Tara Bone, contributing writer
The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Cache Valley is best told through the lives of its members both past and present. Theirs is a story of sacrifice and faith, centered on their desire to worship peacefully in their mountain valley haven.
It all began when church prophet Brigham Young sent members to establish a cattle ranch in Cache Valley, but those efforts were thwarted by an early winter that forced settlers to leave. But they didn’t give up. The next year, in 1856, Peter and Mary Ann Weston Maughan were the first to crest the Valley’s south canyon where Mary Ann declared, “O what a beautiful valley.”
Mary Ann’s journals document the hardships that characterized the journeys of many church members who eventually made it to Cache Valley. She joined the church in 1840 in England where she and her first husband John Davis suffered mob violence because of their church membership. John was beaten by a mob and died from complications due to injuries. The young widow recorded, “I cast my lot with the people of God and in Him I put my trust.” Against her family’s wishes she traveled to Nauvoo, Illinois to join gathering church members. Here she met her second husband, Peter and once again endured persecution that drove them west.
Mary Ann was the official midwife in Cache County and her records provide insight into early church and area history. She even gave birth to the Wellsville settlement’s first child and served as a leader for the local Relief Society, the church’s women service organization. Converts from the British Isles and Scandinavia poured into the Valley and were instrumental in building communities. Their lives centered around family and faith, still constants for many members of the religion in Cache Valley. Their faith is apparent as they send their sons and daughters on lengthy church missions around the world.
Meet sisters Malayna Knowles of Petersboro and Katie Longhurst of North Logan. They grew up together on their father’s family farm in Petersboro and are both active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On August 2, 2022, Malayna watched her youngest son, Elder Peyton Knowles, and Katie watched her oldest daughter, Sister Alivia Longhurst, walk through airport security together on their way to serve church missions in Mexico and Guatemala. They left on the same flight to the church’s Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Mexico for additional training before traveling to their assignments.
Sister Alivia Longhurst and Elder Peyton Knowles, cousins from Petersboro and North Logan.
A well-known tenet of the church is its worldwide missionary program. There are approximately 55,000 missionaries serving worldwide. Worthy young adult church members, beginning at age 18 for men and age 19 for women, are encouraged to leave their homes and families for up to two years to “do what Jesus taught his Apostles: ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15),” according to the church’s website. Men are referred to as “Elder” and women as “Sister.” Before entering their assignment, each missionary receives spiritual and sometimes language training at a MTC.
The COVID-19 pandemic shut down MTCs, so missionary training shifted to homes. Since 2021, across the globe and right here throughout Cache Valley, hundreds of local families have turned their homes into “home MTCs.” This is the case for sisters Malayna and Katie who happened to have children begin their home MTC experience on the same day. Katie is gearing up to begin another round of home MTC this fall for her son Carver who will serve a two-year mission in Chile.
Elder Carver Longhurst on his first day of home MTC this fall.
Both families shifted living arrangements for their missionaries to accommodate quiet rooms with access to a computer — like a mini dorm room Malayna explains. Katie adds that Sister Longhurst put up pictures of Jesus Christ to help her focus — and that she’d enjoy looking at — for 12 hours a day.
Their days started early at 6:30 a.m. and lasted until evening with online Zoom classes. They each were assigned “remote” companions also over Zoom and had breaks during the day. Both moms expressed how important it was to be there during these breaks so they could get their missionary out of the house to go on walks or hikes together.
Katie, her husband Kade, and their three children besides Alivia, thought about what they could go without to make the home MTC experience more meaningful as they watched Alivia sacrifice so much. They made sure their music and entertainment were uplifting. Katie says it wasn’t always perfect. There were times of tears and life was still happening in the house, but it’s an experience she looks forward to doing again with their three children.
“It’s a sacrifice to train, learn, and prepare; there is a different feeling in our home when there is a missionary here. The conversations changed; it became all of our focus — this mission. There was a stronger presence of the spirit and I loved everything about watching her transition from Alivia to Sister Longhurst.”
Why do they do it? Why do families and young people pay their own way to leave everything behind for up to two years?
“There have been a lot of emotions and tears,” Malayna said. “An 18-year-old boy has no concept of a mother’s love. I hope he remembers the only way I could send him on the Lord’s errand is because Jesus is our Savior and what a blessing that knowledge is in my life, so if other people can learn that knowledge too, that’s the only way.”
Malayna and her husband Marty also sent their oldest son on a mission 10 years ago. She added, “It’s like having my heart ripped out of my chest. If I didn’t believe in it, I don’t think I could let them go.”
Katie finds comfort in knowing these missionaries have faith that what they’re doing is what God wants them to do now.
“I know they have testimonies; they are obedient and want to grow and share and love their Savior and others. The seeds are planted; I can’t wait to watch them grow.”
Katie says she’s been thinking a lot about the word sacrifice and their pioneer ancestors who came to Cache Valley for their religion and how generations later they’re trying to live that faith.
“The gospel ultimately was the one thing my ancestors were willing to sacrifice all for. They left what was comfortable for the gospel. It changed their lives and made our family eternal,” she said.
Generations later, Cache Valley families like the Knowles and Longhursts are continuing the legacy of faith forged by early church settlers. They believe it’s their turn to do hard things, to send their sons and daughters into the world to spread faith in Jesus Christ–with a mother’s anticipation for the day they return home.
A photograph from about 1884 of the Logan Tabernacle on Main Street with completed Logan Temple in the background. Courtesy of USU Special Collections, Merrill-Cazier Library.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Missionaries pay their own way and leave personal endeavors behind to focus on service and teaching.
• Potential missionaries submit an application and mission assignments are unknown to them; they’re made by leaders in Salt Lake City.
• Missionaries are assigned another missionary to live and work with, called a companion, and can communicate with family on a weekly “preparation” (or “P”) day.