Senior missionary couples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in all 407 missions around the world will now be able to use hearing and visibility aids. Previous guidelines limited use to medical necessity, under the close supervision and care of a doctor or other medical provider. The changes, which go into effect immediately, were approved by the Strengthening Missionaries Committee.
President M. Russell Ballard, a member of the committee and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said the adjustments were deemed necessary to allow older missionaries to fully engage in the effort to deepen member understanding of church history. The recently published volume of early church history Saints: The Standard of Truth is not expected to be released in large print or audio book format; this action will address accessibility concerns regarding Saints.
The stunning announcement was made just a few months after Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles debuted his sharp new reading glasses in the October 2018 general conference. Surely we know that he is not only a prophet, but also a seer and revelator. Other general authorities have recently made appearances with assistive devices.
This is a major shift in the culture and history of serving a couples mission, with Bishop Gerald Cause saying “we want our senior missionaries to be enabled as best they can be for the task ahead of them, namely sharing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with a full understanding of early church history.”
Currently, the changes are optional for missionaries, and no plans to require senior couples to wear assistive devices are in the immediate future. Previously, spectacles were only allowed in areas and situations where limited visibility posed a safety threat, such as during driving. Walking canes are still left to the discretion of the mission president, as they do not pertain directly to church history.
During the press conference, a representative of the Church was asked if any other changes to the missionary program are underway, namely sister missionaries wearing pants. Information about the changes will be transmitted to the mission presidents via the church satellite broadcasting system, and a telegram will be delivered in the coming days.