Our Experience at the MTC as Senior Missionaries

paul and terry smith at the mtc march 2017On Wednesday, March 15, 2017, Terry and I completed our ten-day training at the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah, and headed off in our car to Denton, Texas, to begin serving as missionaries in the Texas Ft. Worth Mission. Here are a few observations of our experience at the MTC as senior missionaries.

There were many things taking place simultaneously during the MTC training. Overall, the training was excellent, and we loved it. Perhaps the most cherished part of the training was the friendships we made with many of the other senior missionaries. During the ten days there, we would gradually meet more and more of the couples—most of this took place at meal time, when we would sit next to different people. We learned where they were from, where they were going and what their background was. We came to see and appreciate the faith and testimony and love that all of them had. While this was not a part of the written curriculum, it was nevertheless a precious experience for us.

For senior missionaries, the first week of training was primarily centered in Preach My Gospel, the missionary training book prepared by the Brethren several years ago. The training is directed by young, recently returned missionaries, who train the younger missionaries and the senior missionaries. For the younger missionaries, the training is spread out over 7+ weeks; but for the senior missionaries, the training is condensed into one week. This is good. I have taught from Preach My Gospel as a part of a previous calling, teaching the stake Missionary Preparation Class for four years. But, in addition to this, most of the senior missionaries already have a deep understanding of many of the principles taught in Preach My Gospel. For example, in my district of four couples, three of the brethren had previously been bishops. So the condensed training was quite appropriate. But the review of fundamentals was good, and I did pick up a few new tips and concepts and understandings that will help me.

paul and terry smith mtc district march 2017When we entered the MTC there was a host of missionaries and other people who welcomed us, directed us where to go, and helped us get settled. At that time we met Brother and Sister Braithwaite, our short-term ecclesiastical leaders. Their mission and assignment is to lead, direct and help us with the multitude of logistical matters involved in our stay at the MTC. They were cheerful and happy. They set a wonderful tone for the week of training. Some of those in our group had not previously served full-time missions and were a little apprehensive about the expectations of them. The training offered us helped alleviate some concerns and helped build the faith of all of us.

The central theme of our MTC training was that we were called to invite people to come to Christ through faith in Him, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and by enduring to the end. Some of the training was given to our entire group of 114 seniors. But most of it was given in smaller groups of eight people (4 couples)—“districts”—into which they divided us on the first day.

Our district was taught by one sister missionary in the morning, Sister Donakey (who served a mission in Italy), who was married about a year ago, and who is expecting her first baby. Our afternoon class was taught by Sister Boucher (who served a mission in Norfolk, Virginia). Both sisters were wonderful teachers.

Orrin OlsenThe district training involved questions, answers and discussions. The discussions in our district were always positive, enlightening and helpful. The district training also included our preparing and presenting a couple of lessons to another couple. Terry and I team-taught two lessons to Orrin and Sandy Olsen. Those were wonderful sessions. We became good friends with the Olsens; we enjoyed their lesson for us; and we enjoyed sharing our lessons with them. Orrin Olsen is one of the three Olsen brothers who played football in the NFL. Orrin sent me a photo of him when he played at BYU—he was blocking for Gifford Nielsen, as Nielsen was handing the ball off to Todd Christensen. (Football fans will all recognize that all three of these BYU players had successful careers in the NFL.) Orrin and his wife Sandy, are both tremendous individuals. They will be serving in the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion program in Washington State.

Terry and I picked up a number of tips, pointers and insights from the Preach My Gospel training that will help to make us even better teachers. One of the helpful things we learned was an effective way to invite people to come to Christ. This technique includes three elements in every invitation:

  1. Teach the blessings that will come from following the principle;
  2. Testify that the principle is true and of God; and
  3. directly invite them to follow the principle.

For example, in inviting someone to attend church, I would tell the person that great spiritual blessings will come from attending church, that God commands us to meet together often, and that the person will personally be blessed from attending church regularly. Then I would ask: Will you attend church with me at 9:00 a.m. this Sunday? Can I pick you up at 8:45 a.m.? If you think about it, you recognize that the combination of these three elements can be powerful and effective.

The MTC training also included a devotional forum on Tuesday, where we listened to a new General Authority, Joaquin Costas and his wife. We attended a Sunday Fireside and heard an inspiring message from one of the MTC District Presidents. We also watched a video of a message delivered to the MTC missionaries by Elder David Bednar on Christmas Day 2015. Elder Bednar very effectively made the point that as we turn out toward others to help them, then we become effective disciples of Christ. We also had the blessing to hear from President and Sister David Martino, the MTC President. Both of them were inspiring, happy and encouraging. We attended another devotional on our second Tuesday at the MTC, where we listened to the Church’s General Relief Society President, Linda Burton, and her husband, who had previously served as a mission president. Their comments were also helpful and inspiring.

Three of our evenings were free the first week. On Thursday we were able to attend a temple session at the Provo Temple. This was very nice. It had been about 40 years since we had attended a session there.

We had considerable free time on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday we attended church in the BYU Young Marrieds ward, where our son Michael and his wife Shelby attend. I got to hear Michael’s priesthood lesson. That was a great experience for me. Previous to that, on Friday evening, we went to the home of my brother, Dennis, and his wife, Catherine who live in Orem, Utah. We brought some ice cream, and we had dessert with them. Before returning back to our room at the MTC I called one of my cousins who lives in the area, and then visited her for a few minutes.

