As a church service missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Josiah Sirrine was assigned to minister within the Maricopa County jails. The first time he visited, an inmate prayed, “Thank you, Heavenly Father, for sending these men so we know we are not forgotten.”
Brother Sirrine was deeply touched and knew he was doing the Lord’s work. Now, First Counselor in the Presidency of the Maricopa County Correctional Branch of the Phoenix Arizona Stake, Bother Sirrine says, “Many of the inmates are ostracized by friends and family so are all alone.”
He says, while in the prisons, “I never fear for my safety. If I’m in a room with 15 inmates and someone had an inclination toward harm, you have 14 bodyguards. They are grateful to have us there.”
Brother Sirrine continues, “This is the most worthwhile thing I have ever done in my life. We see tremendous success, not in baptisms, but in lives changed.”
Branch President, Blaine Brimley, has been involved in the program for 16 years. He says, “We have approximately 25 volunteers and teach 550 to 600 inmates a week in six jails.”
Classes are taught in English and Spanish, and the number of inmates per class depends on the jail. Some have one or two inmates, while others have 35 to 40.
“We feel protected and guided by the Spirit. … Sometimes the inmates jostle amongst themselves and are removed, but we’ve never had anything to fear,” says President Brimley.
A typical morning, he says, is to arrive at the jail, go through a scanner, then gather his teaching supplies and a radio to keep in contact. An officer lets him into the men’s dorm and announces “LDS Services.”
“Mostly non-members come. Some come out of curiosity, some to change their lives,” he says.
Classes begin with prayer and with the inmates singing a hymn or listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
“We teach a lesson on the first principles of the gospel, the Plan of Salvation, the Book of Mormon, etc. We never talk about other churches. We teach them hope of a better life that comes from the atonement of Jesus Christ,” President Brimley says. “We teach them that we can all get better. We invite them to take written lessons to their cells to work on during the week. These lessons are very powerful in helping them see the light of the Savior.”
Steve and Melodee Hale, from the Kimball Stake, serve in the prison ministry together. Sister Hale says, “The Spirit is so strong. … Once when class was over, a young man came to me and said, ‘Sister Hale, I’m that one. I’m the one you will change.’ There was so much joy. I feel I’m able to nurture, like a mom or a sister helping them.”
Sister Hales feels they are serving as the Lord would, and quotes Matthew 25:36, “. . . I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”
President Brimley says the Branch budget doesn’t cover all the requests they get for Bibles. In addition, “we would like to have enough teachers to go in pairs because another testimony adds strength to the lesson.”. If interested in helping fund the Bibles or in becoming a teacher, contact President Brimley, 623-937-0450 or Brother Sirrine, 480-734-8190.