Jabari Parker, a senior at Simeon High School in Chicago, is a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is considered one of the top basketball recruits in the nation, in fact, he is the No. 1 ranked senior, and he is currently considering scholarship offers from Duke, Michigan State, Florida, Stanford and Brigham Young University.
However, even with such impressive offers for a rewarding career knocking at his door, the basketball future of Chicago Simeon Career Academy’s forward Jabari Parker could be affected by the recent decision of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to lower the age minimum for men to serve a full-time mission. Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ announced during the Saturday morning session of the 182nd Semiannual General Conference that Mormon men who have graduated from high school may go on their two-year missions at 18 rather than the previous age of 19.
President Monson added the following remarks to this inspired announcement:
“I am not suggesting that all young men will — or should — serve at this earlier age,” Monson said. “Rather, based on individual circumstances, as well as upon a determination by priesthood leaders, this option is now available. … We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty — and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable, to respond to the call to serve.” 
In an earlier interview this year with Sports Illustrated magazine Jabari remarked, “I want to go (on a mission). But I have doubts. The NBA is the biggest dream of basketball players, and I’m no different.”  Jabari will turn 18 in March 2013, and had planned on attending college for at least one year, then deciding whether to go on a mission or enter the NBA draft. Concerning the matter, Jabari’s father, Sonny Parker, commented:
When he’s 18 and if he did want to go on a mission, he can now… He has to decide whether or not (he wants to). He hasn’t decided one way or another. We’ve talked about it. . . . If he’s going at 18, he would go to a mission and then possibly go to college or to the NBA. I know his situation is different than a lot of people. We’ll just see. 
Jabari’s brother, Christian Parker, served a mission from 2006 to 2008 after redshirting one season at BYU-Hawaii. Following his mission, Christian played at Southern Idaho. “When he came from his mission, we talked a lot about it,” Jabari Parker told Sports Illustrated.  He and his family have also spoken with former NFL quarterback Steve Young, who is also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ, and other professional athletes who opted not to go on a mission. “We’ve got a lot of information on it,” Sonny Parker said. “Some people have kind of served a mission without them going on it, kind of doing the same work through the church, still making a difference.” 
A mission is an incredible opportunity to serve, to grow and to witness many life experiences that might otherwise be difficult to experience. In a General Conference address, Elder David A. Bednar, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said, “It is possible for a young man to go on a mission and not become a missionary, and this is not what the Lord requires or what the church needs.”  Danny Ainge, an American basketball executive and retired professional basketball and baseball player, currently serving as President of Basketball Operations for the Boston Celtics, has said:
If you give up two years of your life to serve God and pay back what has been given to you, you will be rewarded with an education you cannot acquire in any other way. Very few people, at any other time in their lives, can live, study and teach the great truths of Jesus Christ 24/7 like missionaries can for two years.
There are a ton of helpful things a mission gives you. When you’re done, you have a master’s degree in experiences. You certainly have earned a unique badge people will respect. 
President Heber J. Grant, a former president of the Church of Jesus Christ, once stated, “There is no other labor in all the world that brings to a human heart, judging from my own personal experience, more joy, peace and serenity than proclaiming the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.” There is no doubt that if Jabari decides to go to the NBA and not serve a full-time mission for the LDS Church that he would still make an indelible impression on his peers and fans alike, as he is already an outstanding role model. But, the question that he must answer for himself is what is more important at this juncture of his life – being an NBA basketball player or serving a faithful mission and laboring in the Lord’s vineyard, sharing the Good News, the gospel of Jesus Christ, for two years and then returning home to play for the NBA. It is a decision that only Jabari himself can, and must eventually make.