This last Sunday, we had combined Relief Society and Priesthood opening exercises owing to the Young Women needing rehearsal space for a fireside planned for that evening. Forgotten announcements of the switch resulted in a slow but eventual gathering. In the temporarily combined room, the seating arrangement resulted in a change in the average seating patterns, which in turn resulted in people sitting and chatting with people whom they might not routinely sit with. This was not uncomfortable for me; I rather like a good mix up- besides- it was just for opening exercises.
In this, I began to notice something interesting. It seems to me that “average” church meeting small talk is along the line of “how are you/your family doing?” But in this meeting, and in other interactions I have had in the last few weeks with church members, the small and big talk is focused on the recently announced change in missionary age.
In nearly every conversation, the reaction is one of happy excitement; 18 year old males who had thought they had a year to prepare are suddenly, yet happily questioning if they should go sooner. Further, it seems to me that a very large number of women between the ages of 19 and 20 have already spoken to their bishops and are in the process of submitting their papers (I personally know of 3).
Interestingly, in this combined meeting moment, a member of the Stake Presidency pointed out an observation of his that seemed to almost border on a concern. This was that males still had to be ordained as Elders before they could serve; hence, they would need to be sustained in Stake Conference. I do not know why this seemed to concern him (perhaps a Stake admin issue that could be challenging?), but I could not help but consider the implications in relation to age. Based on a male’s birth date, high school graduation date and stake conference scheduling, it is possible that he could very well still be 19 years old the soonest he is eligible to serve a mission.
If this is the case, and a young man was anxious to serve a mission, is there an equality argument for males to forgo Melchizedek priesthood ordination in order to be as readily eligible to serve as un-ordianed women?