I’m thrilled by the big change in Mormon women serving missions. But my heart hurts too. Help?

Today’s announcement about the change in missionary age for young women was, of course, wonderful news. I am delighted my daughter will grow up in a church and culture that will promote her spiritual development, allow her to serve, and allow marriage to happen at the proper time and place (and I sure hope that is well into her 20s.) I felt the spirit telling me how wonderful a change this is, but my heart was broken that for me it is a change too late in coming. 

 How do you let go of anger and hurt from growing up in a culture and institution that taught things about the role of women and about the timing and urgency of marriage that shaped pivotal decisions in your life? I’m grateful things will be better (at least in this respect) from now on, but I can’t help but grieve for what might have been.

 B.A.

Sister, I know how you feel.  When the news broke on Saturday morning that the LDS Church had lowered the age for missionary service from young women from 21 to 19, nearly parallel with young men, I texted exclamation points to my ward Young Women’s president.

“I’m crying with joy,” she texted back.

Crying?  At first I didn’t understand.  But then the impact started to register.  And I started crying too.  On the sidelines of my daughter’s soccer game. With one eye on my daughter dominating the backfield and one eye on my iPhone, I watched Twitter light up with excitement and joy.  I started realizing the potentially far-reaching impacts of this policy change.  Yes, putting mission before marriage in the storyline of young Mormon women’s lives, it could change gender dynamics within Mormonism a great deal.

How did the old storyline go?  Let’s say you grew up a serious young Mormon girl.  When you were three or four years old, you learned to stand at and speak from the pulpit.  By the time you had turned twelve, you marked your scriptures front to back, and you learned all the doctrine.  And when you prayed, you felt alive, you felt important.  You realized God was far more important than any of the other tin-can prizes or Prom Queen tinsel your girlhood held for you.  Your faith gave you a sense of purpose.  A sense that you too could go into the woods like Joseph Smith and get answers. A sense that you too could build up Zion.

You turn eighteen, and you watch the boys you grew up get ready to get in the game.  And you are just like them.  Full of righteous foolishness and hopeful energy—believing you can make a difference in this world. If you can figure out what your purpose is.  Because you know in your soul you were made for faith.  From the time you were four years old, you knew how to talk from a pulpit.  From the time you were twelve, you had your scriptures marked from front to back.  And now you are the Mormon girl who carries her scriptures to class at BYU.  And fasts on weekdays.  And prays just because you like the way it feels. Because this is what makes you feel alive—loving God. This is what matters.

Coach, put me in–somewhere, anywhere.

Not yet.  And maybe you should think about getting married.

But marriage is the last thing on your mind.  Marriage is another planet.  Babies are another planet.  Your own newly ripe reproductive system is like another universe sealed up in your pelvis.  It’s all mystery.  And it’s the last darn thing on your mind. You just left your parents’ house and you are ready to travel light and hard and far and test your mind and heart and figure out how to make yourself useful in this life.  The last thing you want is to be registering for housewares and picking out one-wearing dresses.  There’s no God in housewares.  There’s no God in one-time dresses.  And that’s just not who you are.  You are the girl who has been taking turns at a pulpit since she was four.  You are the girl with scriptures marked back to front.  You are the girl who fasts on weekdays and prays just because you like the way it feels.  And you want to go to work in the field that you know best.  The only one you really love—your faith.  You just want to be useful.

Coach, put me in–somewhere, anywhere.

Not yet.  And maybe you should think about getting married.

So you get accustomed to waiting.  During the years when boys your age are testing themselves with intense study and heartbreaking loneliness and terrible rules and impossible odds and maybe miracles around every corner, you are making eyes at boys and watching videos in college apartments.  Because that’s the path to getting married, right?  And maybe that’s what you should be thinking about?  You get accustomed to waiting and to looking for yourselves in the eyes of the 22 and 23 year old men who suddenly become your peers.  Except that they are not your peers.  They’re grown men back from a two-year intensive in the inner workings of the thing you love most—this Church.  And you’re still an ingénue.  An amateur.  And kissing them feels a little bit like kissing your father. And that unevenness, yes, it’s part of how patriarchy works.

The lessons of these years—this strange pivot into adult Mormon womanhood—they matter.  It matters that for the first seventeen years of your life you thought you could talk straight to God, and then the story changed, and suddenly you’re waiting for answers in the form of a husband.  And the well-meaning people around you, they all believe that your answers will come in the form of a husband as well.  That’s a confusing place for a Mormon girl who has been taking turns at a pulpit since she was four, and has her scriptures all marked up, and just wants to be in it with God.  Because God was her first love, and may always be her best.

So witnessing the change that could save a new generation of Mormon girls that desolating pivot–sister friend, it’s a big deal.  And I know the mix of joy and sadness you are feeling.  I understood it when I found myself not just shedding tears of happiness but actually sobbing on the sidelines of my daughter’s soccer game last Saturday.  And connecting back to the young woman I was at 18, and what this would have meant to her.  And how much more confusing life got after 18.  Because it is totally confusing:  this game of waiting be found by someone who might love you and thinking that means purpose. It drives some of us crazy.

I recognize the sadness you feel—it’s a hunger you may have never known how to even name:  the profound hunger to be useful.  Mormonism is a pragmatic faith tradition, and there is no higher honor than being useful to the work.  Sweet is the work.  And some Mormon women, we go our whole lives and never feel that we’ve really been useful in all the ways we could have been—might, mind, strength, and all that.  The hunger, it runs deep.

Because yes, we make some pretty darn dedicated mothers.  Just like Mormon men make for some pretty darn dedicated fathers.  But deep inside many of us are still the girls who have been taking our turn at the pulpit since we were four.  And we are still the girls who have their scriptures marked back to front.  And we are still the girls who love God first and best.  And we just want to get out and do the work.  Because we feel in our bones that this is what we were made for.

This mission age change—it’s just one of so many small incremental changes that women are starting to envision for ourselves. Because there is so much work to do in this project of building Zion, and none of it is helped along by this idea we take up at a pivotal age in our lives that we must wait to find our purpose in hoping that someone else might fall in love with us.

So take heart, and know that our Mormon daughters may come to see themselves quite differently.  And know too that the process we call continuing revelation (which also looks a lot like historical change) leaves every adult generation with a kind of burden.  We have to take all the missteps, mistakes, hurts, delays and undone business of the past, and all the disappointment and misunderstanding and lost chances it caused, and we have to make peace with it.  Not by stuffing it away, but by sorting it through, counting the costs, understanding the consequences, confirming each others’ feelings, and never expecting to be compensated.  We do that whether our issue is gender roles, or historical controversies.  And no one acknowledges that hard work.  But they should.  Even if not over the pulpit, yes, let’s at least create space for us to acknowledge each other.

So let me close by acknowledging you:  Yes, you would have been an incredible missionary at 19.  Honey, I can see it from here.  And, yes, sister friend, it might have changed our paths a great deal.  It might have changed everything.

And, you know, it might just still.

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167 Comments

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167 responses to “I’m thrilled by the big change in Mormon women serving missions. But my heart hurts too. Help?

  1. Lauren B.

    Love this. I love the whole concept. How young women now have more than that one option of getting married. I certainly wasn’t prepared to get married at 18,19, 20 and I certainly am not ready yet at 25. For some, their path is to get married young and be baby breeders. For some it could be to serve a mission. And for others, who knows. But I am grateful the FP of the church finally realizes that not everyone is destined for that one path they provided before this weekend’s announcement.
    I, along with the submitted woman, feel sad I didn’t have that opportunity. I was well into my college soccer career by 21 and wasn’t going anywhere, especially since I had become bitter over Prop 8 and how the church handled it. And I had started to question the mysterys of church history.
    I don’t regret my life and the choices I made, or even who I have become. But I will forever wonder how my life would be different if the age to go on a mission was 19 during my time.

    • T. Lawrence

      I’m just curious as to why you say that you’re excited because “now women have more than that one of getting married” . . . LDS women have many options, and marriage was never the only option in the LDS Church. LDS Woman have been well ahead of the times in their religious experience, and if you don’t know this, you need to read more about our Women. LDS women have been serving missions in the LDS church for many, many years, this sin’t something new. The Church has changed their policy because they need missionaries to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not to patronize a group of women. I am a woman, and I find it interesting that only the women are complaining and moaning and groaning about this. I don’t hear the men complaining about any lost opportunities because they were not able to go at 18. I hope this is not indicative of the general female population of the LDS Church. I’d like to think that the women in the LDS Church are strong, practical, and NOT in need of patronization.

      I look at this policy change as a wonderful opportunity to increase the missionary force and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this world that is in such dire need of good things and good and peaceful tidings. I look at this as a way to help more of Heavenly Father’s children hear and learn the Gospel. Gender is not the guiding force here.

      • I’d like to add the perspective of a devout Mormon man. At the age of 19 1/2, I entered the mission field. This was after attending my freshman year of college at BYU. When I graduated high school at the age of 18, I had two life options that included missionary service: one was to attend a year of college before applying to be a missionary; the other was to be out of school and work for six months until my 19th birthday. The change in policy for young men may not be very drastic, but had I had the chance to become a missionary right out of high school, I definitely would’ve taken that option. I’ll admit that some aspects of BYU helped me prepare to be a missionary, but not everyone goes to BYU. I applaud this policy change for both men and women (though we don’t really “applaud” in church culture, do we?). Thank you all for your heart-felt messages on the topic. I have enjoyed reading your thoughts and feelings about it.

      • M.Stroud

        Yes, women have been serving for years and doing a great job of it…. but there is a stigma, if you don’t know. Everyone assumes that if you served a mission it’s because you were to ugly to get married. I heard my husbands friends say that multiple times before we got married. Then you turn 21 and you’re ready to go and so excited, but you meet Mr. Right. You then have a choice to make, and even the church elders had said “If you have a viable option for marriage take that instead of serving a mission.”

        I haven’t heard women moaning and groaning about this at all, but rather they are excited, anxious, and above all jealous. I got married at 21. I was a year away from graduating college so I was going to wait for that before I went on a mission, and instead I got married right before my senior year. Now I am one of those women who look to her husband for answers to things I could have learned for myself. I ask him about the miracles he witnessed. I rely on him in most everything. I would be a much stronger woman today if I had served a mission for myself. THAT is what this blog post says, not that anyone is moaning and groaning.

        And honestly, I believe many boys are still not ready to go at 18. Boys really don’t care about it… Like they said it’s an option, not an edict. Many boys will still wait until they are 19 because of how prepared they are. So many girls are putting in their papers early now, though. Women have an excitement and a way of teaching the gospel that is much different than most men’s…. THAT is why this is such a big deal.

      • Rick

        T.,
        I agree with you completely. I have no feeling or sense that this was to address gender concerns. If anything, it was dealing with trends that colleges (and scholarships) are being less supportive of students taking interruptions. But, I don’t know what is behind the decision. Obviously, this is not a Gospel issue (based on historic and scriptural references, the age is pretty meaningless) but a policy decision.
        I’m not sure why people insist on seeing limited options. My son worked for a year to earn the money to pay for his mission on his own – I think that’s an incredibly valuable process. I did contribute some, but he financed the majority of his mission. I think his mission is much more valuable to him because he sacrifieced to go. I’m not saying everyone should do this, but I really want to point out there are many valid options.
        I have to disagree with M. Stroud. Maybe she should evaluate the friends her husband keeps…Anyone making that type of comment about sisters serving missions is not being particularly worthy of their priesthood (I’m not saying they aren;pt worthy, I’m saying that sentiment is in conflict with the precepts of the Priesthood). And I don’t know why you have to feel you need to ask your husband for answers. There are no magical nuggets of wisdom that you get by being a missionary. It’s a good experience, and the time spent serving others helps develop love for those people, but all the knowledge they get is there in the Scriptures and in the Preach My Gospel book. And miracles are unrelated to missions. Miracles follow faith – wherever it is. I’m sure you have some in your home. And strength is up to you. There are missioniaries who come hoome no stronger than when they left, and some who are. It’s not the mission thjat makes the difference.
        Think about it – you mentioned you had the choice. But you chose marriage instead. That can happen just as easily at 19 as at 21. If you coould have gone at 19, and chose to, you would probably not be married to the person you are now. That’s something to think about.
        In the end, I think the announcement is fine – but I don’t really see a major change in the CHurch or it’s future because of it – kind of like when the male missionaries had their time changed to 18 months, and then it changed back again. It’s just a way to do it.

    • Garth

      I’m a male. I served a mission at 19. I had to wait a year after graduation before I could go out. I’m grateful for that year. I only took one college class, but I took several institute classes. This period gave me time to reflect on myself and things I seriously needed to do. I wasn’t focused on getting good grades, then once I hit the MTC focus on being a missionary. I loved having that year to truly prepare and not just throw myself from school to mission. Unfortunately, I got a medical release and had to come home 8 months early..

      My wife also served a mission. She didn’t go until she was 22. Growing up, being a missionary was the last thing she wanted to do. Then her patriarchal blessing happened. She struggled her entire mission. She had gone to years of college before hand. When she got home, she had one semester left to graduate with a BSN. Her mission was timed perfectly.

      The biggest blessing from my mission is that I met my wife on my mission. If we hadn’t served missions when we did, we wouldn’t have met.

      While the minimum age has changed, President Monson (who is a prophet by the way) said that you aren’t expected to leave then. Rather, you should work with your ecclesiastical leader to determine whether you are ready or not. Even if the age had been changed earlier, I STILL wouldn’t have left till I was 19, and my wife STILL would’ve gone at 22, because that was God’s plan for US. If God wanted or needed young women to go on a mission before they were 21, the age would’ve been changed long ago. Complaining about this change is like saying that God didn’t know what He was doing.

      • realist

        So if it’s like saying God didn’t know what he was doing, and now it’s changed is he wrong now because he was right before? You said your wife never wanted to go on a mission. Maybe that’s why she didn’t go until she was 22. But for the women who wanted to go they couldn’t. Why God would have different rules for women and men does not make sense. He created human beings. Homosapiens. Did you read Mormongirls’ response? Because I get the feeling you didn’t and it would benefit you to get a deeper understanding or do you just lack empathy?

  2. T. Lawrence

    Don’t grieve for what might have been, have joy in what is. We do not know how different circumstances in our past could have affected our future, and we waste valuable time and energy wondering about it. There is a time and a season for everything, including church policies, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is always the same, and our devotion to His work should not waver.

    • Esther

      I love this. Sure it would have been nice for it to have come sooner. If regretting makes a difference and is productive, then lets regret. Unfortunately, it isn’t productive, and we can just say that it took time for our culture to be ok with this. I don’t mean that insensitive in any way, but I feel like it’s something we can choose to see the positive in and be grateful that our church is changing and adapting in a good direction. And I’m so grateful for what it will mean for the future–and I’m thinking of my little girls in particular. There are sooooo many things that could be changed and should have been earlier. For whatever reason, it takes time for us and our culture to accept certain ideas. That’s just human nature and society. Lets just hope that it will continue. I’m actually impressed that it came this soon and that our church is willing to adjust and change.

      • Esther

        Another example–it took time for our society and culture to be o.k. with an African American President, and now a Mormon candidate for President. Do we say, shame on us for not doing it sooner. Maybe. But more than likely we say, look how far we’ve come! Thank goodness we’re finally here! It takes time to change the way society feels; it takes time to change Mormon culture. I feel like this is another very progressive step in the right direction. I don’t agree with every policy the church has by any means, but I don’t think any bitterness of what could have been or what should be mask all the good that comes from the parts that I absolutely love!

    • Twila

      The Savior said “mourn with those who mourn”. Not serving a mission feel like loss to M. Stroud. It seems perfectly reasonable to mourn a loss.. Peace to you and all the other women who are mourning the past and rejoicing in the future simultaneously.

      • Thank you Twila. Mourning the past and rejoicing in the future… that’s beautiful.

