Utah Area Presidency Asks Families of Returning Missionaries to Not Congregate at Airport

Contributed By Scott Taylor, Church News managing editor

  • 24 March 2020

Missionaries sing during a meeting with President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland at the Hyde Park Chapel in London on Thursday, April 12, 2018. As large numbers of missionaries return home due to the global health crisis, the Utah Area Presidency asks members and missionaries to follow self-isolation instructions with greater care. Photo by Ravell Call, Deseret News.

As large numbers of missionaries return home due to the global health crisis, the Church’s Utah Area Presidency is reminding members and missionaries to follow instructions regarding self-isolation and congregating at airports.

In a March 23 letter, Elder Craig C. Christensen, Elder Randy D. Funk, and Elder Walter F. Gonzalez thanked local stake presidents for helping the unprecedented masses of missionaries returning to their homes and also expressed “deep concern” for how returning missionaries were received Sunday, March 22, at the Salt Lake City International Airport.

“What occurred on Sunday afternoon at the Salt Lake airport causes us deep concern with missionaries and their families disregarding important instructions regarding self-isolation and congregating at airports,” they wrote. “We ask you to help members in your stake understand the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of practicing safe social distancing, and the need to follow the recommendations from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

The letter encouraged leaders to emphasize to missionaries and their families the instruction provided by the Church: “Parents or guardians should go to the airport alone to meet a returning missionary and practice safe social distancing while there. That way, the missionary is able to properly begin self-isolation.”

“It is imperative that missionaries and their families adhere to these guidelines for their own safety, the safety of their families, and the safety of the community.”

The letter also provided a matrix being used showing which missionaries may be considered for reassignment and which should be honorably released.

“We love you and pray our Heavenly Father will bless us during this challenging time,” the letter concluded. “We are confident the work of the Lord will continue to move forward as we trust in Him.”

The matrix included the following information on missionaries returning home and their releases or temporary reassignments:

  • Elders serving in the United States and Canada may be released at 21 months of service.
  • Missionaries returning home for health reasons from all missions are to be released and in 14-day self-isolation.
  • Elders returning to the U.S. and Canada who have fewer than 180 days—6 months—remaining are to be released and in 14-day self-isolation.
  • Elders returning to the U.S. and Canada who have more than 180 days remaining are to remain a missionary and be in 14-day self-isolation before being temporarily reassigned.
  • Sisters returning to the U.S. and Canada with fewer than 90 days—3 months—remaining will be released and in 14-day self-isolation.
  • Sisters returning to the U.S. and Canada with more than 90 days remaining will remain a missionary, be in 14-day self-isolation, and then be temporarily reassigned.
  • Missionaries returning to their home country in Africa will go directly to their assigned mission.
  • Missionaries returning to all other home countries will remain a missionary, be in 14-day self-isolation, and then be temporarily reassigned.
  • Missionaries unable to return to their home country—because of travel restrictions and other situations—will remain in their original mission or be temporarily reassigned, as necessary.
  • All other missionaries are expected to complete their missions as scheduled.

Missionaries wait for President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a Brazil Brasília Mission meeting in Brasília, Brazil, on Friday, August 30, 2019. As large numbers of missionaries return home due to the global health crisis, the Utah Area Presidency asks members and missionaries to follow self-isolation instructions with greater care. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Elders Noah Deckard, Nathan Budge, and Jackson Nielsen collect baggage as hundreds of missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints return from the Philippines to Salt Lake City International Airport on Sunday, March 22, 2020. As large numbers of missionaries return home due to the global health crisis, the Utah Area Presidency asks members and missionaries to follow self-isolation instructions with greater care. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Elder Ethan Bird wheels his luggage at the airport as hundreds of missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints return from the Philippines to Salt Lake City International Airport on Sunday, March 22, 2020. As large numbers of missionaries return home due to the global health crisis, the Utah Area Presidency asks members and missionaries to follow self-isolation instructions with greater care. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

Elder Brock Winter wheels his luggage at the airport as hundreds of missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints return from the Philippines to Salt Lake City International Airport on Sunday, March 22, 2020. As large numbers of missionaries return home due to the global health crisis, the Utah Area Presidency asks members and missionaries to follow self-isolation instructions with greater care. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.