Elder Tayler Katoa and Elder Justin Jennings of the Virginia Richmond Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sat on my sofa, smartphones in hand, talking with my family about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, sharing scripture passages, and offering an occasional inspirational video. The Elders (a title indicating their Priesthood ordination and role in the Church) have been regular dinner-time visitors in our home for over two decades. Before Elder Katoa and Elder Jennings were Elder Salisbury, Elder Anderson, Elder White, Elder Brown, Sister Pugmire, Sister Thompson, Sister … the list goes on and on and on. Every few months a new missionary would pass through, as a familiar one would move on to another area or return to their home. Sometimes it would be us that moved on to a new location. Yet, on a regular basis, no matter where we were or who we were with, we would receive regular visits from these young men and young women with a Divine message.
Their backgrounds are varied. Some grew up with wealth and affluence. Others grew up in families that struggled from paycheck to paycheck. Their parents were married, or divorced. Some had the support of their families, others did not. No matter their background, no matter their experiences, they all chose to give 18 months to 2 years of their lives to teaching and preaching of Jesus Christ somewhere in the world - often away from home.
Elder Katoa, for instance, left his spot on the University of Southern California (USC) football team to come to the Richmond area and spend his days reaching out and serving people he had never known or met before and telling them what he knows of Jesus Christ and His Restored Gospel. When his two year mission is complete, Elder Katoa will return to USC to play football, if he chooses. The spot on the team is still awaiting him. But as he sits on my sofa, his football career is not discussed. That is a world he has left behind for the moment, because there is something more important for him to talk about right now … his testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Likewise, Elder Jennings left his studies at Brigham Young University (BYU). As he teaches my family about keeping the Sabbath day holy or about taking care of the bodies that God has given us, he leaves no trace of his life as a Judoka and wrestler, Valedictorian, or Eagle Scout. In fact, to learn these facts about his life I had to do some research on my own, because those things are secondary to his mission. They are secondary to sharing what he knows and loves about the Gospel with people who need it, and even those who might reject it.
Elder Salisbury has a baseball scholarship on hold. Sister Weloth missed her sister. One Elder had a significant stutter, but he had words he wanted, he needed, to speak; so he served a mission. He served like they all serve, out of a love for God and for their fellow men.
We do not just have missionaries serving in this area. We have missionaries serving from this area, too. In the Midlothian area alone, there are 18 missionaries currently serving. That number shifts and changes through time as new missionaries leave and experienced missionaries return home. Their stories are varied, as well. One young man serving from our area lost his little brother a year before he left to serve his mission. One young sister learned that her mother was hospitalized with a serious health condition while she, herself, was serving across the world in Russia. One family I know of has a son on a mission who is struggling to learn two new languages, while back at home the father of the family lost his job and the whole family struggled to stay afloat. But at the core of each of these stories is a deep and abiding faith in Christ.
Elder Truman Murray currently serving in the Brazil Piracicaba Mission from RVA told me, “Everyone experiences many trials and tribulations, no matter if you´re a member or serving a mission or what. That´s life! But there is a lesson to be learned or a person to help through every challenge.”
Elder Kye Nuffer, serving in the California Rancho Cucamunga Mission from RVA, told me: “I know in life our Father in Heaven needs (us) to be a light for others, to lead out of darkness to witness of our Heavenly Father’s love.”
These sentiments are echoed in the voices of missionaries throughout the world. They feel a duty to serve the Lord and teach the doctrines that have shaped and blessed their lives. My own daughter, Catherine, served an eighteen month mission in Nebraska and she has three brothers preparing to serve missions in the future. They feel, as she felt, a call to act on and share their faith.
If you are interested in learning more about what these young men and young women are teaching, or if you are interested in talking to these Elders and Sisters to learn for yourself why nearly 66,000 of them are serving throughout the world right now, visit www.comeuntochrist.org .
