A Future Mormon Missionary Contemplates Love and Charity

September 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Missionaries

By Lindsey Bushman

The decision to serve a mission was a process for me. President Monson’s historic announcement allowing sisters to serve at age 19 certainly had an impact. However, it wasn’t until my first visit to the garden tomb in Jerusalem this past winter that I truly realized my love for this gospel. As we sat in the garden singing hymns, people near us stopped to listen. We finished up and began to file out when a woman grabbed my arm and asked me what religion I was. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often inadvertently called the Mormon Church, and in order for the Church to get approval to build the Jerusalem Center for Near Eastern Studies in the late 1980’s, we had to agree never to answer questions or speak of our religion in Israel. I sadly had to tell this woman that I couldn’t really talk about it. She kindly replied that it was fine and I smiled back. But as I turned around my eyes filled with tears. Never had I been unable to share my beliefs with someone and never had I wanted to so badly.

Are Love and Charity the Same Thing?

Lately I’ve been wondering if there is a difference between love and charity.  I’ve always considered the words to be synonymous. I turned to Charity in the bible dictionary and it says, “The highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; the pure love of Christ.”

I’m a very visual person, and so I began to think of metaphor/simile comparisons between what I would consider love versus charity. For instance:

Love is a Hershey’s chocolate bar

Charity is a molten lava cake with ice cream on top

Love is a single flower

Charity is a whole bouquet

Love is a feeling

But Charity is love in action.

Perfect infinite love that is what charity is - Lindsey Bushman“Charity Never Faileth”

I love the Mormon women’s Relief Society motto: “Charity never faileth.” It fits perfectly because I have never been a part of a group that loves and serves each other more than the women in Relief Society. In the Mormon Preach My Gospel manual it states, “Charity, like faith, leads to action.” Looking back at that day at the garden tomb, I recognize that moment now as a trigger for my desire to serve a mission. It was the beginning of my love for the gospel developing into charity…the desire to share it with others. As missionaries and members of the Church, we are to develop Christ-like attributes. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 it says, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Read more

Mormon Missionaries: A More Colorful Look

September 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Missionaries

Chances are you’ve seen Mormon missionaries canvassing the streets at least once. Not sure? Have you seen a pair of young men dressed in dark suits going door-to-door? I bet you those are Mormon missionaries. Mormon missionaries represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon church), and they’ve maintained a conservative dress standard for decades. The Church of Jesus Christ recently issued an update to the dress code that will give missionaries greater flexibility in their dress while still allowing them to remember who they stand for.[1]

Lighter Suits

Ambassadors of the LordOne of the biggest changes missionaries will see is an expansion of the allowable suit colors. Traditionally Mormon missionaries were directed to wear dark suits every day. Now they can wear not only lighter suits but also nice khakis without a suit coat. In some missions with warmer climates, missionaries are allowed to wear short-sleeved white collared shirts and khakis, reserving their suits for Sundays and other special meetings. (I should note that missions have always allowed for some flexibility regarding climate.) Read more

Mormon Missionaries: Going Where They are Needed

September 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Missionaries

Mormon Missionaries in the News

Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is often inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church”) have increasingly been in the news, both national and local. The Deseret News reported in late July 2013 about a young missionary who was tragically killed while serving in Guatemala[1]. Another missionary was involved in the massive train derailment in Spain, on his way to his first teaching area. Elder Ward, serving in Spain, was injured in the accident, but has since been released from the hospital and is continuing his missionary service[2]. And nearly every major news organization was jumping last October with President Monson’s announcement lowering the age at which young Latter-day Saints can serve missions[3].

Every prophet since Joseph Smith have reminded us it's our duty to go unto all nations to warn our neighbors - Richard E. CookThese are just a few of the many stories concerning Latter-day Saint (“Mormon”) missionaries around the world. While most missionaries don’t face life-threatening circumstances while away from home, as Elder Burton in Guatemala and Elder Ward in Spain both did, letters from countless other missionaries report other difficulties such as illnesses, facing constant rejection, homesickness, challenges in assisting investigators, as well as personal tragedies such as the death of a family member or loved one while the missionary is away from home. Read more

A Story of Two Mormon Elders

May 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Missionaries

There is a lot of hype going on right now about Mormon missionaries. Why is this? Let me use an excerpt from a talk of President Thomas S. Monson’s (the Prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church”) that he gave to Church members in April 2013:

As you know, in the October general conference I announced changes in the ages at which young men and young women might serve as full-time missionaries, with the young men now being able to serve at age 18 and the young women at 19.

