Paying for your Mission

Summary: Figuring out how to pay for an LDS mission is one of the top things on the minds of youth and seniors who are planning to serve a mission soon. This article will discuss the process of paying for your mission.

Missionaries Should Strive to Pay Their Own Way

young man paying tithingAs I’ve discussed in my article about the costs of serving an LDS Mission, Mormon missionaries are volunteers and pay their own expenses. The responsibility to provide financial support for a missionary lies first with the individual and second with the missionary’s family. Missionaries and their families should make appropriate sacrifices to provide financial support for a mission and they will be richly blessed in return. Church leaders have even said that it is better for a person to delay a mission for a time and earn their own money rather than to rely entirely on others (see the LDS Church Handbook of Instructions). However, Church leaders have also stressed that worthy potential missionaries should never be prevented from serving solely for financial reasons when they and their families have done all that they can to pay their way.

Equalized Contribution and the Ward Missionary Fund

Many years ago, the Church equalized the contribution required to pay for expenses of missionaries, regardless of where these missionaries are called to serve. For example, missionaries in the United States all pay $400 a month, and then depending on where they serve, missionaries are allotted a monthly allowance according to their needs. The $400 a month is sent to Church headquarters through the ward missionary fund. For each missionary from a ward who is serving a mission, the bishop ensures that the monthly contribution is available in the ward missionary fund each month.

[one_half last=”no”]As a side note, this is why the new online donation website is so great because it lets members all over the world donate to the missionary’s ward missionary fund, and thus help cover the costs the ward must come up with monthly to support missionaries.  It should also be noted that the equalized contribution applies only to young proselyting missionaries. It does not apply to senior missionary couples, missionaries in non-proselyting assignments, sisters ages 40 and older, or Church-service missionaries.[/one_half][one_half last=”yes”]mission savings calculator
Ideas for earning and saving money for your mission[/one_half]

While missionaries should avoid relying on people outside of their family for financial support, there are times when it may become necessary to ask others to help pay for your mission. If necessary, the stake president or bishop, in consultation with the family, may ask members in the stake or ward to contribute to a missionary’s support by donating to the ward missionary fund. This should only be done after all family sources of financial support have be exhausted.

Personal Funds for Extras

The $400 a month and associated monthly allowance missionaries receive is designed to cover food, lodging, transportation, and other missionary service-related expenses. Additional expenses a missionary might have are asked to be paid with personal funds. Missionaries are asked to bring or receive extra personal money for additional items that are personal or not a necessity. This includes clothing, bicycle purchases and repairs, medical costs not paid by the mission, photo processing, souvenirs, and gifts. These optional personal expenses should be kept to a minimum.

Supplemental Support from the General Missionary Fund

In some part of the world supplemental financial support from the Church’s General Missionary Fund is available for missionaries who are unable to support themselves, even with the help of family and their ward and stake. Church leaders in those areas of the world will know if they qualify for such assistance.

Click here to donate to the LDS Church General Missionary Fund

Financing Senior Couples and Other Non-Proselyting Missionaries

Senior missionary couples, sisters ages 40 and older, church-service missionaries, and young church-service missionaries are not able to finance their missions through the equalized contribution system. Costs for this missions vary greatly and these missionaries must pay their own expenses, or raise the necessary money from family and friends. It should be noted though, that senior missionary couples and sisters over 40, in some cases, may receive financial assistance from the ward missionary fund if they do not have adequate means to support themselves. Talk to your bishop or stake president for more information.

Poem: He’s Been There Before

mormon missionaries riding bikesHe’s Been There Before is a great poem by Elder Troy Whittle who served in the Texas Houston Mission. It is reprinted here with the author’s permission. May  it be an inspiration to missionaries present and future to work diligently and make sacrifices of obedience and know that they are not alone and will have great success and blessings as they follow the Savior, act has his representative, and endure to the end.


The alarm bell rings at 6:30, I stumble to my feet
I grab my companions bedding and pull off his sheets

A groan fills the room, is it already time to arise?
It seems like just a second ago, I was able to shut my eyes

The morning activities follow with study, prayer and such
When it’s time to leave the apartment, you feel you haven’t accomplished much

“We have a super day planned,”
My comp. says with a grin
I lowly utter a faithless breath,
“Yeah, if anyone lets us in.”

With the word of God and my faithful Schwinn, we ride off in the street
Prepared to face another day of humidity and heat

It’s 9:30 in the evening, the day is almost through
My companion and I are riding home not accomplishing what we thought to do

We ride up to the mailbox, hoping to receive a lot
Only to look inside and hear my echo reverberate “air box”

We go up to our apartment, the day is now complete
The only thing to show for our work is a case of blistery feet

It’s past 10:30 p.m. My companion is fast asleep
Silence engulfs me all about and I begin to weep

In the midst of sadness, I kneel down to pray
I need to talk to father, but I’m not sure what to say

“Oh, Father” I begin, “What happened to us today?
I thought we’d teach somebody, but everyone was away

My hands, my aching hands- worn, hurt and beat;
If our area was any smaller, we’d have knocked the doors on every street”

“Why on missions are the days so much alike?
The only difference about today was the flat tire on my bike

Will you send some cooler weather? The heat is killing me
I sweat so bad, it gets in my eyes, it’s very hard to see”

“Why do I have to wear a helmet, isn’t your protection enough?
People always laugh at me, and call me stupid stuff

Please send us investigators so I may give them what they lack
I want to give them Book of Mormons, the weight of them hurts my back”

“And what about my family, They don’t have much to say
I’m sick of not hearing from home day after day after day

Oh Father, Why am I here am I just wasting time?
Sometimes I just want to go home, I’m sorry but that’s on my mind”

“My companion, Heavenly Father, what are you giving me?”
The way he rides his bicycle, I don’t think he can see

Now you have it, I can’t go on, I don’t know what to do
That, my Father in Heaven, is the prayer I have for you”

My prayer now finished, I stand up, then jump right into bed
I need my rest for tomorrow, we have another long day ahead

Sleep starts to overtake me, I seem to drift away
Then it seems a vision takes me to another time in another day

I’m standing alone on the hill, The view is very nice
A man walks towards me and says, “My name is Jesus Christ”

Tears of joy well up inside, I fall down to His feet
“Arise,” He states, “Follow me to the shade. You and I need to speak”

My attention’s towards my Savior, total and complete
He says, “Your mission is similar of what happened to me

I understand how you feel, I know what you’re going through
In fact, it would be fair to say I’ve felt the same as you”

“I even know how you felt when no one listened to you
At times I felt not quite sure what else that I could do

I know you don’t like to ride a bicycle, for you a car would be sweet
Just remember the donkey I rode wasn’t equipped with 21 speeds”

“I understand you don’t like sweating, in fact it’s something you hate
I remember when I sweat blood from every pore, oh the agony was great!

I see you don’t like your companion, you’d rather have someone else
I once had a companion named Judas who sold my life for wealth”

“It’s hard to wear a helmet and have people make fun of you
Much like when they put thorns on my head and called me King of the Jews

So you feel burdened down by the weight of your pack
I recall how heavy the cross was when they slammed it on my back”

“Your hands hurt from tracting and knocking on doors all day
I guess when they pounded nails into mine, I ached in a similar way

It’s hard not to hear from home when your family’s not there to see
I lost communication on the cross and cried, “Father, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

“We have a lot in common, but there’s a difference between us you see
I endured to the end and finished my mission, so follow and do like me”

He embraced me with His arms and His light filled me with His love
With tears in my eyes I watched as He ascended back to the Father above

I stood with awe and wonder when a beep rang in my head
Listening I heard the alarm, then realized I was in my bed

My companion let out a groan, “it’s 6:30 already, no way!”
I sat up and said, “Come on, I’ll even carry your scriptures today!”

No matter what we go through,
When we feel we can’t take more
Just stop and think about Jesus Christ,
He’s been there before!

By Elder Troy Whittle
Texas Houston Mission

Online Donations Website Lets You Contribute to Missionaries Around the World

online donation to mormon missionaryOne of the more frequent questions I’ve gotten over the years is from people who want to contribute to the missionary fund of a friend or relative in another ward. They want to know how to go about helping the missionary financially. Unfortunately, up until now, their options were rather limited. But now the Church is in the process of rolling out an online donation system in the United States which will facilitate paying tithes and offerings online, but also make it easy to donate to missionaries anywhere in the world.

