From the Church

Meet the first Church-endorsed female military chaplain

Karly Leavitt

When Jenna Carson dons the blue uniform of a United State Air Force officer next week, she will not only be following a family military legacy but also making Latter-day Saint history.

Both of Carson’s grandfathers and an uncle were Air Force pilots. Her father served in the U.S. Army. She calls it an honor to follow in their professional footsteps as she begins her own military career.

But Carson is blazing an uncharted trail—becoming the first female military chaplain endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Earlier this month, the returned missionary was set apart by Elder Jeremy R. Jaggi, a General Authority Seventy, and she will begin her military service as a first lieutenant in the US Air Force.

Being set apart as a military chaplain “was so beautiful,” she told the Church News. “It was definitely one of the highlights of my life.”

On July 7, 2022, Jenna Carson, second from left, was set apart by Elder Jeremy R. Jaggi, far left, as a Church-endorsed military chaplain, becoming the first female Latter-day Saint chaplain. Carson was joined at that historic moment by her parents, Karri and Rupert Carson.

As a newly minted military chaplain, Carson added she is committed to help those she will soon be serving to “know that they are loved by God unconditionally. … I hope that they can feel God’s love.”

The daughter of converts Rupert and Karri Carson, Carson said the Church has long been an anchoring element of her identity. “It was always just part of who I was.”

While still a girl, she decided to serve others as a full-time missionary and eventually fulfilled a Spanish-speaking assignment in the Florida Tampa Mission. Working with migrant workers and others in need of spiritual uplift helped her discover an empathy that will serve her well in her professional ministry.

Missionary service, she added, “also taught me how the Spirit can teach me to learn.”

Carson received personal revelation during her mission that she would pursue graduate studies after finishing her bachelor’s degree in English at Brigham Young University. But initially, she was uncertain which advanced academic field to pursue.

Amy Easton-Flake, a professor in BYU’s religious education department, proved to be a key mentor during Carson’s time as a student at the Church-sponsored school. Carson remembers Easton-Flake asking her: “Jenna, have you thought about Harvard Divinity School?”

The answer was no.

“But the Spirit said ‘Yes’,” said Carson, laughing. “I felt this strong fire that divinity school is where I would be going—even though I didn’t know what divinity school was.”

Read the full story on Church News.

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