March 4 in the Houston Chronicle

Two luggage bags sat for days by the front door of the Huntsmans’ home in The Woodlands, filled a bit at a time with clothes and supplies 18-year-old Michael would need for a two-year mission in Chile.

Last week, he arrived in Utah for training, making him one of the first teens from the Houston area to take advantage of a historic change in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to allow those seeking to serve a mission to apply at younger ages.

Families watching a live broadcast in October heard church leader President Thomas Monson set a minimum age for missionaries worldwide, which previously varied from country to country. Now, American men can apply for a mission when 18 years old, rather than 19, and women at 19, rather than 21.

Some Mormons and church scholars greeted the change and the almost six-fold increase in applications that followed with more questions.

Was this a step toward gender equity? How much will this increase the number of missionaries and converts worldwide?

One question echoed in Huntsman’s mind with more urgency than ever before: Do I want to go?

Sitting on a bed with her mother and young niece in Humble, Karin Ruiz, 20, knew exactly what she would do: apply.

Ruiz texted Domingo Morales, president of Houston’s north Spanish branch and the local church leader who would work through the application process with her.

“President Monson hadn’t even finished making the announcement,” Morales recalled. “She said, ‘Did you hear what he just said? I’m ready to go right now! ‘ ”

She soon will.

Read the full story at

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