My Last Day and Traveling Home from My Mission

This is another in the series of articles I have written about my mission to Rosario Argentina from 1995 to 1997. Today I’d like to talk about my last day in the mission field and about traveling home.

One day each month, the mission president would call all the zone leaders and tell them of the companionship transfers that were to take place on the following day. On that day in early November 1997, I received the call to pack up and head to the mission home to begin my journey home.

As I recall, I got to the mission home in the mid afternoon. I had an exit interview with my mission president, Presidente Ontiveros. In the interview, he thanked me for my hard work to build the Kingdom of God and gave me some advice for life. I remember he told me that the mission is designed to teach us lessons that we should carry throughout our lives, like always wearing a suit and tie to church meetings. And since then I have always strived to do that. He also counseled me to try to find a good wife and get married as soon as reasonably possible. He counseled me not to delay marriage or having children until after college graduation or feeling secure financially. He reminded me that the family is eternally important and that God would bless me for making spiritual matters a priority in my life. He told me many other wonderful things, and one of the last things he said was to remember that throughout my travels home I was still a full time missionary and the mission rules applied until I got home and my stake president released me.

That evening we had a lovely dinner with the mission president and his wife and family and the other missionaries who were heading home. Some time that afternoon or evening, I also received a visit at the mission home from Hedgars Gonzalez. I unfortunately don’t have a picture of our reunion, but I was very touched that he would come to see me off. I wrote about Hedgars in my article about serving in the Godoy Ward.

We slept at the mission home that night. There was a small building behind the mission president’s residence that served as the mission office and there was a room with some bunk beds where we slept. In the morning we got ready and headed to the Rosario International Airport, pictured here.

The Rosario Argentina airport was much smaller than the airports I was used to, but it did the job just fine. Here is our group of departing missionaries walking out to board the plane that would take us to Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires, we would catch our flights that would take us back to the United States or wherever each missionary called home (there was at least one missionary in our group from Chile).

When I got to Buenos Aires, I found out that my flight to the US didn’t leave for several hours, so our hosts, the members of the church helping to drive us around and catch our flights, had arranged to take me and some of the other missionaries to the Buenos Aires Temple to do a session before we left the country. To my extraordinary surprise and delight, my trainer and first missionary companion in Argentina, Elder Loesener, heard of these plans and met me at the temple. Elder Loesener, by his suggestion, took this cool picture of me with the Buenos Aires temple spire in the background.

Here’s another photo of the Buenos Aires temple that I took. This was my first trip to the temple since I went to the Provo, Utah Temple when I was at the MTC. After a session at the temple, I said good bye once again to Elder Loesener, and some good volunteer took me back to the Buenos Aires airport. There was a little drama at the airport when a security guard insisted on opening and going through my suitcase. I guess he didn’t find any contraband and soon I was on my way, boarding the plane, and enjoying a 13-hour flight to Miami, Florida.

After a layover and switching planes in Miami, I got on a short flight to Washington, DC. At the airport in DC, my family was there to meet me. Above is me with my mom and six of my siblings. From left to right: Michael, Christine (my first time meeting her as she was less than two years old), John, my mom, Julie, Peter, myself, and Paul Jr.

Looks like my dad and Peter switched places between this and the last photo and Peter is the photographer now. Left to right: Christine, my mom, my dad, John, Paul Jr., Michael, me, and Julie. From the Washington D.C. airport, we headed straight to our stake center where we met the stake president who released me from my calling as a full-time missionary. And that marked the end of my mission.

My mission was one of the greatest and most formative experiences of my life. I poured my heart and soul in to the work and I hope my offering was pleasing unto God. I think it was. I was able to help many individuals and families come closer to Christ through the ordinance or baptism. I hope to meet each of them again someday, whether in this life or in the next, and have a joyous reunion.

Mission Prep Quotes from April 2018 General Conference

Young Women in the Work by Bonnie L. Oscarson

“As we consider the roles that our young women will be expected to assume in the near future, we might ask ourselves what kind of experiences we could provide for them now that will help with their preparation to be missionaries, gospel scholars, leaders in the Church auxiliaries, temple workers, wives, mothers, mentors, examples, and friends. They can actually begin now to fill many of those roles.”roles that our young women will be expected to assume

Teaching in the Home—a Joyful and Sacred Responsibility by Devin G. Durrant

“As parents, we introduce our children to Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. We help our children say their first prayer. We offer guidance and support as they enter the covenant path through baptism. We teach them to obey God’s commandments. We educate them about His plan for His children, and we help them recognize the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. We tell them stories of ancient prophets and encourage them to follow living ones. We pray for their triumphs and ache with them during their trials. We testify to our children of temple blessings, and we strive to prepare them well to serve full-time missions.”