        To everyone, it is a mourning period. I, personally, am mourning my possibilities. I missed this age change by just 5 years. I am mourning my potential and I am mourning what could have been, same as I mourn the children I can’t have and the adult my child might have grown into had he not been born with autism. It’s not “I hate my life and I want to change it,” it’s “this is not what I planned on, and I am a little sad about it.”

      • realist

        I get the feeling that some of the people commenting here did not read Mormongirls’ complete answer. They are just addressing a technicality and are missing the whole point of what the emotional, spiritual, impact that is the real issue here. Joanna gave a gift here. An absolute gift.

  3. Martusha

    I am overwhelmed by this post, in the best way possible. Thank you for spelling out so clearly what I have felt so strongly and did not know how to express. While I was a stubborn one that I am sure frustrated a couple priesthood leaders by insisting I go on a mission instead of marrying my at the time boyfriend, the time between 18 and 21 was so confusing to me. And here, you have put it so elegantly. Just knowing someone else felt that too. Someone else understands what I went through and how excited I was to serve, and yet how frustrating and at times discouraging it was to get to that point. I am so happy for this new group of girls who will get to experience this, and also weep over the innocence I lost in those confusing years by being awakened from my naivety of certain aspects of the church. Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping me find the comfort that only comes from knowing you are not alone.

  4. christer1979

    Oh thank you. I realized halfway through my mission that part of my desires to serve were so that I could feel equal to those RMs in my wards and classes. They had such self confidence, such knowledge of the scriptures, and the life experiences. I went from being that girl you describe–in Sunday school, at Girls Camp, the one who bordered on self righteous posturing because I just simply loved gospel knowledge and I loved talking about it and knowing–to doubting my own knowledge and abilities because it seemed so dwarved next to these man heroes of our culture. So I served, and it was awful and wonderful and difficult and worth it. And I want more women to really truly consider that choice, not as a back up, but as a real choice.

    At the same time, my facebook newsfeed was peppered with friends wondering how their lives would have been different if this change had happened a mere 5 years ago; if they had gone at 19, before marriage and kids, before getting inseparably far into their school trajectory, what would have been different? You capture the hope and the frustration so well. I’ll be sharing this with many.

    • My life would have been so different. I am 25 so I did just miss this announcement by 6 years and that kills me. Especially when I feel like it needed to be changed at least 10 years ago! I am so grateful for the change, and the rising generation needs it so badly, and I think it will seriously help the church retain membership of those young adults, but at the same time, DANG IT. I missed it by just 6 years! ARGH.

  5. Trish Crowe

    Sure, I had my “what if” moment when I heard the news. I had wanted to go on a mission badly from the time I was 18 until I was 22. Then, I met the guy who would become my husband and well…the rest is history, I suppose. I know that if the missionary age for young women was 19 at the time, I would have jumped at the chance and gone! But I also realize that I wouldn’t have traded my early single adult years for anything. I shed tears when I heard the news, but they were tears of joy. There’s no need for a woman to put off serving anymore. Perhaps the Church leaders realize that even among LDS people, women don’t marry as young as they used to. Who knows? I’m just glad the change has come.

    And I’m also glad that the Youth curriculum has finally updated. Thank goodness! Those manuals were so outdated, it was ridiculous. I remember teaching a class of 14-15 year old girls in 2003 the exact same lesson I received at that age in 1983 – word for word!

  6. Lisa Moore

    Good god, this is incredible. I’m sobbing. I truly did not get your FB comment about how this would have changed your life until now.

    We’ve got to talk soon. For one thing, I want to hear about why you didn’t go on a mission at 21….

    Love you honey.

    Lisa

    On Sun, Oct 7, 2012 at 11:18 PM, Ask Mormon Girl wrote:

    > ** > askmormongirl posted: “Today’s announcement about the change in > missionary age for young women was, of course, wonderful news. I am > delighted my daughter will grow up in a church and culture that will > promote her spiritual development, allow her to serve, and allow marriage > to “

  7. k8

    When I got home from my mission it was super easy to sort out the boys I wanted to date-the ones who assumed I went on a mission because I couldn’t get married were off the list and the ones who thought sister missionaries were cool were on it. I hope this news means the girls of the future won’t have to do that sorting because missions will just be normal. This news can only be wonderful for future serious little mormon girls.

  8. Camille

    I didn’t see the first session of conference so I missed the announcement but ready about it a few hours later. I immediately burst into tears and was unsure of why. Why was a crying tears of joy for a faith that I’ve been so unsure of for the past year? Why did I care if the church changed the age requirements? I realized I was crying for girls like myself who at 19/20 years old desperately wanted to serve a mission and were more prepared than the boys that were being sent out and even more more mature than most of the guys who returned. I went to church alone when my roommates opted to stay home and do homework. I attended my ward mission prep class with only one other girl. When I came home from class instead of starting on homework or studying I turned to studying the scriptures first. For the first time in my life I felt alive in my faith and desire to serve. For the first time in my life I had a real testimony. I would have been a great missionary. I would have served with my whole heart but instead I had to sit around and wait and in waiting I lost interest and then met my husband (which I guess was the church’s intention). So I guess I was crying tears of joy for all those girls around the world who have been discouraged at having to wait who will now get the chance and crying because the announcement came 12 years too late for me because even though my faith has dwindled and the hard things of the church have become even harder for me I still mourn the missed opportunity for myself.

      • Mark Winsor

        So many of these posts discuss the “Church” and the leaders as if the “Church” is being led like other organizations in the world. I believe with all my heart that the Church is led by revelation and things are done in the Lord’s time frame. If we are to question the timing of any issue or any of the practices of the “Church” are we not in the same breath questioning an all-knowing God? I was thrilled by the announcement. I have an 18 year old son. I also have a son serving a mission now and a young woman he was dating before he left called me after the first session. She also was crying. Her tears were excitement and testimony. She now, at age 19, will immediately prepare her mission papers. I trust that on her mission she will teach that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by prophets and apostles and thereby the Church is led by Christ Himself.

      • Lisa C

        Exactly how I feel. word for word.

    • Carly M.

      My only question is WHY did you sit around and wait? Didn’t you have other good things you could have been doing? To say that in waiting you lost interest is disingenous. If you really really wanted to go, if it had been your primary goal and heart’s desire in life you could have gone. 3 years is not that long to wait. There are an unlimited amount of wonderful, mind expanding and productive things to be doing between 18 and 21. Isn’t this an insult to your husband? No it isn’t the church’s intention for all girls to just give up their lives and get married. As if the good a woman can do ends at the altar. It’s the church’s intention to support all girls to do and become the best women they can be and to be servants of our Heavenly Father in every stage of life.

      • I have to agree with Carly. I feel like so many people are approaching this as if the Brethren finally woke up and realized this should happen. Maybe all of us as members should look inward and ask why the Lord only allowed for this to happen now. It says in the scriptures that we will receive new revelations and new scripture when we the members are ready for those revelations. I don’t think it is a stretch to apply the same principle here because I believe this to be a revelation from God and a divine change. Maybe this didn’t change sooner because the members were looking at missions as something that should be easy and convenient. As a Latter-day Saint, I don’t believe in a convenient religion but in a religion that requires the sacrifice of all things. In Philippians 3:8 it says, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” I feel that so many people’s approach is very selfish and is rooted in jealousy a feeling we know comes from the adversary. Let us rejoice that now through the faith of the rising generation they have been given this wonderful opportunity.

    • Katie

      @Camille – your comment felt like it could have been written by me. I was the same. I lived for the church. I loved to serve and be involved.I loved YSA and scriptures and I yearned for the temple. When I was 19 and my male friends got to go to the temple and serve missions, I ached. I didn’t realize it at the time, but what I felt was that the Lord didn’t value me as much as them. I would have been a superb missionary. I did serve a miny mission of 5 weeks when I was 19 though, and learned a little about a missionary’s life and experiences. It was invaluable and made me feel less bad about not being able to serve a full time mission then. By the time I was 21, I had been accepted into Law school and I made the personal decision that my time was best served doing that rather than a mission. I too think about what could have been had the opportunity been there to serve a mission at 19. I certainly would have served and things might have gone differently. Maybe no law school? Who knows? I welcome this announcement for both men and women of the church and I hope that young sisters will not feel that terrible ache of not being valued by the Lord that I felt, but when it comes down to it, I’m not sorry that I didn’t serve. My life could be different if a number of different choices had been made but overall my life is what I have made it and it’s good.

  9. Renee

    I’m currently at BYU in Freshman housing (however, I myself am a Sophomore). I cried at the announcement too. I turn 20 this month, and I don’t have to wait nearly as long as I thought I would to serve a mission. My roommate and I cried together and had difficulty listening to the rest of the session of conference. After the session, a whole bunch of girls from my building went outside and screamed and cried and celebrated together. Some of them are seriously contemplating missions for the first time, others have already set up their first interview. We talked about how this will change dating and gender dynamics at BYU. No more creepy age divides. No more RMs marrying little 19 year olds. They’ll have sister RMs with similar experiences, ages, and testimonies to date. This will lead to more egalitarian marriages and relationships. And the YW and YM curricula are both being changed to be more mission focused. This is particularly touching to me. I came to BYU envious that the boys already knew about when they could start work on their papers, and what their papers would entail when I had barley heard a whisper of that in YW. Now this is going to change.
    And although they haven’t made it a mandate for girls to serve a mission, I think they won’t have to. We WANT to serve missions. We’ve been told we won’t because we’ll just find a man to change our minds, but that’s not the story anymore. There will be such a flood of sisters into the mission field that they won’t know what to do with us, and I think that’s wonderful.

  10. Dani Lofland

    Joanna, I was thinking of you and your blog during conference today…
    The idea of you being a winnower of sorts came to mind.
    You have a gift of bringing the faithful in the world to the door of the gospel of Christ by softening the churches distinct differences and yet at the same time showing the less faithful in the church to the door of the world.

  11. Annie

    Oh my this is good writing! Joanna, I hear you. I have a vision for the young women and it looks more hopeful than ever.

  12. Kristen S.

    I was so excited at the change because it increases the probability of my own daughters serving. I had the opportunity to serve a mission and I loved it. I was a little surprised by your article though. I think sometimes we want to put things on our spiritual resume to make us feel empowered, appreciated and respected. That isn’t why I served a mission. It was a great experience that was extremely difficult and yet incredibly rewarding. It is not what made me feel spiritually equal to my spouse or entitled to speak from the pulpit. I believe God wants his daughters to be spiritual equals with their husbands who find their own answers to prayers. That is something everyone should be working on daily. My relationship with God extends beyond the 18 months I served. I guess that is because my mission wasn’t my greatest calling. It prepared me for my greatest calling: Motherhood. I have 5 children and will find no greater satisfaction in my missionary work than their personal conversion to the gospel. My efforts with them are my greatest offering to the Lord and contribution to His kingdom.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t look back and feel remorse for what might have been. Be it now. Study your scriptures daily, be a missionary to your children, your neighbors, your community. Live deliberately and know that God has a hand in your life. You may think that it’s just not the same because you won’t receive the same recognition but that isn’t really why we serve is it? We serve to show our love for God and grow closer to Him. So now he needs more sisters serving and it will be a great blessing but it does not diminish the work you have done and will continue to do in your homes and communities.

    • K. Harris

      Thank you! I just turned 22, haven’t served a mission, and not any closer to getting married than a 16 year old. I understand what all these women are saying, but I think they’re all missing the point of missions and marriage. I ache for the time I’ll be married because I know it’s there that I will fulfill a calling no mission can compare to, raising righteous children in the Lord. However, I know it will come in the right time and to the right person. Missions are a fabulous opportunity to serve the Lord and I envy those who serve… slightly. I know that I don’t need a mission to teach the gospel, to feel the spirit every moment of my life, to be close to God. There are people here, right now, that need my special services whether it be a roommate or some random person walking around campus (yes, I go to BYU). I want to serve my Savior whether that be a mission, marriage, or something entirely different that I have yet to see. I don’t care what it is because I know it’ll be where I’m needed. I trust my God. I know He has a life planned out for me that exceeds all my imaginations. It’s His timetable that matters, not mine.

      Congratulations to all the sisters who will now be able to serve missions two years earlier than previously thought. I think it’s a wonderful thing and came at the exact right time… because God is behind it. Don’t forget, however, the decision to serve a mission requires as much prayer and deliberation as the decision of who to marry. Just because you are able to go doesn’t necessarily mean you should. It’s a choice made between you and God.

    • T. Lawrence

      So true Kristin. Many times LDS women, and women in general are their own worst enemy. Through the teachings of the gospel and the encouragement of awesome church leaders – both men and women, I’ve always just assumed I was to be a confident, strong, yet compassionate woman. Nothing in Gospel teachings has taught me otherwise. Anything else that comes my way is people just being people. But I love people, and love can transcend all that we don’t understand.

  13. Eliza

    I am so thankful that the church is capable of policy change! This conference was one of my most favorite, becuase it gives me hope that I belong to a church that is willing to make hard choices, and smart changes. The change of the mission age and the new youth curriculum are two HUGE changes that makes me believe all over again that God does love us as a poeple, and that his prophets are willing to listen. Thank you, Joanna, for always helping me feel less alone.

  14. What a lovely story about early development within your tradition. Impressive. That early empowerment shows.

  15. RP

    I am a man, so it is hard for me to understand exactly what all you great women are feeling right now. But I would just like to add how happy I am that women now have the opportunity to serve around the same age as young men. I think it will go along way in helping women realize their potential. There are not a whole lot of people that understand how i feel at the university I attend because, you have probably guessed it, it really focuses on getting people married. And not just married, but married as young and as soon as possible. This gives me hope that not just men, but women will also be seen as the wise RMs in Sunday school, and will help a mother and father be more of the equal partners that is spoken of in the Church all the time. Thanks Sister Brooks.

  16. Missy

    Thank you for this post, it is like you read my mind. The happiness and sorrow for things lost are in equal measure.

  17. L-dG

    Just beautiful. Thanks for writing this.

  18. Zac

    I had a girlfriend in High School who was far superior than I spiritually and I wanted to marry her when I got home from my mission. Never did I consider her any less than me because she didn’t serve a mission. In fact, she didn’t know anything about the scriptures or gospel because she had a learning disability. She was in ‘resource’ classes in our high school until she graduated. She couldn’t keep up with the regular curriculum and was easily frustrated by any new learning experience that included reading or writing or math. I asked her once why we celebrated Christmas. She didn’t know. I told her it was about the birth of the Savior and she replied, “Oh, yeah. That’s what it is. Sorry.”

    But, she knew Heavenly Father and one time during a date looked me directly in the eye and said, “Can’t you feel it? Can’t you feel it?” With her hand, she was motioning to her heart.

    I’d reply, “Feel what? What are you talking about?” Since I knew the scriptures and I had a testimony of them, I didn’t need this ‘feeling’ she kept mentioning. She knew something though, I just knew she knew something I didn’t. What was this mysterious ‘feeling’?

    I went to Detroit on my mission in 1989. She was supposed to wait for me, but she didn’t. I don’t blame her. I wouldn’t have waited for me either. She married one of my classmates but they soon divorced and he asked for a cancellation of their temple sealing. She said they were always fighting because she just couldn’t keep up with his ‘knowledge’. She was a dummy.

    I went to see her after she was divorced. She was still far superior than I in the ‘spiritual’ category. Dang it! I was supposed to be that! I’m the big RM now! DANG IT!

    But, she asked me to help her balance her checkbook that day. She just didn’t get the math. As I drove home that night, I knew we would never speak again. We didn’t, and she remarried several years later.

    Around the same time, I finally married the standard wrong person and shortly thereafter got divorced as a matter of course. During the throes of weeping and wailing I came to know that ‘feeling’ my first girlfriend was always talking about. I started motioning to my own heart since it was torn in half and the pain of it was overwhelming.

