What the Mormon Faith Will Mean for These Graduating Seniors


Mia Jones

From left to right, Cameron Buchanan, Adam Wright, and Cayden McCluskey. Pictured here in their Sunday best after church, these three SJHHS Mormon students will be joining some of their fellow students as they embark on their two year mission.

Luciana Benzan, Staff Writer

With graduation approaching, seniors can see the whole world of possibilities awaiting them in their future, but for ten of those seniors, the world awaiting them has a very literal and spiritual weight attached to it.

Adam Wright, Isaac Berrett, Cameron Buchanan, Cayden McClusky, Derek Jones, Hadley Dayton, Brittany Roush, Ellie Gentry, and Brittany Hill are all seniors, are all graduating, are all members of the Church of Latterday Saints, and are all planning to go on a mission for the Mormon church. They will be joining the other 70,000 Mormons currently serving their missions around the world.

For Mormons all over the world, the two-year trip is a deeply spiritual and shared experience in the church that many Mormon families often talk about and use to deepen their unity as a family and as members of the church.

“My brother went on [a mission], my dad went on one, his dad went on one,” says Buchanan.

It’s like giving God something. Like, he gave me this opportunity to live on Earth, it’s the least I can do to give two years back, especially if they’re difficult years

— Derek Jones

The spiritual weight of what they’re devoting themselves to was also very important to many of the students.

“To me, a mission is being able to take a pause from everything you’re doing in life and going and getting to do something you love. I love my church and it makes me happy so I want other people to hear about it so they can be happy,” answered Dayton when asked what a mission meant to her.

When asked the same question, Berrett answered, “My whole life I’ve been told ‘you should go on a mission’ and as it drew closer I’ve thought on it and it’s something I’m excited to do and feel really lucky to be able to do.”

Missionaries don’t lead an easy life; they’re often in far corners of the globe, sometimes in small towns where the nearest hospital is hours away. So far, this hasn’t deterred these seniors. They understand what they’re signing up for. Not only do they understand it but they’re excited.

When I asked about the difficulty of the trip, Wright laughed, then answered: “I’ve been told they’re the two best worst years of your life.”

When I asked Jones the same question, he told me that for him “It’s like giving God something. Like, he gave me this opportunity to live on Earth, it’s the least I can do to give two years back, especially if they’re difficult years.”

When preparing for a mission you first have to submit a great amount of paperwork and go over it with your bishop. Depending on when you want to leave, you start the process about three months before. You have to wait until you are of mission age to start the process. For guys that means 18 but for the ladies…

“Girls can’t go until they’re 19,” Hill tells me. “So neither I nor Ellie [Gentry] have filled anything out yet.” In fact, none of the ladies I interviewed have turned in the paperwork yet. All will attend at least a semester of college before leaving on their missions.

“I love this church and I want to share the joy it brings me with other people, even if it means I have to wait a year,” said Gentry.

What they’re doing is still really impressive as it’s more common for men to go on a mission than their female counterparts.

“For guys, it’s more of a duty than it is for girls,” says Rough, “but I’m so glad I’ve chosen to serve my church.”

After you submit your paperwork, comes the long wait. Well, three weeks long, which seems long when so much is in the balance. When the papers get to Salt Lake, they are then taken to the church’s apostles.

Hill tells me, “The apostles get your papers and they see a picture of you and they see a map of the world and God inspires them in where to send you.”

Gentry quickly adds, “We say it’s random because it seems random to us, but it’s really not. It’s where God knows you belong and can do the most good for your two years.”

When they’re assigned, or “called,” a letter arrives with their destination. Often the lucky soon to be Elder or Sister will throw an opening party where they wait to open the call until they’re with the family and friends.

For many of these students, they already have an older sibling who’s gone through the process and completed or is on a mission and that calms the nerves.

“My older sister left in December so she’s only been gone a couple of months. I miss her a lot but it definitely sounds like she’s having fun. Oh my word! She doesn’t want to come home!” Dayton recounts happily.

When I asked McClusky where he hopes he’s destined to go he answered: “I’d like to go to Russia.” A bit startled, I asked why. “Well my best friend is in Russia,” he answered, laughing at my surprised expression.

Even with siblings and friends, everyone’s mission is still totally there own: where they’ll go, who they’ll serve with, what language they’ll learn. For Wright, that language is Tagalog.

“Ya, I’ll be learning Tagalog and I’ve already looked at some stuff,” he says with definite pride. “I’ll give you a little taste, so ‘Hello my name is Elder Wright’ is ‘Kumusta, ang aking pangalan ay Elder Wright,’” he adds in what a can only assume is perfect Tagalog.