LDS Church lowers age requirement for missionary service
When the Prophet stands up to talk at the beginning of the LDS General Conference, I usually expect some interesting announcement. Not many years ago, we were surprised by President Thomas S. Monson announcing the construction of the Rome Temple. This time also, he started by announcing the construction of a couple of new temples.
However, since President Hinckley increased the construction of temples at an unprecedented pace, I am not surprised now when the Prophet announces “only” a couple of new temples (unless it is in Rome or perhaps in Jackson County, Missouri or in Jerusalem).
After informing us about the construction of the two new temples in Arizona and Peru, President Monson quickly changed subject, and said:
Brothers and sisters, I now turn to another matter--namely, missionary service.
The presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, as the prophet himself mentioned in this General Conference, is a very demanding office, and a president needs oversee and direct all aspects of the work of the Lord on the earth. However, prophets are usually remembered for some specific aspects of the work that were emphasized during their administration.
For me, among all the many things that were accomplished by President Hinckley, one stands out above all the others, and this is the new emphasis and expansion of temples building.
For the first few months of President Monson’s presidency, I was asking myself what specific and perhaps unique contribution he would make as the new president of the LDS Church. Obviously he is making and will make many contributions, but after this announcement, it is not too unreasonable to assume that more is to be expected in relation to missionary work under President Monson. Perhaps the next few years we will see even more emphasis placed on missionary work.
Everybody who is interested in Mormonism, by now already know what happened, President Thomas S. Monson announced during the Church 182nd Semiannual General Conference that men may now begin serving missions at age 18 and women at age 19. He said:
I am pleased to announce that effective immediately all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the opportunity of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of the age of 19, – said President Monson. – As we prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service we have also given consideration to the age at which young women might serve. Today, I’m pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.
When he made the announcement I was very happy, and as it happened before, I had the feeling that the change was right, done at the right time, even if I absolutely didn’t see it coming. This is one of the things that impress me about the Mormon Church and the prophets, and which confirms to me over and over again that they are inspired instruments of the Lord: the fact that they make announcements that are revelations, and like all revelations, they are a surprise, but they have a good taste. They make sense, and since they are so necessary and appropriate, we usually end up thinking that those changes should have made before. However, usually they are right also because they happen at the right time.
I had always wandered why sisters were supposed to wait for so long, and why elders could not serve at eighteen. I had been happy to discover last year that in some countries elders were beginning to serve at age eighteen. Based on that, I could have expected such change to be extended to the rest of the world, but the lowering of the age at which sisters can serve, it was a completely different story. The two changes combined have more implications for missionary work.
I have read the comments of several people about this change, especially sisters, mostly happy but at times a little sad because the change did not arrive earlier, so that they could have gone on a mission. Among many other more important consequences, someone suggested that now perhaps young men will suffer a little smaller competition from girls to access BYU and other LDS schools, because more of them will go on missions!
I had asked myself in the past why there was such a difference in age between missionary callings for elders and sisters. There is really no point to speculate about it, especially now that is all in the past, but focusing on the future, I can see many good outcomes following this announcement.
What really matters, however, is contained in President Monson’s words:
What does this mean for you? First of all it means that God is hastening His work. And He needs more and more willing and worthy missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to an often dark and fearful world.
The Lord ia hastening His work. This is the essence of what just happened. Before we could do without the 18 years old elders and the 19 years old sisters. Now we cannot. Since President Kimball especially, the total number of missionaries had been growing quickly for years, until they passed the 60,000 mark. However, in the last few years, that number had declined, until it went below 52,000. Now the number is back close to 60,000, but with this change, I suppose it could reach 100,00o in a few years. This will make a huge impact at all levels and in all aspects of the Church.
Finally, many missions that were starving for more missionaries will receive more of them, and many new missions will be opened and the work will be hastened.
This is obviously another sign that the Second Coming of the Lord may not be too far away.