Church-Service Missionaries Make a Difference
By Michelle Garrett, Church News staff writer
- The Church’s service missionary program began in 1979, and more than 15,000 members are currently serving.
- Missionaries serve in a variety of areas including family history, welfare, Church education, and addiction recovery.
- Those interested in serving can learn more at lds.org/csm.
“I do not have the ability to do what I have done here. It’s not just with me—I’ve seen it happen time and again. … The Lord makes up the difference, and we’re able to do it.” —Sister Claudine Cable, Church-service missionary
The Church-service missionary program began in 1979, and today more than 15,000 members are contributing to the Lord’s work throughout the world.
Claudine Cable, communications and training coordinator for the Church-service missionary program, said that Church-service missionaries make up a large part of some departments of the Church. In the Welfare Department, for example, they make up about 80 percent of the workforce.
“If they weren’t there, it would shut down,” Sister Cable said. “You couldn’t do it without the Church-service missionaries.”
Elder David Moss, communications and training director for the Church-service missionary program, said the variety of service available is the beauty of the program.
“You don’t have to be an expert in anything; there are so many areas you can serve in,” Elder Moss said. He noted he has already served in many different capacities, and each time he was taught, trained, and given the opportunity to serve.
Sister Cable said though she has served in the Church her whole life, including a full-time proselytizing mission in Wales with her husband, she has never seen the hand of the Lord as much as she has as a Church-service missionary.
“[Heavenly Father] has taught me to do things I do not know how to do,” Sister Cable said. “I do not have the ability to do what I have done here. It’s not just with me—I’ve seen it happen time and again. … The Lord makes up the difference, and we’re able to do it.”
The Church’s website lds.org/csm offers instructions on how to apply for a Church-service mission. Those wishing to serve a Church-service mission can also contact the Church-service missionary program office at Church headquarters at 1-800-453-3860, ext. 2-4914 (or 1-801-240-4914), or email email@example.com. There is also a Church-service missionary group on the social networking site LinkedIn.
Those wishing to volunteer as Church-service missionaries need to be temple worthy; financially independent; able to meet the physical, mental, and emotional requirements; and available to meet the work schedule.
Church-service missionaries serve at least eight hours per week for 6 to 24 months. They can extend up to 30 months and then reapply for another mission when their time is up. They can continue to serve in ward or stake callings as long as these callings do not interfere with their Church-service missionary assignments. Those wishing to serve should contact their bishop to begin the application process.
Below are the accounts of several Church-service missionaries who give of their time and talents in areas around Salt Lake City. To watch videos about the stories of other Church-service missionaries around the world, visit lds.org/csm.
Since he joined the Church in his youth, Elder Bill Starkweather has always had an interest in family history. Because his wife wasn’t able to serve a full-time mission, he found a Church-service mission at the Family History Library to be the ideal option. He’s now been serving for a cumulative seven years.
“I’m kind of addicted,” he admitted.
Elder Starkweather said he enjoys being able to work with the plentiful resources available at the Family History Library and the time he gets to work on his own family history on top of the opportunity to serve. He said helping someone else make great discoveries in their family history is just as fun as doing his own.
“The nice thing about serving here is you’re doing the Lord’s work,” Elder Starkweather said. “You can’t be here very long without the Spirit guiding you.”
He said every person who works there has had an experience of the Spirit guiding him or her to find records or to otherwise accomplish the work. The missionaries in the Family History Library also hold regular prayer meetings and share spiritual thoughts that help the Spirit to be with them. With the Spirit always helping, Elder Starkweather said, the work is made easy.
Within the Church Office Building in downtown Salt Lake City, many missionary badges can be seen, and many belong to members who put in a full day’s work without any compensation—at least not in the monetary way.
Linda Davies worked in communications all her life, especially in television broadcasting. After she retired, she wanted to be able to serve the Church using her area of expertise. She eventually was able to get involved with the Church magazines writing for the Friend. One of her projects included creating online videos about Primary children from all over the world. She said the experience has helped her see that the gospel is the same everywhere.
“It has truly been a wonderful experience to get to know the parents and children when I talk to them,” Sister Davies said. “The gospel means the same thing to all of us.”
She said it’s been a huge blessing to be able to continue to develop her talents even after her retirement and to learn and grow in the gospel along the way.
At LDS Business College, at least a dozen Church-service missionaries dot the hallways. They tutor, advise, mentor, teach, and work at the information desk, all simply for the joy of serving.
Elder Doug Carlile serves his mission as an accounting tutor at LDS Business College. He has already extended twice. He said he and his wife were looking for a way to serve and, because of health issues that kept them from a full-time mission, started looking for positions at the college. His background in accounting, plus some teaching at Idaho State University, qualified him to stay on as a tutor. He said he enjoys working with a variety of students and helping them succeed.
“It keeps me young,” Elder Carlile said. “Service is service. You do whatever you can wherever you can.”
Sister Jane Rasmussen was on disability and trying to find something to do with her life to get her out of the house when she found her way to her Church-service mission. She had a ward member who was a Church-service missionary for family history who told her she should get involved.
Sister Rasmussen liked the idea of serving in family history, but she wanted to see what all her options were. She went online and looked up the listing for Church-service missionary needs and found a mentoring position available at LDS Business College. She had worked as a college adviser and other similar positions and thought this would be a perfect fit. She has now been serving at LDS Business College for three years and enjoys the opportunity to be involved.
“It’s so rewarding,” Sister Rasmussen said. “Its keeps me connected. It feels like I’m contributing something in life. It allows me to be in an atmosphere that’s very uplifting.”
With her health issues, Sister Rasmussen said some days can start out very hard, but when she can come serve and help the students at the college, she can feel like she’s made a difference for someone. She can feel appreciated and valued.
At the bishops’ storehouse in Salt Lake City, Church members in need are able to receive the most basic of necessities—food and clothing. The Church-service missionaries who volunteer there can receive the joy of knowing they are helping people who truly need it.
After her husband passed away, Sister Tere Wilson wanted to find a way to spend her time serving. She got in her car and drove around downtown Salt Lake City and, she said, the Spirit brought her to Welfare Square. Now, she’s been coming in two times a week for four months. She is able to help members in need fill out food orders from their bishops, and sometimes she can help translate for Spanish speakers who come in.
“Here you can see that you can make a difference in a instant,” Sister Wilson said. “I love to serve. Any service I can do is satisfying.”
Elder Keith Davies has also been serving at the bishops’ storehouse for several months. He said since he is retired he has plenty of time, and serving others is a satisfying way to fill it. He comes in two days a week and works during lunch and well after closing to make sure they always have someone around to help.
“It feels worthwhile,” Elder Davies said.