“Two-Year Missions Return for Single Elders,” Ensign, Feb. 1985, 75
Single male missionaries will again be serving for two years in the field, rather than for eighteen months, as they had been since 1982.
The change was announced late in November by a letter from the First Presidency to priesthood leaders. It became effective January 1, 1985.
Missionaries currently serving, and those whose recommendation forms were received before January 1, have the option of being released after eighteen months or extending their missionary service in monthly increments of from one to six months, with the approval of their mission president, parents, and home priesthood leaders.
The Church currently has more than 27,000 missionaries serving in 179 missions throughout the world.
The length of missionary service was cut from two years to eighteen months in April of 1982. In announcing that change, President Gordon B. Hinckley, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, noted: “Costs of maintaining missionaries have risen dramatically. Many of our families face extremely heavy economic pressures.”
The First Presidency’s November 1984 letter emphasized that those pressures are still a matter of concern. But because of the earlier six-month reduction in the length of missionary service, the letter continued, “many missionaries have felt that at the conclusion of their missions they have had to go home at a time when they had developed the greatest capability to do the work.
“Particularly is this true of those who have learned a language.
“We feel this change will enhance our ability to proclaim the gospel to all the world, especially in areas where missionaries learn a second language. It will also give missionaries greater opportunity for increased spiritual growth and development.”
The First Presidency urged local priesthood leaders to “be sensitive to family resources,” and, where necessary, see that assistance is made available to families. “We hope no worthy young person will be overlooked for this most important Church service because of concern for financing a mission.”
The priesthood leaders were advised to urge young people and their families to prepare early for missions, both spiritually and financially. Families should establish savings accounts for prospective missionaries and participate together in projects to raise money for missions. “All youth should have copies of the scriptures, should study them regularly, should participate in seminary, and should take advantage of educational opportunities including the possible study of a foreign language,” the First Presidency letter said.
The change in the length of missionary service for young men did not affect the length of service for others. The term of service remains at eighteen months for female missionaries under forty. Women forty and over will continue to serve for one year. Married couples will continue to have the option of either eighteen or twelve months, with a six-month call possible under some circumstances.