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.
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?