OKLAHOMA CITY — In an effort to expand full-time missionary service opportunities for young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, church leaders recently announced men may now begin serving at age 18 and women at age 19.
The announcement, effective immediately worldwide, was made by President Thomas S. Monson on Oct. 6 during the opening session of the Church’s 182nd Semiannual General Conference, broadcast worldwide from Salt Lake City, Utah.
Church leaders anticipate that lowering age requirements, previously set at 19 for men and 21 for women, will expand options for those interested in serving. Men are now eligible to apply for service come their 18th birthday and high school graduation, and women on their 19th birthday.
“This is simply another option. We hope many will take advantage of it. We think that many will want to serve earlier in order to facilitate educational, military, marital or many other future pursuits,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, during a press conference after the announcement.
While the church has been calling missionaries at age 18 in 48 countries around the world for years, the change in worldwide policy will introduce a variety of program changes. Though the duration of the voluntary missions will remain at two years for men and 18 months for women, time spent training at the 15 missionary training centers will be reduced by approximately one-third for all missionaries. As a result, increased pre-mission preparation and in-the-field training are expected.
Holland said there are currently no plans to build more missionary training centers, but the formation of additional mission boundaries are anticipated. In the meantime, Holland said the existing 347 missions will absorb the initial growth.
“We’re waiting to see how many, exactly where they might be needed first, and we’ll do that in a systematic and methodical way,” Holland said of mission growth.
Missionaries receive assignments from church headquarters and are sent only to countries where governments allow the church to operate. Missionaries do not request their area of assignment or the language used during their service. Missionaries fund their own missions (except for transportation to and from assigned mission) and are not paid for their services. The current missionary force is more than 58,000, with growth expected due to the age change.
While men are expected to serve missions as part of their priesthood obligations, women are given the opportunity as an option. The change in age does not change the standards set for prospective missionaries but does provide greater flexibility in deciding when and if to serve a mission, Monson said.
“I am not suggesting that all young men will — or should — serve at this earlier age,” Monson said. “Rather, based on individual circumstances, as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available.”
For more information on the age-change announcement, including a transcript of the announcement and a full video of the press conference, visit www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-lowers-age-requirement-for-missionary-service.