The church has already moved to add more training capacity for the new missionaries by announcing a new large Missionary Training Center in Mexico City that will be ready in the summer. It has also moved to shorten the length of time missionaries stay in the various MTCs around the world and introduced a 12-week training course for missionaries after they arrive in the mission field.
The surge in the number of LDS young people — primarily young women — leaving to serve full-time missions has impacted Utah businesses and colleges and universities. It has even had an impact on intercollegiate athletics, especially for schools that tend to recruit heavily among Mormon high school students.
But the greatest impact is being felt among young people whose lives have been forever changed by President Monson's announcement last October.
"I just kind of sat there — I didn't know what to do," said Amanda Johansen, who was a 19-year-old student at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, last October. "I have been planning on going on a mission since I was 9 years old. But it was always off in the future. But suddenly last October, I could go instantly."
Johansen said she thought and prayed about the decision for a week after the change. "We had a family fast," she said. "And then I knew what to do. I went to talk to my bishop that Sunday about starting the paper work for my mission."
Johansen enters the Provo MTC next Wednesday prior to her departure for the Argentina Resistencia Mission. She marvels at the fact that by the time the next general conference rolls around in April she may be on the ground in Argentina serving as a full-time missionary.
"I always thought I had years to prepare to be a missionary," she said. "I think President Monson's message to all of us was we need to be prepared to serve the Lord right now. It was like the Lord was saying, 'OK, I need you. Are you ready?’ ”
Unlike Johansen, Victoria Jorgensen of Riverton, Utah, wasn't planning on a mission last October. As a 19-year-old freshman at Southern Utah University, she always figured that by the time she turned 21 — formerly the minimum age for young women to serve as full-time missionaries — she would be involved in her career and wouldn't be able to go.
But as soon as she heard the announcement, she says, "I thought, 'I can go on a mission now!’ ” She says she will be submitting her missionary application to her church leaders this weekend.
"It's a huge difference," she said. "I've talked to a lot of girls my age, and they all agree. Being able to go at 19 is a lot different than having to wait until you're 21. I've had a year of school. I can go for 18 months and then come back and finish my education and then begin my career or whatever. It's a lot more convenient."
Not only that, says 19-year-old Aubrianna Schaefermeyer of Kaysville, Utah, but it's also an opportunity for young women to establish a firm gospel foundation earlier in their lives.
"For my friends and I, we've all gone from, 'Yeah, maybe someday' to 'Yeah, we're going,’ ” said Schaefermeyer, who is in the missionary application process. "I'm so grateful I get to go now. I feel like this is going to be a foundation for the rest of my life."
Lauren Beck of Highland, Utah, will be leaving for the Germany Frankfurt Mission on March 20. Her perspective is a little different than many of the new sister missionaries entering the MTC this year because she will be 21 when she starts her mission.
"At first I was kind of bitter," she said, chuckling, when asked about last October's announcement. "I had been fasting and praying about the decision to serve a mission for a year, and now all of a sudden all of these 19-year-old girls are going on missions at the drop of a hat?"
But, she says, "I humbled myself," and now she thinks it is thrilling to be part of this sudden surge in missionary service.
"Years from now," she says, "I'm going to be able to say I was a part of this huge army of missionaries who are responding to a call from our prophet. How exciting is that?"
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