Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mormon missionaries, the non-musical

Steffanie Anderson

is the assistant director of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Philadelphia region.

With the musical The Book of Mormon opening last week in Philadelphia, this seemed an appropriate time to talk about some real Mormons and their missions.

While most 18- to 27-year-olds spend those years discovering the pleasures and pressures of college or the workplace, about 85,000 young men and women from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints learn a different lesson: how to selflessly serve their God and fellow man.

"I have learned that the world is in desperate need of hope. The world needs the promise of a bright future," said Sister Katie Menlove, who serves in the Philadelphia area. "We have that promise and we are so excited and willing to share the peace of Christ with anyone who wants to know."

The life of Mormon missionaries can be hard and challenging. They leave home for 18 or 24 months, many having just graduated from high school, to an assigned station abroad or stateside, not seeing family members except twice-a-year calls through Skype. They fund their own mission, which often takes years of saving by the missionary and his or her family.

They are typically paired with a dozen different missionaries while serving and required to be within sight and sound of their companion at all times. Sister Libby Jensen, companion to Sister Menlove, said, "My mission has taught me how to coordinate with people, how to live peacefully with someone 24/7, how to pray meaningfully, and how to love deeply."

Young men and women who aspire to mission life must be in good standing with the church, attend church meetings every Sunday, must have graduated from high school or the equivalent, and must be able to meet the physical and medical requirements. Many men and women with disabilities are able to serve in special capacities consistent with their disabilities.

A missionary's typical day begins at 6:30 a.m., with exercise, personal study time, and companion study time. By 10 a.m., the team walks out the door, to what can either be a hostile or welcoming world.

Some missionaries go door-to-door to spread the message that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world. Others teach at train stations, bus stops, and street corners. In many areas of the world, missionaries give free English lessons. Some teach online through Facebook and over the phone to referrals received through church headquarters or

A missionary doesn't just talk about Jesus, but serves like him, lending aid to disaster victims, visiting elder-care centers and hospitals, putting roofs on houses, helping people move, and landscaping. All of this is done free of charge.

Many evenings, missionaries eat with church members or local families. After dinner, they keep spreading the message or offering service until they return home, getting to bed by 10:30 p.m.

The Book of Mormon, the musical, attempts to entertain audiences for an evening. But the Book of Mormon, a volume of scripture, changes people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.

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