In a significant shift, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now allowing its 65,000 missionaries worldwide to communicate with their families once a week through text messages, online messaging, phone calls and video chats in addition to letters and emails, officials announced Friday on Twitter.
Effective immediately, the @LDSchurch's 65,000 missionaries are authorized to communicate with their families each week on preparation day by text messages, online messaging, phone calls and video chats in addition to letters and emails. https://t.co/hGvAfTa7m9
— Church News (@the_churchnews) February 15, 2019
The Friday announcement was part of a slew of changes the Church is making to catch up with technology and the times.
In an online video message, a top leader of the church said they hope the increased and improved communication will motivate and invigorate missionaries.
“Regular communication with their families is an important part of a missionary’s service,” church officials said in a statement. “One of the major purposes of this adjustment is to encourage families to be more involved in their missionary’s efforts and experiences.”
The announcement blew up the Mormon Twittersphere.
Jenny Dye, of Murray, whose daughter Rae Eckton is serving a mission in Alberta, Canada, said she was “over the moon” when she saw the announcement from the church online.
“I retweeted the announcement, the article from the church news account and, in all capital letters, I wrote, WHAT, WHAT, WHAT? And I think six sobbing face emojis,” said Dye.
WHAT WHAT WHAThttps://t.co/u7JEhElN4z
— jenny noonan dye (@formerlyphread) February 15, 2019
Dye wasn’t the only parent crying with joy, to be sure.
Utah’s Lt. Governor, Spencer Cox, whose son is also serving a mission, in Mozambique, Africa tweeted a link to the news along with a personal note:
“I’m not crying, you’re crying. Ok, I’m totally crying.”
— Spencer Cox (@SpencerJCox) December 25, 2018
The communications can only happen on the day that missionaries are assigned to be able to communicate with their families. Known as preparation day, communications used to be by s-mail and and email only. Missionaries must initiate the communication.
Previously, missionaries were only allowed to communicate with their families via phone calls or video chats twice a year — on Christmas and on Mother’s Day. Missionaries typically serve 18 or 24 months.
There have been many changes affecting young members of the church since last April, when the church held its semi-annual General Conference — from sister missionaries being allowed to wear pants to missionaries receiving their assignments via email or text rather than snail mail.
Dye, who said she knows exactly how long her daughter Rae has been serving her mission, right down to the day — 7 months and 18 days — said it’s been challenging to have limited communication with her daughter,
“For me, it has been very, very difficult to not be able to be in regular contact with my daughter beyond electronic exchanges,” she said. “Just last week she and I were emailing back and forth and she expressed, ‘man mom, I wish I could just call you, I’m over email right now.’”
It’s a change that was long time coming, Dye said, and she hopes will improve the mental health of missionaries.
She said she thinks the increased communication will allow more young people to complete their missions, rather than dropping out before they finish.
Dye said she received a quick forwarded email from her daughter about the change.
“All she wrote was, ‘Mom, I’m literally crying’,” said Dye. “And I happened to be online too, and I responded, I said: ‘I am too. I love you so much!”