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Scott and Cheryl Taylor: Mission leader perspectives on the minimum-age change for missionaries 10 years ago

How the surge of young elders and sisters meant new accommodations, assignments, realignments and more

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A group of 29 full-time missionaries — 16 elders and 13 sisters — come down the escalators at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport as they arrive to serve in the Arizona Phoenix Mission on July 2, 2013.

Cheryl Taylor


Scott and Cheryl Taylor: Mission leader perspectives on the minimum-age change for missionaries 10 years ago

How the surge of young elders and sisters meant new accommodations, assignments, realignments and more

merlin_2941831.jpg

A group of 29 full-time missionaries — 16 elders and 13 sisters — come down the escalators at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport as they arrive to serve in the Arizona Phoenix Mission on July 2, 2013.

Cheryl Taylor

Editor’s note: Scott and Cheryl Taylor presided over the Arizona Phoenix Mission from 2011 to 2014.

Watching October 2012 general conference in the mission home in Phoenix, Arizona, we heard President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement inviting young elders to begin their mission service at age 18 and sisters at 19. We were shocked and excited and terrified, all at the same time.

Immediately, we got a text from our 17-year-old son Braden, living in Provo, Utah, for his senior year of high school. He knew children of mission presidents could already serve at age 18. “Does that mean I get to go now?” he asked.

Uh, no. 

Braden remained in school, graduated early, rejoined us in Phoenix and left in the summer of 2013 — at age 18 — for the New Zealand Auckland Mission.

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President R. Scott Taylor and Sister Cheryl Taylor served as leaders of the Arizona Phoenix Mission from 2011 to 2014.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Missions are given a “complement” — an optimum number of assigned missionaries. Arriving to the Arizona Phoenix Mission in July 2011, we were at “full complement” — 190 elders and sisters. By October 2012, we had dipped to 160.

A couple of weeks after the announcement, Elder Tad. R. Callister, then of the Presidency of the Seventy, called with a question: “What could you do with 210 missionaries?” 

We told him we could make that work; he told us that was our new complement.

A week or so later, he called again — and upped it to 250. That was 60 missionaries more than our original complement and 90 over the 160 we had at the time. 

That same month, we had a mission conference that included Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve and Bishop Gérald Caussé, then a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric.

The age change was mentioned frequently, with Bishop Caussé talking of it in temporal terms. He explained how the Presiding Bishopric faced financial and operational increases, such as more visa applications, more airline tickets, more printed “Preach My Gospel” manuals and more temple garments for more endowed missionaries.

The Arizona Phoenix Mission scrambled to find additional accommodations for more companionships — both apartments and what we called “consecrated housing” from members offering units or rooms for missionary use.

Members also donated furnishings — beds, tables, chairs, dressers, silverware and kitchenware — while Sister Taylor and others became frequent shoppers at local Goodwill and big-box stores to fill needs. As the surge continued well into 2013, President Taylor carved out new districts and zones and proselyting areas for new companionships. 

The age change resulted in a full year’s worth of additional elders and two years’ worth of sisters. Before, our mission averaged 20-plus sister missionaries; with the surge, our average jumped to 60 to 70 sisters, much to Sister Taylor’s delight. And one of President Taylor’s delights? The new assignments of sister training leaders and their inclusion in the mission leadership council.

More new missionaries meant more training companions were needed for their 12-week training. It wasn’t uncommon for new missionaries to complete their training and immediately be called to train. A few times, we had sister trainers with not one but two new trainees.  

With more missionaries called and coming, the Church in 2013 announced 58 new missions. New Arizona missions in Scottsdale and Gilbert were created with boundary realignments of the existing metro-based missions in Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa.

We were on a preparation-day hike when first alerted of boundary-change proposals, losing missionaries to another mission. We wept along the trail thinking of saying goodbye to any of our beloved missionaries, whom we loved as our own.

With new missions starting July 1, 2013, the Phoenix Arizona Stake — and our two zones and 35 missionaries serving there — were transferred to the Tempe mission. We gave them some of our best. As part of the realignments, we received 18 missionaries from the New Mexico Farmington Mission serving in the Flagstaff Arizona Stake.

Mission reassignments are both tough and tender, and we honor those who left and those who joined the Arizona Phoenix Mission. 

We have fond memories of our busy times with the surge of missionaries from this historic announcement. We love them. We marveled at how quickly these younger elders and sisters transitioned to mission life, and we saw the impact the “Come, Follow Me” Sunday School program had in helping prepare them.

Over and over, we have felt the witness the Lord needed an increased number of returned missionaries to become the future leaders of home and Church in the tenuous times we live in today.  

We had a front-row seat to one of the most amazing times of missionary service.

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