Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times Sister Kacee Ferrell and Sister Charlene Paramore talk with Florence Burton, a resident at Beehive Homes, as a part of
Augusta Liddic/The Daily Times Sister Kacee Ferrell and Sister Charlene Paramore talk with Florence Burton, a resident at Beehive Homes, as a part of missionary community service work on Wednesday, April 17, 2013. (Augusta Liddic)
FARMINGTON — Sister Charlene Paramore and her mission companion, Sister Kacee Ferrell, sat on the floor in a small room at Farmington's Bee Hive Homes on Wednesday and listened to Florence Burton talk about hiking in the Colorado mountains with her small dog, Skippy.

Paramore and Ferrell gently prodded for more information, smiling and laughing with Burton, who resides at the assisted living home.

The two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were participating in their weekly community service. Ferrell said missionaries look for opportunities around the community and, when they found Bee Hive Homes listed in the phone book, they called up and asked to volunteer.

Ferrell, 21, has been serving her mission for about 10 months. She recently transferred to Farmington from Flagstaff, Ariz., where she served for around eight months.

Paramore, however, has only been on her mission for about six weeks.

Paramore, 20, is one of many young women who signed up for a mission shortly after the church lowered the age requirement for women missionaries to 19.

The church's prophet, Thomas S. Monson, changed the ages to 18 for men and 19 for women during the semiannual general conference — the largest gathering of LDS members — in October 2012. Previously, young men left on missions when they were 19 and women at age 21.

R.J. Dalley, the LDS public affairs representative in Farmington, said the number of mission applications the church receives each month more than tripled after the announcement of the lowered ages.

As the number of missionaries has grown, the church has had to accommodate the increase. Dalley said the Four Corners area will be expanding to receive 85 new missionaries. The area currently has about 170 missionaries, and that number is expected to rise in the summer.

In the past, only 15 percent of mission applications came from young women. However, after the age change, about half of mission applicants are young women.

This surge led to a lack of people to train the new missionaries. In April, the church addressed this shortage by creating "sister training leaders" — female missionaries who help teach other missionaries how to more efficiently find and teach people who are interested in the LDS church.

The church is also making it easier for the 65,000 young men and women currently serving as missionaries to remain in contact with their friends and people they have converted. On Wednesday, the church announced a change to the former email policy.

"Missionaries write to their families each week and may also communicate by email with friends, priesthood leaders, and new converts," said church spokesman Eric Hawkins in a written statement released to the press. "While in the mission field, missionaries should get permission from the mission president before communicating with converts and others of the opposite gender within the mission."

Doyle Batt, the Farmington mission president, said the only main change with the email policy is moving it from paper to electronic form. Missionaries have always been allowed to email family members once a week and to handwrite letters to friends. Now, instead of handwriting letters, the missionaries will be able to email friends once a week using the church's email system.

When Paramore learned about the age change, she said she was really excited. She had already started paperwork to go on mission, but the age change enabled her to get called on a mission earlier than she had anticipated.

In order to go on missions, Paramore and Ferrell had to go through a lengthy process involving applications, physical and dental exams and interviews with church leaders. The application, which included a recommendation from church leaders in their respective communities, was then sent to Salt Lake City, Utah, where it was evaluated and a committee made a decision on where they would be sent. The decision was then sent to Monson, who looked over the decision and sent the missionaries letters telling them where they would be serving.

After receiving their letters, Paramore and Ferrell — both from Utah — reported to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, where they trained before finally being sent to the Four Corners area.

Now on their missions, Paramore and Ferrell are teaching people about the LDS faith and providing community service.

Ferrell said she has been doing community service most of her life and wants to be a nurse after she returns from her mission. She said part of what she loves about being a missionary is the ability to devote all of her time to service.

"We believe we're trying to be like Jesus Christ," Ferrell said about missionary work.

For 18 months, the young women focus their time on service, both to the church and to the community. Missions for young men are slightly longer — usually two years.

Ferrell said that she wants everyone to feel the happiness she has found through the "Gospel of Jesus Christ."

"Our purpose is to invite others to Christ," she said.

Hannah Grover can be reached at hgrover@daily-times.com; 505-564-4652. Follow her on Twitter @hmgrover