At the beginning of the church’s 182nd Semiannual General Conference, Saturday, Church President Thomas S. Monson announced the change in missionary age.
“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 19,” said Thomas S. Monson, LDS Church President.
You could see the reaction on conference-goers faces.
“As we have prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their 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 the age of 19, instead of age 21,” said Monson.
“At first when I heard it I was really surprised,” said Tishnae Rodriguez, prospective missionary.
“I was sitting in conference and I just realized that’s in 8 months, like I could be gone,” said Benjamin Sorensen, prospective missionary.
“I think it’s great, I really do,” said Marcia Anderson, mother of a prospective missionary.
It’s the first time the church has changed the age of missionaries since the late 1940’s or early 1950’s.
“This is an option that will allow more and more to enjoy the blessings of missionary service,” said Elder Russell M. Nelson, of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the 12 Apostles.
After the Conference’s opening session, church leaders held a press conference. Responding to a question from ABC 4 Reporter Brian Carlson, the church explained why they are making the change.
“The literal truth is this work is hastening, we are having requests from around the globe for new missions,” said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the 12 Apostles.
Carlson asked prospective young missionaries if they were ready to answer the call.
“Could you be ready to go right now?” Carlson asked.
“I think I would be,” said Alex Land, prospective missionary.
“It doesn’t intimidate you at all that you could serve today?” Carlson asked another.
“Not at all,” said Jared Walton, prospective missionary.
“It’s kind of scary because I thought I had my life planned out, thinking- if I graduate from college then if I want to go on a mission then that will be the time, now it’s like I could go now if I wanted to,” said Kellsey Purkiss, prospective missionary.
The conference did have other messages.
“The more we devote ourselves to the pursuit of holiness and happiness, the less likely we will be on the path to regret,” said Dieter F. Uchtdorf, of the LDS Church’s 1st Presidency.
But the topic on everyone’s lips was the change for missionaries.
“If they had’ve announced that last conference I don’t think I’d be here, I’ve been waiting 5 months to get my call. I’m excited to go,” said Peter Sorensen, prospective missionary.
Follow Brian Carlson on Twitter: @tv_briancarlson