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Peggy Fletcher Stack
Peggy Fletcher Stack has been producing stories for The Salt Lake Tribune's award-winning Faith section for nearly two decades. Writing about contemporary faith, rituals, and spirituality as well as religion's conflicts and cohesion has always been Stack's passion. Follow her at facebook.com/peggy.fletcherstack, Twitter @religiongal

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Split Mormon families must choose who gets to hug the kid before mission

Split Mormon families are out of luck when it comes to the curbside farewell for their departing son or daughter at Provo’s Missionary Training Center — only one car per family allowed.

And there’s no allowance for a second set of parents to park elsewhere and walk to the curb for a last minute hug, either.

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"We understand emotions are tender when saying goodbye to [their] sons and daughters as they enter the Missionary Training Center," said LDS spokesman Scott Trotter on Tuesday, "and the extenuating circumstances for wanting to bring more than one car to the drop-off point."

However, Trotter said, "logistical reality dictates our small campus, traffic patterns and volunteers can only accommodate a limited number of vehicles when 400 families bring their missionaries to Provo MTC every Wednesday."

In years past, families accompanied their missionaries inside to an auditorium for a short orientation. There was no limit to the number of people surrounding the departee (it could even include girlfriends and neighbors). At the end of the program, adults and family members went through one door to the outside, while their children exited the other way into the building.

That changed in 2009, when there was an outbreak of H1N1, or swine flu, among missionaries at the MTC. The curbside drop-off was introduced as a preventative measure, to keep the virus from spreading.

It was then adopted permanently.

"We’ve tried to make the process as easy and smooth as possible for everyone," Trotter said. "We ask for continued patience and understanding in helping us make this a positive experience for the families and missionaries involved."

For those from divorced LDS families – an increasing number – that likely means flipping a coin to see who will get to offer the final adieu.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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