Even as the prospect of a Mormon White House looms, causing us non-Mormons to inquire about the most basic tenets of the faith (e.g. would Romney be sworn into office on a Book of Mormon? experts say: nope!), the mission, a rite of passage for Mormon men, is now more available to women of the faith thanks to a bit of technical reworking. Last month, Thomas S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced that the age requirements for missionary service would be lowered to 18 for men and 19 for women. Before the change, the age requirement for women was 21, by which time Mormon women were often married or “on to other things,” says one Mormon woman; as a result, missions were primarily the Plan B for women who hadn’t locked down a husband yet.
So, what does this mean for young Mormon couples? Basically the same thing it means for any college couple whose better half goes abroad for a semester (plus a little more lip service to the Almighty than usual). And frankly, it’s kind of exciting that Mormon women are now able to put marriage on the back burner—like Annelise Tanner, a junior at Brigham Young whose boyfriend just got back from his own sojourn:
“He loved his mission, and he’s really excited that I could have the same opportunity that he had. He could definitely be married when I get back, but I feel this is what the Lord wants me to do.”
While men serve for two years, often overseas, missions for women are optional and only require 18 months. However, Mormon women in college seem to have been chomping at the bit to begin their service—on October 6th, the day the new age requrements were passed, seven co-eds at Southern Virgina University began their application process. Their local Mormon bishop, also a professor at the university, says:
Now young women consider going on a mission as a real opportunity to serve… It doesn’t have anything to do with their marriage prospects, and I know a number of young women who, when they heard this announcement, started weeping openly, just bawling, because it touched them that profoundly.