In the October 2012 general conference, it was announced that the age for women to serve a mission would change from age 21 to age 19. With this availability for women to go at age 19, it certainly is not a mandatory action. An article published in the July 2017 New Era says exactly that. However, some students are feeling pressured to serve.
“I have felt some pressure from church leaders to go on a mission and have felt guilty for not doing so,” said Jillian Jordan, a sophomore studying elementary education.
Rex Butterfield, a religion professor at BYU-Idaho, said men and women should be held accountable for different things within the Church.
“Men have been commanded to serve, whereas women have not,” Butterfield said.
Butterfield said he agrees with President Gordon B. Hinckley when he said, “The First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve are united in saying to our young sisters that they are not under obligation to go on missions.”
Women feeling pressure to serve is exactly what the Church was hoping to avoid. Elder Jeffery R. Holland, member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, made a statement a year ago about women feeling pressure from others to serve.
On March 8, 2016, Elder Holland said in a Face to Face broadcast, “No young woman should be judged for not serving a mission.”
Holland went on to say that President Monson never intended for all women in the Church to serve a mission.
“We’re very grateful for those who go. It’s changed the face of the Church,” Elder Holland said. “But we do not want anyone feeling inadequate or left out or undignified or tarnished because she did not choose to serve a mission. And we’re a little irritated with young men who say, ‘Well, I’m not going to date you because you didn’t serve a mission.’ … We do not want that kind of climate over dating or marriages. … It isn’t our place to pass a judgment.”
Patricia T. Holland, Elder Holland’s wife, did not serve a mission. She is a successful author who studied at LDS Business College, Dixie State and Juilliard School.
Sister Holland has also served in the Church continuously. One of her callings was serving as the first counselor in the Young Woman General Presidency from 1984 to 1986.
Maybe her mission in life was to be a missionary to people all around her?
When Jordan was deciding what to do with her major, she said she was told countless times to just go on a mission and figure it out when she got back.
“I have been put down and thought less of for not serving,” Jordan said. “I have been told I will never have the experiences missionaries are having, my testimony won’t grow as much, and that I won’t be as spiritual as those who have served.”
However, Jordan knows that her testimony will still grow outside of the mission field.
“I know and understand that missionaries will have different experiences and I won’t have the exact ones, but I will still be growing as a person, having my own experiences, strengthening my testimony and having the opportunity to share the gospel, just in a different way,” Jordan said.
President Hinckley said that young women should not feel like they have a duty comparable to the young men in the October 1997 general conference.
“There seems to be growing in the Church an idea, that all young women, as well as all young men, should go on missions,” said Hinckley. “Young women should not feel that they have a duty comparable to that of young men.”
However in Jordan’s home ward, she said almost all of the youth, except her, have served a mission.
“I am one of very few from my home ward who has not served a mission,” Jordan said. “This is pressure alone. My friends are receiving praise for serving and going while they try to talk me into going on a mission as well.”
Diana Maximo, a freshman studying communication said that after high school graduation, almost all her friends served a mission except for her.
“At times, I thought to myself if I should go on a mission because everyone else was also going, ” Maximo said.
John Goodwin, a sophomore studying business management, said he cannot believe that some men tell women that they will not marry them unless they serve a mission.
“Aren’t we all serving a mission?” Goodwin said.
Goodwin believes it does not matter whether or not you have served a mission, we will all go through our own experiences to help us grow.
“We will all go through personal experiences to help us grow and get ready for marriage,” Goodwin said. “And yes it’s true. Those who serve a mission will have experiences that those who don’t will never have. But it’s vice versa as well.”
Goodwin said he likes what Elder Holland said in the Face to Face broadcast where he talks about members of the Church creating a second-class.
“Discussing the choice young women face about whether or not to serve a mission… President Monson was adamant that we do not create a second-class citizenship for young women who choose not to serve a mission,” Holland said.
Eryn Nelson, a senior studying child development said she has felt like a second-class member before, but soon let the words roll off her shoulder.
“I felt a lot of pressure at first. One of my seminary teachers announced to all of us after the age change that now women are able to serve at a younger age,” Nelson said. “He said he would never allow his sons to marry a girl that decided not to serve.”
As those words from her seminary instructor stuck with her, she thought she would never be worthy enough for a young man. Nelson said she thought she would not be the wife he needed because she did not serve a mission.
“I wanted to be someone who was worthy of a worthy, God-fearing man. Someone who loved God and put Him first,” Nelson said. “For a while, I felt that by not serving an official mission, that I wouldn’t be good enough for that kind of man after hearing adults say those kinds of things.”
Nelson said she realized she could still contribute to missionary work while being at school preparing to get an education, or at home trying to develop skills for her future family.
Nelson is 23 years old, and said she still has not felt a desire to serve a mission.
The New Era article states that regardless if a young woman serves or not, they are beloved daughters of God, and he wants them to find joy in this life.