The LDS Church Online Donation website is easy to use, but the tricky part in donating to missionaries is that you have to know the ward or branch unit number in order to contribute money to the missionary. There are a couple of ways to get the missionary’s home ward unit number: 1) you can contact the ward clerk of the missionary’s home ward or branch and he will give you this information. Many of you will have no way to get in contact with the missionary’s home ward clerk, so you’ll have to reach out to family or friends in that unit and they will have to get the unit number for you. 2) Another option is for any priesthood leader with access to the Church Directory of Organizations and Leaders (CDOL). Priesthood leaders can log into the CDOL website and look up the unit number for any ward in the world.

Once you know the ward or branch unit number of the missionary’s home ward or branch, to give money to a missionary…

  1. Log in to LDS.org, under “My Account and Ward” select “Donations.”
  2. On the “Make a Donation” tab, in the Ward Missionary Fund drop down menu, select “Missionary in Other Ward/Branch.”
  3. Enter the ward or branch unit number, and click “Continue.”
  4. A drop down menu will then appear with the names of missionaries serving from that unit.
  5. Select the missionary and type in the amount and following the remaining steps and you’re all set.

Here is a link to a video the Church has made to explain more about the online donations process.

I hope many of you will take advantage of this new technology to donate to the missionary funds of your friends and family members. As you do so, I know the Lord will richly bless you.

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mission savings calculator

My Missionary Commission

Early on in my mission, perhaps before I even left the MTC, I received a copy of a document entitled “My Missionary Commission” by Elder Bruce R. McConkie. While I found the short poem inspiring then, and still think it is good for today’s missionaries, I have hesitated to post it on this website because the document is apocryphal (i.e. it’s source cannot be authenticated). They say it came from an address Elder McConkie delivered while serving as president of the Australian Mission from 1961–64. I post it here now due to popular demand and the fact that the poem is already well-circulated. Enjoy!

My Missionary Commission

I am called of God.
My authority is above that of kings of the earth.
By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is my master and He has chosen me to represent Him–to stand in His place, to say and do what He Himself would say and do if He personally were ministering to the very people to whom He has sent me.
My voice is His voice, and my acts are His acts.
My doctrine is His doctrine.
My Commission is to do what He wants done, to say what He wants said, to be a living modern witness in word and in deed of the divinity of his great and marvelous latter-day work.
How great is my calling!
-Elder Bruce R. McConkie

 

Buy My Missionary Commission Digital Subway Art

My dear wifey, Heather, has an Etsy shop where see sells digital prints and other inspiring subway art. She has an item in her store where you can buy a digital subway art version McConkie’s My Missionary Commission. It’s only $5 and you can print it as a 16×20, 11×14, 8×10, 5×7, or 4×6. Print it and frame it and it makes a great gift for current and future missionaries. Click on the image below to go to her Etsy shop and purchase it. Thanks!

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Virtual Mission Call Map

pins on world mapWhen I was a freshman at BYU, during the winter semester of 1995, most of the young men in my ward were submitting their mission papers and receiving their mission calls. Our ward, like many others then and now, had a map of the world on which they put a pin indicating where each young man was going to serve on his mission. I thought it was a wonderful way for us to celebrate together and recognize the world wide influence these young men were going to have in bringing the truths of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ to virtually every corner of the globe.

In 2009, when I launched the Mormon Mission Prep website, part of my vision was to have a virtual mission call map, where men and women, young and old, could put a pin representing where they served their mission. My first attempt at this was a manual process where people emailed me their information and I then put it on a Google Map. But that was simply too difficult for me to maintain. My second attempt, a few years latter, I called the mission farewell feature, which allowed people to submit their information through a form but it lacked a graphical map interface. Today I’m announcing a new mission call map feature that automates the data collection process, making it easy for me to maintain, through a form submission, and also has a graphical map where the pictures of the missionaries will automatically appear showing where they have been called to serve.
Add Your Mission Call to the Map Here View the Mission Call Map Here

mission call map launchThis new, virtual mission call map is for not only for young people just receiving their calls. I’d love it if missionaries, young and old, newly returned or long-time returned submitted their information. When you submit your information, you will be asked for your name, mission location, mission start date, hometown, and your testimony about your mission call. Your picture will appear on the world-wide map and clicking on your picture will take users to a separate page with a bigger picture and your testimony and other information. That individual detail page is easily shareable on social media so you can share your call with all your family and friends.

I’m excited about this new feature and look forward to receiving many submissions, seeing where people are called to serve the Lord, and reading your sincere testimonies. Thanks!

 

Young Church Service Missionary Program

young church service missionaryIn 2010, I wrote about Church Service Missions (CSMs) as an excellent opportunity for members who are unable to live away from home, to contribute in a meaningful way to the building of the Lord’s kingdom by serving in a variety of capacities. CSMs were always available for young people, but in recent years, the LDS Church has expanded this and created the Young Church Service Missionary (YCSM) program.

Who Is Eligible for a Young Church Service Mission?

The YCSM program is designed for young men who have been honorably excused from serving a proselyting mission for physical, mental, and emotional health reasons or who have returned home early from a full-time mission for reasons other than worthiness.  The program is also for young women who desire to serve a mission but can’t fulfill a proselyting mission for reasons other than worthiness. The key requirement, as you are seeing, to be eligible for this program is that the youth must be worthy to serve a mission.

Other requirements to serve a YCSM are that the candidate, or the family, must be able to financially support the mission, including providing for living expenses (most YCSMs live at home), transportation, insurance, and health related needs. YCSMs must be the standard age for a mission by young adults, between 18-25 for young men, and 19-25 for young women. They must have a strong desire to serve a mission and show that they are willing and able to fulfill the assignment they are given.

What You Do as a Young Church Service Missionary?

Young church service missions are customized to meet the needs of each individual. The schedule is developed by the YCSM and the family with input from the Bishop and Stake President. YCSMs are not given regular proselyting or temple assignments, though weekly exchanges with the full-time missionaries or time for temple attendance may be included in their schedule. YCSMs usually serve with a Church department such as  Deseret Industries, Family History, Information Technology (IT), Publishing Services, Facilities Management, Seminaries and Institutes, or Welfare. They can do a variety of tasks such as office support, building maintenance, computer support, special needs assistance, event support, cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc.

Young church service missionaries typically live at home and they can serve for anywhere from 6 to 24 months. Family involvement, from parents or other extended family, is generally a crucial part of helping the YCSM succeed as they will not have a missionary companion.  YCSMs serve as close to full-time as possible and this can be accomplished with a single assignment or a combination of part-time assignments. Though assignments may largely center around temporal work, the Young church service mission should be a spiritual experience as well.

Here is a list, provided by the Church, of suggested places where young church service missionaries can serve.

How Do You Apply to be a YCSM?

If you desire to serve a Young church service mission, first meet with your bishop and discuss it with him. He will direct you to the online mission papers / recommendation system or give you the actual paper forms. Alternatively, you can download the Young Church-Service Missionary Recommendation Form. You will discuss the potential places to serve and you will begin to make those arrangements. Once the paperwork is completely filled out, the bishop and stake president will interview you, verify your worthiness, sign the application, and forward the application by email to the Young Church Service Missionary department at church headquarters, or mail it in.

How Will You Receive Your YCSM Call?

Once an appropriate mission service plan has been agreed upon by you, your family, and the Church operation, the application will be processed by Church Headquarters. The call letter will be sent to the Stake President. He will then extend to you the formal mission call, and you will be set apart as a missionary by your bishop. Your YCSM service is recorded on your individual membership record as serving a mission just as it is for a proselyting mission.

After you have been set apart, you should contact the church operation where you will be serving. The operation will supervise and train you in your mission assignment. Your stake president and bishop will remain your ecclesiastical leaders during your mission. They will interview you regularly, to see how the mission is going, and the stake president will basically serve as your mission president.

Click here to go to the official Young Church-Service Missionaries website and learn more about this program.

Young Church Service Missionary Infographic

Rural Ward: Apr 1996 to Aug 1996

After serving in my first mission area, the Gazano Branch in the city of Paraná, Argentina, I was transferred to the Rural Ward in the city of Santa Fe where I served from April 3, 1996 to August 27, 1996. This was the longest area in which I served–nearly 5 months. There are a lot of pictures, so I have broken them up into these sections:

Members of the Rural Ward, Santa Fe, Argentina

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This is the Sassettis, a great family that fed us lunch frequently. The Hermana Sassetti always used the most interesting combinations of food, but it was always tasty. I think the husband was the former bishop of the ward. He was always at work when we came over for lunch, but we got to know the wife and kids really well.

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This another great family in the Rural ward. The Martinez family. They invited us often for lunch.

