Mormon missions to gain local office

LDS Church expanding its evangelism worldwide

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

 

Vancouver is one of 58 sites around the globe that's been targeted for new missions, and an influx of young missionaries, by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Right now the home office for Mormon missionaries in Western Washington is in Kennewick, according to local spokesman Steve McAllister. Approximately 170 missionaries get their marching orders from that office, he said, and fan out across an irregular territory that extends west past Cathlamet, north past Ellensburg, south into central Oregon and east past Walla Walla.

But now Vancouver will get its own missionary office, on or after July 1, McAllister said. He said he doesn't know what this means about capital needs — whether the church will rent space, build an office or operate out of a local church. But it does mean that Vancouver probably will see an influx of young men in white shirts and black ties, and similarly tidy young women.

All of which is driven by a recent church policy change, McAllister said: Prior to last October, young men had to be 19 years old and women had to be 21 to head out on mission.

Now, men must be 18 and women must be 19; all must have graduated from high school.

According to the official website, there are nearly 60,000 Mormon missionaries working in 347 missions in 48 countries, including the United States. Now, some of those missions will subdivide to form an additional 58 new missions, for a total of 405. Vancouver is one of those. Many are overseas — in places like Brazil and Bolivia, Ukraine and the Philippines.

The church lowered its age requirements — returning to a previous policy — in order to expand options and flexibility for motivated young people, the site says. Most missionaries are young people under age 25, although retired couples sometimes volunteer too.

Now, as expected, McAllister said, "the number of applicants has gone through the roof." The church used to get 700 requests to volunteer for missionary work every week, he said; now the number is closer to 4,000 per week.

Housed with members

The standard length of a Mormon mission remains 24 months for men and 18 months for women, he said. Missionaries are always assigned in pairs, pay their own expenses and "live primarily with church members -- like us," said McAllister. "We are empty nesters. We've had missionaries stay with us."

Missionaries avoid entertainment, parties and other typical peer recreation when on mission, according to the site, and contact with family and friends is limited.

The new mission president will be Derlin C. Taylor, an insurance broker now based in Burley, Idaho, McAllister said. Taylor knew he would be a mission president but had no idea where until a week ago, McAllister said.

"As for the boundaries of the new mission, no one locally knows yet. Not even Derlin Taylor," McAllister wrote in an email. "Those details will be worked out over the next few weeks/months."

Scott Hewitt: 360-735-4525; scott.hewitt@columbian.com; facebook.com/reporterhewitt; twitter.com/col_nonprofits.