Oct. 6 marked the one-year anniversary of President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement of the change in missionary age requirements for both young men and young women.
Some students have felt both positive and negative effects from this change.
“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,” President Monson said at the 182nd semiannual General Conference in October of last year. “And that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19 instead of age 21.”
Since that announcement, the number of full-time missionaries serving has jumped from 58,000 to about 80,000 currently serving, according to an official report from Mormon Newsroom.
This is an estimated increased of about 38 percent.
Charlotte Ray, a sophomore studying communication, said that even though so many are already leaving, she still feels pressure to go.
“All of my friends have left, but so many people come and ask ‘When are you going?’” Ray said.
Raquel Higueria, a sophomore majoring in general studies, had a similar opinion as Ray.
“It seemed like everyone went just because it was the thing to do, not because they really wanted to or felt like they were sposed to,” Higueria said. “I feel like the options now are to get married or go on a mission. The in-between really isn’t an option.”
Carissa Lee, a junior studying health science, said she felt the same pressure to either get married or serve.
“It’s annoying,” Lee said. “When I broke with my boyfriend, everyone was like ‘Well now you have no excuse; you need to go on a mission.’ That’s why I haven’t gone yet. I want to make sure it’s for me and not because everyone’s telling me to.”
However, some students have felt pressure both to stay and to go.
Shaely Norris, a sophomore studying humanities, is preparing to serve a mission herself and said she has felt those pressures.
“Some guys were like ‘If you don’t go then you’ll be pathetic,’ and other guys were like, ‘If you do go I’ll never talk to you again’,” Norris said. “But in the end I had to decide for myself.”
The age change does not affect only women who are preparing to serve, but also men, who can serve a year earlier, and the young men who are returning home from missions now.
Loren Langford, a sophomore studying business finance, said age doesn’t bother him, as long as people know what they’re getting into.
“I think the age change is a great thing because it gave a lot more people [an] opportunity to go,” Langford said. “But I think the preparation still needs to be done, and I think it’s the preparation that is being lost now.”