chanson noted the rumors about a big “revelation” at conference this year. Turns out they weren’t entirely unfounded: Thomas Monson just dropped the age for missionary service for men to 18 from 19, and for women to 19 from 21. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to argue that this is a “game-changing revelation,” but it is kind of interesting.
As a sociologist, my immediate response is: “So they figured out they will lose fewer young men if they snatch them up right after high school, huh?” My guess is that this is all about stemming apostasy and increasing the odds that young Mormon men will serve.
The claim that “upping the bar” back in the early 2000s was the reason why the missionary force declined was never true. It declined due to two things: (1) demographic changes in family size; Mormon families in (and out of) Utah were having fewer kids; (2) fewer young men were going because they had time to think themselves out of it (or get distracted with other things). The year between high school graduation and leaving for a mission was likely a year when young men had a chance to be “free:” free of being told what to do and free of being told what to think. By curbing that year of “freedom”, I’m guessing the leaders of the religion are betting this will reduce losses and increase the number of young men who serve.
Okay, I just realized all of the above was male-centric. I’m guessing all of the same applies for women, though the gender dynamics are no doubt different, too. Some Mormon women have been clamoring to lower the age to make it seem more fair and to reduce the stigma of “only women who can’t get married serve missions.” I bet neither of those issues factored into this (since this decision was made by an all-male governing body). I’m guessing what I wrote above is the primary motivation: STEM THE LOSSES BY REDUCING THEIR TIME TO THINK!