SALT LAKE CITY , Utah — The faces that sit across from Joseph Kelly are all too familiar. The heavy eyes, frustrated facial expressions and clenched jaws can only mean one thing — a new semester has started at Brigham Young University , and each student opposite of Kelly is taking Chemistry 105.
Three years ago, Kelly sat in their seats.
When Kelly began Chemistry 105, a class feared by most students at the university owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was intimidated like most freshmen but confident that his intellect and work ethic could get him through. But his optimism faded only weeks into the semester, and Kelly realized he needed help.
A brief search on campus led him to the Center for Service and Learning, a resource center that provides students opportunities to get help and to help others. The center’s tutoring program, one of many outreach programs available at the center, gave Kelly the help he desperately needed.
“I was not doing well in the class, and I was frustrated,” Kelly said. “My tutor helped me feel like I understood it. He helped me grow in confidence and as a person.”
Kelly’s role reversal, from tutee to tutor, is not an uncommon trend in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In fact, much of the Church’s success, especially in its humanitarian and missionary efforts, depends on mentoring.
Missionaries for the Church are assigned to one of 348 missions throughout the world. Many new missionaries arrive not knowing the language, the culture or the ins-and-outs of being a missionary. Each new missionary is assigned a trainer, an experienced missionary who mentors the new missionary through the first months of his or her service. After developing proficiency in a new language (where needed) and other skills, some missionaries will have an opportunity to pass on their acquired knowledge to another newly arrived missionary.
“Being a trainer is a privilege and a great responsibility for any missionary,” said Beau Olsen, a recently returned missionary from the Antananarivo Madagascar Mission.
“Missionaries usually do what their trainers did, and they pass on those same traits to the missionaries that they train. At the end of my mission, I could really see the impact of great trainers.”
That impact is felt in the Church’s humanitarian efforts as well. One of the Church’s major initiatives is the neonatal resuscitation program — an effort that sends volunteer doctors and nurses to developing areas of the world to train medical professionals on life-saving techniques.
After receiving the training, local doctors and nurses return to their communities to train others. Tens of thousands of professionals have been trained through this mentoring process and thousands of infants saved as a result.
Mentoring is also essential to individual members of the Church, which has no full-time professional clergy at the congregational level. All members are expected to volunteer for various positions, and there is no permanent senior rank of local leaders.
Consequently, a person serving as a bishop today may be sitting in a class next week, being taught by someone who was once an assistant. In this way, members of a congregation mentor each other, from the women’s and youth organizations to Sunday school and priesthood callings.
This article was prepared by the LDS Newsroom at lds.org.