Where to from here…

President Thomas S. Monson announces the lowering of missionary service age – October 2012.

I have been watching very carefully the many reactions to President Monson’s recent announcement for missionary service. I am pleased to note that it has overwhelmingly been positive.

Let me share with you some of the responses I have heard so far…

“So completely awesome.”

From one 17 year old young women,“It’s official, I’m going on a mission in 16 months”.

“What fantastic news.”

From another young women, “Yes, now I can serve a mission and still get married when I’m 21!”

“What better way to help our young people build a stronger base for their testimony before they go “out into the world” and face the trials and challenges of life!”

“What an amazing spiritual impact it will have on the Church!”

“What I worry now is that when my son comes home next week, he’ll have a problem finding good worthy sisters to date because they’re all going on a mission :-(“

_______________________________

Now that the hype over the changes is beginning to die down, I am wondering exactly what will happen. Where do we go from here?

Even Elder Nelson and Elder Holland indicated that no-one knows yet the exact affect this change will have. But they both offered timely advice to all prospective missionaries, their parents, and to the wider church community. I would like to recap here exactly what this change will mean for these three parties and highlight how each can contribute to hastening the work of the Lord.

The Prospective Missionary:

Both Elder Nelson and Elder Holland stressed that this change is optional. They encouraged all prospective missionaries to prayerfully consider their options in terms of schooling, family, health, worthiness and personal preparation. Prospective missionaries should study and prayerfully consider the time that is best for them to serve as it is deeply personal to each individual young man and young women. This change is as much about facilitating different circumstances as it is about increasing the numbers of missionaries around the world.

Church policy still maintains that missionary service for young men continues to be a Priesthood responsibility, but for women it is wholly optional and suggests no obligation on their part to serve.

They were most explicit in their comments about the need for all prospective missionaries to begin their mission preparation early. Elder Holland admonished the youth of the church to enhance and improve their pre-mission preparation through:

  • Total personal worthiness
  • Gospel study
  • Attending seminary and institute programs
  • Attending mission preparation classes and studying the ‘Preach My Gospel’ manual intently
  • Knowing the gospel you teach
  • Being ready to serve as an effective missionary from day 1

The Parents of Prospective Missionaries:

I felt the mandate from Elder Holland that parents need to step up more. Parents were urged to take a stronger hand in the training of their children and were cautioned against relying on other church leaders or programs to prepare their children for missionary service.

However, this doesn’t mean we discourage them from attending their Sabbath day meetings, or seminary and institute classes. It just means we as parents need to help lay stronger gospel foundations of knowledge and testimony within the home first.

The Wider Church Community:

As a ward YW President, I was deeply affected by what Elder Holland said to the youth leaders in regards to this change. He stressed the clear role that youth leaders will need to take in assisting to prepare these young men and women at an earlier age.

In particular he recommended that YW leaders assist in developing the teaching abilities of the young women. It was also suggested that the new 2013 YW curriculum will help facilitate this.

In general, the consensus was that the wider church community is going to have to assist in the accelerated preparation of these young men and young women if they are to be adequately prepared for effective missionary service. There is none who escape this responsibility.

A Change Born Through Revelation

Overall, the message that came loud and clear to me was that this is a time for the hastening of the Lords work. While we may not know exactly what effects this change will have now, what I do know is that this announcement was born through revelation. As Elder Holland expressed on Saturday, “I warmly affirm Elder Nelson’s testimony that this has been studied and prayed over, and we have experienced the revelatory power in this … ” I know this to be true.

So what are your thoughts on it?

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Press Conference Announcing New Missionary Opportunities

Elder Holland, Elder Nelson, and Elder Evans of the Seventy, announce that, effective immediately, men may now begin serving at age 18 and women at age 19.

**The actual press conference begins at about the 1 minute mark.