News Story

Australian Women Join Thousands in Choosing Missionary Service

Number of female missionaries doubles; process of receiving a mission call explained

Church President, Thomas S. Monson, last October announced the minimum age of 18 years for young men and 19 years for young women who are desirous to serve a mission in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). 

One hundred and forty one young adult women in Australia have answered the call to serve full-time missions since that time just one year ago.  They join thousands more now serving throughout the world, a remarkable increase from 55,000 to 80,000 full-time missionaries.

The heartfelt dream of Jacquie Rochow from Adelaide of ‘possibly-one-day’ serving a mission for the Church changed the instant she heard the new policy. 

“I was visiting Utah in October 2012 and while attending the General Conference session at which President Monson made the announcement, I just looked at my father, Neville Rochow, and said, ‘I have to go!’” said Jacquie, who turned 19 in February, 2013. 

“It felt like that revelation was just for me. The tears flowed as soon as the announcement was made.  Before that moment, serving a mission was always an ‘if’, ‘if I wasn’t married’, ‘if I wasn’t too far into my law studies’, ‘if I didn’t have a career’.  The announcement came at the right time for me, and I was ready and excited to go,” she explained.

Jacquie began applying right away and received her mission call and assignment three months later, with a start date of 11th April.  “I was so excited when I read that I was ‘assigned to labour in the New Zealand Auckland Mission’.  I didn’t have any particular place I wanted to go.  I just wanted to go where the Lord needed me.”

In the Wright home in Sandy, Utah, USA, the large white envelope displayed on the mantelpiece in the crowded family room looked ordinary enough, like any other piece of mail. But there was good reason for the crowd and the excitement its arrival had caused.  As occurred with Jacquie Rochow, this envelope also contained the location where its addressee, Allison Wright, would spend 18 months of her life teaching others about God and Jesus Christ.


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Eventually, in front of family members, Alli, as she’s been named since the age of four, opened the envelope and, like Jacquie, had her heart in her mouth as she read the letter.  For her, it was a call to the Denmark Copenhagen Mission and her family erupted in enthusiastic clapping and cheering as they heard the words describing this far-off location.

Just a year before, Alli was an 18-year-old at a Utah high school, busy with activities like cross country, choir and student government.  She’d thought about serving a mission for her church but it was a decision she planned to make in a few years, once she neared the eligibility age of 21 for female missionaries. 

In October 2012, Alli was sitting in her family room when all that changed, just as it did for Jacquie Rochow as Jacquie was sitting at the very same time in the Church’s large conference centre 28 kilometres north in downtown Salt Lake City.

During the first session of the Church’s semi-annual general conference, Alli was viewing the proceedings on television and she watched in amazement as Church President, Thomas S. Monson, announced the changes.

“Young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21,” said President Monson.

“Everything, all of my plans for the next five or so years, just changed completely in that one second,” Alli said. “When the opportunity came, it just hit me.  I’m going to go. So yeah, that was a very powerful experience.”

At a press conference that October day, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained that while it is not an obligation for young Latter-day Saint women to serve missions, “those who do serve are stunningly successful, and we enthusiastically welcome your service,” he said.  “Personally, I am absolutely delighted if this change in policy allows many, many more young women to serve.”

That is just what has occurred. Since President Monson’s announcement, the number of female missionaries has more than doubled, rising from about 8,000 in September 2012 to over 19,000 now.

missionary growth total

As the executive director of the Church’s Missionary Department, Elder David F. Evans helps oversee Church missionary efforts. He said the dramatic increase in female missionaries is welcomed.

“The young sisters of this Church have listened to what President Monson had to say [when he announced the missionary age change].  He made it very clear that their missionary service, although not an obligation, is welcomed by the Church,” Elder Evans said.

“With that wonderful comment from President Monson, what we see is the young women of this Church looking at missionary service as a viable option for which they can now plan.”

Lower Age Requirements and a New Wave of Missionaries

The change in mission eligibility ages has impacted the lives of Mormon youth around the world, both male and female. The number of missionaries serving has swelled to nearly 80,000 as young men and women have taken advantage of the opportunity to serve missions earlier.  In Alli’s Sandy, Utah, high school, it affected a large percentage of her graduating class.

“After that announcement went out, you could feel a difference,” Alli said. “People were getting ready.  People are excited. I can’t wait to be a part of it. I think it’s so amazing.”

As more missionaries have chosen to serve, the leadership structure of Church missions has evolved to accommodate the larger numbers.

missionary growth increase
“It seemed appropriate, given the large increase in the number of missionaries, including a large increase in the number of sister missionaries, to look at the way missions are managed,” Elder Evans said.

