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SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced changes to the missionary application process Friday, and said some missionaries, including those who come home early from proselytizing missions for health reasons, may now be considered for service missions.
"These expanded opportunities will allow more young people to serve as missionaries in various capacities that meet their personal needs or circumstances," the church said in a statement on its website.
Beginning Jan. 2, all young members of the church in the U.S. and Canada will use the same online application process when preparing to serve a mission — even those who may not be able to serve a full-time proselytizing mission because of health reasons.
Applicants will go through the usual steps, including submitting recommendation forms, scheduling interviews with local church leaders and undergoing medical evaluations.
All those who apply for missions "will be considered for full-time, proselyting missions," but those who cannot serve for "physical, mental or emotional reasons" could be called as service missionaries.
"Additionally, proselyting missionaries who return home early due to accident, illness or other health conditions may be reassigned as service missionaries for the remainder of their missions," the statement reads.
Most missionaries will still serve proselyting missions, where they are assigned to an area away from home to teach both those who belong and do not belong to the faith about the gospel and the church for a period of 18 months to two years. They seek to teach, baptize and support those in their assigned area.
“Preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ will always be the primary purpose of missionary service,” Elder Dale G. Renlund, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles — one of the highest governing bodies of the church — said in a statement. “The Lord, through His leaders, will call most young people to find, teach and baptize converts. They will be assigned to one of the 407 missions all over the world.”
Those who serve service missions live at home and "serve at church operations, with nonprofit and charitable community organizations or in other assignments approved by their local church leaders," according to church officials.
This program for service missionaries has been tested in different areas since 2014, most recently expanding through the U.S. and Canada.