By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal
SMITHVILLE – Evangelicals with enormous families and even former Amish now have reality television shows, so Laura Voyles’ turn as a Mormon celebrity could be viewed as following a trend.
Voyles, 22, recently wrapped up the filming of a reality show that chronicled her work as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – the mainline LDS, not to be confused with the Fundamentalist Church LDS.
FLDS is the much smaller group. Some of its members are polygamists and lately have become the darlings of TV producers, both fiction and nonfiction. Mainline LDS have nothing to do with members of the FLDS.
The show followed Voyles, a Texas native who moved to Smithville after graduating from high school, as she and her companions evangelized in and around San Diego.
As part of their spiritual formation, Mormon girls and boys serve in any of the church’s 350 missions around the world. Mormon men, starting at age 19, serve two years as missionaries. Women start at 21, and serve a year and a half. Most folks have seen young, austerely dressed Mormons walking through neighborhoods, but according to Voyles, they might not understand exactly what they’re up to.
It isn’t complicated, she said.
“The goal is really to help people become aware of how Jesus Christ can help them,” said Voyles, who took a sabbatical from Brigham Young University to serve. “It’s to help them grow in their relationship with God and to know that they can always turn to scripture for answers.”
Most Mormon missionaries in the U.S. start their service with a stint at the training center in Provo, Utah. Voyles’ training included an intensive crash course in Spanish.
The cameras followed Voyles and her missionary companions for five months, and during that time Voyles worked with everyone from college students at San Diego State University to military families.
You probably won’t see the show on television, but it will be widely distributed among the more than 6 million LDS members in the U.S.
Voyles spent the Christmas holiday at home, on her parents’ cattle farm in Monroe County. Her father, Gene, is the bishop of the Tupelo Ward. The ward is part of a larger designation called a stake, which is similar to a diocese in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal churches.
This month Voyles will return to BYU as a senior, and she isn’t exactly sure what she’ll do after she earns her business degree. All she knows for certain is that marriage and a family are in her future.
“I’ve never been happier than I was during my time in San Diego,” said Voyles. “It was the best 18 months of my life.”
Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.