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Coronavirus: Church announces multiple changes for missionaries; some in United States, Canada may go home early

Sharing the gospel ‘remains a sacred priority,’ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced in a news release regarding missionaries and the global coronavirus pandemic

Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints walk between buildings at the Missionary Training Center in Provo on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Latter-day Saint missionaries serving in the United States or Canada may be released after 21 months if their assignments are scheduled to end on or before Sept. 1 because of the global coronavirus pandemic, according to an official church statement about multiple changes to missionary service released Monday morning.

“Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ remains a sacred priority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” the statement said, “even in the current circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We are adapting to constantly changing conditions,” it continued. “Missionaries will continue to be called to serve and assigned to labor in missions worldwide. Missionary recommendations will continue to be received, and missionary assignments for worldwide service will continue to be made.”

The statement announced several temporary adjustments to missionary service, most of which are actions taken previously in missions most affected by the spread of the coronavirus.

For example, the church said young missionaries with health issues and senior missionaries may be released from service, something that has been done in the faith’s 22 missions in Europe.

Also, missionaries who begin their service but are unable to travel to their assigned mission may be temporarily reassigned to another mission. This is the case for missionaries who originally received assignments to serve in Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Japan and other missions.

Last week, the church said it would stop sending new missionaries to two of its 11 missionary training centers. The MTC in Provo, Utah, which has about 1,000 missionaries, and the England MTC, which has about 60 missionaries, many of whom will leave for assignments this week, are converting to virtual missionary training by video conferencing.

Monday’s announcement also said “some missionaries may be temporarily reassigned.”

The biggest change was for young elders serving in the United States or Canada. Those scheduled to complete their missions on or before Sept. 1 may be released after serving 21 months instead of 24 months.

The temporary adjustments are being made out of an abundance of caution, the statement said. Additional changes will be made as needed.

“We continue to monitor the spread of this condition and its impact on missionaries worldwide,” it said. “We take very seriously the health and safety of our missionaries and of those they teach.”

The church previously closed its mission in Hong Kong and temporarily sent home all nonnative missionaries from missions in South Korea and Mongolia.

Church leaders have directed missionaries serving in at least 10 countries from Italy to Singapore, Japan and Thailand to work primarily from their apartments, going out only to shop for necessities, exercise and get fresh air. They have continued to teach using technology.

The statement said those missionaries also should continue “studying the scriptures and Preach My Gospel, language learning, family history, online community service and other activities as identified by the mission president.”

Mission leaders are encouraging them to contact their families frequently.

“As a church,” the statement said, “we express our love and appreciation for all missionaries as they strive to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ and share his love wherever they serve.”