Why are there so many more young men than young women on missions?

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“Why are there so many more young men than young women on missions?” New Era, June 1984, 36–37

“Why are there so many more young men than young women on missions?”

Answer/Dean B. Cleverly

The Lord, through his modern-day prophet, has said that every worthy and able young man should serve a full-time mission.

“The question is frequently asked,” said President Spencer W. Kimball, “Should every young man fill a mission? And the answer has been given by the Lord. It is ‘Yes.’ Every young man should fill a mission. …

“… Every man should also pay his tithing. Every man should observe the Sabbath. Every man should attend his meetings. Every man should marry in the temple and properly train his children, and do many other mighty works. Of course he should. …

“… Yes, we would say, every able worthy man should shoulder the cross. What an army we should have teaching Christ and him crucified!” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, p. 8).

For a young man, missionary work is no more an optional part of living the gospel than attending meetings, paying tithing, keeping the Word of Wisdom, or being morally clean. It is a basic priesthood responsibility of every young man who is ordained an elder.

Young women, on the other hand, are not under this same priesthood responsibility to serve a full-time mission. They may serve if they desire—and many do so with great distinction—but neither the Lord nor his servants impose the same obligation to serve on young women as they do on young men.

Those women who choose to serve missions—either singly or later in life with their husbands—make great contributions to the work of the Lord. President Kimball has said:

“Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.

“Among the real heroines in the world who will come into the Church are women who are more concerned with being righteous than with being selfish. These real heroines have true humility, which places a higher value on integrity than on visibility. Remember, it is as wrong to do things just to be seen of women as it is to do things to be seen of men. Great women and men are always more anxious to serve than to have dominion.

“Thus it will be that female exemplars of the Church will be a significant force in both the numerical and spiritual growth of the Church in the last days” (“The Role of Righteous Women,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, pp. 103–4).

It seems clear from what the prophet has taught that women will have a great influence on the missionary effort of the Church—not necessarily because they serve missions themselves but primarily because of the righteousness and articulateness of their lives in whatever they are doing.

Whether or not women serve full-time missions, they are still members of the Church. As such, they come under President David O. McKay’s inspired challenge, “Every member a missionary!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1959, p. 122).

In this regard, President Kimball has written, “Someone might also ask, ‘Should every young woman, should every father and mother, should every member of the Church serve a mission?’ Again, the Lord has given the answer: Yes, every man, woman, and child—every young person and every little boy and girl—should serve a mission. This does not mean that they must serve abroad or even be formally called and set apart as full-time missionaries. But it does mean each of us is responsible to bear witness of the gospel truths that we have been given. We all have relatives, neighbors, friends, and fellow workmen, and it is our responsibility to pass the truths of the gospel on to them, by example as well as by precept” (“It Becometh Every Man,” Ensign, Oct. 1977, p. 3).