On Saturday morning, President Thomas S. Monson announced a change in the minimum age people must be to serve a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mission. The announcement was in the first session of General Conference.

The minimum age requirements have changed from 19 to 18 for men and from 21 to 19 for women. The men must not only be at least 18, but also need to have graduated from high school before they can serve a mission. The age change took effect immediately. After the announcement, a press conference was held.

“We are not suggesting all young men will or should serve at this age,” said Elder Russell M. Nelson. Forty-eight other countries around the world already have this age requirement. They have received feedback from those countries saying that the 18-year-olds are capable and qualified to serve.

Nelson said more and more people have been asking for exceptions because of school, work or military obligations. “It will allow greater flexibility . . .” he said.

Due to this change in age, there will be other changes to the missionary program. The amount of time missionaries spend at the Missionary Training Center will be decreased by one-third. There will possibly be changes made to the MTC building itself to accommodate a larger number of missionaries.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said the number of missionaries has been increasing and will probably continue to increase after this change. More missions will also be added, but they are still seeing who needs it the most. In the past two years, there has been a 6 percent increase in men serving missionaries, a 12 percent increase in women and an 18 percent increase in couples.

“God is hastening his work,” said Holland about the age change. “He needs more willing missionaries.” He said the difference in age between men and women is necessary.

Holland emphasized that serving a mission as early as 18 is an option, not an obligation.

“We hope many take advantage of it,” Holland said.

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