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Church: ‘Substantial numbers’ of missionaries may return to home nations; mission lengths may be reduced; all MTCs will stop accepting new missionaries

‘As we evaluate changing conditions, further necessary adjustments will be made,’ First Presidency says in letter

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The Provo Missionary Training Center is pictured on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.

No new missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will enter the faith’s 11 missionary training centers around the world. Above, the Provo Missionary Training Center is pictured on Wednesday, July 26, 2017.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Substantial numbers of Latter-day Saint missionaries will likely return to serve in their home countries and many may see the length of their missions reduced in the coming weeks as church leaders continue to respond to rapidly changing restrictions brought on by the coronavirus.

Additionally, no new missionaries will enter The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 11 missionary training centers around the world, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles announced in a letter released Friday afternoon.

All new missionaries will be trained virtually, through online video conferencing. The church plans to send them to their assigned missions as soon as possible, the letter said.

Friday’s latest announcement from church leaders came after weeks of cascading decisions about mission restrictions where COVID-19 is either present or where governments are taking action to curb its spread.

Church leaders already had determined that nonnative missionaries would return home from more than a quarter of the church’s 399 missions. The 54 previously affected missions included 26 missions in Africa, all 23 missions in the Philippines, all four in South Korea and the only mission in Mongolia.

The church also temporarily closed its mission in Hong Kong.

Church leaders said the adjustments will be made because of the pace of developments in world travel.

“The rapidly developing travel advisories and restrictions that are emerging around the world present significant logistical and other challenges.” they said in the letter.

The decision about missions in the Philippines and Africa were made after new government restrictions were instituted in those areas.

Friday’s decision came one day after the U.S. State Department issued what Politico called an extraordinary travel advisory that urged Americans not to travel overseas and to return to the United States if possible.

The Level 4 travel advisory is the most severe warning the department can issue and apparently is unprecedented. Americans who cannot return home are advised to stay where they are and not cross international boundaries.

The letter did not change church leaders’ announcement from Monday that they would continue to issue new mission calls.

Read the full letter below:

RE: Further Adjustments to Missionary Service Dear Brothers and Sisters, We take very seriously the health and safety of our missionaries and of those they teach. The rapidly developing travel advisories and restrictions that are emerging around the world present significant logistical and other challenges. Therefore, the following temporary adjustments are being made: • In the coming weeks, based upon world conditions, substantial numbers of missionaries will likely need to be returned to their home nations to continue their service. This will be done in a systematic way based on the urgency of travel restrictions, level of COVID-19 concern, and other considerations. • Returning missionaries will go through a 14-day period of self-isolation and then may be assigned to serve within their home country, based on local conditions. • The term of service for missionaries returning to or serving within the United States will likely be reduced to accommodate the large number of missionaries returning from around the world. • Missionary Training Centers worldwide will not receive new missionaries. MTC training for missionaries will take place through technology, and missionaries will be sent to their assigned mission as soon as possible. As we evaluate changing conditions, further necessary adjustments will be made. We love and pray for our missionaries and their families. We are grateful for the continued prayers and support of parents, loved ones and Church members as we make every effort to help them remain safe and well in these challenging times. Sincerely, The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles