Young men and women of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are still responding in unprecedented numbers to the call to serve missions after the Church’s October 6, 2012, announcement lowering the age of eligibility to 18 for men and 19 for women — and bringing the number of Sister missionary applications since October to equal that of the Elders, according to an LDS Newsroom article.
“I’ve never seen anything affect a generation of young people like what President Monson announced the Saturday morning of General Conference,” says Elder David F. Evans, executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department and member of the Seventy. “What we’re seeing is just an absolute overwhelming response from this generation to the invitation of the Lord and His Prophet to rise up and go and serve your fellow man and preach the gospel.”
Following the announcement there was a surge in the number of missionary applications from 700 per week to 4,000, according to the article. More than half of these applicants were women, whereas before the announcement only 15% of Mormon missionaries were women. The number of applicants is still double what it was before the announcement, and the total number of men and women who have applied for missionary service since October is now equal, according to the article.
In a press conference following the announcement, Church apostle Jeffrey R. Holland said he is “absolutely delighted if this change in policy allows many, many more young women to serve,” noting that “those [women] who do serve are stunningly successful.”
The decision to serve a mission can be challenging to make. Candace Richins, a freshman at Utah State University with a volleyball scholarship, knows this well, as cited in the article. A possible starter on the team in 2013, Richins was excited at the possibility of going on a mission but wasn’t sure if she would still have her scholarship and spot on the team if she left.
“I felt very impressed that I needed to go and I needed to go now,” says Richins, who will begin missionary service in March in Stockholm, Sweden. “So I decided right then and there that I would go and it didn’t matter what I was leaving behind; I would just go and serve the Lord. It definitely was a hard decision because it not only affects me, it affects my coach, my teammates, the whole school. … But at the same time, I knew that it was right and that what I was doing was the correct thing and that everyone would be blessed for it.”
While prospective missionaries are getting ready to go and serve the Lord, the LDS Church’s missionary department is preparing to accommodate the influx of new missionaries both in the 347 missions and the 15 missionary training centers (MTCs) around the world, according to the article.
Training time at the MTCs will decrease by 30% — those not learning a language will be there for 2 weeks instead of 3, and those learning a foreign language will leave 2 weeks earlier than before. Each training center will also increase capacity by maximizing empty space, including putting more bunk beds in each room. In the Church’s flagship MTC in Provo, Utah, capacity will increase from 3,000 to 4,800 in the short term. Long-term plans are also being considered, according to the article.
The missions of the Church each have an average of 170 missionaries, as cited in the article. Many missions will increase their capacity to 250 missionaries. Mission presidents are preparing for the influx by training their missionaries who are already serving so they can train incoming missionaries, according to the article. Elder Evans says that although the responsibility placed on mission presidents will increase, it won’t be overwhelming.
The Church of Jesus Christ has allowed some missionaries in 48 countries to serve at age 18 already, so the greatest number of these younger new missionaries will come from the countries where the age limit was lowered — including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan, according to the article.
Some countries have educational systems that don’t allow young adults to interrupt their schooling. If they do, they lose their place and their standing in their chosen institution of higher learning. Leaving for a mission at age 18 allows them to postpone rather than interrupt their college level classes.
This article was written by Lisa Montague, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I am a wife and mother of 4 beautiful children in a small town in the mountains of Idaho. We ski as a family in the winter and camp, fish, and go to the beach in the summer. I’m a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I am grateful for the Savior and the blessings of the gospel in my life.