Program Helps Special Needs Mormons Complete Missionary Service

Program Helps Special Needs Mormons Complete Missionary Service

Program Helps Special Needs Mormons Complete Missionary Service
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Young Church Service Missionary Program makes it possible for Mormons with special needs to serve others while staying close to home.

In 2010, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) initiated the program called Church Service Missions (CSMs) as an alternative for Mormons who want to serve the church but due to certain constraints are not capable of leaving their homes or communities. Last year, the LDS church expanded the program with the would-be young missionaries in mind. The Young Church Service Missionary Program (YCSM) is the alternative for the young Mormons who are already approved worthy to serve a mission but are unable to travel overseas because of their special needs.

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One of the major goals of every young or teen Mormon is to eventually qualify as “worthy of service” and be sent to a proselytizing mission in other cities or abroad. Within the church, it’s considered a rare opportunity considering that only about 75,000 members are currently away from their homes for 18 to 24 months on a proselytizing mission. But there are already young members qualified as worthy to serve but are unable to do so because of physical disability, existing medical condition and other limiting circumstances.

The YCSM program provides a solution by letting the young Mormons with special needs to serve others through volunteering. Alternative opportunities include working as staff or assistant in various LDS offices, seminaries and institute programs, at the church operated welfare stores like the Deseret Industries, or perhaps, with a non-profit organization that the church has partnered with. In really special cases where a member needs to stay at home, there are also options to serve in the form of information and communication services with the aid of a computer and internet connection.

Dylan Howard

Even at its early phase of implementation, dozens of young Mormons are already benefiting from the program.  22-year-old Dylan Howard of Rancho Penasquitos heard of the program and after his early release from his proselytizing mission due to anxiety, he applied and was accepted to volunteer at Deseret Industries thrift store located at Chula Vista, San Diego. Howard thinks that the new Mormon program is a great opportunity for him to serve the church in another way “I can come in here and put my name tag on and be Elder Howard by day, and then go home and be with my family at night. The important thing is that even if I’m working for Deseret Industries or facilities management, I’m still serving the church. The overarching thing is I’m serving heavenly father.”

Zoe Carlson

On the other hand, Zoe Carlson of Escondido was born with spina bifida. Being wheelchair bound, she knows early on that her chances of going on a proselytizing mission are slim. As she explains “I always wanted to serve on a mission growing up, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it with my disability.” But recently, she was one of the few lucky ones to receive a spot for the YCSM program. And she is definitely satisfied serving as a telephone receptionist and order tracker at the Bishop’s Storehouse in Kearny Mesa “It’s a different kind of service, but I’m really enjoying it. Here I’m fulfilling the needs people have to cover their basic need for food. Then they can, in turn, fulfill their other responsibilities in life.”

Matt Nielsen

Matt Nielsen of Harrisville, Utah was born with Down syndrome. When his brother Brayden eventually left home to go on a mission, Matt became interested in serving the church too. His mother MeLisa found out about the YCSM program and thought that it’s a great option for Matt. Matt was eventually called by the church to serve a special mission at the Harrisville Deseret Industries in Utah, that is, as a customer greeter. His mother MeLisa also volunteered at the same store assigned at the women’s department.

Currently, the YCSM is pilot tested in 9 cities in California, Utah, Arizona, Georgia and Idaho. Application is made through the local bishop and shall be screened and processed at the church headquarters.

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