On October 20th, the Church announced changes to the missionary program. Managing director Gary Crittenden and General Authority Seventy Elder Brent H. Nielson shared several upcoming shifts to missionary work, and all prospective missionaries should review the new set of eligibility and worthiness interview questions provided for church leaders.
One change in the announcement referenced a reduction in the number of missions worldwide. The age change announced in October 2013 created a major surge in the missionary force, and these shifts will come as numbers stabilize.
Technology will also play a larger role in future missionary efforts. Elder Nielson alluded to the New Testament story in John 21, when Christ instructed His apostles where to lower their nets to find fish.
“The lesson is that the fish were always there in the water, but Jesus directed the apostles where to find them,” Elder Nielson said. “Our circumstance is similar. God knows where to find those who are seeking truth, and that’s why we’re seeking better ways to find them.” With this focus in mind, the Church aims to be more available and accessible to those searching for truth in this digital age.
The interview questions show a clear shift in how prospective missionaries are expected to prepare to serve. The Church’s focus in this and all changes announced is to create a better missionary experience before, during, and after formal service. The questions are available to all members, and can be obtained online through a link provided in the news release (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/multimedia/file/15137_000_letter.pdf) and by request from a bishop’s office. As stated in the release, “The hope is that each young man and woman will be familiar with them years before they formally prepare to serve so they have a more complete understanding of the rigorous requirements of missionary work.”
The questions focus on both worthiness and capacity to meet the mental, emotional, and physical demands of a full-time mission. They do not change or add to the existing requirements. These questions are intended to help reduce distress, encourage success, and address issues that have been shown to create problems once a missionary is in the field.
Prospective missionaries should read and discuss these questions with their support system, and take action on items that require attention. Preparing for a mission means more than a packing list, shots, and passport paperwork. Repentance is a major focus of these questions, as is discussion of prospective missionaries’ foundations of faith. Honesty is crucial and worth the trials of repentance.
The blunt nature of some of these questions may come as a shock and may lead to difficult discussions. Prospective missionaries would do well to remember this comment made by President Gordon B. Hinckley in 2003: “Missionary work is not a rite of passage in the Church. It is a call extended by the President of the Church to those who are worthy and able to accomplish it. Good physical and mental health is vital . . . for the work is demanding, the hours are long, and the stress can be heavy.”
Reading and addressing the interview questions early will help prospective missionaries find and stay on the path to a positive, healthful, and powerful full-time mission.