The age limit for Latter-day Saint missionaries was lowered from 19 to 18 for young men and from 21 to 19 for young women on Oct. 6, 2012 during the 182nd Semiannual General Conference Saturday morning session.
President Thomas S. Monson said, “I am pleased to announce that effective immediately, all worthy
and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have
the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of age 19.” He also announced the change in age for the young women of the church.
At a press conference held shortly after the Saturday morning session, Elders Jeffrey R. Holland and Russell M. Nelson of the quorum of the twelve apostles discussed the historic change.
According to President Monson, this matter has been discussed and prayed about for many months by the First Presidency of the church as well as the quorum of the twelve apostles.
In the last decade, many 18-year-old young men have been given permission to serve missions in over 48 countries around the world. “These young men are capable and qualified to serve,” Elder Nelson said. “We are not suggesting young men have to serve at age 18, some may prefer to go at age 19 or older, and the same goes for women.”
This announcement was confirmed to be an option and not a mandate for prospective missionaries.
Since President Monson’s plea for more missionaries two years ago, the number of missionaries increased by 6 percent more elders, 12 percent more sisters and 18 percent more elderly coles according to Elder Holland.
“We are having requests from around the world for more missions,” Elder Holland said. “It means God is hastening his work and he needs more willing missionaries to spread the light to a darkened world.”
The apostles expect to see an increase in mission papers beginning next June after high school graduation. Young men can turn their papers in 120 days before their 18th birthday or availability date.
“If there is a high school graduate who is 18, he could start his papers 30 minutes ago,” Elder Holland said.
Church leaders and parents are expected to prepare prospective missionaries sooner.
“We would hope all preparation, including the Young Women program, develops the teaching ability of our young people,” Elder Holland said.
Because of the anticipated raise in number of missionaries, the leadership of the church has been working with Brigham Young University and the community of Provo, Utah to increase housing at the Missionary Training Center.
Church leadership is also considering making expansions in national MTCs, but they are not planning on building any new ones.
Elder Holland and Elder Nelson discussed whether or not women would serve for a period of 24 months rather than 18 months in the future.
“We considered it, but in short, felt ‘one miracle at a time,’” Elder Holland said. “It’s safe to say we felt to deal with the age now and take it one step at a time.”
As early as Sunday evening, some female BYU-I students had called their bishops to make the necessary arrangements to submit their mission papers.
Tyler Williams, Director of Admissions for the university said that as of Monday, the admissions office had seen an increased amount of young women inquiring about mission deferments.
Despite the impact the announcement will have on students attending CES schools, Williams said the university had no prior knowledge of the age-requirement change.
“We’re trying to wrap our hands and our minds about what’s just been announced,” said Williams. “This will have tremendous blessings for people, we just don’t know what they will be.”
Williams said as soon as he heard the announcement, he knew it was time to get to work.
However, Williams said he is still unsure as to what implications the announcement will have on the university.
“We’ll be meeting within our various departments and be receiving council from above.”
Williams said it would be a blessing for the students as they return from their missions.
“I sense that we’ll see more mature students. Not just age wise but in scholastic desires,” Williams said. “As you’re older, your priorities change and your focus is different. Many returned missionaries have an increased determination to get their degree. I only imagine that will increase.”
Additionally, Williams said he was unsure about how things would play out if a majority of young men decide to leave on their mission directly out of high school.
Though Williams said he can’t predict how future student demographics will change, he said he speculated that the university would see more returned missionaries who are freshmen.
Williams said he anticipates seeing additional students seeking a missionary deferment.
Students wanting to go on a mission can visit the admissions office which will help them defer.
Watch Scroll Digital’s coverage of the new requirements here.