Willfully or not, Mormon authorities have unleashed a powerful new force upon the global faith: LDS women who increasingly will be seen as spiritual equals to men.
LDS leaders have made a marked change in how missionaries are deployed. They've lowered the age at which men and women can go on their missions, which could swell the number of men, and, perhaps more so, women, who step up to serve. During the LDS Church's conference last weekend, leaders announced that men can begin their missions after high school at age 18 instead of 19 and that women can go at 19, a full two years earlier than in the past.
For women, that may mean a college semester or two not three years before departing. More important, it will launch more of them into the same spheres young men enter, with all the attendant training, discipline and focus missions can bring. True, these women won't have the LDS priesthood. But they will gain the scriptural smarts, the foreign language skills and the confidence that comes from immersing themselves in their faith and other cultures.