After six heart surgeries and a liver transplant, Kaylynn Briggs of Gilbert thought her dream of serving a mission was out of the question.
William Guthrie, too, thought, with his developmental delays, he didn’t qualify and he couldn’t possibly “hope they call me on a mission” unless his parents, Jo Ellen and Dale Guthrie, of the Elliot Ward, Gilbert Arizona Stake, could somehow accompany him.
Today, Kaylynn and William are Young Church Service Missionaries (YCSMs), and are among 80 young Arizonans—all who once thought they couldn’t serve, but are doing just that.
When Blair and Cindy Packard of Gilbert were called as the Arizona YCSM Mission Leaders about 18 months ago, the mission was one of eight pilot programs in the United States.
Today, it’s an ongoing program to provide young people who live at home a mission experience that mirrors a proselyting mission.
“These Young Church Service Missionaries have companions. We have organized zones and districts. We have weekly district meetings and monthly mission activities or conferences,” Sister Packard says.
“For many young people, a proselyting mission simply isn’t possible,” but, “President Monson has said there are two ways to serve and they are equal in the sight of the Lord.”
The missionaries are 18- to 25-year-old young men who have been honorably excused from serving proselyting missions—usually due to health issues—and any 19- to 25-year-old young women who may choose a service mission experience. Others who have come home early from full-time proselyting missions for health-related reasons are also eligible for a service mission.
With the help of the mission’s Facilitating Couple, Mark and Laurel Pugmire, assignments are tailored to each missionary’s needs and abilities.
Currently, YCSMs serve in over 40 Arizona locations—both at Church-run facilities, including the Bishop’s Storehouse, Deseret Industries and the Records Operations Center, and at many non-profit organizations. Elder Guthrie works at the Bishop’s Storehouse three days and volunteers at an elementary school and a barbershop the other two weekdays. Sister Briggs spends four days a week, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Lauren’s Institute for Education, a school for children with disabilities, where she supervises all the YCSMs who serve there as teacher’s aids.
“These organizations tell us they couldn’t run without the help of our wonderful missionaries,” Sister Packard says.
The missionaries themselves experience tremendous benefits as well.
“These young missionaries grow in many ways, just like proselyting missionaries do. They gain stronger testimonies, they learn valuable life skills, and they experience joy in being able to follow the example of Jesus Christ and serve others,” says Elder Packard.
“Their one desire is to serve the Lord,” says Sister Packard. “I love to see the growth they experience as they strengthen their faith in Christ and share their unique gifts and talents to bless others and build up the Kingdom of God.”
“It’s been wonderful for Will,” says Sister Guthrie. It’s given him a “reason to lift his chin up,” knowing that “he is doing something significant, something meaningful.”
She says a particularly telling moment was when she attended a missionary conference, and, as the missionaries sang, “Behold a Royal Army,” they raised their hands high to sing the chorus, “Victory!, victory!”
“I was so touched,” she says. “I thought, ‘I am in the midst of greatness. There is really something going on here.’”
Elder and Sister Packard say they are eager to spread the word about YCSMs.
“We want everyone in Arizona to know this is available, and if they know someone that could be serving, they can contact us,” by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or calling 480-747-4451.
For video clips and more about YCSM requirements and opportunities, visit www.lds.org/ycsm