Nine new LDS chaplains recently graduated from the U.S. Army Chaplain School, which constitutes the largest number of LDS chaplains to ever attend the same Chaplain Officer Basic Course.

"This signifies a growing swell of LDS influence in the chaplain ranks of the Army, and it's a sign that members see the importance of balancing military might with spirituality," said Paul Jensen, director of Military Relations Division for the Church.The class was also outstanding in that many LDS graduated with academic and physical fitness honors, including Chaplain Anthony Horton from Fort Bliss, Texas, who was selected honor graduate of the class. During a morning devotional where he was the featured speaker, he shared thoughts and experiences of his LDS heritage, as well as telling the history of the pioneers.

The Army Chaplain School provides basic training for chaplains from all denominations. The initial training includes a boot camp where chaplains learn marching, saluting and other basic soldier skills. In latter courses, they study counseling, world religions and freedom of religion.

The LDS chaplains lived and trained with ministers from many different denominations. "I was totally impressed with the opportunity of working with a rabbi and a Muslim," said Chaplain Henry McCain from Starkville, Miss.

Chaplain candidate Darrin Coleman from Provo, Utah, said, "It helped me to understand Christ's teachings that you should love and accept people of other faiths."

Of the 95 chaplains who attended the school in addition to LDS chaplains, there were representatives from the Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Nazarene and other Christian faiths, along with Islamic and Jewish chaplains.

It was helpful having so many LDS chaplains in one class, said Brother Coleman. "Having so many scattered throughout the class gave good [opportunity] to teach about the Church. Most of the other chaplains I talked with also realized that we were Christians after being with [us] for a while."

Following the school, LDS chaplains found that because of the rigors of training and the daily 4:20 a.m. prayers, that they had acquired lifelong friends.

"The chaplains in our class were among the finest people I have ever known," said Chaplain Thomas S. Helms, III, now stationed at Fort Gordan, Ga. "I have LDS and non-LDS friends that I plan on keeping in touch with throughout my life."