Sunday, October 7, 2012

Called to the Work! Is it Bad if I Feel Jealous?

I know I am not the only one whose jawed dropped wide open during the Saturday morning session of General Conference when President Monson announced that they were lowering the missionary age from 19 years-old to 18- years-old for men and from 21 years-old to 19 years-old for women.

I was totally taken back with the announcement and I think I was in shock for the first little while. I couldn't help but feel that while this age change certainly affects young men's plans it changes everything for the young women. I don't think that there will be tons more young men serving missions because of the change but there are going to be thousands of young women who will.


As I talked about it with my friend later she told me that both she and her sister started to cry when they heard the announcement. She said that she was crying because she had served a mission and was so happy  that now so many more young women would have that incredible experience. When she turned to her sister though she saw that she was crying different tears.

"I would have gone," was what she choked out.

When I heard my friend's story I completely understood her sister's tears. I have been SO excited about the new missionary age for women. It opens up the opportunity for so, so, so many more young women to go on missions and that is really exciting. Yet, I can't help but feel a bit jealous of them.

Is that bad of me?

When I was 20 years-old, soon to turn to 21, I really wanted to go on a mission. I had been planning on it but then I started dating my husband, Jon, and that changed everything. I told myself that I could have both and that Jon would just have to wait for me until I got back. Then one night I had a dream (and   weirdly enough my roommate's boyfriend had the exact same one) where I went on my mission and when I got back Jon had married someone else. I woke up sobbing and I knew what I was suppose to do.

Yet, even though Jon and I had been dating seriously for several months we hadn't really ever talked about getting married. He had tried... once... and it went over really poorly because I was terrified of the idea. I figured that him asking me to marry him anytime soon wasn't in the picture. So I knelt down and gave God my "ultimatum" telling Him that "if Jon asks me to marry him this week then I will, if not I am going on a mission."

I was 90% certain I was going on a mission.

Then, surprisingly, that week Jon asked me to marry him. When he was down on one knee holding up a ring box the thought that went through my head was, "Yes, No, Should I say Yes or should I say No?" I hesitated long enough that he got the most terrified look on his face (poor guy) before I finally said, "Yes!"

Once I said that "Yes" I had the spirit wash over me in a wave and it made me sob. I knew that I had made the right choice.

And I have never doubted it since.

But when I heard the announcement on Saturday part of me was a bit sad that I missed out on the experience of serving a full-time mission. There is a part of me that is crying, like my friend's sister, "But I would have gone, Lord, I would have gone."

And those tears are bitter sweet.

Then, on the other hand I am thrilled... beyond thrilled... that now so many young women (including my daughter) won't have to choose between marriage and a mission.  They can have both.

I am also thrilled at the prospect that now more young women will be able to through the temple sooner and receive their endowments. Just think about the power that that will bring to the Relief Society to have all those young women so ready and prepared for the work of Relief Society-- which is to work with the Elders to bring souls to Christ. I can't help but feel that this age change for women is God's way of giving young women a very powerful message that they are needed and invited to join in His great work. In fact I think that it is a bit of wake up call to ALL the women of the church, no matter what age, to remind us that we need to be more involved in the work of salvation and that God expects us to be using our resources and time to save souls.

I will say though that I think that keeping the age and the length of missionary service different for men and women is significant. I think that it is an important reminder that the priesthood responsibilities of men and women are different (read this, this and this) and that the Lord has given them different stewardships. Women  don't have the same administration responsibilities that men do and so if their life plan takes a different path, or they don't feel called to the work, that is perfectly fine. The Lord has different paths for each of His daughters. I just think that this age change makes it easier for more young women and young men to get the vision of how the Lord expects men and women to work together in their stewardships to move the Lord's work forward.... and that is exciting!

This announcement has put a little fire in my bones to be a better missionary and to better prepare my children (all of whom could now possibly be out, or just coming home, at the same time) for their missions. So, despite my desire to turn back the clock and join these young women going out I am thrilled and so excited about this call to the work.

What was your reaction to the announcement? How does this change things for you and the young men and women in your life? 

