by Aimee (bio)
If Twitter, Facebook, and my text message activity are indicators of the excitement about the news regarding the new missionary age policy change, then it seems members are THRILLED about this announcement. Mormon social media was blowing up and there have been a number of fantastic articles discussing the cultural ripples this age change will have on our community (articles here, here, and here). This change means a lot to girls who can now leave when they turn 19 instead of 21. So much can happen in those two years! This earlier opportunity could drastically impact where a woman's life goes.
My friend, a dental hygienist in Lehi, told me that since last week there has been TONS of young ladies in her chair getting their dental exams for their mission papers. I've seen multiple Facebook statuses with young women announcing their plans to go, and my dad, who teaches early morning seminary, said the girls in the class talked about how this changes everything for their senior year of seminary. It looks like the ball is already rolling for the world to be flooded with more sisters! This excites me as I have a special place in my heart for sister missionaries. I think they are valuable beyond measure to the missionary efforts.
Since this announcement I have thought a lot about my mission. With the increase of sisters going on missions, and the ratio of elders to sisters balancing out, I have a few hopes I want to share about mission dynamics. A wish list of sorts.
Here we go.
1) More leadership opportunities.
I would hope to see the mission leadership structure changing to include more sisters. Honestly, I was glad sisters didn't have to get into the subtle political gaming that went on with some elders. We all know that elder who was running for AP and it really just seemed like it would be way too much energy. That being said, there were times that I wished I was able to break up the monotony of our day-to-day routine by traveling to see other missionaries and working with them in their areas like many district leaders, zone leaders, and assistants were able to do. The temple square sisters have leadership positions; clearly there is not a priesthood requirement. If the idea is to have sisters and elders serving "shoulder to shoulder," I think there could be some great changes to make this feel true.
2) Sisters training other missionaries more often.
At many of our zone conferences, one or both of the APs would do trainings for the zone. The only time we would hear from other sisters was during the testimony meeting. What a shame! Perhaps this has changed, but I would have loved to have been trained by other sisters who were working in the same country, teaching similar types of people, and dealing with issues I was also facing. Women tend to teach differently than men, and I think having both voices to train missionaries would be hugely beneficial. There were a few months of my mission when they instituted "traveling sisters"—which was awesome. I have heard rumors of this in other missions too. I would love to see this in every mission as more and more sisters fill the earth.
3) Less sister stereotyping.
Please no more "Did you come on a mission because you didn't get married?" questions. For heavens sake! If this age change does only one thing for sister missionaries, I hope it is the death of that question. To be asked this makes you feel that your mission was something that happened to you rather than something you intentionally, prayerfully, and thoughtfully chose. My experience with sisters is that they are inspired and guided in their decision to go on a mission. They do not have an expectation, but a true desire to teach the gospel. On my mission, some of the hardest working, smartest, and most motivated missionaries were sisters, and I'm confident my mission wasn't unique in that regard. The stereotype that sisters are whiny, stay in their apartments all day to make cards and crafts for their investigators, and ask for too many blessings from the elders is just completely untrue.
4) Let them wear pants!
You might think I am joking. I am not. Although my creative bike riding skills were mastered, pedaling on packed ice in rain and snow with a pack full of copies of the Book of Mormon, in boots, all the while dressed IN A SKIRT... is just silly. It is 2012. Women wear pants. Even The BYU lets girls wear pants. Sisters can still look very professional in dress pants. I realize there are some cultures where pants on a woman would be unacceptable, but in modern countries I would love to see this dress code changed. Thank heavens the pantyhose requirement was killed. Can I get an amen on that?! Baby steps, people. Baby steps.
Dear girls that are thinking about going,
I am so glad I served a mission. It was one of the hardest, most emotionally stretching experiences of my life. It taught me how to be a better, more loving human, how to truly pray, and how to let go of control and give my heart to the Lord. My memories of those 18 months in Japan constantly remind me that I can do hard things and that as I humble myself, my heavenly parents will stretch me in ways that are more surprising and beautiful than I could ever imagine.
If the stars align and you feel inspired to serve, I send my love and wish you the best. Now go out there and make this old sister proud!