Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve said in a press conference Saturday afternoon that the recently announced changes to missionary ages were a revelation given to address the frequent requests of young men and women to serve full-time missions earlier.
“Before today, 48 countries allowed young men to go on missions at the age of 18,” Elder Nelson said. “They have shown themselves to be ready and able. In the United States and other countries, more and more exceptions have been requested. This decision has been made with much study and prayer.”
The announcement lowering the ages for missionary service for men and women was made Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the first session of the church’s general conference Saturday morning.
“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,” President Monson said.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve also addressed the press conference explaining that the announcement was a surprise for almost everyone with the exception of the First Presidency and member of the Twelve.
“President Monson felt that this needed to be confidential until he made the announcement in general conference,” Elder Holland said.
Despite the lowered ages, no extra coursework or training programs will be required of the young men and women who choose to go at the earliest possible time.
“The only requirement we’ve given is that they have graduated from high school, or an equivalent,” Elder Holland said.
While the news may mean big changes for young men and women approaching their 18th and 19th birthdays, the effect this announcement will have on the missionary program as a whole cannot be predicted just yet, according to Elder Holland.
“We have roughly 58,000 missionaries worldwide right now,” he said. “He are always hoping to see an increase in that number.”
He said that because the Provo MTC, located on the BYU campus, is the largest missionary training center right now, that the Church will need to begin working with BYU to accommodate any needs this change will bring about before spring when many young men will be graduating from high school.
He noted the surprise surely being felt by BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson. “President Samuelson knows just as much about this as you do,” Elder Holland said, “so we will be meeting with him soon.”