32 comments:

  1. I was excited for a few reasons. I think that it will be wonderful for young men who are ready to go right out of high school - there won't have to be that gap year of 'filling time before they can go' if they are ready. I love that it has been presented as an option - that even those who still are not ready until 19 or 24 are just fine, but that in these latter generations there are going to be 18 year olds who are ready to serve.

    I also think it opens up these strong young men to become husbands and fathers earlier as missions can end at younger ages! What a blessing to have more faithful, strong young men returned from missions and ready to begin families with the young women who are ready.

    I think the age for young women is neat, but for different reasons. I think this will drive more young women to prayer over what they should be doing!! Like you said, serving a mission for girls has often seemed like something to consider 'if you don't get married first'. So many have put the emphasis on getting married and pursued that sometimes to the detriment of seeking revelation on just what they should be doing - they just assume they should be seeking a mate right out of high school.

    Now don't get me wrong - I met my husband at age 18 (he had just returned from a mission and a friend from another ward brought him to a YSA institute class at my ward building) and we were engaged three weeks later and married just 4 weeks after I turned 19, less than 8 months from the day we met. It was absolutely the right thing for me, and was totally unexpected as my focus at that time was on getting an education. I had no interest in a relationship but the Lord really put us together in His own time. So I'm all for marriage as soon as a worthy priesthood holder is there!
    So now I think girls will have to be all the more prayerful over what to be doing after high school. They'll have to be open to marriage or mission and really seek the Lord to know what direction they're headed.

    Loved conference. Look forward to serving a mission with my husband down the road. For now we're in the depths of babies and children with oldest only 11 and the seventh child not yet 9 mos old. :)

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    1. Tristan, I think you are very right. I think that more young women are going to have more hard choices to make. I think it is important that they don't forget that marriage and bearing children is at the forefront of what is most important in this life and if they get that opportunity (a good one mind you) they should for sure jump on it.

      I think that is why the Lord has men and women go at different times, to remind us that our jobs are not the same.

      When I think about Rose's future I would be equally happy for her if she chooses to go on a mission or not. I just love it that the choice is now easier and more available for her. If she was ready and prepared for a mission at 19 that would be great and if she was prepared and ready for marriage at 19 that would be great too. That will be between her and the Lord. And I guess the choice might not be any easier than it was for me :)


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  2. I have heard SO many girls (including my roommate) say they would have gone on missions if this was announced three years ago. I also think more girls will go because leaving after your first year of college is less of a sacrifice and an easier decision to make than leaving a semester before you graduate college. I'm worried that a lot of girls will go now because instead of waiting for their missionary, they will just become one. Which I don't necessarily think is the best reason to go.

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    1. Right Hilary, I think that young women still need to go for the right reasons... and not just because it is exciting or "something" to do. They need to know that it was what the Lord wants them to be doing. Which is sometimes harder than if the Lord just tells you you are suppose to go :)

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  3. This announcement came a week after our ward had our 5th Sunday lesson taught by our bishop about how we are losing so many young men during that 1 year after high school before they can go on missions. They said only 20% of young men are making it on missions. They attributed a lot of that to the 1 year "hanging out trying to figure out what to before the mission". They were encouraging the youth to start college right away instead of wasting that 1 year. So this announcement, to me, was an answer to prayers that I am sure have been out there for awhile! My 10 yr old was so excited, only 8 more years mom!! This is amazing!
    I too felt a quick thought of "I would have gone" because I always wanted to serve a mission, but I knew I wanted to get married and start a family too. I was married at age 20 1/2, so of course when I heard the announcement I thought, I could have gone and come home and got married at around the same time! =)

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  4. I'm so thrilled about this change! I'm one of those who definitely would have gone at 19, but by 21 had found the man I wanted to marry, so while I'm a bit jealous of these young women for whom it will be an option, I wouldn't change my decision for anything. :)

    I appreciated President Monson's emphasis that this provides more flexibility for worthy young men and women regarding the timing of their missionary service and that not everyone will or should serve at the earlier ages. It really allows individuals to prayerfully consider what timing will work best for them in their family, educational, and life situations. Hopefully it won't become a cultural status symbol (as in "I must be more spiritual than you because I went when I was 18 and you didn't go until you were 20"). And I think this is going to shift the focus of the Young Women program a bit, too, towards more serious missionary and temple preparation. So much good will come of this!