In April, the Church created the mission leadership council and the role of sister training leaders. Sister training leaders are responsible for the training and welfare of female missionaries assigned to them, and they serve on the new mission leadership council, along with zone (mission area) leaders, the mission president, his wife and his assistants.

The members of the mission leadership council “meet together monthly and counsel together about the needs of the mission,” described Elder Evans. “They discuss problems, and we are observing, just as in every other level of the Church, that when men and women of faith counsel together, there is a much better result than when we do it any other way.”

Preparing to Serve a Mission

Though Jacquie and Alli’s decisions to serve a mission were nearly instant, the preparation for their missions had spanned years of building knowledge and faith, as well as months spent completing the official process.  Church members volunteer to serve missions, but they must be recommended to do so by their local Church leaders and then receive an official “call”. Members who would like to serve missions must complete several steps:

1) Participate in an initial interview with their local bishop, the leader of a congregation, to discuss spiritual, emotional, physical and financial preparation.

2) Explain their readiness for missionary service via a set of online forms, which include questions about an applicant’s desire and preparation to serve a mission, language skills, work experience, education, leadership experience and health.

3) Undergo an assessment by both a doctor and a dentist to confirm that they are physically prepared to serve.

4) Meet with the bishop and the stake president (leader of a group of congregations similar to a Catholic diocese) and receive both of their recommendations to serve.

mormon mission preparation infographic

If the potential missionary, bishop and stake president feel comfortable moving forward, the stake president submits the recommendation forms to the Church’s Missionary Department in Salt Lake City. The forms are screened by several different personnel, who make note of any issues that would affect the location of the missionary’s assignment, such as visa requirements or mental and physical health challenges.

Assigning Missionaries to Missions

Each week, after the forms have been reviewed, Missionary Department employees divide the submitted materials into groups of several hundred. A staff member reviews the materials for each missionary in the group.

Near the end of the week, that staff member will then display the materials for each potential missionary in an assignment meeting with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The information is presented on a screen for the apostle, who seeks divine guidance as he assigns each missionary to one of the 405 Church missions across the world. The mission assignment is then approved by the president of the Church, who extends the written mission call letter.

In 2010, Elder Ronald A. Rasband, a member of the Church’s Presidency of the Seventy, spoke about observing First Presidency member President Henry B. Eyring, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as he determined mission assignments:

“As the process began, a picture of the missionary to be assigned would come up on one of the computer screens. As each picture appeared, to me it was as if the missionary were in the room with us. Elder Eyring would then greet the missionary with his kind and endearing voice: ‘Good morning, Elder Reier or Sister Yang. How are you today?’

“He told me that in his own mind he liked to think of where the missionaries would conclude their mission. This would aid him to know where they were to be assigned. Elder Eyring would then study the comments from the bishops and stake presidents, medical notes, and other issues relating to each missionary.

“He then referred to another screen which displayed areas and missions across the world. Finally, as he was prompted by the Spirit, he would assign the missionary to his or her field of labor.

“From others of the Twelve, I have learned that this general method is typical each week as Apostles of the Lord assign scores of missionaries to serve throughout the world.”

missionary growth calls

Evans noted that though the number of missionaries serving has changed since 2012, the apostles and Missionary Department staff have worked to ensure the mission call process is the same.

“[Members of] the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles still make every single missionary call,” Evans said. The apostles and Missionary Department have increased the number of assignment meetings held per week to accommodate the increased number of calls issued.

Church members believe that any individual can receive guidance from God, in a manner as modest as a strong feeling or thought — a simple, brief moment of insight. Leaders are called to seek divine guidance for those they lead.  Alli Wright said that because she believed the Lord could guide anyone and that He does guide the apostles of the Church, she was confident that she would be called to a mission that was right for her.

“I think you definitely go exactly where you need to, and that has never been hard for me to accept,” Alli said. “I know the decision doesn’t just come from them, that there’s a plan for it.”

Alli will rely on that belief in a greater plan as she seeks to teach others about the Church and the Savior.

“This is true,” she said. “Even when it’s hard, even when I don’t understand something, even when I have doubts, I know that this gospel makes me happy; it makes me feel peace.”

Ultimately, that’s the reason Alli Wright and Jacquie Rochow want to spend 18 months talking to strangers about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“It brings so much joy and happiness into my life, and I want to share that with others,” Alli said.  “And I feel like the Savior has done so much for me, the least I could do is give a year and a half of my life to Him.”

Alli Wright said of preparing for and receiving a mission call: “It will definitely take faith, but I’m excited to see where I get called. I can’t wait.”

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