I want to briefly tell about some of the people we got to know at the MTC. Brother and Sister Snowder were being sent to the Philippine Cavite Mission, where they were to work in the mission office. Brother Snowder, who had just been released as a member of the Reno Temple Presidency, was expecting a call to work in a temple somewhere else in the world. They were a little surprised with the call to work in a mission office. Brother and Sister Rowley were a breath of fresh air to me; they have been called to serve in Vienna, Austria as Stake Young Single Adult Representatives. He speaks German well, and Sister Rowley speaks it a little bit. Brother Rowley was one of those people who would always give a frank answer to questions—he was not inhibited; he would answer with what he felt or thought, whether or not it was the answer that the questioner was looking for. I loved this. We became friends. It turns out that Sister Rowley had been politically active in California, just as I had been in Maryland. We were both putting aside our political lives for the duration of our missions, but we had both been active and vocal politically before our missions.

I made one friendship on our next-to-last day at the MTC. I just happened to get into a conversation with an Elder Patterson, as I was putting a bottle of juice in the lounge refrigerator. Brother Patterson has been called to a military relations mission in the Norfolk, Virginia area. Brother Patterson has been a helicopter pilot for about 40 years. He and I are the same age. The first 20+ years he flew for the Army. The last 18 years he has flown a rescue helicopter for an Intermountain medical rescue service. Brother Patterson shared with me several of his experiences. Several of them were exceedingly dangerous. He saved a number of lives, including rescuing climbers in rugged and dangerous cliff areas. I told him that I loved his stories, and that I hoped he would share them with others. A number of times, the Lord worked miracles through him in saving people. He said that he was reluctant to share them because he didn’t want people to look at him like a hero. I said that I understand that concern, and that I had also had to deal with that issue sometimes in connection with my legal, political and family work. I expressed that I believe we have to have the courage to speak up about things even though some may seek to find fault with us, thinking that we are bragging when we tell of faith-promoting experiences we have had. I said we can’t let the fear that someone will misconstrue our motives and intents prevent us from sharing insights and experiences that can uplift and strengthen others. I encouraged him to share those experiences. We exchanged email information, so that we can continue to share things in the future. He told me that I was the only one at the MTC with whom he had shared these experiences. Wow! I was so grateful that I had showed enough interest in him to have the discussion that we had for 40 minutes that evening. I felt that it was helpful to him, and I was also greatly benefited by it.

The last three days of training for Terry and me was a special training given to those whose callings were with Seminaries & Institute and with the young single adults (YSAs). I won’t describe it in any detail at this time, but I enjoyed that even more than the first week of training.

In summary, the MTC training experience was great. The relationships formed were especially wonderful.

Preparing to Leave on a Senior Mission

[colored_box color=”blue”]Summary: Paul and Terry are well underway in their preparations to leave on a senior mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. See updates below.

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*** Update Feb 1, 2017 ***

We will leave for the MTC in less than four weeks. There are many little things that we have been doing and which still need to be done. Yesterday, our home was inspected for lead paint. In order to rent our home in Maryland, the home must first be certified to be free of lead paint contamination. Homes built before 1978 must be inspected. Our home was built in 1963, so we had to comply. We will get the results next week. They were primarily looking for painting that is chipped and flaking because the primary source of lead paint poisoning comes from chips of lead paint. We worked for several days in wiping, cleaning and in some cases painting any areas (in and out) that were chipped or pealing. It is primarily the window areas.

Also yesterday we rented a storage unit into which we will put our furniture, books, files, etc. We did not want to pay for a storage unit. We hoped one of our children might be able to live here while we’re gone. We figured maybe one of our eleven children would want to do this. But, alas, it was not the case. So, at this point, we have to start moving things out of the house and into the storage unit. Some things will not be moved out until just before we leave, but other things can go now–by starting the arduous task it won’t be as overwhelming as it would be to try to do it in a day or two.

The storage task is more complicated for us because of three factors: I have been storing my closed law files in our basement (approximately 2,000 files); I have a lot of books (including approximately 800 books on the Constitution; and I have lot of files about family histories, religious matters, current events and Constitutional issues. I love to write and teach about these things, and so I have collected resources that I use for this. In any event, we plan to take some of these materials on our mission, but most of the books and files will be put into storage. So we are beginning the process now of picking out the select few materials to bring with us, and then putting the rest in storage.

About two weeks ago I wrapped up a project that I needed to complete before entering the mission field–writing and publishing an issue (perhaps the last issue) of my newsletter, “Constitutional Law Updates.” This newsletter discusses law cases and current developments in how the Constitution is interpreted. The newsletter supplements the book I wrote and published in 2002, The State of the Constitution. The election of Donald Trump as President will have many significant implications on the Constitution–especially in comparison to what would happen if Hillary Clinton had been elected. In any event, that edition of the newsletter is now completed and out of the way.

We also got our flu shots this week. Yesterday we received our first letter from our Mission President, Darrell Whitney. In his letter he included a page with about a hundred scriptures that he wants all his missionaries to understand and master. Also, during the past week I applied on line for Social Security benefits to begin next month. I turn 66 in three weeks, so we will begin to receive a monthly Social Security payment in March. When we return from the mission in 18 months, those payments will continue when I resume my law practice.

We still have not received the detailed instructions we have been looking for on the amount of money we will be contributing monthly for missionary purposes. I believe we will be contributing about $1,250/month, and when we get in the mission field the Church will provide housing, and then we will pay for all of our other expenses. We’ll have to call and get some clarification on this.

We are looking forward with excitement and some trepidation to entering the mission field. Terry and I both have some excitement; Terry has most of the trepidation. We watched and enjoyed the on-line missionary training videos of “The District 2.” We found all three episodes to be very good. We are both reading The Book of Mormon again, as we were requested. Although we have already read it several dozen times, it is an inspiring experience to read it again.

*** Update Feb 5, 2017 ***

We are well underway in the process of moving our stuff from our home to the storage unit. With three weeks to go before we leave, I believe we have made enough progress so that we will not be scrambling and worrying too much when we get down to the last couple of days. So far we’ve moved a couple of book shelves, a bed, about 20 boxes of books and files and a few other things.

