Missionaries love their mission presidents (at least more often than not), and mission presidents love their missionaries, spending three years nurturing relationships with hundreds of members of, erm, God’s Army. While social media and other modern communications have certainly helped missionaries stay in touch with each other as well as their mission presidents, a Church-developed solution has not existed – until now.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has rolled out a new feature in the Member Tools app to keep mission presidents in touch with their former missionaries. Former mission presidents can see missionaries’ names, avatar, individual and household phone numbers, and email address if the former missionary has opted in to share this information. Only missionaries who have served since 2000 can use the feature.
You might think the shared information sounds an awful lot like what’s generally available on member lists in the Member Tools app, and you’d be right, except the permissioning is separate from the general privacy settings in Member Tools.
“We hope that former mission leaders and missionaries will take advantage of this wonderful opportunity to stay connected, because these relationships are important to both,” said Elder Marcus B. Nash, a General Authority Seventy and Executive Director of the Missionary Department. “Missions are full of life-changing experiences and relationships can continue to bless, teach, and strengthen missionaries, mission leaders, their families, those they taught, and the whole Church, if kept alive.”
Now that mission reunion won’t be some hastily organized Facebook event at Brick Oven. Oh no! Mission presidents are in the driver’s seat and not reliant on every single missionary being on Facebook, for example, in order to keep in touch. It’s a great way to synergize the Church’s bevy of metadata and the desire to keep that mission spirit alive.
Of course, those former missionaries who have since parted ways with the Church have the option of disabling these forms of contact, but it will involve ensuring access to their Church login credentials in the first place, then setting up Member Tools. But as former mission leaders Leif and Linda Erickson said, “Some will have evolving thoughts about religion and the role of religion in their lives,” Erickson said. “We know the Good Shepherd and know His enduring love and persistence and patience. [He has] provided this life experience to grow from questions and mistakes and challenges. Our love for our missionaries is enduring as they evolve and change and grow. We love each of them for who they are.”
No matter one’s current status with the Church, the memories and relationships from a mission are potent and singular, and opening up new avenues to maintain those relationships is a terrific step forward.