Mormon missionaries ditch smartphones, television for God in New York


In Alphabet City, there lives a group of young men who don’t date, watch movies or television, read the news or have internet in their home.

These Avenue D roommates may sound like anachronistic hipsters, but in fact, the clean-cut millennials are among the 250 male and female Mormons serving in the church’s New York New York North mission, which spans from Manhattan to Albany – a number that has exploded from 148 missionaries two years ago.

Hayden Kroff, 19, and Tahuahi Berryman, 23, better known as “Elder Kroff” and “Elder Berryman,” had no idea where in the world they’d end up after submitting applications to become missionaries. They could have landed in Micronesia or Buenos Aires, but they found out they were headed to New York.

“Being from Mesa, Arizona, it was a big culture shock, but I was pumped,” said Berryman. “I was so excited to come to New York.”

Kroff, who hails from Bozeman, Montana, said he never even visited a big city before moving to New York. “I was nervous, but excited as well because I knew it would be a big change from Montana – which it definitely is,” he said.

The pair, who have been working, eating and living together every day for over two months, are hard to miss on the m14D bus – they always sport their name tags, even when they’re in gym clothes. Kroff and Berryman have had anything but the typical New York experience. For two years, missionaries cannot consume secular media (TV, movies, books, newspapers), date or call their families except on Mother’s Day and Christmas, though they are permitted to e-mail friends and families once a week. They are allowed to use Facebook, but only to spread the gospel – missionaries are not supposed to post non-work-related messages or read their Newsfeeds. They also use iPad minis, but strictly for work purposes; they keep scriptures and lesson plans on them.

Missionaries are also required to keep a highly regimented schedule. They wake up at 6:30 a.m. and must exercise for 30 minutes before eating breakfast and studying the gospel for two hours. Then they proselytize all day with hour-long breaks for meals and return home at 9:30. All Mormon missionaries have a half-day off; in the New York New York North region, they have Wednesday afternoons off to play basketball or visit museums.


“We expect a lot from our missionaries,” said President Thomas Morgan of the New York New York North Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “When you sign on to be a missionary, you agree to pay for the experience yourself and to keep a lot of stringent rules.” Morgan was on his way out that day to do surprise check-ups on missionaries’ apartments for cleanliness. “We like to surprise them,” he grinned.

In spite of the rigid structure and strict code, you won’t hear complaints from Kroff and Berryman, who claim they barely miss secular pastimes. They said their work schedule keeps them busy enough and they feel closer to God. “These are some of the things we give up, but we do it to help other people,” said Kroff. “The things you learn really outweigh the sacrifices you have to give up for a small period of time. Two years isn’t a long time in the grand scheme of things.”

In fact, Berryman said he’s disappointed to see his mission come to an end in two months. “The days go by quicker and quicker and when my time comes to go home, it will be very bittersweet,” he said. “Everything I’ve been through on my mission – it will be sad to leave it.”

Kroff and Berryman acknowledged that proselytizing in New York can be very challenging. “It definitely depends on the person. For the most part, people are pretty respectful of what we’re trying to say,” said Kroff. “They’re not very interested in talking to us but we don’t often get people who are rude.”

Kroff has almost a year left of his mission, but Berryman will return to Mesa for work and school. He has one thing left to check of his list: President Morgan allows missionaries to watch a Broadway show at the end of their term, and Berryman is very excited to see “Wicked” in two months.

Could you handle being a Mormon missionary? Take this quiz and find out.

Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Mayor announces public housing improvements

Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem on Wednesday, calling for the scaffolding to come down at NYCHA complexes across…

National

Peter Theo Curtis: American released by Syrian militants…

An American writer freed this week from two years in the captivity of insurgents in Syria spoke briefly outside his family's Cambridge home Wednesday of…

Local

Bratton defends 'broken windows' work as NYPD support…

Sixty percent of those polled said they support the "broken windows" theory approach popularized by Commissioner Bratton since his first term in the 1990s.

Local

Transit changes for Labor Day weekend

The MTA is adding additional service Friday for New Yorkers getting out of the city for the long weekend. On Friday, Aug. 29, 27 additional…

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

Season 11’s top four dancers gave their final performances before America’s Favorite Dancers are announced next week.

Going Out

Things to do this week in NYC, Aug.…

MUSIC The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees…

Going Out

5 things to do this weekend in NYC

The Electric Zoo Festival Aug. 29-31, 1 p.m. Randall’s Island Park $99-$369, www.electriczoofestival.com The electronic music celebration returns for a fifth year, with 150,000 attendees expected. David Guetta,…

Television

'Full House' might be relaunched with some of…

A new "Full House" might be in the works.

NFL

Mario Manningham on the bubble as Giants play…

Former Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham hopes his second go-around with Big Blue doesn’t end with Saturday’s final cut day.

NFL

Source: Stephen Hill 'faces a battle' to make…

A team source says Stephen Hill, who has battled injuries and poor performances during his first two years, is no lock to make the Jets’ final roster.

Sports

Serena Williams leaving legacy of talented American women…

It seems only a matter of when, not if, Serena Williams will win her 18th career grand slam championship.

College

When are 2014 college football playoffs? (Schedule, date,…

When and where are 2014 college football playoffs? A look at the schedule, date, TV, time for the semi-finals at championship game.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…

Sex

The 10 types of people you meet online

Does it ever seem like online dating profiles tend to get a little repetitive? It turns out you are not the only one to have…

Home

Labor Day essentials

Whether you’re soaking up the sun on the beach or barbecuing in the park here are some must-haves for your end-of-summer bash.