All of her young life, Eliza Andreasin has wanted to become a missionary in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In January, the 19-year-old sophomore at Brigham Young University can begin that process two years earlier than she had originally thought possible — something she says many other young women and men at the school are interested in also doing.
More than two weeks after a major announcement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — one detailing the church’s intent to lowering the age requirement for those interested in becoming missionaries — the church is seeing a surge in interest from young people looking to serve around the world.
On Oct. 6, during the General Conference of the LDS Church in Salt Lake City, Utah, LDS church president Thomas Monson announced that the church made the option available for young men to become missionaries at age 18, instead of 19, and lowered the age of women to become missionaries from 21 to 19, LeSueur said.
Andreasin’s application, for one, has already been approved by the president of the stake of the LDS church she attends in the East Valley, and is already among those who have flooded the missionary center in Utah awaiting approval.
“Everyone is so excited to leave and serve earlier,” said Andreasin who is a member of Queen Creek’s North Stake LDS church. “It’s a great thing for the church. I’ll get to serve in the mission earlier. Jesus Christ is my lord and savior and I want to share the truth about him I know with other people and share the joy of Jesus Christ and proclaim the gospel.”
David LeSueur of Area 70 oversees missionaries in the 25 LDS stakes within the Mesa Mission, an area that covers the East Valley with about 5,000 members in each stake.
LeSueur said that the announcement can lead to a change in the social and spiritual dynamics of the church if it succeeds in bolstering missionary work around the world.
“I’ve given 18 years of my life to Jesus Christ so far, and that isn’t very long,” Andreasin added. “I don’t have a place in mind where I’d like to serve, but I’d be willing to go wherever
The option for the state’s second-largest religion behind Catholicism replaces the age requirement that had been in place for decades and is in line with the church’s mission of hastening the Lord’s work, LeSueur said.
“I am not suggesting that all young men will — or should — serve at this earlier age,” Monson said in a church-issued statement following the conference. “Rather based on individuals’ circumstances, as well as upon determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available.”
Currently, there are about 52,000 missionaries serving around the world for the LDS Church that also includes senior couples and married couples.
Although no specific numbers were available for young people expressing an interest to interview with the local bishops of their stake to get the wheels in motion to serve as missionaries, it is being well received in the church, according to LeSueur.
“We’re very excited about the announcement,” LeSueur said. “More young people are coming forward. Because of this, there’s a number of social advantages.”
LeSueur was quick to say that while some religions are seeing a decline in the participation of younger people remaining active in the church, the LDS church has remained steady. However, young Mormons are not often as active in the church after leaving college.
“The foundation of demographics in the church are subject to baby booms,” LeSueur said.
Although it is not a requirement for young men in the church to serve as missionaries, it is of the belief that it is their responsibility to do so. For women, it is an option.
Young men can serve as missionaries for 24 months and women can serve as missionaries for 18 months.
The missionary process begins with a missionary preparation class at the member’s local state before moving on to the LDS Church’s Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, for a three-week course.
However, for those seeking to enter missionary work and who need to learn a foreign language, the course takes longer, LeSueur said.
Although the age for young members of the church to become missionaries has lowered, no special projects will be targeted for younger missionaries to embark on.
Instead, the mission work will remain traditional in the sense that the church has always practiced in teaching the doctrine of Jesus Christ, LeSueur said.
“Our mission remains treating our neighbors with respect and love, keeping the Ten Commandments and living a Christ-like life,” LeSueur said. “We’re excited about younger people having the option to become missionaries and it is being warmly welcomed.
“This will give us some flexibility.”
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