    But, ten years earlier I still remember the last time I called her. I got her answering machine message. It went…

    “Hey guys….If you think you can keep up with me…then leave me a message. Ha ha.”

    Back in the day, phones had cords connected to a wall. The wall survived.

    She would have been the greatest missionary this Church would have ever sent out.

    Congratulations Sisters! Go, go go.

    • As the mother of a 14 year old daughter who sounds a lot like your friend, thank you for sharing your story. Love this thread, love the blessing of having a missionary in the field, a 19 year old daughter starting her papers, and two more following the same path. What a fantastic change.

  19. mofembot

    Here is hoping that this policy change is accompanied by a real effort on the part of Church HQ to screen mission presidents for misogyny. No, I’m not joking. I was originally called to a particular mission, but days before I was to have checked in at the MTC, I was transferred to a different mission — and thank goodness. The first mission president didn’t like sisters, didn’t want any more sisters in his mission, and Salt Lake humored him for a few months.

    I was part of that lucky group of women who were reassigned. My mission president was a wonderful man who loved the sisters and treated them with dignity and respect. For however disaffected my current feelings toward the church, I will always love and cherish my memories of that good man and his wonderful wife.

    Afterwards, I was in the same BYU branch as a woman who had not been so lucky and had ended up in the misogynist’s mission. My friend was very traumatized by her experience: despite her devotion and desires, that man made her life and those of the other sisters a living hell. (He was also unkind to any elders who struggled with the language or had other issues.)

    Serving a mission has many very hard aspects. Mission leaders not be among them. Again, here’s hoping….

  20. Jon

    Its obvious to me as a man RP. Women in the Church are still not treated equal. (Isn’t that obvious?) Men can go at 18 now; however, women have to still wait until they are 19. Its called a caste system. Women are one step below men. However, if you are divorced (thanks to Elder Oaks sucky-sermon yesterday) women are still a caste level (and their children) below everyone else.

    • Mark Winsor

      I believe Elder Oaks is an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe his message to be true. I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s true church.

      • Kelsy

        Good for you. That doesn’t mean women aren’t treated like second class citizens.

      • Jon

        Of course Elder Oaks is an apostle, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a man–a man that says things that agrivate Christ. Did you ever read the New Testament? Chist continually taught and chided his apostles.

        Serious, right now Christ is pretty busy, and I doubt he has time to teach them, and correct their folly as much as he did in the New Testament. It sounds to me like any time any of us point out anything the apostles say as adding to our burdens… everyone has a fit.

        Well what about those of us that are carrying heavy burdens, and the apostles add to our burdens by saying critical, unkind, and un-Christlike things? Are we supposed to sit back, be quiet, and take it? Joseph Smith didn’t teach us to do that at all.

        By the way the justification for making women wait a year is bogus. Women mature before men. I went on a mission and men are little boys still at 19. If anything women should go on missions before men because they are statistically more mature.

        It is a discriminatory practice to make women wait. It was a discrimininatory practice to make everyone else wait (unless you were a mission president’s son or daughter–like that magically made you better than the rest of the missionaries).

        Anyway, good job for supporting the brethren…. I support them too… I would like to say that I went through the temple… am I not the Lord’s annointed as well?

        I am glad you believe the Church is true… so do I. By making that statement you are suggesting I don’t. My statements don’t mean to attack your precious testimony. So many of “you” are afraid of discussion. I would venture a guess Josheph Smith would take my side–not yours.

    • Rick

      I have to admit – I was waiting for the complaint that there is still a year difference. At some point, yu’re going to have to decide that the Prophet is inspired or not. If he is, then you have to trust he is following the guidance of our Saviour. If he’s not, why are you sweating it? Isn’t this getting to the point of kicking against the pricks?
      Nothing in life is fair. I have a 25 year old autistic son. He will never go on a mission. Nor will he ever get married. He will never have children in this life. He will not even be able to drive. He is fully aware of these things. Is he a second class citizen? I don’t think so. Has he been treated poorly by individual Church members who are completely unencumbered with any shred of sensitivity? Yes. Has his life had blessings of people who demonstrate the love they have for others regardless of their situation. Yes. Should we mourn or think our lot is hard? ‘Tis not so. All is right.
      I sometimes think the greatest challenge in the Church today is that we truly have it so easy. Our struggle is not getting away from persecutors across the plains carrying all our belongings in a wagon, but that we have it so easy. I was not called away from my family leaving my wife with small children to go and serve. I am truly grateful for that.
      The real issue is not whether you can serve at 18, 19 or 21, but what you do with the stewardship you have. As President Uchtdorf said – “Lift where you stand.” Before you sweat going on a mission, how is your home or visiting teaching route? How about the inactive members in your ward? How about the people in your neighborhood waiting for the blessing of the Gospel? I din’t need to be called to serve a mission, I have one.

      • hobbitsmom

        Rick, thank you for this reminder to all of us to “lift where you stand”, instead of focusing on our perceived lack of opportunities. I spent most of my teen and young adult years being angry at “The Church” and “The Brethren” and “men in the Church” for policies and teachings which clearly promoted unequal treatment of women. But as I’ve matured, my Heavenly Parents have taught me that each one of us has been created with a kind of “package” while in mortality, which basically consists of who, what, and where we are on this planet. I’m not sure how much choice we had in the Pre-existence about our mortal “packages”, but I agree with you that our challenge is to do the best we can with what we’ve been given, to refrain from finding fault and placing blame, and to appreciate and improve upon the blessings we DO have.

        I too was excited about this change in missionary ages, for both the practical and symbolic reasons mentioned by others. I’m sure this will affect many young men and women in positive ways. My heart aches for any suffering the previous policy may have caused. But I wonder if we aren’t a bit self-absorbed when we consider this such a “big” issue for us. Truly, as you said, most of us have such easy lives! Here we are spending our energy worrying about the possible gender equality implications of this missionary age policy change for the Church, while there are members in Third World countries who are struggling every day just to get nourishing food and adequate medical care for themselves and their families. There are new converts who’ve had to suffer persecution and complete alienation from their families and cultures because they chose to join the Church. There are members living in countries ravaged by war or natural disasters. And, as you described in your son with autism, there are members experiencing a variety of physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. I doubt many of these good people are spending as much of their time and energy on Sunday’s announcement as we are!

        I don’t know why the mortal “package” I was created with includes being born in the U.S., into a large, strong LDS family. I’m short, blonde, and female, have average intelligence, a mostly healthy body, and I’ve had opportunities for education and employment throughout my life. I was blessed with only two children, a boy and a girl, (both served missions), and I have two granddaughters. Yes, I have been given much; in fact, it seems like I have it all, but I still occasionally slip into longings for blessings given to others and not to me. I struggle daily to remember that I have a responsibility to be a wise steward over my particular “package”, and to use it in service to God and others in the ways my Heavenly Parents direct me to do so. Maybe I’ll serve an “official” mission for the Lord someday, but right now I’m doing my best with the mortal “mission” I’ve been called to serve.

    • Jon – I think you are suffering from confirmation bias. You are looking only for information that supports your views. Elder Holland specifically stated in the news conference that the women go at 19 for very specific reasons and that it benefits the whole mission from having a more mature group in the mission. I think this is a way of showing women’s importance and talents in the mission not as a way the church is trying to belittle them. I also believe Elder Oaks to be an apostle of Jesus Christ.

      • Jon

        A confirmation bias? Do you know what that means…. ?

        Did Elder Oaks mention anything about a scientific study? Hmmmm….. I don’t think he did.

        Study after study after study shows women mature before men. (I dare you or anyone to argue that!) Seems to me that you should turn that accusatory finger and point it back at yourself–not me.

        Perhaps Elder Oaks and others are concerned if women go at 18 there will be “mission romances”. If that”s the case then fine; however, don’t make up some bogus thing like “it will help the mission”. I really didn’t mean to come as rood to you as you did me. I am sure you are a splendid person… I hope my comments don’t tick you off too badly.

      • Rick

        Jon,
        I have to admit I’m wondering where you’re coming from. One one hand you state your support of the Brethren and the Church, and on the other hand berate them as un-Christlike. You suggest his words “adding to your burden.” I suggest that the load is self-created. We choose how we interpret things and take offense. Regardless of how something is meant, I have the choice to be offended or not. It sounds to me like there may be some raw nerves that got rubbed by Elder Oakes.
        You are placing a lot of back story on the announcement that has just not been shared. We didn’t get any detail of what was behind the specific ages for both men and women, just a lot of us making conjecture.
        I’m not sure that I can judge what side Joseph Smith would take in the discussion, but I have a hard time imagining the Joseph Smith would promote not supporting those who have been called and set apart. He taught the Gospel is one of order.

    • LW

      Seriously Jon? This is really your personal problem not an equality problem. By teaching young women (and men) to think for themselves and have self-respect for who they are, is much more important than if they go on a mission at 18, 19, 21, 61 or ever. Women outside the church don’t lose their identity just because they don’t serve a mission. Let’s see if we can lose the victimization complex and focus on things we affect and do something positive. Reviling the Bretheren probably isn’t a great way to start.

      • Great Video Replay guy

        LW, thank you for your comments. I am not really certain as to if I recognzied a “hint” of seething hate for me?

        Reviling the brethren was never my intention, and I apologize to you that you took it that way. I do believe that your interpretation of what I said was incorrect.

        LW, you do not have any idea who I am, what I do or any of the positive contributions I have made, am making, or will make. In the “Great Video Replay” (please read Isaiah… it actually talks about that) perhaps we can sit down together, eat popcorn (with our resurrected bodies of course) and review my works. Perhaps after the movie of my life you will be less critical of me or what I said, and realize I was not trying to be being a total-snot.

        After the “Great Video Replay” movie I would hope that your harshness towards me is toned down. Perhpas you may find out my personal sacrifices for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my fellow-brothers, and my fellow-sisters were lauditory–or not. You may find my sacrifices, service, devotion and struggles to fight evil impressive? Who knows?

        Throughout my life I have attempted to act and behave as Christ would have me live. Perhaps me taking exception to Elder Oaks sermon lumpting child abusers, homosexuals, and divorced people together offended me a bit too much. Perhaps I should have not mentioned anything about it–even though I was deeply offended. Perhaps my experience with women being treated lesser is not correct either.

        Elder Oaks is an apostle, I beleive that, I also believe the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. Throughout my life I have apologized to those whom I have offended. I truely try not to offend people… so I will apologize to all of you on here to whom I have offended. I did not intend to upset any of you, and for that I am truely sorry. I thought perhaps this more liberal leaning group would not take such exception to my comments. I am very quiet in Sunday School for the same reasons… I really don’t like people being offended… plus I don’t like challenging people’s testimonies. I thought more liberal leaning people understood my comments as not attacks, but open-free expression. I think I crossed the line which was not my intention.

        To Elder Oaks, I believe he is an apostle. If he chastised me personally I really would try to have humily to take correction. I should leave any correction to Elder Oaks to Jesus Christ (Himself) to teach him, and I should not have ever mentioned anything on here about Oaks being off-track. If I am wrong and Christ wishes to crack my skull in order to teach me I will gladly take correction (and skull-cracking) from Christ. Also, I will let Jesus Christ talk to Elder Oaks. I shouldn’t express my opinion about Elder Oaks, but rather leave that to Christ.

        By the way LW… I have consistenly defended women throughout my life, in my family, on my mission, at church, at work, and everywhere I have gone. In Utah women are treated with a lesser degree of respect–by other men. I see many men treate women lesser every day, and I don’t like it. Christ didn’t like it either. Christ was an incredible force of change in the world towards women and equality.

        I know the Great Video Replay is very far away; however, I hope that maybe 100 or 200 years from now we can eat popcorn together, and perhaps even be friends… instead of secretly hate each other.

        Also, perhaps Elder Oaks and I will also be friends eventually. Eternity is a long time (especially towards the end). Hopefully Elder Oaks and I can also eat popcorn together and I can share jokes about attorneys with him–and be eternal buds.

        Anyway, I apologize to all of you on here for my comments and for offending you.

  21. Jon

    Dang… I mean a women are at least a caste level above those of us who are divorced (and our children). Must be a tad early.

  22. Thank you, for this. Thank you.

  23. Stephanie

    Thanks for your words, Joanna. B.A.’s question an your response have helped express the (can I say selfish?) mixture of joy and pain I felt at this announcement.

    I interrupted a nearly complete application to serve a mission a year and a half ago to date the guy I married a few months later. Now I’m on the verge of divorce and can’t help feeling cheated that this announcement didn’t come two or three years earlier. How different my life would’ve been… Yet I am so pleased my younger sister will be part of this new generation that will, we hope, see greater parity in their genelder relations and relationships through their college years and beyond.

    It’s just bittersweet.

    • Rick

      Stephanie,
      I’m truly sorry for the situation you find yourself in. It’s truly terrible to be in that situation. How oftendo we look back and wish we had taken a different path in life. You were not cheated out of serving. You chose to follow a different path. It’s a bit unreasonable for you to place blame on the Church and it’s lack of “parity in gender relations.” One thing is certain, as long as we have choices, we will have regrets. In your story it seems there are many areas that could have been different. But that would be a different story. I would hope your story gives you the strength to deal with trials that may yet await you.

  24. Holly

    Said it before, and I’ll say it again, particularly since the words “baptize” and “baptism” aren’t mentioned anywhere at all on this page:

    While I agree that the recent changes are good, it took me several hours to figure out why the various conversations about the changes bothered me so. it’s because most of them don’t even conceive of the real source and result of inequality in missions.

    Personally, I didn’t mind waiting an extra couple of years to serve. I minded not being able to baptize my own investigators and having to submit to the authority of stupid naive boys.

    I know my mission was a while ago, but still, it’s shocking to me that it took me several hours to think through the way I ranked the problems of my mission. Having to wait? Not much of one. Lack of real authority or power or respect for women? Pretty near the top. And these changes won’t do a thing address that.

    • mofembot

      Amen, sister Holly.

    • Mark Winsor

      The main message I taught on my mission was that Christ restored His church to the earth through apostles and prophets. I sustain them as seers and revelators. I am sorry that you feel slighted at not having the priesthood. I am confident, however, that the issue is one you should take up with Christ who made these rules. I am certain it is His plan and not simply a group of men in Salt Lake City.

    • melodynew

      Well said, Holly.

  25. Drew

    I am very excited about this announcement too. I remember in my mission that the Sister Missionaries were always much more mature and dedicated than the Elders. I got the impression that they truly wanted to be there. I babysat enough missionaries to appreciate the difference between Elders and Sisters.
    I recently attended a cousins wedding where she gushed that her husband “is an Eagle Scout AND a RM!” However, it didn’t take long to recognize that he was an rm and not an RM. I am confident that the life experiences learned while serving the Lord will protect many young women and help them find the companions they deserve.

    On a separate note:
    Sister Brooks – I realize that you may be disappointed that you were not able to serve a full-time mission. However, I am very grateful for the way things have turned out. I worry that a mission would have altered or muted your message. I have learned so much by following your writings, and I am grateful for your unique experiences and perspective. I believe you are currently serving a very important mission, and like the Sisters from my mission, you provide a very mature and insightful testimony. Thanks again for your insights.

    • Dennis McCrea

      I second what Drew sharfes here….Sis. Brooks, would you have had the insight in the matters you do if you had served a mission. I do believe you are fulfilling God’s will and plan here on earth. Please, don’t feel like you have to have regrets!

    • The Franchise

      The RM/rm difference has bothered me since I arrived at BYU and noticed that some 21y.o. males were men, but others were boys.

      In my mission, sisters were about 10% of the missionary population. At any given time, about a third of the best companionships were sisters–but about a third of the worst companionships were sisters, too. Few sister companionships were average. The sisters who went because they wanted to be missionaries were great, while those who went because they didn’t know what else to do with themselves could be awful. I believe this policy change will increase the size of the effective group much more than it does the ineffective ones.

