The state of Vermont and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, popularly known as the Mormon Church, have a lot more in common than meets the eye.
Vermont was the birthplace of the great Mormon prophet and church founder, Joseph Smith. Smith translated the record of what is now called "The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ." A beautiful Vermont-granite monument stands at Smith's birthplace in Sharon - forever linking the church with its American prophet's hallowed Vermont birthplace.
When 19-year-old Mormon missionaries Elders Teren Christensen and Stephen Harmon of Utah arrived in Rutland County recently to continue their two-year-long stints as lay preachers, they already knew about the life of Prophet Joseph Smith and his birthplace in the Green Mountain State.
"We learned about Vermont and Joseph Smith's birthplace," said Christensen. "We've visited the monument in Sharon. It's a special place."
The story of Mormonism is the story of a uniquely American Christian religious movement that moved ever Westward-Vermont, New York, Illinois, Utah. The theology of the LDS Church consists of a mixture of Biblical doctrines with revelations by LDS leaders, especially Joseph Smith.
At age 38, Smith gave his life for the faith he believed in. The prophet had been imprisoned unjustly for conspiracy and killed by a mob in Carthage, Ill., in 1844.
Today, young LDS Church missionaries like Christensen and Harmon are called elders, a term derived from the ancient Greek word meaning "teachers".
"We're all volunteers," said Harmon. "Missionaries are required to fund their own mission trips."
"We spent a lot of time praying over where we might be needed," said Christensen. "We were trained at the MTC: Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, and then we received our assignments in New England."
According to the LDS website, missionaries spend 18 months to two years in missionary service. Approximately 52,000 members of the church are serving as full-time missionaries in 2009. They serve in one of 334 missions in approximately 120 countries around the world. Missionaries start at the MTC in Utah. As representatives of the church, they believe that people throughout the world can achieve "life's greatest happiness" from following the teachings of Christ.