We use our ’05 Dodge Dakota pick-up truck to move these things. But the pick-up truck is having some problems, as the engine frequently misfires in one or more of the cylinders. We brought it in for repairs last week, and we thought it was fixed, but the problem returned a day later. The mechanic said the problem was in cylinder # 5, and that it was due to a faulty injector. I have an appointment to have it repaired again on Tuesday. We had been planning to leave the pick-up truck for our daughter Julie and our son Timothy to use. But if the problem cannot be fixed, we may just sell the truck.

Last week I received a court order approving an administrative account in the Connacher Estate, an estate from which I will receive several thousand dollars for past services. We need this money in order to go on our mission, so we are greatly relieved to have this money come in. I have one other pending case from which I am expecting a significant payment in the next couple of months. We will fine financially when that payment comes.

Because of my service in the community as an elected official for eight years, I have developed many connections in the community with elected officials and other influential people. I have always regarded these relationships as missionary-type opportunities. From the very first meeting as a newly-elected Alderman for the City of Frederick, I have had opportunities to say and do things that I believe will help the kingdom move forward. At the first Aldermen meeting, the Mayor asked me to offer a prayer. I told him that I would be happy to do so, but that I was going to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. He said that would be fine. I did, and then there was a good bit of public consternation about this. My prayer became a front page story because I had prayed “in the name of Jesus.” Some people complained that I had violated the City law about prayers, and an atheist complained on the op-ed page that the prayer was “too long.” The paper even printed the text of my 45 second prayer. I responded at our next Aldermen meetings that if I did violate the City prayer policy then that policy was unconstitutional.

In any event, most Christians were quite happy with my having the backbone to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. During the campaign prior to the election, some of my opponents tried to smear me by publicized that I was a Mormon and by labeling me a “homophobe.” Neither of these tactics succeeded. To the latter accusation, the newspaper publicized my response in which I told of some gay people that I had effectively represented, including a current case in which I helped a gay man to get a large reduction in alimony from his ex-wife (where the alimony award had been much higher than was proper). The point is that for all of my eight years as an elected official, the community has been well aware that I am a Mormon. And I believe my service as an elected official has reflected positively on the Church.

Meanwhile, back to the present–after talking with my friend Tim May, who hosts a daily, 3-hour community talk show, he invited me on the show for an hour on Friday, where we discussed national political matters. Terry said it was very good–in fact, the best commentary they ever have. After the talk show, I spoke with one of our State Senators, Michael Hough (also a good friend) about a local ethics law that he had been discussing on the radio just prior to my hour visit. Senator Hough thanked me for sending him a copy of my latest issue of Constitutional Law Updates. He said that my writing is excellent, and that he has shared the newsletter with others.

I mention these things here to point out that even though I am currently making a significant public relations contribution to the Church, Terry and I still feel that we need to go away and serve a full-time mission somewhere else, while we have the health and strength to do so. The community will know that we are going on a mission, and they will learn that our commitment to the Lord is so strong that we are putting Him first in our effort to serve God and our fellow man. As I discuss the mission call with my many friends in the community, some of them ask why we are doing this. “Didn’t you serve a mission when you were younger?” one of them asked. Yes, but this is all about the purpose of life. We want to serve the Lord and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others–to help them.

Earlier this week, I mentioned to one of my clients on the phone that I would soon be leaving on a mission, and that my associate, Jeff Holtzinger, would be handling the case in the future. The man probed into why I would be going on a mission, and for what church. When I told him, he became interested, and he seemed positively impressed. I told him that I would send him a copy of The Book of Mormon, a powerful, fantastic book that he would find very inspiring and helpful. He said he looked forward to getting it and reading it. The man said that he had been against all organized religions for the last two years because of the neglect he felt from his church after he had been seriously injured in an accident at his church. He was electrocuted and fell from a ladder while working on a light at his church. The fall caused him to have a broken neck and back, and bad cuts to his head (requiring 120 stitches). He said that in his long recovery period of many months, he only had three visitors from his church. This really soured him on religion. I told him that I was sorry to hear that. I said that it is a miracle that he is even alive. I think he believes likewise. So, I’ll send him a copy of The Book of Mormon in tomorrow’s mail.

*** Update March 5, 2017 ***

Tomorrow Terry and I will enter the Mission Training Center in Provo for ten days of instruction, inspiration and preparation for our mission. We are looking forward to that. The last month has been totally filled with attending to our personal and business affairs so that we will not have to worry about them on the mission. This has been a mammoth undertaking—partly because I plan to return to my law practice after the mission, and partly because we have not moved in 25 years and because we have had to put into storage most of the stuff that is in our home. (We will return to the home after the mission.)

Putting our furniture, papers, books, clothing, etc. into the large storage unit took a full month. We rented a large unit (10’ wide x 35’ deep and 10’ high). When our home is rented, that should be just enough to cover the cost of our mortgage and the rental. We must have taken 25 trips to the storage unit. Except for help with a few of the larger items, we moved most of the stuff ourselves. In addition to the larger items—chairs, tables, dressers, beds, etc.—we bought about 50 boxes from Home Depot and Lowes, into which we put our smaller things. In addition to this, we used about 30 plastic storage crates that we had accumulated through the years. These boxes and crates were about the same size; they were easy to handle, and they stacked very nicely to a height of about 7 feet.

We had planned to leave Maryland on Saturday morning, Feb. 25th at 7:00 a.m. But we were not able to leave until 10:30 p.m. We put the last load of stuff into our storage unit at about 8:30 p.m.—the unit is totally packed, except for a narrow passage through the middle of the unit from front to back. Once this last load was delivered, we had to go to my law office to attend to several matters. We spent two hours there. Terry waited patiently—I have to commend her. I sent out several letters that needed to be sent, and I gathered with me the files for about six remaining cases—matters that I would have to attend to in the next week. Now, a week later, I have gotten all of this work done, except for two letters that need to go out by Monday morning. Then we will be ready to have a good experience at the MTC.