    It seems to me that while the minimum age is different for men and women, the practical application of the policy is that many young men and women will be the same age when they serve. At least in the US, so many youth turn 18 during their senior year of high school that the difference in entering the mission field may only be a few months.

    Did you see the press conference with Elder Holland and Elder Nelson after the Saturday morning conference session? (There's a link on lds.org if you haven't seen it yet.) Elder Holland was so excited - he described himself as "thrilled" and "giddy!" They were asked by a reporter whether the length of service for women would ever be changed and Elder Holland responded "One miracle at a time" and went on to say that they considered it, along with many other options, and wanted to see how the age change went before changing anything else, but nothing was off the table.

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  5. So,when I heard the announcement, I had the thought: This is a preemptive strike by the forces of good over the forces of evil. The game has been stepped up.
    D&C 115:5 Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations.
    I was excited, and I wished I could serve or had a son or daughter who could serve. It came to me that I and anyone else can help to sponser a young man or young woman who needs help to go on a mission. We can ask our Bishops for the details. I know I can be a better missionary through small and simple things that lead to bigger things.
    I am excited and hopeful because like Elder Holland said, the Lord's work is hastening on.

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  6. I think it's great too! I don't know what the view on young women is around the world when they're not married by 21, but I went to BYU and definitely felt a stigma against those who weren't married early and so were able to choose a mission. My story is similar to yours: wanted to serve a mission but hubby-to-be came home from his, so there went that idea. And I too am grateful for Pres. Monson's emphasis on there being no right age to go. We all have different missions and capacities. Hooray for building the kingdom!

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  7. I went on a 6-week "mini" mission when I was 19 and it was a wonderful time. I was dating my now-husband at the time, and while I was away he (a convert) grew spiritually and was able to receive his temple endowments. While on my mission, I taught a lady who later got baptised and had many memorable, testimony-building experiences.

    I have 3 daughters and a son. It is entirely possible that the oldest daughter and my son could be on missions at the same time! I love it!

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  9. Your feelings mirror my own SO much. I was excited to see if you would post on this because I was so sure that you would :) I wrote out my reaction and feelings on my blog here My post isn't nearly so coherent as yours (I wrote it at 2am because I couldn't stand to not have it written any longer), but I had a lot of the same feelings. I'm SO stoked for the young women now! I think this is going to change the face of the church in so many ways and I'm really excited to see it happen.

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    1. Love it! I am glad to know that someone else felt the same-- it makes me not feel so bad about how I reacted :) I really am excited about the change and I don't regret that I didn't go but I guess I am just a bit selfish because it would have been awesome to have both... but the Lord still might have given me a big fat NO even at 19, so.... who knows :)

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  10. I too am really excited about this change. I served a mission when I was 21 and it was definitely a life changer. I came back with more confidence and improved spiritual, intellectual and social abilities. I only had one semester left of college when I left but I came back with a different outlook on life and changed my major. (Another 2 years of school) It would have been great to leave at 19.

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  11. I am excited by the changes also. But I would like to pose a different thought thread... I too would have served a mission at 21. I was married at 19. Would I have served a mission if I had been able to at 19? I honestly do not know. It would have been a lot of soul searching and pondering and I think the decision would have been very difficult. By 19, I had decided that I was going to serve at 21. But then the Lord changed my plans. By the time I was 21, I had two children. If I had been out serving a mission instead of home and married, those two boys would have either had to wait a few more years or they would have been sent to a different family. Maybe their mortality time could not wait. I don't know. Of course, I cannot know what would have happened or how. But I think it is important to express that bringing THOSE souls to Christ is just as eternally, maybe more so, important than any of those I would touch while serving a mission. Don't get me wrong...I am excited for the change. But I don't want to lose focus on the importance and eternal significance our influence as mother is. This definitely puts more responsibility on each young woman to make sure she is in line with the Lord's plan for her. But it is exciting. Our 18 year-old college boy called immediately after the announcement....so Mom, what do you think?? More prayers here at our house.