The response of our young people has been remarkable and inspiring. As of April 4—two days ago—we have 65,634 full-time missionaries serving, with over 20,000 more who have received their calls but who have not yet entered a missionary training center and over 6,000 more in the interview process with their bishops and stake presidents. It has been necessary for us to create 58 new missions to accommodate the increased numbers of missionaries (“Welcome to Conference,” Ensign, May 2013). Read more

Mormon Missionary Training Center Looking for a Way to Grow

May 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Missionaries

A large influx of missionary applications followed an announcement by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the “Mormon Church”) President Thomas S. Monson lowering the minimum missionary age requirement to 18 for young men and 19 for young women.

The new temporary expansion of the Missionary Training Center for the Mormon Church.Latter-day Saints (“LDS” or “Mormons”) begin missionary service at a Missionary Training Center (MTC).

LDS missionaries usually spend 3–12 weeks at an MTC where they receive training in doctrine, conduct, proselytizing methods, and, when required, a foreign language. There are a total of 15 MTCs in nations throughout the world, in locations in addition to Provo, [Utah] including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, Spain, and the United Kingdom. 1

The largest of the Missionary Training Centers, the Provo facility housed 2,800 missionaries when President Monson made the announcement to lower age requirements. Church officials expect the number of Mormon missionaries at the Provo MTC to soar to 7,800 during the summer of 2013 and eventually stabilize at 6,000 by 2016. Read more

Mormon Missionary Letters

January 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Missionaries

Mormon missionaries experience many miracles during their missionary service, and they often write home about them.  Missionaries also write about their daily routine.  We have excerpted some letters home from Mormon missionaries to show you what they do and experience.

From Richard & Fara (Elder and Sister Robbins) in the U.K.:

Mormon missionariesTwo Sunday’s ago, while setting in church one of our great members leaned back to me and asked if I would give him a blessing after Sacrament meeting. (A blessing is a special gift of inspiration through the Holy Ghost, given to those in need, by one holding Christ’s original priesthood authority. A pretty stunning thing.) I told him I would.  This man  is a very faithful saint.

After the meeting I grabbed the Elders Quorum President (men are organized into quorums in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Savior’s re-established Church) and we went into a classroom with him. He told us he had a very sore tooth and it had abscessed and the doctor told him he would have to have it pulled but couldn’t do it for about a week and a half. I gave him a priesthood blessing and was directed to tell him the tooth would give him no more problems. This last Sunday I asked him how his tooth was and was told there was no pain at all and the doctor advised him against having it pulled. This was a simple occasion but let us know that the Lord is not going to forget his faithful servants.

We have also been given the job now to teach the Gospel Principles lessons on Sunday (Mormons invite those of all faiths to learn of Christ’s doctrine and the fulness of His gospel and plan of happiness. The class for those learning about the Gospel is known as Gospel Principles). We’re thankful for any way we can stay busy for the Lord.

It has become very evident in our lives that the true source of all of this spirit is the people we know. We simply know that all the joy we feel is not possible without loved ones to share it with. Love takes on a whole new meaning when you step away from it and observe from a distance its true significance.

We have become so close and reliant on the Lord that our relationship to him has become much closer which always results in an increase of love. Of course you cannot develop a love for the Savior without developing a great degree of esteem and admiration for Him. When we consider all that He has done for us this esteem become true adoration.

From Sister Shiri Stevens serving in the Boston Mission:

PicMonkey Collage2This week has been full of miracles and I am eternally grateful that I get to be a part of it! One thing that has really touched my heart this week is how our whole purpose here is to come to know God. In John 17:3 we read that Eternal life is knowing God. And God’s purpose is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. What a joyous fact that we are truly living eternal life right now as we strive to come to know Heavenly Father. I pray that we are all doing those things necessary to build a firm relationship with him so that we will know him when we see him again.

I was blessed to be close to Heavenly Father as we had the opportunity to got to the temple yesterday (because of the Holiday – our zone was invited again). I must say this might be one step above conference for me. I love being in the house of the Lord. It is a unique blessing to each of us as we keep ourselves worthy to be in the Lord’s presence. I am so grateful for the eternal blessings of salvation and exaltation found in the temple. It was particularly special to me because it was one year ago yesterday that I went through the temple for the first time myself. Many things were the same as they had been a year ago in the Mt. Timpanogos temple, which was a sweet reminder of that beautiful day. I am grateful for all those who surrounded me then and continue to do so in spirit as I am blessed with those surrounding me now. I pray we will all be able to sit down together in the presence of our Lord one day.

