It's natural for us to want to help others, and especially missionaries who are giving up two years of their young lives to serve. We can't stand the thoughts of a missionary going without when Christmas comes. We love them and want them to have something a little nicer for Christmas.
You may or may not know that some years back Betty and I organized a huge effort every year, complete with its own domain and web pages. Then in 2006 we were contacted by the church and asked to stop. At that time I posted the written policy on the web page, and wanting to be obedient in all things, stopped and shut down the web site. We still pay for the domain, however, because on it is the policy the Missionary Department shared with us back in 2006.
In short the policy is: parents, family, and friends are not to send Christmas Gifts to missionaries (or "adopt missionaries for Christmas") unless:
1. The missionary is their own, or
2. The missionary is their missionary's companion
This is Church policy.
Our hearts are touched because many are so very poor. However the Church has made a policy regarding this issue for a good reason. We know what that reason is because the policy, which I quote below, tells us what it is.
Some wards put together small packages for missionaries serving from their ward (not those IN their ward). It might surprise you to learn that most missionaries would prefer a letter or a short note rather than a gift. It is more meaningful to them.
It is best to save hundreds of dollars on shipping costs and donate that surplus to the Fast Offering fund. Products can be purchased by the Church in the countries where they are needed at a significant discount which helps the economy in those countries, and the people and members where items are purchased.
The past 2 years we've asked the Missionary Department if the policy has changed and had the policy reaffirmed each time. So we ask again that you heed this counsel, and tell others, too.
So you don't have to go looking, here is what I got this morning from Brother Jenne, the director of the Missionary Department, and which is still posted at our LDS Missionary Care site from 2006, unchanged and still in force, kind of like the 10 commandments:
The established programs of the Church provide financial assistance for worthy members and missionaries through Church priesthood leaders, who are familiar with their circumstances and can prevent duplicate assistance or abuses. Therefore, members who desire to assist those in need, are encouraged to contribute to the Fast Offering, General Missionary, Humanitarian, or Perpetual Education funds in their local ward or branch.
Mission presidents are instructed that under no circumstances should they solicit nor accept contributions or donations from friends, family, Church members, or missionaries. Funds for charitable assistance to missionaries in need are readily available to the mission president.
Occasionally someone may offer to contribute money, equipment, clothing or other items to be used at a mission president's discretion. They should be kindly directed to contribute to the General Missionary Fund or another approved donation category, either through his or her ward or directly to the Missionary Department.
Missionaries are instructed to not ask family members or friends at home to donate to local causes where they are serving.
We hope you understand that Betty and I are just the messengers. If you choose to ignore this counsel, do so at your own risk, and not to "show us" anything. Seriously. You don't really care what we think. But you do, or ought to, care what God thinks. There's a scripture that says that same thing somewhere, but I'm not interested in looking it up. You can, then you'll know I've written something true, and worth knowing.
With kind regards,