Response Remains Enthusiastic Following Missionary Age Announcement
Salt Lake City — Candace Richins was in the midst of her freshman season with Utah State University’s women’s volleyball team when the announcement came from Church President Thomas S. Monson: women can serve missions at age 19 and men at 18. Although thrilled about the possibility of serving a mission earlier, Richins — a possible starter on the team in 2013 — worried because her scholarship and spot on the team would not be guaranteed if she left.
A few days later, while in a religion class near campus, Richins knew what she needed to do.
“I felt very impressed that I needed to go and I needed to go now,” says Richins, who will begin missionary service in March in Stockholm, Sweden. “So I decided right then and there that I would go and it didn't matter what I was leaving behind; I would just go and serve the Lord. It definitely was a hard decision because it not only affects me, it affects my coach, my teammates, the whole school. … But at the same time, I knew that it was right and that what I was doing was the correct thing and that everyone would be blessed for it.”
Like Richins’ experience, the decision to drop everything is not easy for any young man or woman in the Church. Nevertheless, the response to the 6 October announcement remains enthusiastic as unprecedented numbers of young men and women continue to fill out missionary applications.
“I've never seen anything affect a generation of young people like what President Monson announced the Saturday morning of general conference,” says Elder David F. Evans, executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department and member of the Seventy. “What we're seeing is just an absolute overwhelming response from this generation to the invitation of the Lord and His prophet to rise up and go and serve your fellow man and preach the gospel.”
In the weeks following the missionary age announcement, the Church reported that missionary applications had increased dramatically (from 700 applications per week to 4,000), with women comprising more than half of the applicants. While the number of post-announcement applications is still double what it has been in the past, the total number of men and women who have applied since October is now about equal. Prior to the announcement, approximately 15 percent of missionaries were young women.
More opportunities for missionary service
It’s no secret that many more young women have volunteered for missionary service since 6 October. Church leaders are grateful for their willingness to serve. In a press conference following the announcement, Church apostle Jeffrey R. Holland said he is “absolutely delighted if this change in policy allows many, many more young women to serve,” noting that “those [women] who do serve are stunningly successful.”
Church leaders are also thrilled in general that more of the Church’s young people — men and women — will now be able to serve missions.
“This is an invitation of love from the Lord to this entire generation,” Elder Evans says. “What I would also say is that the scriptures make it clear, and I think the First Presidency and the Twelve have made it clear, … that we are all equal before God."
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