SALT LAKE CITY — "Substantial numbers of missionaries" will most likely return to their home nations to continue serving, and missionary training centers will no longer accept new missionaries, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a letter sent to members Friday.
"We take very seriously the health and safety of our missionaries and of those they teach. The rapidly developing travel advisories and restrictions that are emerging around the world present significant logistical and other challenges," the letter reads.
Because of these challenges, the church will return missionaries to their home countries "based on the urgency of travel restrictions, level of COVID-19 concern, and other considerations." Missionaries who return will go through a period of self-isolation for 14 days and then will be assigned to serve in a different mission within their home country.
Missionaries who return to or serve within the United States will also likely have a reduced period of service in order to "accommodate the large number of missionaries returning from around the world," the letter explains.
Missionary training centers worldwide will also no longer receive new missionaries. Instead, incoming missionaries will train "through technology," as new missionaries who would have gone to the Provo and Preston, England, training centers have been doing.
As conditions change, further adjustments may be made, the letter says.
Earlier this week, the church announced that nonnative missionaries in much of Africa, the Philippines and islands near Guam would return to their home countries. The same happened in early March and late February in Korea and Mongolia, respectively.
Prospective missionaries who were preparing to serve in Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Singapore and Thailand postponed their start dates or received new, temporary assignments. All missionaries were removed from the China Hong Kong Mission.
Young missionaries with health issues and senior missionaries in European missions, as well as some eastern European and North American missions, have already been sent home.