Distal Effects of Missionary Age Changes

Kent Larsen at T&S has a great list of possible effects of the changes in minimum missionary ages that President Monson announced in Conference. Many of the effects discussed are straightforward and closely tied to missionary work (e.g. enrollment at BYU), but others are more weakly tied and more speculative (e.g., divorce rate). I want to push things out even father, and guess about other possible changes in the Church that are completely unrelated to missionary work, but that might be made more likely by the missionary age change.

First, I wonder if the eventual divorce between the Church and the BSA might be hastened along by this change. Let me explain. President Monson said that part of their reason for the FP and Q of 12 thinking that elders could serve at 18 was that they were already doing so in many cases in different countries, and it was going well. In his description of the change, he made clear that the age rule is now going to be the same across the world. He said that the new policy for elders applied “regardless of where they live,” explicitly contrasting this with the earlier policy, which he called “country-specific.” So this missionary age change is at least partly about standardizing how the Church operates across the world. I’m sure you see where I’m going. In most countries, the Church doesn’t use boy scouting for part of its young men’s program. Each time the Church standardizes its practices across different countries, as it has here, it’s another precedent for the eventual standardization of young men’s program that includes ending the relationship with the boy scouts.

Second, based on the same line of reasoning, I wonder if this standardization doesn’t also mean a small step toward ending the US-specific one-year waiting period between a civil marriage and a temple marriage. In most countries, a couple can be married civilly and then right away in the temple; in many, this is required because the temple marriage doesn’t meet legal requirements. Eventually, this country-specific policy will probably be dropped in favor of a single standard policy, and as in the change in missionary ages, it will be the outside-US policy that will become standard.

Finally, I was fascinated by Elder Holland’s response on the question of why they didn’t also change the length of the mission to 24 months for sisters. From the post-session press conference, as reported in the Salt Lake Tribune,

He did note that officials had considered doing so [equalizing mission length] but wanted to see how this change played out.

Wait, what? They wanted to see how this change played out? Don’t they already know? I thought they were prophets!

I know this sounds like snark, but I’m actually trying to make a point. By saying this, Elder Holland is clearly suggesting that the FP and Q of 12 are not infallible. Yes, yes, I know that we don’t technically believe in infallibility, so his suggestion of fallibility shouldn’t be a big deal. But given how often we’re taught in the Church about exact obedience, and given how many people will, in discussions of Church policy, argue bizarre things like that every detail of the organization of nurseries or early morning seminary is based on the very word of God as it fell from God’s lips, it’s pretty clear that we at least go for practical infallibility. Elder Holland’s straightforward statement that they are going to wait and see what happens with the new missionary ages men makes it clear that the FP and Q of 12 don’t see themselves as infallible.

If Church leaders are going to admit fallibility, then my hope would be that they take the next step and openly take suggestions from the general membership about how to make the Church run better. Maybe instead of the usual First Presidency letter that says “Please don’t write to us,” we could get one that says “Please write to us, but realize that your suggestions will be reported to us only in the aggregate, and that we can’t promise to make the changes you ask for.” I realize that this is a big stretch, even compared to my first two, but I can always hope, right?

So what do you think? Are the connections I’m proposing to these remote effects too tenuous to even consider? Or might there be something to them? Also, please feel free to speculate about any other far-off effects of the missionary age change that you foresee.


  1. Oh, I sincerely hope the marriage one happens. It’s not like they don’t make a ton of exceptions anyway, you just have to be well connected, or have an understanding Bishop/Stake President.

    Also, did you hear Holland’s comment when someone asked about the equal mission time thing started with “one miracle at a time” this statement makes it even MORE confusing about policy versus revelation IMO

  2. Wait a minute, I’m confused, where are all the charts and graphs?

    (Here’s hoping some of your prognostications come to pass!)

  3. Is it really true that couples can be both civilly and temple-married in “most” countries? I know it happens in the UK, but really, what are the numbers? I could perhaps let it pass with “many,” although I personally only know of one.

    I really wish the BSA thing were true, but honestly, I don’t see that divorce happening while Monson is alive. Really wish it would, though.

    I’ll be interested to see how the missionary change pans out. I think there may be many unforseen consequences.

  4. ESO, I think it’s generally true throughout Europe and South America, so “most” is probably a fair characterization.

  5. You don’t think that the Lord doesn’t require them to gather data and come up with an initial consideration first?

  6. Is there countries where one can marry civilly and then straight away in temple, without it been required by law? I know many European countries where the one year waiting period is a rule, these are the countries that do acknowledge temple sealing as lawful marriage.

  7. I’ve been looking online for countries that have a civil ceremony requirement, Belgium, Netherlands, and Turkey were listed as examples in the Civil Marriages Wikipedia page. I’m pretty sure England and Wales do too, I remember hearing about that during the Royal Wedding, because they had to sign something first. And where was that other Royal Wedding that happened around the same time? Because they ALSO signed something, maybe even the day before? Anyone else know of places?

  8. I do hope for the marriage thing really, really earnestly might be a result. I have four girls that will all be of marriageable age in the next decade or less. One of the things that makes my not a Mormon husband so sad (and somewhat antagonistic towards the church) is the idea of not being able to be there when they are married, if they choose a temple wedding, which I hope they do. It would make such a difference in our lives if there could be a standard civil ceremony the same day as a temple ceremony. If we were of the socioeconomic class (as were our relatives) I would totally opt for a destination wedding to a country where a civil ceremony was required as well as a religious one.

    As for the BSA thing it might eventually happen and I would have some mixed feelings about it. The BSA’s continued ban on gays participating in the organization seems lagging behind even the church’s current position. As ironic as it would be, that might prove the wedge that may lead to the eventual disassociation. Alternatively since the church is, I think the biggest single sponsoring organization for the BSA it might lead to a modification of that policy within the BSA. Which then might be tricky for the church because I don’t see the BSA adopting a middle ground like church has, its okay to be gay as long as you don’t live as a gay person in your private life. You can be gay and be a scout leader as long as you don’t have any gay relationships, I just don’t think they can make that distinction like the church has. I read a story recently of a boy that can’t receive his Eagle Scout award because he decided to publicly inform BSA of his sexual orientation instead of just quietly receiving the award. I think that is something that the church according to current policy would have a problem with if he were a Mormon. Anyway I don’t know how it will all play out and I know the last bit it is a little off topic of the age change business but I’ve been wondering about both things in the same corner of my brain.

  9. On the T&S link there was a comment I feel got missed in the shuffle, what the age change means in regards to womens endowments. If the majority are getting theirs taken out not for marriage but personal betterment, perhaps all the “helpmeet” references will be removed?

  10. I have wondered about that too, NewlyHousewife. It seems like there are a lot of possible cultural shifts that could happen from most women taking out their endowments before they get married instead of for marriage. One policy shift I see happening is changing the age at which a young person who hasn’t serve a mission or gotten married can take out their endowment. It seems like it would make sense to just make a blanket age at which members can take out their endowment regardless of other things in their life. This might improve activity among young single adults who just have to wait around to take out their endowment.


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