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Students Favor Religion Over Studies

Blocking Group of Eight Mormons Will Spend Time as Missionaries

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

For a handful of rising sophomores, religion will outrank randomization as the main housing issue for the next two years.

Eight Mormon first-years, who comprise a blocking group recently assigned to Adams House, will all put off their Harvard education for two years to go on proselytizing missions for the Church of Latter Day Saints.

While the rest of their classmates focus on passing sophomore tutorials and writing junior papers, this blocking group will be "spreading the word of the religion" and "trying to bring the Gospel into areas it hasn't been before," according to Michael E. Rich '99.

The eight students who will proselytize in locations across the globe are Jonathan G. Brinton, Olen J. Redhair, Russell G. Ross, James H. Gallafent, Kent M. Walther, Israel I. De Anda, Wells I. Mangrum and Rich.

Brinton will go to the Ukraine, Ross heads off to London, Gallafent to Geneva and Rich to Warsaw. The other four have yet to be informed of their destinations.

The blocking group came about as the result of convenience and camaraderie.

"It just seemed a lot easier to room with these guys, knowing that I'd have the same roommates for three years....Plus, they're great guys," Rich said.

"We considered the fact the we'd be missing out on two years with any other group," said Redhair.

Jai L. Nair '99 opted not to join the Mormon blocking group and instead will take his chances with falling two years behind his blockmates.

"It's going to be a little bit different because they'll all be seniors, but it will all turn out fine," he said.

"During a year of living in Mather, I'm sure I'll meet enough people that I'll want to stay there. I'm not concerned."

When the Mormon students return to Harvard in two years, they will enter a housing system which has been fully randomized.

While the culture of Adams House might seem to conflict with the strict moral code followed by Mormons, Rich said that randomization has made that a "non-factor."

But Rich, who comes from Salt Lake City, said he would have been ready for anything.

"That's why I came to Harvard to get a different taste. I would have wel- different lifestyles of people."

Brinton, also from Salt Lake City, seemed to echo Rich's feelings.

"You can go to BYU...but almost everyone there shares the same values. It's more of a real world environment here," he said, adding that Brigham Young University was his second college choice.

For the students from Utah and Redhair, who comes from "a fairly strong Mormon community" in Page, Arizona, life at Harvard provides a change of pace, but one they say they've adjusted to easily.

"I've found a Mormon community that I can hang out with. I haven't run into any problems," said Redhair, who cited his friendly relations with his Catholic, Protestant and atheist roommates.

"I don't really feel like I stick out in any way, but yet this is a very different environment from where I've grown up," Rich said.

Nair, who is originally from Bethesda, Maryland, said that Harvard wasn't all that different from home.

"I don't notice any big change, because there weren't too many Mormons where I lived," he said.

The missionary experience usually starts at the age of 19 for males and 21 for females, when they first apply for a mission.

"You're called to a certain mission by the President of the Church. You send in an application, and they assign you to one of the missions around the world," Nair said.

From there, according to Brinton, missionaries-to-be go to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah for two months of training, including learning a foreign language, if necessary.

The two-year mission can be a vastly different experience for different Mormons, depending on where they are assigned, according to Nair.

In a location with a strong Mormon presence, a missionary can expect more support in his or her proselytizing efforts. Other missionaries may have to do more legwork in seeking out converts.

Additionally, missionaries operating in a heavily Mormon area may be able to live with a Mormon family, while others will have to find their own housing.

The missionary program is entirely "self-supporting," according to Nair. Missionaries pay approximately $350 per month to a general mission fund; this money is then allocated according to the cost of living in the different countries.

"Obviously some missions are more expensive than others," said Brinton.

"It's actually a pretty inexpensive way to live for two years," Nair said.

Missionary activity is at the heart of the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to Brinton, who said that the Church currently has 9.4 million members worldwide, with the majority residing outside of the United States.

"It's the message of the church that we want to share what we know," he said.

Harvard's missionaries said that they're looking forward to contributing to this sharing.

"There's a lot of unknown about it, but I'm excited," Nair said.

"I think it's great," said Brinton, who will leave for the Missionary Training Center on May 29, just four days after his last final exam. "You can concentrate on religion 24 hours a day. There's probably no other time you can do that.

Brinton, also from Salt Lake City, seemed to echo Rich's feelings.

"You can go to BYU...but almost everyone there shares the same values. It's more of a real world environment here," he said, adding that Brigham Young University was his second college choice.

For the students from Utah and Redhair, who comes from "a fairly strong Mormon community" in Page, Arizona, life at Harvard provides a change of pace, but one they say they've adjusted to easily.

"I've found a Mormon community that I can hang out with. I haven't run into any problems," said Redhair, who cited his friendly relations with his Catholic, Protestant and atheist roommates.

"I don't really feel like I stick out in any way, but yet this is a very different environment from where I've grown up," Rich said.

Nair, who is originally from Bethesda, Maryland, said that Harvard wasn't all that different from home.

"I don't notice any big change, because there weren't too many Mormons where I lived," he said.

The missionary experience usually starts at the age of 19 for males and 21 for females, when they first apply for a mission.

"You're called to a certain mission by the President of the Church. You send in an application, and they assign you to one of the missions around the world," Nair said.

From there, according to Brinton, missionaries-to-be go to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah for two months of training, including learning a foreign language, if necessary.

The two-year mission can be a vastly different experience for different Mormons, depending on where they are assigned, according to Nair.

In a location with a strong Mormon presence, a missionary can expect more support in his or her proselytizing efforts. Other missionaries may have to do more legwork in seeking out converts.

Additionally, missionaries operating in a heavily Mormon area may be able to live with a Mormon family, while others will have to find their own housing.

The missionary program is entirely "self-supporting," according to Nair. Missionaries pay approximately $350 per month to a general mission fund; this money is then allocated according to the cost of living in the different countries.

"Obviously some missions are more expensive than others," said Brinton.

"It's actually a pretty inexpensive way to live for two years," Nair said.

Missionary activity is at the heart of the Church of Latter Day Saints, according to Brinton, who said that the Church currently has 9.4 million members worldwide, with the majority residing outside of the United States.

"It's the message of the church that we want to share what we know," he said.

Harvard's missionaries said that they're looking forward to contributing to this sharing.

"There's a lot of unknown about it, but I'm excited," Nair said.

"I think it's great," said Brinton, who will leave for the Missionary Training Center on May 29, just four days after his last final exam. "You can concentrate on religion 24 hours a day. There's probably no other time you can do that.

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