The missionary rush to the field


Missionary applications have poured into Church Headquarters at an exponential rate since President Thomas S. Monson announced that young adults could now begin serving at an earlier age, men at 18 and women at 19.

According to Michael Purdy, spokesperson for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, close to 500 percent more missionary applications have been received by the Church since General Conference a few weeks ago.

“As Church leaders had anticipated when the change was announced, the number of individuals who have begun the missionary application process has increased significantly,” Purdy said. “Typically approximately 700 new applications are started each week. The last two weeks that number has increased to approximately 4,000 per week. Slightly more than half of the applicants are women.”

Michael Goodman, a mission preparation teacher at BYU, saw this growth reflected in his classes even right after President Monson’s announcement.

“I surveyed my students the following day and out of three classes, over half of the female students said this impacted their decision to serve. Needless to say — they were very excited.”

Goodman believes that this new increased excitement will have a huge impact on the amount of men and women in his classes.

“I believe it will begin to change the gender ratio in fairly (dramatic) fashion,” he said. “Traditionally, mission prep classes have been between 80 to 90 percent male, 10 to 20 percent female. Just in the last year or two, that number has begun to shift to 70 to 80 percent male to 20 to 30 percent female. I will not be surprised if by this winter we get close to a 50-50 percent ratio if not a majority female. It seems very likely that the numbers will ultimately shift to a majority female in the mission prep classes as more young men leave before starting school and more young women do a year in school before leaving at 19 years of age.”

Although he recognizes that there will be a big change, he also recognizes that not every young man and young woman will make the decision to serve at an earlier age.

“It is important to remember the prophet did not recommend elders leave at 18 and sisters at 19,” Goodman said. “He simply gave it as an option. However, those I have spoken with overwhelmingly say they plan to leave at the earlier ages. If this is true, then mission prep at BYU will most likely be making a shift to more young women then young men.”

When asked if mission prep courses would have enough room to reflect this spike, Goodman expected that the school would be able to accommodate the increase of future missionaries.

“I believe we will be able to meet the need,” Goodman said. “Time will only tell exactly how that is to be done but it is very exciting to be part of the great work of preparing these disciples of Christ. They have a great work to do. ‘The field is white already to harvest’ is not just symbolic. There is a great amount of work to do and the Lord is hastening the work long through this new guideline.”

Part of this work will be done by BYU students who are now eager to start their mission papers. Lila Lasson, 18, is one such student. Although before the announcement she considered going on a mission a possibility, Lasson only planned to think more seriously about serving when she got closer to being 21. With this new option, however, she has reconsidered and has already started her mission papers.

“The desire to go on a mission has intensified so much,” Lasson said. “I am so glad that the age was changed because now I think a lot more people will be excited to go. There is a chance that the interest in the Church throughout the world will increase significantly, so there will be a greater need for missionaries.”

Lasson also recognizes this increased excitement in her freshman ward and in many similar wards all around BYU.

“I think that the freshman wards will be much more devoted to learning and understanding the gospel since there will be a lot more people preparing for a mission,” Lasson said.

The recent spike has reflected this need and willingness with a flood of similarly devoted members turning in their mission papers. Despite this recognizable difference in the number of applications, it is still too soon for BYU and the Church to plan exactly what effect this change in policy will have on the Church worldwide.

“These are early numbers and it is difficult to say exactly where we will be over the coming months but we are grateful for the willingness of our members to make the sacrifice to serve people around the world,” Purdy said. “We recognize that Church members are interested to know additional details on the logistics of this change as discussed after the announcement and look forward to providing more details as the program moves forward.”

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