or district where they would assist in the training of branch and auxiliary presidencies.

"The missionary would not generally be called as a branch or a district president, but might be called as a counselor," explained Elder Tingey. "The couple would attend the branch council or the branch priesthood executive committee." There, couples would teach the fundamentals of Church leadership such as conducting meetings and working in councils.

Couples can be also be extremely helpful in training local leaders to improve retention of new converts. They can help local leaders see that every new convert has a friend, a responsibility and is nurtured through gospel study.

"These couples also attend missionary meetings and are expected to find and teach non-members during their mission," said Elder Tingey. "They typically have access to a car and will do proselyting work, activation, and look up referrals." However, they are not expected to match the hours of the younger single missionaries. He said that many new branch leaders have been in the Church a year or less and simply lack the experience needed for their callings.

On the other hand, missionary couples, he said, "bring experience, maturity and solid judgment. Many of our units have great potential spiritual leaders, but they have so little experience that they haven't seen the Church in its fulness."

He said the couples don't take over the responsibilities of local members, but assist them as needed.

Elder Tingey explained that couples' special skills, health issues and finances are taken into consideration, but that couples should be willing to accept a call anywhere in the world.

"We would like to have couples accept the call that will be extended to them, and their assignment as determined by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve."

He counseled that couples shouldn't wait for "the ideal time" to serve a mission, because "it never happens. There is always a family or other situation that pops up that will seem to be more important. The best thing is to just decide to go and let the Lord take care of the things that seem to get in the way.

"If you wait for the ideal time, it never comes because age and health get in the way."

Eugene H. Findlay, Missionary Department coordinator of couples and former president of the Texas Houston Mission, said that requests for missionary couples pour in from throughout the world. A recent mailing from Church headquarters on missionary couples indicated that for all categories of missionary service, there are about 3,000 places where couples have been requested, but only about 1,800 couples are now serving.

Shortages exist in a number of areas. A partial list of categories and areas where missionary couples and sister missionaries serve includes:

- Leadership, proselyting and retention of new converts.

- Mission offices.

- Temples.

- Humanitarian services.

- The Church Educational System.

- Alternative assignments.

- Visitors centers and historical sites.

- Medical advisers.

- Family History Centers.

- Microfilm workers.

- Nauvoo Restoration Inc.

- Farm management.

- Miscellaneous.