LINDON, Utah — Wearing a winter coat and gloves, Elder Nathan Gerber from Lehi, Utah, stacked cartons of eggs on the shelves in the large cooler of the Lindon Bishops’ Storehouse and Home Storage Center.
When people see his black missionary name tag, they tend to ask him where he is going on his mission. But he tells them he just got here — he transferred from the Mexico Villahermosa Mission to the Lindon Bishops’ Storehouse Service Mission and just reached his nine-month mark of service.
“We’re still proselytizing. We’re telling people about this system here,” he said. Often he helps patrons fill their orders — especially those who speak Spanish or even Portuguese.
“I don’t need a companion. And I don’t have to wear long socks every day,” he said, pointing out his comfortable shoes for the time he spends walking around the large storehouse.
Bishops’ storehouses are run through the Church Welfare and Self-Reliance Department. Each storehouse is a physical location where people in need can get food or other supplies at the recommendation of their bishops.
The storehouse has anything that can be found in a regular grocery store. These items are paid for by donations from Church members. The supplies can also be sent to areas after natural disasters, wars or economic crises.
Each morning Elder Gerber and the other young service missionaries begin their day with a prayer meeting with the on-site leaders, Elder Brian Haskell and Sister Kathleen Haskell. Morning and afternoon assignments are tracked on a white board for the 36 young service missionaries assigned to the storehouse. The facility also has the help of 63 senior missionaries.
Elder Haskell said his job with Sister Haskell is to shepherd the young missionaries, working right alongside them in bagging produce, stocking shelves, mopping the floor and everything else.
“We found that our role is to make sure that the young missionaries are successful in their choosing to be a service missionary or in their assignment to be a service missionary,” he said. “Our job is to make sure that they’re welcome and have a successful time here. And I’ll tell you what, we’ve seen the fruits of that time and time again.”
Each day also includes a devotional from 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. and the young missionaries take turns leading. Elder Eric Moss from Lehi looks forward to it.
“It helps to refocus ourselves and to make us remember that what we are doing here is serving the people, which is serving the Lord,” he said, after moving empty cardboard boxes from the huge walk-in freezer.
Elder Moss — who has been serving since April — also enjoys the Thursday visits from a local institute teacher where they discuss the Old Testament as part of “Come, Follow Me.” “It gives me a new perspective about things,” he said.
Service missionaries serve in a variety of assignments while on their mission, and the service assignments can be three to 12 months. Elder Moss’s assignment to the bishops’ storehouse was supposed to be three months until his next assignment, but he liked it and liked the people so he decided to stay.
Meanwhile, Elder Ryan Steed from American Fork recently reached his seven-month mark on his service mission, even though he didn’t want to do it at first.
“My mom tried to talk me into it, but I was persistent that I didn’t want to do it. After a while she talked me into it,” he said. “The first month I thought it was really hard. I didn’t want to do it. But after a while I got used to it, and now it’s really fun. I got to know the people a lot better, too.”
The other missionaries pointed out Elder Steed’s talent for stocking and how organized and neat he makes the shelves.
“It’s satisfying just seeing them going from super empty to totally full,” he explained, as he lined up canned goods with the labels facing out for patrons to easily read.
Sister Lois Herring from Orem stocked ice cream and bread on a busy day helping larger numbers of patrons fill orders before the holidays. Tuesday, Nov. 22, was her year mark on her mission, which began with a teaching mission in Alabama.
She referred to how it is sometimes said that teaching missionaries are the voice of the Lord and service missionaries are the hands of the Lord.
“I think we’re the hands and voice of the Lord even as service missionaries, but I think that understanding that we are serving as the Lord would — that really helps when missionaries are adjusting,” she said.
Besides the storehouse, Sister Herring also works at the temple and as an accompanist for a seminary choir — thus using her talents in different ways.
Elder Gerber also has different duties on different days, including working at the Church’s Motion Picture Studio in Provo doing whatever needs to be done, from grounds work to painting to washing dishes — “just a little bit of literally everything.”
When asked what he would tell others who are considering serving a service mission or transferring from a teaching mission, Elder Gerber reflected for a moment.
“If you can swallow your pride, there are things the Lord has that He needs done,” he answered. “It’s not as flashy, it’s not as adventurous. But it is more comfortable, I will say that. The work is work, but the people make or break it.”
Answering the same question, Elder Steed said: “I think it’s fun, and other people should do it. Don’t be stubborn like I was. It’s hard at first. It’ll stop getting hard after a while.”
About a service mission
Young full-time missionaries who return home early due to health challenges at any point in their service can be invited to transfer to a service mission.
And worthy young men (ages 18 to 25) and young women (ages 19 to 25) who are unable to serve a teaching mission for physical, mental, emotional or other reasons may be called to a service mission.
Missionaries called as service missionaries go through the same process to receive their mission calls as other young missionaries around the world. Their callings are determined through inspiration by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in consultation with the applicant’s stake president.
Service missionaries live at home and serve locally under the ecclesiastical direction of their stake president. Their assignments are customized to their capabilities, needs and interests, and they serve as close to full time as their circumstances allow.
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