At General Conference last week, the monumental announcement was made, lowering the ages of missionaries to 18 for young men and 19 for young ladies. That pronouncement came as a wake up call for our son, Aaron, age 17 ½. He was stunned. We were stunned. Just as we’ve entered the month Adam returns to us from Chile, we realize now that Aaron’s days with us are numbered.
On that momentous Saturday morning, Aaron, dazed, said, “I thought I had the next 5 years of my life all planned out. This changes EVERYTHING.” Throughout that morning session of conference, I watched the texts between Aaron and friends flying. His neighbor friend, Austin, was home from BYU watching conference with his parents, no longer able to sit still. He was pacing. He is already 18. “Freaking out” was an expression I heard repeatedly throughout the morning.
Together we listened to the press conference after the morning session. Elder Holland spoke with passion and such trust in our young men and women, that it was impossible to doubt their abilities as they are faced, now, with this new option. He said words like “God is hastening the work” and “I’m bordering on the giddy” that made the hair on our arms take notice, not to mention the tears in our eyes and our unstoppable smiles.
During the following week, I listened in on conversations between Aaron and his friends, as they came home for lunch, or came to hang out after school. Sometimes I’d enter these conversations, asking individual boys, “How do you feel about this change?” Almost universally, their heart-felt answer was, “Scared.” “So, what do you think you’ll do?” And to my surprise, almost every single boy I asked looked right at me and said, “I’ll go.” Just like that. “I’ll go.”
I felt their faith, faith that has come simply because Heavenly Father has expressed, through His prophet, faith in them. There is no other explanation for it. They are 17-year-olds with a 17-year-old’s world before them–cars, girls, sports, ACT exams, decisions about college, and more. And yet, they are answering the call with simple but bold words, “I’ll go.” Just after that, I exit the room so they don’t see my tears.
Saturday at the BYU football game, John and I were in the President’s Loge, helping to host the visiting important people. Elder Holland was among them. He sat at the end of a row, enjoying the game with his daughter and son-in-law. I kept watching him, feeling like I wanted to say “thank you.” I finally went over and sat next to him. I told him about Aaron, who is friends with his grandson, George, also 17 ½. I told him about the conversations I’ve been listening in on this last week. And I shared with him my favorite text, which Aaron received from a friend last week after that press conference. The text read, “I would pretty much follow Elder Holland into battle, anytime, anywhere.”
Elder Holland cupped my cheek in his hand and thanked me for sharing that, and said, “Please tell those boys we love them.”
I think these boys know that. They have felt it. They are a bit stunned and very scared, but they feel the love and the trust that Heavenly Father and his Servants have in them. Perhaps that’s why, as a mother, I cannot stop smiling. I feel it too.