      • Rick

        Franchise, I think we would all hope that is the case, but I don’t see this policy having much effect on human nature.

    • Mormon Girl could have served a mission at age 21. If I’m not mistaken, she wasn’t married at that time, right? I haven’t ever read anywhere why she didn’t serve (and I read her book), but I do wonder at her lament in this post because she actually could have gone at the age of 21.

      There are all kinds of “missions” and younger Mormon women have had to either find less formal ways of building their testimonies and sharing the Gospel or let themselves off the hook and blame the Church and the lack of a mission for their lack of growth. I don’t think this means their personal growth has been limited by the Church. I think what limits women, more than any perceived cultural slight, is the continual obsession about the desire to be publicly recognized and rewarded for sharing the Gospel, growing in testimony, or even baptizing someone (as a commenter above talked about). Men and women must both find the path to personal progression in their own ways. Some men do not serve missions but continue to build their relationship with the Savior and share the Gospel. Women do this too.

      I think we should be thinking more about what this announcement means to the world and the Church as a whole and less about what this means to individuals. Miss Brooks does a great job at giving us insight into a mind and heart that fails to see the irony of someone who wants to serve so badly yet turns inward and stays self-focused because of how she perceives the policies of the Church to be prejudice against women. Even some missionaries who serve faithfully get lost in what their missions are about and come home as prideful, conquering heroes. We must allow whatever path we are on in life to humble us and mold us so that we can turn outward and become REAL emissaries of God’s love. We cannot keep hoping that the Church will change so that we can THEN be free to make our mark on the world.

      This announcement is not about placating women and offering them more equality. It is about promoting God’s Kingdom on this earth and taking the Gospel message to more people. After all, this isn’t the church of Joanna Brooks, Marie Osmond, or even Mitt Romney. This is the Church of Jesus Christ, and through any service we render we are to highlight Him and His divine mission, not our own.

      • I appreciate your candor. Please reflect on the tone with which you address people who feel differently than you. Is your goal to encourage others or to take pride in your own righteousness? Frequent readers of this site know I rarely intervene but the condescending tone of some commenters needs to be addressed. How would you speak to someone you visit teach if they confided the feelings in you as the woman who wrote the letter at the top of this post. One love, one faith, one baptism.

      • MariLouise

        For what it’s worth, Dianna, I didn’t think that your tone was particularly condescending or self-righteous. I read your comment instead as much-needed encouragement for anyone feeling slighted or stymied to get off their duff and find ways to serve! Isn’t that what it’s all about? :)

        My dear friends/roommates and I at BYU (both pre-mission, post-mission, and in-lieu-of mission) were very busy with double majors, preparing for grad school, serving in our student wards, and volunteering in the community. When–in the course of all that busyness–we met great guys who shared our vision, we married them by our own choice! Some sooner, some later. I guess I didn’t realize that (some? many?) other women were “making eyes at boys,” “watching videos,” and feeling like they were kissing their father (yuck!), as Ms. Brooks suggests. Thinking that otherwise intelligent women are falling into that kind of trap is what makes me sad, not this new policy! My hope for the future would be that parents (and church leaders, where parents fail) will do a better job preparing their kids to be “anxiously engaged in a good cause” at whatever age/stage they’re in.

  26. xenawarriorscientist

    Call me crazy but I’m really hoping this is the first of many changes that will 1) be a huge boon to the girls and young women coming up, and 2) break the hearts of women who’ve already made life-changing decisions based on the old ways.

    It’s hard. The removal of the priesthood ban– and especially finding out more about how George Romney supported Civil Rights in spite of the ban, and in spite of actual threats from GAs about how Civil Rights were contrary to God’s plan*– has made me a lot more determined to make my life choices based on what *I* feel is right, not what the church says. That way, someday if there’s a big announcement, I can just say “Thank you. That’s great.” Instead of sitting in the lurch crying “Why?”

    Some things the church really does have absolute control over. Like mission age. Other things, not so much. Stay awake and make your choices with God. We’re the ones who have stewardship over our lives. We’re the ones who will feel regret if we bend our lives to rules we don’t understand, only to discover that the rules change.

  27. carlathorup

    You would have been a great missionary at 19, and you are doing a fine job now, Joanna. And I would have been great too! It’s overwhelming how much good will come from this revelation and I am so privileged to be a part of it.

  28. More than twenty-five years ago, I worked at the MTC and sat in a meeting one day where a researcher for the Church shared the findings of a year-long study in which the Church had examined the effectiveness of brother missionaries vs. sister missionaries. Now, I don’t remember the exact numbers (and if I’m exaggerating this, it’s not by much), but it turned out that half the number of sisters were twice as effective as the brethren in gaining converts. What we discussed in the meeting was the fact that gaining these converts wasn’t the only — or even the primary — purpose of sending young men into the mission field. The main focus was in developing the spirituality of the boys; in bringing them from a state of boyhood to manhood. (This seems to correlate with part of the discussion between Bill Moyers and Joseph Campbell that became the mini-series and book, The Power of Myth. In examining societal rituals of initiation, Campbell mentions that girls are initiated into womanhood by Nature herself through menstruation, but that boys must volunteer for manhood, and most cultures seemed to have accomplished this initiation through military or pseudo military service — Army of God?) While in that meeting in the MTC I remembered something that one of my mission presidents had told me. During his training, President Kimball asked, “How many converts do you think we expect from you?” The answer was: about three-hundred and fifty. This was the approximate number of missionaries that would come under the mission president’s stewardship during his three years of service. It seems, now, that separating the wheat from the tares is just as important as the initiation ritual for our young men.

    I admit, the shift in dynamics that you’ve mentioned here never occurred to me because, well, one; I’m a guy, and, two; I’ve never been a party to this level of discussion on this particular topic. In fact, I’ve never even heard it discussed at all beyond the occasional, “Gosh, I wish I didn’t have to wait to go on a mission.” I find this all very fascinating and mind (and heart) opening. I share your excitement and your joy for the sisters rising up into this change. This may not be as small of a step as initially imagined.

    And, I have to point out one more dynamic shift that I think will occur. I spent the two years of my mission very close to a lot of sister missionaries, all of whom were anywhere from two to five years older than us Elders, and I feel confident in predicting that, now, most of the Mothering that goes on in the mission field will be left to the mission president’s wife.

    • M.Stroud

      Thank you for this… I have always thought this was a part of why boys are expected to serve missions and girls aren’t… although being a girl I did feel kind of guilty for feeling this way. I felt like I was thinking less of my guy-friends and I shouldn’t. I am curious what your opinion is on the Priesthood in this way, too. A seminary teacher mentioned a long time ago that men hold the Priesthood and women don’t because “men need it.” Women are naturally more spiritual than men, and men need the extra shove the Priesthood gives them to stay true and worthy. What’s your opinion on that?

      • i believe all children of god are equal in their capacity. god is no respecter of persons. i think the idea that women are naturally more spiritual is a myth, and it’s unfair to men.

      • L-dG

        The notion of men needing and (and women not needing) the priesthood is a rather clever technique of dismissal by compliment. “Oh, ladies,” the argument goes, “God made you so naturally good, you made such wise decisions in the pre-mortal life, you’re so in tune, etc. — so you don’t need God’s authority in the way we big, wicked, interestingly-flawed, holding-the-reins males do. We’re so imperfect that of course we’re the ones who have to run the show. So why don’t you take your sweet, barefoot, in-tune spirits into the kitchen and make some sandwiches, ’cause the adults are talking.”

        When you compare the kinds of things that get said vis-à-vis the priesthood in all-male settings with those said in the presence of women, it becomes difficult to reconcile the notion of the power of God on earth, granted to humans to make vital covenants, to perform miracles, to be the very conduit of essential heavenly power without which none may return to the Father, but which is nonetheless not such a big deal because ladies are so naturally sweet and good and pure and vomit, vomit, vomit…

        It is rather like the man (by virtue of the priesthood, btw… or maybe a penis?) presiding in the home as an equal partner. It just doesn’t work. In the land of sanity, this is called “a contradiction.”

    • Carly M.

      Interesting insights. I think all men and women fit in there somewhere on the spectrum or maturity and sensitivity. In my mission there were some very immature women and some very mature and spiritually sensitive young men. But in general I agree (and disagree with the feminist train of thought) that sister missionaries may be more in tune with spiritual feelings and may appeal to investigators’ inner thoughts and feelings better than elders. But I wouldn’t limit the growth process that occurs to only the men.

  29. Jen

    I went through very intense anger Saturday night. I got married to a very abusive man at 19. Mostly because I wanted to be “good”, I wanted to move forward and progress, and I wanted to show I was ready to grow up. So, I married the first man who showed interest.
    If there had been another option??? My life could have been so different. Saturday night, I felt abandoned and hurt all over again…
    Thank you Joanna for putting some if that hurt into words. <3

    • I’m so sorry Jen. I, too, married very young to the first guy that came along, It’s worked out ok, but I think if I had waited things might have been better… but at the time I wanted to show I could be a grown up too.

      Giving you a hug from a random stranger on the Internet.

  30. Mark Steele

    I love what you wrote! Just one note, my wife’s ‘one time dress’ became her temple dress for the next 35 years. More than one way to have spiritual continuity.

  31. Vinniecat

    I love this, thank you.
    I felt a flood of emotion at this announcement. Young Women were part of the equation, for what felt like the first time in a LONG time. The 19 vs 18 sting did dampen the joy but just the fact that our Prophet addressed the needs of girls thrilled me.

  32. Dennis McCrea

    Dear Joanna and one and all writing here,

    My heart is full reading both this post and all of the responses to it. I as a male, RM member of the Church (who is also a convert of 35 years ago) was so touched by all of your heartfelt writings. Tears are in my eyes. I’m not sure how the dynamics are in your homes and marriages but thankfully, I have a wonderful, patient wife who has helped me over the years come to understand that my male point of view of the gospel can be very limiting. Couple that with a kind, gracious and charitable Heavenly Father (let’s not forget Heavenly Mother here as well) and I am slowly but surely becoming the whole person I can because of the females in my life.

    We have a 20 year old daughter and she was overjoyed Saturday. But she also was trying to communicate some misgivings over Saturday’s announcement…that I think were communicated in various forms here in this post.

    I think this post and series of comments are so outstanding and overwhelming, I am going to propose to my wife and daughter that we make the contents of this blog the subject of our Family Home Evening tonight.

    Thanks again to everyone who has written here for taking the time to write and reveal the most sacred thoughts of your hearts. You have touched me more than you will ever know.

    • Dennis, You are just awesome, sir. On my own blog I posted the other day about one of the positives in all of this being that girls will now feel compelled to pray about missionary service. My friends who did “make it” to that magical age of 21 felt the need to pray about whether to serve a mission or not. Some went and others didn’t, but every one of my girlfriends felt stronger and closer to God for having gotten on her knees in prayer and asked the question. I went on a mission, and I had other friends that didn’t. But as life has taken its twists and turns, many of us can see now that we really did follow the path that God wanted for us. I hope our remarkable, pulpit-speaking, scripture marking, prayerful young adult women don’t feel any pressure to go, but I sincerely hope they feel the need to get on their knees and ask God the way forward. I’m sure your lovely daughter will make the right choice . . . with such wise parenting she will know where to go to get her answers!

      • KLH

        Thank you for your reply STM. Like many commenting on this post, I too have felt mixed emotions over the age change. I was one of those girls who wanted to serve a mission her whole life and then got married before I turned 21. I feel the sadness for what might have been, but I know I did what was right for me. You addressed a very important part of the equation in making this decision: the spirit. I know marrying my husband was the right thing to do because I prayed about it not because I felt that was what everyone expected of me. I know many girls who are not married and did not feel that they should go and that is what was right for them. I don’t feel God would short change anyone for not going if that is his will. He will give them the experiences they need to have to become most like him. My desire to serve a mission will always be part of me, but I know this is what Heavenly Father had in mind for me next in my life. If we all listen to the spirit we don’t need to be weighed down by feelings of sadness because we can know we were led by the spirit. It is ok to feel sad over chances missed. It is part of life to have hopes and desires and that is one of the most wonderful gifts God has give us in life, but when those dreams are not fully realized, we can feel peace that the Lord is guiding our lives in the direction he would have us go.

  33. This is so beautifully written. I’m a little amazed that anyone could whip up something so elegant after only a day to reflect. I see a lot of myself in that girl you describe, who’d been taking to the pulpit since age four and carrying her marked-up scriptures with her.

    As a teen, I couldn’t tell you how I knew, but I knew as well as I knew my own first name that I would not marry young, so my response to “And maybe you should think about getting married” was usually a bit of a quizzical stare. But I know that wasn’t the case with many of my peers, and while I couldn’t really understand the Iwanttoserveamissionbutwillprobablygetmarriedfirst feeling so many of them had, I get why waiting an extra two years was an obstacle. I feel so fortunate that I had a chance to serve a mission. It wasn’t really something I’d planned on, but when the time came it felt right. I grew in so many ways–it was the hardest job I’ve ever loved, to borrow a phrase–and I hope, hope, hope this change means more women will have the opportunity to serve. That can only mean good things for them, for the missionary effort, and for the church.

  34. frenchiebabe

    I also love the implications of the press conference following. What I got from it is that now it is not rote formulaic expectation with “all Mormons of a certain age/gender do this”, but more a personal choice coming from personal revelation. This concept may also have game changing implications.

    • Yes! I too think this announcement pushes down the perceived formula for a Mormon life and opens up the idea in the Church that there are many paths to the same life of service and Christ-centered living.

  35. dlmtleArt

    I am overjoyed at the news for younger ages for both the young men and the young women who are coming of age. It is exciting and timely news. That said, I never have ever felt in the church that I am somehow of less value because I am a woman, Nor have I felt that my contributions as a woman are of less value than a man’s. We are all needed, each with our own myriad capabilities, talents and responsibilities. I never felt pressured by anyone to get married young. It’s just what I wanted. Honestly if the ages had been lower back then I would have just gotten married earlier and we would not have been ready. My husband’s mission gave us both time to mature and grow up some more. as well as giving us both time to have our own spiritual testimony building experiences for ourselves. I do not feel gypped. I am sorry that some have felt left out, but that has just not been my experience.
    I do take issue with the commenter who made the “baby breeders” comment though. That term is so negative in comparison with the wondrous reality of motherhood, and generally only applied to women (no one ever calls a man who gets married young and wants lots of kids a “baby breeder.” why should any woman denigrate another woman for making that choice?). It is offensive to assume that a woman who gets married young and wants kids is somehow valueless as a person or to society.

    • Lauren B.

      In no way did I mean it to have a negative connotation. I was just trying to keep my comment light in regards to what I was feeling and I obviously failed at that. I do value those women whose path in life is to be mothers. I feel as though that is not my path in life and I do feel less valued because of that. I feel like I had no place in the church bc 1) I wasn’t married with kids and 2) when my mission age finally did hit I felt ostracized from the church for some things I believed so I couldn’t serve.
      So I apologize and I realize sarcasm doesn’t carry well over the internet. I will ask to have my comment removed. I am actually in tears because I hate feeling that I have offended someone.

      • KSG

        To Lauren B…

        I absolutely understand what you mean when you use the term “baby breeders”, and think that it only belittles the role of motherhood or the women to whom that path appeals if they choose to take offense. I, too, have never felt the call of motherhood and have chosen a separate path for my life. And despite the best intentions of many members of the church, there exists a stigma surrounding women in their early 20s. I can remember the countelss times as a woman in my early 20s that I attempted to laugh off the “why aren’t you married yet?” and “don’t you want kids?” and “you’re not getting any younger!” comments. At the time, I felt such an anger towards those fellow members of the church who never bothered to ask what was going on in my life and assumed that it was somehow appropriate to inquire as to my reproductive status! It may not be the reality for everyone, but it was certainly the reality for me, and I found myself wondering if all I was good for was having babies…hence my knowing smirk at your comment about “baby breeders” and my attempt here at validating your ideas about the way the stigma can make women like us feel. Some may not have felt it and might claim that it does not exist, but that is only their reality. Ours is something entirely different, and yet also entirely real.