While 10:30 p.m. is an odd time to leave for our trip across the country, we had no place to sleep in our home even if we had waited until the next day. So, we left and traveled 95 miles west, and got a motel in La Vale, Maryland.

As we drove west in our jam-packed 1998 Lexus, we stopped for a short visit in Peoria, Illinois with our son Philip and his wife Mary and their six children. We then traveled west, having a short visit in Nauvoo. Then we took our journey through Atchison, Kansas, stopping to see the historic marker there, at Mormon Grove. About 20,000 Mormons went through Mormon Grove in the 1850s, including some of our ancestors. One of my ancestors, Julia Ann Grant Bagley, and two or three of her children, died of cholera one day west of Mormon Grove. Julia and her husband, Edward Bagley, joined the Church in 1845 in Frederickton, New Brunswick, Canada.

We traveled through Denver, and took the time for a quick visit at Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. That was really neat. Now we can say that we met the Hoodoos from Hanksville.

We arrived in Sandy, Utah, and spent a few days with our son John and his wife, Jessica, and their two-week old, beautiful baby, Jasmine. We thoroughly enjoyed this visit. We were also able to visit our son Michael and his wife Shelby (who is expecting), and our son Paul Jr., and his wife Jill (who is also expecting) and their son Wiley, and our oldest granddaughter, Danielle, who is a freshman at BYU. We had two wonderful visits with them.

We will be ready for the MTC tomorrow.

Receiving a Senior Mission Call

Paul and Terry Smith LDS Mission Application PhotoMy wife Terry and I received our mission call about ten days ago, on January 10, 2017. I want to let you know what that was like. Terry called me at work and said that the call letter had arrived in the mail; it was a large 9×12 envelope that was rather thick. As soon as I could break away I came home and we opened it together. Some people had suggested that we invite other family members to be with us when we opened the letter, but we wanted to be alone when we did it. It was a solemn, spiritual time for us. We prayed before opening the letter. We were looking forward to learning where the Lord would call us to serve.

The Mission Call Letters and Packets of Information

Terry and I both received separate letters from President Thomas S. Monson–each signed personally by him. He told us that we were called to serve for eighteen months in the Texas Fort Worth Mission, to serve in the Seminaries and Institutes of Religion program. We were told that we would work under the direction of President Darrell Whitney and his wife, Sally. We remembered that several months ago when we looked through the hundreds of missionary opportunities for seniors that one of those needs was in Denton, Texas, a suburb north of Fort Worth. We are to report to the MTC in Provo, Utah on Monday, March 6, 2017.

Fort Worth TexasTerry and I had dozens of questions, so we quickly read through the packet of information and instructions that had been sent with the letter from President Monson. The information in the packet was general information that applied to most senior missionaries. A lot of it was detailed, but we still had many questions that it did not answer. We knew that we would get a letter from the mission president that would provide additional information. We have yet to receive that letter, but we expect to receive it shortly. After we read the packet, we went on line and sent in our acceptance letter. The packet instructed us to begin some online pre-mission training and finish reading or read again The Book of Mormon. Later that day, we called all of our children about receiving the mission call, and we emailed our siblings about it.

Finalizing Financial Arrangements 

Although we had been making many arrangements to be able to go on a mission beginning March 1st, there still remained a lot to do, and there are some matters that have not yet been adequately arranged. For example, we need to rent our home for 18 months, and I need to obtain payments from several outstanding legal matters–payments that are critical to our being able to support ourselves for the next year and a half. We made inquiries, and located a property management company with whom we listed our home for rent. We are trying to decide where to put our furniture, books and papers that need to be stored–we haven’t made those decisions yet. In the meantime, we have begun a major project of sorting our stuff, and throwing out a lot of it. We don’t want to pay to store stuff that we would throw away after we return from our mission–we want to throw it away now.

With regard to the business payments that we are expecting–some of these are payments that I have mostly earned, but for which I don’t control the exact time when payment is made. Yesterday, I received the notice that two of those payments were about to be made. Receiving this notice has been a great relief to me. The last big financial matter is for us to rent our home. This needs to happen in order for us to avoid a major drain on our finances. But we know that the Lord knows of our need, and we are expecting him to bless us with a rental.

Learning Details of the Work We’d Be Doing

About a week after receiving our call, I called Elder Ayres, the brother in Salt Lake who helps to coordinate with the senior couples working in the Seminaries and Institutes program. We had spoken with him several times before, beginning in October, as we were inquiring into mission opportunities. Brother Ayres continued to be helpful and gracious, in responding to our questions. When I called him last week, he said that I should call Brother Kevin Clayton, the Director of the Institute at Denton, Texas. Brother Ayres said that Brother Clayton was anxious to talk with us, and that now that we had accepted the call that this type of pre-mission communication was proper and was encouraged.

We called Brother Clayton, and had a telephone call with him of almost an hour. He answered many of our questions–including giving more specifics about what we would be doing. He said that we would spend most of the week days from 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Institute building, and that we would do some team teaching, and that we would be the host and hostess of the Institute building–providing love and friendship and support to about 150 LDS college students who would be regularly visiting the Institute for classes and for friendship. He said that we would be replacing another couple, Brother and Sister Bond, and that we would be moving into the apartment where they are currently living. In addition to responding to our many questions, Brother Clayton said several times that he is excited and anxious to meet us and that he knows that the Lord has called us to come and work with the students at the Denton Institute. Brother Clayton is about the same age as several of our children, and we are impressed with the words he said, and with his enthusiasm, and faith and love.

Still Much to Do to Prepare to Leave

Terry and I feel like we have a lot to do before we leave for the mission, but we are excited about the mission call. The task of sorting and storing all our stuff is quite daunting. We are also trying to figure out what we will bring on our mission with us. We have more latitude than the single missionaries in deciding what to bring with us, although we may have to ship some of the things. In our case, we have a number of books and resource files that we want to bring.