Black Mormon missionariesFrom Elder Bronson Boyd in the Philippines:

So this week was a challenging week to say the least but at the same time it was such an awesome week! Obviously, being a fairly new missionary myself I am not all that great in Tagalog yet and having the new challenge of being a trainer of a brand new missionary is quite the challenge. Just a little bit about my “anak” or “kid” the missionary that I am training. He is really quiet and fairly shy so I have been doing basically all of the talking to individuals and almost all of the teaching… Last week this would have seemed like a impossible task because of my lack of ability to speak and understand Tagalog fluently, but over the last week it has been awesome to see the Lord working and communicating with His children through me and my brand new found ability to speak Tagalog. I can definitely see the Lord blessing me and my Tagalog so that this companionship of two new missionaries can work and be effective.

Additional Resources:

Read about basic Mormon Beliefs

Jesus Christ in Mormonism

Mormon Self Reliance

 

 

Mormon Youth and the Call to Serve

January 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Missionaries

During the opening session of the 182nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church), President and Prophet of the Church, Thomas S. Monson made an important announcement regarding missionary service. The announcement was of particular interest to those young men and young women who desire to serve a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ, laboring in the Lord’s vineyard by teaching and preaching the precious truths of His gospel. To the surprise and delight of members worldwide, President Monson announced that effective immediately, men may now begin serving missions at age 18 and women at age 19. The previous age for beginning missionary service was 19 years of age for young men and 21 for young women.

“I am not suggesting that all young men will — or should — serve at this earlier age,” President Monson said. Rather, he said, the option is now available based on individual circumstances, as well as upon a determination by local Church leaders. (Read President Monson’s full remarks.) [2]

Mormon missionariesFollowing the announcement made during the Saturday morning session, a press conference was held concerning the new age requirements in which Elders Russell M. Nelson and Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and Elder David F. Evans of the Seventy shared additional information about this change in policy.

Elder Holland revealed that very few people were aware this change would be announced. Nearly all of the General Authorities—except for the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—all mission presidents, university presidents and admissions officers, and all MTC administrators were unaware of the change until President Monson made the announcement. [1]

It is to be noted that over the past decade permission has been granted in 48 countries to allow young men at age 18 to serve full-time missions, and the experience has been very positive. With President Monson’s announcement, the Church will now have a single policy worldwide. Currently there are approximately 58,000 missionaries serving full-time. Church leaders are hoping that by lowering the age requirements more prospective missionaries will be able to answer the call to serve.

In directing his remarks to the young men and young women of The Church of Jesus Christ, Elder Holland further commented,

“God is hastening His work. And He needs more and more willing and worthy missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to an often dark and fearful world. . . This isn’t about you. It is about the sweet and pure message you are being asked to bear.” [1]

Elder Nelson emphasized that the change in age requirements is an option, not an edict:

“These age adjustments are new options now available to bishops in evaluating what is best for each of their youth,” he said. He continued, “Young men and young women should not begin their service before they are ready spiritually and temporally.” [1]

Elder Nelson also reminded everyone that there still remains important considerations for the timing of missionary service such as schooling, family circumstances, health, and so forth.

Since President Monson’s appeal for more full-time and couple missionaries two years ago, during October 2010 Semiannual General Conference, the response by Church members has been great—the number of full-time Elders serving has increased by six percent; the number of Sisters by 12 percent, and the number of couples by 18 percent. [1]

Elder Holland also elaborated on some details and some changes that will have to be made in light of the new policy: [1]

  1. Prospective missionaries will be asked to enhance their pre-mission preparation, including total personal worthiness supplemented by gospel study (especially the Book of Mormon), seminary and Institute classes, and systematic study of Preach My Gospel.
  2. Time at each of the Church’s 15 Missionary Training Centers (MTCs) will be reduced by one-third for all missionaries.
  3. At the Church’s flagship MTC in Provo, Utah, new instructors and staff will have to be hired and the amount of housing will have to be increased almost immediately. The Church is considering comparable expansion at some other MTCs, but is not planning on building any new MTCs at this time.
  4. Missionaries will benefit from a recently implemented 12-week training course being administered in the mission field through mission presidents. The program is designed to improve every missionary’s teaching skills while in the field.
  5. The Church is considering adding new missions in the future. Until those new missions are created, the existing 347 missions will absorb any increase in the number of missionaries.
  6. Prospective missionaries may be recommended by their Bishop and Stake President for full-time service 120 days prior to their birthday or to their availability date (which takes into account high school graduation or its equivalent). Young men may enter the MTC after graduating and reaching 18 years of age. Women may enter after their 19th birthday. No adjustment has been made to the upper age limit (25 years for young men, no limit for young women).

