On the heels of the historic announcement by the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church) in October 2012 regarding lowering the age requirements for missionaries, more developments were announced in a worldwide missionary broadcast held June 23, 2013.
Mormon missionaries, mission presidents, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ, and Latter-day Saints throughout the world came together via satellite and the Internet, in a two-hour meeting originating in the Marriott Center at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The Provo Missionary Training Center is located adjacent to the campus.
“Teach All Nations”
President Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ, reminded members of the Church that there is “no proclamation more relevant, no responsibility more binding, no instruction more direct than the injunction given by the resurrected Lord” to “teach all nations” the gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19).
The ultimate goal of missionary work in the Church is to invite all the inhabitants of the earth to come unto Christ, gain a personal testimony of Him, and make and keep covenants to follow Him. In the worldwide meeting, Elder Russell M. Nelson, one of the Twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ, said that God wants all of His children to return to Him, worthy of His blessings.
History of Missionary Work in the Church of Jesus Christ
The Church of Jesus Christ began sending out missionaries immediately after the Church was organized in April 1830. The first missionary was Samuel Smith, a younger brother of Joseph Smith, who was the first president of The Church of Jesus Christ. He traveled through upstate New York bearing testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and selling copies of that book. Since that early beginning, missionary work has always been a priority in The Church of Jesus Christ.
At the general conference of the Church held in October 2012, President Monson announced the lowering of the age requirement for missionaries:
“I am pleased to announce that effective immediately all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of age 19. . . . We have also given consideration to the age at which a young woman might serve. Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.”1
President Monson said that the response from these young people has been “remarkable and inspiring.”2 At the time of his announcement, 58,500 missionaries were serving. Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ said that as of the week of the broadcast, more than 70,000 missionaries are serving. By year’s end, the Church expects that number to grow to 85,000.
Mormon missionaries are called to labor under the direction of a mission president in a specific geographical area of the world. Because of the substantial increase in missionaries, the Church has created 58 new missions, bringing the number of missions to 405. Elder Russell M. Nelson noted that 173 new mission presidents and their wives were in attendance at the meeting.
Changes in Missionary Work
Elder Perry noted that missionaries will begin using the Internet and digital devices in their efforts, including Facebook, blogs, email, and text messages. Elder Perry said that many people prefer to connect online and “the Church must adapt to a changing world.” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, also one of the Twelve Apostles, said “there will continually be improvements in the way we perform missionary work.”
Elder Perry also noted that those who have are interested in the Church often complain that they “stop by one of our buildings only to find it locked” during the week. He said that missionaries would now be available at chapels as needed to guide them through Mormon houses of worship.
President Monson said that God has prepared multiple ways for members of the Church of Jesus Christ to perform missionary work and that “He will help us.”