Mormon Youth Prepare for Religious Missions

Article excerpt

Byline: Barbara J. Martin Daily Herald Correspondent

Jason Eldredge has known his entire life that he would go on a mission trip when he turned 19, but it wasn't until April that he found out he would be heading to Denmark to teach about Jesus.

Now, the Naperville man is rushing to get ready for his 19th birthday - July 5 - and his July 8 departure for his two-year mission trip.

"I am pretty nervous," Eldredge said. "I know about five words in Danish."

Eldredge is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons. Traditionally, young Mormon men go on mission trips when they turn 19. The idea is to spread the word of God.

"As a missionary, I'll be teaching people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Eldredge said. "That's our main objective."

The stereotype of two Mormon men in white shirts who are riding bicycles is pretty much on target, Eldredge said. He will buy several suits for his trip, and bicycles are a popular mode of transportation in Denmark, he said.

Kim Gibson, also of Naperville, breaks that stereotype a little bit, though.

Gibson, 21, also is going on a mission trip. She'll leave July 2 for the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, before heading to Germany. Young Mormon women go on their missions when they're 21. The age may be different, but the responsibilities are the same, Gibson said.

"Basically, we do the same things. We go out and find people to teach and teach them," she said.

Mormon missionaries work in pairs. Eldredge said he'll likely get a new partner every couple of months. They will room together, sharing expenses. He said church leaders established a standard fee that missionaries must pay - $375 per month for the two years the mission trip lasts. The missionaries pay their own expenses.

"It's entirely voluntary," Eldredge said. "We pay our own way. My parents have been setting aside money almost since I was born."

As a young child, he said, he always talked about going on a mission trip. It wasn't until the past couple of years, though, that the reality of going really hit.

He just finished his first year at Brigham Young University, where most of his dorm mates also were Mormons. The letters from the church apostles telling the young men about their mission assignments came on Wednesdays, he recalled. The young missionaries do not choose their assignments.

Those who get assigned to foreign countries must attend language classes at the Missionary Training Center for several months until they are proficient enough to go into the field. …