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    1. Carin, you bring up some good points. I may still not have gone at 19 depending on how life worked out and what the Lord had told me. I don't regret not going because I know that I am where I am suppose to be and doing what I am suppose to be doing. And as my hubby pointed out, if I had gone when I was 19 I probably wouldn't' have been where I was when I was so we may have never had met. And I wouldn't pass up what I have and KNOW now about womanhood and motherhood for anything. So, really I am glad the Lord is in charge of things. But there is still a part of me that is a bit jealous :)

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  12. I am really excited about the changes for the girls as well as the boys (I have 4 boys!) I don't feel sad at all about not being able to serve at 19. I feel the Lord played a big part in all aspects of my life to get me to where I am today and if I had been serving a mission at 19 my life would be very different--I'm sure of it. But I AM excited for the young women I know (like my sister-in-law) who now have that option! What an exciting time!

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  13. I joined the church right before turning 18 and really wanted to serve a mission. When I turned 19 and all of my guy friends at BYU were leaving for missions I was so jealous. I didn't want to wait until I was 21. I had only been a member for a little over a year and I was READY and so enthusiastic about sharing the gospel. I seriously debated writing the 1st Presidency to let me be the exception and let me go at 19. My friends discouraged that idea so I waited. I did serve at 21, but yes I am still kinda jealous that this announcement didn't come earlier.

    The Lord's timing is always perfect though and this is when the announcement needed to be made. I am so excited about more young women serving missions! This combined with the new curriculum for the youth does put a lot of pressure on us as parents and youth leaders. We need to prepare them! God is hastening His work- the 2nd coming is really coming :)

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  14. I have to agree here with Carin! While it is a wonderful opportunity for many, we need not lose sight of what our main purpose as women in the Church is. It's not to be like the "men" it is to be women who are here to have families and raise children in righteousness to the Lord. I fear that too many young sisters now will put off marriage because they feel that this announcement means that they are suppose to serve a mission. Scriptures state that the responsibility of serving a mission is squarely on the shoulders of the brethren. . . not the women. It is a priesthood responsibility, and while serving a mission as a young women is a good thing, it is not the first thing we should be actively engaged in doing. This reminds me of the talk by Elder Oaks in the October 2007 conference entitled, "Good, Better, Best". Is it good for women to serve missions. . .yes, is it better than some other options out there? Certainly! But what is the best thing we can be doing? Preparing ourselves for marriage and raising a family. That should be the forefront of our thoughts. I know this might ruffle some feathers. I'm not saying it's not a wonderful option for young women now, but it worries me more. Young women definitely need to be more thoughtful and prayerful about their steps after schooling, putting their hearts in the right place and allowing God to do the rest.

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    1. Aubrey, I agree with you though I think the spiritual knowledge and growth that will come from serving a mission is grand preparation for marriage and motherhood.

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    2. And I agree with you too Meg. Again, I am not saying that missionary service is something that women shouldn't do, but I also know that serving a mission isn't the only way to prepare for marriage and motherhood as well. That's all I'm saying. Focus first on family, the Lord will then guide you through the rest (whatever that might be).

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  15. I was thrilled with the announcement. Tears of joy. I served a mission at 21, but I would have loved to go sooner. No regrets, I am sure my life has turned out the way the Lord wanted it and that His timing is perfect, but I would have loved to have the option of sooner. Options about a lot of things is very important to me.

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  16. We all squealed at the announcement {with a house full of mostly girls we get squealing a lot}! I also thought how wonderfully prophetic of Sister Beck who just five years ago in her "Mothers Who Know" talk said: "Think of the power of our future missionary force if mothers considered their homes as a pre–missionary training center. Then the doctrines of the gospel taught in the MTC would be a review and not a revelation. That is influence; that is power."

    At the news conference afterwards "Elder Holland also explained that missionaries will be asked to enhance their pre-mission preparation prior to entering the Missionary Training Center (MTC) and that time spent in the MTC will be reduced by approximately one-third for all missionaries. That change will help accommodate an overall increase in missionaries.