        Chin up, Lauren B…I can relate to your words and took no offense to your comments whatsoever.

        KSG

  36. Diane

    You know, times have really changed. The changes in the church reflect that change. But it really wasn’t so long ago that earlier marriage for women WAS the norm. Serving a mission is an “option” for women, but expected of men. Also, I’m sure the church doesn’t want men and women of the same age on missions–even though women are more mature at that age. It could prevent some problems having them serve at different ages. Let’s just keep our eyes on the prophet and the Lord’s leaders, and trust that God knows what He is doing. It may not be in our time frame, but God’s timing is always right.

  37. len

    Waiting until you were 21 and not getting married wouldn’t have been that crazy of a notion. 23 is still really young to being able to get married. If you had felt that strongly about it, you could have waited. I just don’t understand how a few years could have made that much of a difference.

  38. That was beautiful. Thank you.

  39. Carly M.

    Honestly, this post makes me sad. Yes, I’m all for women going on missions earlier but to turn this into a backhanded slap at the general authorities and the past prophets for not letting you go is a bit self-centered, isn’t it? Do you really feel you weren’t useful or playing in the game during your young adult years? That’s not the Prophet’s fault. It’s not the Mormon culture’s fault. Quit playing the blame game. It would be nice if women today would quit whining about all they don’t have or what they missed out on and truly own and cherish what they DO have. The lord love women just as much. To think otherwise is a tool of Satan.

    I did go on a mission at 23. I was disappointed by the guys who all chose someone else besides me to marry. (At least three of them married the NEXT girl they dated.) But after many fun adventures as an 18-23 yr old that included travel and sharing the gospel with non-member friends wherever I went, I chose to serve a full time mission. To be honest, I felt “useful” on my mission …more or less. Despite this burning inside to be useful, to share my testimony and love and serve the people, there are relatively few folks out there that want to make use of what we have. You can’t force your love and gospel knowledge on them if they don’t want it. I was a welfare missionary and our job description was a little bit nebulous. We spent more time in fellowshipping and teaching leadership skills than proselyting. We did teach some discussions and had a few get baptized but none of them are still in the church. At times I felt like my friends who were married and becoming mothers were using their time better than I was. So I came home happy and full of love for the people I served but wondering if the last 18 months had been all that. I married a year later and had 7 children. Which “mission” do I cherish most? Which mission do I feel has been most productive? Well it’s hard to compare two completely different fruits. But if we must, truthfully, being married and raising children is by far the most challenging, nailbiting, intense, soul stretching, productive, wonderful, spiritual and fulfilling of the two experiences. I feel I’ve done far more good as a mother than I did as a missionary. If I hadn’t gone on a mission, I wouldn’t be any less of a person than I am today.

  40. Ann

    I also felt saddness and didn’t know why until I just read this post. I realized that I wanted to serve a mission when I was 18 and it was just a matter of waiting for three years until I could serve at the required age of 21 for women. In hindsight, it feels like a just wasted those few years because when I left to serve, that is when my life began. That is who I am today. It shaped my adulthood that significantly. In a “It’s a Wonderful Life” way of thinking, I wouldn’t have married the man I married (he was holding out for an RM), I wouldn’t have graduated from BYU and many other wonderful things wouldn’t of happened. A mission jumpstarted my sad life. I think part of the sorrow I feel as a returned sister (Hermana) missionary is what if I would have been able to go at 19? Two years less of waiting and biding my time until I could finally go answer the call I’d been given. I want those two years back.

    • But if we are being honest it wasn’t God or the Church leadership who wasted those two years, it was you. You could have served, studied and done so many wonderful things in those two years. I’m extremely excited about this announcement but I feel that so many are saying that there poor life decisions are now the fault of and can be placed on the shoulders of the prophet and church leaders. Can’t we be happy for those young women today who can go at 19 and still believe that God’s plan 1 week or 1 year ago was that women leave at 21?

  41. Marleen

    Just glad I’ve gotten past the point of spending my time focusing on “what might have been”… I am a 56 year old single women who knows that I am just not in this for mortality, but eternity. Instead of “being heartbroken” because I was deprived of certain opportunities, I choose instead to focus on what opportunities I did, and do have. When I indulge in the “victim” mentality I am basically saying to the Savior you really haven’t been involved in my life enough. Why me? Why wasn’t I born into a “perfect” church? Well, Heavenly Father is working with imperfect sons and daughters…justice was not promised in mortality, but spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and physical growth was. The “popular culture” of the world encourages lots of emotion and drama. The gospel encourages patience, faith, gratitude, hope, love, perspective, and often long suffering…which won’t seen long after we leave mortality. Millions of men and women were denied many opportunities in this life…God is just…I have confidence in Him.

  42. I was the young woman you describe. At age 17 I couldn’t image anything better than the opportunity to dedicate all of my time and energy to serving the Lord and his children on a mission. A close girlfriend in my ward expressed to me one day that for her, the maximum service opportunity was motherhood. I had to turn that over in my head for a few days before I could accept that motherhood was indeed a mission and life of service that equaled or even surpassed the opportunity provided through missionary work. But my heart was unchanged. I would serve a mission.

    Years passed. I had a boyfriend whom I hopped to marry. My missionary fire got cold. I graduated from college and things did not work out with my boyfriend. A mission seemed like the next logical step … after all, it was what I had always wanted. So, I went and it was a great experience. But it most definitely would have been a different experience had I been given the opportunity to go when the fire was hot! I am now a young mother and realize that my friend was right about a life of service in motherhood … there is nothing like it!

    Hopefully this change will allow young women to experience both a mission and family life … and with more appropriate timing in both senses!

  43. This was amazing–a wonderful read. I am THRILLED for the girls in our church who will now have this opportunity–and still definitely sad for myself because I DID get married before I could serve a mission (it was a really really hard decision!). I am so excited for this… (and also laughing hysterically at the 17 year old boys who thought they still had 2 years to do juvenile things. hah!)

    • Carly M.

      They still have as much time as they need (up to age 26) This isn’t a requirement to go at 18. It’s basically accomodating those who run into military conflicts.

  44. Bonnie

    I cry too, because this came 30 years too late for me. I wanted so desperately to serve a mission. I was 20 when my husband returned from his mission. We talked about my desire to serve a mission, but in his stupidity (which is the hallmark of 21 year old boys, I think) he said we should marry now or never. The imbalance of power created by a congregation of returned missionary men, and a few (if any) returned missionary women, in inestimable.

    As a recently released YW president, I am thrilled that with this announcement, we will surely see an end to the marriages of 18 and 19 year old girls. They have options now. A missionary is no longer a girl who had no other options.

    • Rick

      Wow, as a father of 4 daughters, ranging from 17 to 29, I’m sure glad my daughters felt they have had many options. One went to college and got married. One went to college and is not married – no current prospects. One is in college doing foreign study and travel, and the other is a senior in high school and is contemplating her options. I’m pretty sure they are all pretty aware that they are the only limit to their options.
      Bonnie, I admit I find your comment pretty disrespectful to the women in my life. My wife is not just a girl who had no other options. My daughters aren’t girls who had no other options. I’m very sorry you feel you had no options. I’m sorry you regret your marriage, but you had plenty of options. What you did was make a choice.

  45. VH

    I really love this post! It really touched my heart.

    I’m a 19 year old female inactive member of the church in my second year of college (but not at BYU). It blows my mind to think how my life might have been different if this announcement had been made at the October 2011 general conference. I might be on a mission now because I was still a very strong member then. I’m not sure that necessarily would have been the best choice for me but it’s crazy that I may not have “fallen away” had this been an option. It’s weird to think that if I was still a faithful member of the Church that I would now have some big decisions ahead of me.

    And I feel a sort of “sting” because I feel like there is still some inequality here. This is certainly a step in a progressive direction, and I am happy for that. But I still feel a deep sadness that the Church has replaced what I consider to be an unfair policy with something better but that is still unfair,what with the 2 year/18 month and 18/19 years old distinction between women and men. I know that some people will tell me not to worry about it because the Church is divinely inspired and this must be what God wants, but I cannot picture a just and loving God approving of such blatant inequality. Others have said that practically this is perhaps more equal than it at first appears because plenty of young men will still leave at age 18.5 or 19. And while I am very happy that the consequences of this change will help bridge a gender gap that I perceive in the LDS Church, it is the unequal principle that really hurts.

    • VH

      Your comment really touched me for some reason.

      I am an active member of the church and also call myself a feminist. Let’s just say I have to explain to ward members often why I didn’t take my husband’s name. I served a mission. I got married at 31, and now have a 15 month old baby. This is a challenge as I’m also finishing up a PhD.

      I was super excited about the announcement, but also still a bit miffed about the remaining age difference. I stewed it over for a good while that morning. Are they still trying to get women married off first? Since very few Mormon women are still getting married at 18, I doubt it. Do they want to discourage love interests while on missions? It’s likely part of it, and that’s probably a good thing since it’s distracting from the work.

      But here is the conclusion I came to, and it feels right to me. Having served a mission, I felt that my seniority in years gave me and the other sisters more confidence and autonomy in dealing with the elders who were all younger than me, or the same age. I think that keeping the women a bit older will actually be more empowering to sister missionaries. I was never and still am not one to believe that men having the priesthood means I’m supposed to do everything they say. But, I can imagine the intimidation that would come if most of the elders in leadership positions were 20, while the incoming sisters were 18. Not good.

      As far as time lengths, Elder Holland addressed that question in the press conference Saturday afternoon. He said those discussion are still on the table, but they didn’t want to make so many changes at once. Yes, this is a conservative church–meaning it doesn’t change very quickly. And I think that makes sense for all religion, which is based on maintaining traditions. But i hope it does change in the future so there is real parity.

      I realize that doesn’t take care of the issue of only men having the priesthood. That’s something that I just keep on hold as far as my faith goes. I actually believe that is more of a temporary stricture for this life, which the temple confirms to me. Elder Anderson’s conference talk addressed the notion of staying in the church even if you have questions. I loved that.

      To me it feels like you still have a desire to be in the church somehow. Maybe I’m wrong. But, don’t ever feel like you missed the boat somehow. You can ALWAYS come back. I love that about this church, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is HIS church, not the church of the men who run it.

      All the best to you, and I do hope you find your way back. There is much joy to be had, and actually a fair number of feminists here, too. We could use your support!

      • VH

        Sally G:

        Thank you so much for your comments. They really touched my heart…and brought me to tears! :’)

        I’m glad you pointed out that it is HIS church and not the church of the men who run it. I guess I’m just not sure that the LDS Church is the most true church. I haven’t been able to accept some of the Church’s historical actions but then I remember that prophets back to Old Testament also fell short of the mark. I guess one thing I should consider is that while the Church is not perfect, given that is run largely by people (and we’re all imperfect), it does not mean that I should completely write off the Church itself now. Recently I feel like I’ve found more feminists and liberals within the LDS Church and that helps. :)

        Also, not sure if you’ve seen this but this may be relevant to your interests. I liked the proposed reforms. :) http://www.whatwomenknow.org/all_are_alike/index.html

    • Renee

      Just a little detail: During the press conference, they said they were seriously considering changing the mission lengths for women also, but they decided to take it “one miracle at a time.” So, longer missions for women are in the works!

      • VH

        Thanks for that comment! :) I actually only watched part of the press conference so I should probably finish watching it.

    • Rick

      VH,
      If you have fallen away in a year, I’m not sure you would have been ready for a mission. It’s probably better for you not to have served if your testimony was a fragile. A mission might only have postponed the inevitable. How much worse would it have been to have the trial of your faith while under obligation to serve?
      I would challenge you to find out where equality has ever been a principal of the Gospel. “For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.”
      You still have choices. You can choose to follow the Saviour or not. You can heed Moroni’s promise, and find out if the LDS Church is true or not. Either it is, or it isn’t.

    • VH –
      I am writing you this because I hope you reconsider your activity in the church. I do want to address your issue of inequality. Just because things are different does not mean that they are unequal. In algebra we learn that 2x can equal 7y. They are very different but can be equal. I feel that so many look at women going at 19 and men at 18 as a slight to women. What if we look at it from the approach of the Lord needs Sisters who are mature to help show the Elders how to be more mature? I definitely learned so much on my mission from the Sisters and they helped teach me so many things. Or from a practical approach of having girls and guys who are the exact same age could mean a lot of missionaries thinking they have romantic feelings for each other. Make the men older and that problem persists but make the women older and magically those Sisters aren’t interested in marrying younger men. Look at the statistics of how many men marry older women compared to younger woman and suddenly this principle makes a lot of practical sense :) What if rather than looking at the 18 month and 2 years as a slight to women we see it as men needing more time to learn and the Sisters can have some extra time for their education and that they are more efficient with their time in the mission? If we are constantly looking at things to support our own preexisting ideas then we can not offer unto Christ a broken heart and contrite spirit because we are too busy finding things to be offended over. I think you would be an excellent missionary. Please reach out to your bishop and Relief Society President. They can give you guidance on how you can become strong again and serve a full-time mission if that is what you would like to do. I hope you know that Christ loves you and wants the best for you. It is so easy to find things to be angry or frustrated about. But I think when we feel that way we can go to God and ask him to give us an answer or comfort us. Hope all is well.

      • Lucy

        Your algebra equation is a sad example, sorry to disagree. How many times did we hear “separate but equal” during the Civil Rights Era?? We learned shortlythereafter that separate and equal do not produce equality.

  46. Roger

    I’m interested in seeing what cultural change results from this.

    Right now, there’s an expectation that worthy young men go on a mission. If a young man makes an informed, mature, and legitimate decision that a mission is not for him, he is still stigmatized and often consdered less worthy. I think this often results in many serving a mission who probably should not.

    Will women now face similar pressures?

    • Dennis McCrea

      Roger…thanks for your input. Sincerely. Please permit me to share my thoughts on your thoughts. Serving a mission is a responsibility of a young man’s priesthood or as it is expressed in Handbook of Instructions #2, it is one of the 8 purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood (Handbook #2: 8.1.3). Therefore, it is really not an option…it has been my wife’s and mine experience that as we raised our son, from an early age, he was taught that there are phases in all of our lives and one for each young man in the Church, upon his graduation from high school, was to serve a full time mission. It was his responsibility, duty and joy, just like his responsibility, duty and joy to be a husband and father afterwards. It saddens me to see some young men not taught this prionciple in their homes and in their youth. That it is an optional decision. They miss out on so much in life if they don’t serve missions and in their opportuities to serve later in life, they are in many ways wholly unprepared. That to me, along with the missed opportunites to teach and baptise, is the essence of why the prophets have taught for many years that “Every young man should serve a mission.”

      • Anonymous

        dennis…what if they HAVE been taught that their whole life, you’ve done “all the right things” as a parent and they choose otherwise? Free agency can step in and erase all our work as a parent in a single moment. And we STILL have to love our sons (and daughters) if they make a different pathway in their lives.

    • Rick

      If you listened to the announcement – no. The only difference is the age. Young men have the assignment to go, young women do not. I don’t see that changing. The Lord may have it in His plan, but there has been no indication so far.
      I’m not so sure many women would really desire the same situation as men – the expectation to serve. Throughout his discussion, people have been complaining about the limited options for women, but no one is concerned about the real lack of optionis for young men. If a young man is not ready (for whatever reason) they really are a second class citizen. I joined the Church in high school, and my family was inactive, and I had little support for my participation, much less going on a mission. Yet, I was 19, 20, etc and expected to attend priest quorum meetings and not elders quorum because I hadn’t gone on a mission yet. Believe me, there is no pariah in the Church like a 20 or 21 year old man who hasn’t gone on a mission. You are the last option for marriage prospects. You have to hope for an inactive or new member if you want to date. No matter that I fully participated in institute – I was always considered a less than until I got married. Then suddenly, everything was ok.
      On a side note, I think the discussion is very similar to women serving in the military. Many women want to be able to serve by choice, but I rarely hear them demanding to have the requirement to be registered for the draft. I beieve the phrase is “equal, but not so equal.”

