Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Last Time The Age Requirement Was Lowered


Set Apart


1956 2572 6.55
1957 2518 -2.10
1958 2778 10.33
1959 2847 2.48
1960 4706 65.30
1961 5793 23.10
1962 5630 -2.81
1963 5781 2.68
1964 5886 1.82

As we contemplate how the October 6, 2012 announcement lowering the age of missionary service to 18 for men and 19 for women will affect missionary numbers, we should keep in mind that this event has a precedent.  Between June and August 1960, the church lowered the age women could serve from 23 to 21 and  the age men could serve from 20 to 19.  The table shows the number of missionaries set apart and the growth rate for the years surrounding the change.  In 1960, the number of missionaries set apart increased 65.3% to 4,706.  The following year, the number of missionaries set apart increased another 23.1%.  It was not until 1962 that the number of missionaries set apart declined a modest 2.81%.  The increase in missionaries set apart was not simply an anomaly of having an additional year of men and two years of women applying to serve missions.  The numbers remained high even after the initial surge. The change made service easier, increasing the percentage of eligible men and women who served.  

If history does repeat itself, applying the percentage changes from 1960-62 to a back of the envelope estimation of missionaries set apart in the year ending October 6, 2012 at 31,500, missionaries set apart the next year would rise to 52,070, and 64,100 the following year before falling slightly to 62,300 in the year ending October 2015.  The total number of missionaries serving would top 100,000 and remain above that level.

Past performance does not guarantee of future results and I am assuming that an 18 year-old man or 19 year-old woman would respond exactly the same as a 19 year old man and 21 year-old woman responded 23 years ago.  We might find that serving a year earlier at 18 for men or two years earlier for women is less or more valuable now resulting in a smaller or larger increase in missionaries set apart but the change should induce a higher percentage of both men and women to serve.  I had originally anticipated a sharp drop in the number of missionaries serving beginning 18 months after the October 6, 2012 announcement.  I don’t any longer. 

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