SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - The missionary program for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints changed forever during this month's general conference.
It was announced young men can now leave a year earlier when they turn 18 and young women two years earlier at age 19.
Since then applications have skyrocketed. They were getting 700 a week and that has exploded to 4,000 and growing.
Women are jumping at the opportunity. They used to account for 14 percent of applicants now they account for half, according to the New York Times.
“I think it's a wonderful opportunity for a lot of young women to have a really unique experience that they wouldn't have had otherwise,” said Alisa Barnes, an LDS member.
People visiting Temple Square tell ABC4 they’re not surprise women are eager to start early. “A lot of young ladies want to go on missions for their church but the problem is by the time they are 21 it gets kind of tough for them,” said James Bushman. “They're involved in their education and so forth and they want to move on and have a family so moving that lower I believe is really a good idea.”
But is there more behind the application boost?
Author and ex-Mormon Tricia Erickson attributes the trend to the possible election of Mitt Romney. She tells the Christian News Network that the church is taking advantage of Mormonism becoming mainstream and therefore putting more missionaries on the ground.
However practicing LDS members we spoke with say it's not about politics. “I don't think the announcement is related to Mitt Romney or anything political at all,” said Jarom Barnes. “I just think it means the Lord's work is moving on and he needs more missionaries out there to preach his gospel.”