    "In addition to impacting future missionaries, the change, which is effective immediately, will have an impact on many of the other 14.5 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including the tens of thousands of mothers and fathers who will send their children on missions. In speaking to them, Elder Holland said parents need to help their children prepare for missionary service." (quoted from the Newsroom article)

    For those youth whose mothers listened and heeded that counsel by Sister Beck, they are ready to go, RIGHT NOW. It is amazing. And thrilling.

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  17. Our family changed in a blink of an eye this weekend. My oldest is 19, a senior at the university and has decided to leave it all behind to fulfill a long desire to serve. I don't think I have stopped crying. I would have loved to have served at 19, but I got married instead. As I've read some of the other comments and appreciated their thoughts although I don't see this announcement with quite the same light or rather as I watch my daughter who wants nothing more than to be married and be a mother I have a new perspective.

    We live in a different time, the world is different, the work is hastening and the Lord clearly wants more of His daughters to serve. It doesn't negate from their supreme calling as mothers, it adds a greater depth to their lives. I have a house full of sons and daughters, my teaching will not be different only accelerated because clearly the Lord needs my little ones to further build His kingdom.

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    1. I totally agree with what you are saying. The divinity of motherhood is in no way diminished nor put on hold by serving the Lord in this capacity. If the Lord did not want or expect more women to serve then there would have been no changes made. With this availability sisters can do both mission and marriage more easily. I have never met a Returned Sister who did not value her experiences. Serving a mission is the entire premise of motherhood anyway-serve others and share the gospel. It is amazing and when it was announced I had to leave the room to compose myself. I felt the Spirit whispering to me that our lives had just changed. I have six and a seventh on the way and I look forward with fingers crossed that they will all serve missions someday.

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  18. I am so excited! Just a few months ago I was griping about how the young men should be able to serve younger. (not outloud of course. haha. don't want to seem critical of church leaders)

    I disagree that the young men aren't affected. A lot can happen in a year. I grew up in Texas and currently attend a university here. People go away to school and do two things: find the gospel or runaway from the gospel. Personally, I found it. I spiritually grew more within the two years I lived in Huntsville than 18 years at home. Unfortunately most of our young men aren't spiritually ready to brave the new world, focus on work and school, and prepare for a mission. They fall away while at school. NOW, they have the option of preparing for a mission at home, see the world on their mission, and have the spiritual strength to move out of their parents' homes when they get back. Of course everyone is different, with different abilities, level of maturations, and needs.

    I know someone who goes to the University of Texas, and their institute building and church building is 10 blocks from campus. For whatever reason, the men who have every intention in serving a mission fall away starting with the sacrifice to walk 10 blocks to church. It's always the little things, right? This problem can easily be fixed with more organization but it's just an example.

    Don't get me wrong, I"ve seen return missionaries seriously fall away from the gospel standards, but now maybe more men can serve in the first place.

    Gordon B. Hinckley did say that serving a mission is one of the best ways to prepare for motherhood. I think that sending this message to girls that they are needed in the mission field indicates how important missionary work is in this time. Both full-time missionaries and member missionaries are crucial as we draw nearer to the second coming. We are all members of the Lord's army. While serving a mission is not necessary for every single little young woman, but this certainly gives more the oppurtunity to serve full-time.

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  19. I was at a friend's house in Utah for this first session, since we didn't have tickets. I feel awful because I love to listen to Elder Cook talk, but I couldn't hear a lot of it because the four of us mission-aged girls were still screaming, calling family, and jumping up and down. But I'm listening to it now to compensate.

    I recognize that not every sister needs to serve a mission. It's not our priesthood duty. But for some of us, it is literally what God expects of us. I won't speak for other sisters, but I know that God expects me specifically to go on a mission. And this new age limit will make it so much easier for sisters (including myself) to serve. I'm so grateful for this. :)

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  20. Is it wrong of us as mothers to push the idea of missionary service on our daughters? 23 young women sacrificed a year and a half of their lives to bring the gospel back into mine. For that and many other reasons I wouldn't dream of encouraging my girls to marry before 21, and I believe their father has tried to set a firm standard of a 25 at the youngest. So this age adjustment is right up my parenting ally. I want my daughters to have the experience, responsibility and growth that missions offer. I believe it will make them better mothers, just as missionary service for our sons makes them better fathers.

