On October 6, 2012 President Thomas S. Monson made this announcement:
Announcement made at (4:26)
Millions of members of the LDS church crazed over this new announcement, with thousands creating Memes and facebook posts about it. 18 year old men and 19 year old women can now serve missions?!! That is awesome!! But why the change? And why now?
As a teacher at the Missionary Training Center I was able to receive some insight on this topic.
Let us first look at the history of missionary work that has happened over the past decade.
2002 - "Raise the Bar"
In Elder Ballard's renowned talk "The Greatest Generation of Missionaries" he boldly asserts to "our young brethren of the Aaronic Priesthood, to rise up, to measure up, and to be fully prepared to serve the Lord."
2004 - Preach My Gospel comes out
Interestingly enough there is a 2 YEAR gap (time a full-time Elder spends on his mission) from the last big change. This was a period of "cleansing" where the young future missionaries were now becoming more prepared to reach the bar. The standards were the same; however, the future missionaries were becoming more clean and more pure for the Lord's work.
Elder Richard G. Scott said "the greatest benefit of Preach My Gospel will be seen in the lives of the returned missionaries, who will be stronger parents, more able Church leaders, and better professionals because of the growth that comes from understanding and applying its inspired content."
2010 - The Fundamentals of Preach My Gospel
Some of you who have been off your mission for more than 2 years are probably thinking "What is this?" As Richard Heaton put it, "the fundamentals are one of the biggest changes in missionary work in this dispensation." The fundamentals of PMG include 8 fundamentals designed to help missionaries gain the sight of PMG. At this time, these fundamentals were implemented into the mission field to guide the missionaries in teaching more effectively.
The fundamentals are as follows:
- The Doctrine of Christ: The Missionary Purpose
- The Role of the Holy Ghost in Conversion
- Revelation through Prayer
- Revelation through the Book of Mormon
- Revelation through Church Attendance
- Teach People, Not Lessons
- We Invite, They Commit, We Follow Up
- How To Begin Teaching
2011 - The Fundamentals of Preach My Gospel come to the MTC
2012 - 18 year old Elders and 19 year old sisters can now serve.
** Now here's the rub... that was not the big announcement. Reflect back to the announcement of a NEW CURRICULUM for Sunday School, Young Women classes, and Aaronic Priesthood quorums.
As Elder Russell T. Osguthorpe, Sunday School General President, put it "(The Savior) showed us not only what to teach, but also how to teach . . . conversion is the goal of all gospel learning and teaching. Conversion is not a onetime event. It is a lifelong quest to become more like the Savior."
As you look at this new curriculum it looks exactly like what you would see in Mission Prep... coincidence? I think not... these principles contained in the new curriculum and mission preparation are key in conversion.
Let us look at this New Curriculum, shall we?
THE PURPOSE OF A TEACHER:
The First Presidency has declared that teachers are called to "help [youth] become converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Returned Missionaries... does this sound similar to a particular "missionary purpose" which is to "Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through Faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, Repentance, Baptism, Receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and Enduring to the End."
The purpose continues by stating . . . "the path to conversion is a personal one. Conversion does not happen in a meeting, class, or activity alone. Ultimately, youth are converted by diligently living the gospel each day - praying, studying the scriptures, keeping commandments, fulfilling priesthood and other duties, attending the temple, serving their families and others, and sharing the gospel. As they do these things, their desires, attitudes, and actions begin to align with Heavenly Father's will. They become happy and confident, and they delight "to act . . . and not be acted upon" (2 Nephi 2:26). They strive to obey the promptings of the Holy Ghost, resist temptation, and "do many [good] things of their own free will" (D&C 58:27). They become "saint[s] through the atonement of Christ" (Mosiah 3:19).
All of us are converted as we learn to walk the gospel path for ourselves. In your role, the way you befriend, encourage, and support youth in their personal spiritual devotion, and the way you teach and learn with them in both formal and informal settings, will help them stay on the path and progress toward personal, lifelong conversion."
Check out this video to get a better idea for this new curriculum "Teach in the Savior's way."
As we look at another video we can see just a glimpse at what this new curriculum is designed to do. Is it ANOTHER coincidence that this new curriculum and missionary announcement came 2 YEARS after the fundamentals were announced? NO. It is now the responsibility of the generation of Returned Missionaries that had the Fundamentals of Preach My Gospel to effect the next generation.
So why cut the MTC experience by 1/3? (To take place starting in January 2013)... because the Greatest Generation of Missionaries are coming. With the new curriculum they will be more prepared, more converted, and have the Doctrine of Christ more firm in their souls when they enter into the MTC. Is it a coincidence that a lot of conference talked about testimony and conversion? Again it is a simple NO. We must BECOME more CONVERTED to the gospel and hasten the work of the Lord!
In his last words in the Priesthood Session, President Monson so declared that we "must fulfill our mandate to share the gospel. The responsibility is upon us." And might I add... the responsibility is upon us to help others become CONVERTED.