Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

A tweak for men, game-changer for women.

October 10th, 2012 by Bookslinger

Reducing the minimum age for full-time missionary service from 19 to 18 for men is a tweak. But reducing the minimum age from 21 to 19 for women is a game-changer.

There will be a noticeable uptick in the number of men serving, after the initial big surge of 18 and 19 year-olds going out together, and coming back together.

However, that post-surge uptick in men would, to my logic, be limited to the number of men between their 18th and 19th birthdays who would otherwise go inactive or have worthiness issues during that year. (Though those with worthiness issues could still resolve them and go later, I’m thinking there may be some who get discouraged by the issue and still don’t go.)

I’m thinking that the “lost boys” who will now be “saved” by going at age 18 may be somewhere between 10 and 30%. (There is also the “logistical” factor, where for some it will be more convenient to serve at 18 instead of 19, but that is already done in other countries, and I don’t think it is a significant factor in the US, maybe a percentage point or two.)

But for women, as the age has been lowered by TWO years instead of one, that gives ALL of the worthy women an opportunity to serve an 18 month mission before the former minimum of 21 is reached. At age 19, assuming their boyfriends are the same age, those boyfriends will be on missions, and they can still get married at 21 if they want.

Therefore, I believe the increase in sister missionaries serving may be on the order of 100% to 200%, and theoretically even more.

I think the unspoken reason for the lowering of the age for guys is to “save” those who would otherwise go inactive or get discouraged between age 18 and 19.

But the fact that the age for sisters was NOT reduced by the same one year speaks volumes. THAT is going to have the bigger impact on the number of missionaries serving.

The change in age for women also requires new and earlier planning in terms of deciding to go or not go on a mission, especially as it relatess to cheduling college for young women in their junior and senior year of high school, along with new decisions/planning for their parents. “jks” wrote a good comment at Millennialstar that illustrates the new logistics for women.

Comments (4)
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October 10th, 2012 11:04:41

Rob Holmes
October 10, 2012

Another bonus: Having more sister missionaries around will be good training for future priesthood leaders and sisters to learn how to work together in ward councils.

John Mansfield
October 11, 2012

It is hard to see a big long-term change in the number of elders, for the reasons mentioned above, but maybe there is some white, harvest-ready window of opportunity coming up that calls for a short-term boost. Speculating, if Romney pulls it off next month, there will be increased curiosity worldwide in the religion of the American president, and that surge will fade long before his term is up.

Ardis E. Parshall
October 11, 2012

I suspect there may be more of a bump in men’s missionary service than you suggest, from two sources: The loss of potential missionaries between 18 and 19 includes, in addition to those you mention, men who are fully worthy and even expect to serve, but who get sidetracked once they start college or working and then, at 19, put off the mission “just until I do x … er, and y … er, and z, too” and end up not going at all; and a far bigger pool of young men outside of the US who have already test-driven the 18-year-old missionary model. I have no idea how many of those there are, but it has to be a significant pool for the requests to have persuaded the Church to try the limited experiment in the first place.

And as long as we’re speculating, I wouldn’t be surprised if the women’s age were lowered to 18 at some point, and/or the length of women’s missions changed to 24 months, and/or the institution of flexibility of length of all missions. Elder Holland *did* say that experience has suggested that an age differential, with women being older, is useful … but with that age differential all but disappearing, any perceived benefits will greatly diminish. Also, he mentioned the logistical challenge that the announced changes are expected to cause — or, rather, the certainty that there will be major challenges (even in housekeeping and cafeteria services at BYU, for starters), but these are so unpredictable they will have to cope with them as they occur. Lowering the women’s age to 18, and/or lengthening women’s missions to 24 months, and/or allowing flexibility in lengths of service, are just so many more complications. Let us learn to handle the challenges of this first stage, then let us consider additional changes, is what I read between the lines of Elder Holland’s responses during the press conference.

Man SL
October 11, 2012

Good thoughts.

Some kids are graduating from high school earlier too, which means that 18 reduces the amount of dithering and possible loss of focus, even if it can’t eliminate it entirely.

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