Here is my prediction—for what it’s worth. I believe that the greatest announcement since the 1978 revelation on the priesthood is the lowering of the missionary age for women. This one modification to Mormon policy will shake the foundations of the Church for good. Here are four reasons, and there are many more, why I think this is case.
First, it serves to level the playing field between men and women. Women are now closer to enjoying opportunities in their youth that are commensurate to young men (home teach starting at 14, meet with adult males in priesthood from 12-18, collect fast offerings, and so forth). This systemic shift, whether women take the opportunity to serve or not, is monumental.
Second, leadership experience. Related to the first observation is the development that female missionaries are now included in the leadership of hastening the work. I’ll never forget having a conversation with a sister missionary for which I served as zone leader. In our initial conversation after meeting I learned that she held a masters of accounting from Brigham Young University. It was a defining moment in my life that I will never forget. She was so modest and willing to submit to a well-meaning and untrained man. “Why am I leading her? She should be leading me!” was the thought that immediately crossed my mind. With current developments in mission governance the landscape has changed relative to leadership and it will have a perpetual positive impact on the Church for generations to come.
Third, outmigration. Outmigration is Mormons leaving the core population centers of the Church (Rexburg to San Diego) and forging new lives permanently “out there.” Why do I think this will happen? When, at very young ages, hundreds of thousands more women enjoy broader and more diverse living experiences abroad—independent of family, friends, and densely populated Mormon communities—they will have an affinity for seemingly foreign environments. They will be accustomed to not being the religious majority but a distinct minority and ready to face the challenges and blessings therein. Even if they don’t become part of the outmigration, the fact that they are open to it will, in some ways, transform their leadership and contributions to Mormonism.
Fourth, there will be exponentially more converts under the guidance and influence of women. Eventually tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of converts will look to women as the heroines and champions of their conversion. With strong encouragement to missionaries to continue to shepherd converts through social media, phone calls, and visits, women’s influence will grow as a primary guiding force in the lives of millions over time.
I feel that these are four very real ways that women will revolutionize the Church going forward. Of course, women’s contributions to this point are beyond any capacity to measure. Furthermore, the contributions of women that do not serve full-time missions are equally incalculable. In other words, this post has focused on just one aspect of women in the Church. However, I am a male writing about women’s issues. Responses to this post from women offering clarifications and/or corrections are not only welcome, they are encouraged.