Monday, October 08, 2012

My Joy is Full

I was much more prepared to serve a mission at 21 than I was at 19. The only advantage in leaving at 19 would have been that I wouldn't have met The Mistake, but I would have missed out on some incredibly formative experiences that shaped me as a person and as a missionary.

Having said that, however, I must admit to feeling over the moon about Sunday's announcement.

Here are some of the positives that I see:

1.  (From a comment I left on Joanna Brooks' Facebook page today): My hope for the sister missionary program for many years has been that the stigma of sister service would be erased. I was so happy and zealous when I came home, but wasn't back in the dating market more than a few minutes when I came to see, with no small amount of horror, that being an RM was a serious liability for a woman in our culture. Because fewer women have traditionally served, and because of the mistaken impression that we are only supposed to serve if we can't get married, unfair and sometimes cruel stereotypes have persisted. This new age threshold will, I hope, stop women AND men from seeing the service of female missionaries as a barricade to marriage, and marriage and mission as an either/or proposition. The men don't have to choose; now maybe fewer of the women will feel they have to choose

2.  We have, as a people, too long said that the maturity and testimony that come from a mission can be gained by motherhood. Don't get me wrong. I'm not dissing motherhood. There are lessons I have learned as a mother that I'm not sure come any other way (just as the lessons that come from infertility or being single can only be learned in those circumstances), but a mission to me anyway, is, hands-down, the greatest converting experience that somebody can have. I think that more women than ever will now have this wonderful opportunity.

3.  It is healthy to ask yourself if you will serve a mission. All of my friends who made it to 21 and went through this experience, either yea or nay, learned more about the revelatory process in their lives. It is one thing to say that "Sure, I'd like to serve a mission! If I don't get married first!" It is another thing to actually have to put your name on the papers and. It is true that the Church, as an organization, will not change their philosophy on women serving missions (not a duty, an option), but I think more women will ask the question in seriousness. That is a good thing.

4.  Our congregations and families can only be stronger with more returned missionary women. . . just as they are stronger where there are more returned missionary men. I'm talking in generalities, of course.

5.  More women will be endowed at earlier ages, which means that the endowment is more likely to be separated from marriage. I see this as a big positive.

6.  No doubt the number of sister missionaries will increase, maybe even by a lot. This will possibly increase the number of missions and certainly the number of people we can reach. I think there will be a sudden uptick in the number of boys, but once the new age is the new norm then it will stabilize. Who knows how many sisters we could end up with??

7.  On a personal note--the odds that my boys will marry an RM are much greater. Yeah! I'm partial.

It will be interesting to view and read the new Young Women's lessons. I am sure that the goals of being a wife and a mother will be as important as ever . . . these are enduring gospel principles, but I wonder if some of the emphasis will be more rightly spread to building and gaining a testimony, learning to follow the spirit and the importance of having a variety of good choices. 

What do you think? If you served a mission, do you think it would have been better if you could have gone at 19? If you didn't serve a mission, do you think this rule would have changed your attitude about it? Will this change how you approach your daughters regarding missions?


CO SIL said...

I know I would have served a mission if the mission age was 19, 25 years ago. The announcement was bittersweet for me. On the other hand, I can't deny that I received my own revalatory experience 25 years ago, and that is was NOT a mission. Still, wonderful news!

Jenny said...

I couldn't be happier.
To me, this changes EVERYTHING.
Many more young women will choose to serve missions.
The stigma associated with most sister missionaries will become a thing of the past!
There will probably be an exponentially greater number of mission romances :)
That announcement made that first session very emotion-filled and memorable.
I served at 22 and can honestly say that I don't know if I would have been prepared to serve at 19.
I'm happy to have the change come today, and not when I served. I'm especially excited for my three daughters!

Shiree said...

I like your #3. I wouldn't have thought of that. I did get to ask myself that question and it was "no" for me.

I love #5! I was able to receive my endowment a few years before I was married and it was just huge for me. Such a miraculous blessing.

The first thing I thought was "Yikes! Alex is one year closer to serving a mission. My time to prepare him is shorter!"

I think it has already changed my approach to my daughter. Just tonight in FHE when we were talking about Samuel the Lamanite preaching in Zarahemla I was asking the kids how it would feel to be preaching and have the people cast you out and how much courage it would take to go back and share your message again. In the past I would have been directing it at my son but tonight I asked my daughter about it. Just a beautiful shift, I say!

Melanie said...

Like many others, I cried mostly happy but a few bittersweet tears at hearing this announcement.

If I had had the opportunity, I would have gone the minute I turned 19. My desire to serve a mission was solidified during my freshman year at BYU, and I was so very jealous of the guys who got to leave to serve at the end of that year.

I know a lot of women who married young feel that had they been able to go at 19, they would have had the opportunity to serve a mission. I wonder if I'd be married now had I been able to leave at 19. I was mature in a lot of ways, but I hadn't had a lot of dating experience, and it was strange for me as a 19 and 20 year old to go out with 22 and 23 year old RMs. And then, by the time I got home from my mission, a lot of the guys my age were already married.

I have faith that the Lord knows who and when I will marry. He is in control. But still, I can't help but wonder how my life might have been different had I left to serve a mission at 19.

Sherry said...

I would not have met my husband had this announcement been made a few years ago. (I turned 20 while we were dating, and was only 20 when we got married.)

It is such an exciting change, and I'm very happy for it. I agree that many of the negative associations about sister missionaries will gradually dissolve. In actuality, I think many of them have been over the years. I know many men of my husband's missionary-time-period who have a lot of respect for sister missionaries.

On a somewhat-related note, my brother-in-law got home from his mission in mid-August, while he was watching conference with an apartment full of guys and girls and the announcement was made, the girls were cheering and crying. And he and his buddies were like, "Well, it will be a few more years until any of us get married."

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

I didn't notice a stigma around female RMs in the U.S. (maybe it was there and I just didn't see it), but down in Uruguay where I served, I knew several wonderful young women who were scared to serve missions for fear that they would end up old maids. It was sad to me, because I grew so much from my mission, and I'm always excited when other women choose to serve them.

I think I was more mature and prepared to serve at 21 than 19, but as you say in #3, I like the fact that the mission won't seem so much like a Plan B (i.e. "Well, I'm not married yet--maybe I should consider a mission.") I think it's wonderful that more women will envision a future than includes marriage AND a mission.

And the age change definitely impacts how I will approach missionary service with my daughters. In the past I've been a little reluctant to encourage it much, since so many young women are seriously dating or married before they reach age 21. It's kind of irrational now that I think about it, but I just didn't want to get my/their hopes up, then have their lives go in a completely different direction.

After Saturday's announcement, I'm excited to think that as my daughters leave the nest and start considering their options, a mission will be squarely in the middle of the table. It's still optional, and even when a woman wants to go God may have something else planned for her, but I really hope my daughters will choose to serve.