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Senior Defers Dartmouth Football for Two-Year Mission

Tuscarora High's Anders Peterson one of five seniors who will be heading out this summer for a mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Tuscarora High's Anders Peterson one of five seniors who will be heading out this summer for a mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Tuscarora High's Anders Peterson one of five seniors who will be heading out this summer for a mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Provided, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

The end of high school is an exciting time. For many 17 year olds, life changing decisions must be made: college, technical school, military service, workforce, and so forth. For a handful of Loudoun County youth, another factor to consider is whether or not to go on a Church mission directly out of high school. 

Tuscarora High School finds five graduating seniors deferring college acceptance letters for the opportunity to serve a two year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These seniors include Anders Peterson, Richie Todd, Kyle Gardner, Braeden Bird and Spencer Hayes.

In October 2012, Thomas S. Monson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, announced that the minimum age to serve a Mormon mission would be lowered from 19 to 18 years of age for men and from 21 to 19 years of age for women.

One of these seniors, Anders Peterson, faced an extra difficult decision as he found himself academically and athletically poised for many offers from a variety of schools. At a height of 6’6’’ and 265 lbs., Anders was a standout and a force to be reckoned with on Tuscarora's offensive line making First Team All-Conference, First Team All-Region, and Second Team All-State.

Additionally, Anders maintained a 4.0 GPA. With this unique academic and athletic 
package Anders caught the eye of many college football recruiters, including most of the Ivy League schools that are looking not only for impressive athletic ability, but also top notch grades. "Many Ivy League schools first look at academics" Anders noted, "if you can meet their high academic standards, then they look at other potential you have." 

Dartmouth College saw all of this in one student and offered Anders a position on the offensive line. "I was honored and totally blown away," said Anders. 

With an offer to one of the most impressive universities in the nation, most young men would have their bags packed and future secure. However, Anders found himself concerned about how his decision to serve a mission would impact his offer from Dartmouth. "There was no question that I would serve a Church mission; but, I did worry how it would affect my status with Dartmouth," Anders said.

In April 2014, President Monson shared, "Decisions are constantly before us which can determine our destiny. In order for us to make correct decisions, courage is needed - the courage to say no when we should, the courage to say yes when that is appropriate, the courage to do the right thing because it is right."

Anders prepared to contact Dartmouth. Before he could do this, he received a surprise phone call very early on a Saturday morning. The phone call was from the Dartmouth coach who had been tipped off about Anders’ mission decision. Not only did the coach reassure Anders that a mission would not pose a problem to his position on the team, but that he fully supported and admired that decision.

Reassured that Dartmouth will defer his position on the team until he returns, Anders is now able to focus on preparing for his two year mission. Anders was called to serve in the Fort Worth, Texas mission and will leave in July. He won't be learning a Texas drawl; he will learn to speak Marshallese, a language native to the Marshall Islands located in Micronesia. There is a large enough population in Texas where he has been called to serve in Marshallese communities. 

Around the same time as Anders' mission departure, his fellow Tuscarora LDS friends will be leaving to serve their missions as well: Braeden Bird will be serving in the Lima, Peru mission. Spencer Hayes will be serving in Jakarta, Indonesia. Kyle Gardner will be serving a Spanish speaking mission in Ogden, Utah. Richie Todd will serve a Spanish speaking mission in Reno, Nevada. 

84,000 LDS or Mormon missionaries are currently serving in 405 missions around the world. They proselytize in every country where the government and political climate allow it. Many missionaries grow to love the areas in which they serve so much that they return home as informed ambassadors of the nations and cultures where they served.

Young men serve for two years while young women serve for eighteen months. LDS Missionaries' lives are completely dedicated to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. They pay their own way and put off school, dating and work for two years in order to focus entirely on doing the Lord's work.

After Anders returns from his mission in the summer of 2016, he will then enter Dartmouth College as a 20 year old Freshman and join the Dartmouth Big Green football team.

Looking to the future, Anders anticipates that his experience serving a mission will benefit him as a college football player. “LDS Missionaries live a life of hard work, setting goals and making plans. Because of this I know I will have a better work ethic, for sure. I will be mentally disciplined and be a better leader. As an offensive lineman, these are important.” Anders said.

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