-Elizabeth S. Stiles
Cancer always happens to other people. When you are 67 and fit – playing tennis every Saturday, training for a 5K, taking 20-mile bike rides – it’s the last thing you expect a doctor to say when you think you simply have a bad cough. Lee Warnick found himself in that situation in August of 2017. Within hours of going to Patient First thinking he might have pneumonia, Lee and his wife Kim found themselves at the hospital. When an oncologist came into the ER talking about necrotic tissue, the reality struck. This time it wasn’t happening to someone else.
Through the ups and downs of treatment, failed treatment, worsening symptoms, and more, Lee understood that there is a plan for each of us. He came here to earth to receive a body, to learn gospel truths, to walk by faith and to ultimately return to his heavenly home, through the grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He and his wife built a strong family through the principles and ordinances available in the Church.
Lee’s life of service to the community and, most importantly, his honorable role as a father and husband were successful and significant because of the principles and truths he learned as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His family knows they will see him again. Meanwhile, they work to follow Lee’s example to build the Lord’s kingdom on earth, to share the truths that enrich their lives with others, and to serve and honor their Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ.
If you or someone you know has a uplifting story or thought to share, please contact us at jenhaines@LDSPublicAffairs.org
When my husband first left, I had three young toddlers, ages two and one (twins). I found a job as a clerk-typist making $12,000 a year. Each month I would turn in my tithing check for $100 and the bishop would give me two checks in return – one for the rent, the other for the more than $600 daycare bill for the boys. Everything else was my responsibility. I had only been a member of the church for 6 years, and this support has cinched my testimony of tithing ever since. Eventually I was able to work up to a position where I could meet all my family’s need myself, but it was never with much breathing room. Always living on the edge of financial disaster made me very uncertain of my real worth. The biggest challenge was that the twins were not able to take on full-time jobs when they graduated from school, and I never saw them as real resources in providing for the family, although as adults their financial needs had increased. For years I’ve watched my finances with the real fear that a single crisis would push us over the edge.
When we had the opportunity this year to take one of the self-reliance programs, I knew it was something that we should do, but I didn’t have any real faith that it could make a difference in our family’s circumstances. So my niece (who lives with us now) the younger of the twins, and I joined a self-reliance group for the 12-week program. It started out with information and counsel that I already felt familiar with, so I sat back expecting to easily cruise through.
And then we came to budgeting. Although the program stressed the necessity of budgeting to gain control of family expenses, I found I completely lacked any faith in my ability to create and manage a budget. There had been numerous attempts over the years but all had fizzled out. The self-reliance program provided the information, structure, and support I needed to commit to tackling a budget again. This time, with the support of a caring facilitator, genuinely concerned group members, and a commitment to seek the Lord as we proceeded, we, as a family, have come into a new place where the boys are genuinely interested in how the family’s finances are progressing, and have stepped up to the challenge of assisting financially in ways I had never thought possible. In the two or three months since participating in this program I have gained real confidence in the family’s ability to provide for itself – not just me carrying it. The budget gets maintained almost daily by one of the twins, and we’ve set goals and action plans in place to do things that have always felt out of reach.
As usual, the Lord’s challenge to “prove me now herewith” Malachi 3:10 has proven that he blesses each of us as we try His challenges. Each member of my family has gained personal blessings unique to their needs from taking advantage of this program. I encourage everyone to prayerfully consider if there may be areas in your life where the truly personal help of the Lord could bring blessings to you and your family.
More information on Self Reliance, including local resources, can be found here:
rva.mavsr.org; Please sign in using email@example.com with the password RVAStake47
If you or someone you know has a uplifting story or thought to share, please contact us at jenhaines@LDSPublicAffairs.org
Lynn and Sherry Whyte have lived in the greater Richmond area for the past 25 years, but left their home and family in January 2017 for an 18 month mission. They moved to South Africa and, paying their own way, served The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They helped with various legal matters and mission applications during the week and got to know local members by attending local church services on Sundays. Lynn said of their missionary service “It was a great experience. I would highly, highly recommend any kind of a mission for anybody.”