Now that we have received our mission call, our bishopric asked Terry to speak in church last week, and I will speak in church next Sunday. (See Jimmy’s related post on missionary farewell talks.)

Once the Church received our acceptance, we began to get additional information online and in the mail (e.g. instructions about travel and about needing to get the flu shot before entering the MTC). We are currently considering driving to Utah–going through Peoria, Illinois (where one of our sons lives); visiting Nauvoo, Illinois; visiting Independence, Missouri; visiting Mormon Grove, Kansas (where some of my ancestors are buried); and then visiting the families of two of our children in Utah. Four of our children are expecting babies at this time. We hope to be able to meet one new arrival (projected delivery date of February 26th) in Utah, just before entering the MTC.

Updates from Paul and Terry on Preparing to Leave on a Senior Mission

 

Preparing to Be Senior Missionaries

paul and terry senior mission prepMy name is Paul Smith. I am a 65-year old attorney, with a solo law practice in Frederick, Maryland (suburbs of Washington, D. C.). My wife Terry is 63. We are waiting to receive a call from the Prophet to serve a mission for 15-19 months.

My Background

As a young man I served a proselyting mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in France from 1970-1972. Terry and I married in 1973. I graduated from law school in 1978. I have practiced law in Maryland for 38 years. While I have had numerous informal lawyer associates, my practice has been mostly a solo business, focusing primarily on serving individuals and families, including many people of lesser means. Financially, my law practiced survived for the first 20+ years. During the last 10 years it has done very well financially. But in the meantime, Terry and I had 12 children (9 boys and 3 girls). Our daughter Patricia died at age 6 (26 years ago). All the others are now married, and we have 30 grandchildren, with 3 on the way, and with two other couples planning to get pregnant. We have been very active in church. I have been a bishop, and I have worked with the young men most of my adult life (serving as scoutmaster 5 different times). Terry has been a Relief Society president and an early morning seminary teacher (4 years), but she mostly has taught the children in Primary. She is an excellent teacher, and she loves this.

Desire to Serve a Senior Mission

Paul Smith mission to France 1970-1972For years Terry and I have wanted to serve a senior mission. But we have wondered when and how we could do it. We have very little savings and no retirement. As I approach my 66th birthday, we will be able to draw Social Security without any reduction in that amount when I bring in other income from my law practice. Financially, it would have been better for me to wait to draw Social Security until I reached the age of 70, and I do plan to continue working in my law practice until beyond age 70. But about a year ago, we noticed that Terry was beginning to show some short term memory deficits. Once we realized this, we immediately began to prepare to apply for a senior mission, to begin early in the year 2017. We wanted Terry to have a good mission experience, as well as me. I felt very strongly that we needed to get things in order immediately to serve. We prayed for the Lord to bless us in this effort, and He has indeed blessed us.

Preparing My Business

In my case, the biggest preparation item was to find an attorney who could manage/handle my law practice while I would be away, until I would return. I started working on this in early 2016, and I succeeded in this in the spring of 2016. There were a lot of small details that we had to work out, including coordinating our lawyer liability insurance policies, rental arrangements, the type of formal arrangement we would establish, and helping him become familiar with the several cases that would be continuing after my departure.

Preparing by Visiting Family

paul and terry smith visiting jimmy and heather kidsAs the 2016 unfolded, it has become a very good financial year, even while I stopped taking on most new litigation cases in late summer. We were able to take a couple of trips this year, visiting our children and grandchildren, and many of our siblings, around the country. We traveled all around the country–to Texas, to Nevada, to California, to Utah, to Idaho; then back through Winter Quarters, Nebraska and Nauvoo, Illinois; and to Kirtland, Ohio; to Palmyra, New York, and to Harmony, Pennsylvania. After Christmas we will take a trip to visit our son’s family in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. We wanted to visit all our children before going away for 18 months.

Terry is probably less anxious to serve a mission than I am, but she wants to support me and to be with me. Terry wants to be able to visit our children when they have new babies. We understand that this may be possible, although we don’t know where we will be serving, and we don’t know how we will make this happen.

Preparing Our Home

One of the biggest issues for us is the rental and care of our home while we are away. We still have mortgage payments on our home, so we will need to rent it. For several months we have been exploring whether any of our children could live in our home for a year, but this has not materialized. We are now reaching out to find a renter. Beginning in January, we will have to engage a rental/management company to help with this. This is a major financial issue to be resolved, but our home is a nice home in a very nice neighborhood in Frederick. We are confident that we will be blessed with a good resolution to this matter.

If we did not plan to return to my law practice after the mission, perhaps we might have considered selling our home. But we will need to work after the mission. I keep my old case files in the basement of our home (about 2,000 files). This takes up some space. Also, we have a very large collection of books. We would like to keep a lot of these books and files in the home while we are away. Otherwise, we will have to put some of them in storage. Exactly how much will be put in storage, and how much we will be able to leave in the home is yet to be determined. I have spent a lot of time this year going through old files–throwing out papers that are no longer needed. We have also done a lot of little home improvement projects and painting, so that the home will be in good shape.

As we now wait for our mission call to arrive, we feel that the house is mostly ready, my business affairs are in order, and we have made the important family visits. We are anxious to see where we will be called to serve.

Determining the Type of Mission to Serve

As you may know, senior missionaries are encouraged to make suggestions of types of missionary service that they would like to do, as well as places where they might like to serve. Terry and I went to the Church website and looked through the various types of senior missionary opportunities that were available. In our case, the one that we had the greatest interest in pursuing was in the field of Institute and Seminary. There are perhaps a dozen such opportunities/needs in the United States. We mentioned this in our application. We also mentioned my love of the French people, and my interest in serving there. But we have felt that an Institute/Seminary calling in the States would be our preference. I obtained the name and phone number of an Elder Ayers, who works at the Church Seminary and Institute headquarters, and who makes recommendations to the Brethren regarding the senior missionary callings in this area. He was very happy to hear from me, and we have spoken several times. Terry and I think we will receive a call to serve in this area. Nevertheless, we want to go where the Lord wants us to go–whatever that is and wherever.

