No doubt you’ve seen them many times: clean-cut young men
dressed in white shirts, ties and suits, earnestly pedaling
bicycles along residential streets. These are missionaries of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons.
No doubt you’ve seen them many times: clean-cut young men dressed in white shirts, ties and suits, earnestly pedaling bicycles along residential streets. These are missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons.
Their church operates the world’s largest missionary system. More than 50,000 men and women serve full time at 344 missions throughout the world. Their dedication is remarkable. Men aged 19-25 years old serve two years and women aged 21-25 serve 18 months. Even retired couples have the opportunity to serve the “Heavenly Father” in this way, away from the comforts of home.
If they are assigned to the United States, they go for preparation to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah (near Brigham Young University).
If they are to live in an English-speaking country, they study for three weeks sacred scriptures, strategies for effectively working with strangers and teaching techniques. If they are assigned to a non-English speaking country, they will undergo concentrated instruction in a foreign language.
The church owns a house in Morgan Hill that is provided as a residence for missionaries sent to this area.
There are usually six missionaries here at any one time: two English-speaking “elders,” (men missionaries), two Spanish-speaking “elders,” and two “sisters” (women missionaries).
Missionaries always travel in pairs, called “companionships,” as they do their work.
Elder Karford, 21, is from Evergreen, Colo., and has been a missionary for 22 months, serving in San Jose, Salinas, Fremont and Livermore before arriving in Morgan Hill. After high school he was a basketball coach in Colorado. When he finishes the remaining two months of his mission, he plans to attend college and study either accounting or education.
Since one of his brothers was a missionary and another didn’t serve, he knew this experience was an option for this stage of his life, not a requirement. After prayerful consideration, Karford decided it would be a valuable spiritual experience and also an educational experience that would teach him how to succeed on his own among many different people in different places.
Elder Hyde, 19, is from Lindon, Utah. A June high school graduate, he prayed about what to do next with his life and “instantly” knew that being a missionary was the right path for him to follow.
They observe a rigorous daily schedule:
– 6:25 a.m., arise.
– 6:30-8 a.m., exercise and have breakfast.
– 8-9 a.m., personal study in the Book of Mormon,” Bible and “Preach my Gospel,” a missionary training book).
– 9-10 a.m., companion study, sharing what they have learned, preparing for their day’s efforts.
Except for lunch and dinner, they spend the remaining hours until 9 or 10 p.m. performing the duties of a missionary: knocking on doors to “proselyte” (distributing literature and spread the message of the “restoration of the Gospel of Jesus”). They also return to homes upon request and conduct instruction in the Mormon faith.
Morgan Hill is part of the California San Jose Mission, an area stretching from King City in the south to Palo Alto in the north, and east to Livermore and Dublin. Some 200 missionaries are assigned to cities in this mission, all under the supervision of President Jackson and local leaders.
Missionaries and their families pay the expenses involved in serving in their ministry. Traditionally, costs of living in various locations varied widely, so the church devised a system to levy a standard charge for each, leveling the wide discrepancies.
This monthly fee pays for room and board, plus upkeep of the mission car, if one is available. The men and women pay extra for personal expenses like clothing and bicycle repairs.
Missionaries have no access to television, video games or computers, except for a weekly e-mail home.
Karford and Hyde, however, express no regret for their sacrifices. Karford describes how happy he was during a service project in Fremont when he helped a young couple with children for an hour or so each week by pruning, rototilling and replanting their yard.
When he comes across people needing help, he’s always glad to be of assistance. Hyde has enjoyed helping out at the Morgan Hill Library. Although many doors are slammed in his face while he is out making calls, he says that when someone responds positively to his message, “It erases the memory of the rejections.”
Both young men agree that Latter-day Saint missionaries are dedicated and friendly people who look forward to serving the communities where they are assigned. Karford and Hyde invite local residents to call upon them if they can be of any assistance, spiritual or physical.
For more information, call (408) 230-0947.