On April 29, the Mormon Newsroom quietly released a statement explaining that volunteers in Turkey would be temporarily removed from the country:
Due to a prolonged period of heightened political tensions in Turkey, all of our volunteers serving in that country have been temporarily reassigned. This includes 20 young men, 4 young women and 5 senior couples. They will be temporarily reassigned to other regions in Europe, Asia, and North America. Additionally, four volunteers who are nearing the end of their service will return home. The safety of our volunteers is a primary concern for the Church, and we work diligently to monitor conditions and make adjustments as needed in an effort to promote their safety.
As was announced in February, the Bulgaria Sofia Mission was to be realigned with the Central Eurasian Mission. The combined missions will now be known as the Bulgaria/Central Eurasian Mission headquartered in Sofia, Bulgaria. The country of Turkey continues to be part of this mission.
“Volunteers” is a pseudonym for missionaries that is growing in use in a number of countries with political woes or complicated relations with the Church. The term came to light for many when the Church announced major new restrictions on missionary activity in Russia following the country’s adoption of a draconian so-called “anti-terror” law. Russia already lost one mission last year, but they are about to receive a temple in a mysterious location, so… net positive?
Not to digress. Although missionaries have enjoyed a presence in Turkey for some time, that presence was galvanized further with the 2015 creation of the Central Eurasian Mission, comprising the Anatolian republic as well as Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. (However, according to one volunteer in the mission, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan are moving to a Russian mission.) Now that work is on a bit of a hold. Let’s blame Erdogan.
As for the Bulgaria mission being “realigned” with the Central Eurasian Mission, the move is somewhat ironic, as the Central Eurasian Mission was originally split from the Bulgaria Mission. Now the child is letting the parent move back in, basically. The only difference now is that in February the Church also announced the consolidation of the Romania and Greece missions into that of Bulgaria, along with a number of other closures and consolidations.
Missionary work is arguably slower in Europe than most places in the Church, with some missions not even five years old already being dissolved.
Presumably, once election activity subsides in Turkey, missionaries will return. Presumably.