The excitement billowing through the Church about Young Women having the opportunity to serve missions at age 19 hasn’t been matched since all male members of the Church were given the opportunity to hold the priesthood. Women have long wondered why they weren’t afforded the privilege of serving a mission when they were as young as the men. They are ecstatic that that privilege is now theirs.
This glorious opportunity will bless the lives of the young women in the church, the young men in the church, the families of the future, and the world as a whole. The Church is truly serious about coming out of obscurity and the young women in our church couldn’t shine a brighter or more glorious light.
My 18 year old daughter fell in love with sister missionaries when she was three years old. We have pictures of two beautiful young women, missionary tags on their breast, and skirts that brushed their calves, bouncing Mikan gently on the trampoline in our back yard. These sister missionaries loved Mikan and she felt it. They were her idols, her role models, and she grew up to be just like them.
While my husband served in the Stake Presidency and attended different wards every Sunday, Mikan and I sat alone in sacrament meeting–except on the days when Gus was investigating the church, or Jordon, or Matt, or when my daughter was fellowshipping Amanda or Jarom or Sarah. Then three of us sat together.
Mikan planned her future so she could serve a mission at age 21. Even though she didn’t particularly enjoy academics, she studied Spanish for four years, just in case she was called to a Spanish-speaking mission, (and it was the only class for which she consistently did her homework). When she heard President Monson’s announcement in in October about young women serving missions at age 19, she considered it a personal blessing, a gift just for her. A mission suddenly became far less of a sacrifice. Before conference was over she had an appointment with her bishop to fill out her mission papers.
The Young Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reflect everything that is hopeful and beautiful about life. They are good. They are pure. They are kind. They are full of love, love for the gospel, love for children, love for each other, love for mankind. Only the extremely hard of heart could slam a door on smiling young women with shoes made for walking and backpacks full of truth.
My three sons all claim that the sisters were often the best missionaries in their missions, whether they served in Las Vegas, or Buenos Aries or Quito… the sisters “rocked.” The sisters motivated the Elders, kept them on their toes, helped them rise to their priesthood responsibilities.
For years many girls felt they had to choose between two goods: serving a mission and delaying marriage, or not delaying marriage and missing out on the blessings of serving a mission. As of 2012 they need not choose between the two. They can serve a mission without significantly delaying marriage.
The lower age of missionaries will have significant social ramifications in the LDS culture. For a long time, women aged 19-21 accepted the fact that there was a paucity of LDS men aged 19-21 to date. The imbalance left some young ladies desperate enough to date non-members. Now the possibility exists that the number of women serving missions will rival the number of men serving, balancing out the ratio of men to women in a dating pool.
No longer can young men assume that if women are post-high school age, they are looking for a husband. Some may, indeed, be ready for marriage. But some may be preparing for missions. No longer will returned missionary sisters be significantly older than many of the men in their dating pool.
Previously, a young woman out of high school might focus extensively on her physical beauty, in hopes that she will “catch” a husband in the next few years. Now young women are balancing their focus with spiritual preparedness, in hopes that they can reel in some investigators in the next few years.
The Young Women I teach are studying the gospel with a whole new level of interest. They not only need to know this information for their own benefit, they need to know this information in order to bless others’ lives. And they don’t need a mere multiple-choice level of understanding. They need to understand the gospel well enough to teach it.
Not only are young women preparing for a mission by increasing their knowledge, they realize their worthiness is paramount. Like the young men, they don’t have time to fool around with sin, in hopes of repenting before a mission. A mission is imminent.
These girls who serve missions will make exceptional mothers as they share their knowledge of the scriptures, and wisdom they gained as missionaries, with their children. They will become highly supportive wives as they discuss gospel doctrine with their returned-missionary spouses. Equally-yolked couples can offer unparalleled service in the Lord’s Kingdom.
Dating will be far more productive, as I mentioned in my last column about Elders serving missions at age 18, . The pre-mission years are the years when youth are admonished to begin casual dating so they can learn to have fun together without the expectation of romance. During a mission, young people learn to work hard together, without the expectation of romance. After their missions, they will know how to have a relationship with a member of the opposite sex that is based on something besides romance. They will have learned to play together and to work together. Since friendship is the foundation of any successful marriage, LDS couples can potentially enjoy more stable relationships.
Those young women who bit their tongue so as not to criticize church leaders who made them wait until they were 21 to serve missions have learned a very important lesson: do not steady the ark.
In Numbers 1:51 we learn that unauthorized Israelites were not allowed to touch the ark of the covenant. In 2 Samuel v. 6 the oxen stumbled, the ark started to sway and Uzzah put forth his hand to steady it. What thanks did Uzzah get for his efforts? God smote him and he died. It seems harsh to kill someone who was “just trying to help.” But this story teaches us profound lessons.
We must have faith that The Lord is at the head of his church. He knows what is best for the Church. He knows far better than we do. If something needs to be improved, The Lord knows it. We just need to be patient and pray, and eventually the miracle will occur.
The miracle of 2012 happened when eighteen-year-old Amanda, who once sat in sacrament meeting with a budding missionary and her mom, would now consider serving a mission of her own.
JeaNette Goates Smith is the author of the newly released book for teens: Unsteady Dating: Resisting the Rush to Romance. Information is available at www.unsteadydating.org