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This is Sergio (I can’t remember his last name) and his son Mauricio and his daughter Jessica. Sergio was not a member, but I think his wife was. His wife’s parents were the Loveras, in the ward. Sergio was very nice to us missionaries. We would visit them often to strengthen them spiritually and they would invite us to lunch or dinner at times. The husband would use this horse drawn cart to drive around neighborhoods selling fruits and vegetables.

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Sergio even once let me takes the reigns of his cart.

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This is the Andrada family. Brother Andrada is cooking some fried pastries dipped in sugary syrup. I’m sure there was a name for them but I don’t remember now, but they were a common in Argentina. They were sold in pastry shops or small neighborhood stores, kioskos. People would also sell them on the streets, which is what this family was preparing to do, to make some extra money. In fact, we met their kids my very first day in this area when they approached us and asked if we wanted to buy some pastries. This was a great family, very faithful, and I always wanted to do more to help them temporally, in the material aspects of life. Still they were happy and generous with what little they had.

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This was a great family; the Moyanos. Martin is 12 with the orange drink. Maria Jose is his sister in the blue jacket. Emiliano is their younger brother in the red sweater being held by his mom. The dad is the one I the blue v-neck sweater.  They fed us lunch and dinner frequently, which was very kind of them. But this was also the family that fed us huevos de torro without telling us what they were until after we had tried them. Pretty gross. There are actually two families in the photo, both of which lived in this house. The little baby I’m holding was the younger couple’s child and he was just a month or two old. Like many Latin babies, he had a ton of thick dark hair. I had hair clippers, so they asked me to cut his hair shortly after he was born. So I did.

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This is Emiliano Moyano’s birthday party. I was frequently amazed at how Argentines would go all out for their kid’s birthday parties. I guess a great many people in the US are just as guilty at that. Anyway, I remember many families didn’t have a camera, so they would rent one for the day when they had a birthday or special occasion.

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These are two young adults in the ward: Carina Campos and Fernando Benavidez. They were dating at the time and I assumed they would marry, but I guess it didn’t work out because a few years later I ran into her at BYU in a single women’s apartment complex.

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This was a part member family in the ward. The Alegre family (they’re name translated means “happy”. What a great name!) We visited them frequently in an effort to befriend and strengthen them. They fed us often. I can remember eating some delicious empenadas with them as well as some fried spinach rice patties. I don’t think all missionaries had a pallet for them, but I thought they were delicious.

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This is Obispo Picolo, the bishop of the Rural ward at the time I was there. We took this photo after a dinner appointment with them one night.

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This is the Benavidez family. They are a great family and strong in testimony. They had sent there older son on a mission (he is pictured above with his girl friend in the bike picture). They lived a modest life style, without many of the niceties we are accustomed to in the US, but they were happy and faithful.

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The Benavidez family fed us all the time. Brother Benavidez was the ward mission leader and very dedicated. It looks like we’re have giso, or something of the sort for dinner. Giso was a generic name Argentine’s often called stew or soup. And of course notice the segmented loaf of bread on the table. That was the most common form of bread in Argentina. You almost didn’t have a meal with it.

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This is the Craven family. Brother Craven was a counselor in the mission presidency. The Cravens had two boys and also in the picture is Elder Maynes, Sister Thomas, myself, and Sister Vallejos.

Investigators We Taught

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Here I am with Lenny Marquez, a remise (taxi) driver in the city of Santa Fe that lived near us. He was from the United States originally, so he was one of the few people in Argentina, besides other missionaries, with whom we could speak English. We tried to teach him the discussion and we did have a couple of visits to his house. But ultimately, he really wasn’t interested at that time in the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps we planted some seeds, though, that may sprout and allow other missionaries to teach and baptize him.

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This is a family we had just found and began teaching in the weeks before I was transferred. Adrian Martinez and his girlfriend and their daughter. I’d be interested to know if they ever got baptized. Though Adrian was interested in the gospel, he needed to get married to his girlfriend before he could get baptized (an obstacle we ran into quite frequently).

Missionaries I Served With

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These are pictures of Elder Pinto and I. After only one month together, Elder Pinto was transferred. When we learned of the transfer, we asked the land lady to take our picture. Her hands were shaky and somehow I didn’t think the first photo was going to turn out, so then we took the selfie. Elder Pinto was a great companion, but my time with him was difficult because he did not speak any English. He was from Mendoza Argentina. This was only my fourth month in Argentina, so my Spanish was still pretty rough. I can remember dreaming in English at night and then waking up in the morning and the dreadful thought hitting me that I would have to speak Spanish all day long without the option of communicating in English. It was difficult, but the hard work paid off and my Spanish greatly improved. My first day with Elder Pinto, he bought me hot dogs because he thought all North American’s did. I don’t like them, though, so it turned out to be a funny story. Read it here in my article about my first transfer.

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This is Elder Maynes, my second companion in the Rural Ward. I think I caught him a little off guard in this photo. He had just arrived from the transfer and was unpacking his things.

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This is a picture of me with my second companion in the Rural Ward, Elder Maynes. Also in the photo are the other sister missionaries in our district, Sister Smith and Sister Thomas.

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Here I am with the zone leaders, Elder Davis and Elder Rindlisbacher. I did a couple of day-long exchanges with Elder Rindlisbacher. In fact he was with me during the experience I wrote about when the power of the Book of Mormon was manifested.

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This is Elder Stephenson and myself at a regional conference in Rosario. I believe Elder Boyd K. Packer was visiting. Elder Stephenson was from the Frederick Maryland area like myself.

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Here is our Rural District with Obispo (Bishop) Picolo. We are in the chapel of one of the nicer church buildings I saw in our mission. It was owned by the Church (rather than rented was the case in many of my wards and branches there). It was two stories high and I believe it may have housed multiple wards.

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This is Elder Maynes and I with Hermana Thomas and Sister Epul, the other sisters in our district.

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This picture was taken on Preparation Day (P-Day) when Elder Manes and I went to the Church and played basketball with Jose Luis and Orlando Andrada. Notice how the basketball standard has a soccer goal under it. The soccer goal got used a lot more than the basketball. But the missionaries used it for basketball, not every week, but once in a while.

Me Cooking

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Here I am making crepes. This is a Smith family favorite recipe that comes from my dad when he served his mission to France. I’m kneeling beside a propane tank with a burner attached to the top. We did not have a stove or oven in the apartment, nor a kitchen, nor a fridge, for that matter. The owners, in a house on the same property, would let us use their refrigerator if we had something that needed to be kept cold. I’m sorry the apartment appears quite messy in this photo. I assure you that we generally kept the apartment neat, clean, and organized.

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Here I am cooking some asado, Argentine barbequed steak. We had it served to us from time to time, so Elder Maynes and I decided one day that we would try to cook some ourselves. I don’t think it turned out as well, because we never tried it again during my mission.

Cutting Hair 

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For some reason I had the thought to bring hair clippers on my mission and it turned out to be a good idea as I put it to use on other missionaries and and many members. When Elder Pinto was transferred, I gave him the hair clippers and asked my mom to send me a new set.

Here I am putting those hair clippers to good use on Orlando Andrada. The other young man is his friend, Jose Luis Osuna. I was always anxious to give the young men missionary-style hair cuts at a good price: free. Haircuts was often part of my weekly service as a missionary.

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Here I am cutting the hair of a member of the ward named Hermano (Brother) Aquino. This family was very poor. As you can see, there home consisted of whatever scrap sheet metal they could find. Four walls and a roof made up their modest home. They had electricity, though, and a television. Often people in circumstances like this would want to come to church, but since they had no way to lock their home and secure their belongings, they felt they needed to stay home.

Neighborhoods in Rural, Santa Fe

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These are pictures from the roof of my first apartment in the Rural Ward of Santa Fe, Argentina. The first is looking into the city, the second is looking away from the city center. Our apartment was on the edge of our area. Our area went away from the city. The sisters in our district had the more urban areas of the ward because it was safer.

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These are two pictures of one of the more run-down areas of one of the poorer neighborhoods we visited from time to time. There were a handful of members that lived in this neighborhood, and we would occasionally find people here to teach discussions to. Though no one in this neighborhood, or in our entire area for that matter, was baptized while I was stationed there. That fact made this one of my hardest areas. It was the longest baptismal drought on my mission. I was in the Rural ward for 5 months. Anyway, back to the photo, the little cow on the left of the top one, tied to a tree by the train tracks was a funny situation to me which is probably why I snapped this photo.

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This is another picture of that poor neighborhood. I took this photo because the house has mud walls. That type of construction was rare but not unheard of, and must have meant the family inside was very poor as to worldly possessions.

