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LDS Church News

Summer jobs are 'sacred labor' for future LDS missionaries

By Jason Swensen

LDS Church News

Published: Wednesday, June 25 2014 9:01 a.m. MDT

Cathryn DeLong, a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, performs a training exercise on the bridge of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. She will soon leave the academy for missionary service in Russia.

Courtesy of Cathryn DeLong

For many young people, summer is the ideal season to find a job, join the workforce and earn some money.

A big slice of their paychecks might go to a savings or college account. Part might cover a car payment. And a few dollars gleaned each payday are likely being spent on movie tickets, maybe a pair of new sneakers or an upgraded laptop or tablet.

But for many young Latter-day Saints across the globe, summer jobs hold an entirely different significance. They’re earning money for their full-time missions — working all the hours they can in the days leading up to that long-anticipated date when they report to the Missionary Training Center.

For working young men and women with sacred calls in hand, hard-earned wages are going toward new suits and skirts, durable tracting shoes and missionary accounts.

The jobs that future missionaries are performing are as varied as their mission assignments. While many are spending the summer mowing lawns or washing cars, others are teaching piano lessons or caring for children.

No matter the work — or the wages — the money they make will go to help finance fast-approaching missions. Their paychecks represent a sacred offering to the Lord — and to themselves.

“I know the money that I’m making will go toward finding people to teach the gospel in my mission,” said 18-year-old Cole Bird, who is just days removed from his high school graduation.

Each weekday, Cole arises early, checks the oil levels on his lawn mower and grass trimmer and then heads out to a variety of landscaping jobs. Almost all the money the South Jordan, Utah, teen earns is earmarked for his upcoming assignment in the Chile Santiago South Mission.

He’s loath to skip a day of work, knowing he’s missing out on a chance to further underwrite his own mission.

Vanessa Palmer is spending her summer days in front of a classroom filled with restless kindergarten students. When she reports to the Idaho Boise Mission in a few weeks she will answer to “Sister Palmer.” But for now, she’s still “Ms. Palmer.”

A graduate of BYU-Idaho, she has spent the past two years teaching at Columbia Elementary in West Jordan, Utah. She had not always planned to serve a mission. And deciding to take an 18-month leave from an established career in education wasn’t easy.

“But after much prayer, I just felt like I needed to go,” she said.

Sister Palmer has been on her own for the past five years, so she’s learned how to manage her money. Still, she’s had to modify her budgeting to set aside money toward her fast-approaching mission to Idaho. Again, her mission funds are sacred funds.

“I just know there is someone in the Boise mission that I need to teach and share the gospel with,” she said.

Cathryn DeLong will also soon answer to a new title. A Pennsylvania native, she has spent the past two years as a “Middie” in the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. But in a couple of months she’ll swap her military uniform for sister missionary attire and begin serving in the Russia Novosibirsk Mission.

Students at the storied Academy don’t make a whole lot of money — but much of what she earns is going toward her missionary fund. She said she is honored to know that her hard-earned wages will help allow her to bring others to Christ.

“I’m excited to have this adventure,” she said. “I will be meeting people in Russia and sharing the gospel with them.”

The future naval officer did not think a mission would be an option when she was appointed to the Academy. Students are not allowed to leave for Church missions after the beginning of their third year of study. But with the change of missionary age for young women, the 20-year-old is now able to go on a mission following her second year of school.

She will spend a few weeks of naval training in Israel before reporting to the MTC in August.

Eighteen-year-old Marcelo Valenzuela is an attentive lifeguard. So when he’s on the job at a Salt Lake-area public swimming pool, he doesn’t think much about his upcoming service in the Argentina Neuquén Mission.

But when his paycheck arrives, his focus is entirely on his mission.

“I’m doing all I can to save up,” he said.

Marcelo has worked for the past several years — and he has dutifully made regular deposits into his mission account. When asked about his labor, he said the benefits of working for his mission go beyond dollars and cents.

“When you have a job, you have to learn to be responsible,” he said “And I know that responsibility will make a big difference when I start my mission next month.”

jswensen@deseretnews.com