  47. I too sobbed when I heard the announcement, but it wasn’t because of sorrow or regret for my missed opportunities, it was out of gladness for the all the young women who will reap the blessings of being able to plan for a mission just like the young men do. I wasn’t looking for a husband but pursuing an education, excited about all the options available to me, when I met and fell in love with my returned missionary. The decision to get married at a young age unfortunately meant giving up the chance to serve a mission like my brothers did, and I knew it would close other doors to me as well. Marriage, however, opened the door to motherhood. My role as a mother has empowered me, and even when as a full time mother I have felt undervalued by the world, I have always felt important and valued and necessary to the Lord. The goal to one day serve a mission with my husband has been a goal I have had since I was a newly wed and I have raised five children who have made and who will make amazing missionaries but I have never felt inadequate or inferior in my church service because I didn’t serve a mission. I rejoice for what this announcement means for the young women and for families and for the future of the church, but I do not look back with regret or feel shortchanged.

  48. c

    I went on a mission (09-11)…knew I was going the whole time…waited it out until…graduated from college in the meantime, I got a lot of experience in those years that helped me on my mission and after…there was not any stigmatism associated with it (and I think my companions would agree)..came home got married later that year.
    This IS exciting …for my 18 year old sister especially…but maybe this means she will be getting married earlier as well. now instead of waiting until at least 23 to get married she will be probably getting married around 21….if more and more girls were going on missions anyway it makes sense to lower the age…that way they are home sooner.
    anyway really excited about the change, but these women looking in retrospect and saying they would have gone is not always accurate because even when I turned 21 a lot of my friends that we…even at 21 and not married many many girls still choose not to serve…still not sure why

  49. I don’t remember who said it this Gen Conference, but one of the Brethren noted that we need to stop looking to the past in despair, and begin looking forward in hope. This life is just a short period of our eternity, although it seems like a major part, since we cannot remember our premortal past. We all experience the feeling of “what if…” things had been different. We cannot change our own past, where many lost out on potential opportunities. We can, however, look joyfully forward with our daughters and granddaughters, and help them prepare for missions. We can live with them through THIS experience.
    Then, as adults, we can offer to serve more. My wife wished she could have served a mission as a young woman. She did not get that opportunity. However, together we’ve served two local missions, and look forward to the day when we can serve a full time mission together. There are things we can do now, for ourselves, so that we can transcend the past.

  50. manaen

    So, LDS girls grow up, “When you were three or four years old, you learned to stand at and speak from the pulpit. By the time you had turned twelve, you marked your scriptures front to back, and you learned all the doctrine. And when you prayed, you felt alive, you felt important. You realized God was far more important than any of the other tin-can prizes or Prom Queen tinsel your girlhood held for you. Your faith gave you a sense of purpose. A sense that you too could go into the woods like Joseph Smith and get answers. A sense that you too could build up Zion.” Hearing Harold B. Lee’s words, “The most important work you can do is within the walls of your own home.” And through all that were unaware that the Church had this notion that marriage was what care next?

    Do you see anything curious about this pairing? Keep reading until you understand why I do.

    “Coach, put me in–somewhere, anywhere.”
    “But marriage is the last thing on your mind.”

    “Coach, put me in–somewhere, anywhere.”
    But marriage is the last thing on your mind.”

    “I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord. I’ll be what you want me to be.”
    “But marriage is the last thing on your mind.”

  51. Stacy

    Thank you for writing this and for putting into words something I didn’t even know I was feeling. Until I read this, I couldn’t understand why I was so happy, and yet felt such a sense of loss. And suddenly, the world sees so mic more open for my two scripture-wielding girls.

  52. Kimmy

    This is a very exciting announcement for me, however, I never felt like serving a mission was the only way for a young woman to grow and develop herself. I did three semesters abroad while in college, and I believe that I was able to really find myself during those years while my guy friends were serving missions. At nineteen, I don’t know if I would have opted to serve a mission, but I think it is a fantastic option for young women.

  53. rearun

    While I also have some sadness that the option to serve a mission was not available to me at 19, I am so glad it is available to my almost 18 year old daughter. She is soooo excited about the opportunity and I am equally excited for her.
    If the option had been available to me, I definitely would have served a mission. I definitely wouldn’t have been married at 19 1/2 and had my first baby at 21, way too young in my opinion. Like most young women of my generation, I was counseled by well meaning parents, that my first priority was to start a family. I often mourn the loss of my youth and the opportunities I missed as I have watched many of my peers benefit from putting off marriage and motherhood. I see them appreciate and value motherhood much more than I ever have, because they did wait.
    Yes, I may not have married the wonderful man that I did, but who knows, who really knows. In fact, who knows if my life would have turned out any better. That’s why I will only allow myself to mourn for a moment. The past is the past. Now I need to get busy preparing my amazing daughter for the opportunity of a lifetime that I did not have!

  54. Paula

    Oh sisters, there’s no need to grieve for the past. The Lord knows what He’s doing. This news is wonderful because it means (as Elder Holland said) that the Lord is hastening His work, not because of any gender agenda. Reading this made my heart hurt to know that so many of His daughters see their individual worth challenged by the age at which missions are served. The Lord knows our worth and we show Him our love by serving where we are. Remember that Alma wanted to cry repentance to the whole world like an angel, but realized he needed to be content to do the work he could where he was. I started dating my husband only a few months before I planned to start getting my mission papers in. I have no regrets because I sought and felt the Lords guidance in every decision I made. I share the gospel with friends and neighbors and I teach my children. What work could show my commitment to God better than that? We are strongest when we humbly seek and accept the Lord’s will. Please don’t take offense to anything I’ve written, it was all done with no other feeling than love, but it’s hard to type love.

  55. Annika

    I think what this really comes down to is who are you serving a mission for? Are you serving because it brings “power” or “equality” to you as a woman? Or are you serving because you love the Lord with all your might, mind, heart, and strength, and you want to bring your brothers and sisters unto Him? I have been positively elated since the announcement was made, but I do not condemn church leaders for not changing things sooner. I try to trust in the Lord’s timing, even when it is difficult.

  56. I’m sorry, but this doesn’t reflect my experience growing up as a Mormon girl, then becoming a single, 31-year-old, NOT RM, at all. No one ever implied that I should wait around to find a husband. No one ever told me my purpose was to get married. Yes, I know plenty of Mormon girls who have no idea what to do with their lives because they’re waiting for a man to come around, but that is their choice. It is not the doctrine, and it is not the advice of any church leader I’ve ever heard.
    I also never felt like my RM friends had experience I couldn’t get, that I would be better off had I served a mission. If anything, I got annoyed when people implied I hadn’t grown spiritually in the same two years my guy friends were off serving the Lord. I studied my scriptures. I served and learned. I had my own miracles. I took responsibility for my own life, and grew into the woman the Lord wants me to be. Missions are not the only way to do this.
    So, yes, I’m thrilled that the age for sister missionaries has been lowered, because I know many girls who are eager to begin the work, and they will be fantastic missionaries that much sooner. But if you are sad, because you feel you didn’t get this opportunity, because you felt like you had to wait for a man to chose you to have purpose in your life, that was your choice, and not the result of any church policy.
    There is plenty of God in creating an eternal family, in serving them. There is plenty of God in serving wherever you are, in facing whatever challenges you may have with courage and faith. So if you really want to live up to that girl who takes turns at the pulpit and marks her scriptures front to back, take responsibility, make your own choices, trust your leaders, and keep moving forward.

  57. The other side to this that the YW of the Church will be in a better position to find a worthy Husband and Father for their Children. Don’t think that this isn’t likely as many of the great complaints within the Church is there just aren’t enough worthy companions available. The real problem is that the “pools” that we all swim in are often “stocked” unevenly. The shared experiences of Mission Life and the associated reunions for the first few years following the return from service will help our Sisters find worthy companions. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the intent of the opportunity, I am sure, but you can be certain that it will have an impact on both sexes that will return home about the same time and the same age. A win, win for all involved; and the focus once a mission is completed, will meet the Church’s desire for temple worthy families, with parents that can and will teach their children the gospel.

    • Rick

      I’m really not getting your logic here. I don’t believe changing the age that men and women serving will help our Sisters find worthy companions – other than by increasing the number of new members to add to the pool.

    • RT

      This is actually my worry. I am thrilled that the missionary age has been lowered. However, if I look a step deeper I see guys and girls coming home at the same time. They get married (awesome! Marriage is great)- but at this point neither partner has an education. So both are off to college with the leaders of the church saying that waiting to have a family in order to finish your education is essentially bad.

      All of my girlfriends who had babies in college dropped out of college so he could finish. The ones who didn’t took 6-8 years to finish- so much time that in my late 20s I was already a senior executive at a software company. They weren’t even off the dock yet. And they had 3-4 mouths to feed.

      That changes options. And futures. Those are choices, sure, but they are made by kids just out of high school who don’t exactly understand the full list of consequences of following the “don’t delay, have a family today” policy of the church.

      None of this would bother me if there was any support system in place on college school campuses. Why are there not ward groups to help take care of young children? Or hour by hour drop off day care facilities to make sure mom and dad can go to school at the same time.

      I constantly hear- women only need an education in case something happens to their husband. Well, guess what, if something happened to your husband, and you had like no work experience but a degree, you aren’t going to get a decent well-paying job to take care of the kids. But worse, yet, if you don’t have a degree you are relegated to the service industry.

      That is the consequence that I am praying doesn’t come out of this announcement… I hope that when those girls get back from school they will go to school and finish their degree. It is already a problem in the church with girls dropping out- I am so afraid this will make it worse- divinely inspired or not.

  58. Heidi

    I did feel that twinge of sorrow for not having the same opportunity afforded me at 19. But at that very moment, in my heart I knew that my “predicament” as a young woman was exactly what was right for me at the time and for every other young woman in my boat as well. The Lord need not, nor does He ever, adapt His eternal truth to the changes in society. It is us who are evolving, not Him. I know that what has been over the past years, was revealed and practiced as it should have been. I feel just as strongly however, that what is now taking place is exactly what our crazy world needs at this time. A huge flux of missionaries ready and eager to flood the world with the truth of the gospel! It’s nothing personal! It’s just that it’s what needs to happen for the sake of Heavenly Father’s children on the earth at this time. And it’s not a message originating from our church leaders. The author is the Lord, and I trust Him:)

  59. Jennifer

    I am excited about the announcement. Let’s keep in mind, though, how many faithful women in the Church want to get married, and do not have THAT opportunity. I know some women who served missions, but never married, and they feel a sense of loss too. I did serve a mission when I turned 21, and I naturally expected to get married shortly after I returned home. But I’ve waited for years to find the right man. I FINALLY found him, and we will be married soon! He’s been home from his mission many more years than I have looking for the right person. The fact that we found each other is a miracle. I can relate to the thousands of amazing, beautiful women who pray daily and work hard to find an eternal companion. Finding a man you want to marry is a MIRACLE! Many women desire to have children, but cannot. Having children is a MIRACLE! Don’t take these things for granted. We all have different paths in life. There will always be something in life we did not get to experience, but look at how many experiences the Lord has customized just for us. We are ALL on missions right now. I think every season of life is like a different mission. Right now, I’m back in school and I feel like I’m on another mission. Soon, I will get married and have children, and that will be the start of new mission. I think this is just another wonderful day to count the blessings we HAVE received. Joy in the journey!

  60. Derek

    I apologize in advance if I missed some of the follow-up comments that may touch on the same points I will make, as I felt I should comment before reading them all. I also apologize if these points hurt feelings. This is not my intent, and I am choosing my words carefully.

    1. Women everywhere, in or out of the Church, married or not, can and do answer many spiritual and secular questions for themselves regardless of whether they have served missions.
    2. I am excited for this change, because I think we will see a drastic increase in sister missionaries who actually want to serve missions. Too many times, there are sister missionaries that go for the wrong reasons (many of which have been mentioned in previous comments). This certainly doesn’t mean that many young men haven’t done the same. Such cases underscore the difference between duty and privilege.
    3. President Monson, and others, spoke of the fact that serving a full-time mission is a duty for all worthy and able Priesthood holders. Our duties as men and women are explained further in The Family: A Proclamation to the World. So, yes, if you have the opportunity to build the kingdom of God on this earth by establishing a home with a righteous Priesthood holder–return missionary or no–do it! There is honor in that, and any man or woman that thinks otherwise probably ought not to be called on a mission.
    4. Like it or not, we don’t get a vote, and we ought to be careful about how and when and with whom we share our opinions. There is much yet to learn (read “I have much yet to learn”) from Elder Holland’s conference talk, especially with regard to loyalty as the defining trait of true disciples. If we can’t forego a mission to establish a righteous home, then what does that say about our loyalty?

  61. chris

    When I called my mom to tell her about the announcement, she said, “good, maybe our church will make it into the 20th century before the 21st century is over.” She’s a bit sarcastic at times, but really she was very happy. My poor mom; she was born at least 30 years too early. SHe was quite the mormon feminist for her time though. It’s because of women like her that i could go to medical school, feeling comfortable that was the path God wanted for me, despite the raised eyebrows I got at church. And my sister could wait 3 years before leaving on her mission at age 21, because she knew more than anything since she was little that she wanted to serve a mission, despite other peoples expectations. So thank you to all the feminist mormon women that have gone before me.
    I feel like this policy change, that may not seem that big to some, will make a big difference in the lives, feelings of self worth and equality to a whole new generation of women. IT really could open the flood gates of opportunities that they wouldn’t even have known existed. Even if they don’t chose to serve missions, it could change peoples’ mindsets about what is expected/accepted, especially if they didn’t grow up with a mom as outspoken as mine (not to mention a dad that believes in total equality between men and women, and doesn’t believe in gender roles- an unorthodox family I guess)

  62. Martin Vaughan

    As a father of 3 daughters, I also jumped for joy when my wife texted me the announcement. In our home we have always focused on the personal spiritual growth and opportunity for service that a mission will bring, and I try to make it an expectation for my girls just as if I was raising boys, NEVER a “plan B!”
    I appreciate there are some women who will ask “what if” and might feel a sense of loss for themselves, but without wishing to lecture you, I want to point out that there were choices under the old policy too. If as a woman it was really important to you to serve a mission and that was priority number one in your life, then you would have served. period. but you had to weigh those priorities and if it wasn’t the right course for you to wait until 21 to serve, you chose differently. You got married or you finished your education, embarked on a career, etc. Let’s just all acknowledge that we have choices and we’re in charge of our destinies, not this or that church policy.

  63. JP

    Does anyone else wonder whether/in what ways this will change the educational patterns of the young women of the Church? I am a fan of the change, and I think it will prompt a lot of the positive changes that many hope for. But I do worry that what will happen is that the accepted pattern for young women will become work–>mission–>marriage–>babies. Will higher education will become less of a priority for our women? Will missions begin to take the place of college as the rite of passage?

    Don’t get me wrong–I think missions can be extremely educational and motivational, and college can sometimes perpetuate immaturity and selfishness. And I think marriage and motherhood are extremely important.

    But where does education fit in? Are we going to support our young women as they begin college at age 20 or 21? Are we going to tell them that even if they’re not done at age 24 or 25 and are married and beginning to have kids, they should still stick it out and graduate? Or are we going to send a message that college is optional for women at that point because by age 24 they should be exclusively focused on having children? I just hear people saying things like “You’re 25, and your biological clock is ticking, and you’ve had enough self-focused experiences. Time to stop being selfish and focus on your children.”

