Brendon French, Megan Holbrook, Dayne Joyner and Sarah Broyles share their experiences serving and performing in historic Nauvoo.
BYU students use the summer months in a variety of ways. Some leave campus for study abroad programs and internships. Some return home to work. Others stay at BYU to take spring and summer classes. A small percentage, however, depart for Nauvoo , Illinois to serve a few months as a Nauvoo Young Performing Missionary, or YPM.
YPMs live in Nauvoo for the course of the summer. Since YPMs are full-time church service missionaries, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints provides them with the same housing and resources as they do full-time proselytizing missionaries. The defining difference between YPMs and proselytizing missionaries is that YPMs are called to spend nearly all of their time preaching through the performing arts for the people visiting Nauvoo.
“It gets pretty hectic,” said Brendon French, who served as a stage YPM during the summer of 2018. “There are three phases of a YPM mission. There’s the rehearsal phase, where we have rehearsals from morning until night with short breaks to eat and rest. Then we go into the regular pre-pageant summer swing. Once the pageants start, we stick the pageant performances onto the end of our day and do rehearsals in the morning before the day’s performances start.”
“It’s pretty draining,” said Dayne Joyner, a BYU student who has served as a YPM twice. “It’s really important to take care of yourself physically and emotionally so you can withstand the trials and the long days.”
The constant workload isn’t exclusive to the stage missionaries, who are called to act, sing and dance onstage during the shows. The tech missionaries, who help prepare and maintain the sets, run sound and lights during shows and assist with programming. Band missionaries play in daily concerts, perform on a traveling bandwagon and accompany the stage and tech missionaries in other shows.
“It’s pretty rigorous, just for different reasons,” said Megan Holbrook, who has served as a band missionary twice. “When you’re playing instruments, your mouth can only do so much. We would practice and perform all day long.”
Tech missionaries have to deal with their own unique struggles as well, performing in a number of shows in addition to routine technical duties. Sarah Broyles, who served as a tech missionary this last year, said: “It can be really demanding running around from show to show. I struggled at the beginning with finding my purpose as a missionary. I never had time to talk to people, I never really had time with the missionaries and that was so hard for me. How am I supposed to serve the Lord if I can’t serve the people?”
Though the YPMs are honest about the specific struggles and strains the mission put them through, they’re also emphatic about the service they provide to others and the blessings they received while volunteering.
“While the rehearsals and the performances were intense and rigorous, the experience really helped me prepare for my career,” said Joyner. “A lot of performances and theatre companies give you short rehearsal times and expect you to be on your game, on your mark, with little time to spare. I attribute a lot to Nauvoo. It helped improve my talents and helped me in a different way than I expected.”
“One of the unique things about the relationships you develop is that they actually last,” added French. “There hasn’t been a day that we haven’t talked and chatted and just caught up. We see each other on campus and we call each other and we text.”
Broyles said, “I learned to love those I served with. I love every single one of the missionaries because we spend all of our time together. It creates this family unit, and it’s amazing.”
“If anyone’s ever thinking about auditioning, just do it,” said French. “The Lord will use you where he wants to, but you have to make yourself available. The worst that will happen is the Lord has a different plan for you, and that’s not even a bad thing. That’s a good thing.”
The call process begins with auditions, which open each year from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, for the following summer. More information about the program itself and applications can be found online on the Historic Nauvoo website.