BY TIFFANY BENJAMIN
Brooke Clayton says she’s a lot colder these days, and that may be understandable. She has spent the last year and a half on the Canary Islands working as a Mormon missionary in the Las Palmas Spain Mission.
Clayton, a 1L, recently returned from her 18-month mission, during which time she worked with community leaders and local membership, in an effort to educate people about the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-Day Saints. Her missionary work also included community service projects such as visiting retirement homes.
“When people ask what have you been dong for the past year or why I deferred, it’s really interesting that the conversation always leads to my religion and to my faith, because that wouldn’t necessarily be the case before. I think that it really identifies me or characterizes me as a person,” said Clayton.
Clayton was originally admitted to Harvard Law School two years ago. Just weeks before she was set to arrive in Cambridge, she decided to defer school and apply to serve as missionary, as encouraged by her faith.
“I thought if I didn’t do this now, I would never get a chance to do it,” she said. “I felt like I have been given so much in my life and I had something that really makes me truly happy and I have a desire to share it. And on the other hard, I felt like there would be so much for me to gain on a personal level and that I would be taught so much by doing it.”
So, instead of beginning law school, Clayton began her missionary work in the Canary Islands. Before traveling to the Las Palmas, Clayton spent one month in a United States training center and one month in a Madrid, Spain training center where she brushed up on her knowledge of scripture and Spanish, which is the official language of the Canary Islands.
The Las Palmas Mission houses about 100 missionaries. Each individual missionary is paired with a partner (known as a “companion”) with whom they spend all of their time and do all of their work. During her time as missionary, Clayton had seven different companions.
Each day, Clayton and the other missionaries would rise at or before 6:30 am to begin a few hours of study on scripture and then go out to meet people. “I was always talking to people,” she said.
Clayton lived in rural and urban areas on the islands, worked in offices and with the public, made new friends and educated members and non-members about her faith.
“It would be deeply gratifying to me to help somebody feel that she knew God a little bit better, that she knew that God is real, that he lives, that he is alive, that he cares about us and he knows who we are,” she said. “Essentially that’s why I went — that’s what I really care about. I think that’s a message that people need and that he continues to speak to us on a personal level. I think its important to understand that life has a purpose — that we came from somewhere and we’re going back to somewhere and we’re not here by accident.”
Now back from her missionary work, Clayton says that Harvard Law is a great fit for her. She says she likes the rigorous study, and feels that her experience prepared for her life at HLS.
“I think it’s a good transition,” she said. “I think I appreciate a little bit more than I did before just the importance of freedom of conscience and freedom of thought, those are just absolutely essential.”