January 19, 2013

Mormons find new wave of missionaries

Thousands take advantage of the decision to lower the minimum age for missionaries.

The Associated Press

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Mormon missionaries Mikaela Merrill, 19, left, and Harrison Surdu practice their Mandarin Chinese during a class at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.

The Associated Press

Colleges are expecting to get a double whammy in the next year or so: losing missionaries already planning to go along with the new, younger missionaries. For example, Utah State University is estimating losing 1,900 students and $9.5 million over the next two years.

College sports coaches have been forced to reassess their rosters due to the rule change, too. Some recent BYU football signees have decided to go on missions straight out of high school, rather than playing a season and coming back after the two-year absence, as many did before.

Armand Mauss, a retired professor of sociology and religious studies at Washington State University, said the lower age limit is part of a movement in the church to enhance the importance and visibility of women.

"There is a sincere effort by this group of new and emerging male church leaders, from apostles on down, to do everything possible and feasible to do to show how much they value the contributions of women in the church short of actually giving them the priesthood," Mauss said. He thinks the church will eventually lower the minimum age for women to 18.

Johanna Adams, a 22-year-old from Fruit Heights, Utah, headed on a mission to Taiwan, said she's expecting many more women to serve missions thanks to the flexibility.

"When you are 21, you are almost kind of set in your path," she said. "This gives you an option a little bit sooner."


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