Senior Missionary Application Process

To begin the mission application process, we had to contact our bishop. The mission application is made on-line, but our bishop had to take some steps to allow us to access the on-line system. Once this was done, we completed the application on-line. We were able to revise our application a couple of times. Terry and I each had to complete a separate application and separate medical/dental evaluation forms. Once we completed the medical forms, we made appointments with our doctors and dentists to sign the forms. Once we got all the required signatures, electronically submitted our applications–this sent the applications to the bishop. We arranged a meeting with our bishop, and turned in the signed medical and dental forms to him. He then added his comments, and electronically forwarded the applications to the stake president. We arranged a meeting with our stake president, who then made his comments, and submitted the application to the Church. Now we just wait for our mission call letter to come. We understand that the brethren usually meet on Thursdays or Fridays to extend callings.

Next: Receiving a Senior Mission Call by Paul Smith

A Couple’s Mission Report including Senior Missionary Questions and Answers

Missionaries-at-Cove-Fort-Historic-SitePat Huff recently returned with her husband from a mission to the St. George Utah mission where they served at the Cove Fort Historic Site. Their mission was a great experience as they helped greet and teach 61,000 visitors.  Pat farmed, ranched, and worked as a Librarian in Pocatello, Idaho for 30 years. She now works as a freelance writer. You can find her on the Web at PatHuffCopywriter.com.

We’ve been asked questions since we returned, and we had the same questions before we left on our mission. So I would like to address them first:

1. Can we afford to serve? Yes, we actually had more expenses while on our mission because we had to pay RV space rent and pay for our lawn to be taken care of. But miraculously, we were able to meet these extra obligations and even have money left over each month.

2. Is my health good enough? Yes. We served with missionaries who were in their late 70’s and early 80’s, and they worked harder than anyone. Several missionaries came using canes for support when walking, but didn’t need them after a few weeks, despite being on their feet six or more hours a day.

3. Can I handle being with my “companion” for 24 hours a day? Yes. It takes some getting used to, but I became a better person by learning how to talk things out, become less selfish, and be more forgiving. It would be wise to be with your spouse as much as possible before serving.

4. How about my family? The Lord will take care of your family members. Several missionary couples with whom we served had wayward children start attending church and change their lives dramatically. In other words, serving a mission is definitely worth it because the many blessings far outweigh the small sacrifice!

Lessons Learned on My Senior Couple Mission

I can say that I’m a different person than before I left. I thought that maybe I had already learned everything I could before I left. Not so. I learned a lot in just a short few months.

First of all, I’ve learned that the Lord wants us to serve as missionaries and blesses us when we do, even in small ways. For example, I have hair that wants to do its own thing. While serving at Cove Fort, despite the frequent hurricane force winds, I never had a bad hair day. Since we got back, I haven’t had a good hair day!

God Holds the Map

I’ve also learned that God knows all of His children and wants them to return to him. I saw this message printed on the back of a motor home on our way to Richfield early in our mission. The message on the motor home said, “Life is a journey, and God holds the map.” I’d like to add, “and aren’t we glad it’s that way?”

If life is a journey, this means that we need to be going somewhere. Thanks to modern-day revelation, we know that our lives here on earth are an important part of the plan of salvation, or our journey back to live eternally with our Father in Heaven, Jesus Christ, and our families. Most of you would probably agree with me that God is in charge, but the difficult part is finding out what our individual “maps” look like. What is it that we should be doing to find happiness, or answers to our questions, or just find our way back home? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a map pop up on the wall every day?

I don’t mean to suggest that God looks down from Heaven and moves our little cars around on a map wherever He wants. This reminds me of the game called “Life.” All the players have a little car with people in it and experience different things. However, in real life this doesn’t happen. Instead, God gives us opportunities to learn and to grow by using our faith to receive guidance or “map points” on our journey through life.

But God doesn’t leave us clueless. He provides prophets and the scriptures, as well as personal revelation received through our prayers to help us. In D&C 6: 14, Oliver Cowdery received counsel that also applies to us: “. . .for thou has inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou has received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.” There are many “map points” along the way. What’s important is that we keep heading in the right direction back to our heavenly home. How do we do that?

Focus on Choosing the Right

Maybe you, too, have seen potatoes, or corn, or beans planted in very straight rows. Those straight rows go on forever and ever, even beyond the horizon. Before I farmed, I would look at those perfectly straight rows and wonder how in the world a farmer in a tractor could manage to plant such straight rows. Now I know how to do it. We must find a point away on the horizon and keep going toward it. We must resist the temptation to look down or to the right or to the left. Our entire focus must stay on that point on the horizon.

If we are to return to our Father in Heaven, we must stay focused on that point—or the celestial kingdom—in the horizon. Staying focused means always choosing what we know to be right, no matter what. I know that if we put the Lord first, we will be blessed. If the soccer game is scheduled on Sunday, choose church instead. If dance is on Tuesday, choose Activity Days first. If a school activity is scheduled on Wednesday, choose Mutual first.

My parents taught me this lesson about 44 years ago. The Beatles were scheduled to appear on the Ed Sullivan show, which came on TV at the same time as Sacrament Mtg. I wanted to stay home and watch the Beatles. My parents said, “no, we’re going to Sacrament Mtg. instead.” I didn’t like it at the time, but I can see that was the wiser choice and has helped me stay focused on the Lord throughout my life.

