Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, provided a small insight into the discussion surrounding the decision to change the missionary age in 2012 during the LDS Face to Face event Tuesday night.
During the social media forum, young adults across the world asked Elder Holland; Sister Carole M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency; and Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, Presidency of the Seventy, questions on social media and the panel of Church leaders answered the questions. This was the first Face to Face event for young single adults.
One questions during the nearly two hour question and answer session addressed women serving missions. It read, “How can we help girls who haven’t gone on missions remember that they are not any less than those that did serve?”
Elder Holland answered the question saying the presiding officers had “strong feelings” about this issue.
“I was in the missionary executive counsel with President Russell Nelson when we wrestled through this issue to lower the age to 18 for young men and 19 for young women. And indelibly imprinted on my soul forever was President Thomas Spencer Monson thumping the table, pointing a finger, declaring what we would and would not do on this. He was very supportive. You remember that announcement; I mean that electric moment when he announced that in general conference, but more privately he had said, and of course he said it publicly too, but this was in the formative period of the policy. He was adamant that we were not going to create a second class citizenship for young women who did not serve a mission.
“We lean on the young men to go as much as we can; we’re pretty straight forward about that. We do an arm twist and a knee pull and go for the jugular on the men. But even there, let me be serious, if a young man doesn’t go, that does not preclude him from our association and admiration and his priesthood service and his loyalty and love of the Lord in the future in the Church. That ought to be true for young men as well as young women, but adamantly for young women.
“President Monson never intended for all the young women in the Church to go on missions by dropping that age. We’re very grateful for those that go. It’s changed the face of the Church. It’s going to continue to change the face of the Church. We went from something like 8 or 10 or 12 percent to 30 or 35 percent of the missionary force of the Church being young women and everybody knows that a sister is twice as effective as three elders. But we do not want anyone feeling inadequate or left out or undignified or tarnished because she did not choose to serve a mission. We’re a little irritated with young men who say, ‘I’m not going to date you because you didn’t serve a mission. … We do not want that type of climate over dating or marriages or who is really faithful in the Church or isn’t. Those are decisions we all make.”
In October 2012, LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced that the missionary age had been lowered to 18 for young men and 19 for young women.
“We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty—and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve,” President Monson said in his general conference announcement. “Many young women also serve, but they are not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men. We assure the young sisters of the Church, however, that they make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome their service.”
Listen to the full Face to Face event above.