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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

An interview with the missionaries on campus

Who are these three well-dressed young gentlemen who I have seen standing outside Proctor Dining Hall for the last few weeks, handing out pamphlets and talking to Middlebury students? Well, the four of us were asking the same questions during the last week of J-Term over lunch. So, we decided to ask the new missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) in town if they wanted to sit down with us and talk about their lives. What follows are the highlights from an hour-long interview in which we  — Liam Morris ’26, Rach Peck ’25, Sophia Afsar-Keshmiri ’24 and Joshua Glucksman ’25 — asked them — Isaac Tippett, Isaac Quick and Parker Taylor — about their lives, aspirations and stories.

Sophia Afsar-Keshmiri: Can you tell me your names and where you guys are originally from?

IT: My name is Elder Tippett, or Isaac Tippett, and I’m from Sandy, Ore.

IQ: My name is Elder Quick, or Isaac Quick, and I'm from Salt Lake City, Utah. 

PT: My name is Elder Taylor, or Parker Taylor, and I’m from Heber City, Utah.

SAK: Where are you guys staying?

IT: We have an apartment that the church helps pay for in downtown Middlebury.

SAK: How did you guys find yourselves in Middlebury, Vt.?

IT: As missionaries, we are called to serve in a particular part of the world. In our case, it’s New England. We move around a lot, but right now we’re in Middlebury.

IQ: We never know how long we are going to stay. It could be six weeks or six months.


SAK: You guys have been on the Middlebury campus a lot. Are you going to other places? Are you focusing on Middlebury for a reason?

IQ: We go wherever we can find people to talk to. This is a great way to meet a lot of people from a lot of different places and cultures to hopefully uplift faith and help other people's relationships with Christ.

SAK: Did you guys have to get permission from Middlebury College to be here? 

IQ: I'm not sure. Nobody has kicked us out, never said anything to us. I mean, we’ve definitely talked to faculty just like saying, “Hey, how's it going,” and stuff.

SAK: How old are you guys?

IT: 20.

IQ: 20.

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PT: 22.

SAK: What are your future plans after the two years of missionary work?

IT: I was thinking about going to trade school to become an electrician.

IQ: I have plans to go to Utah State after I finish my mission. And then I want to study film or go into marketing.

PT: I actually have no idea. We'll figure that out in two years.

SAK: [You said] the Gospels helped you a lot, do you guys mind speaking a little bit to how specifically it has helped you?

PT: I have a little bit of a different story. I left the church for a while, and my parents wanted me to grow up very religious, and I left for a long time and got really into drugs, the kind of life that would make someone homeless for the rest of their life, pretty much. I was leading down this really dark path, and then decided, I wanted to kind of seek out, what I thought of spirituality, and just kind of kept seeking, what truth, like different truths in life, and came to the conclusion that I needed to read the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ and goes along with the Bible, and determine for myself if it was true or not. And I read it and asked God to know if it was true. And I was blessed with the opportunity to know that book is true.

Joshua Glucksman: Because you're on a college campus, we're all the same age. I'm wondering if you think it's easier or harder to relate to people who live such a different life, such a secular life?

IQ: I think we like to be around people around our age and hear how different our life stories are. We all come from different backgrounds. Middlebury’s campus is very diverse — different cultures, different places. It's fun to be able to relate to people, even in the small things.

JG: From the people you've talked to in the past few weeks, are you sensing that there's a crisis of meaning and people are uniquely right now looking for something bigger than themselves?

IQ: I think, especially at this age, early 20s, a lot of people are searching for meaning in life, what their goals are, their future. I think that's something a lot of people are trying to figure out. Obviously, maybe that doesn't mean you're not happy. I think a lot of people find joy and find excitement through that kind of mystery of the future. But I think something that we have to offer is a kind of answer to those questions. One thing our church has a strong stance on is why we're here and where we're going and where we came from. When people are able to find answers to those questions that kind of fills their soul and brings them peace.

Rach Peck: My first introduction to the LDS church was the musical “The Book of Mormon." I'm wondering what misconceptions you've seen in that?

PT: The people that made the Book of Mormon musical, one of them was actually a member of the church. The church puts Mormon missionaries outside of the theaters, and as people were coming out, they thought they were like actors, right? But they're just missionaries from the church that are like, “here's the actual message.” Obviously it's a comedy, and we don't really  have any hatred towards those people; they're just trying to make a musical.

Liam Morris: Do you have any criticisms? Not necessarily even of the Book of Mormon, but rather the LDS Church, or the institution of it?

PT: There's a lot of people that have problems with the church, because the church has a lot of money. People don't really like organizations with a lot of money, right? Recently, the church came out with numbers about how they've been using this money, like giving it to different charities, organizations to donate billions of dollars to these different charities and different countries that need help with refugee programs. A lot of people step away from the church, because of the ways that it's being led. And one of the things that I've really had to fall back on is that God uses imperfect people to bring about his perfect purposes. So a lot of the time, there's going to be things that we don't agree with, there's gonna be people in the church that are jerks, but you have to realize that people aren't perfect, but God's purposes are perfect.

SAK: Are there any ways that you guys wish that the church would modernize?

IQ: The Law of Moses was in place when Moses was a prophet. And then when Jesus came, he got rid of the Law of Moses and instituted his gospel. We believe that we have that same gospel. And there is continued revelation that we get from modern day prophets. There are things like the Ten Commandments that will not be changed, things that God has put in place, but there's things that can be policies and procedures that can be updated with the modern day time. I've actually tried to study quite a few religions, and one of the most or the most modern, updated religions I think I've found is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

RP: What final message do you want for all Middlebury College students to hear from you?

IT: We teach people about how we can all return to live with our families for eternity and have peace and happiness and just the joy and community that comes from following Jesus Christ and trying to be the best people we can be in just continuing to learn and grow with each other. I think it's something that everybody's looking for. And I think it's something you can find within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

PT: The thing that benefited me and the worst part of my life was reading the Book of Mormon and talking with missionaries. So I think just seeking us out, we would love to give you a copy of the Book of Mormon. Just read it and pray to know if it's true.

IQ: It's important to know that God loves you, no matter what. He's your loving heavenly father. We, as members of the Church, believe that we're all sons and daughters of God, and that we were sent here to be tested to learn and grow. Anyone and everyone, whatever they need, are going to need a friend, right?