‘Finding Meaning’ gives me license to worship in all of Laguna’s churches. I was recently at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as they prefer to be called (though often referred to as LDS or Mormons). It was a special day because two Laguna boys were reporting on missions just completed: Trenton Caserio in Mississippi, and Ford Brian in Argentina. It’s common for churches to sponsor missions to serve and proselyte, but the LDS church is unique for inviting kids still in their teens to serve full-time, two-year missions (18 months for girls) during their college years.
Eleven other Laguna kids are now serving missions around the world, including Penn Nielson in the Czech Republic, Isaiah Galland in Portugal, Han Smith in Peru, Hunter Mills in New Caledonia (a French territory in the South Pacific), Lucas Toro in the Republic of Kiribati (a string of central Pacific islands), Elliet Glade is serving in Japan, Chloe Flora in France, Sawyer Chesley in Chile, and Blake Lusk in Brazil (from where Kandis McGee recently returned).
What’s missionary life like? It’s pretty much rehab from the normal teenage distractions. There’s no screen time, video games, Internet browsing, parties, dances, sleeping in, or just hanging out doing nothing. It’s a time of prayer and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They work long hours, seven days a week; study several hours each morning; pass their days and evenings giving service and searching for someone to listen to their message; and teaching the good word.
The mission is a rite of passage for Mormon kids, paradoxically remembered as both “the hardest thing I ever did,” and “the best years of my life.” It’s also a transformational experience, that often includes learning a second language. After their service in a strange and distant culture, they return with a new appreciation for what it means to live in the U.S., or to grow up in a blessed place like Laguna Beach.
The mission experience remains in their hearts the rest of their lives, yet part of their heart stays with the people they came to love, and the places they served. Over the years, several hundred kids have served such a mission from here, connecting Laguna to uncounted people and places around the globe.
After such an experience, there’s nothing quite like coming home to family and community. The person who returns is considerably more mature than the one who left. One counter-culture aspect is that at a time when kids are marrying later in life, returned missionaries often marry within a year or two of their mission. The mission experience seems to also be a good school for marriage.
Like Trent Caserio and Ford Brian, we all need a mission: To work at something bigger than us in a cause that will make the world a better place. Something we are willing to work as hard at as we’ve ever worked. Something for which we receive no material reward except the satisfaction of giving of ourselves. There’s meaning in that.
Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]
Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):
Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.
Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.
Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.
Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.
First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.
ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.
Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.
Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.
Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.
United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.
St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m. There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.
St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.
St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.
Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.