There’s a lot of talk about Mormon missionaries these days. With two former missionaries running for the White House and a Tony Award-winning broadway musical bearing the name of the Latter-day Saint’s holy scripture, many have asked, ‘ Is this the Year of the Mormon’?
Mormon missionaries hold a special place in the popular imagination, but On Faith wanted to know about what life is really like for the young Latter-day Saints who evangelize in our neighborhood. Post videographer Ben de la Cruz spent some time with Gregg Karren and David Liew, two fresh-faced missionaries, called ‘elders’ in their church, who are working in the greater D.C. area to spread the Mormon gospel.
Karren grew up in a small farming town in Alberta, Canada. In his two years as a missionary in Northern Virginia, Karren has helped convert about 41 people to the Mormon faith. Karren, now 21, says the number is good for the United States, though small compared to Africa and South America where, he says, people are more open to missionaries.
Liew is originally from Malaysia. He was raised Catholic but converted to Mormonism when two missionaries visited his family home at the invitation of his father. He was 12 at the time and converted along with his brother and three sisters. Liew arrived in the United States to train at the seminary in Utah on June 24, 2010. He is the first in his family to go on a mission.
Young men, typically between the ages of 19 and 25, serve two-year missions. Women can volunteer for an 18-month mission starting at the age of 21. Missionaries pay $400 per month for room and board anywhere in the world. To help them focus on their work – proselytizing door-to-door, meeting with prospective converts in their homes, volunteering in the community, among other activities – they have limited contact with family and friends. According to the missionaries, they are only allowed to call their families twice a year – Mother’s Day and Christmas. Once a week, they can exchange e-mail or a letter with their families and friends.
More On Faith and Mormonism:
Clayton Christensen: Stephen Hawking and the experience of God
Mike Otterson: Why I won’t see the Book of Mormon musical
Mike Otterson: Is this really a ‘Mormon moment?’
Jena McGregor: Are Mormons better leaders?