The real preparation for a young man or young woman to serve a mission, however, begins in the home. Elder Holland emphasized that parents need to become actively involved in this preparation process as it is not the sole responsibility of the Mission Department, MTC, or local Church leaders to direct everything.

Regarding lowering the age requirement for women, Elder Holland explained that while it is not an obligation for young Latter-day Saint women to serve missions, “those who do serve are stunningly successful and we enthusiastically welcome your service.” He said, “Personally, I am absolutely delighted if this change in policy allows many, many more young women to serve.” [2]

It should also be carefully noted that missionaries receive their assignment from Church headquarters and are sent only to countries where governments allow the Church to operate. Missionaries do not request their area of assignment and do not know beforehand whether they will be required to learn a language. Missionary work is voluntary. Missionaries fund their own missions — except for their transportation to and from their assigned mission — and are not paid for their services. [2]

Additional Resources:

Mormon Youth

Mormon Missionaries

The Lord Jesus Christ in Mormonism

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMw_38wWMw0&feature=player_embedded

Mormon Missionary Moment Brings Change in Rome

January 6, 2013 by  
Filed under Mormon Missionaries

Mark Albright, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church), has served as a Mission President, Temple Ordinance Worker, Stake President, Bishop, High Councilman, and Seminary Teacher. He recently published an article for Meridian Magazine titled Missionary Moment: A Miracle on Temple Square Brings Change in Rome.

Rome Mormon TempleThe article is based on a letter that he received from someone who attended a fireside where former U.S. Senator Gordon H. Smith of Oregon who is currently serving as an Area Seventy and President of the National Association of Broadcasters located in Washington D.C. During the course of the fireside Elder Smith shared an experience regarding two Italian Sister missionaries serving in the Utah Temple Square Mission that helped influence an important governmental decision in Italy concerning the new LDS Temple in Rome, Italy.

Elder Smith recounts that while he was serving as a U.S. Senator he received a telephone call from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf who was serving at that time as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The Church of Jesus Christ was interested in building a new temple in Italy (later annouced on 4 October 2008 by Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Thomas S. Monson, during the Semiannual General Conference), and needed to acquire formal governmental recognition for the church from the Italian government. Elder Uchtdorf inquired of Senator Smith if he would be able to assist in arranging a meeting with the appropriate government officials in Rome. Senator Smith not only agreed to help set up the meeting, but he also agreed to also fly to Rome to help with the presentation.

The Italian official supervising religious affairs in Italy was a gracious and knowledgeable woman who asked the Assistant Minister to join the meeting. Senator Smith introduced Elder Uchtdorf as an Apostle from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and then made mention of some references in the NATO treaty which included the United States and Italy. Elder Uchtdorf then talked about The Church of Jesus Christ and how its larger presence in Italy would both benefit and bless the people of Italy. He further explained the problems the members and missionaries were facing due to the fact that the LDS Church was not fully recognized as a religion, but rather as a charitable organization.

The government official referred to her assistant and asked for his opinion regarding the matter.

HolyGhostMirrorQuoteThe Assistant Minister replied that he had recently been on a visit to the United States with his family, and had toured Temple Square in Salt Lake City during his trip.  The assistant went on to explain that when they arrived at Temple Square their tour guides were two young Italian Sister missionaries. According to the assistant, the two Sister missionaries were very impressive and glowed with energy and enthusiasm.  He then said in effect: “If the Mormon Church can raise such outstanding young people as I saw serving there in Utah, then by all means you should give the LDS church all the recognition they need to build their temple here in Italy!  I hope they can raise up thousands of young people here in Italy like the ones I met in Utah!”  [1]

