This archived article was written by: Karli Morris
With the announcement of lower missionary ages for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionaries in October, many students are heading into the mission field and leaving USU Eastern at the end of the year, and even the end of the semester.
Daulton Nelson is a freshman at USU Eastern. His original plan wasn’t to leave until after August 2013, when he turns 19. Instead he will be leaving after fall semester. “As soon as I heard the announcement, I immediately texted my bishop to get my papers started. Now they are in and I’m just waiting for my call to come,” he said.
Another student with a change of plans is Monica Parkinson. “Before I knew about the age change, I had a five-year plan. I would go to school until I could leave when I was 21. Now I am leaving this May. My five-year plan was shortened to about a three-year plan.”
Alex Herzog, associate vice chancellor – student services, said that recruiting and student services are making the necessary changes to keep enrollment up. “I am quite interested in seeing how this will play out. There has been research done that indicates that students who take time off for other endeavors between high school and college lose some academic skills.
“Student services staff are trying look forward and envision how student services will change with the anticipated increase of returned missionaries as first-year students.
“The recruitment staff is aggressively looking for new students to recruit. USU Eastern is a great institution and that makes selling its campus to potential students much easier.”
While the recruiting staff is doing what they can to recruit and keep numbers up at USU Eastern, the new missionary ages are taking a toll on their own ambassador team. According to Greg Dart, director – enrollment services, “Right now there are 22 Ambassadors, one of which is a returned missionary. Besides him, there are six other sophomores, one of which will be leaving at the semester and the other six that will leave at the end of the year (three of which who plan to serve a mission).
“Of the 15 freshmen, one of them has a call and will be leaving at the end of the semester. Of the 14 remaining, we expect nine of them to leave on missions and one of them is engaged, leaving four students to return next year as ambassadors.”
Current and former USU Eastern students who are returned missionaries of the LDS Church had mixed feeling regarding the age change.
Mike Gingell and Ryan Nelson said that they would have left immediately following high school for different reasons. “I would have gone at 18; right out of high school. Ready isn’t so much a question of knowledge or experience, but of desire,” said Gingell.
Nelson thinks that going directly after high school would be a good idea because he would have just gotten done with LDS seminary (a class about the LDS religion). “Going to college would be a waste in a sense because the stuff you would learn, you might forget after being gone for two years. I say this with personal experience because I don’t remember math [from before my mission] at all.”
Another returned missionary, and alumni of USU Eastern, KC Smurthwaite is glad that he attended college before leaving on his mission and says that he would go to college for at least a semester before leaving, if the ages had been changed before he left. “I think in hindsight, I would have done the same thing I did, but would have considered heavily going at Christmas break. I feel like my college experience away from home really prepared me and matured me mentally for the demands of missionary service.”
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, “Just two weeks since LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced that young men could go on full-time missions at age 18 (down from 19) and young women could go at 19 (down from 21), the Utah-based faith has seen applications skyrocket from an average of 700 a week to 4,000 a week.”