What Every Aaronic Priesthood Holder Needs to Understand by Douglas D. Holmes

“When I was a new mission president, I was excited to receive our first group of new missionaries. A few of our more experienced missionaries were preparing for a brief meeting with them. I noticed that they had arranged children’s chairs in a semicircle. “What’s up with the little chairs?” I asked. The missionaries, somewhat sheepishly, said, “For the new missionaries.” I believe the way we see others significantly impacts their perception of who they are and what they can become. Our new missionaries sat on adult chairs that day.”

“…In much the same way that angels are authorized messengers sent by God to declare His word and thereby build faith, we who hold the Aaronic Priesthood have been ordained to “teach, and invite all to come unto Christ.” To preach the gospel is a priesthood duty. And the power associated with this duty is not just for prophets or even just for missionaries. It is for you!”increase your desire and prepare you to teach

“…Young men, as you diligently engage in your priesthood duties, you participate with God in His work “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” Experiences like these increase your desire and prepare you to teach repentance and baptize converts as missionaries.”

“…Parents and priesthood leaders, can you sense the importance of President Monson’s counsel to help young men understand “what it means … to be bearers of the priesthood of God”? Understanding and magnifying the Aaronic Priesthood will prepare them to be faithful Melchizedek Priesthood holders, power-filled missionaries, and righteous husbands and fathers. Through their service, they will understand and feel the reality of priesthood power, the power to act in the name of Christ for the salvation of God’s children.”

Prophets Speak by the Power of the Holy Spirit by Elder Ulisses Soares

“There is a third important lesson in Ensign Blair’s story. Could he have prayed with such calm assurance if he had not received guidance from the Spirit on previous occasions? The arrival of a typhoon is no time to dust off the gift of the Holy Ghost and figure out how to use it. This young man was clearly following a pattern he had used many times before, including as a full-time missionary. We need the Holy Spirit as our guide in calm waters so His voice will be unmistakable to us in the fiercest storm.”

“Eighteen years ago, my wife and I received a phone call from President James E. Faust, then Second Counselor in the First Presidency. He called us to serve as mission president and companion in Portugal. He told us that we had only six weeks before we started the mission. Although we felt unprepared and inadequate, we accepted the call. Our most important concern at the time was to obtain the visas required to serve in that country because, according to past experience, we knew the process took six to eight months to complete.

President Faust then asked if we had faith that the Lord would perform a miracle and that we would be able to solve the visa problem faster. Our answer was a big yes, and we started making the arrangements immediately. We prepared the documents required for the visas, took our three young children, and went to the consulate as fast as we could. A very nice lady met with us there. In reviewing our papers and getting acquainted with what we were going to do in Portugal, she turned to us and asked, “Are you really going to help the people of my country?” We firmly answered yes and explained that we would represent Jesus Christ and testify of Him and His divine mission in the world. We returned there four weeks later, received our visas, and landed in the mission field within the six weeks, as a prophet of the Lord had asked us to do.”

Prepare to Meet God by Elder Quentin L. Cook

“Today almost 70,000 missionaries are spread across the earth preaching His gospel to gather His elect. This is the commencement of the fulfillment of the great and marvelous work Nephi foresaw among both the Gentiles and the house of Israel. Nephi saw our time when the Saints of God would be upon all the face of the earth, but their numbers would be small because of wickedness. However, he foresaw that they would be “armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory.” When viewed across the brief history of the restored Church, the missionary effort has been most remarkable. We are seeing the fulfillment of Nephi’s vision. Though our numbers are relatively few, we will continue our effort and outreach to those who will respond to the Savior’s message.”

“…Missionaries humbly serve where called. They do not attempt to serve based on worldly standards of status or preparation for future careers. They serve with all their heart, might, mind, and strength wherever they are assigned. They do not choose their missionary companions, and they seek diligently to develop Christlike attributes,29 which are at the heart of the culture of Jesus Christ.”

Saladillo Ward: Oct to Nov 1997

I served in the Saladillo Ward in Rosario Argentina from October 15 to November 11, 1997. I was surprised to get transferred to this area because it was only a month prior to the end of my mission. Being there for only four weeks, I didn’t take a lot of pictures and I don’t remember many members of the Church in the Saladillo Ward. We didn’t have any baptisms that month and there were not even any serious investigators that we were teaching. Still, it was a good month, I met and worked with a lot of great missionaries and I’m glad to had the experience.

