A wonderful woman who served as my Education Counselor a number of years ago served a mission for the church around the time she was 19. She fell in the fabulous loophole. Her father was a mission president, so she was allowed to serve while he served, even though she was “underage.”
But George Durrant was not just any mission president. He was the mission president at the MTC. And since she couldn’t feasibly serve in his mission, as was the rule, she served a regular foreign mission.
So not fair. I was taking missionary prep when I started dating my husband-to-be. We married when I was 21.
The (un-?) official church reasoning for why males serve at 19 and women not until 21 was always something along the lines of “missionary work is a priesthood responsibility and it is more important for women to marry and begin having families.”
While this may have made sense a few decades ago, it’s illogical in an era when the vast majority of LDS women don’t marry until after they are 21. (This is just observation and hearsay—too busy unpacking to look up sources) In fact, it seems that the current policy actually finally lets women go when they are much more likely to marry than in the 19-21 range.
My dad (who, alas, was not a mission president at the MTC when I turned 19) was a bishop at the MTC when I first asked him about this. He thought it was really a way to calm the logistical/hormonal problem of having a rash of 19-year-olds—in a mixed-gender group—all out serving together. I tend to concur, but I still wish it were otherwise.
I have no answer for why women server shorter missions. Except, of course, that they need to rush home to get married and start families.