What the HAYnes? Much ado about younger Mormon missionaries

LDS Church lowers ages for missionary service | STGnews image
LDS Church lowers ages for missionary service, shown Fox Barrett, St. George, Utah, undated | Image by by Brett Barrett, St. George News

HUMOR – I was surprised at the reaction to the recent lowering of the age of service for missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: from 19 to 18 years old for men, and from 21 to 19 years old for women.

From what I have read, the general reaction of those who do not belong to the Mormon church is this: “Too young! Much too young! Brainwashing! Cult! Conspiracy! Aliens living on the far off planet of Kolob!” And the reaction of Mormons – or, those who might actually be affected by the change – is this: “Okie dokie. Who’s up for some Jell-O and a round of Bananagrams? ”

Today I will do what thousands of theologians and scientists and anonymous internet commenters have failed to do after centuries of debate: I will finally get to the bottom of this whole religion issue. Right here, right now, in 500 words or less.

That seems unlikely, doesn’t it?

So instead of debating religion today, I thought it would be nice to dispel some myths and ease the minds of those who are overwrought by the lowered age of missionary service.

About ten years ago I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They sent me to New England right around the time that Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts. That made it nice when I knocked on people’s doors – instead of getting the standard, “Get off of my porch, you kooky cultist,” I was greeted with, “Oh, you’re one of Mitt Romney’s people. I like Mitt Romney. Get off of my porch.”

There are two important things to note when considering my personal missionary experience: I chose to be there, and people chose to reject me. It was very much like a high school dance. But above all, no one’s freedom of choice was compromised. There was no compulsion. There was no brainwashing. Sure, I probably annoyed people by knocking on their doors, but I would have been annoying people somewhere anyway.

And there were people who did not reject us. There was a woman who we ran into one evening who was in tears. She was alone and did not want to be. She had been praying for someone to visit her. We spent an hour or two with her. She felt better, we felt better. I never saw her again, but I felt like the time I spent with her benefited both of us. For those who argue that Mormon missionaries are wasting their prime youth years in this type of service, I beg to differ. I have never wondered what my life would be like if I had skipped my missionary service and instead spent a year shopping at Old Navy and trying to choose a major.

One change that will affect those outside of the Mormon church is that young Mormons will probably marry other young Mormons one year earlier than they have previously. What can I say? We Mormons love getting married and having families. The younger missionary age will certainly expedite this process. This will affect people outside of the Mormon church because … no, wait. It will not.

A difference that will be somewhat more noticeable is that there will be an influx of Mormon missionaries in the coming months. There will possibly be more knocking on your door, which can be irritating. However, there might be fewer freshmen at Dixie State College this year. See how the universe keeps its balance?

Now that that is out of the way, who is up for some Jell-O and a round of Bananagrams?


Elise Haynes chronicles family life in her blog Haynes Family Yard Sale. Any opinions stated in this column are her own and not necessarily those of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.

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  • Duwayne Anderson November 2, 2012 at 7:32 am

    You know, Elise, social pressure is very real. In fact, when Mormons aren’t busy lying about the impact of *Mormon* social pressure on *Mormons* they are very open and up-front about *societal* pressure and why Mormons must be vigilant in rejecting it.

    Children born to active Mormon parents are subject to lifelong indoctrination. That indoctrination begins in primary, and extends/permeates through their Mormon upbringing. Throughout their lives they are indoctrinated in the importance of following the prophet, going on a mission, and marrying in the temple. They are subject to repeated “worthiness” interviews in which they are questioned and re-questioned about their faith in the church and its leaders.

    If you really can’t see that as indoctrination, and you really don’t think it leads to coercion for young people to go on a mission — well, you are far more indoctrinated than you think.

  • Jon Alfred November 2, 2012 at 10:13 am


    Here is where you are wrong–All religions and belief systems indoctinate their children and members into following dogma. It does not matter if you are Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, agnostic or godless atheist. As a child I grew up in a Catholic/Lutheran household. My mother was a Catholic, who wished she was Jewish, and believed that spirits visited her. She also though EVERY single person’s belief system would get them to heaven. She made me believe this too. It took me getting kicked in the face as a freshman at the U to learn my mother was full of crap. My father was Lutheran who only went to church when his mother made them and he believed in the almighty dollar and working 100 hours a week. Whelp in my 20’s I did the same damn thing. There wasn’t a Mormon in sight. Was I indoctrinated. Hells yes I was!

    I became Mormon later in my life. I have 4 children now. Do I teach them about Mormon doctrine. Hells yes I do! And guess what? If my children chose to become Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, agnostic or godless atheist I will be glad if they are happy. I will also be sad because they don’t follow my beliefs. Will I be sad if my sons or daughter aren’t married in the mormon temple? Hells yes I will! Will I express my displeasure? Will they feel pressure to follow me, yes. That’s the role of parents in society. We create a stand that our kids follow. Most children feel inadequacy if they do not live up to the ideal their parents set.

    I believe that you are an Ex-Mo you had family that belittled you for leaving the faith. I’m sorry for that. However you are not alone in this; Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, agnostic or godless atheist kids and families have all gone through it. In the wise words of Yoda, “Let go of your hate.”

  • Jen November 2, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Honestly, I think the gals will NOT get married so young because of this change and I think that is a positive thing. Previously, they had to wait so long that some ended up getting married in the meantime at age 19. Now, they can serve a mission first and get married when they return. I’m not saying either is good or bad or should be the case. I’m just saying, I think this will put off marriage a couple years for some girls instead. And those worthy young women dying to serve a mission won’t feel like their lives our on hold. Now they can go ahead and serve that mission.

    p.s. I liked your comment: I’d be annoying someone somewhere anyway.

  • Lmao November 2, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Oh God!

  • Elise Haynes November 2, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Jen – I think you are right about that. It’s interesting (and I probably should’ve mentioned it) that more than half of that “influx” of missionary applications are from women. Yay for more sister missionaries!

    Duwayne – As I mentioned, I have never felt coerced our compelled to be an active member of the Mormon church. It is my choice. I credit my parents for helping me understand that I am responsible for everything I do in my life. They taught me and then allowed me the freedom to choose, for good or bad. I am trying to do the same with my children. And I agree with you to an extent. You will find bad parents in every walk of life – Mormons are not exempt. There are definitely people (inside and outside of the Mormon church) who feel like they have been pressured into living a certain way, which is unfortunate. But we are lucky to live in a country where we are allowed religious freedom, aren’t we?

  • Marie November 2, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Hi, Elise. For the record, mean people are so rarely funny. I try to chuckle at their meanness but never seem able to. Hm. What are people so angry for?
    I think you are kind and good, and I think there is so much room for kind and good in this world.
    I loved everything you said. For those of our faith who believe through personal experience, the opportunity to serve earlier is an amazing blessing. For those not of our faith, they get to keep on truckin’ on and doing their best, just like we’re doing our best. Hopefully everyone is happy — and kind — in the meantime.
    You’re awesome!

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