Mormon Missionaries Dedicated to the Word
Luebke, Nancy, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Nancy Luebke Daily Herald Correspondent
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is one of the fastest growing churches in the United States. In the Chicago area alone, there are 24,000 members.
One of the ways Mormons spread their faith is through missionaries. There are 60,000 missionaries worldwide, going two- by-two to any country where the government allows missionaries.
"The missionaries go to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. We strongly believe that the church doesn't need to be defended, it needs to be explained," said Ann Castleton, director of public affairs for the Chicago region.
Missionaries can be senior couples, or young men and women, but they are always assigned in pairs. The males must be at least 19 years old, and the females must be at least 21 years old. Castleton said the missions are voluntary and the missionaries pay for all their costs during the two-year missions.
Once a young man or woman decides to become a missionary for two years, they submit an application to the church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. The church decides where they will go, and while they may serve two years in a country or area of the country, they frequently move around to different towns during the two year stay.
"The church disperses missionaries where they need to be," said Castleton.
There are 330 missions worldwide, with about 100 to 200 missionaries in each mission. In Illinois, there are two missions that cover the state, and each mission is overseen by a president and his wife, along with two counselors. In the Illinois/Chicago north mission including DuPage County and covers the northern part of the state east to Valparaiso, Ind., and west to Ottawa, President Gordon Brown is in charge of 165 missionaries.
"We have missionaries from all over the world at our mission," said Brown.
Some of the countries represented in the Chicago north mission are Taiwan, Tahiti, Guatemala, Mexico, Italy, Samoa, Philippines, Mongolia, New Zealand, Australia, Russia and the Ukraine. Missionaries from many states in the country are also doing missionary work here.
While growing up in the Mormon faith, children are told about missionary work. Those messages are reinforced during the time the family spends together during the week studying scripture and talking. During high school, students gather before school for scripture classes to learn about the doctrines of the church and to prepare for life.
"The children hear about missions all through their lives," said Castleton.
Not every young man or woman decides to spend time as a missionary, but those who do must be in good health, must not smoke or drink alcohol, must be debt free, and must be morally clean, which they will be if they are living the tenets of the church.
Once an application is submitted to the church in Salt Lake City, Utah, the head of the church, along with 12 apostles reviews the applications.
"The church knows where missionaries are needed, but they do take into account the applicant's ancestry and interests when determining where they will be sent," said Brown. …