I have a brief story to share from my time in the Saladillo Ward and after that I will post the few pictures I have from when I was in this area. As a reminder, please visit this summary page about my mission to Argentina which includes the conversion stories of people I baptized and a summary report of each of the areas or wards in which I served.

Missionary Work is a Game of Numbers

One memorable story I have from this time in my mission was when we did exchanges with some other missionaries in our zone. My companion, Elder Bandley, and I were the zone leaders and one of the companionships in our zone were really struggling. These two missionaries were not getting along and almost no missionary work was being done in their area. One of them went with Elder Bandley to work in our area for the day and I went with the other missionary to work with him in their area for the day.

I got to the other missionary’s apartment in the morning, probably around 9am, which was the time, per the missionary schedule, when we were supposed to be leaving the apartment to teach or find people to teach. I asked the missionary if they had any scheduled appointments during the day, and he said no. I asked if they had any people to whom they were actively teaching the missionary discussions, and he said no.

I asked him what they had been doing during a typical day over the past few weeks, and he said that they spent a lot of time hanging out at member’s homes. I told him that was not appropriate and that we would not be doing that. Just to clarify, visiting members can be a good thing for missionaries to do, provided it’s planned in advance and there is a spiritual purpose. That’s not what was happening in this case. I informed my missionary companion for the day that we were going to hit the streets and open our mouths, sharing the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone we saw.

I asked the missionary if there was a neighborhood or apartment complex that he suggested we go to for some door knocking and we headed out. Along the way, we stopped and talked to every able bodied adult we passed on the street. In those days, when we knocked doors or street contacted, we gave people what we called a “charla corta” which means short discussion. It was an abbreviated version of the first missionary lesson for investigators, and at the end of the charla corta, we would asked the person if we could come to their home to teach a more lengthy discussion.

We spent the whole day talking to people of the street and knocking doors and we probably gave 100 charla cortas that day. That other missionary probably worked harder than he had during any other day on his mission. It was tiring, but it was great. At the end of the day, we had about 10 or 12 appointments to return and teach the full first discussion. The missionaries in this area had the calendar full for the next week, and we felt the Lord had really helped us find some good families to teach.

missionary work game of numbers patternI later found out that of those families that had invited the missionaries for a full lesson, most, but not all, followed through and allowed the discussion to happen. Of those, about half, 3 or 4 families, accepted the invitation to receive the second missionary lesson. One or two of them eventually came to church. And one of the people we contact that day, got baptized a few weeks later, and became of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That’s why I say that missionary work is often a game of numbers. If you approach 100 people, only half or so will hear you out. Of those half who listen to your short discussion, maybe only one in 10 will invite you for a full lesson. Of those that hear to first discussion, only a percentage will progress to the second lesson, and only a percentage of those will come to church, and only a percentage of those will get baptized. While the percentage varies from country to country and city to city, the pattern remains the same in most parts of the world. If a missionary wants to bring people to Christ via baptism, which is the missionary’s purpose, knowing these numbers means also knowing that you have to always be opening your mouth and finding new people to teach and by so doing, you’ll be able to help more people move down the funnel toward baptism.

Pictures from the Saladillo Ward in Rosario Argentina

Now for the few pictures I have from my time serving as a missionary in the Saladillo Ward:

Here’s my companion, Elder Bandley, shining his shoes in preparation for a hard day of missionary work, walking the streets, testifying to people of the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Elder Bandley turned 21 while we were together. I attempted to make and decorate a cake for him but it didn’t turn out as well as previous cakes. I’m guessing his mom sent the celebratory candles, balloons, and other stuff.

This is a picture our district basketball game on p-day. I’m the one with the basketball shooting a jump shot.

In this picture, I’m the one with the ball shooting a reverse layup.

Here’s a picture of our whole district, from left to right: Elder Smith (that’s me), Elder Bandley, Elder Bates, Elder Facer, Elder Merritt, and Elder Benitez.

Saving for a Mission: A Plan for Youth

My oldest son is getting older, he’s 13, and I’ve known that we’ve needed to put together a more formal plan to get him on track for saving for his mission. In the mission prep checklist for youth that I put together last year, I recommended that youth start small and exponentially grow their savings each year. Still liking that idea, I thought I’d put more detail around it and I came up with the following plan for my son that I’d like to share with the wider Mormon Mission Prep community. Download it below. Check it out and let me know if you’d like to see any changes to it.