God Holds the Map for Investigators Too

Cove-Fort-Historic-SiteAnother thing I’ve learned is this: God also knows all His children and holds a map for them, too. Almost every day at Cove Fort I heard someone say, “I just felt impressed that I should stop.” For example, late one day I caught up with a man and woman “fence runners” at the barn. They were from New York City and had found the Fort on the internet. All they wanted to do was take pictures of the fire-enhanced sunset outside the Fort. However, I talked them into a flashlight tour of the Fort. They were enthralled with everything and had a difficult time pulling themselves away, in the dark.

The next morning I walked out of a room in the Fort at 9:30 a.m., and guess who I saw in the courtyard—these same two people taking another tour of the fort! They couldn’t get enough of the feeling of the Fort and had come back. They didn’t want to fill out a referral card to have the missionaries visit, but I felt impressed that they should have a Book of Mormon anyway. So the missionaries found one for me, and I took it out to the man and challenged him to read it and pray about it. He said that he would, because he recognized that it was given with love. He was correct, I truly felt tremendous love for both of these wonderful people.

The Lord also paired up missionaries with certain visitors. One day I was standing outside the office when a family with a young boy walked up. They hadn’t been greeted yet, most unusual, so I went to get a missionary to take them on a tour. I could tell that their son, a sweet young man, suffered from autism. Their assigned missionary came out, but their son grabbed my hand and wouldn’t let go. So my husband, Steve, and I ended up taking them on a tour. I had such a spiritual experience! Steve took the couple around the fort, but I stayed with their son and helped him experience the fort, in a way that I knew he needed. We climbed the trees, rubbed hands on the lava rock, and looked for bugs. Can this be a spiritual experience? Yes! The Lord knows all of His children!

Another time I was asked to head off a man who was going toward the barn. We went to the barn, bunkhouse, and blacksmith shop. With some talking, I got him into the Fort. At the end, he wanted a copy of the Book of Mormon. He was headed to Salt Lake City, and I later had a call from the missionary who met him at the Conference Center. This man told the missionary at the Conference Center that in the last room, the parent’s room, he felt that everything I had told him was true and he wanted to be baptized. He was invited to go across the street and meet with the sister missionaries serving on temple square. What a wonderful experience to know that I had a part to play in his embarking on the path back to our Father in Heaven!

Love is What It’s All About

Love is what being a missionary is about, and I’m grateful to have felt it for visitors every day. As a result of having served this mission, I have a greater appreciation and understanding of the fact that God knows and loves all of His children. One of my most memorable experiences was being assigned to the prophet’s room, girls rooms and parents rooms at Cove Fort days. It was very spiritually uplifting to be able to share my testimony about Joseph Smith, the restoration of the gospel, and eternal families with visitors for 4 hours a day in these rooms.

It wasn’t easy for us to get off on a mission. In 2004 we felt impressed that we should serve a mission. We had just listened to Elder Hales speak about the need for senior missionaries, and the impression that we should serve hit us. Five years later in fall 2009 we were sitting at the computer looking at missionary opportunities on the church’s website. All of a sudden, Cove Fort popped up on the screen, and we knew that’s where we should serve. By focusing on that point on the horizon and keeping a straight route back to our Father in Heaven, we would make another “map point” on our life journey by serving a mission. This was a wonderful opportunity and I’m grateful that the Lord helped us to serve.

How to Be an Online Missionary

As a follow up to my post on Church Service Missions, I’d like to go into a little more detail about how sign up to be an online missionary. This is particularly in response to several people who have mentioned to me that they have the time and resources to be a part-time missionary from home doing computer work online, but they are not sure how to get started.

Search for Opportunities

church-service-mission-technology-computer-opportunitiesThe first thing you will want to do is to go to the Church-Service Mission website to check out the open opportunities, get answers to frequently asked questions, and to get the Recommendation Form for a Church-Service Mission. Once there, click on “Current Opportunities” or “Search for Opportunities” (both links take you to the same place). And on that page you’ll see a link to view all At Home Service Opportunities.

At present, there are only a couple of At Home opportunities listed, but hopefully there will be more in the future. Another alternative for finding at home opportunities is to go back to the search page, find the “Select and Interest” drop down menu, and select “Information Technology and Computer Science.” (see screen shot above)

Though these opportunities are not specifically listed as the work at home type, many of them could be done from home. If you find an online or computer-related opportunity that you would be interested in, click on the “Request Information” link to send a message to the person who listed the opportunity.

church-service-mission-request-information The Church encourages members to make contact and discuss service opportunities with the person listed in the posting. This allows potential missionaries and the Church sponsor to determine if there is a good fit. Also remember to prayerfully consider the assignment to determine if the service opportunity is right for you.

How to initiate the mission call

Once you have confirmed that a given opportunity is available and is one you want to pursue, you must complete a form entitled Recommendation for Church-Service Missionary and give it to your bishop. Print the form and carefully fill out each section of the recommendation, including where you are going to serve, how many hours each week, when you are going to start, and how long of a mission you would like to serve.

Once your bishop receives the completed recommendation forms, he will review it, interview you for worthiness, and discuss with you the selected choice for service. He then signs the form and forwards it to the stake president who will also interview you, and then forward your application to the local Church-service missionary coordinator.  The coordinator advises the stake president by letter when the processing is complete and the stake president  will extend the call to you.

Informal Online Missionary Service

Please also remember that you don’t need a formal call to be an online missionary. Recall what President David O. McKay used to say, “Every member a missionary.” This Mormon Missionary Prep website that you are now reading is an example of my informal online missionary work. No one in the Church called me or asked me to create this site. I simply felt promoted by the Spirit of the Lord. I have other projects in the works as well, such as the site I am setting up dedicated to Our Savior Jesus Christ. That site is not quite ready for prime-time yet, but when it is filled out, I expect it to be another great online missionary tool.

