This Option is Now Available: Younger Ages for Missionary Service

Temple Age Options

During the October 2012 General Conference, President Monson made the unexpected announcement that eligibility for missionary service would be open to younger ages. This is the relevant wording:

“I am pleased to announce that effective immediately, all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of age 19. I am not suggesting that all young men will—or should—serve at this earlier age. Rather, based on individual circumstances, as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available.”

There have been further explanations of the policy and plenty of explorations on Mormon blogs about the ripple effects of the change. I don’t have much more to add, but I do have one thing to say.

One part of missionary preparation is the blessing of attending the temple. In some ways, the excitement and adventure of a mission can mean we gloss over the important temple covenants which take place around the same time. The policy change means many more members will experience the temple at a younger age. It also means the temple will be coupled with missionary service for more members than ever before.

In light of those facts, I’d like to add my voice as a reminder that temple commitments should be made by individual choice and determination. It’s one thing to encourage sharing the gospel. It’s quite another to push a young person toward making eternal temple covenants before they are fully ready to live up to their requirements. I think that experiencing the temple spiritually or emotionally unprepared can result in a lifetime of disappointment. Attending the temple and making solemn covenants therein due to pressure from the ward, parents, or peers would be an unnecessary tragedy.

And that’s the reminder I’d like to add to thoughts about the age of missionary service. The available age options are a blessing. Temple covenants are a blessing. Missionary service is a blessing. As a community of saints, we can express our trust in the Lord’s timing for our young brothers and sisters by giving them plenty of space to exercise their option freely. Attending the temple prepared is a better goal than getting on a mission as quickly as possible.

PS: If you’re interested, I wrote a post about Temple Prep last year. Find it here.

About Rachel Davis

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  • Rachel Davis

    Yes! I like the idea of keeping our youth on a covenant making path and there is something really comforting about keeping the momentum of a good Young Men’s or Young Women’s program/experience and rolling that right into the temple and a mission. But. I truly believe that our youth deserve our respect in their ability to take advantage of the options available in a way that is correct for them individually. We should also have greater faith in the truth and goodness of the plan of salvation–faith that our youth can see and know the truth of the gospel. We don’t need to push them into temple covenants like a used car salesman, before they have a chance to carefully think through their options.

  • Jessica

    This is a great way to look at it, because I see a lot (on the internet, of course) of people talking about going on a mission or making that decision or the “do I/don’t I” kind of thing, and no talk about the temple parts! For the longest time I didn’t even know that was a part of the deal (through my own lack of research, of course, but the internet didn’t help!). I think making covenants in the temple should be a lot larger part of the equation. Yes, two years of your life is a long time, but an eternal promise has a bit more weight, yes?

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