Daniel Aaron Judd is an outstanding young man who grew up in Willcox, Arizona. He has always loved learning and worked hard at his studies. In high school he played the tuba, and was a member of the State Champion FFA Ag Mechanics football team. He also won the “Coaches’ Award” his Senior Year.
From the time he was 16, he worked on local farms, embracing the long hours and unpredictable weather. He is a natural born farmer; he truly loves the land and the bounty provided through his toil and God’s providence. The Hart family, for whom he worked for seven years, describe him as a “hard worker, dependable, and a joy to have around.”
Daniel does not sound like a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, but he is. Though on the “high functioning” end of the autism spectrum, Asperger’s interferes with development of key social and communication skills. However this young man chooses to enjoy life every moment and gives his all to whatever task is at hand.
The fourth of five children, Daniel filled a special role in the family by teaching love, faith, trust and hope as every struggle led to higher understanding. He learned in spite of remarkable obstacles, and largely because he could not say “no” to a challenge that agreed with him.
One thing that Daniel wanted to do was to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Until his family heard of the Young Church Service Missionary program (YCSM), he did not know that was possible. An lds.org “Church News” article summarizes the calling: “For young sisters and brethren who, for physical, mental, or emotional reasons are honorably excused from serving full-time proselyting missions, or for those who must return home early from their proselyting assignments because of similar difficulties, the YCSM program provides mission experiences that build faith, strengthen testimonies, and enhance personal skills and abilities through meaningful service to others and to the Church. Currently [in 2012] there are 22,299 Church-service missionaries, hundreds of whom are YCSMs.”
Now, called Elder Judd, Daniel has just completed his first year of service as a Young Church Service Missionary. The flexibility of this program has allowed him not only to serve a full-time, 2-year mission, but to gain experience in many areas of life which he might not otherwise have experienced.
He lives with the Moser family in Ogden, Utah. Dean Moser is his uncle. He spends some of his time teaching the gospel with the missionaries in his temporary home ward, but his main assignments are working on the Church Produce Farm in Ogden and at the North Ogden Peach Orchard. These operations provide fresh produce for the Church’s and community’s welfare programs, and peaches for the Church’s cannery.
One of the highlights of the year for Elder Judd was to pick and pack peaches for the First Presidency. Another was when photographers came from The Church News to do a story on his orchard.
In winter months, even when temperatures were in the teens, Elder Judd could still be found doing mechanic’s work at the orchard shop. But he also spent part of his time serving as an assistant teacher for the Institute classes held in Ogden for disabled students. This was a special experience and has helped him in many ways.
Elder Judd speaks often in sacrament meetings, by special assignment. His testimony is blessing the lives of many, as does his physical labor. “There are opportunities for anybody with any health problem or disability to serve,” he says. “No matter what their predicament, anyone can serve their Heavenly Father. There is no challenge too great to stop you. I highly recommend the YCSM program.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a youtube video highlighting another YCSM missionary that you can watch here.