You too, without a formal missionary calling, can set up a website or blog or otherwise participate in the online conversation about the Church and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. So get out there, share your beliefs, try to reach people and touch their hearts. In the process you will become an online member missionary, and do great things to move the work of the Lord forward.

Church Service Missions

Mormon Church Service Missions Church service missions are a type of missionary work that members from age 19 to 119 can do. Church service missions are an excellent opportunity for elderly members who are unable to travel away from their home town area. They are also a great alternative for young men and women who are unable to serve full-time missions.

Church service missionaries live at home while serving part-time, anywhere from 8 to 32 hours a week. As of 2006, there were nearly 12,000 Church service missionaries serving worldwide, and Church leaders feel there would be more positions filled if more people knew about the opportunities available.

Church service missionaries have been helping to build and support the operations of the Church worldwide since 1979.  The Church-Service Missionary Program provides a growing and varied number of ways to serve. This important missionary workforce helps many Church operations provide the necessary products and services. And serving others brings great blessings to those missionaries and to the Church.

“There is a wide range of part-time Church-service opportunities available for both young and old. To be recommended as a Church-service missionary, one must be temple worthy, physically and emotionally able to perform required duties, able to support themselves financially, and at least 19 years of age. There is no upper age limit.

The Church maintains listings of these needs on LDS.org. The postings, submitted by Church-service missionary coordinators worldwide, are updated regularly and published online at the Church-Service Mission site. Doctors, hosts, grounds crew—even someone to change the tires in the fleet garage—they are all enlisted as volunteers that help the Church run smoothly…

“The call to fulfill a Church-service mission comes a little differently than a call for a full-time mission. Worthy individuals willing to serve are encouraged to select an open position they feel they are qualified for. In addition to being interviewed by their bishop and stake president, they are often interviewed by the given department or job manager to ensure they are up to the tasks required. They are then called by their stake president—not the prophet—and set apart by their bishop.” (from News of the Church, March 2006, “Many Opportunities for Church-Service Missionaries”)

The Church-Service Mission site has a listing of current openings, answers to frequently asked questions, information on the new Young Church-Service Missionary (YCSM) Program, and the recommendation form for a Church-Service Mission. There are also several good videos on the site which I have posted below for your enjoyment. Enjoy!

Go to the LDS Church-Service Mission website

Video: Addiction Recovery Program: Mormon Church Service Mission Part 1

Not long after Elder and Sister Olsen were married, they felt a desire to serve a mission together. They chose the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program where they learned to serve with unconditional love.

Video: Opportunities for Young Adults: Mormon Church Service Mission Part 2

Elder Warner was serving a full-time mission in Brazil when he had to come home for medical treatment. A little disappointed at first, he chose a Church-Service mission where he could find joy serving God in an unexpected way.

Video: Serving from Home: Mormon Church Service Mission Part 3

Elder Schoonmaker had polio as a child which made a full-time mission impossible. He and his wife chose a Church-Service mission with Family History and were able to work from home.

Senior Missionary Opportunities

LDS senior missionaries offer a unique and valuable service, and opportunities for them to serve are almost limitless. In fact, the Church has wonderful Web site devoted to full-time senior missionary opportunities. The video above was take from that site.

Senior MissionariesIf you have been considering going on a mission as a mature couple, please visit the Web site LDS.org/csm. It has answers to frequently asked questions, a list of current senior missionary opportunities that are open, and instructions on how to apply if you wish to proceed and serve the Lord as a missionary in your senior years.

Elder Russell M. Nelson, in the October 2004 General Conference, said this: “When we think of missionaries, we generally picture in our minds young men with shirts and ties and young women dressed modestly. But along with them are marvelous senior missionaries who have answered the pleadings of prophets and apostles for more missionary couples. I express gratitude for our senior missionaries. They are young in spirit, wise, and willing to work.” (from Senior Missionaries and the Gospel)

A Time to Serve

In April 2001, Elder Robert D. Hales said: “I feel a deep responsibility to speak to you today about a pressing need in the Church. My greatest hope is that as I speak, the Holy Ghost will touch hearts, and somewhere a spouse or two will quietly nudge his or her companion, and a moment of truth will occur. I will speak on the urgent need for more mature couples to serve in the mission field.” (from Couple Missionaries: A Time to Serve)

Four years later, Elder Hales reported back during General Conference of a senior missionary sister who said that back in 2001, “We were sitting in the comfort of our family room enjoying conference on television. . . . As you spoke, my heart was touched so deeply. I looked over at my husband and he looked at me. That moment changed my life forever.” (from Couple Missionaries: Blessings from Sacrifice and Service)

Senior Missionaries are Blessed and Bless Others

Elder Hales continued, “Every missionary experience requires faith, sacrifice, and service, and these are always followed by an outpouring of blessings…And what marvelous blessings they are! After 51 years of marriage, I was asked, “What part of life would you want to live over again?” I did not hesitate to reply, “When my wife and I served together in the great missionary work of the Lord.” The sentiments of another missionary couple echo those of my wife and myself: “Our decision to go on a mission brought new vigor, new emotions, new friends, new places, new challenges. It brought us closer together as husband and wife; we had a common goal and a real partnership. And best of all, it brought new spiritual growth, instead of spiritual retirement.” Brothers and sisters, let us not go into spiritual retirement.”

Serve as Only You Can

Concluded Elder Hales, “My brothers and sisters, if you have felt stirrings to engage in this work, however quiet those feelings may be, do not procrastinate the day of your service. Now is the time to prepare; now is the time to be called, the time to sacrifice. Now is the time to share your gifts and talents, and now is the time to receive God’s blessings for you and your family. “There is a constant need for more couple missionaries,” President Gordon B. Hinckley has said.  As this work rolls forward, that need is increasing. Let us, in our richest years of experience, maturity, wisdom, and most of all, our faith, rise to meet that need as only we can.”