March 12, 2020
Brooklyn Peters had just completed the first week of her full-time mission in Rome, Italy, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when she learned that her father had lost his job.
“I was terrified! I started realizing how expensive life is,” Brooklyn said. “I’d woven this intricate rug that was my five-year plan for after my mission. It was like someone had pulled it out from under me.”
Twelve weeks before she would return home to California, USA, Brooklyn fasted and prayed that, even with money as tight as it was for her family, Heavenly Father would help her start school when she returned home. Less than a week later, she received an email from BYU-Pathway Worldwide, informing her that she was pre-approved to participate in PathwayConnect.
“It was the most immediate answer to a prayer I had ever gotten — and the most obvious,” she said. “The Lord takes care of His servants.”
Brooklyn is just one of 100,000 missionaries who have felt hope because of this announcement.
An announcement for all young returning missionaries
In May 2019, BYU-Pathway Worldwide received permission from the First Presidency to notify returning missionaries in the Church, including early-release and service missionaries, that they are pre-approved for admission to PathwayConnect. Knowing that they have an affordable option for education when they return home can help alleviate some of the uncertainty missionaries experience.
Like in Brooklyn’s case, returning home from a mission often presents significant changes, challenges, and choices. Missionaries want to keep the sense of purpose and progress they had on their mission. Preapproval for BYU-Pathway’s PathwayConnect program makes higher education more accessible and affordable for returned missionaries, providing them with a gospel-centered learning environment and an easier transition from mission life.
Clark G. Gilbert, BYU-Pathway Worldwide president, said, “Our returned missionaries sacrifice up to two years of their lives to serve the Lord, and all too often they come home without any concrete direction or opportunities for what lies ahead. By making it easier for them to enroll in BYU-Pathway Worldwide, we are giving many of them hope and ultimately blessing their families for generations to come.”1
How it works
As part of this preapproval, young elders and sisters from 145 approved countries are notified through the Church’s Missionary Department via email in a total of 11 languages regarding the opportunity to join PathwayConnect. They are notified 12 weeks into their missions, and non-native English-speakers are encouraged to learn English, since that’s the language courses are offered in. Twelve weeks before they come home, missionaries are reminded that they are pre-approved for admission to PathwayConnect.
Additionally, local priesthood leaders are notified and encouraged to share this option with missionaries preparing to return home.
Brian K. Ashton, vice president of field operations for BYU-Pathway, said, “[F]or those who need a less expensive option, who need flexibility, who don’t have another option, or who need to gain confidence, this is perfect for them.”2
In September 2019, out of 15,777 total PathwayConnect students, 3,900 returned missionaries (who came home in the last five years) enrolled compared to 2,835 in September 2018 — a 37.6% increase year over year.
When the emails began, they had an immediate impact — a 78.1% increase in recently returned missionaries who enrolled in PathwayConnect. From May to September 2019, 764 returned missionaries enrolled, while only 429 returned missionaries enrolled between May and September 2018.
Some of this impact may also be attributed to BYU-Pathway’s returned missionary scholarships, which are offered as 25% or 50% tuition discounts in select areas of the world to missionaries who have returned in the past five years. This preapproval and these scholarships are opening doors for missionaries to earn higher education, prepare to provide for future families, and become strong leaders in the Church.
Preparing future leaders in the Church
BYU-Pathway’s mission is “to develop disciples of Jesus Christ who are leaders in their homes, the Church, and their communities.” At a dinner for BYU-Pathway supporters in October 2019, President M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, testified that BYU-Pathway keeps returned missionaries active and prepares great leaders for the Church. He encouraged BYU-Pathway to measure in the future how many students become bishops, elders quorum and Relief Society presidents, stake presidents, and so on.
“And hopefully,” he said, “all of them will rise up to hold the most precious, important calling in the Church, and that would be to be a husband, and a wife, and a father, and a mother.”
In a recent visit to BYU-Pathway headquarters, Philippines Area President Evan A. Schmutz said, “Education is the key to self-reliance. The Church has created BYU-Pathway Worldwide to build self-reliance and develop the attributes of disciple leadership in its members.”3
Church leaders throughout the world understand the affordable, life-changing opportunity that BYU-Pathway is for returned missionaries and how it can strengthen leadership in their area.
Richard Rosado, a stake president from the Galápagos Islands, said, “In the last five years, we have sent 14 missionaries to the field with the objective to strengthen leadership. However, even though eight have returned, we haven’t seen what we hoped; on our islands, there are no universities and, when people leave to study abroad, we have been left without that leadership contribution. This is precisely why we want to implement [BYU-Pathway programs] in our branch.”
Returned missionaries gain exceptional leadership skills on their mission. As they participate in PathwayConnect, the hope is that they not only grow academically but continue to grow spiritually as they prepare to become disciple leaders in the Church, their homes, and their communities.
PathwayConnect made all the difference
For Brooklyn Peters and many other returned missionaries, PathwayConnect is more than just school. Transitioning home from a mission hasn’t been easy, but BYU-Pathway has given Brooklyn direction for her future. She’s learned to budget so she can become financially self-reliant. While searching for a job, her PathwayConnect gathering group prayed for her and she found work that she loves just two weeks later.
Brooklyn said, “BYU-Pathway is divinely inspired. It’s thought out in such a way that anyone can do it, regardless of circumstance.”
Brooklyn will complete PathwayConnect in July 2020 and plans to study social media marketing and earn a bachelor’s degree online through BYU-Idaho.
“God has priorities — perfect priorities,” Brooklyn continued. “PathwayConnect has helped me match my priorities with His. It has not only given me more experience but more time to decide — to figure myself out and realize what I want to be, who I want to be, and what I want to do with my life.”