The Whyte family has lived in many places over the years, most notably Ankara, Turkey while Lynn worked with the Air Force, although his work never took them to Africa. As a retired lawyer, he used his knowledge of law to help the Church with legal matters such as contracts associated with drilling wells and other humanitarian projects, papers required for the Church to operate in the countries, and leases for buildings and apartments. They both worked in the Africa Southeast Area office located in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Area covers 34 countries in Africa, and the Church has a presence in 26 of them. Sherry is a retired nurse and, while unable to directly use her nursing skills, found plenty of work do in the Area office. The Africa Southeast Area is the second fastest growing Area of the Church in the world. Sherry helped process 1,100 missionary applications submitted by African members throughout the Area.
The Area office was located near the Johannesburg Temple, and members came from many countries to be sealed together as families. Lynn and Sherry would sometimes help care for children of these families; they would play games with them, feed them snacks, and help prepare them for when it was time to join their parents in the temple. At times this was challenging, because the children rarely spoke English, but as Lynn put it “I don’t speak Zulu, but I do speak Lego”.
For more information about Senior Missionary Service, visit https://seniormissionary.lds.org
If you or someone you know has a uplifting story or thought to share, please contact us at jenhaines@LDSPublicAffairs.org.
On the evening of Sunday, December 2, 400 members and friends of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Richmond area donated 85 large trash bags of coats and other winter clothes to the International Rescue Committee (IRC) as part of the Church’s Light the World kickoff event. Light the World is a worldwide initiative of the Church to follow the example of Jesus Christ and to give as He gave. Those in attendance were encouraged to keep serving and also to encourage others to serve throughout the month of December.
The International Rescue Committee in Richmond helped relocate 150 people in 2017 into the Richmond area, and they are expecting to help around the same number this year. IRC in Richmond Site Manager Stephen Allen attended the event and said “this donation is going to have an amazing impact. It’s showing everyone who’s coming in that people in Richmond care about them. They want them to feel warm and secure in their new home.”
Kasey Tross, Director of Public Affairs for the Chesterfield Stake of the Church, helped organize the event and also spoke. She encouraged listeners to serve others and then leave with them a sign depicting a lighted candle with the words #LightTheWorldRVA and instructions to share the light with others through service and also through social media. Signs and suggestions for ways to serve were handed out and can also be found online at www.rvalatterdaysaints.com. Instructions with the sign state “It could be as simple as placing a kind note on your spouse’s steering wheel or as complex as a food drive...the options are limitless.”
One of the attendees was Sister Sanchez, a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When asked about the Church’s Light the World initiative, she said, “What I truly like about it is that it doesn’t take a lot to serve others. It’s small acts that we can do that really bring a smile to someone’s face.”
Those interested in donating winter clothing to the International Rescue Committee can drop donations off at their offices located at 8100 Three Chopt Rd, Suite 128, in Richmond. More information about the restored Church of Jesus Christ and Light the World can be found at www.LightTheWorld.org.
Thank you to Brother Nance and President Mullins for putting this together! #giveasHegave
Service is a key principle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe that “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17) Members of the Church in the Richmond area participated in Virginia’s Day to Serve this past September.
Shelece Nance and her son worked together to make superhero capes for CASA’s annual superhero run.
Cindy Fentriss, Lori Scott, Michael Scott, Mary Voiro, Jim Voiro with donations collected for New Life for Youth.
In addition to CASA and New Life for Youth, we provided service for:
Virginia Blood Services
The Children’s Museum of Virginia
Amy Fisher and Dan Devey helped with indexing names from historical records on Family Search. In total, over 10,000 records were indexed.
Some members also traveled south to help victims of Hurricane Florence. As reported in The Progress-Index, 375 members and friends camped in tents outside of church buildings and worked the weekend to complete work orders for nearly 200 homes. Their service included mucking out homes and clearing debris.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In the Richmond area there are 29 congregations of Latter-day Saints. We strive to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and spread His light in our community.
This is not an official site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.