Year of the missionary

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Last October’s missionary age announcement became the first of many changes in missionary work that has significantly affected

The lowering of the missionary age change has resulted in an increase of sister missionaries in the field. Photo by Sally Morrow.
The lowering of the missionary age change has resulted in an increase of sister missionaries in the field. Photo by Sally Morrow.

church history this last year.

One year ago, President Thomas S. Monson during the Saturday morning session of general conference announced that 18-year-old males and 19-year-old females were eligible for full-time missionary service. Since then, missionary service has swelled as thousands of young people have accepted the call to serve.

There are currently 74,900 missionaries serving around the world, nearly 16,000 more full-time missionaries compared to last year.

Ella Briggs, a BYU freshman from Holladay, was a senior in high school when the world heard the news.

“The biggest change is in people’s attitudes,” Briggs said. “Everyone is preparing for a mission whether or not they are going to serve one (or not). It was really evident in high school. Students were always making sure they were worthy to serve.”

According to Briggs, future missionaries significantly changed their social lives after hearing the news.

“Dating changed,” she said. “A lot of people in relationships took it down a few notches. For dates, people would go to the temple, which was awesome.”

The effects of the announcement have been seen rampantly and quickly as demographics in classrooms and wards have changed.

Last year, 46 percent of BYU students served LDS missions. Statistics report 79 percent of males at BYU had served missions and only 10 percent of women chose to serve. This year, BYU enrollment is down 3,000 students, a reflection of the impact the missionary age-change has had on the BYU student population.

Todd Hollingshead, informations media relations manager at BYU, reported last year that by graduation 90 percent of male students served missions, and 20 percent of females had served.

The number of female BYU students aged 19-21 enrolled at BYU was 8,102 in October of last year, which is 51 percent of the female student population at BYU. This meant a possible 51 percent of female students at BYU were now eligible to serve missions if they chose to. This year, there are 2,000 fewer female students attending BYU, a reflection of the missionary age-change.

The missionary age change was lowered during last October's general conference.  Photo courtesy LDS Church.
The missionary age change was lowered during last October’s general conference. Photo courtesy LDS Church.

Hollingshead said the total male student population of 18-19 year olds at BYU was 2,487 when the announcement was made. The effects of the age-change are apparent as there are 1,000 fewer male freshmen between the ages of 18-19 attending BYU this year.

In the field, many younger missionaries seem to be adjusting well. Shelbi Anderson, a senior at BYU studying public relations, recently returned from the Chile Santiago North mission. Over the duration of her mission, Anderson trained seven missionaries; two of them were 19.

“They have a ton of energy,” she said. “They want to be there and are there for the right reasons.”

However, the younger missionaries also face challenges entering the field at such an early age.

“Emotionally they are more immature. Many of these sisters have never lived away from home before their missions so it was a different challenge that I hadn’t seen before with sisters I trained who were 21. It was a transition for them, especially emotionally,” Anderson said.

Missions around the world have also increased separation between elders and sisters because of the close age proximity.

In her mission, Anderson said sisters had very little contact with the elders. In fact, the elder’s phone number was blocked from the sisters’ phones.

“We were super divided because it had been a super big issue in my mission,” Anderson said. “I felt like the elders felt like they had to step it up a bit because they had 19-year-olds to impress.”

An additional 58 missions have been created since last year, totaling 405 missions in operation throughout the world. The Provo Missionary Training Center has increased occupancy by transforming some Provo apartments to expand missionary housing. As of September, there are 15 total missionary centers worldwide.

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