The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are expanding the use of mobile devices for missionaries serving in the United States, Canada, Japan and western Europe, according to mormonnewsroom.org. The announcement comes after a successful pilot program involving some 6,500 missionaries in the United States and Japan. Those missionaries were equipped with iPad minis for studying and teaching the gospel.
The use of technology has given these missionaries a broader sphere of influence as they’ve been able to take to social media to further share the gospel message and encourage the families they teach.
The announcement, presented by the above interview by Elder David R. Evans, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy and the executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department, detailed that by early 2015, the Church expects that more than 32,000 missionaries in 162 missions throughout the world will be using mobile devices. Missionaries will have to buy their own preconfigured iPad minis, though assistance will be given to those who can’t afford the $400 price tag. The iPads are devices that they will have throughout their missions and for them to keep after they are released.
The Reaction to the Age Change
Elder Evans remarked that, “What we see is that this generation simply have a desire to serve,” and that, “They’ve responded magnificently to President Monson’s call.” The Church believes that the young people of the Church will continue to say, “Yes” and choose to continue serving long after their missions.[quote_box_right]Numbers for June:
85,728 missionaries total
6,735 seniors (8%)
54,053 elders (63%)
24,950 sisters (29%)[/quote_box_right]A record number of 86,000 missionaries are currently serving in 406 missions around the world. Prior to the age change, the church’s missionary force was 58,000 strong. Later this year, the “surge” is expected to peak at 88,000 missionaries. Then will begin tapering off in the fall. Elder Evans anticipates that the number of missionaries serving will stabilize around 77,000 or more, but will not drop down to 2012 levels.
The Goals of the Devices
The new technology will enhance the existing tools missionaries use. On their device they will have an Area Book Planner (which will replace the printed Area Book and the Missionary Planner) and also have the Gospel Library app which includes scriptures, manuals, magazines and other teaching resources.
The devices, paired with the Preach My Gospel style of “teaching people, not lessons,” is sure to enhance the experience of those investigating the Church and improve the study habits of missionaries.
Church leaders hope the devices will enable missionaries to better prepare to enter the mission field prior to entering missionary training centers. “And then because of the ability to learn beforehand and to learn after the MTC, we anticipate that the MTC experiences will remain shorter now, as compared to earlier times,” Elder Evans said.
Another goal of putting technology into the hands of missionaries is to teach them lifelong digital habits. “We know that even with filters and every other safeguard that we can provide that the only really effective filter for lifelong technology use is the individual heart and mind of the individual young person,” stressed Elder Evans.
The Role of Sisters
The age change for sisters to serve has resulted in a flood of sister missionaries to missions around the world. This has opened up more leadership experience for them as missions must respond to their needs. Elder Evans described the essential voice sisters give to their missions,
“We’ve seen them participate in what’s now known as the mission leadership council, and we’ve seen them really respond in a wonderful way to the opportunity now to not only serve a mission, but also during the course of that participate in the mission leadership council, to provide input and counsel with regard to the direction that a mission would take and the challenges and problems that are faced, as well as the opportunities.”
Elder Evans stressed safety as a top priority for the missionary department. From avoiding the spiritual pitfalls of misusing technology to bicycle safety. With the spike in missionary service, Elder Evans reported that accidents involving missionaries have remained proportional, but that the Church has plans to launch a missionary saftey program. The program will encourage missionaries to start their day with a “safety moment” for riding bicycles, service projects and other activities. Raising the sensitivity of missionaries to possible issues will decrease accidents and injuries.
Elder Evans closes by saying, “We love these missionaries, and we know the Lord loves these missionaries, and we are committed to absolutely doing everything we can to protect their safety.”