Things will be forever different in the Church, referring of course to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints . . .
The influence of women in the Latter-days is going to change the face of the Church and likely the world.
There you have it, my prediction for the future.
I will add immediately, that this change is not going to come about in many of the ways you are thinking right now. I am not at all referring to the current events and issues of the day as to the outspoken few who are asking, or demanding rather, greater exposure and rights, including the Priesthood, for women in the Church.
No, that is not at all what I am talking about here . . . .
The Church is changing . . . and it is changing subtly each day according to our Heavenly Father's plan.
What exactly is our Heavenly Father's Plan?
This sensation that I am referring to began approximately two years ago, at this Autumn time of year, immediately after the President of the Church, President Thomas S. Monson gave his now famous "Welcome to Conference" talk and immediately caught everyones attention by announcing a change in the missionary service age qualifications.
He already had everyone spellbound listening for the anticipated new temples to be announced. What everyone didn't see coming were his next remarks . . .
"I am pleased to announce that effective immediately all worthy and able young men who have graduated from high school or its equivalent, regardless of where they live, will have the option of being recommended for missionary service beginning at the age of 18, instead of age 19. I am not suggesting that all young men will—or should—serve at this earlier age. Rather, based on individual circumstances as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available."
. . . "we have also given consideration to the age at which a young woman might serve. Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21."
"We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty—and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve. Many young women also serve, but they are not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men. We assure the young sisters of the Church, however, that they make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome their service."
A Mighty Change . . .
Amazing . . . and that is where the mighty change in the Church as far as the influence of women in the Church is going to come from . . . and it came from our Heavenly Father, through His Son, Jesus Christ who we believe stands at the head of His Church, and directs the workings of His Church, through the voice of his prophet . . . even the current prophet, President Thomas S. Monson.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints growing missionary program now includes 20,000 young single women, voluntarily, without thought to Priesthood duty, leaving home and family to share what is most precious to them . . . their testimonies of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the love our Heavenly Father has for all people.
After that change in October 2012, missionary applications jumped from an average of 700 a week to 4,000 a week — and more than half of those applications came from women.
Since the early beginnings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ here on the earth by the prophet Joseph Smith on April 6, 1830; missionaries have had a profound and lasting influence upon the strength, growth, leadership and the influence and blessings of the family unit throughout the Church. Try to imagine where they Church would be today without it's powerful missionary program.
What can we expect to see . . .
Now prepare to see the exponential growth that will once again occur in the influence for good in the Church and throughout the world as these 20,000 young women begin to return home with their increased gospel knowledge, communication skills, efficient study and planning habits, and powerful testimonies and witness of our Savior Jesus Christ.
The principle that I love most about this phenomena, is that it is being done in the Lord's way, and in his own time and according to his plan.
The Lord is strengthening the Church from within by increasing the strength of the women of the Church.
Bringing experience back home . . .
As their missions come to an end, each sister will head back home with an incredible repertoire of abilities they've gained through their missionary service . . . self-confidence, foreign language skills, financial budgeting, self-disciple, independence . . . and most of all a deeper, more rooted in the foundations of the gospel, testimony of the gospel principles that they teach and study everyday. They will have seen these principles at work, blessing the lives of those they teach and changing their own hearts each day of mission life.
As they return home, these abilities will help them succeed in whatever course they choose to pursue . . . education, marriage, mothers in the Church, careers, service, teachers. And in each and every role that women today assume, which are many and varied, their mission experience will have a profound influence.
One of the challenges of missionary service for any missionary is knowing that in many instances, they will never see their internationally serving brothers and sisters again after their missionary service ends. Many precious companionships serving side by side for many months, conquering daily challenges, will hopefully be maintained through the convenience of modern technology. But they will leave their new converts, and reactivated members, companions, and leaders behind as they return to their homes and lives outside of the mission field.
Causing a mighty change of heart . . .
I enjoy watching the companionships bond with one another . . . sisters of many different colors, races, backgrounds, styles . . . all coming together to serve their Heavenly Father. They laugh at shared experiences, common mistakes made, adapting to make do with what little the Lord has provided them here in the field . . . think cold water bucket showers, toilets that don't flush, dinner every night from a microwave, uncomfortable beds, the greasy lingering aroma of OFF insect repellant at the end of each day, the insects (actually they have been blessed with an abundance of insects!).
I watch them share belongings . . . those who have more always sharing and leaving behind whatever they can for those who have less.
Missionary rules dictate that although we have many lovely beaches in the mission, there is no swimming, no wading, no enjoying the beautiful waters of the Honduras coastline. There is no television, no movies, no radio and no Internet, except where approval has been granted by the Mission President. Only inspirational music is allowed, and only books and study materials from the designated missionary library are authorized.
Yet, all these apparent challenges seem to lead them to an amazing maturity and increased blessings of the Spirit. They really become the hands of our Heavenly Father as they reach out to each other, their ward members, neighbors, investigators in kindly service.
It isn't easy!
It isn't easy . . . many struggle, and just as one obstacle is overcome, another is presented by the adversary on almost a daily basis. Yet almost all remain approachable and friendly each day as they leave their homes and begin to contact all that they meet.
I have been amazed to see even the most timid survive and thrive! It just feels my heart to overflowing when I see the amazing growth of character that takes place as they overcome the fears that they initially arrive with. They have learned to be cautious in potentially dangerous situations, yet feel and seek their Heavenly Father's protection.
Even though they are much younger than us and usually arrive in good health . . . I am impressed with their dedication and stamina. They can run circles around us as their daily scheduling can be grueling, with the heat of the day, and the rockiness (literally!) of their paths.
More Like the Savior . . .
And at the end of the day . . . when they are obedient to mission rules, Heavenly Father's laws . . . heed the whisperings of the Spirit . . . they develop Christ-like attributes and become more and more like the Savior each day. When they do all these things . . . the numbers of baptisms, while important, in bringing many to a knowledge of the Savior, are not the determining factor in their missionary success . . . it's what they will take away from their experience . . .
Of course, it's not necessary to serve a mission to learn life's experiences and blessings and develop the attitude described here . . . but there's no doubt that it certainly "hastens" the process. That's what we are about, that is our business . . . to "hasten the work of salvation", to move our Heavenly Father's plan ahead at an unprecedented pace.
There's no doubt that this is what is going to change the Church from the inside out . . . that will strengthen the position of women in the Church . . . and change the roles of women in the Church for future generations to come . . . Women who know that it's not all about them . . . women who serve unselfishly and put the focus on others. Women who go about cultivating the Spirit in their lives, in their homes and with their families and those who surround them.
It is a wonderful time to be a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today, of that I can testify.