In 2002 Elder M. Russell Ballard gave his talk about "raising the bar" on missionary service. There was a lot of discussion about it at the time, and because of all the emphasis on MORE worthiness, I think I subconsciously assumed that in the past, the standards had been pretty lax and ANY old person could go on a mission. But, while I'm sure that "raising the bar" was a necessary and good reminder, what I've now read of older talks shows that it was NOT a break from earlier tradition. High standards have always been expected of missionaries and of priesthood holders in general! Here are a few quotes I liked from this Priesthood Session:
Elder H Burke Peterson:
Brethren, our success in the priesthood depends on the pattern of our life. When we learn to be led by the Spirit, then the priesthood authority we have will become priesthood power, the power to change lives for the better, to cause miracles to happen in [people's] lives.Elder N. Eldon Tanner:
It is just not fair to anyone to send a young man into the mission field who is not qualified or worthy. He cannot get the spirit of his calling. And while he is in the mission field he is a burden to the mission president and a deterrent to the missionary work.…
If a young man is guilty of transgression, let him know that you love him and that you are prepared to help in every way possible to get him back on the track.…
A person who is guilty of a serious transgression cannot progress, and he is not happy while the guilt is upon him. Until he has confessed and repented he is in bondage.President Spencer W. Kimball:
I remind you young men that regardless of your present age, you are building your life; it will be cheap and shoddy or it will be valuable and beautiful; it will be full of constructive activities or it can be destructive; it can be full of joy and happiness, or it can be full of misery.I love being part of a church that expects such greatness of men and young men!