PROVO – It isn’t just the upcoming General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that’s seeing major changes because of coronavirus. Church officials are announcing big changes in how new missionaries will be trained for their service, which are designed around coronavirus prevention.
Starting Monday, March 16, all missionaries that were scheduled to report at the Missionary Training Centers in Provo and Preston, England, will be trained remotely by video conference. The Church issued a statement saying, “Other missionary training centers will continue to function as usual, but they will not receive any missionaries from regions where government officials are restricting activity. Missionaries from those areas will also be trained by video conference.”
Church leaders confirm these video conferences will happen either at home or at other appropriate locations, like meetinghouses. The Missionary Department sent a letter to future missionaries saying, “You will learn through video conferencing in your home or other suitable location rather than in person at the missionary training center. Be assured during this time that the Lord loves you, is aware of you and the challenges that this may present and will support you as you serve Him.
Your training experience will begin on your originally established missionary training start date and will count toward your time of missionary service. Your stake president has also been made aware of this change.”
Some future missionaries say they’re very curious as to how this training will work.
Emily Bates from Farmington is preparing to serve in Missouri for the first several months of her mission then transferring to North Carolina. She says people in her ward were under the impression she would be serving in Italy, and were scared for her safety.
“I [told one woman], ‘No, I’m going to North Carolina.’ She said, ‘Oh, thank heavens for that. That would have been so scary if you had to go there because Milan, Italy, shut down.’ My stake president was saying the exact same stuff,” she says.
Bates isn’t sure if this virtual training will still be in effect by the time she starts serving in May. However, she says she enjoys a more traditional class structure.
“I like old school better. So, it’s kind of weird to be thinking we’re not going to be in a normal class,” Bates says.
Despite all the concern over the spread of the coronavirus, Bates says she’s still excited to serve. Her mother, Lisa, served in the Philippines in 1984 and 1985. She remembers reporting to the MTC and forming close bonds with the people there.
“Then, if they go to your same mission, you have them throughout your mission,” she says.
Lisa Bates says she had a feeling Church officials would make changes to where her daughter would go for training. In the end, she says she has faith that her daughter will be safe.
“The Provo MTC is such an international place. People come in from all over the world. I said, ‘They may change your MTC. Who knows what’s going to go on? The Church is taking this very seriously.’”
Stake presidents were given instructions on how long these virtual training sessions are expected to last. Presidents got letters, saying…
“The duration of the missionary’s at-home, online MTC experience will vary depending on each mission call and language assignment. Missionaries assigned to missions where they will speak their native language will have a three-week online experience. Missionaries who will be learning a new language will have a six- to nine-week experience, depending on language difficulty. In all cases, the MTC staff will tell the missionary how long the at-home preparation will be. They will also be able to answer any other questions.
Missionaries can expect to have approximately six hours of online training per day. They will be expected to hold their personal study, participate in remote companionship study, and complete other assigned activities provided by their MTC teachers throughout the day. They should expect to be anxiously engaged in study, practice, and preparation.”