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Of Change and Hastening

I have never seen President Monson look more serious, nor earnest, than when he opened the 182nd Semiannual General Conference for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and made the following announcement:

“I am pleased to announce that, effective immediately, all worthy and able young men, who graduated from High School or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the option of being recommended for missionary service, beginning at the age of 18 instead of age 19…I am 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″.

In light of this I’m reflecting on what it will mean to each of us. There is no doubt that the decision to lower the age of serving missionaries – both male and female – will affect all of us in some way; some more than others. So I am keen to explore what it will mean to you.

The last 48 hours has seen many members of the church express how they feel about these changes. From where I sit, overwhelmingly the response has been positive. Facebook and Twitter are a buzz with the news and it is clear that the general consensus is good.

So I would like to highlight some of the ways in which this announcement will bless the lives of many families, young men, and young women: 

  1. The clearest blessing, and one that was highlighted by Elder Nelson and Elder Holland, is that the gospel will now be spread further and wider. New missions will be opened, and greater numbers of missionaries will be added to the army of young men and young women already spreading the gospel message. Individuals and families who have never even heard the name of our church will now have the opportunity to accept the Saviors message.
  2. This announcement will have no greater effect in the lives of young men than it will within the South Pacific Area. Very often university (college) placement here require students to begin and complete courses without any kind of interruption. Not all, but many courses, including medicine, engineering, and law, make it almost impossible for the student to defer half way through. This is heightened by the fact that it is harder to gain entrance to these and other tertiary institutions above the age of 22.
  3. Most recently I have heard from our area leaders that statistically the church loses more young men between the ages of 18 and 19 than at any other age. Satan finds every way he can to take hold of our young people at the most critical times. For many young men this change will mean beginning their missionary service immediately, or soon, after their high school graduation. Allowing them to avoid that vacant transitional time between graduation and the start of college. As one mum stated, “Testifying of Jesus Christ for 18-24 months at such a young age? Nothing but great things will come from this”.
  4. Perhaps the most enduring effect this change will have is in the lives of the young women of the church. President Monson stressed that the churches longstanding view that young women are not expected to serve, but are encouraged to serve if they feel moved to do so remains in tact. However, it has clearly opened up those options to many more young women now than ever before. Social network sites across the globe are awash with comments from young women declaring it to be, “The best news ever!”. I predict that this announcement will initially have a greater impact on the numbers of young women serving than young men.
  5. As a more long term effect of #4 above, future families and generations of children will benefit greatly from the experience of these young women who have dedicated 18 months of their lives to teaching and testifying of the pure doctrines of Christ. There is no greater training ground for motherhood than missionary service.
  6. As has been explained to me, the athletics programs in US colleges make it very difficult for young men to take a two year break to serve a mission. This change means that young men can now fulfill the priesthood duty of missionary service before having to make a decision to take that break or not.

I’m sure there are many more benefits to be had, and I encourage the readers here to share them. But more than anything I am grateful for a living prophet who is able to lead and direct the Lords church on earth today. It is a time of change and hastening, and this is one way that we as members can help preserve righteousness as well as further the Lords work.

{ 6 comments… add one }

  • Angie Gardner October 9, 2012, 6:59 am

    Well done, Tracy. I agree with everything you said. I am just a little bit excited about this change. :)

    As I’ve wondered why I am so excited, I think it’s because I can see how much my mission changed my life, in all those ways you listed above. And expanding from an individual level, we need the sheer force for good that these young missionaries are in bringing the gospel to the world. Just the number of missionaries this will put out there is awesome to think about, but the quality as well. I loved this quote from Elder Holland at the press conference:

    “…those (sisters) who do serve are stunningly successful and we enthusiastically welcome your service. Personally, I am absolutely delighted if this change of policy allows many, many more of our young women to serve – a prospect that thrills me.”

    Stunningly successful. I love that. And yes, that was true in my mission. Elders were successful, and sisters were stunningly successful. :) (don’t throw tomatoes at me…I am only quoting Elder Holland – but in all seriousness it does seem that there are many people out there who are more willing to open up spiritually with a woman than with a man for whatever reason.)

    So now, how this will affect me personally. I have three daughters and no sons. We talk about missions a lot in our home. My kids have many aunts, uncles, and cousins who have served, as well as both of their parents. We have the missionaries in our home once a month for dinner and when we were in Louisiana in a smaller ward with 2 sets of missionaries we had them even more often. So my girls have been exposed to the idea of missionary service a lot and they have talked about going. However, realistically, as a mom I sort of had the instinct that probably only 1 of the 3 would actually do it, due to what I know about their personalities and where they might be at 21 (the oldest is 13 so still pretty hard to guess at that!).

    My hunch now is that we will have at least 2 of them serve. And for the one who I thought would serve regardless, this timing will be so much nicer for her.

    Timing aside, I am just thrilled for what this will do for missionary efforts around the world and in the individual lives of those who serve, which undoubtedly will be more it was before. More good in the world.

  • Alison Moore Smith October 9, 2012, 8:46 am

    My third daughter, Alana, is 19 years old. On Saturday she changed her life plans. :) Today she is on the front page of the Deseret News talking about it.

    New missionary policy impacts LDS students as they change college plans and lives

    Alana Moore Smith
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…The Power of September 20thMy Profile

  • Angie Gardner October 9, 2012, 8:51 am

    :) I just linked this on the other thread because we were talking about education and I thought this fit nicely. Way to go Alana! I have heard so much buzz from young women. They are changing their plans and making this work and it’s going to be great.

  • Tracy Maurer October 9, 2012, 12:11 pm

    Angie, I got goosebumps when I heard Elder Holland say that about sister missionaries. I totally agree the benefits of being a sister missionary in the field are huge. Women in general deal better with things of the heart, and the gospel requires a change of heart. Alison, what an amazing daughter you have. At age 19 to be able to have such focus and foresight is truly outstanding. She sounds like an incredibly grounded young lady, and hats off to her boyfriend for supporting her…
    Tracy Maurer recently posted…Where to from here…My Profile

  • Tracy Polyak October 10, 2012, 7:32 am

    Looking at my own dd7 and ds4, the first thing that I thought about was that it is now unlikely that they will be serving missions at the same time.

    I also think about how my husband and I served our missions at the same time, but that was because he went out late. I think now more boyfriends/girlfriends will serve concurrent missions and return to get married right away. I wonder how that will affect education for women? Will more of them delay education in order to start families? I also wonder how this will effect the financial preparedness of young married couples? I think many women have gotten married already having an associate’s degree or even a bachelor’s and were able to get their husbands through college, financially speaking. I wonder if this will make it even harder financially on newly married couples.
    Tracy Polyak recently posted…Spell to Write and Read: Two Years LaterMy Profile

  • Tracy Maurer October 10, 2012, 12:54 pm

    Some interesting things there that I had not considered Tracy. But I do believe that the Lord will provide for those who sacrifice themselves to serve. So we may actually find a lot more miracles occurring in the lives of the members. Additionally, financial hardship, if faced with faith, can actually make you stronger and more self reliant in many ways.

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