    Convincing some of our young women of how essential education is for them is already difficult. And the studies show that women benefit from *finishing* college, not just starting it. I really hope this won’t make it more difficult to encourage women to be committed to getting all the education they can get.

  64. Emily E Robertson

    Mrs. Brooks, your understanding of the role of a wife and mother reflects the world’s cynical/limited view of it more than it does what the gospel teaches is true. You say, “The last thing you want is to be registering for housewares and picking out one-wearing dresses. There’s no God in housewares. There’s no God in one-time dresses.” I’m sorry if housewares and dresses are what marriage and family meant to you. God is in my life as a homemaker/mother/wife/daughter more than he has been in anything else I have done in my life. I am “the girl who has been taking turns at a pulpit since she was four. [I am] the girl with scriptures marked back to front. [I am] the girl who fasts on weekdays and prays just because you like the way it feels. And [I] want to go to work in the field that [I] know best. The only [I wouldn't say only] one you really love—your faith.” I put those skills and that experience to work every day shaping the lives and building the potential of the children the Lord has sent into our lives. I do want to be “useful” and even though society (and seemingly you) look down upon it, it is the best job on earth. And though everyone’s path is different and everything has its time and place, it IS even better than serving a mission (Will you let this post be up? I’m a little shocked that no comments are left here except those who whole-heartedly agree with you.)

    • Rick

      Emily,
      In all fairness, I don’t think I’m aware of any posts that Ms Brooks has taken down. I know my posts have generally been in opposition to the general consensus, and they remain. I’ve seen other posts that are in disagreement. I think the volume of agreements reflects the primary audience. I know most active members I know wholeheartedly avoid this site because of Ms Brooks stance. I personally value the exchange of ideas and feel it’s important to understand why some members feel so disenfranchised.

  65. Certainly if you wanted to go, you should’ve and could’ve gone. I know plenty of strong female missionaries that chose missions, and whenever I counseled with priesthood leaders I was always urged to pray about it and make a personal decision for myself. A mission isn’t about proving yourself to be equal with men, and certainly heavenly father doesn’t need you to serve a mission to prove that point to him. Regret can be difficult, but all pain can be healed with the help of the savior. You will never be truly fulfilled or happy in life unless you know your own purpose.

  66. Rick

    As I’ve participated in this thread, I can’t help but be reminded of Alma 32. “What shall we do?—for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God. Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only?”
    If we are waiting around for Church calls to serve, then we are indeed slothful and not wise servants. Called to serve a mission or not, we are still called to serve. Lift where you stand.

  67. Lauren Wilkes

    While reading your take on this article, I empathize with your feelings of loss for what could have been AND I also want to sympathetically grab your face, point it towards a mirror and say, “This is the person who held you back.” Why couldn’t you play metaphorical “soccer”? The only limitations placed on you are the walls inside of your mind. Being set apart as a fulltime missionary is not the only way to be put in the game and it is DEFINITELY not the only opportunity for missionary work, spiritual growth, or personal development. The past few years, I have had so many unique and bizarre member-missionary experiences, some of which had me second guessing my prayers for missionary opportunities, and all of which have changed me. Why look at life and see what we can’t or couldn’t do when there is so much that we CAN do that is overwhelming? I don’t have time to think about what I can’t/couldn’t do. I’m way too busy with “right now.” We are always useful to God and, in my experience, He has no difficulty finding heavenly errands for us to do.

  68. Lipton

    Thank you so much for this piece, both to B.A. for the question and Joanna for the wonderful, heartfelt, eloquent answer. The missionary age announcement made me cry but this post literally made me sob last night when I first read it.

    It was this line, in particular, that made me break down: That’s a confusing place for a Mormon girl who has been taking turns at a pulpit since she was four, and has her scriptures all marked up, and just wants to be in it with God. Because God was her first love, and may always be her best.

    Because that’s such a perfect encapsulation of my life, too. And such a beautiful aritculation of why I loved being a missionary so much and the reason why I’ve been left with such an emptiness for the ten+ years since it ended. I was called to that work and I’m still looking for something, anything, to take its place.

    So thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for saying what I’ve been feeling for so long. Just, thank you.

  69. Carlyn

    Your post makes me incredibly sad for you in many different ways. You are correct that this is a wonderful opportunity for young women in the church to experience a mission and the many wonderful things that come with that, however I feel that your core message is entirely off base.

    You say that your faith gave you a sense of purpose at a young age, that’s wonderful. My question is how did that sense of purpose suddenly disappear when you got to BYU? If marriage was the last thing on your mind then don’t focus on it. You don’t suddenly stop talking to God because you don’t go on a mission. He’s never seemed to have that requirement for me to speak with him. If you felt like marriage wasn’t right for you at that time talk it out with Heavenly Father and plan a different course of action.

    There are plenty of things young women in the church can focus on besides marriage. We have had countless prophets tell us the importance of education, young girls can go to college with the expectation of finishing college and getting the most out of that college experience as possible. There’s nothing that says just because a returned missionary flashes a pretty white smile at girls that means they have to comply. If marriage doesn’t feel right to them then don’t focus on it, it’s as simple as that.

    I keep hearing women talk about the “pressure from the church to get married at a young age” which is crazy to me. Since when did strong Mormon women let any one but them and God decide what is right for them? If you have a conviction that marriage isn’t right for you at a certain age then have the backbone to stand up for that conviction and live what you believe. As for waiting for your answers from your husband, I’m not sure where you got that idea from but I certainly have no intention of waiting for my husband to tell me if something is wrong or right for me. I have always talked directly to Heavenly Father and I intend to keep doing so.

    As for young men suddenly becoming spiritual giants and women feeling inferior to them, I STRONGLY disagree. If you are the girl with your scriptures marked from front to back how on earth did these young men become spiritual giants to you? Young women have every opportunity to become spiritual giants if they choose to. They can study their scriptures just as much as young men on missions do and pray to Heavenly Father for missionary experiences if that’s what they feel they need. The action of simply going on a mission doesn’t make a man a spiritual giant, it’s what he allows the Lord to teach him that affects his spiritual growth and that’s something that can happen in the mission field or in a classroom at BYU. I somehow doubt that if you were to put an RM in a conversation with college aged Julie B. Beck that she would have felt inferior to him.

    It saddens me a great deal that you don’t seem to feel that your roles as a woman in this church, a mother, and a wife are useful. In my eyes those are the three most useful roles you can have. You get to experience the divine power that being a woman of God entails. You get the opportunity to love, care for, and mold the next generation into God’s loving, faithful, wonderful disciples. You get to help them form their testimony at a young age, help them search for their own conviction of the truth of this church. You have the privilege of leading their curious young minds towards the love of our savior, and that’s just a few things that are a part of being a mother. I didn’t even touch on all the wonderful things that go along with being a wife and a women in this church. How those roles are not considered useful is mind boggling to me.

    You are correct that going on a mission might have changed your path, it most likely would have. You are also correct to think that it might have changed everything, it very well might have done that as well. So the next time you feel sad or cheated that you didn’t go on a mission and wonder what it would have changed, look at your daughter playing soccer, look at your family around the dinner table, think about when your kids give you hugs and tell you they love you and just remember that they might not have been here as a result of that change.

    • mmm9243

      I agree that we should not look at our past in such a way that encourages us to resent our past and present families. Honestly I have known many Mormon girls that were such effective member-missionaries even though they never went on the 18 month missions and to be honest, their “baptism count” was probably a lot higher to date than mine related to my actual service. If I learned anything at all on my mission it was that living the gospel in day-to-day life prepares people to accept/share the gospel.

  70. Jessica

    I very much relate to the bitter-sweetness of Saturday morning’s announcement. I found myself saying “I would have gone” and I had every opportunity at 21. At 25, I’m just barely facing marriage, and yep it still scares me. My only statement is that I disagree with how your article portrays only two options. I agree that in Mormon culture it feels as if there are two options… get married, or wait it out to serve a mission, but I would argue that is the culture talking, and not the gospel. I am one of the many who are lucky enough to come from a home filled with gospel teachings, not just Mormon culture. I remember feeling confused and pressured when I graduated college… what am I supposed to do now? My loving mother had the perfect, gospel centered answer for me; “Live. Go to school. Find out who you are.” And so I did. I went to school, I had the awkward “do I really date the returned missionary old man” thoughts, I was active in my ward, and got involved in my callings. I lived how I always had lived. It wasn’t always easy, but when is life easy? I shared the gospel when I could. I graduated from college and started a career. I occasionally glared back at people thinking I was off the deep end for being 22 and unmarried AND not on a mission. Because when the time came, I had decided that I was on a roll with life. I faced some heartbreak, but I challenged myself to live on a level equal to any returned missionary. At 25, I found my returned missionary, and we’re going to be married in the temple soon. One of the things he says he loves about me, is that I lived while I waited for him to come along. I didn’t lose myself in the cultural stigma that I was supposed to be married. I lived and loved the gospel. I followed the counsel of the prophet and got the best education that I could. I am so excited for the career switch to mom, when that time comes, but for now… I am an unwed 25 year old Mormon woman. I love my life, and the gospel, and I despite cultural stigmas… I know I am right where I’m supposed to be.

    • mmm9243

      I agree that the culture and usually not the leaders specifically are more to blame for any stigmatization of young single adults who are not actively seeking marriage or mission opportunities. In my case I never felt like I was out of options. I also knew intuitively that I was and still am a late bloomer in all aspects of life. So I went to school, had some struggles in some classes, lost a scholarship, was accepted into a 2 yr program and then put on academic probation, and then finally graduated with 3.whatever-number-greater-it-was-back-then GPA at the age of 22. I then went on an 18 month mission where supposedly only the sick, stupid, not beautiful missionaries go….(the otherwise very trustworthy person who told me that was careful to say that I did not fit that apparent stereotype, but in my cynical passive-aggressiveness I probably became more that way during my mission.) I was not the “best” missionary that I had always dreamed of being, but I definitely know I would not have handled the pressure as well had I been my 18 yr old self. There are some moments where I wished I would have just been myself instead of trying to emulate the more overbearing style of my trainer (who was an excellent, effective, and very successful missionary). Some of my best memories are the times we helped build and clean up a new house. I did not quit despite my emotional and intellectual misgivings about the whole thing as time wore on and I even witnessed a few miracles. Some of these miracles have not played out perfectly in the long-term scheme of things, but life is as much what we put into it as what we get out of it.

  71. My mission changed my life for good and for always. No question. I was a different woman serving at 21 than I would have been at 19, no question. Probably better prepared. The waiting was, in its way, sanctifying and preparatory. Having said that, however, I see this change as an open door for more women to serve. That can only be a good thing. Our young women will finally be able to stop seeing mission vs. marriage as a dichotomy. There is no more choosing between Plan A and Plan B. There is no more relegating the mission to being merely Plan B. In just one weekend my friends report subtle changes in the way they are approaching and parenting their daughters (I only have sons). Our YW will finally gain its proper focus toward ongoing personal revelation. Our Church will be stronger for this. For good and for always. No question.

  72. I find this post interesting and disturbing at the same time. Some have posted that they felt the same, while others have said that these feelings come more from the culture than the Gospel. I agree with the latter statement. Women do not have only two options. I served a mission when I was 23, finished two college degrees, traveled around the world, started my own business, and met and married my eternal companion at the age of 42. If you are feeling inadequate next to the RMs, the question to ask isn’t “Why wasn’t I allowed to go on a mission when I was 19?” but rather “What should I be doing to deepen my spirituality and grow closer to Heavenly Father?” Am I glad that I served a mission? Yes. But I also won’t have children of my own (my husband has three whom I love deeply, but they also already have a mother), or know what it’s like to struggle together financially. I also have a sister who was getting ready to serve a mission when she met her husband. She didn’t go at 21, but she’s the mother of three amazing young men who have all served missions. She has been the Relief Society and Young Women president in her various wards, served with amazing insight and understanding of the Gospel. She and her husband plan on serving a mission together when they’ve retired. I asked her if she’s ever regretted not going on a mission as a young adult, and her answer was that your life is what it is. Looking back at What Ifs is a loosing game that only hurts your attitude and makes you angry at something you can’t change. It’s not that you don’t learn from the past, but dwelling on “missed” opportunities means that you’re missing out on what you gained from your actual experiences.

    And women young and old who don’t serve missions shouldn’t place RMs on a pedestal. It’s lonely and precarious. None of us is perfect. Serving a mission doesn’t automatically transform you into a spiritual giant. You have to work at it while you are serving. You have to keep working on it once you’re home. Life on a mission or off a mission is about working on your relationships, both Heavenly and earthly.

  73. Danielle

    If the option had been available, I have no doubt that I would have served at 19 instead of 22. I know that it would have been a lot easier–at that age, I was still quite idealistic and full of desire and very innocent. However, I cannot find words to express to you how grateful I am that I served when I did! Yes, it was incredibly difficult. Yes, there were people who judged me for making the decisions that I made. Yes, it is difficult to now be in my mid-twenties in a place with few dating opportunities. But I would not trade it for the world. My life experience, my education, and my maturity enabled me to be an incredibly effective missionary. There is no way that I could have accomplished what I did if I had been a teenager. There is no way I would have appreciated the experience as much if I had been a teenager. As I grew in the gospel, I had a broader life context in which to apply that understanding. In short, both I and the people I worked with were benefited by my maturity.

    The point that I am trying to make is that no matter what era we grew up in–whether it was when there were very few Sisters or now when there will no doubt be many–the Lord has been mindful of our specific situations and led us on the path that was right for us. No matter what that path has been, there will always be moments when we envy the blessings or others. Please realize that your comments about “regretting” your young marriage may be very hurtful to women who had the privilege of serving missions, but may still be waiting for the blessing of marriage and motherhood.

    I am thrilled for the girls who can new serve missions at a younger age; I am so happy that I served my mission when I did.

  74. I have mixed feelings about this post. i understand the desire to serve and I am all for the opportunity to go at an earlier age. I feel sad that some feel that just because you get married you rely on your husband for spiritual things. I married young, bad idea but that’s a different story. I receive my own spiritual witnesses. I learn for myself. I wouldn’t mind my husband teaching me something, but he’s a convert and generally inactive and wishy washy about the gospel. I know there are a lot others like me out there. Even women with strong priesthood holders for husbands learn for themselves and receive their own spiritual witnesses. That has always been the case. If you’re not then maybe you should start doing something about it. You can’t get a testimony from anyone else. I have seen many miracles, I have seen many answers to prayers, my heart has been filled to overflowing with the spirit and I have never been on a mission. I don’t regret not going on one. I wasn’t ready to go on one when I was younger, I didn’t have a desire and it was not because I did not have a testimony. I do think about it for when I’m older.

    I have seen beautiful sister missionaries out there… so it had nothing to do with being too ugly to marry. These boys who think like that need to grow up. One sister I know is absolutely gorgeous. Maybe she was just looking for the right guy instead of the first one to come along. I ‘m sure she met plenty of guys. She had enough confidence and spirituality to make sure she married the right one.

    I am 40+ and when I was in young women I didn’t even think about I need to be married by a certain age. I thought about education. Yeah there are those out there with that mindset. My grandpa made a comment once about my cousin not being married and she was 24! I couldn’t believe it. But for those who do think like that the majority do not.

    For those who do marry younger and have children does not make them baby breeders. They don’t just live to make babies. They have brains and they work hard and study to raise their children properly and teach them correct gospel principles. I am embarrassed that there are sisters who feel that way about other sisters in the church. Having children is another way of serving the Lord whether you have 1 or 10. It is a personal choice and no one should feel bad if they have 0, 3 or 12.

  75. holli

    I can see what you’re saying here–and I have to admit that I felt something similar when I heard the announcement. But overall, I feel like this is really over-dramatic. Also, I don’t really appreciate the stereotype of a young Mormon girl’s experience that you’ve painted here. It just doesn’t resonate with me.

