Faith

Mormons take a journey both outward and inward

Young Mormons’ mission trips seek to spread faith, attain spiritual growth

Posted 2/1/16

Taylor Hunter, 20, returned to Parker in December after an 18-month mission trip to the western part of upstate New York, where she shoveled sidewalks, participated in service projects and spread the word of the Mormon faith.

She knocked on doors …

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Faith

Mormons take a journey both outward and inward

Young Mormons’ mission trips seek to spread faith, attain spiritual growth

Posted

Taylor Hunter, 20, returned to Parker in December after an 18-month mission trip to the western part of upstate New York, where she shoveled sidewalks, participated in service projects and spread the word of the Mormon faith.

She knocked on doors to share “the message of Jesus Christ and His love for everybody.” And although about 80 percent of those she talked to were not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the vast majority were receptive to the message.

“A lot of people we talked to just wanted that relationship and knowledge of a higher power,” said Hunter, now a student at Utah State University. “I talked about Joseph Smith and how he restored the church, where we came from, why we’re here, where we’re going and the potential of what we can become.”

That passion for testifying about their faith and service to others — whether it be through mission trips to distant places or leadership in local communities — defines the Mormon tradition of building strong family values, several church members said.

The family unit, said Dale Lyman, a stake president in Parker, lasts forever.

“We believe that families last in life as well as in eternity,” Lyman said. “Everything we do as a church is to help the individual and the family to be stronger, more Christ-like, more God-like.”

That focus branches out into other facets of life for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the LDS Church. Guiding others through the Gospel is among the main goals, as is contributing to the community in which they live.

The faith-based altruism has grown so strong it has reached beyond the borders of the U.S., where the religion got its start. Today, there are more followers outside of the country than in it — the result, in large part, is due to widespread outreach.

The mission of missionaries

After completing high school, young men and women in the LDS Church often embark on a voluntary mission to preach the Gospel — their destinations determined by church elders. Men go on two-year missions and women for 18 months, said Lyman, who has had four of his six sons serve missions. A fifth — his 18-year-old son — is expecting to learn in the coming weeks where he will serve.

Missionaries in south metro Denver traditionally use bicycles or cars to get around and deliver their spiritual message. However, the mode of transportation is up to mission leaders. Aside from receiving a book called “Preach My Gospel” to help guide them through outreach, the decision on who serves a mission mostly comes down to the worthiness of each individual, said Lyman, who went on a mission to Peru when he was 19 years old.

“The key thing is that they’re living the church’s standards, they know the testimony of Christ and are following the Ten Commandments,” he said. “They also talk about how the church has impacted them.”

Reaching out

Kristyn Wilcox, a mother of four who lives in Highlands Ranch, said her son is planning to leave for a mission after completing high school in May. The 18-year-old’s destination has not been decided, but Wilcox is confident he will be kept safe by the mission president and his wife in whichever location he is sent. She expects her son will attain spiritual growth and a new cultural experience.

“He had some thinking to do about it, but I think he believes in the Gospel enough to be excited about this chance to share his testimony,” Wilcox said. “It’s not only trying to convert people. Missionaries are involved in countless hours of community service wherever they go, and just to try to make every little corner of the world a better place.”

By the end of high school, most teenage boys have a natural urge to explore and engage others, she said. Like others on mission trips, he will be unable to return home for the time he is gone and can call his family only twice a year. But, like Hunter, he will be able to email his family once a week.

But the absence is for a good cause, Wilcox said. Her son is “motivated to do this for our church and his personal relationship with heavenly father.”

“There will be tears,” she added. “But there will be any time he moves away from home.”

The reward

While Hunter was on her mission in New York, she also guided tours at sites associated with the Mormon religion in Palmyra, considered the birthplace of the LDS church, including the farm where Joseph Smith lived as a boy and where the first edition of the Book of Mormon was printed.

Although sharing the church’s message was her primary purpose, the trip was never about the number of conversions, she said.

Hunter was proud to have had a hand in leading three people to become baptized, the first covenant of the church. A senior couple who initially had reservations was among them.

“It was so incredible to see that God has softened the hearts of these people — and they were against it,” Hunter said. “And they had us come back and they accepted.”

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