East Valley's young Mormons prepare for missions -- earlier than expected - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

East Valley's young Mormons prepare for missions -- earlier than expected

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Posted: Thursday, April 11, 2013 10:05 am | Updated: 7:37 pm, Wed Apr 17, 2013.

Leave it to mom to deliver the best news.

Last fall, Hayden and Harrison Jones, twin 18-year-olds in Gilbert, received a phone call at work from their mom, Dana Rodgers.

“You have to hear this,” she said.

Through the line, the 2012 Gilbert High graduates heard Thomas S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announce that the church was lowering the age requirement for men and women to go on a mission. Previously, men had to be 19 and women had to be 21. Under the new regulations, men could go on a mission at 18 and women at 19.

“We were both freaking out. This is unbelievable. Immediately, when we were done, we picked up our neighbor who is the same age and drove to the bishop’s house,” Hayden said.

There, they asked their local church leader to prepare their applications to go on a mission.

Young men and women of the Mormon Church are often called to go somewhere in the world on a mission to teach the beliefs of the church and serve communities. While not required, it’s something that’s often encouraged – especially for men.

The change made an immediate impact for the church. Applications jumped from 700 a week to 4,000 a week. And instead of women being the minority – about 15 percent of applicants – they are now about equal with men, according to the church’s website, lds.org.

While local numbers are not available, both Hayden and Harrison said many of their friends are taking the same path they have chosen.

“There has been a buzz around here for months. All the guys our age put their paperwork in the same time we did, about 30-plus from around here,” Harrison said.

“All our friends who are girls, they’re stepping up and saying, ‘I have the opportunity. I’m taking it,’” Hayden said.

One young lady who stepped up was Louisa Priday, a 2012 graduate of Gilbert’s Highland High.

Priday, 18, was already at BYU in Provo, Utah, when the announcement was made. She turns 19 in June.

“Honestly, I just started crying. I’ve always wanted to go on a mission. I’ve always felt that was something I wanted to do. So when it was announced and it was closer than the previous age, I was excited to go. My whole plan for the next few years changed,” she said.

Priday made another decision during winter break.

“I wasn’t planning on staying home, but I all the sudden felt that was what I needed to do. I made the decision to go on a mission. I needed to earn all my money,” she said. “I went up to Provo to move all my stuff home and then came here to work.”

Hayden and Harrison also altered their plans. The men started Mesa Community College in the fall, but also worked at a warehouse. That work turned into full-time employment in January to raise the funds needed for their mission.

Serving a mission for the church is not just a time commitment – 18 months for the women and 24 months for the men – but it’s a financial commitment. Many of the young adults and their families come up with the money needed to go where they are sent in the world.

Besides preparing all their applications and funding, Priday and the Jones brothers made arrangements to defer college plans, including scholarships. But the schools worked with them. While the impact locally isn’t known, universities and colleges in Utah expect to see a 2 percent to 10 percent decrease in student enrollment the next few years with the age change.

When Mesa’s Conner Monks heard the news of the age change, his life also took a turn, but from a different path.

Monks, 18, races professional motocross, a sport he began at age 4. He left Mesa’s Mountain View High School halfway through his junior year to travel with the sport. He turned to online schooling and will graduate this month.

With the news, Monks said, “I was shocked, but nervous, but still excited. There was a lot of mixed emotion.”

“I was planning on graduating high school, then racing professional a year, then leaving on a mission. Now that I can leave earlier, it will allow me to start my life earlier,” he said.

His older brother served a mission to Spain.

“He was excited for me, but didn’t know how I would handle it,” Monks admits. “I figure if I just go on my mission, Christ will do the rest.”

So in June, Monks departs in June for Edmonton, Canada.

Priday, will be staying in North America with her mission set for Portland, Ore.

Hayden and Harrison Jones will be going south – way south. Both men will serve in Argentina, though in separate locations.

At first, that idea concerned their mom.

“They have never been apart. They do everything together. I kept asking, ‘Are you OK?’ Then when they opened their call (the envelopes telling them where they would go), there was a big sigh,” she said.

Two of Rodgers’ oldest children also served on missions. And a third, Jamyn, is on one now. He returns in October, long after his younger brothers leave.

Coincidentally, eldest brother Bryson, now 25, also served in Argentina.

Though they may be putting school education on hold, the Jones brothers say there’s plenty they’ll learn the next few years. With all their required visas, paperwork and shots, Hayden and Harrison report to the Missionary Training Center in Utah this week.

“It’s a big change, but I wouldn’t want them anywhere else. What mom wouldn’t want them to learn hard work ethics? But we will miss them,” Rodgers said.

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