For middle-aged women in America, 40 is considered the new 30. For young women in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 19 is the new 21.
In a historic announcement in the Saturday morning session of General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson announced that all worthy 18-year-old young men and 19-year-old young women are eligible to serve full-time LDS missions.
Mouths literally gaped open at the conference center immediately following President Monson’s remarks. Tweets and Facebook posts bombarded social media, and the BYU dorms exploded.
“Everyone was knocking on the doors and screaming. I just thought, is this real?” said freshman Monique Jones, who woke up alarmed as women were running down the hallways. “I did think I was dreaming for a bit and then I realized if I was dreaming I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. It really sunk in later when I was talking to my dad,” said Jones, who is from Kansas City, Kan.
Later that night, while the freshman men were at Priesthood session, the dorms still buzzed with women discussing the news. Freshman Allie Carter, from San Diego, said friends are already making plans to leave campus soon. “I have friends here in the dorms saying they want to go after Christmas. The first person to call our bishop today to schedule an appointment with bishop was my suite mate,” Carter said.
The exciting news however, left some feeling a little unsure.
“I think it is more stressful for girls who are unsure because they are being bombarded by girls saying ‘I’m going, I’m going’ and they don’t want other people to look and them and say, ‘you’re not going?’ I think it will be hard for some girls,” Carter said.
Rachel Warner, a freshman from Roscoe, Ill., studying advertising, described the mixed emotions of 19 to 20 year old women.
“I think it’s half and half. Half are worried because they have to make a decision now, on whether or not they want to serve a mission and can’t put it off anymore and others feel like this is their opportunity and are just going for it,” Warner said.
President Monson re-emphasized that young women are invited to serve missions but are not under the same obligation as priesthood holders to serve missions.
Annie Blood, a freshman from Cincinnati, Ohio, discussed the difficulty young women face in deciding whether to serve.
“It’s kind of hard for me because I’m a convert and my family is not super happy that I am at BYU anyway. I always figured I’ll cross the mission bridge when I get to it, bit now it’s here. I just have a lot of thinking to do,” Blood said.