Father’s Day too – missionary communication options

So now missionaries can use all modern communication techniques to interact with their family every week, not just on Christmas and Mother’s Day.

Check out the full article at the Official Church Newsroom.

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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

12 thoughts on “Father’s Day too – missionary communication options

  1. I enthused about this to a co-worker and they asked if I expected any blowback from this (or other moves I was telling him about). I suggested that mainly people are having a hard time dealing with desirable change.

    On the other hand, I expect there will be more talking and videoing and less written communication. A side effect of this will be that there may be less recorded information about what has occurred. That said, anyone truly concerned that less will be recorded can go ahead and keep writing long letters.

  2. “Elder Uchtdorf said the new guidelines offer several additional benefits, … as well as better supporting those missionaries who would benefit from increased personal contact with family at home.”

    That’s not too hard to unpack.

  3. I wonder if this is going to be another optional thing (like leaving for missions at age 18) that will become de facto de rigueur. Missionary emails have been so great for us “secondary” readers. Will everyone in Utah start working 4 10’s so that they can be home during junior’s p-day? Pity the family whose daughter gets sent to the antipodes!

  4. If you are worried about the lack of recorded information with more frequent phone calls, you should remember that people today don’t like to actually talk on the phone. Text messaging is the preferred form of communication. At modern smartphones can provide wonderful archived copies of message chains. We might even end up with more records than we ever had with letters and email.

  5. With respect to the history embodied in communication between missionaries and their families, texts and chat sessions will create a tangible record. There are conference call options that let you record and transcribe the conversation.

    I don’t know all the history behind the prior practice of limiting phone calls to Christmas and Mother’s Day. One element could be that communication wasn’t possible for all missions before now, so having all missionaries minimize communications created a level playing field.

    I know there used to be more concern that missionaries (then predominantly male) might get distracted by romantic concerns. But with the reduction in the age of service, the increase of women in the mission field, and global societal trends, the landscape of romantic distraction has shifted.

    There are also the combined factors that 1) emotional support is crucial to the success of a larger percentage (due to younger age of service) and 2) it is increasingly jarring for a family-centered Church to prohibit communication between a missionary and their family in the modern age. I was going to say something about the recent concerns about the handling of missionaries who experience trauma, but I don’t know enough about that subject to have an informed opinion about how this change in communication options interacts with that matter.

  6. As something of a momma’s boy, the lack of options for communication with home during my mission in the 90’s forced a certain self-reliance and maturity. I learned how to troubleshoot problems and independently negotiate mental and spiritual obstacles. Had I all these new and frequent options, my mission would have been much less effective in those regards. Physically in the field; mentally back at home. I don’t dispute these changes, but neither do I celebrate them.

  7. It’s useful to remember that communication is an option to be initiated by the missionary. And it’s only supposed to be weekly, not every time a problem arises. Therefore I don’t think there will be too much erosion of the maturation and separation missions have historically provided to youthful missionaries.

  8. Ah, but as a gal in our ward put it yesterday, if Mom knows it’s an “option,” it’s really not much of an option.

    Look, I get that these kids are younger and needier all around. I see this as more of an inspired strategy for anxiety mitigation, rather than a some much-need abolition of outdated norms or some new breakthrough in family focused service. The brethren are simply recognizing and dealing with the realities of the day.

  9. I’m okay with the options for communicating, but like Tossman says, I think the average missionary will feel pressure from family to Facetime/Skype on P-days. My two older sons served, and even with my wife’s pressure, they probably wouldn’t have Facetimed more than once every month or two. My last daughter should hit the mission field in about 4 months, and she is along the same lines. I doubt we’ll hear from her too often as we can barely get her to pick up her phone while she’s away in school. I do think it will help keep some missionaries in the field that otherwise might have gone home. When I served in Italy 1980-82, we couldn’t even call home for Christmas or Mother’s Day. I did call my family for a few minutes right as I left the MTC to fly to Italy, but other than letters once a week, didn’t have any verbal communication with them for the next 22 months. It didn’t kill me, and I can’t say whether I would have been distracted had I been allowed to Facetime/Skype/text on a frequent basis. My parents weren’t members of the church, so it might have been good had I been able to talk to them occasionally beyond what I could express in letters. On the other hand, I was writing a girl that would eventually become my wife. I’m not sure how I would have handled that challenge, except to note that thankfully my P-Day was not on Fridays or Saturdays when she was out running around on her BYU dates:)

  10. Regarding missionaries who have experienced trauma, my brother-in-law’s wife died suddenly in July while a son and daughter were (and still are) away serving missions for the church. It was decided that it would help the daughter to have weekly video chats with her family. She recently lowered the frequency of that to every other week because the logistics of doing the chats every week was a bit too much.

    My two missionary sons regularly interacted with their brother at home via some sort of interactive text chatting. The mission president of one of them decided at one point that his missionaries should discontinue that form of communication. In October when my wife was dying from a year-long illness, their mission presidents gave me the missionaries area cell phone numbers; I didn’t ask for them.

    These examples leave me thinking that much of what has been announced has already been happening with many missionaries, and the mission presidents and missionary department have a lot of experience leading up to the present.

    I do wonder if anything will change with my son who is still out. Setting up video with the family on Christmas is a bit of a hassle that I don’t expect he or I will find worth doing every week. My son who has been back a few months said weekly calls were definitely something that he would not have wanted. I had wondered before if we should have a Mothers’ Day call, so I guess that puzzle has been answered.

  11. I think that in the past missionary communication has been function of technology and cost, not necessarily to form a barrier from the family.

    For early missionaries, letters were the only option. Once telephones became common, they were still burdensomely expensive for most to use for long distance calls, especially overseas. So letters remained the consistant method except for special occasions.

    Once email became commonplace with no real cost, then that became a standard communication form. No more waiting for 3 weeks to get a letter.

    Now due to the internet and unlimited call cell plans, many of the financial burdens are eliminated for most forms of communication. It makes sense that the Church would embrace these, as I think that barring communication from the family was never the goal.

    I do think that avoiding distractions are still very important and mission presidents may be busy trying to make sure that communication is not excessive nor becomes distracting. But, I think that some have interpreted former policy as a form of separation incorrectly.

    Then again, I could be interpreting this completely wrong myself.

  12. As for my missionary, I suggested a communications option and they proposed/executed something else entirely. And after a while, it was “Time for me to hang up now. Love you guys!” with various iterations on ‘Bye, Love you!’ then <click>.

    I think it was stressful because they were dealing with unusual snowfall, an outage of the computers they are normally able to use for P-day e-mail, and being asked to keep all electronic communications with home (e-mail, calls, etc.) to the 90 minute window originally set aside for electronic communications.

    I would disagree that the previous limitation on communications was merely informed by cost and access. My final missionary companion was the only convert in her family and was granted permission to phone home regularly (circa 1985).

    In a recent situation, someone I know had been granted permission to phone home regularly, but the mission president disagreed with this Church HQ-approved allowance and decided to send the missionary home due to “disobedience.” That individual has not darkened the doors of a Church since, and I don’t think this recent change will affect their feelings on the matter.

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