Audio and video archives of conference talks now being made available HERE; written transcripts to follow later this week.
Prior to the 182nd Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some Church members were spreading the rumor that there would be a "revelation affecting every man, woman, and child" put forth during the Conference.
The term "revelation" may have proven to be a bit vainglorious and grandiloquent, but a policy change potentially affecting every member of the Church was announced by President Thomas S. Monson during the Saturday Morning General Session. After President Monson announced that the Church would build temples in Tucson, Arizona and Arequipa, Peru, he then announced the policy change. Effective immediately, men may now begin serving full-time missions at age 18 and women at age 19. The previous age for beginning missionary service was 19 for young men and 21 for young women. The prospective missionaries will have to be high school graduates.
Here's the excerpt from his speech:
Brothers and Sisters, I turn to another matter, mainly missionary service. For some time the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have allowed young men from certain countries to serve at the age of 18 when they are worthy, able and have graduated from high school and have expressed a sincere desire to serve. This has been a country-specific policy that has allowed thousands of young men to serve honorable missions and also fulfill required military obligations and educational opportunities. Our experience with these 18-year-old missionaries has been positive. Their mission presidents report they are obedient, faithful, mature and serve just as competently as do the older missionaries who serve in the same missions.
Their faithfulness, obedience and maturity have caused us to desire the same opportunity for earlier missionary calls for all young men, regardless of the country from which they come. I am pleased to announce that effective immediately all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the opportunity of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of the age 19.
I am not suggesting that all young men will — or should — serve at this earlier age. Rather based on individual circumstances, as well as upon determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available.
As we prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service we have also given consideration to the age at which young women might serve. Today, I'm pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.
After the session, Elders Jeffrey Holland and Russell Nelsen held a press conference to further explain this decision. It was described as an inspired decision that came only after it had been studied prayerfully over many months by church leaders, with an eye toward accelerating efforts to fulfill the Savior's mandate to take the gospel to all the world. Elder Holland acknowledged that church leaders are uncertain how many more LDS young people will be inspired to serve full-time missions as a result of the change, joining the 58,000 full-time missionaries who are currently serving in the church's existing 347 missions around the world. Elder Holland also said that the time spent by new missionaries at the church's 15 Missionary Training Centers will be cut by one-third for all missionaries; no new MTCs are anticipated at this time. Here's a YouTube video of the 34-minute press conference:
The anticipated outcome is that lowering the age requirement will significantly increase the number of missionaries who will serve by expanding the options for when they may begin their service. On the other hand, there is the possibility that some missionary candidates may not be as mature or as knowledgeable as they would have been if they had waited an additional year, but this means that parents and individual church leaders incur a greater responsibility to prepare them more effectively.
Additional talks given during the Saturday Morning General Session (speaker's name hot-linked to the LDS Church News summary of the talk):
-- Elder Russell M. Nelson, Quorum of the Twelve: "Ask the missionaries! They can help!" Directed just as much towards the greater non-Mormon audience. Advised people not to fear missionaries, but to learn from them. Missionaries simply want to add their "good" to your "good".
-- Elder Craig C. Christensen, First Quorum of the Seventy: "An Unspeakable Gift from God". Elder Christensen explained that as a spirit being, the Holy Ghost, the third member of the Godhead, has the unique responsibility of being an agent through which personal revelation is received. The Holy Ghost is a Comforter, Teacher and Revelator.
-- Elder Shayne M. Bowen, First Quorum of the Seventy: "Because I live, Ye Shall Live Also" Directed his remarks towards those parents who have had the unfortunate experience of their children preceding them in death. Elder Bowen testified he was initially racked with guilt, anger and self-pity over the accidental death of his son, but through some very personal sacred experiences, the Lord gave him a new heart, and even though it was still lonely and painful, he was able to look forward with hope, rather than look backward with despair.
-- Sister Ann M. Dibb, Second Counselor Young Women General Presidency: "I know it. I live it. I love it". Proclaimed the importance of being confident in Church membership. Such conversion and confidence is the result of diligent and deliberate effort; it is the process of a lifetime. Encouraged members to follow the counsel of Paul, to be doers of the word, and not just hearers only.
-- Elder Quentin L. Cook, Quorum of the Twelve: "Can ye feel so now?" Encouraged disaffected members to evaluate what is holding them back. Even if uninvolved with major sins or transgressions, these members have allowed other influences to pull them away from feeling a change of heart. Repentance is always available. Elder Cook also focused on two widespread sets of challenges that often reduce faith and commitment to the gospel: Unkindness, violence and domestic abuse; and sexual immorality and impure thoughts.
-- President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor First Presidency: "Of regrets and resolutions". Uchtdorf spoke of how precious years on earth, in the eternal perspective barely amount to the blink of an eye. Noted that sometimes in life individuals become so focused on the finish line that they fail to find joy in the journey. Cited a number of thoughts expressed by those who are terminally ill; many regretted not spending more time and effort on family and friends.
LDS personal blogs discussing the Saturday Morning Session:
-- Feast Upon The Word: Well-summarized with bullet points.
-- Feminist Mormon Housewives: Live-blogging format, over 270 comments so far.
-- By Common Consent: Narrative summary, 100 comments so far.