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I couldn’t believe it when we came upon this piece of graffiti. It says, “Why are there so many religions if there is only one God?” This is a great lead into the first discussion about Joseph Smith and how a similar question led him to study the scriptures and pray and receive a marvelous revelation we know as the First Vision. If we only could have found the perpetrator we could have had a great discussion about the apostasy and the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in these latter days.

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In our area was the soccer stadium for one of the city’s major soccer teams: Union de Santa Fe. Union was doing well this year, and I believe this was a championship game or one of the games leading up to the championship. The city was going crazy with excitement. Along the streets around the stadium were lots of vendors selling flags and shirts and other branded paraphernalia. At first we thought it presented a great opportunity to talk to the vendors about the gospel. Then we realized most were from out of town and so the teaching opportunities would be limited. I always wanted to see the inside of this or another Argentine soccer stadium but I never had the chance.

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This is the Benavidez family’s neighborhood, “Barrio Villa del Parque” (Park Village Neighborhood) according to my notes. Notice the “zanja” in the bottom right of the photo. The zanja is the drainage ditch on the side of roads, which in certain parts of Argentina, always seems to be stopped up and would become cesspools of filthy water. Disgusting, yes, but part of life there and part of my memories as a missionary.

Apartments in Rural, Santa Fe

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This is a picture of our apartment in the Rural ward in the city of Santa Fe. Particularly, it’s a picture of the bathroom. While it’s pretty typical for an Argentine bathroom, it has some features that distinguish it from typical bathrooms in the U.S., which is why I snapped the photo. Notice the box connected to the shower. That device was filled with copper pipes that the water ran through. Flames instantly heated the water as it came out. Also notice that nothing separates the shower area from the sink or toilet, a common layout in Argentina. Notice the squeegee off to the left in the bathroom, that was used to clean up the floor after a shower and push splattered water down the drain on the floor.

Off to the right of the bathroom is the desk where Elder Pinto and I would study each day and our beds are right behind the person taking the photo. On the desk you can see some of the snacks I used to eat frequently in this area: Pepitos, which are were chocolate chip cookies. I couldn’t get those in all areas, so it was nice when I could. And there is a stack of wheat crackers and a little tub of strawberry jam. I’m not sure who introduced me to that combination, but for a time I was really enjoying jam on crackers. It also looks like there is a jar of Tang powder. Tang was one of my favorite drinks in Argentina, when we could get it.

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This is a picture of Elder Pinto taking out the trash. Who knows why I snapped this photo. It is interesting to note the yellow, orange and blue papers on the right wall. Those, as I recall, were cheat sheets to help learn Spanish verb conjugations. I think generally, Spanish is an easier language than English, but those verb conjugations could be very tricky. Click here to read more about my experience learning Spanish.

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This is the second apartment in Rural. Not long after Elder Pinto was transferred, we had to find a new apartment. This one was a little crammed for space, but it worked out fine. One thing this photo brings back to my memory is sleeping each night with a cap on. Winter came while I was in Rural and it started to get cold. Our apartment had no heat, which really only would have been needed at night. I found it difficult to sleep at night because my head was cold. I tried sleeping with my head under my blanket, but I felt like I was going to suffocate. That’s when I realized why the night cap had been invented all those years ago. I bought a comfortable winter cap to wear at night while I slept. Problem solved!

Other Memories of Rural

I don’t have a picture to go with these memories, but still wanted to record them:

  • In this ward there was a sister who would invite us to lunch and would make an oatmeal based chicken soup. It was a little strange to me at first, but it was very delicious.
  • There was a family that invited us over from time to time and usually served polenta with chicken and tomato sauce. Again, most missionaries I knew did not like polenta. It’s a lot like grits. But my mom is a southerner, so I grew up eating grits, and I really enjoyed the polenta.
  • During my first month in this area, I would get up an hour early to go jogging in the morning with Elder Pinto.
  • In this area we would often take the bus from the far end of our area back to our apartment when it was getting late in the evening and we needed to get back quickly to meet our curfew.

Mission Prep Quotes from Gen Conf April 2015

The Parable of the Sower By Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Those “who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness,” but because they “have no root in themselves, … when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:16–17). What causes hearers to “have no root in themselves”? This is the circumstance of new members who are merely converted to the missionaries or to the many attractive characteristics of the Church or to the many great fruits of Church membership. Not being rooted in the word, they can be scorched and wither away when opposition arises.

Latter-day Saints Keep on Trying By Elder Dale G. Renlund

compared to me you arent all that differentSome years ago a wonderful young man named Curtis was called to serve a mission. He was the kind of missionary every mission president prays for. He was focused and worked hard. At one point he was assigned a missionary companion who was immature, socially awkward, and not particularly enthusiastic about getting the work done.

One day, while they were riding their bicycles, Curtis looked back and saw that his companion had inexplicably gotten off his bike and was walking. Silently, Curtis expressed his frustration to God; what a chore it was to be saddled with a companion he had to drag around in order to accomplish anything. Moments later, Curtis had a profound impression, as if God were saying to him, “You know, Curtis, compared to me, the two of you aren’t all that different.” Curtis learned that he needed to be patient with an imperfect companion who nonetheless was trying in his own way.

My invitation to all of us is to evaluate our lives, repent, and keep on trying. If we don’t try, we’re just latter-day sinners; if we don’t persevere, we’re latter-day quitters; and if we don’t allow others to try, we’re just latter-day hypocrites.

Truly Good and without Guile By Elder Michael T. Ringwood

Unfortunately, there was a time in my life when I was motivated by titles and authority. It really began innocently. As I was preparing to serve a full-time mission, my older brother was made a zone leader in his mission. I heard so many positive things said about him that I couldn’t help but want those things said about me. I hoped for and may have even prayed for a similar position. Thankfully, as I served my mission, I learned a powerful lesson. Last conference I was reminded of that lesson.

too focused on titles…Perhaps my first lesson about truly good Saints without guile was learned when I was a young missionary. I moved into an area with an elder I didn’t know. I had heard other missionaries talk about how he had never received any leadership assignments and how he struggled with the Korean language despite having been in the country a long time. But as I got to know this elder, I found he was one of the most obedient and faithful missionaries I had known. He studied when it was time to study; he worked when it was time to work. He left the apartment on time and returned on time. He was diligent in studying Korean even though the language was especially difficult for him.

When I realized the comments I had heard were untrue, I felt like this missionary was being misjudged as unsuccessful. I wanted to tell the whole mission what I had discovered about this elder. I shared with my mission president my desire to correct this misunderstanding. His response was, “Heavenly Father knows this young man is a successful missionary, and so do I.” He added, “And now you know too, so who else really matters?” This wise mission president taught me what was important in service, and it wasn’t praise, position, power, honor, or authority. This was a great lesson for a young missionary who was too focused on titles.

The Greatest Generation of Young Adults By Elder M. Russell Ballard

vibrant thinking passionate missionariesDuring the October 2002 general priesthood meeting, I challenged bishops, parents, and prospective missionaries to “raise the bar” for full-time missionary service. I then said that “what we need … is the greatest generation of missionaries in the history of the Church. We need worthy, qualified, spiritually energized missionaries. …“We need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate missionaries who know how to listen to and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.”

…In the early days of the Church, missionaries were interviewed by a General Authority before they went on their missions. These days you are interviewed to serve as missionaries by your bishops and stake presidents, and most of you will go through your entire lives without being interviewed by a General Authority.

…With that in mind, I would like those of you preparing to serve missions, those who have returned, and all of you young adults to spend a few minutes with me as though we were having a personal video chat right now. Please look at me for a few minutes as though you and I were the only ones in the room, wherever you are tonight.

For my part, I will imagine that I am looking into your eyes and listening carefully to your responses to a few questions that I believe will tell me a lot about the depth of your testimony and your devotion to God. If I may paraphrase what I said to missionaries 13 years ago, what we need now is the greatest generation of young adults in the history of the Church. We need your whole heart and soul. We need vibrant, thinking, passionate young adults who know how to listen and respond to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit as you make your way through the daily trials and temptations of being a young, contemporary Latter-day Saint.

