New Latter-day Saint missionaries no longer need a COVID-19 vaccination or have a negative COVID-19 test to enter the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, according to a letter sent by email from the MTC to missionaries.

Masks are optional, too, according to the email.

“You will now determine for yourself whether to use a facemask in all settings at the Provo MTC based on your own individual circumstances,” the letter said. “We encourage all to extend love and respect to others and their decisions.”

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The changes were confirmed by church spokesman Sam Penrod.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has operated Missionary Training Centers throughout the world since last summer, maintaining strict COVID-19 requirements,” Penrod said in a statement provided Tuesday to the Deseret News. “Following the recent guidance of local health departments and government officials, church leaders have reduced some of these requirements at various training centers, such as allowing masks to be optional, eliminating testing before arrival and encouraging but not requiring vaccination for missionaries who are training in person.”

In April 2021, the church included the COVID-19 vaccination among the required immunizations for all missionaries. Since then, those who decline vaccination are assigned to server within their home country.

“Up-to-date COVID-19 vaccination is still required for all missionaries to serve in assignments outside of their home countries,” Penrod said Tuesday.

Missionaries training at the Provo MTC will continue to be required to wear masks when attending the Provo Utah Temple, the letter to missionaries said. Masks remain required in all temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After missionaries leave the MTC for their assignments around the world, they will be required to follow their mission’s mask guidelines.

“Please remember that these changes apply to MTC training only,” the letter said. “You may still be required to wear masks, be tested, and/or be vaccinated depending on travel requirements or requirements for your assigned mission.”

The guidelines were updated as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed mask guidelines for the majority of the country, including Utah County, where Provo is the county seat. The Utah Legislature ended a statewide mask mandate nearly a year ago.

The update comes two months after the Omicron variant prompted a COVID-19 outbreak at the Provo MTC. Over 15% of the MTC’s trainees tested positive in late December. Most experienced no or mild symptoms. That same week, Omicron-driven cases rose 60% nationally. Cases have subsided since then.

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The updated guidelines apply only to the Provo MTC. As Penrod indicated, changes will be instituted at the church’s nine other MTCs “as COVID circumstances and local government restrictions allow,” the email said.

The updated guidelines allow both vaccinated and unvaccinated missionaries to attend on-site training at the Provo MTC. All missionaries who began or will begin the at-home portion of their training on Feb. 21 or later should plan to arrive at the MTC beginning on March 30 complete their training, the letter said.

A missionary participates in the training for two missions and the MTC in Bogotá, Colombia, on Nov. 17, 2021.
A missionary participates in the training for two missions and the MTC in Bogotá, Colombia, on Nov. 17, 2021. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Some missionaries may still require a COVID test prior to arrival at the Provo MTC if it is required for airline travel to the MTC. Testing also is required if a missionary has cold or flu-like symptoms in the days before entering the MTC, the letter said.

Fully vaccinated missionaries with callings to serve in English began to return to the Provo MTC on June 23, ending a 14-month hiatus. The church had closed all 10 MTCs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the 14 months the MTCs were closed, missionaries had trained solely online from home.