    No one ever encouraged me to get married before I was 21. In fact, I was most often encouraged to get married older than younger. I never really understood the age gap between men and women that served missions, but I always assumed that they just didn’t want same-age young women serving out there with the 19-year-old boys (could be distracting for them, right?). Not exactly FAIR, but it never bothered me. After all, a mission is first and foremost a priesthood MANDATE. I still had the OPPORTUNITY to serve. I just had to wait until the proper age.

    I could’ve served at the age of 21, but unfortunately, I just didn’t prepare. Suddenly I was 21, then 22, and I just felt that I might as well finish my degree and then see what to do. During that year, I met my husband–just returned from his mission and a year younger than I.

    I think if I had the opportunity to serve at 19, I would’ve started preparing earlier–rather than letting school crowd all my options. But I honestly have no regrets about how my life has played out. I spent those years while my husband was on his mission getting a degree, studying abroad, traveling, and completing my education. I have had incredible experiences that he will NEVER have because he served a mission and got married soon after. Now I can work and support HIM through school, and I see that as a valuable contribution. While I did not serve a mission, I did have opportunities to serve in a few relief society presidencies in my student wards and as a Young Women teacher in a Spanish branch in London (while I was studying abroad). I also see those as valuable contributions to the work of the gospel. The coach still put me in the game.

    You don’t have to go on a mission to be a missionary. Still, I do hope that the girls of the next generation will use this opportunity to start preparing earlier for missionary service. I know they will do great things out in the mission field.

  76. d.

    I don’t know if this has already been addressed, but why do women still have to wait until 19 instead of serving at 18? It still frustrates me.

  77. Did anyone watch the press conference after the Saturday morning session? Elder Holland said something that I think is a good reminder after seeing everyone’s comments here.

    He said, “God is hastening His work. And He needs more and more willing and worthy missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to an often dark and fearful world.

    This is not about you.

    It is about the sweet and pure message you are being asked to bear.”

    While I agree with the majority of this post, I have had the overwhelming feeling that what many people have started focusing on is how this is going to affect the Mormon population. Those are things that of course can be speculated and discussed, but they are far from the purpose of this change. This change is not about marriage age, feminism, social expectations, practicality or convenience. It is about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ and meeting the demands that the world has for the furthering of missionary work. It’s about bringing our brothers and sisters into the Kingdom of God on earth. While it’s fine to discuss these obvious implications on our sons, daughters, friends, etc., I hope we’re not forgetting that this is not really about us. It’s about sharing the gospel of Christ – and that is the most important implication of all.

  78. Thank you so, so much for this post. I am glad I am not the only one who has been feeling this way. My friends and family were making me feel like an apostate for being so upset over the whole thing. I’m happy for everyone else, just sad for me. I posted about it here: http://sharethesong.blogspot.com/2012/10/lds-missionary-age-change-and-regrets.html if anyone is interested.

    Seriously. This post is awesome. I am so glad to not be alone.

  79. Shantel

    How about the serving in the Gospel, and being a diciple of Jesus Christ is not about you? How about that Jesus Christ literally heads this Church and is it HIS. He knows what he is doing, and maybe you don’t know as much as you think you do. I dont know an organization that honors Women more than this Gospel. I don’t know of an organization that champions the cause of Women more than this Gospel. I have felt more valuable and useful and whole through the Atonement of Jesus Christ than in any other role in my life. When I focus on HIM, not my selfish desires to be acknowledged. My focus on him has taught me that he is honored by my life, he is humbled when I pray, and he loves me, and has profound respect for me and for every ounce of everything I do. I learned those things through the structure of this Church. It is everything. Lose yourself -THEN you find yourself. Until then, you will continue to hurt, you will continue to be restless, and you will continue to see things as unfair. You don’t get it. That is opression.

  80. Kris

    I went on a mission when I was 23. My brothers went at 20 and 22. The age of eligibility is simply one of eligibility. Period. Particularly for girls it is imperative that we encourage young women to seek the Lords counsel in determining their life paths. I really wanted to go on a mission at 21- but that wasn’t the Lords plan for me.

    That said I’m really disappointed by the number of posts about women feeling marriage was the only path. I hate to say it but I never ever felt pressure to get married until I spent a summer in UT. And that’s pretty big considering I dated my husband for six years before we got married and I broke up with him to go on a mission. The LDS church I was raised in taught me to put God first, that my education was critical, to establish myself in a way that should anything happen to my husband I could financially care for my family, to be vocal in politics and community, and to reach my fullest potential. Reaching my full potential surely included a celestial marriage and fAmily but I was never taught that was my sole potential. I believe that the idea girls should grow up for the sole purpose of
    Marriage is a pervasive idea in Mormon culture but not in the Gospel. I actually always appreciated that girls could go at 21. It prevented peer pressure for girls to go on a mission. I love the change but I worry that too many girls will just go on a mission because they can. Not to say that’s not ok bc I think everyone should go on a mission but girls aren’t specifically called to go. Bc the age change will make it easier to go I fear some women who choose not to go will fall under a different ridiculous stigma than the one referenced for going on a mission now.

  81. dollyanna

    God bless you, Mormon girl. The universe led me to this blog when the crisis began, ….

    and my oh my was it agonizing.

    Thank you.
    I have sisters and friends who would’ve served for sure

    .

  82. Mommcc

    I knew I would find others thinking the same thing as me when I came to this site. I am so glad to know I’m not just crazy, selfish, wanting of status, or in some other way unrighteous for the thoughts and feelings I have always had about these issues. I was so glad to hear the announcement but also felt guilty for wondering why girls are told we are “different” as a reason for having less opportunities than men. Here, we are finally given the opportunity young men have had for yesrs but only as now it is not sufficient for them and they are given an additional priviledge of going younger. I have a strong testimony and love the gospel and I’m not saying the general authorities of the church aren’t speaking for God, it’s just that being men I don’t know that they can understand what women go through and I think that answers don’t necessarily come unless they are sought.
    I saw my husband, then boyfriend off when he left on a mission and had always wanted to serve. It would’ve been great for both of us and our future family if I could have done that. Instead I did some other but not as important things like school and studying abroad. The road just seemed too long to leave once he was finally home. It was my choice of course but harder to make happen and didn’t seem practical at the time. I have always wished it was more of a viable option.
    I am ecstatic that my three daughters will now have a mission as a possibility without feeling the risk of foregoing marriage by waiting so long. They won’t feel it is less important for them to contribute and to have the growth and opportunity that a mission brings. They also hopefully won’t feel lost in the shuffle as all the young men they know are leaving and having these great experiences.
    I understand many women and men haven’t felt or thought these things, that is wonderful, but there are obviously many who have felt somehow less loved and like fewer opportunities for women and girls just isn’t right.

  83. Kevin R

    Maybe I missed it, or maybe I just don’t understand, but when did being a missionary become the only qualification for being useful in the church. This article makes it seem that if you are an LDS woman that you only have two options: 1) get married at some young age (18-20ish) or 2) wait, suppressed, until you can finally qualify at the age of 21 to be of use to God’s work and that this new policy has somehow freed LDS sisters. I call BS, I call it loud and clear. I have served as a missionary and I can tell you that as useful as I felt there (and I felt pretty useful) nothing, I repeat NOTHING, I felt on the mission came close to comparing to how useful I can be as a normal member. Did I learn how to be effective and “grow up” a bit on the mission, yes, but this “usefulness” stint is ridiculous. Service in the church come from “normal” members being there for and serving other people, and who is better at that than the sister? It almost seems that this lady, and many other sister who I have talked to in the church, put missionary service on a pedestal that it doesn’t deserve. Don’t get me wrong, missionary work holds great respect in my eyes, but it is NOT in anyway shape or form the best form of service a person in the church can give. The best service, the most needed work, the very purpose of the church is to help people to get back to God. Yes, missionaries do that, but who do you think is more effective, a 19 year old who serves for 2 years baptizes a handful of people, 1/2 of who go inactive in the first 6 months and never return, or the strong, scripture marked, woman who (married or not) teaches everyone who she meets that she has value from God, and that her worth is not determined by accomplishments or by achievements? What does the world need more? What does God need more? Your life is not defined by whether or not you went on a mission, it is defined (in my mind) by your dedication to what you know is right. So my advice to the author of this article, and anyone who feels their heart hurting like she does is to stop crying and to get out there and stop worrying about if you served a mission or not and live EVERY day (not just the 730/548 days of a mission) dedicated to God, and as a useful servant.

  84. LW

    I think one of the points not being raised is this: How many young men are lost from missionary service between their 18th and 19th year? Is it possible that many go astray from lack of direction or trouble they encounter at school while they wait to turn 19. I am not certain of the answer, but I do know the percentage of young men serving continues to lessen.

  85. LW

    I meant to add this thought – One of the best teachings about equality/ inequality and something that could be helpful for this thread is explained in Matthew 20: 1-16.
    Many times our understanding of teachings, circumstances, wages, or whatever seems unfair. I believe the Lord explains that all will be fair because it will be judged by Him. Time to have some faith…

  86. Joanna,
    Thank for perfectly explaining this slice of the Mormon woman experience. I am emailing this to my mom, posting it on Facebook, printing it out to send to my sister on a mission, making my husband read it, and saving it in a special place to share with my 3-yr-old daughter in many years.
    Hopefully much of it will sound foreign to her.
    Thank you.

  87. Laura C.

    I don’t have time to read all 158 comments so this may be a repeat….I am happy about this change in the guidelines–for men and women. But I don’t understand this article at all…all the pining for God being Joanna’s first–and best!–love. But, Joanna, why didn’t you go on a mission when when you could, at 21? Seems inconsistent to me. Some of us had the same experience as you: marking our scriptures up, praying to God, reading the Book of Mormon as young teens…and then we applied and served at 21.

  88. Jamie

    As a 30 year old woman I don’t see this the way you do. Yes I’m glad women can go on missions and I too had papers taped to my wall in college. Seriously though reading all these posts these women who sobbed, or said they had to feel equal to men. WOW! Get some self esteem. That isn’t the reason to serve a mission, it isn’t about YOU. Its about others and God. Now this article has been posted on CNN and people think we view women as less than equal in our church. The fact that you would even suggest anger towards a decision made by the prophet because it didn’t come soon enough for you tells me you think everything should center around you. POOR ME SYNDROME. Toughen up ladies. I was the youngest person to climb the ladder to a Fortune 500 company I was next in line to gain the top spot and I chose to step down and raise a family. The fact that you say women will “have more choices” implies that our whole life was hinged on an age of going on a mission. You make of life what it is. You can sit around and think oh I can’t do this, or this won’t happen because this is happening right when I want it too, or you can be happy with what choices you have. Its like me sitting around thinking I can’t believe I don’t have the $$$ to go study abroad and until someone gives me the money I have no choices. No I can get a job earn money and make my dream come true. No one said you had to get married they only said that is what you should do. No one tied your arm and made you do anything. Everything is your decision along with God. IF you had prayed like you were supposed to it would have been a decision between you and God. If he told you there would be someone waiting for you when you finished you mission then it wouldn’t matter what the church said. If he said you were to find a man and get married then that is your answer. IF you chose not to go on the mission when the answer was Yes and you just didn’t want the stereotype of being “Ugly” then you had a lack of self esteem that I deem probably was also to frail to complete a mission anyhow. The choice was always there and it was always yours quit blaming the church.

  89. I stop by this blog on occasion, usually when someone in Sunday school says something to remind me that I’m living in Utah. I hadn’t intended to read this post, I skipped by it at first, but then I came back. And as I read your response I could see myself in it so much that I just started crying. I was that girl who at 18 and 19 wanted to serve a mission. And then life got in the way and at 20 I was married to a nonmember and pregnant and the thought of a mission was a passing pain in the back of my mind. The thought of something that could have been. My first thought when I heard of the age change (I missed that part going from work to my parents to grab my kids then home to watch the rest of conference) was that it was going to make it easier for men and women to go on missions. I even asked my almost 19 year old sister if she was planing to go. I’ve never given up on the thought of a mission (there’s a sister in my stake who just went in her 60′s, a benefit afforded to women and not men). I just love the idea that “life” won’t get in the way as much. That the yearning and desire to share something that you love and know so much about and care for in a away that makes you feel happy and full and peaceful at the same time never goes away. I don’t think I realized how much I needed to know that there are other women out there that felt the same way. I think it’s like when I first got pointed towards this blog and I felt like I wasn’t alone in the world anymore.

  90. Reblogged this on Do this in remembrance of me and commented:
    I cried when I read this post. It was me in so many ways. I know it probably wont mean the same to others, but to me it helped in a way I didn’t realize I needed/

  91. Kelsey

    I can understand and appreciate the feelings of loss expressed (and I think we could all stand to have some compassion on our feelings more often), but I was really bothered by the idea that the church somehow teaches that marriage is our sole purpose after age 18 and that as we age we should think we need a man to get to God. The doctrines of the church are not that, and they never have been. And if it seems like they are, it’s not because that’s what God (or the prophets or the apostles) are teaching – it’s either our own misunderstanding or that of people around us (which is too often the case). Although I served a mission and am eternally grateful I did, I’m also really grateful I didn’t go at 19 – I wasn’t ready yet. If someone felt it was more important for their life and destiny to get married or continue school than to serve a
    mission, I submit it as my opinion that it likely would have been that way no matter what. I don’t think I would have felt right about going on a mission until the time I did, no matter what the age requirements were. And if a person was meant to get married during that time, they always were. God knows what journey each of us are meant to be on, and the fact that you didn’t get the chance to serve a mission at 19 – although it understandably could cause feelings of regret – probably means it wasn’t meant to be – or the age requirements would have been changed earlier. God was aware of you then, and if He meant for you to go, you would have been guided to it and not to the place you were guided.

    It also bothers me that the article and many of the responses don’t seem to account for the divinity of family life. Ministering to our families stretches the soul in ways a mission never will and never could. Yes, it was challenging to learn to love someone and live with them 24/7 that I had never met before, but that was going to end!! Be it 6 weeks or 4 months, that constant union WOULD end. I could never have learned about charity, patience, long-suffering, faith, and endurance from my companions the way I learn from my husband as we face mutual and individual trials together, forever. God puts us into whatever circumstances we need to be to learn those attributes – mission or not, married or not, kids or not. After three and a half years of infertility in a church that lauds motherhood, I definitely wish I had children, but I think right now God needs me to learn how to love my husband and myself more perfectly before I take on that monumental task.

    I guess what I am saying is that perhaps what we need to consider more than how unfair God’s ways seem to be, is what it is He intends for us to learn from those ways. It can seem awfully unfair to me that God gives children to faithless, insensitive, and immature teenagers and not to me, but that is His will at the moment, and there must be something I can learn from it, something I will be better off if I learn. And that’s not to say that the process isn’t sometimes discouraging and difficult and makes me question my worth, but I know that’s not the fault of God for not giving me children or the fault of the prophets and apostles for teaching us that the nurture and rearing of children is divine. It’s just my imperfect faith and understanding rubbing shoulders with my trials, and as that happens, I grow. And I find as I look back on the last three years, I am so grateful that I don’t have children – not because it isn’t a divine work, one in which I have often thought, “I’m ready, why doesn’t the coach put me in?”, but because it hasn’t been right for me. It has taken a lot of soul-searching to come to this place, but I think God means for us to search our souls in these moments. If this is troubling you, take it to God. He’s the only one of us who sees the whole picture, and I have found that, over process of time, He lets me see enough of my picture that I can bear the heartache I feel. I think most of the women who read this know it, but I think we all need reminders sometimes of the things we know that are deeper down than what we feel at the moment. Good luck and God bless you in your struggles.

  92. Ashley

    Thanks I really needed that.

  93. Monika

    What is the oldest age young women can go on mission?

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