In other words, it’s time to raise the bar not only for missionaries but also for returned missionaries and for your entire generation. To that end, please ponder in your heart your answers to these questions:

1. Do you search the scriptures regularly?
2. Do you kneel in prayer to talk with your Heavenly Father each morning and each night?
3. Do you fast and donate a fast offering each month—even if you are a poor, struggling student who can’t afford to donate much?
4. Do you think deeply about the Savior and His atoning sacrifice for you when you are asked to prepare, bless, pass, or partake of the sacrament?
5. Do you attend your meetings and strive to keep the Sabbath day holy?
6. Are you honest at home, school, church, and work?
7. Are you mentally and spiritually clean? Do you avoid viewing pornography or looking at websites, magazines, movies, or apps, including Tinder and Snapchat photos, that would embarrass you if your parents, Church leaders, or the Savior Himself saw you?
8. Are you careful with your time—avoiding inappropriate technology and social media, including video games, which can dull your spiritual sensitivity?
9. Is there anything in your life you need to change and fix, beginning tonight?

…I remind you returned missionaries that your preparation for life and for a family should be continuous. “RM” doesn’t mean “retired Mormon”! As a returned missionary, you “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [your] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.”

Please use the skills you learned on your mission to bless the lives of people around you every day. Do not shift your focus from serving others to focusing exclusively on school, work, or social activities. Instead, balance your life with spiritual experiences that remind and prepare you for continued, daily ministering to others.

Yes, We Can and Will Win! By Elder Ulisses Soares

confirming power coming from the Holy GhostI learned this principle when I served as a young missionary. My companion and I were serving in a very small and faraway branch of the Church. We tried to speak with every person in the city. They received us very well, but they liked to debate the scriptures and asked us for concrete evidence regarding the truthfulness of what we were teaching.

I recall that each time my companion and I set out to try to prove something to people, the Spirit of God left us and we felt totally lost and confused. We felt that we should more strongly align our testimonies with the truths of the gospel we were teaching. From that time on, I remember that when we bore a testimony with all our hearts, a silent confirming power coming from the Holy Ghost filled the room, and there was no space for confusion or discussion. I learned that no evil forces exist that are capable of confusing, deceiving, or subverting the power of a sincere testimony of a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

Fatherhood—Our Eternal Destiny By Larry M. Gibson

“Dad, that was the hardest thing I have ever done, and I never want to do it again.” I wasn’t about to tell him that I would never do it again either. Instead, I told him how proud I was that he had accomplished such a hard thing. I knew it would prepare him for other hard things he would face in his future. With that thought, I said, “Son, let me make you this promise. When you go on your mission, you will never have to walk 50 miles in one day.” “Good, Dad! Then I’m going.” Those simple words filled my soul with gratitude and joy.

The Priesthood—a Sacred Gift By President Thomas S. Monson

I was ordained an elder, and on the day of my departure for active duty with the navy, a member of my ward bishopric joined my family and friends at the train station to bid me farewell. Just before train time, he placed in my hand a small volume titled Missionary Handbook. I laughed and commented that I wasn’t going on a mission. He answered, “Take it anyway. It may come in handy.”

It did. I needed a hard, rectangular object to place in the bottom of my seabag so that my clothing would stay more firm and would thus be less wrinkled. The Missionary Handbook was just what I needed, and it served well in my seabag for 12 weeks.

The night before our Christmas leave, our thoughts were of home. The barracks were quiet, but then the silence was broken by my buddy in the adjoining bunk—a Mormon boy, Leland Merrill—who began to moan in pain. I inquired concerning the reason, and he said he felt really sick. He did not want to go to the base dispensary, for he knew that doing such would prevent his going home the following day. He seemed to grow worse as the hours passed. Finally, knowing that I was an elder, he asked me to give him a priesthood blessing.

I had never before given a priesthood blessing, I had never received a blessing, and I had never witnessed a blessing being given. As I prayed silently for help, I remembered the Missionary Handbook in the bottom of my seabag. I quickly emptied the bag and took the book to the night-light. There I read how one blesses the sick. With many curious sailors looking on, I proceeded with the blessing. Before I could put everything back into my bag, Leland Merrill was sleeping like a child. He awakened the following morning feeling fine. The gratitude each of us felt for the power of the priesthood was immense.

Blessings of the Temple By President Thomas S. Monson

I recently learned firsthand of a young man who attended the temple with a heart pleading for help. …He became discouraged, however, because of negative experiences he had with missionaries who seemed to him to be more interested in having a good time than in sharing the gospel. A few short months later this young man suffered a very serious health challenge which left him partially paralyzed, and so he was sent home on a medical leave.

Some months later the young man had healed completely, and his paralysis had disappeared. He was informed that he would once again be able to serve as a missionary, a blessing for which he had prayed daily. The only disappointing news was that he would return to the same mission which he had left, where he felt the behaviors and attitudes of some missionaries were less than they should be.

He had come to the temple to seek comfort and a confirmation that he could have a good experience as a missionary. His parents also had prayed that this temple visit would provide the help their son needed. As the young man entered the celestial room following the session, he sat in a chair and began to pray for guidance from his Heavenly Father.

Another who entered the celestial room shortly afterward was a young man whose name is Landon. As he walked into the room, his gaze was immediately drawn to the young man sitting on the chair, eyes closed and obviously praying. Landon received an unmistakable prompting that he should speak with the young man. Hesitant to interrupt, however, he decided to wait. After several minutes had gone by, the young man was still praying. Landon knew he could no longer postpone the prompting. He approached the young man and gently touched his shoulder. The young man opened his eyes, startled that he had been disturbed. Landon said quietly, “I have felt impressed that I need to talk with you, although I am not certain why.”

As they began to converse, the young man poured out his heart to Landon, explaining his circumstances and ending with his desire to receive some comfort and encouragement concerning his mission. Landon, who had returned from a successful mission just a year earlier, told of his own mission experiences, the challenges and concerns he had faced, the manner in which he had turned to the Lord for help, and the blessings he had received. His words were comforting and reassuring, and his enthusiasm for his mission was contagious. Eventually, as the young man’s fears subsided, a feeling of peace came to him. He felt deep gratitude as he realized his prayer had been answered.

The two young men prayed together, and then Landon prepared to leave, happy that he had listened to the inspiration which had come to him. As he stood to go, the young man asked Landon, “Where did you serve your mission?” To this point, neither of them had mentioned to the other the name of the mission in which he had served. When Landon replied with the name of his mission, tears welled up in the eyes of the young man. Landon had served in the very mission to which the young man would be returning!

In a recent letter to me, Landon shared with me the young man’s parting words to him: “I had faith Heavenly Father would bless me, but I never could have imagined that He would send someone to help me who had served in my own mission. I know now that all will be well.” The humble prayer of a sincere heart had been heard and answered.

Preserving Agency, Protecting Religious Freedom By Elder Robert D. Hales

missionaries rely on religious freedomThe second cornerstone of religious liberty is the freedom to share our faith and our beliefs with others. The Lord commands us, “Ye shall teach [the gospel to] your children … when thou sittest in thine house.” He also said to His disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” As parents, full-time missionaries, and member missionaries, we rely on religious freedom in order to teach the Lord’s doctrine in our families and throughout the world.

Stay by the Tree By Elder Kevin W. Pearson

To all missionaries past and present: Elders and sisters, you simply cannot return from your mission, do a swan dive back into Babylon, and spend endless hours scoring meaningless points on pointless video games without falling into a deep spiritual sleep. Nor can you indulge in online pornography and ignore virtue and chastity without dire spiritual consequences. If you lose the Spirit, you are lost. Don’t be distracted and deceived.

…Several years ago, Sister Pearson and I were called to preside over the Washington Tacoma Mission. The call was a complete surprise. With some trepidation I met with the chairman and the CEO of the company where I was employed and informed them of my mission call. They were visibly upset with my decision to leave the firm. “When did you make this decision, and why didn’t you discuss it with us earlier?” they demanded.

In a moment of clarity, a profound answer came into my mind. I said, “I made this decision as a 19-year-old boy, when I made sacred covenants with God in the temple to follow the Savior. I’ve built my entire life on those covenants, and I fully intend to keep them now.”

If You Will Be Responsible By Elder Jorge F. Zeballos

I was only 12 years old when the missionaries arrived for the first time to preach in the city where I was born in northern Chile. One Sunday, after I had been attending the small branch for six months, a missionary offered me the bread as he was passing the sacrament. I looked at him and softly said, “I can’t.”

“Why not?” he replied. I told him, “Because I am not a member of the Church.” The missionary couldn’t believe it. His eyes were shining. I suppose he thought, “But this young man is in every single meeting! How can he not be a member of the Church?”

The following day, the missionaries were in my home, and they did everything they could to teach my whole family. But since my family was not interested, it was only my weekly Church attendance for more than six months that made the missionaries feel confident enough to continue. Finally, the great moment I had been waiting for came when they invited me to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. The missionaries explained to me that since I was a minor, I would need my parents’ permission. I went with the missionaries to see my father, thinking that his loving answer would be “Son, when you are of legal age, you will be able to make your own decisions.”

While the missionaries spoke with him, I prayed fervently for his heart to be touched so he would give me the permission I wanted. His answer to the missionaries was the following: “Elders, over the past six months, I have seen my son Jorge get up early every Sunday morning, put on his best clothes, and walk to church. I have seen only a good influence from the Church in his life.” Then, addressing me, he surprised me by saying, “Son, if you will be responsible for this decision, then you have my permission to be baptized.” I hugged my father, gave him a kiss, and thanked him for what he was doing. The next day I was baptized. Last week was the 47th anniversary of that important moment in my life.

Gazano Branch: Dec 1995 to Apr 1996

In an effort to better tell the story of my mission and the wonderful experiences I had, for the benefit of my children and the audience of this website, I  thought it would be good to put together a one-pager on each one of my mission areas. This is the first such article, about the Gazano Branch in the city of Paraná Argentina, where I was serving from Dec. 27, 1995 to Apr. 2, 1996 in the Rosario Argentina Mission.

On a side note, I’m lucky to have any pictures from my first month in Argentina. My first roll of film on my mission, which consisted of probably a dozen photos from the MTC and a dozen from my first few weeks in Argentina, did not turn out. It was the first time in my life that I had my own camera and I must not have loaded the film correctly because all the pictures turned out blank. The pictures I do have from those first weeks in Argentina were donated by my first companion there, Elder Loesener. Thank you!

The Two-Day Trio: Elder Loesener, Ballou, and Smith

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This picture was taken on or around my first day in the mission field. When I arrived in my first assigned area, I was part of a trio instead of the normal two person companionship. This is a picture of the trio: Elder Loesener, Elder Ballou, and myself, Elder Smith.  It was taken in the kitchen of our apartment. Right behind us is the sink and stove. To our left is a cabinet we kept dishes and food in. To our right was a refrigerator. This was one of the few apartments I had during the mission that had a fridge. I didn’t realize at the time what a luxury it was. The photographer, most likely the owner of the home, was standing in the living room of the, obviously, small house. Off to the right of the house were three room, one bedroom from the owner, one bedroom for the missionaries, and a study room with a desk for the missionaries. The trio only lasted a day or two. Soon we got word from the zone leaders that Elder Ballou had been transferred and the next day he was gone.

Laundry Day on the Mission

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This was the back yard of the home where we had our apartment in Gazano. Every Monday, we washed our clothes in the sink, in the right of the photo, and then we hung them out to dry. In at least half of my areas in Argentina, there was a woman in the ward who would wash our clothes. Usually we would pay her about $20 each, which was decent income for them, and well worth it for us. Click here to see a video I made about doing laundry on my mission.

Outside View of Our Apartment in Paraná

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Here’s the outside front of the home where we had our apartment in the Gazano Branch in the city of Paraná. For our weekly service one week, we started building that fence off to the right. In the picture, behind our home, is another home of the Almada family. This family moved in about the same time Elder Loesener and I arrived in the city. We struck up a friendship with them and they were baptized a couple months later.

Our Neighborhood in Paraná

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This is a picture of the neighborhood where our apartment was located. Our home is there in the middle. The house was located on a bumpy dirt road, though you can see a paved road crossing on the right side of the photo. We were near the outskirts of the city Paraná. If you walked a few blocks toward the city, all the roads were paved. If you started walking away from the city, more and more of the roads were dirt. I’ve always remembered this bumpy dirt road by our apartment because in one of my first weeks there, I severely twisted my ankle, yet my body went unharmed. In the year previous to my mission I had had two severe ankle sprained that required me to use crutches. I feared that I would sprain my ankle on my mission and that would limit my mobility and the amount of work that I’d be able to do.

A Discussion with the Almada Family

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This is the Almada family: Fabian, the father, Silvina, the mother, and their four children. They were great. They were so friendly to us, and they embraced the restored gospel when we taught it to them. You can see the Books of Mormon on the table. We would sit around that table for all of the discussions. Elder Loesener did most of the teaching since I was new and my Spanish was horrible. Their home was so small for their family, though it was a very typical home. As I recall, they had this room where this picture was taken, which was the kitchen, dining room and living room combined. Then they had two bedrooms and a bathroom, and I think that’s it. Compared to US standards they were very poor, but they were happy and always generous in sharing what they had with us missionaries. Click here to read more about the Almadas and their conversion to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Baptism of Hugo Correa

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This is the Correa family. The picture was taken at the baptism of Brother Hugo Correa. I believe Sister Correa had been baptized months, perhaps years, earlier. This family was very poor, even relative to Argentine norms. As I recall, they had a one room brick home with a dirt floor. The home was literally four walls and a ceiling, but at least they were brick walls. Later in my mission I was get to know people who had four walls made of sheet metal. Again, though poor, the Correa’s seemed happy. They had four little girls who were so cute. I remember being jealous of the speaking abilities of their two year old. I felt like this two-year spoke Spanish much better than I, so it motivated me to study and practice even harder. I believe this was my first time baptizing someone on my mission.

Our Mission District of Gazano

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Our missionary district, as most in Argentina at that time, consisted of two companionships, me and Elder Loesener, plus Sister Matsen and Sister Gomez. We had district meeting once a week with them, plus we saw them at church on Sundays. Other than that, we didn’t see the sisters a whole lot. My companion was the district leader, so he called them every once in a while, at least weekly to get the stats on their work.

An Average Suburban Argentine Neighborhood

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This is a neighborhood not far from the one where we lived, maybe four or five blocks away as I recall. Notice the water tank on the top of each house. Water pressure was always an issue. At best water pressure was weak, at worse it was barely a trickle. To compensate, each home had a water tank on top that was constantly being filled. The house then drew its water from the tank, which gave the home consistently higher water pressure through the pipes. I can remember standing on one of these streets one night early in my mission. We were talking to someone in their front yard, trying to convince them to invite us over for a complete first discussion. The sun was setting as soon as the sun went down, the mosquitos came out in force. I couldn’t believe how bad the mosquitos got in an instant. But I digress. Anyway, this was a typical Argentina sub-development. The homes here are duplexes; two units per building. Each home was simple, likely with one of those rooms that combine the kitchen, dining room, and living room, a bathroom, and two or three bedrooms.

The Almada Family Baptism

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This is the baptism of the Almada Family. It was a wonderful event. This first photo right before the baptism, and the second photo was taken outside the church building just afterwards. Click here to read more about the Almadas and their conversion to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our Land Lord, Brother Cabrera, and Elder Loesener

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This is a picture of the home owner, landlord, and roommate of ours, Brother Cabrera, with my companion Elder Loesener. This picture was taken in the same room as picture 1, except it is looking in the opposite direction. You can see the cabinet in the left of this picture is the same as the one on the right side of photo 1. Brother Cabrera was always very nice to us and patient and had a good demeanor. I can remember him on the front row of church my first Sunday in Argentina. I was asked to give a five minute talk and he was coaching me through it and encouraging me. I felt sad for him that he lived in the home alone, except for the missionaries. I don’t recall the details of his family situation.

My Companion for a Day, Mario

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This is a young man in the Gazano branch named Mario. One day my companion had to go do something with the zone leaders. Instead of having me sit around the apartment all by my lonesome self all day, we arranged for Mario to go with me for part of the day. This was only a couple weeks into my mission, and my Spanish was still pretty bad so I was glad to have a native with me. But, as it turns out, Mario hardly said a word all day in speaking with people. We knocked doors, and talked to people on the street, and fulfilled other appointments and all the while I did most of the talking. Miraculously, I was able to get a couple of appointments for us to return for a full first discussion, which shows the blessings the God pours out upon missionaries if they will simply open their mouths. Click here to read more about my day with Mario.

Transfer Day

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This was the morning I was transferred out of Gazano. After three months together with my trainer, Elder Loesener and I parted ways. I know I didn’t fully appreciate him as a companion and trainer during the time I was with him, but since then I have grown to appreciate all he taught me. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for my trainer and first companion in Argentina, Elder Maximiliano Loesener. I didn’t see him again until almost two years later when I was on my way home and he met me at the Buenos Aires temple for an endowment session. I was so nervous about this transfer because I would have to travel by myself, first taking a taxi to the bus station, then buying a bus ticket and going to a different city. I got to the bus station, bought my ticket, and then waited, watching the bus like a hawk, because I was afraid I would miss the announcement to load when the time came. Miraculously, I made it to my new assignment in the city of Santa Fe without incident.

Other Memories of My Time in Gazano

  • “Vamos por la sombra” (Let’s walk in the shade) is something Elder Loesener would say often indicating that we should walk on the sidewalk on the side of the street where there was shade, rather than direct sunlight. I was in this area during the heat of summer, as you can tell by the extra tan skin on my face, so seeking shade whenever we could was a necessity.
  • Getting home at about 10:25PM, with just enough time to get in bed by our 10:30 curfew. We found that one of the best times to go contacting was after 8pm when people would sit out in front of their homes and sip mate. This provided a great opportunity for us missionaries to walk through the neighborhood and strike up conversations with people. If we happened to find someone interested in our gospel message then we could easily get caught up in a discussion that would go past 10PM and we’d have to hustle back to our apartment to keep our missionary schedule.
  • Making pizza in our apartment. We would buy a pizza crust, tomato puree, and queso cremoso (literally “cream cheese” but different than cream cheese in the U.S. It was more like mozarella). Add some spices and after a few minutes in the oven, we had a delicious pizza.
  • Pancakes and french toast for breakfast. Bread was inexpensive and we would often have plenty of it. So I’d crack a few eggs in the morning, dip the bread in it, and fry up some french toast. I would also often make pancakes and put Dulce de Leche (kind of like caramel, but a little different) on it. They didn’t have maple syrup, but the dulce de leche was so good, I didn’t even miss it.

Timeline and History of Blacks Receiving the Priesthood in the LDS Church

The subject of blacks receiving the priesthood in the LDS Church is somewhat of a weighty matter, but one that most missionaries will have to deal with. The following is a timeline of major events leading up to the 1978 Revelation on the Priesthood granting black Africans who are worthy the ability to be ordained to the priesthood and receive temple ordinances. This is largely a summary of a BYU Studies article called Spencer W. Kimball and the Revelation on Priesthood by his son Edward L. Kimball.

As I read and re-read Brother Kimball’s article, I was fascinated by the process in which this revelation was sought and received. I have a testimony that the revelation came forth in the manner and according to the timing of the Lord. I know we have living prophets on the earth today and that they lead and guide this Church in a manner pleasing unto the Lord. I know the 1978 revelation granting priesthood and temple privileges to all people, regardless of race or color or ancestry, came from God and was His will. Here is some history and events leading up to that revelation:

PDF: Timeline and History of Blacks Receiving the Priesthood in the LDS Church

Elijah Abel baptism certificate 18321836: “Elijah Abel, an early black convert, pioneer, and missionary, was ordained an elder on March 3, 1836.”

“African-Americans in small numbers had been members of the Church from its days in Nauvoo. At least two black men, Walker Lewis, an elder, and Elijah Abel, a seventy, were ordained to the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. …Elijah Abel continued his activity in the Church in Utah, even though ordination of other blacks ceased.”

1849: “The first known direct statement by a Church President that blacks were denied the priesthood came from Brigham Young in February 1849 when he said of “the Africans”: ‘The curse remained upon them because Cain cut off the lives of Abel. . . . The Lord had cursed Cain’s seed with blackness and prohibited them the Priesthood.’”

1852: “Wilford Woodruff reported that Brigham Young, speaking to the Utah territorial legislature, took personal responsibility for articulating the restriction: “Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane [sic] in him Cannot hold the priesthood & if no other Prophet ever spake it Before I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ. I know it is true & they know it.”

1854: “Brigham Young said the curse would be removed from the posterity of Cain after all others had been redeemed and resurrected.”

1879: “Joseph F. Smith noted that Elijah Abel had two certificates identifying him as a seventy, one of them issued in Utah.”

1908: “Joseph F. Smith stated his understanding that Joseph Smith himself declared Abel’s ordination null and void. …President Smith offered no basis for that assertion. Abel did not believe that his ordination had ever been nullified.”

1931: “[Joseph Fielding Smith] said that the Bible cannot answer the question about why Negro men cannot have the priesthood, but that the Pearl of Great Price and the teachings of early Church leaders offer some information.”

1947: The First Presidency wrote: “From the days of the Prophet Joseph even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel.” Further, summarizes Edward Kimball, “Its explanation, they said, was to be found in the premortal existence.”

1948: “During the George Albert Smith administration, priesthood leaders in the Philippines were authorized by the First Presidency to ordain Negrito men to the priesthood. These were native men with black skin who had no known African ancestry. Descent from black Africans only—not skin color or other racial characteristics—became the disqualifying factor.”

1949: “For Church leaders, the issue was not whether, but when. A First Presidency statement in 1949 quoted Wilford Woodruff as having made the following statement: ‘The day will come when all that race will be redeemed and possess all the blessings which we now have.’”

“George Albert Smith’s administration began sending out a consistent statement in response to inquiries: ‘It is not a matter of the declaration of a policy but of direct commandment from the Lord, on which is founded the doctrine of the Church from the days of its organization, to the effect that Negroes . . . are not entitled to the priesthood at the present time [based on] some eternal law with which man is yet unfamiliar.”

1954: “President McKay is said to have appointed a special committee of the Twelve to study the issue. They concluded that the priesthood ban had no clear basis in scripture but that Church members were not prepared for change.” Further, “President McKay had prayed for change ‘without result and finally concluded the time was not yet ripe.'”

1958: “[President McKay] authorized Church leaders to ordain Fijian men to the priesthood based on his understanding that, despite their blackness, they were not related to Africans.

1960: “Glen G. Fisher, newly released president of the South African Mission, stopped in Nigeria to visit groups that were using the Church’s name. He reported to the First Presidency that their faith was genuine. He urged sending missionaries to baptize believers and to organize branches.”

1961: “LaMar Williams, who as secretary to the Church Missionary Committee answered letters that came from Africa, was sent to Nigeria in 1961. He was met at the airport by ten pastors he had been corresponding with and discovered that they were unaware of one another. Williams returned with the names of fifteen thousand unbaptized converts who were waiting for the Church to come to them.”

1962: “Protest against the Church policy took many forms—rejection of missionaries, public demonstrations, even sabotage. In 1962, a small bomb damaged the east doors of the Salt Lake Temple and blew out some windows.”

1963: Elder [Joseph Fielding] Smith said, “you do not have to believe that Negroes are denied the priesthood because of the pre-existence. I have always assumed that because it was what I was taught, and it made sense, but you don’t have to believe it to be in good standing, because it is not definitely stated in the scriptures. And I have received no revelation on the matter.”

“The First Presidency felt keenly that they could not deny the Restoration message to those openly yearning for it. In early 1963, President McKay called LaMar and Nyal B. Williams and four other couples to serve missions in Nigeria. He set Williams apart as presiding elder of Nigeria with tentative plans to establish Sunday Schools headed by Nigerians but supervised by white missionaries who would teach and administer ordinances.”

1965: The “principle of assuming a male convert qualified to receive the priesthood unless there was evidence to the contrary was applied specifically in Brazil and soon afterward applied generally. Candidates were no longer required to provide pedigrees.”

1968: “Between 1968 and 1970 at least a dozen demonstrations or violent acts occurred when BYU athletic teams played other schools. Opposing players refused to participate or wore black armbands. One spectator threw acid, and another threw a Molotov cocktail that failed to ignite. Stanford severed athletic relations with BYU.”

1970: “The full First Presidency and Twelve jointly signed the statement and released it publicly on January 10, 1970, just a week before President McKay’s death. Like the 1949 statement, it attributed the policy to Joseph Smith and explained that the reason for the exclusion ‘antedates man’s mortal existence.’ Both statements also asserted that the ban would someday be terminated. But while the 1949 statement said that blacks would receive the priesthood “when all the rest of the children [of God] have received their blessings in the holy priesthood,” the 1969 statement omitted this idea and pointed out that the Church is founded in “the principle of continuous revelation” that could change the policy. The 1949 statement referred to a “curse on the seed of Cain,” while the 1969 statement said only that the restriction was “for reasons which we believe are known to God, but which He has not made fully known to man.”

1971: “Three black Mormons in Salt Lake City, Ruffin Bridgeforth, Darius Gray (featured in the video below), and Eugene Orr, petitioned the Church for help in keeping and reactivating the relatively small number of black members in the city. A committee of three Apostles, Elders Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and Boyd K. Packer, met with them a number of times. They suggested organizing an auxiliary unit, assigned to the Salt Lake Liberty Stake. In October, Bridgeforth, a member for eighteen years, was set apart as the president of the Genesis Group, with Gray and Orr as his counselors. Genesis members attended sacrament meeting in their geographical wards but met together monthly to hear speakers and bear testimony and weekly for Relief Society, Primary, and youth meetings.”

1972: Harold B. Lee, soon after becoming the 11th President of the Church, said: “For those who don’t believe in modern revelation there is no adequate explanation. Those who do understand revelation stand by and wait until the Lord speaks.” A few months later he said: “It’s only a matter of time before the black achieves full status in the Church. We must believe in the justice of God. The black will achieve full status, we’re just waiting for that time.”

1974: “In his first press conference, held immediately after his ordination, President Kimball faced a number of predictable questions. In response to the restriction on priesthood for blacks, he answered straightforwardly:

[I have given it] a great deal of thought, a great deal of prayer. The day might come when they would be given the priesthood, but that day has not come yet. Should the day come it will be a matter of revelation. Before changing any important policy, it has to be through a revelation from the Lord. But we believe in revelation. We believe there are yet many more things to be revealed from the Lord. . . . We are open to the Father on every suggestion that he gives us, to every direction he gives us, to every revelation of desire for change.

12 apostles revelation blacks priesthood1975: “President Kimball referred to his counselors various statements by early Church leaders about blacks and the priesthood and asked for their reactions. Wary of ways in which the question had been divisive during the McKay administration, he asked the Apostles to join him as colleagues in extended study and supplication.”

1977: “[President] Spencer [W. Kimball] invited at least three General Authorities to give him memos on the implications of the subject. Elder McConkie wrote a long memorandum concluding that there was no scriptural barrier to a change in policy that would give priesthood to black men.”

1978: “Dallin H. Oaks, president of BYU in 1978, recalled this time of inquiry: “[President Kimball] asked me what I thought were the reasons. He talked to dozens of people, maybe hundreds of people . . . about why, why do we have this.”

“Elder James E. Faust, head of the International Mission, which included nearly all of Africa, conferred with President Kimball a number of times in early 1978 about the priesthood issue. At one meeting, Elder Faust displayed a stack of letters received from Africa during just the previous month.”

“During the months leading up to June 1978, President Kimball spoke with the Twelve repeatedly about the question, asking them to speak freely. He invited associates who had not expressed themselves in the group setting to talk with him in private. He seemed so intent on solving the problem that others worried about him. A neighbor of the Kimballs, Richard Vernon, had noticed that Spencer seemed somewhat withdrawn. Normally relaxed and comfortable with friends in his ward, Spencer responded to one inquiry that he was not feeling well and changed the topic. Many in the ward had noticed the difference and felt concerned. Many also noticed that Camilla was anxious and worried about Spencer. Elder Packer, concerned at President Kimball’s inability to let the matter rest, said, “Why don’t you forget this?” Then Elder Packer answered his own question, “Because you can’t. The Lord won’t let you.”

Feb 1978: “On returning from the airport in February 1978 after one of his trips, Spencer asked the driver to let him off at the temple and sent Camilla home alone. “I want to go to the temple for a while,” he said. “I’ll get a way home.” Some days he went more than once, often alone. Sometimes he changed into temple clothing; he always took off his shoes. He obtained a key that gave him access to the temple night or day without having to involve anyone else. Few knew, except the security men who watched over him. One of them mentioned it to President Kimball’s neighbor, who told Camilla. So she knew that much, but she had no idea what problem so occupied Spencer.”

March 9, 1978: “As the First Presidency and Twelve met in the temple, the Apostles unanimously expressed their feeling that if the policy were to change, any change must be based on revelation received and announced by the prophet. President Kimball then urged a concerted effort from all of them to learn the will of the Lord. He suggested they engage in concerted individual fasting and prayer. …In spite of his preconceptions and his allegiance to the past, a swelling certainty grew that a change in policy was what the Lord wanted. “There grew slowly a deep, abiding impression to go forward with the change.”

March 23, 1978: “Spencer reported to his counselors that he had spent much of the night in reflection and his impression then was to lift the restriction on blacks. His counselors said they were prepared to sustain him if that were his decision. They went on to discuss the impact of such a change in policy on the members and decided there was no need for prompt action; they would discuss it again with the Twelve before a final decision.”

April 20, 1978: “President Kimball asked the Twelve to join the Presidency in praying that God would give them an answer. Thereafter he talked with the Twelve individually and continued to spend many hours alone in prayer and meditation in the Holy of Holies, often after hours when the temple was still.”

May 30, 1978: “Spencer read his counselors a tentative statement in longhand removing racial restrictions on priesthood and said he had a “good, warm feeling” about it. They reviewed past statements and decided to ask G. Homer Durham, a Seventy supervising the Historical Department, to research the matter further. They also concluded to alter the pattern of their next Thursday morning meeting with the Twelve by canceling the traditional luncheon in the temple and asking the council members to continue their fasting.”

Spencer W Kimball walking in snowJune 1, 1978: “On this first Thursday of the month, the First Presidency, Twelve, and Seventies met in their regularly scheduled monthly temple meeting at 9:00 a.m., fasting. There they bore testimony, partook of the sacrament, and participated in a prayer circle. The meeting lasted the usual three and a half hours and was not notably different from other such meetings until the conclusion, when President Kimball asked the Twelve to remain.

“…He outlined to them the direction his thoughts had carried him—the fading of his reluctance, the disappearance of objections, the growing assurance he had received, the tentative decision he had reached, and his desire for a clear answer. Once more he asked the Twelve to speak. …Eight of the ten [present Apostles] volunteered their views, all favorable. President Kimball called on the other two, and they also spoke in favor. Discussion continued for two hours. …The decision process bonded them in unity.

“They then sought divine confirmation. President Kimball asked, “Do you mind if I lead you in prayer?” There were things he wanted to say to the Lord. He had reached a decision after great struggle, and he wanted the Lord’s confirmation, if it would come. They surrounded the altar in a prayer circle. President Kimball told the Lord at length that if extending the priesthood was not right, if the Lord did not want this change to come in the Church, he would fight the world’s opposition.”

“Elder McConkie later recounted, ‘The Lord took over and President Kimball was inspired in his prayer, asking the right questions, and he asked for a manifestation.’ During that prayer, those present felt something powerful, unifying, ineffable. Those who tried to describe it struggled to find words.”

Elder McConkie said: “All of the Brethren at once knew and felt in their souls what the answer to the importuning petition of President Kimball was. . . . Some of the Brethren were weeping. All were sober and somewhat overcome. When President Kimball stood up, several of the Brethren, in turn, threw their arms around him.”

Elder L. Tom Perry recalled: “While he was praying we had a marvelous experience. We had just a unity of feeling. The nearest I can describe it is that it was much like what has been recounted as happening at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. I felt something like the rushing of wind. There was a feeling that came over the whole group. When President Kimball got up he was visibly relieved and overjoyed.”

President Kimball also later said, “I felt an overwhelming spirit there, a rushing flood of unity such as we had never had before.” And he knew that the fully sufficient answer had come.

June 7, 1978: “President Kimball advised his counselors in their meeting that he had decided the time had come to announce the removal of priesthood restrictions on black male members and that he had asked three of the Twelve to propose drafts of an announcement. Francis Gibbons had constructed from the three memoranda a composite draft. The First Presidency revised this draft, spending a good deal of time on the exact wording.”

June 8, 1978: “The Presidency presented to the Twelve the proposed announcement. All of the Twelve present had a chance to comment, and minor editorial changes were made. They discussed timing. Some thought it best to wait for October general conference. Others suggested making the announcement at the mission presidents’ seminar the next week. But Elder McConkie urged immediate release: “It will leak, and we have to beat Satan. He’ll do something between now and then to make it appear that we’re being forced into it.” Despite tight security, employees at the Church Office Building sensed that something important was afoot, though no one knew exactly what. Rumors had already begun to spread.”

“On the afternoon of June 8, the First Quorum of the Seventy held its regular monthly meeting. President Kimball sent a message that the First Presidency wanted to meet with all available General Authorities the next morning in the Salt Lake Temple’s fourth-floor council room, and all were to come fasting.”

June 9, 1978: “A vote [of the Seventies] approved the decision unanimously. Spencer put his hand on President Tanner’s knee and said, “Eldon, go tell the world.” President Tanner left to deliver the announcement to Heber Wolsey, managing director of Public Communications, who was standing by. President Tanner returned in a few moments and reported: “It’s done.”

“Without addressing questions of history or justification, the announcement said simply God had revealed that the day had come for granting priesthood and temple blessings to all who are worthy. The final text [was] canonized as Official Declaration–2 in the Doctrine and Covenants.”


Here is a video by Darius Gray in which he presents similar information as I have above outlining the history of blacks and the LDS Priesthood. It’s well worth a watch.