Traditionally, when Latter-day Saints talk about “serving a mission,” the expectation has been that the individual would serve a full-time proselyting mission for 18 months to two years. But a growing number of young men and young women are fulfilling service missions.
As of Aug. 30, there are 2,238 young service missionaries in 234 service missionary areas across the world.
The purpose of a service mission is “to help others come unto Christ by serving them as the Savior would.”
Worthy young men ages 18-25 and young women ages 19-25 may serve a service mission for six to 18 months, as close to full time as their capability and circumstances allow. These missionaries live at home and serve locally, and each young man or young woman is provided a customized mission experience uniquely tailored to his or her talents, skills and gifts.
The key objectives of a service mission are to:
- Provide an opportunity for all willing young women and young men to serve the Lord and increase in testimony of Him.
- Help each service missionary prepare for a lifetime of service.
- Provide needed and valuable service to Church and community organizations.
Below are stories of nine unique service mission experiences.
1. Building the kingdom through service and love
When Sister Kaytlin Jenks’ stake president first asked her if she would consider a service mission, she wondered if the calling meant there was something wrong with her — but she didn’t yet see the bigger purpose behind service missions.
“Ultimately, I realized that I wasn’t called to a service mission because I was inadequate, but because this was Heavenly Father’s direction for me,” she wrote in the Liahona magazine.
“I wasn’t ‘less than’ proselyting missionaries; rather, He needed me to help build His kingdom through other means of service.”
2. Texas missionary honored for giving his all during service mission
“I’ve been asked several times why serving is so important to me,” Elder Wood said. “The more I answer that question, the more I realize my answer is kind of selfish — I like making others happy, and making others happy makes me happy.”
Elder Wood, 20, has brain tumors and mobility and cognitive struggles due to complications from the tumors. But pushing through his limitations brings him joy, satisfaction and peace.
3. Missionary wins 3 medals at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games
Among the thousands of athletes, coaches, volunteers and spectators in Orlando, Florida, in June for the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games, one young man stood out — he was wearing a missionary name tag.
Elder Max Reynolds, 22, is serving a full-time service mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Gilbert, Arizona. He’s also a really good swimmer, and he was selected to represent Arizona and swim at the Games June 5-12.
Elder Reynolds has autism and serves as his capability and circumstances allow, with a customized mission experience uniquely tailored to his talents and skills.
4. Service after the Almeda Fire in Oregon
Seth Cannon began a service mission for the Church in August 2020 at United Way in Jackson County, Oregon. When the Almeda Fire hit, CEO Dee Anne Everson asked then-Elder Cannon to review applications for aid under the fire relief program.
Cannon said his assignment was unlike anything he expected or thought a mission could be. “There were certainly times when I thought I couldn’t handle any more tough stories, but getting to wake up and spend all day at United Way helping fire survivors was a true gift.”
Everson hopes more young adults choose a service mission: “Our community is only better for good young people. My life is so much better for knowing Seth.”
5. How 5 missionaries from one family made an impact in their Arizona community
Chad, Ashley, Amy, Caroline and Hailey McKendrick all served service missions in Gilbert, Arizona. They are five of Kelly and Christina McKendrick’s 24 children, who range in age from 5 to 40 years old — 17 of whom were adopted.
Some have developmental delays or health challenges, and a service mission gave them flexibility and a tailored experience to their needs. One returned home early from a teaching mission and transferred to a service mission, which taught her how to deal with change and have faith.
When asked how watching her children serve service missions has strengthened her testimony, Christina McKendrick said: “Heavenly Father knows these kids. He knew where they needed to be.”
6. Getting to know one of Australia’s first service missionaries
Elder Domonic McKendry from Ballarat, Australia, loves his calling.
“Our purpose is to help others come to Christ by serving them as the Savior did,” the 23-year-old said.
The missionary serves in a variety of ways including cooking, gardening, temple ordinance work, indexing and volunteering at the local family history center and charities. He encourages others deciding to serve missions to not be scared, but rather be open and rely on Jesus Christ’s love.
7. Serving a service mission with a smile in New Zealand
Elder Alex Murphy always wanted to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Now, despite physical and mental disabilities, he has become what is believed to be the first service missionary for the Church from New Zealand.
He serves in a variety of capacities such as at the Church’s Camp Tuhikaramea, which was developed by his great-uncle. Here, Elder Murphy does maintenance and enjoys driving the “buggy” utility vehicle.
In addition, the New Zealand elder teaches early morning seminary alongside his mother, attends weekly classes for the institute of religion, sings in the Hamilton Interfaith Choir, takes piano lessons on his great-grandfather’s piano, has helped the St Vincent De Paul organization and his personal favorite: groundskeeping work at the Hamilton New Zealand Temple.
8. Continuing to serve after going home early
When then-20-year-old Sister Bekki Andrews learned she would have to leave the Minnesota Minneapolis Mission early in March 2020 because of COVID-19 precautions and her asthma, she was devastated.
Before Sister Andrews was released, her stake president in West Covina, California, suggested she consider transferring to a service mission. She got the necessary approvals and began serving at home.
“She jumped right in and she was just so enthusiastic about serving,” said Elder Rod Hulet, service mission leader in the California Arcadia Service Mission Area.
9. Artist missionary makes mural for Utah’s ancient tabernacle exhibit
Many visitors to an ancient tabernacle exhibit in northern Utah were drawn to a large mural on the wall in the visitors’ center section of the tour.
“The Covenant Path,” by Nathan Hale of the Roy Utah Stake, measured 8 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Hale made the mural in March while serving a Church service mission.
President Kelly L. Taylor, Hale’s stake president and mission president, said the mural came about in just a matter of days, which was truly miraculous for something of this magnitude. And it showed how the Lord uses His people when they offer their time and talents and get to work.