Preparing missionaries at home

When President Thomas S. Monson announced the new age of 18 for male LDS missionaries, I’m sure many parents started doing the math. How much time did they have to prepare their sons or daughters for missions? And how much time do they have before their child leaves home — or the country.

I think the new age requirements – 18 for men and 19 for women – are a great opportunity to get more young people out in the mission field. At the same time, these young men and women now have to prepare in high school for those missions. And parents now have a much greater responsibility to prepare their children.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said in a news conference Saturday, “Preparation starts long before you get your call to serve. We ask parents to take a strong hand in this preparation and not expect that it is somehow the responsibility of local church leaders or the missionary department of the church or MTCs (missionary training centers) to provide and direct all of that.”

Elder Holland also mentioned that he expected the training time in MTCs to be cut by a third. In essence, parents and youth need to step it up before high school graduation.

Parents can no longer hope that their sons learn to cook, do laundry and set their own alarm clock during their freshman year of college. Parents can’t rely on religion classes to prep their sons for the mission field. That work has to be done at home long before that little black nametag is clipped onto a white pocket.

There is also little room now for making mistakes in high school that need to be fixed and repented of in college. As Holland said, these younger missionaries must engage in “total personal worthiness,” intense gospel study and “systematic study” of the missionary guidebook before they graduate from high school.

It’s a tall order for 18-year-olds, and a lot to digest for parents. But I have no doubt both groups will rise to the challenge.

In what ways can parents better prepare their sons and daughters for an earlier mission? What can a mother do at home to help her son be ready to hit the mission field when he turns 18?




  1. Danny Chipman

    You’re forgetting a major detail. Throughout your post you refer to the new age (18) as being a requirement, and that parents must prepare their children for missions by this time. Don’t forget that the new age is an OPTION, not a requirement.

    As to the ‘how’, parents should be helping their children prepare for missions (should they choose to go) the very same way they prepare their kids for life. Make them learn how to cook, clean, study, get up on their own, from an early age. Also help them recognize promptings of the Spirit and blessings from obeying the commandments and living righteously from an early age. Be a good and cheerful example–this is loudest and most effective teaching you can do. If you train a child up in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it.

    • Erin Stewart

      Thanks Danny. I’m glad you pointed that out. I was referring to the new requirement of being at least 18 for men, but yes, it is definitely not required that 18-year-olds go on missions.

  2. Cat

    Regarless of wether or not a child is going to serve a mission or not, all that stuff needs to be done. They need to have a firm foundation in the gospel and a strong testimony of belief. They also need to know how to cook, clean and do laundry. We can’t send kids out to be converted on their missions. A mission isn’t college where they get to figure stuff out or summer camp where they get to have fun and learn stuff. A mission is serious business but then so is life. If our sole goal as parents is to send our young men on missions, do we not prepare our young women as well? I’ve got one son on a mission right now and I hope that my husband and I taught him all he needed to know. I know he can wash clothes and cook. Occassionally he would clean. I also watched his testimony grow the year before he decided to go and then continued after his call and now that he’s serving. Could I have done more and been better about things as his mom? Of course I could have. But so far it looks like we did OK. Now wether or not my 16 year old chooses to go when she turns 19, I know that I need to help her get to that same desire of testimony and love of the gospel. She will need that in life wether or not she chooses to serve a mission. She’s already got the washing clothes and cleanhing thing down. Now, if I could only get her 1/2 way intrested in cooking. 🙂

  3. suzanne

    Our role as parents is important to set a good example, discipline and teach. Our ym and yw leaders should be backing up and enhancing what is taught at home ( instead of playing basketball every week). Cell phones should be limited or turned off 6 months before serving a mission, serious relationships should be avoided, teaching your children to serve. Teaching them how to cook, clean and do laundry is just as important as learning social skills, communication. They need to learn to not offend others or take offense. They need to learn to work hard.

  4. All the News That's Fit to Print

    Ms. Stewart: One thing you can do to become a more successful writer, is to use proper grammar. Do not drop the preposition “from” that should precede the word “graduate” when you use the phrase “graduate *from* high school.” Dropping that word is a dead giveaway that you a) learned to write in a Utah secondary school; or b) didn’t pay attention in college. You can do better than that.

  5. Karla Matheson

    Hey Erin. When I heard the announcement about missionaires I was excited. This will make it a much easier transiting for the young men and women who get lost in the years after turning 18 and being able to go on missions. I think it will be a great thing for missionary work as well as the missionaires!! Hope all is well with your family!!!

  6. Suzanne Metler

    This announcement was a shock. My only son was only weeks away from returning from his mission in Fiji, but my next oldest is just 18 and a girl. She just moved out and started college. She had been talking about going on a mission, but we knew it was far in the future. Now it isn’t. It will be around the corner. While it is a little scary to think of a 19 year old daughter in the mission field, what could be better? We have a very gospel centered home and our children have known about the plan of salvation since they were old enough to give a talk in Primary. Whenever our children, or ourselves for that matter, have questions about life and how to get through it, we look to the teachings of the prophets and Savior to guide us. Our son went to the MTC and wrote back that he had a stronger testimony than he had previously recognized. I personally think that the change in age will be a bigger wake up call to the parents than to the kids. We need to get back to the basics of teaching our children how to survive, and thrive, when they leave our homes. Parenting really ought to be focused on transitioning our children from our care to their own care. I think we might also focus on relying more on Heavenly Father’s care of our children if we are sending them off to teach the gospel at such young and tender ages. I think this is one of the most profoundly life-altering announcements that the Church has ever made. I think the results will be amazing!

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