I couldn’t be happier with the announcement that was made at our recent general conference that changes the age of eligible for service for those wishing to serve full-time missions. This is something that as a returned missionary I have longed for for years, especially on the sister missionary end.
I could spend time discussing all of the reasons why this is a good change, but instead I would like to focus on what I think are some of the cultural changes this will bring and some of the ways we as adult women in the church can help to prepare our missionaries who will be going out at a younger age.
As my major at BYU was sociology, my mind immediately jumped to all the vast ways that this announcement will quite literally change individual lives, and as an expansion of that, will ultimately change the culture of the church. I am very interested to hear other’s thoughts on how it will affect things such as:
- Focus on marriage versus mission for women. Will a mission become more of a goal than an option for women? Will we flip flop what seems to be the current mindset of many that “if I’m not married by then I will go on a mission” to “I will go on a mission and then start thinking about marriage”?
- Making temple covenants at a younger age
- Dating habits between 16-19 years old (for both males and females now)
- Dating habits for returned missionaries
- Average marriage age
- Percentage of LDS women (and to some extent men) who never marry
- Number of people who find their spouse on their mission
- Percentage of elders to sisters in missions
- Marital preparation and success
- Education choices
- Career choices
- Gospel scholarship and gospel leadership for women
I don’t want to go into a whole lot of detail on my thoughts on these topics (and there are many others — this is just a start!) as I would love to hear from you as well. Please comment, and I will chime in with my thoughts as we go along. Suffice it to say, it is my belief that only vastly positive outcomes in these areas will come out of this new announcement. Again, couldn’t be happier! Great changes, not only in the number of our missionaries who can go out and share the gospel with the world, but on how this will impact individuals and families for generations to come.
My thoughts have also turned to how we can help prepare our young missionaries, particularly our sisters. As a former Young Women leader, I see many opportunities to help our young women expand their gospel knowledge and preparation in ways that we have not done before, as that has been largely left up to the Relief Society since sisters normally had several years there before serving a mission. I see great potential in using the Personal Progress program, and in particular, mentoring of our young women in the program to aid them in their mission preparation. At one time, our ward was really trying to establish a mentoring program where young women would be paired up either with their mother or with another sister in the ward who could speak with them regularly about their progress. I see this as a great way to provide an example and a pathway for these young sisters to follow – not to mention that Relief Society sisters can work on Personal Progress too and it is great at any age!
I think there is room for improvement in the YW manuals and their gospel focus, and I have heard (although not seen since I no longer serve there) that there are recent changes that are a step in the right direction.
Gospel scholarship in general (for young men and young women) through seminary and Sunday School as well should be encouraged. Raise the bar. Elder Holland mentioned in the press conference that there are additional resources coming from the church that will help in this area.
One way I would love to see us mentor our young women is to have them visit teach the way our Aaronic priesthood brethren home teach in their teenage years. I hope that the church might move in that direction. One of our home teachers is 15, and he is great! He comes with his dad every month, and often is the one who calls to make the appointment or present the message. He is learning through these experiences many things that will help him in his missionary work. It seems logical to me that we should give our young sisters this same opportunity. Again, I see this as a mentoring thing.
There are many other ways. I would love to hear your ideas.