The Chattanooga Valley ward (congregation) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, located in Flintstone, Georgia, is hosting four full time Mormon missionaries to help with sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. The four missionaries are Sister McKenzie Jensen of Vineyard, Utah; Sister Taylor Mansfield of Santa Clarita, California; Elder Reagan Bluth of St. David, Arizona; and Elder Jameson Bingham of Hurricane, Utah. They are between 18-20 years old.
When asked why she would want to give up 18 months of her life to serve a mission, Sister Jensen said: “The answer is simple. I love The Lord and I want to bring His Light to others so that they can know of His love for them.” Sister Jensen has been in Tennessee for 10 months. She said she has become more confident while serving The Lord. “My whole life I’ve struggled with confidence,” she said. “On a mission, the only way to share the gospel of Jesus Christ is by talking to people. And that takes confidence and courage. How I’ve been able to do this is by relying on my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. With The Father and His Son, all things are possible. I have been able to feel and share Their love – and gospel – which is the good news and glad tidings we all long for.”
Sister Mansfield of Santa Clarita, California said she is the first full-time missionary in her family. She said she never thought she would serve a mission but after spiritual promptings and a lot of prayers, she decided it was something she wanted and needed to do. Sister Mansfield said she loves the people she has met in Georgia and Tennessee. She also said that missions are not easy. Sometimes they are hard. It is hard to be away from family, friends, school, etc. But she said she wouldn’t trade her experience for anything. “I have such a great appreciation for the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message that I share as His representative. It has been a great privilege to serve in the South.”
Elder Bluth explained that young men leave behind their families and friends while dedicating two years completely to The Lord. “Over the past year, I have learned that Jesus Christ is aware of the trials we face. He knows each of us personally and will give us answers to our prayers. That’s why I’m out here sharing the message of His restored gospel through service and, yes, sometimes by knocking on your door! Jesus Christ is infinitely aware of the trials we face,” he said. “Coming to know Christ as my Lord and Savior fills me with the desire to share His promise – ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’” (Matthew 11:28).
Elder Bingham said he is also grateful for the opportunity to serve in this area. Missionaries do not request their area of assignment. They receive their assignment from Church headquarters. During their time of service, “contacts with family and friends are limited to letters and occasional phone calls to family at special times. Missionaries avoid entertainment, parties or other activities common to this age-group as long as they are on their missions, so they can focus entirely on the work of serving and of teaching others the gospel of Jesus Christ” (mormonnewsroom.org).
The missionary effort of The Church “is based on the New Testament pattern of missionaries serving in pairs, teaching the gospel and baptizing believers in the name of Jesus Christ” (mormonnewsroom.org). Missionaries are not paid for their services, and they fund their own missions, sometimes with the support of family and friends.
A mature couple – a mission president and his wife – supervise these young people. Mission presidents come from all walks of life. Among the new mission presidents around the world are “49 businessmen, 20 educators, 11 medical professionals and a professional golfer.” Mission presidents and their wives serve for three years without pay and “supervise and train on average from 170 to 180 missionaries during a given time, and will work with around 600 young people during their three-year period of service” (mormonnewsroom.org).
President David Jay Pickett and his wife, Kristin J. Pickett, preside over the Tennessee Knoxville mission, which includes the greater Chattanooga area and parts of Georgia. The Picketts are from Idaho, and are co-owners of Pickett Ranch.
The term “Mormon” is a nickname for the Church and its followers. The official name is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – a name that bears witness that Mormons are followers of Jesus Christ and His restored gospel.