That comment seemed to have the appropriate effect and the meeting concluded successfully. Italy President Giorgio Napolitano signed the Intesa con lo Stato, or legal agreement, on 30 July 2012.  In contrast to the 1993 legislation that recognized the Church of Jesus Christ as only a charitable institution, the Church is now officially recognized as a religious denomination, along with the Catholic Church and a few others. The first meeting with President Uchtdorf (Elder Uchtdorf  had become a member of the First Presidency on 3 February 2008) was the beginning of this important process that culminated in the final signed agreement. [1]

Elder Smith concluded his remarks by commenting that those two unnamed Italian Sister missionaries serving on Temple Square may never know of their important contribution or what they accomplished by just having the spirit with them and being such marvelous examples during the brief tour of the museum and Temple grounds with the Assistant Minister. The two missionaries had no knowledge that they were giving a tour to an important Italian government official, or that an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ would fly to Rome to meet with the official, and that the missionary experience that the official had while in visiting Temple Square in Utah would have such a tremendous impact on the outcome of that meeting. Had the missionaries acted inappropriately during that encounter with the Italian government official, the outcome could have been much different.

Construction of the Rome, Italy Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began on 23 October 2010 with a groundbreaking ceremony. The Temple will likely serve church members in Greece, Cyprus, Albania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, as well as the 23,430 church members who live in Italy.

Additional Resources:

Basic Mormon Beliefs and Real Mormons

Rome Mormon Temple

LDS Church Granted Official Status in Italy

Young Women Gathering Before They Serve Their Missions

December 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Mormon Missionaries

In the October 2012 Mormon General Conference, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church”) listened in silence, with mouths opened wide, to hear prophet and president Thomas S. Monson, announce that young men can now serve their volunteer missions for the LDS Church beginning at age eighteen (formerly nineteen), and young women can now serve at age nineteen (formerly twenty-one). This momentous announcement has caused a major influx of missionary applications. In fact prior to this announcement, the LDS Church would get, on average, 600 missionary applications each week. But the two weeks following the announcement they received, an approximately 4,000 applications (each week) an increase of 471 percent (see Deseret News). Why? These young people know this is the work of God, that the work is hastening, and they want to be a part of sharing this message with the world!

mormon-missionaries-girlsAre Mormons required to serve missions? Nope! This is a choice, and the fact that so many young people want to serve missions rather than engaging in the normal young-adult activities shows that they are true followers of Jesus Christ—ready to “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:12).  Many of those who have recently been called, or are in the midst of their applications, were not even planning on serving—at least not in the near future. In a way, they were now just ready to walk out the door without a second thought—because they believe in this work!

One great story that shows the excitement of these missionaries is found on Kathryn Skaggs’ blog post titled, “Newly Called Sister Missionaries Unite and Create EPIC Video:

One of these incredibly valiant women is Ali Nicole Vincent, of Pleasant Grove, Utah, newly called to serve in the Argentina Bahia Blanca Mission. (pictured above) Ali will report to the MTC on February 13, 2013. Ali recently joined a brand new Facebook group: Many Are Called… But Few Are Sisters. (Don’t you just love that!) The group description: “For those sisters about to submit papers or those who have already received calls, so we can share our experiences and help each other prepare”. Well, I’ll let Ali tell you what happened next…

In a period of about 4 days over 1900 future sister missionaries joined the group from all over the world. We shared our mission calls with each other and some advice on where to shop, what to study, etc. One girl, Anna Finneran, had the fantastic idea that we should all meet up together at Temple Square to send a picture to the First Presidency to show how excited we are to serve. About 50 other sisters gathered at the Rexburg Temple at the same time in Idaho as well. As we gathered we sang hymns, took the picture, and found other girls going to our same missions. It really was such a spiritual experience to be surrounded by so many worthy young sisters who are so enthusiastic about serving the Lord in their designated area. The world is changing and the work is hastening. We are all needed in God’s army whether we’re going on missions or not. I honestly am so excited about my call that I received to Bahia Blanca Argentina. I can’t wait to get out and serve the people there and I’m sure all the other sisters feel the same way!

This is indeed an exciting time for Mormon missionaries! And as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “This announcement isn’t about you [the future missionaries]. It’s about the sweet and pure message you are called to bear” (see Deseret News).

motivation-sunflower-quoteI know and believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s Church. He is at the head of it. His mouthpiece is His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. I have prayed, studied, fasted, and lived the teachings of the gospel to find out if it is true—and I testify that it is. The Holy Spirit has testified to me time and time again that this is the work of God. I invite you to find out for yourself if it is true. Meet with Mormon missionaries, read the Book of Mormon, and prove to God that you want to know by working hard (praying, reading, serving, living as Christ would live) and I promise that you will receive an answer too—for God always answers prayers!

