President Thomas S. Monson’s announcement about the change in missionary age during the October 2012 general conference altered the lives of many young Latter-day Saints across the world. Within months of the policy change, thousands of eager young adult men and women flooded into mission fields worldwide. However, few predicted the increase in marriages between missionaries who served in the same mission following the age change.
Elders and sisters dating each other after their mission appears far more common than it has ever been. It seems like almost every returned missionary can name at least a handful of elders and sisters from their missions who have had some kind of romantic relationship after the mission.
Lauren Coates, a returned missionary who first met her husband in the Colorado Fort Collins Mission and a senior studying nursing, said she believes the increase of marriage between elders and sisters after their mission is directly related to President Monson’s announcement almost four years ago.
“The missionaries that are serving now are closer together in age,” Coates said. “This can sometimes help to increase the interactions between elders and sisters.”
After nine months of marriage, Coates said she recognizes several benefits that come with dating and marrying a missionary returned from the same mission.
“When you watch how someone behaves as a missionary, it is very easy to tell the kind of person they are in the normal world,” Coates said. “I had been impressed on my mission with how hard my now husband worked. He was always patient and kind when he had to deal with difficult missionaries or those they taught. That was a very impressive thing to me.”
Coates said that when her now husband asked her on a date, she happily agreed because she knew he was a worthy and dedicated man.
“When I met my husband here at school, I knew that he took his mission seriously and truly loved the Lord,” Coates said. “Those were important things to me. We both feel that if we hadn’t at least known of each other, we probably wouldn’t have talked up here at school.”
Serving missionaries are taught to never be “alone with, flirt with or associate in any other inappropriate way with anyone of the opposite sex,” according to the Missionary Handbook. These rules are essential for a missionary to follow while in service. However, once the mission is over, returned elders and sister are certainly allowed to date and develop relationships with each other.
Coates said she and her husband did not develop any feelings for each other on the mission.
“I obviously don’t have a problem with elders and sisters marrying each other after their missions,” Coates said. “I do feel that it is important that things stay appropriate as a missionary and that those types of relationships are reserved for after the mission is completed.”
Lizzy Hano, a sophomore studying psychology, and William Mildenall, a freshman studying computer science, first met while serving in the Utah Salt Lake City Mission. While on the mission, they developed an appropriate friendship and respect for each other.
“We became really good friends on the mission and even better friends after the mission,” Hano said. “Our relationship is based off a best friendship, which is really important to both of us.”
Hano said she and Mildenall will get married next month and that they believe it was divine intervention that allowed them to serve near each other.
“He was my district leader,” Hano said. “He was put in Bountiful out of inspiration.”