On Saturday, 6 October 2012, during General Conference, LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson announced a lower age requirement for Mormon missionary service: 18 for young men and 19 for young women. See the full transcript from President Monson below.
Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said at a press conference following the announcement, “We are expanding our efforts to give more young men and women an opportunity to participate in that divine commission.”
Regarding lowering the age requirement for women, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said “Personally I am absolutely delighted if this change in policy allows many, many more young women to serve.”
For more information, see the LDS Newsroom article, Church Lowers Missionary Service Age. Here is the statement from President Monson:
“Brothers and sisters, I now turn to another matter—namely, missionary service.
For some time the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have allowed young men from certain countries to serve at age of 18 when they are worthy, able, have graduated from high school and have expressed a sincere desire to serve. This has been a country-specific policy and has allowed thousands of young men to serve honorable missions and also fulfill required military obligations and educational opportunities.
Our experience with these 18-year-old missionaries has been positive. Their mission presidents report that they are obedient, faithful, mature, and serve just as competently as do the older missionaries who serve in the same missions. Their faithfulness, obedience and maturity have caused us to desire the same option of earlier missionary call for all young men, regardless of the country from which they come.
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.
As we have prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service, 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.”
–Welcome to Conference, President Thomas S. Monson, October 2012