This announcement is HUGE, in my opinion. As of today, marriage no longer is the de facto first goal for Mormon teenage girls; the first goal now can be a mission, college or marriage. In other words, there is no “waiting period” for girls that says, implicitly at the very least, that they should serve missions only if they can’t get married. In that sense, there really is no difference now in “practical life planning”, if you will, for Mormon teenagers – male and female.
Then, as I processed my intellectual response, I looked at my youngest three daughters who were in the room listening with me. My teenage daughters were on the verge of tears of joy when they heard the announcement. Their excitement was palpable. The youngest didn't understand fully the import of the change, but she also was beaming.
What happened next changed the way I saw the announcement - adding a deeply personal element to the entire situation.
My oldest daughter who is in college right now called me. She hadn't been able to watch conference due to her responsibilities at school, so she hadn't know about the announcement until I texted her to see how she felt about it. She gave me permission to share the following:
She has been feeling strongly for the last couple of weeks that she needs to prepare to serve a mission. In the temple this week (to do baptisms for the dead), she got an overwhelming impression that she should go on a mission “immediately”. She is barely 20, so she assumed that meant next summer when she turns 21.
She was in tears today when she told me she had contacted her Bishop and asked to start the process of being able to leave “immediately”.
To me, that’s what it’s all about, at the most fundamental level.
My girls are happy.
That really is all that matters right now.
Just to provide the complement to my daughter’s experience:
I also texted my second son (22 years old) and told him I hope he doesn’t question his personal revelation to not serve a full-time mission, what with the policy change and all. Part of the wording now is “worthy and ABLE” – and his personal situation makes him unable to serve a full-time mission and remain true to his responsibility to his fiance.
As he was pondering and praying about it, he was out with the missionaries one evening and realized he could be involved in teaching the Gospel very actively whether or not he served a full-time mission – and it hit him later that night as he was reading his Patriarchal Blessing again that it never says he will serve a mission. Instead, it says he would preach and share the Gospel “in the spirit of missionary work”. He and I are grateful for a Patriarch who was inspired to say something so personal and visionary / revelatory to him.
Each person is different, and each person has to make the decisions that are right for him or her. Nobody can make those decisions for them, not even their parents or their church leaders.
I’m grateful - deeply and profoundly grateful - that God knows us personally and is willing to reach down into mortality occasionally and speak directly and individually to his children - even when what he says to one is very different than what he says to another one. The fact that two of my children could receive such different revelations about the exact same question comforts me greatly.