Age change for all prospective missionaries excites some, frustrates others

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Katie Fife jumped up and down, tears filling her eyes and threw flour everywhere in the kitchen.

Fife, 20, a junior from Chesapeke, Va., studying art education, was kneading bread dough when she heard that she could now serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Before Conference, I had been praying for a few months about whether my decision to eventually serve a mission was the one,” she said. “As soon as President Monson announced the age changes, I just started bawling. I knew that that was my answer, and I was so excited I wouldn’t have to wait another year to go serve.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my entire life,” she added.

Not even 20 minutes after the announcement, she had an appointment set for the following Sunday with her bishop to start working on the mission application process.

The announcement came from President Thomas S. Monson during the first few minutes of the first session of the 182nd Semiannual General Conference. After naming Tucson, Ariz., and Arequipa, Peru as the recipients of two new temples, President Monson talked about the powerful example of select 18-year-old missionaries who served missions, as well as the positive experience of a mission on these younger missionaries. Then, to the surprise of Church members, he revealed that all worthy 18-year-old young men now have the option of serving missions.

“I am pleased to announce that, effective immediately,” President Monson said, “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.

“I am not suggesting that all young men will — or should — serve at this earlier age. Rather, based on individual circumstances, as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available.”

Compounding the surprise of unsuspecting Church members, however, was the announcement that worthy young women could serve missions as early as 19 years old.

“As we have prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service,” President Monson said, “we have also given consideration to the age at which a young woman might serve. Today I am pleased to announce 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.”

For Katie Fife, news concerning the age change was an answer to prayer. For other girls, the news was simply exciting.

Shelby Daniel, a junior from Soda Springs, Idaho, studying graphic design, said, “I was floored when the announcement was made. Knowing that we were present for a major historical change that will be talked about for years to come is amazing. It also made me realize I might want to serve a mission.”

Numerous posts on Facebook and tweets on Twitter revealed similar excitement among young women throughout the LDS Church.

However, for some guys, the news was frustrating.

“It was certainly exciting news,” Marc Phillips, 25, a graduate student from Pine, Co., studying information systems, said. “But a large number of girls are going to leave for missions, so there’s going to be a huge gap in the girls available. It’ll be frustrating because dating already seems hard enough. The competition for the few girls here is going to be more stiff.”

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