Change in missionary age inspired, life-changing

Published: Saturday, Oct. 6 2012 6:00 p.m. MDT

"Surely yes," Elder Holland said. "But we don't know where or when. We're waiting to see how many missionaries we have and where they will be needed first."

Similarly, the impact of the new policy on universities, LDS institutes of religion and even intercollegiate athletics, with many universities planning recruiting and team make-up around the coming and going of LDS missionaries, remains to be seen.

"We expect some ashen faces out there," Elder Holland joked, referring to all — from university presidents to MTC officials to the individual young men and women — who were surprised by the Saturday morning announcement. "But God is hastening his work and he needs more and more willing and more worthy missionaries to spread the light and the truth and the hope and the salvation of gospel truth to a darkened world."

One of those "ashen" faces belonged to Tanner Poulton, a high school senior in American Fork, Utah, who said the announcement "made my stomach knot up because of the weight of the decisions hitting me all of a sudden."

"But then I realized how exciting this could be," Poulton continued. "All of the early preparation I've been doing is going to pay off sooner than I thought!"

Although Poulton isn't exactly sure if the announcement will change his plan to go on his mission after his 19th birthday, he said "it's definitely a possibility."

For Shelby Quist, an 18-year-old student at BYU-Idaho, the decision has been made.

"My whole life changed during the past two hours," she said after the Saturday morning session. "I still have to pray about it, but right now I'm pretty sure I'm going to go as soon as I turn 19. My brother is 17, so it looks like we'll be going out at the same time. I never would have thought that possible."

Shannon Sturgess, another BYU-Idaho student, said she is 19 and "ready to go."

"This just sort of makes everything fall into place for me," she said. "I'll go as soon as I can."

The announcement doesn't make much difference for Brandon Jackson, an 18-year-old who was attending the conference session with his father, Bruce, and three brothers.

"I turn 19 in December, so it won't speed things up much for me," he said. "But if I could have gone right after I graduated from high school I would have done it for sure."

Two young women who are currently serving as full-time missionaries on Temple Square, Sister Hale from Pasco, Wash., and Sister Clubb from Squires, Mo., were present for the announcement, which they found to be — they said it at the same time — "awesome!"

"I'm not sure I would have come on my mission at age 19," Sister Hale said. "I came when I was ready, and I was ready at 21. But for those who are ready at 19, this is wonderful news."

"I think this will change lives," Sister Clubb said. "I know a lot of girls my age who really struggled to find their place during those two years from 19 to 21. Now they can just go! I think it will really make a difference."

The most exciting thing for the two sisters, however, was to think they both have enough time left on their missions that they will be able to see the first of the new, 19-year-old sisters come into the mission field.

"We'll probably be training them!" Sister Clubb said, excitedly. "That'll be awesome!"

email: jwalker@desnews.com

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