News Story

You're Never Too Old to Learn

Octogenarians Lead by Example

Elder Bart and Sister Linda Simmons are proof that you're never too old to learn and serve. At 80 and 79, they are serving as full-time senior missionaries in the New Zealand Auckland Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  Although they both served full-time missions as young adults, they had the goal of serving a mission together after Bart retired as Superintendent of Schools for Grace (Idaho) School District at age 65.  As caregivers for Bart's parents, they put their mission plans on hold until after his parents passed away.  Bart's father lived to be 105 and that's how the Simmons became a very senior missionary couple.   

One of the Simmons' many responsibilities is teaching BYU-Pathway Worldwide classes to those who want to get a BYU-Idaho college degree online. Although Sister Simmons earned a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education years ago, she felt she would have more empathy and love for her students if she could experience what they were experiencing, so she filled out an on-line application for the program.

A discount is offered to returned missionaries, so when she got to the question, "Did you serve a mission, and if so, where, and when did you return?" she typed, "Yes. Paris, France, 1964."  The unexpected reply was, "Please enter a relevant answer." Apparently, the computer was not used to 79-year-old applicants who served missions in the mid-1960's.

When asked why she signed up for college classes at her age, especially since she already had a degree, Sister Simmons replied, "I wanted to find out what the students were going through and see how I could be a better support. I thought maybe I could help them, but now they're helping me."

Although Sister Simmons sometimes calls on younger friends for technical help with submitting online assignments, she is soaring through her classes with straight A's. She has completed one semester and is just a few weeks away from completing her second semester.

Another of Elder and Sister Simmons' responsibilities is taking part in Eat Healthy and Be Active classes. This program was developed to combat diabetes in the South Pacific. They participate in as many as four classes at any given time, and are living examples of the class title. The Saturday prior to leaving on their mission, they went snow skiing with several family members. They are avid golfers, and enjoy water skiing, horse-back riding and snowmobiling. Linda took up marathon running at age 63 and has competed in ten marathons since then. She has also taken part in four triathlons and three cycling marathons.

In speaking of their students, Elder Simmons reflects, "The most enjoyable part is getting to know students who want to improve their lives. We've developed such a wonderful family relationship with them. You kind of grow close like a family."

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