Sunday, April 12, 2009

Nevada Appeal Profiles LDS Missionaries David Smith And Andrew Chambers In Carson City; Both Say Carson City Friendlier Than Las Vegas

The Nevada Appeal has published an interesting and informative profile of two missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints currently operating in Carson City, Nevada. Read the Nevada Appeal story HERE; this post includes some additional perspective.

David Smith, 21, of Omaha, Nebraska and Andrew Chambers, 20, of Tampa, Florida (both pictured above left; Chambers is the stocky-looking gentleman on the right) say they enjoy their mission with the LDS Church despite the occasional turndown during their door-to-door evangelism. They find that people in Carson City are much friendlier than those at their previous stop, Las Vegas. In fact, Church members often invite them to dinner and send them home with leftovers. [Ed. Note: The above photo indicates that local members may be exceptionally generous about sharing their provisions.]

Chambers and Smith both departed on their missions in late 2007, and are expected to wrap them up late this year as most are called to serve for two years. Though they like Carson City, they can be moved anywhere within the mission area as frequently as every six weeks. They share an apartment and operate on a tight schedule with a spartan lifestyle. Typically, they wake up at 6:30 A.M, study for several hours, teach people about their faith, do requested chores and are back in bed by 10:30 P.M. They are not allowed to watch television or read a newspaper. Their only entertainment is approved music such as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Part of what they will have to know as leaders comes from the missionary manuals they study on their own and with a group of missionaries in the Carson City area they meet with once a week.

One of their converts was interviewed for the story. Rita Soto of Carson City joined the church after a few months of talking with Chambers and Smith. She said they never judged her or told her what to do. They just told her to read the Bible and Book of Mormon and come to a decision on her own. She said they made her and her 12-year-old son, Seth, feel more at home than they ever felt. They even did her yard work.

This favorable feedback by a convert is obviously a tribute to the mission president, who supervises the missionaries. The mission president in this case, Elder Kevin McCracken, emphasizes quality as well as quantity. Elder McCracken, president of the Nevada Las Vegas West Mission, which encompasses parts of Las Vegas and western Nevada, said members of the church learn a lot on their missions. It’s the first time many are away from home, learn to budget and really care for themselves. “During their time here, there’s a lot of maturing — physically, emotionally and spiritually,” he said.

Unfortunately, not all mission presidents think like Kevin McCracken. On rare occasions, a mission president may apply excess pressure on missionaries for numbers, who in turn may pressure converts to join before they are truly "ready". This can sow the seeds for a convert to depart the Church in later years, as described in Gloria's account HERE. Gloria left the Church after 19 years to find a different road to Christ; one of her complaints was that she felt like she was hustled into the Church before she was ready. Unlike many who leave the Church though, Gloria has not become a hard-core anti-Mormon, but she clearly prefers a religious environment oriented more towards worship and less towards ordinances and callings.

But negative experiences are the exception; the vast majority of those who serve missions for the Church complete them honorably, go on to marry in the Temple and establish families. They will tell you that their mission was one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives.

Quantitatively, Nevada has the seventh highest number of Mormons of any U.S. state. Carson City, the state capital with a 2007 population of 54,939, has four wards within the city proper. There are two Mormon chapels in town and six more in the surrounding area.

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