“They Also Serve,” New Era, Mar. 2001, 12
From his earliest days of singing “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission,” Jared Cassity planned on serving as a full-time missionary. He had read the scriptures and was familiar with all the missionary discussions. Most importantly, he was worthy and desired to go on a mission.
But he couldn’t go. Jared’s mental disabilities and some physical problems meant he could not serve a proselyting mission. “It took courage for me to accept that,” he says.
That was more than three years ago. Now, Elder Jared Cassity—that’s right, Elder—has been serving for three years. Elder Cassity was called on a stake mission. He is an assistant in the North Ogden Utah Stake’s missionary preparation class, helping other young men who are planning to go on missions become more prepared. “It took a lot of praying, but I know this is the right thing for me to be doing,” he says.
Elder Cassity shares his responsibilities in the class with Elder Paul Hansen, who has also been serving for three years. Elder Hansen also has mental and physical disabilities, but he manages to make it to class to set up chairs and distribute hymnbooks long before anyone else gets there. His mom, Janeen, says, “He felt really bad, because he’s always wanted to go on a mission, but it wasn’t right, and this was right.” Alma Harris, who teaches the class, says that as the time approached for Elders Cassity and Hansen to be released from their two-year missions, they wanted to remain in their callings, and he still needed their help.
“Members who have physical, mental, or emotional disabilities that would prevent them from serving effectively are not called to full-time missionary service” (Church Handbook of Instructions, 1:81).
“Paul and Jared might not be full-time elders, but they are serving real missions,” says Vance Child, a returned missionary serving in the class, who also took the class before his mission. “I think it’s all just serving the Lord. They do a tremendous job. They really do bring the Spirit into the classroom.”
Another classmate agrees: “They have a knowledge even though they haven’t gone out,” says Micah Rodenbough. “It kind of humbles me.”
Elders Hansen and Cassity have various responsibilities each week in the class, including bringing refreshments, setting up chairs, and giving an occasional talk. But their most important duty is preparing their stake’s future missionaries.
“I love the change that comes upon these wonderful boys when they serve missions,” Elder Cassity says, nearly crying. “I love seeing what the Spirit can do. … Sometimes I cry when I hear their wonderful testimonies, because I feel like I was one who helped that person.”
One of the young men Elder Cassity helped was Jared Staheli. Jared was called on a service mission to the bishops’ storehouse in Lindon, Utah. He recently returned to his old missionary class to give his mission report: “Going on a mission is helpful to you and your spirit. It helped me most going on my mission to help my testimony grow and to know the Church is true, and the gospel is true,” Jared says, as he stands in front of the class of young men ready to go out and serve their own missions.
According to Elder Hansen’s mother, it’s a real blessing for her son to be able to say, “I’ve gone on my mission. I think that’s important to every boy. It doesn’t matter what kind of mission you go on. What matters is that you’re serving the Lord.”
Young men or women who are unable to go on full-time proselyting missions for health reasons may have the alternative of giving Church service if they so desire:
With your parents’ permission, talk with your bishop or branch president about your desire to serve a mission.
Your priesthood leader will search for opportunities to use your specific skills; for example, you might serve in Church Welfare Services or in a community service organization.
To be eligible, you must live at home and be able to function independently.
Your stake president will determine the length of your mission.
Young men must be at least 19, and women must be at least 21.
You will receive a mission call from the First Presidency before your mission and a release certificate at the end of your service.
All the same mission rules apply to Church service missions as apply to full-time missions and, where possible, you may go team teaching with the full-time missionaries.