According to Deseret News, The LDS Church announced it is planning on trimming the number of missions, in an effort to increase digital proselyting among missionaries. Missionaries using tablets will upgrade to using smartphones. The church also announced it will have a global set of interview questions to ask those preparing to serve a mission.
Dr. Line-Noue Kruse, a special instructor of history and political science at BYU-Hawaii, commented on the purpose of the new interview questions. “As I understand, it is to help prospected missionaries to prepare. This list of questions also helps every young men and young women to prepare. As a mother...[the questions] help me to help my children to know the importance of being prepared.”
Having a child who is autistic, Kruse said, “I’ve always wondered if my child would be able to serve a mission. And now, after what Elder Ballard said … if [my son] comes to the point and thinks he may not be able to sustain the rigorousness of a mission, he’s still valued. He has other opportunities to serve.
“The intent is to make sure prospective missionaries are prepared not just in worthiness, but also physically, emotionally and psychologically- the whole package.”
Kruse said in 2012, the church increased its missionary force from 58,000 to 88,000 by allowing missionaries to serve missions at younger ages. “So now that we are globalized and have digitalized economies,” she said, “how wonderful is it that missionaries are going to have a smart phones? By integrating technology, it is a wonderful way [to increase the work] when our culture and languages and zones are so different.”
Kruse said this would reduce the hassle of using pass-along cards. “Now you can ask a missionary a question [and] have an investigator be interested and go right online, download the Book of Mormon in their language, and have it available.” Kruse said she favors missionaries being able to provide immediate answers compared to the months of waiting when using pass-along cards.
She continued, “I think the way the church is using technology is in the spirit of sharing the gospel. We’re keeping up with the times, but also we’re being led by our prophet. We have changed the way in which we are engaging in missionary work around the world.”
Sister and Elder Coleman, full-time senior missionaries from the Polynesian Culture Center, shared their experience with missions while shedding light on the latest LDS mission news. While serving another mission in Omaha, Nebraska, back in 2012, Sister Coleman recounted, “When that huge influence of missionaries came, we were opening apartments like crazy. Once the bubble went through, we were closing apartments like crazy. I think [decreasing missions] is a good idea. It seems like you have to have a certain number to run a mission.”
Elder Coleman commented on the reduction of missions. “The church has to run things like a business. … It doesn’t make sense to have things that aren’t being utilized.”
As far as electronics go, Elder Coleman said, “I can see where it is absolutely essential and needed in order to keep up with this day and age. Theoretically you could give me a name, I could submit it, and it could be to the missionaries within five minutes halfway across the world.”
Talking about the concern of missionaries possibly being distracted by using electronics more, Sister Coleman said, “There’s all different kinds of challenges for a good thing.” Elder Coleman emphasized that it’s not the electronic device that makes decisions about its use, but rather the missionary. He said, “There are those who are good missionaries, and those who are bad missionaries.”
While there has been a decline in the number of missionaries to just over 70,000 as reported during the April 2017 General Conference, Sister Coleman said, “They’re not reducing the work. Every place is covered. It’s just bigger areas now.”
NOTE: This article's online publication was delayed because it was featured in the Dec. 2017 print issue.