Additional Resources:

Request a free Book of Mormon

What are the basic beliefs of Mormons?

Basic Mormon Beliefs and Real Mormons

Mormon Mission Applications Increase Since Prophet Invites 18-Year Olds to Serve

November 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Mormon Missionaries

There was an audible gasp when Thomas S. Monson, prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced that the age that full-time missionaries can begin serving had changed. Speaking at the opening session of the 182nd semi-annual General Conference of the Church, President Monson stated:

I am pleased to announce that effective immediately, 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.

As we have prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service, 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.

Mormon missionariesJust two weeks after the announcement, the number of applications had jumped from 700 per week to 4000, with more than half coming from women, according to an article in the Deseret News. Before the announcement, 14% of the missionary force was women.

“We are thrilled by this morning’s exciting announcement by President Thomas S. Monson,” Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said at a press conference following the announcement.

“This mural behind us reminds us of a mandate the Savior extended to His followers to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. With President Monson’s announcement this morning, we are accelerating our efforts to fulfill that mandate and give more young men and young women the opportunity to participate in that divine commission,” he said.

Missionary service is based on the New Testament pattern of missionaries serving in pairs, teaching the gospel and baptizing believers in the name of Jesus Christ. Most are young people under the age of 25 serving in nearly 350 missions throughout the world although there are a growing number of older missionary couples.

During a mission, worthy members generally serve full-time as they proselyte, provide humanitarian assistance or offer other types of service for a period between six and twenty-four months. Missionaries do not request where to go or know whether they will be required to learn a language, but receive their assignment from church headquarters. Missionaries fund their own missions — except for their transportation to and from their assigned mission — and are not paid for their services.

Elder Nelson said that the change does not suggest that all missionaries should or will serve at an earlier age but it provides an option.

“No young man or woman should begin his or her service as a missionary before they are ready,” Elder Nelson said. “Over the past decade permission has been given for young men from 48 countries to serve at age 18. This experience has been very positive. … We’ve found that these missionaries are capable and qualified to serve.”

The age change came as a surprise to almost everyone in the Church. Elder Holland disclosed the decision process. “This has been studied and prayed over and we have experienced the revelatory power.” He continued:

President Monson felt strongly that this should be kept confidential until he personally could announce it at a General Conference and you felt the emotion and strength of that as he did that so wonderfully this morning…

We anticipate some ashen faces out there. The list of those who had no idea this was coming is long… So we welcome you all to a worldwide church of people who did not know that this was coming.

He said that only the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles knew of the change.

Elder Holland said that he expected that most people were asking, “What is this going to do to us? How big is it going to be?” He said, “We have a very simple answer. We don’t know.”

He explained that it will take time to understand the full impact but indicated that many current missions are capable of handling more missionaries, and as the need arises, new missions will be created. The current missionary force is just over 58,000.

GeneralConferenceSheepQuoteMCBecause of the likely increase, the Church of Jesus Christ anticipates reducing the amount of time spent in the Mission Training Center (MTC) by one third. Fortunately, a 12-week training course for missionaries just arriving in the mission field and a language immersion program for those called to non-English-speaking missions have already proven to benefit the new missionaries.

Elder Holland said that for missionaries to be ready to serve at a younger age will require greater effort.  He suggested an increase in gospel study, including scriptures and the missionary manual, Preach My Gospel.”

He further instructed the missionaries and their parents:

Improved preparation of the missionary before entering the MTC will allow us to accommodate a larger number of missionaries going into the future,” Elder Holland said.

You must prepare with personal worthiness and gospel knowledge. We want you teaching effectively from the first day onward.

We ask parents to take a strong hand in this preparation. Don’t expect that it is the responsibility of the church and the MTC and the seminary program to prepare your children for missionary service. You are a critical part of this process.

God is hastening his work and he needs more – and more willing and worthy – missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of gospel truth to a darkened world.

The change for the worldwide Church took place immediately after the announcement. Men may enter the MTC after their 18th birthday (which must follow high school graduation or equivalent) and women after their 19th birthday. Both can be recommended for missionary service 120 days prior to those respective birth dates.

This article was written by Jan Mayer, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Additional resources:

The prophet of the Lord

Why serve a mission?

Find a Mormon meetinghouse

 


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