Saturday's big announcement regarding the change is missionary service age is definitely making the rounds. For those who are living in a deep, dark cave, the Church is now allowing young men to serve at 18, instead of 19, and young women to serve at 19, instead of 21. (If you didn't know, that would also mean you missed Conference. Sheesh!)
Lot's of media attention to the change - TV reports, news articles, blog posts, and Social Media chatter. Most that I have seen has been positive. The world has taken notice, and now would be a good time to invest in companies selling "No Soliciting" signs.
And, like clockwork, outspoken church critics (from within the very Church itself) are already hijacking this wonderful, prophetic change to bolster their own apostate agendas. (Did that sound harsh? Good.)
There has been much written and discussed, so I probably don't need to add more to the conversation. Besides, I don't have anything particularly important to say - but that has never stopped me before...
My thoughts on this topic are mine, and mine alone. They are not official, or even that interesting. They are based on my experience as a father to one daughter, who did not serve a mission, 4 sons, one who did, one who is, and two who should. My only sister served a mission, I also served a mission, but my EC did not. I also had the great pleasure of sending oodles of young men into the mission field as a bishop, and the sadness of watching some evade service.
In no particular order:
I think the age changes are great, wonderful, inspired. and...fraught with peril, and great changes that will impact all of us.
For the Church, and Society: The more missionaries the better. This change is not really about the missionaries - it is about hastening the work.. To fixate solely on how it impacts "girls" or "boys" is a self-absorbed view of what should be a much bigger picture: Establishing Zion to prepare for the Second Coming of the Savior.
The missionary ranks will be increased by more Sisters serving than ever before - and that surge should maintain indefinitely. There will also be a temporary bubble of Elders as the 18 year-old move into the system. This bubble will flatten back out in a couple of years, but, hopefully, a higher percentage of Elders will be able to serve even beyond the bubble.
More missionaries will yield more baptisms. From my experience, they are like the Elders in that a minority of the missionaries find the majority of success. I have seen some stellar sister missionaries. And some not-so-stellar, just like the Elders.
The Church wil also see long-term benefits as more sisters serve missions. So many of the women I know in the ward that served missions are really, really solid. I think serving gives the an increase in confidence is teaching and testifying that benefits them their entire lives. Stronger teachers, advisors, mothers, etc.
For the Sisters: The world will be a better place with more sister missionaries in it. So will the Church, so will wards, and finally so will families. An opportunity to serve at an earlier age makes it much easier for a young woman to add "mission" into her life than at 21. By the time 21 rolls around, sometimes life will have already moved beyond missionary service: School, career, marriage, kids, etc. At 19, many, many more will serve. Coincidentally, if they leave at 19, they'll get back around the same time that the Elder's their age will. (I hear lots of wedding bells for 21 year-olds.)
There are tons of articles out there right now with much better insight about how the sisters will benefit, so I'll move on.
For the Elders: I had 20 months between my high-school graduation and my 19th birthday. A lot can happen in 20 months. Luckily, I was either working or attending BYU at that time, so I never did anything worse than act like an idiot freshmen. (You guys know what I'm talking about.)
But, I know far too many young men who let that time between school and mission get the best of them. Some went away to college and left their brains and spirits at home. Others got caught up in various forms of immorality. Some developed addictions that damaged their spirituality to the point that they could no longer serve at 19. Some pulled out of the Whirlpool of Spiritual Stupidity, some got pulled under - and have yet to recover. It is heartbreaking.
19 has been a pretty hard line drawn in the social sand of the Church. When a young man hits 19 and is not on a mission, he becomes a sort of "problem" in the eyes of many - including himself. While this is not right, it is real. The 18+++ age blurs that hard line and makes it more about if the young man is ready or not.
For Both Elders and Sisters: There are so many considerations for both young men and women - emotional preparedness, spiritual preparedness, financial preparedness, health, etc. in determining if a missionary is good to go. The prospective missionary, parents, bishops and stake presidents all have to be very involved in this determination. The calendar should not dictate.
Anything that blurs that hard age line and helps the young man leave when he is READY to leave, is a good thing. For the sisters too. Remember 18 is not the age a young man is commanded to serve. It is the age he can serve. Remember too, 19 is not the age a Sister is commanded to serve, because she is not commanded to serve. At all. Should she choose to serve, 19 represents the age that she can serve. Don't believe anybody that tells you that 18/19 are the ages a missionary is supposed to serve. They are wrong. And dumb.
Serving a mission establishes spiritual habits and comprehension that can set a great pattern for your entire life. (No, my EC did not serve a mission, neither did FOML1, and they are both ROCK solid, so don't get defensive.) It would seem to me that shared mission experience could lend great foundational stability to a marriage.
I just looked and realized how long this is getting - sorry about that. I'm just a little excited about al the changes. (I think I'll break it up and talk about the "Peril" and "Changes" in my next post.)
Hope the "Post-Conference High" is still warming your hearts...