    Am I jealous? That time has passed. But the sooner I can empty my nest the sooner I can get into the field with my husband, and this change definitely facilitates that.

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  21. I would have gone, too. But now my daughters can! My son is only 6, but I've been stressing about starting him in school when we did... He has a late birthday, so he would have graduated and then had a year to screw around before he turned 19. This change has really made me think about all the unnecessary worldly rubbish kids get into with their first bit of real freedom without responsibility, and I'm so glad for it!

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  22. I would have gone too... sigh.

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  23. I was THRILLED!!! I honestly didn't even think about the girls when they announced the boys. But then they did and I was so happy. I did serve a mission and wouldn't have served sooner, because I am a convert. But it is all good, it just opens up more options.

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  24. Just found your blog through PInterest and I am so excited!

    My first thought when I heard the announcement was dang it, I now only have FIVE years before my son can go. I felt a little panic! My second thought was how excited I was for the sisters to get to serve and just how many more will go now!

    I did the mission thing and I was the type of girl that never planned on it. I was writing a missionary (the husband) and was on a plan to get as much school done as possible before he came home. It wasn't until he actually flew out of the airport and I was able to hug him goodbye (rule breaker and this also ages me!) Something started at that moment that later took six months for me to realize that Heavenly Father had a better plan for me. It was the perfect plan for me.

    I don't want these young moms with babies to think that maybe they rushed into marriage and that maybe they should of served a mission. Having babies and being a wife is still at the top of the food chain and they are doing just what they should be doing right now !

    I am just truly excited for both the boys and girls to go and serve. It reminds me even more that each generation is rising higher and higher and the kids to come will make spectacular missionaries.

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  25. Heather,

    I know this is a really late comment on this post, but I was preparing to teach a lesson and wanted to refer to a few things you had said and stumbled across this one. I'm pretty sure you posted this before I found you and that's why I hadn't read it yet.

    It made me cry again. Reading your friend's sister's experience and your experience brought back all my feelings of that day. I've never been so heartbroken as that day. That announcement came not five months after I got married. I got married one month after my 19th birthday and it was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. I always wanted to go on a mission. It was in my life plan and I wasn't even going to have a boyfriend till I came back. When Andrew came along, I almost wouldn't date him because I didn't want to distract from my life plan of a mission. I paced circles around my dad trying to explain to myself why I thought Andrew deserved a chance and why I thought I could make it till my mission even if I dated him. He smiled his knowing smile and told me to keep in mind I could marry Andrew if I dated him now. I simply pushed that thought aside and knew I would make it to my mission.

    I was in the temple when I received the revelation that I needed to marry Andrew before I could go on my mission. I cried. But I knew it was right.

    But on that general conference day, I felt betrayed. More betrayed than I had ever been in my whole life (and I have had some storybook betrayals). Even worse, I felt betrayed by my all-knowing all-loving Heavenly Father. I cried. I sobbed. I missed the two talks that followed because I ran out of the room and sobbed with my sister trying to comfort me. The only thing that made me stop that day was seeing how stricken Andrew's face was. I had to re-assure him that I loved him and that we had made the right choice.

    I've never doubted my choice to get married since that day. But now that I've sent my best friend on her mission and almost all my college peers, sat through all the excitement and talk about the lowering of the age, and continue to sit through the increased hype on missionary work, I've finally realized that the ache and tears probably won't ever go away. I've convinced myself that I can be a missionary in my calling and as a mother and later with my husband, but the truth is - I missed out on a unique experience that only comes once in eternity. I missed out on an experience that is always talked of as the best two years and the most character shaping experience. I've watched it change the people I love and I know I will never experience it.

    As much as I wish the ache would go away, I think I've finally learned it never will. All I can do now is strive to be the best helping hand my Father needs from me now.

    So yeah, I get the jealousy. And every once and awhile I get a feeling of betrayal still. But I think what I've realized is that there are so many paths we can walk that are "correct".

    Kenzie Macdonald

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