SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Parents of Mormon missionaries will be able to hear their children’s voices a lot more often under new rules announced Feb. 15 that allow the proselytizing youngsters to call home every week instead of only twice a year.
The move is aimed at encouraging families to be more involved in the missionary experience, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a news release. Missionaries can call, text or do video chats once a week on a designated day called preparation day.
Previously, they were only allowed to call home on Christmas and Mother’s Day. They could email or send letters once a week.
The immediate change affects 65,000 Mormons serving on worldwide missions that are considered rites of passage. They are designed to strengthen their faith, broaden their perspective on the world and prepare many of them for future leadership positions in congregations.
The change triggered a slew of reaction among Mormons on social media, with some applauding the move and others expressing concern the faith was getting too soft with missionaries. Others joked that some youngsters may not want to talk with their parents every week.
The rule modification is the latest change to the missionary experience in recent years, many driven by advances in technology.
In 2012, the church lowered the minimum age for missionaries from 21 to 19 for women and from 19 to 18 for men.
In 2014, the church began giving missionaries tablets and broadened proselytizing to social media. In 2017, the faith doubled the number of missions where technology is allowed and swapped out tablets for smartphones.
Last year, the church began informing people of where they would go on missions online instead of by traditional mail. The move helped the church save money on postage and allowed missionaries to find out quicker, the church said.
Under the new rule, most calls should be able to be made for little or no cost because of advances in technology, the Utah-based church said. The faith claims 16 million members worldwide.
Mormon scholar Matthew Bowman said he suspects the change is related to the 2012 decision to lower the age for missionaries. He said there are reports of more missionaries experiencing anxiety and wanting to come home.