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?