Smaller age gap means fewer ‘Dear Johns’

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Traditionally, some LDS missionaries have entered the field fearing they may receive a “Dear John” letter if their significant others at home find someone else.

Matt Adams, a freshman at Utah State University, feels fortunate that his wife was still single when he got back from his mission to Russia. Adams and his wife knew each other in eighth grade but became close only during their freshman year. They ended up dating for about a month before Adams left for his mission and were married soon after he returned.

“I didn’t expect her to still be there when I got back,” Adams said. “I knew I liked her and that I wanted to marry someone just like her, but I didn’t imagine she would still be there.”

Elliott Miller
A transient girlfriend writes a “Dear John” rejection letter to her erstwhile love interest on a mission. Some students report that such painful letters are fewer now because of the mission age change. (Maddi Dayton)

With the 2012 missionary age change announcement, however, some things have changed. Now elders and sisters are closer in age when they serve, and the smaller age gap provides opportunities for many pre-mission couples to serve simultaneously. Staying together while serving at the same time isn’t a guarantee, but couples serving at the same time are more likely to last — resulting in fewer “Dear Johns.”

The mission age change has allowed sister missionaries to serve, despite their relationships with significant others. Madison Thompson, a sophomore studying early childhood education at BYU, met her husband while both were performing in the Hill Cumorah Pageant. Soon after her husband left for his mission to Milan, Italy, the mission age changed. Six months after he left, Thompson left to serve in the Los Angeles California Mission. She returned home a month after her husband.

“I knew that we would get married before I went on my mission,” Thompson said. “So my mom planned out my wedding for me while we were both gone. I got home, and then we were married three weeks later.”

Ali Adkinson, a trumpet performance major at BYU, met her fiancé on the first day of school at BYU. Adkinson had always wanted to serve a mission, but after her fiancé left on his, she began to doubt if she would be able to go. The timing didn’t seem right, and with her fiancé coming home from his mission in a few months, she didn’t feel like it was right for her to go.

“The mission age change happened,” Adkinson said. “So I prayed and fasted the next day. The answer came that I needed to go, and so I went, even though it meant not seeing Cameron for three years with our mission overlap.”

Because of the new opportunity for simultaneous mission service, more couples find themselves focused on the same things and getting married soon after returning home.

Josh Wiseman, a freshman at BYU, met his wife at a high school dance at West Jordan High. They dated all the way up until his mission. Soon after he left, she went on a mission as well. Wiseman’s fiancée planned the wedding while on her mission. Wiseman returned home in April, and they got married in June.

“Leading up to my mission, I already knew I was going to marry her,” he said. “We wrote back and forth throughout our missions and were able to plan everything out by the time I got home.”

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