LDS Church announces changes to missionary age

Posted by on Oct 7, 2012 in Ethnographic experience, General, Religion | 0 comments

The LDS Church announced today in General Conference that the are lowering the minimal age for serving a mission: to 18 for men and 19 for women, down from 19 for men and 21 for women.  Missions, which last for 2 years for men and 18 months for women, are paid for by the missionary’s family and are a requirement for men but not women.

The goal  of the new minimum age is to help more men and women serve missions, because logistics of military, education, and marital commitments can be interrupted by a mission beginning at a later age.  While the discussion about the change– from the Church press conference, news reports, Twitter and Facebook commentary– has centered on the impact on women, BYU admissions, age of first marriage among LDS, even college sports, I’ve yet to see any commentary on the impact on the millions of people around the world who will now get a knock on the door from an 18 year old Elder, rather than a 19 year old one.  Aside from sheer practical questions of maturity and life experience that occur in that time frame, where is the discussion of how effective an 18 year old can possibly be in one-on-one proselyting?

Speaking as a non-member and one of the countless people who has answered that knock on the door (over and over), it can feel uncomfortable to have an 19 year old introduce himself as “Elder So-and-So” and go on to offer to teach you about the Gospel.  Of course that discomfort has passed for me now, as a scholar of Mormonism, but I’m sure its a common experience among those who aren’t familiar with the ins and outs of LDS culture.

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