Reader Voices: Missionary age adjustments, moody teens and answered prayers

By Troy Parker

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Oct. 21 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

In this 2009 file photo, F. David Smith with the Missionary Training Center in Provo points out a car for an elder to follow and go help as families of missionaries drop them off and say their goodbyes on the curb at the MTC.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

Enlarge photo»

Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@LDSTroy) or my blog knows that I love to tweet during general conference (#LDSConf). I admit, with some nerdy embarrassment, that I have been a part of the #TwitterStake since its beginning. Not only is it a way for me to take notes but I get to see everyone else’s notes. There are far more notes than anyone could ever read but at the very least, it keeps me awake and alert through conference.

So when the 182nd Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started and President Thomas S. Monson offered his opening remarks, I was listening and tweeting — for a few seconds. When his comments turned to missionary work and and he announced the lowered ages at which youths could apply to serve (18 for males and 19 for females), I was stunned.

My wife Jill was standing in the kitchen in tears, and before President Monson could get to the adjustment for the young women, Christian, our 18-year-old son called from Brigham Young University-Idaho.

Here, I need to explain that back in August, Christian was, well, driving us crazy. He was having a great summer. Youths in our Mormon stake had returned from a very spiritual pioneer trek in which Christian had an incredible spiritual experience. Not only was he a youth trek leader, he was interviewed, on the trail, by a counselor in the stake presidency to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood. Because our entire family was on the trek and under the approval of local leaders, he was sustained and ordained an elder in the culminating meeting of the trek. Receiving such a significant gift in such a remarkable setting was an experince our family will never forget.

He had just received his patriarchal blessing, was teaching with the missionaries and preparing to go to BYU-Idaho. But for some reason he was just in a bad mood. He was short with his mother and somewhat mean to his brother. Jill and I finally sat him down to figure out what was going on.

“I just want to leave on my mission now,” Christian said. He felt that everything was on hold and he wanted to go serve now. We explained that he couldn’t go before he turned 19. He was inexplicably focused on going “now” and acted like there was something we could do, some strings we could pull, to allow him to go early. He finally conceded. I remember thinking, "Sure. Go ahead. Call the prophet and see what he says.”

Now Christian was calling seconds after President Monson gave the green light to 18-year-olds. “I’m going! I’m going!” was all I heard. I tried to settle him down and tell him we needed to discuss it further but he didn’t hear a word I said and was off the phone adjusting plans. He called back as soon as there was an amen at the end of the first session of conference. “Sorry, Dad, I know you wanted to talk about it but I already have an interview with my bishop to start my papers.” What could I say? Clearly, the idea of going now was planted in Christian’s heart long before the announcement.

I can’t express my excitement at the age adjustment; not only for Christian, but for all our youths and particularly, our young women. The increase in numbers of missionaries will certainly be noticable. I can’t help feel that this is another step in the amassing of a huge number of missionaries to enter all the world.

This week, I came across these verses in Matthew 9:

Verse 35: And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.

Verse 36: But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.

Verse 37: Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;

Verse 38: Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.

So many in our world are lost and have no shepherd. Truly, there are so many with so few laborers. But now, the laborers, or missionaries, will be many. Christian will be one of those who will enlist earlier than planned. We couldn't be more (properly) proud.

What a blessing to be alive and part of, even in a small way, the greatest work in history.

Troy and Jill Parker live with their two teenage boys and their dog, Teancum, in Molalla, Ore.

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