Pictured from left are LDS missionaries Elder Hammond, Elder Post, Elder Forbush, Elder Hill, Elder Fainga’a, Sister Hammond, Sister Thayne and Sister Liddiard.

John D. Zerko – For The Record

Four young men, two young women and two senior missionaries (a married couple) are calling on citizens in the Orange area, answering questions concerning their faith and acquainting people with the basic teachings and programs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The central purpose of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is to help all people come unto Christ. Organized in these latter days on April 6, 1830 in Fayetteville, NY, the church follows the same pattern as the church which Jesus established when He was upon the earth, with Christ as the chief cornerstone. Mormons believe that we all lived in heaven as spirit sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. Because He loved us, He created this world for all to live on, to allow us to gain a physical body, learn by experience and return to live with Him again one day. As long as His children have lived upon the earth, from Adam and Eve through the ages, God has sent prophets to teach His people the Gospel, which is that through faith in His son, Jesus Christ and repentance, we can all retune to live with Him again. Through each dispensation (period of time on earth), God’s children have rejected His prophets. God has withdrawn His power from the earth and the world has endured periods of time where there is no spiritual light.  Once again in these latter days. Mormons believe that God, the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to the boy, Joseph Smith, which began the restoration of God’s Kingdom upon the earth, for this last and final dispensation, until Christ returns again to rule reign. Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was led to a record, engraved on metal plates, which was hidden in earth by its’ final author, to be brought forth in these latter days. It is a sacred record of peoples in ancient America and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel. It is a companion to the Holy Bible, which Latter Day Saints also believe to the the word of God. The Book of Mormon stands as another witness of Jesus Christ.

In keeping with their central purpose, missionary work is a primary focus not he church. There are  currently eight missionaries serving in the Orange area, which includes all the surrounding towns , as well as Vinton, La. You might occasionally see the younger missionaries biking around which allows for opportunities to get out and meet people. Young men are able ti search a two year mission at the age of 18. Young women can serve at age 19 for a period of 18 months. This they do of their own choosing and at their own expense. Most of them start saving money for their mission at a very young age. Upon retirement, the older generation has a little more flexibility, serving anywhere from six months to two years.

Elder Forbush was born and raised in Spokane, Washington. He is the oldest of six children (two sisters, one brother and two stepsisters). He worked with his dad doing construction growing up and has learned some of his dad’s trade. Elder Forbush says that his missionary work here in Texas has brought him much happiness and it comes from a wonderful God, along with some of God’s wonderful children here in Texas. He plans to further his education when he gets back home.

Elder Fainga’a was born in Tonga. He grew up with two brothers and 15 cousins. He is serving in the Houston mission for two years. He is 22 and says that he likes to play rugby. After his mission, he wants to go back to school.

Elder Post is 19 and is the oldest of five, born in Marshall Islands and raised in Huntsville, Utah. He has only been serving for five weeks in Texas and is still in training. Elder Cross enjoys playing lacrosse.

Elder HIll has grown up in Utah and has been there all of his 19 years.  He is the youngest of eight children. He played high school football before he came to Texas to serve a mission. He said that serving a mission was something that he has always wanted to do. It was just  a feeling that he had that encouraged him to come out and serve a mission. He has served almost half of his two year mission.

Sister Liddiard, 19 years of age, has been on her mission for only six months. She comes from a family of seven children of which she is the youngest. She decided to serve a mission because she wanted  to share what has brought her and her family so much joy; which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. When she returns home to Elk Ridge, Utah, she plans on pursuing a career in special education.

Sister Thayne is 22 years old. She has been on her mission for 14 months. She is the first one in her family besides her dad that has served a mission. When she finishes her mission of 18 months, she will go back to school while working in the fall. Early childhood care and education is the program that she has chosen to study. She says that she only has one more year to earn her associate’s degree.

Elder and Sister Hammond have been serving here for the past 14 months and will soon he returning home to Boise, Idaho. They are the parents if seven children and 12 grandchildren, whom they are anxious to see once again. The Hammonds state that they have loved serving here in Southeast Texas and Louisiana and will leave a part of themselves here with the people they have come to love so dearly. They have separate opinions about the heat and humidity!

Elder Ethan Evans, born and raised in Orange, is serving a two year mission in the South Carolina Columbian Mission. He is the son of the bishop of the Orange Ward in the Orange Stake, Bishop Michael Evans.

In December 2015, there were over 15,634,199 full time missionaries and over 31,779 church service missionaries.

Another important focus of the church is the humanitarian  service. The Mormon Helping Hands can be found world-wide, helping in disasters and those in need. Most recently you might have seen upwards of 1,300 yellow Helping Hands vests during the heavy flooding in March.

Finally, the church has also put much emphasis on genealogy. Anyone can go to familysearch.org and open a free account to search for ancestors. There are many helps online. There is also a family history library inside the church, located at 6108 Hazelwood, in Little Cypress. This is open to the public on Wednesdays, from 10:00 am-8:00 pm, with trained genealogists standing by to assist you in your search. Church services begin at 9:00 am on Sunday and all visitors are welcome.

You can learn more about the Mormon faith by going to www.mormon.org and www.lds.org.