This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The following excerpts come from an interview with David F. Evans, executive director of the LDS Church's Missionary Department:
How many mission president couples are from Utah, United States and the rest of the world?
It's broadly mixed. There's a whole lot from all over the world. There is, of course, a substantial number from parts of the world where the church is well-established. ... But there's a surprising number who are not. Increasingly, we are working with area presidencies to identify men and women who could serve in these callings from the local area. A lot are in South America, a lot of mission presidents from Brazil or from the Spanish-speaking countries.
What are the expectations placed on a mission president's wife?
I would say the role of the mission president's wife is and has been an evolving role. With the change in the missionary force from being largely dominated by young elders to being a missionary force that is significantly represented by the sisters as well ... Right now, it is at about 28 percent. We have about 25,000 sisters; two years ago when President [Thomas S.] Monson announced the age change, there were about 8,000 sister missionaries. We think it will continue to be in the 25 to 30 percent range. It's not just a surge at the time of the announcement but an ongoing desire in many young women to take advantage of the option President Monson has given them to consider missionary service. There is no pressure on them and no duty to serve, but we see a significant number of young women really want that, and now that they can do it at a little lower age, they are actively choosing missionary service. We see that pattern continue. Likewise we see more young elders choosing to serve as well. Overall, we don't see the number of missionaries declining very much over time. We think it will be a strong missionary force for years to come.
Is there any better term than "mission presidents' wives"? Could the women be called co-presidents?
No, I don't think they could be called co-presidents.
Not long ago, we asked the three [general women's] auxiliary leaders to meet with us about mission president wives and sister missionaries. One of the questions we asked them: Is there a better title? We think there might be but we don't have one yet to announce.
Many of the wives and mission presidents and their wives actually think "wife" is an appropriate title because their husband is called as the president and they are called as his "companion." That's one of the sweetest parts of this calling, to have a calling where you really do serve together.
I know my wife often talks about when "we were called," and ... she was my companion in everything we did. I was mission president in the Japan Nagoya Mission from 1998 to 2001. ... One of the greatest experiences of our lives was when we could serve together. We worried less about titles and more about how we would divide the work and reach out to both elders and sisters, and lift the members.
So how is the mission president's wife an evolving role in all this?
One of the things we all know is that young men are happier talking about certain types of problems with other men and young women happier talking about certain types of challenges they may have with other women either peer leaders or the wife of the mission president. We view the role of mission president's wife to be highly involved in all that. The day is gone when she would accompany her husband without participation. She is an active trainer. We encourage her as her time and family circumstances permit to go out with the sisters, help them be better teachers. ... She's now part of the leadership council instead of just a companion to her husband, who is part of that [leadership] council. ... Of all the things that have changed, the council system may be the best received.
Do you see a time when sister missionaries will be district leaders and zone leaders?
In some unique situations, they already are. If you look at the Temple Square Mission composed entirely of sister missionaries, they have a full organizational chart. There is authorization currently where circumstances require to have sisters-only districts, and there are places where that is being done. You could see a circumstance where a group of sisters is in an outlying area, and it wouldn't be wise to put an elder companionship in that area, a mission president could compose a district just with sisters. That is happening. It's expressly provided for and we are watching it. We've seen a lot of good experiences happening.
[As to a general practice], I think it's possible but I don't know when it will happen, and that decision ultimately would not be a departmental decision but one the Quorum of the Twelve [Apostles] and [governing] First Presidency would decide.
What do you think is the hardest thing for a mission president's wife?
The hardest thing is when they are worried about things at home. ... It's the greatest act of faith there is to trust God to watch over your children as you watch over other people's children.