Much has been discussed about the missionary age change, especially for sisters (2 years earlier puts sisters going on missions right around their freshman year of college instead of being semesters away from graduation; that’s huge). Numbers of girls choosing to serve missions has skyrocketed since October 2012–and it was already on the way up.
It is a wonderful time to be a woman in the Church, and an even more wonderful time to be a full-time missionary.
That being said, no young woman should feel unduly pressured to serve a full-time mission. Missions are made to help both missionaries and those they interact with become better, more faithful and devoted disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. You can also do that at home—so the Lord needs you either way. I repeat, you are needed in the Lord’s service just as much whether you choose to serve with a nametag or without one.
Deseret News writer Tiffany Gee Lewis remarked that “the minimum age for missionary service, just announced at LDS General Conference, is nothing short of monumental. It may well usher in an era of the sister missionary in a way we don’t fully comprehend. Not only are we about to see a flood of sister missionaries, but we are going to have front-row seats to an enormous cultural shift in the church….
“You can pick a returned sister missionary out of a crowd, because usually they’re standing at the head of it. In the past three wards I’ve been in, I do believe every Relief Society president served a mission. That might be coincidence, but I think it speaks to the power of a mission for “fast-tracking” one’s understanding of the church and the full scope
of its mission in the world. Of course, a mission is not required for LDS women, but there’s no doubt that full-time service, at that early age, is an invaluable test of character and leadership — a refining, soul-stretching experience that’s hard to replicate any other way.” (Access her full article online, here)
If you choose to be a missionary, make sure your mission is that soul-stretching experience. Give 100% every day, although that 100% may differ from day to day. Become a leader by your faithfulness even if positions or recognition doesn’t come. Let your mission go through you; don’t just go through a mission.
If you choose not to leave on a mission just yet, seek for other ways to serve. In your own process of pondering and exploring the options the Lord has for you, seek for opportunities to share the gospel. Move out of your comfort zone. Consecrate your time to be His—and that may include devoting yourself more fully to family, a job, or school instead of leaving everything behind. Hymn 270 is relevant to you: “I’ll go where you want me to go” could mean, for some, “I’ll stay if you want me to stay.” We all know great moms, great teachers, and great business women (to name just a few) who never donned a mid-calf length skirt and button-up shirt with a tag but who reach out and lead and teach and exemplify Christ-like qualities just the same. Become that type of woman!
Church leaders encourage us to become better, because women of high caliber are needed. President Kimball taught, speaking of his day and our own, “Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.
“Among the real heroines in the world who will come into the Church are women who are more concerned with being righteous than with being selfish. These real heroines have true humility, which places a higher value on integrity than on visibility. …
“Thus it will be that female exemplars of the Church will be a significant force in both the numerical and the spiritual growth of the Church in the last days.” (Ensign, November 1989)
However you serve, remember: you certainly are needed.