Would I have served a mission at age 19?

I love the opportunity to watch The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints general conference twice a year. Because my husband is back in school for his MBA, I was alone Saturday with my two boys.

As soon as President Monson started talking about young men being able to serve missions at age 18 instead of 19 in certain countries, I started speculating where he was going with it…and then was shocked and elated to hear the age was now lowered to 18 for ALL worthy young men who had graduated high school.

I was even more surprised to hear that young women could serve at age 19 instead of 21. I immediately thought of my 19-year-old sister and whether she would choose to serve now that the age was lowered.

I admit, growing up I never really thought about serving a mission. I always thought I would have either a career or husband by age 21, both of which I did.

But if I had been able to serve at the age of 19, I wonder if that would have made a difference? I’d like to think that I would have done as David Archuleta did and leave a budding career to serve the Lord. Especially as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to love the gospel as so much more than a religion or good way of living life. It is who I am, to the core of my being. Knowing I am a daughter of my Heavenly Father who loves me gives me indescribable peace and comfort during trying times. Knowing I can be with my little growing family into the eternities makes my heart swell with joy.

My husband and I have always talked about serving a mission together when our kids are grown, and I still plan to do that someday. But I wonder how much more my life would have been different had I chosen to do that as a single young adult? I imagine there are wonderful blessings awaiting these young men and women as they make the life-changing decision to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people.

What did you think of President Monson’s announcement Saturday morning? How do you think it will change the dynamic of new female missionaries? Do you think these young people will be equally as prepared for marriage at a younger age coming home?

5 comments

  1. Cat

    My only concern with the new age requirement is that if girls don’t go, they’ll be looked down upon as not having enough faith. I remember 25 years ago when I was just graduating high school. There were a few questions about whether or not the girls would go on missions. Some felt the call and fully expected to go and did. Great for them. However, I didn’t. Instead, I met my husband, finished college, got a job and started a family. About 15 years ago, I was asked why I didn’t serve a mission. It was said in a way that somehow I was lacking in the fact that I didn’t go. What people didn’t realize is that my calling was to convert my RM husband who despite serving a mission and growing up in the church, never really understood the gospel (his words not mine). It only took me about 20 years to do it. My faithful parents one of whom had served a mission and the other had not, had taught me well.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think missionaries are wonderful and those who serve are amazing. Currently I have a son and parents serving and I am so pleased to be supporting them as much as I can. I just hope we don’t lose sight that an RM doesn’t mean that you’ll be faithful for the rest of your life.

    I have a daughter who is 16. If she wants to go on a mission when she turns 19, I will fully support her. If she doesn’t, I will do the same.

  2. Raymond Takashi Swenson

    President Monson, and later Elders Nelson and Holland at the news conference, made it clear that the lower ages were OPTIONS, and that there was no requirement that people leave on a mission at the earliest point they are eligible. The new policy provides more flexibility for people. At the same time, it lets people who feel ready to serve to go ahead and not have to wait another year or two, and figure out what to do with themselves in the interim.

    Elder Holand noted that he was among the first set of missionaries who were called at age 19 instead of 20, back in the early 1960s. I was 19 when I was called and was in the first group of missionaries who served only 24 month missions in foreign countries, including two months in language training at BYU Provo, Idaho or Hawaii. The benefits of the language training experience went beyond better language skills, so the next thing that happened was having ALL missionaries spend four weeks in training even if they were not learning a new language. The MTCs proliferated.

    As more missionaries were called from countries outside North America, the doors were opened in a miraculous way to send missionaries to more countries, first in Africa after the 1978 revelation, and then to Russia and Eastern Europe after the unexpected collapse of the Soviet Union.

    I fully expect that the additional missionary service this new policy will unleash is going to be answered within a few years with new unexpected and miraculous events around the world that will expand missionary work into new places. Sometimes it has taken war and defeat to open nations to the preaching of the gospel, as in Japan. China has perhaps 100 million Christians, but Mormon missionary cannot actively and openly proselyte. And Muslim countries still punish as criminal any conversion to other religions. As President Kimball promised, if we prepare and are ready with missionaries, the Lord will arrange events to give them places to teach and baptize.

  3. T. Glenn Foss

    I served a mission at age 23 so I was much older than the other missionries and more mature as I had already served in the Army and had experienced more than most people experience in a lifetime. I look back fondly upon those two years serving and would highly encourage all worthy young men and women to serve!

  4. Elizabeth

    Absolutely I would have wanted to! By the time I was twenty-one, I had bought a new car and accumulated other debt, I wouldn’t have been able to serve. I married my husband the year I turned twenty-one too. Which obviously I wouldn’t change. But when I was 19 I didn’t have financial obligations and would have loved to go.

  5. Kim

    I am thrilled with the announcement! My daughter is especially excited. She has always planned to go on a mission. She’s in high school now and quite frankly she struggles with a few subjects. I’ve always worried about what she would do after high school. I know she wants to go to college, but quite frankly I didn’t think she would do so well right out of high school. This announcement has truly answered our prayers! She will have one year after high school graduation to work and continue prepare for her mission. Then after serving Jesus Christ and His children for 18 months she will gain such maturity and understanding of where she wants to see her life go. That will help her decide what she’d like to focus on in her higher education. We are so blessed that she will have the time to focus on others in a way that will change her future. What an amazing announcement!

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