|Meanwhile the girl next to him is texting her bishop for an interview...|
Let's talk about some pros of the announcement for boys first. Guys who don't feel smart enough to go to college and have nothing to do after graduation will no longer slip through the cracks. Not to say that they all do, but I can think of one I know personally who just never made it out in large part due to that gap. Now they'll have the opportunity to get out and serve. Other than that minority (and a few others who are just eager to get out instead of spend a year in college), the boys' change isn't completely unexpected. There are plenty of guys who wait to go on their missions (I also happen to know a few of those) because they want to feel more mature and/or prepared first. I don't think that will change.
Biggest con there is maturity, but Pres Monson pointed out that going at 18 is an option, not a requirement. In case you missed that.
Now for the big change - girls. Do you have any idea how much happens in two years? So many girls get married, get too involved in school or careers or any number of things between 19 and 21. I started thinking about a mission when I was 20, and I had to wait a whole year to turn 21, and an additional 4 months after my birthday to go into the MTC. There, I waited 2 more months... I was quite pleased to read the Newsroom article stating that they plan to cut down MTC time as well. (I always felt my last week or so was more review and anxiety than anything else.) Total, I did 18 months of waiting to serve my 17.5 month mission. Now, looking back I wouldn't change my time there for the world. I love my companions and the people we met and taught, and being there earlier would have change a lot of that, but I would have been so pleased if this announcement were made in 2006 when I was pondering missionary service.
Between sessions, Casey (DH) and I went to Subway for lunch. We stood in line behind a very excited girl telling to her friends that thanks to the announcement, her whole life had changed and her papers would certainly be in by January. One of my friends posted on facebook that she will definitely serve in one year when she turns 19. Another friend was going to turn hers in next fall, but now has the option of talking to her bishop at the earliest convenience.
These changes are huge to girls and to missions.
(Rosarinos, correct me if my numbers are off.) Most transfers, my mission (Rosario Argentina!) only had about 15 sisters out of a total of 150+ missionaries. There would be plenty of transfers where we would lose sisters and not get any new ones. We'd try to find mini-missionaries (locals aged about 18-20 who would be missionaries for a transfer or two) to keep areas open, but it's a total crapshoot. Many areas in my mission just needed sisters. No offense, elders, but it's just true. I served in one area where a bad pair of elders had thrown a party and the members had no respect for elders. They refused to take boys if the President tried to send them. The change in girls' age requirements for missions will not only get excited girls out there sooner, but plenty of girls will be getting the maturity and experience they need in the mission field instead of getting married to the first RM they date.
A friend made the point that this will also close the awkward dating gap between male and female RMs. Female RMs had plenty of time to date and when they get home they generally know what they want. Male RMs generally have had little, if any, time to date pre-mission and make for awkward and uncomfortable dates for a while post-mission.
Long story short, my mission had a huge effect on me and I'm stoked to see missions change the lives of many, many more young women than they have in the past.
Also, maybe we'll stop thinking of missionaries only being like this:
And start thinking of them more like this: