Young women prepare for option of missionary service

Young Women, Relief Society leaders answer questions

On Oct. 6, President Thomas S. Monson announced in general conference that young women throughout the Church could begin full-time missionary service at the age of 19.

"Today, I'm pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21," said President Monson.

Then, he added, "We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty, and we encourage all young men who are worthy and physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve. Many young women also serve but they are not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men. We assure the young sisters of the Church, however, that they make a valuable contribution as missionaries and we welcome their service."

Following that historic announcement, the Church News posed a series of questions about the new policy to Sister Elaine S. Dalton, Young Women general president, and Sister Carol M. Stephens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. (A similar article focusing on the policy changes impacting prospective missionaries who are young men appeared in the Church News Oct. 20, 2012. (

Young Women

Church News: Because of recent changes lowering the age LDS young women can serve missions, young women will now have the opportunity to prepare for the option of missionary service during their teenage years. How can the Young Women program assist with this preparation?

Sister Dalton: The Young Women program assists parents in preparing each young woman to be worthy to make and keep covenants and receive the ordinances of the temple. This focus is reflected in everything we do in Young Women from camp to Personal Progress. The temple is the reason for everything we do. Thus, this announcement hastens a young woman's preparation to be endowed in the temple at age 19, should she feel that a mission is right for her. When a young woman is worthy to enter the temple, then she is also prepared to serve a mission. The temple comes first! A missionary experience helps provide a setting in which she keeps the covenants she has made in the temple as she dedicates her time, talents and personal resources to building the Lord's kingdom.

Sister missionaries react to the news that new sisters can enter the mission field at the age of 19.
Sister missionaries react to the news that new sisters can enter the mission field at the age of 19. Saturday morning session of General conference Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012. | Photo by Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Our focus on service in the Personal Progress program also prepares her to serve others as well as the mentoring requirement to receive an Honor Bee. As a young woman mentors another young woman, she learns how to be articulate in sharing her experiences and testimony of the restored gospel. Another preparation to become an articulate advocate for the gospel of Jesus Christ is the requirement to read the Book of Mormon as she completes the Virtue value experience. This book is a powerful tool to bring anyone who reads it closer to the Savior. It is a testament of Him. Doing these things not only prepares a young woman for a mission but also for temple covenants, marriage, motherhood and additional leadership responsibilities.

Erika Takahashi, 22, of the Brentwood YSA ward, recently received her call to serve as a missionary
Erika Takahashi, 22, of the Brentwood YSA ward, recently received her call to serve as a missionary on Temple Square. | Photo byJulie Miller

Church News: How will these changes bless the lives of Latter-day Saint young single adult women?

Sister Dalton: The option to serve a mission will provide an opportunity for each young woman to draw closer to the Savior and to receive, recognize and rely on the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Church News: How can young women — and their advisers and parents — best utilize the Personal Progress program to prepare for the option of missionary service?

Sister Dalton: As a young woman participates in Personal Progress, she learns skills and internalizes the Young Woman values which are Christlike attributes. Values like faith, divine nature, individual worth, to name a few. These attributes strengthen families and societies. Parents would be wise to help their daughters learn how to set goals, accomplish a task and report on her success. Personal Progress prepares a young woman to make and keep commitments preparatory to making and keeping temple covenants.

Church News: How can the new youth curriculum, which will be implemented next year, help young women prepare for leadership responsibilities, including optional service as a missionary?

Sister Dalton: Participating in the new Teaching and Learning resources will help young women become effective teachers and give them experiences with the Holy Ghost as they learn to discover the answers to their relevant questions and seek learning by study and also by faith. As these bright young women search and study the teachings of our prophets, seers and revelators, they will become converted. They will not only understand but also act and engage in the gospel. A testimony is what a young woman knows and being converted is what she does about what she knows. Their conversion will deepen as they apply what they know in their families and their lives.

Church News: Any other thoughts?

Sister Dalton: This is an incredible time to be a young woman and a member of the Church. The young women have been preparing for this time. They are virtuous. They are worthy to receive and use their own limited-use temple recommend, they are taking the names of their ancestors to the temple and they continue to participate in camp, Personal Progress and class presidencies. The opportunity to serve a mission will be one more way that a young woman can spread the gospel of Jesus Christ, become an articulate advocate for the family and assist in hastening the Lord's work on the earth. It is indeed an honor to serve these precious daughters of God at this time. It is humbling. Heavenly Father loves and trusts His precious daughters and now, as never before, is the time to flood the earth with their virtue, their strong spirits and their light. They are worthy and prepared to serve the Lord. They are incredible. And they are changing the world.

Relief Society

Church News: How can Relief Society help young single adult sisters prepare for the option of missionary service?

Sister Stephens: The path of conversion and preparation to participate in the work of salvation doesn't begin in Relief Society; it begins in the home as personal habits of prayer, scripture study, pondering and obedience are taught, developed and lived. Members of the Church are bound by covenants made at baptism and additional covenants made in temples. The First Presidency's recent announcement is asking all of us, including sisters, to rise to a new level of discipleship and to participate in the work of salvation in new and important ways.

Our purpose is to keep all sisters progressing on the path by engaging them in the work of salvation. It is our blessing and responsibility as covenant women to participate in this work whether we choose to serve at home or as a full-time missionary. This work includes member missionary work, convert retention, activation, temple and family history work and teaching the gospel. The work of salvation is accomplished in small and simple ways. For instance, visiting teaching provides an opportunity for women to participate in sharing the gospel, teaching doctrine, activating sisters and their families, and strengthening new converts. Weekday Relief Society meetings can help young single adults and their more experienced sisters to work together to search out their ancestors and prepare names for temple ordinances.

When the work of salvation becomes the focus of Sunday Relief Society meetings, additional Relief Society meetings, visiting teaching and every other opportunity to serve, we move closer to accomplishing the purposes of Relief Society and will be better prepared spiritually and temporally and fulfill divine roles and responsibilities in marriage, motherhood and missionary service.

Church News: How will changes to the age women can serve a mission bless the lives of young single adult women?

Sister Stephens: As sisters learn and teach the doctrines and live and serve as the Savior did, ministering one by one, they become more like Him. Developing Christ-like attributes will be a blessing to them individually and prepare them in significant ways to bless others. Progression along the covenant path is more purposeful as sisters understand their responsibility, take their place and engage in the work of salvation each day. Joseph Smith taught the sisters in Nauvoo; "The [Relief] Society is not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls" (Relief Society minute book, June 9, 1842, Church History Library, 63).

Church News: Do you have any other thoughts?

Sister Stephens: I am delighted and confident that the First Presidency's announcement opens the door to bless all sisters, not just those who choose to serve missions at an earlier age. I am confident that this change will bless all of our young single sisters as they prepare for future divine roles and responsibilities. Parents, families, leaders and teachers will be blessed as they awaken to the "hastening" of the Lord's work and embrace their responsibility to teach and prepare children to make, keep and renew covenants. Temple and family history research in the home is a vital part of missionary preparation, as is participating in temple ordinances when youth are spiritually mature enough to do so.

It is my prayer that members in the Church will open their minds and hearts to the possibilities available to help prepare these valiant young people to receive the ordinances of the temple, make sacred covenants and prepare for missions and eternal roles and responsibilities. May we sustain the "awakening" we felt in this most recent general conference with the announcement of the new age policy for missionaries and remember the "why" — to hasten the work of the Lord in preparation for His second coming.

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