The president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a change in the minimum age for missionary service Saturday morning in the opening session of the church’s General Conference. President Thomas S. Monson says young men will now be eligible to serve at age 18, provided they’ve graduated from high school. The previous minimum age for missionaries from the United States was 19, but Monson says the church has had good experience with younger men from 48 other countries.
For women, the minimum age had been 21, but now they’ll be able to serve at age 19, once again, provided they’ve graduated from high school.
The term of service will not change. Men serve for two years and women for 18 months.
At a news conference following today’s announcement, Elder Jeffrey Holland of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said the church is trying to increase its missionary force from its current level of 58-thousand. As more come into the system, Holland says they’ll spend one-third less time at the church’s missionary training centers around the world.
“At our flagship MTC in Provo, Utah,” Holland said, “we’ll be hiring new instructors and staff. We’ll be working with BYU and the community to provide increased housing arrangements almost immediately. And we’ll continue to pursue the construction of additional instruction and service facilities.”
The addition of a new nine-story building to the MTC campus in Provo has been the subject of some conflict with neighbors, who’ve challenged city zoning permissions for the proposed expansion.
Holland said the new arrangement will also help young missionaries accommodate educational and military obligations.