Single young men accepting mission calls will now serve eighteen months instead of two years, the First Presidency announced in an April 2 leadership meeting with Regional Representatives.
In speaking for the First Presidency, President Gordon B. Hinckley said that “much consideration has been given to the term of service for young men in the mission field. Costs of maintaining missionaries have risen dramatically. Many of our families face extremely heavy economic pressures. The problem is aggravated by the fact that more and more young men are being called from lands outside the United States and Canada, many of them from lands where rates of inflation have been extremely high and have taken a serious toll in the real incomes of people.”
He added that in a number of areas young men are subject to “regulations which preclude extended absence from school or apprenticeship programs”; likewise, military requirements in some countries prohibit two-year absences to fill missions.
“It is hoped,” said President Hinckley, “that improved training will better qualify [the missionaries] to work more productively when they arrive in the field. It is likewise anticipated that this shortened term will make it possible for many to go who cannot go under present circumstances. This will extend the opportunity for missionary service to an enlarged body of our young men.”
The new term of service will be effective immediately for those who are now being called on missions. President Hinckley explained that young men now serving will be affected in the following ways: “Elders who have served for twelve months or more will be consulted on an individual basis to determine their release dates. Those missionaries who desire to stay the full term for which they were called will be permitted to do so. Those who wish to be released between eighteen and twenty-four months of service may be released on a schedule that best suits their plans and the operation of the mission. All other elders will be released when they have completed eighteen months of service. This will mean that the term for single elders will be the same as that for young single sisters.”
The Church presently has more than twenty-nine thousand missionaries assigned to 188 missions throughout the world; most are single men ages nineteen and over. Single women missionaries will continue to serve eighteen-month missions; older couples may serve six, twelve, or eighteen months, depending on their individual circumstances.