Junior Ganymede
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Church Study on Mission Age

November 12th, 2013 by John Mansfield

Tomorrow evening an internal research group from the LDS Church is coming to interview some of my ward’s members. The topic is the youthening of missionary age eligibility, and groups of eight of us at a time will spend a half hour with the researchers. They want to meet with: priests and laurels; parents of priests and laurels; parents of soon-to-be, currently serving, or recently returned missionaries; ward mission leaders, ward missionaries, and members of the ward council to round out a group of eight. I am a father of two priests, and we have been asked to be on hand.

I don’t know why our ward’s opinions or tastes are being sought, but I can tell a bit about the ward. It is the Kentlands Ward of the Washington, D.C. Stake, located on the west side of Gaithersburg, Maryland. I was in the temple with 37 of our youth last year; four more who were expected couldn’t make it. Six young men from our ward are currently serving as full-time missionaries; no young women are out currently, though I can think of three who have returned from missions over the last four years. If someone were looking for an east coast ward where there are a lot of youth, many of whom will likely be missionaries, this ward would fill that need.

Any with thoughts about missionary age are welcome to share them in the comments, but I will hold off partaking of them until after tomorrow night.

Comments (2)
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November 12th, 2013 11:15:32

Adam G.
November 12, 2013

Interesting. Keep us informed.

November 12, 2013

I noticed that the lowering of the age to 18 came exactly 10 years (Oct conference of 2002 to Oct conference of 2012) after the new program of youth preparation that is generally known as “raise the bar” was announced and implemented.

Hence, the 18 year olds of October 2012 were the first age cohort which was entirely raised up under the “new” standards for their entire membership in the church, ie, since baptism.

I suspect that that is not a coincidence. False ideas and bad traditions among the church membership concerning what youth, prospective missionaries, and missionaries themselves could “get away with” had to be removed from our collective culture, and more importantly, had to be prevented from being passed on to future generations of missionaries.

The “do whatever you want until you’re 18 (or even 19), and then just go” had to be wiped out, both as traditions passed from parent to child, and as examples of the older teens observed by the younger teens.

Parents were abdicating their responsibilities as parents with the idea that a mission would provide their sons with gospel teaching, provide them with a testimony, and straighten out any problems. And younger teens would see the examples of the older teens and ask: “So-and-so did it, and still went on a mission, so why can’t I?”

I wrote “new” with quotes because the missionary requirements or pre-prequisites that Elder Ballard stated in his famous talk at the October 2002 conference were essentially the same standards that I heard voiced in the early 1980′s. Then I discovered, to my amazement, when I entered the MTC in the mid 80′s (I was an adult convert of 2 years) that those standards were not actually enforced, but were essentially just suggestions or recommendations.

However, in October of 2012, I understood Elder Ballard to essentially say: “And now we mean it.”


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