Service missions, shorter terms of service, and the opportunity to still live at home. These are the main changes that will affect some missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, starting in January 2019.
The key word there is “some.” The church is still prioritizing the “proselyting” mission, which a majority of Mormon missionaries will apparently continue to serve. In that more traditional scenario, missionaries don’t know where in the world they’ll be sent, only that their service will last either 18 months (for young women) or two years (for young men).
Service missionaries, by contrast, may be assigned as little as six months as they work in charitable organizations and “church operations” in their local areas. They will continue to live at home under the care of their parents, while their local stake president, rather than the area’s mission president, is responsible for supervising them. Friday’s Mormon Newsroom announcement gave several examples of service missionaries who have participated in trial programs of this nature.
Readers of this column may remember that this kind of service mission was one of the rumored, predictions at last month’s General Conference. It didn’t become reality at Conference, but weeks later here it is: one of the most interesting and potentially expansive changes to the missionary program in a generation.
In general, I’m pleased with the policy’s recognition that a full-time proselyting mission is not for every young person. The 24/7 life of a Mormon missionary can be exceptionally stressful, especially in a culture that emphasizes exacting obedience. An article earlier this week in the Deseret News —foreshadowing, apparently—explored the anxiety experienced by many missionaries, some of whom are sent home early.