 

Brief Instructions

Instructions on how to use this schedule for saving for a mission is included in the downloadable PDFs above, but I’ll repeat it here. In short, there are a number of boxes in the printable handout, with each box representing $100. Youth should fill in each square, or somehow mark them, when they have saved each $100 increment. When all the squares on the sheet are filled, the youth will be, financially, ready to go on a mission.

Detailed Instructions

The cost to serve a mission is $400 per month. That comes to $9,600 for a young man’s 24 month mission and $7,200 for a young woman’s 18 month mission. The main chart in the printout will have 96 boxes, or 72 boxes, for young men and women respectively, each square representing $100. When all boxes are marked off, the youth will have the money saved up that is needed to pay for a mission.

This plan recommends easing young people into saving by starting small and roughly doubling the amount saved each year and having them prepared to go by the time they reach 18 or 19. Of course, many people may end up getting a late start, so depending on when the youth starts saving, individual timing may vary. There is also a separate column on the right representing additional money the missionary may want to save to pay for clothes, suitcases, and other gear. Missionaries are expected to buy and bring this additional gear, which adds an average of around $2,000 to the cost of getting ready to go on a mission.

Try to Pay for Your Mission, but Don’t Let Money Stop You

When many youth and their parents first see the attached schedule, they may be a little overwhelmed. But remember, though youth should try to pay for their own mission, the lack of finances should not stop anyone worthy from serving. To help get youth started or to help them get caught up with the plan, parents, family, and friends may consider donating to the youth’s missionary savings fund. To get my son motivated to save and to help him get caught up, I’m telling him that I will put $100 in his mission fund when he comes with me to the bank to open up a savings account. Parents may also want to take a look at this list of ideas for earning money and saving for a mission.

Blessings of Paying for Your Own Mission

young men earning money to pay for missionLiving and past prophets have taught that God will greatly bless the young people who are financially prepared and have saved for their own mission. Elder M. Russell Ballard has said that young people preparing for a mission “ought to have a job and save money for their missions. Every mission president would concur with me that the missionary who has worked and saved and helped pay for part or all of his or her mission is a better prepared missionary” (How to Prepare to Be a Good Missionary, Liahona, Mar. 2007).

President Spencer W. Kimball said to the youth, “Every time money comes into your hands, through gifts or earnings, set at least part of it away in a savings account to be used for your mission.” He further said, “How wonderful it would be if every boy could totally or largely finance his own mission and thereby receive most of the blessings coming from his missionary labors.”

Arroyito Ward: August to October 1997

I served in the Arroyito Ward of the Rosario North Stake from August 13 to October 14, 1997. I was only in the Arroyito ward for two months. It was a difficult area to serve in for a variety of reasons, yet I served happily and well during that time. There were not a lot of residential neighborhoods in our area. Rather, we had a lot of shopping and businesses, including some busy streets in this area that had a lot of stores and shoppers. We usually spent a couple hours or more each day walking up and down these busy streets, asking people to talk to us. Percentage wise, very few people would stop and speak with us, but we opened our mouths none-the-less and we had a few conversations every day. Almost everyone who did speak to us, lived outside our area so we wrote down their name and address and sent the referral to the mission home so they could send the missionaries in that area to visit them.

Please note this article is one of a series of posts about my mission. Visit this summary page about my mission to Argentina to see my other mission areas and the conversion stories of people I baptized.

People We Taught and Baptized

I had no baptisms while I was in Arroyito, but the man in this photo on the right, Alberto Gomez, was a recent convert. We were trying to teach the discussions to the rest of his family to get them baptized as well. From left to right: Damian, Susana, Romina (a cousin), myself, Carlita, Alberto, Silvia.

Members in Arroyito

This is me with a member in the ward named Claudio Rodriguez and my companion, Elder Peterson. Claudio wanted to join the church for many years as a young man but his family prevented him. When he turned 18, he investigated the Church, took the missionary discussions, and got baptized.

An Arroyito Ward Family home evening activity.

This same FHE activity. I think that hose is the iron rod in Lehi’s vision of the tree of life.

Sister Tello, her daughter Mariana, and myself. Every Sunday we ate dinner with the Tellos, including Abel, the father of the family who was not a member.

This is the Sola family. They were baptized about five years prior to this photo. Their youngest, a fourth daughter, is not in the picture. The father of the family is a chemical engineer with Exxon. They lived in a nice home and had a car and I can remember him giving a us rides a few times. They fed us dinner sometimes and once I even remember making them dinner. We had dinner crepes using my family recipe.

This is Bishop Ravello and his family. The only names I wrote down are the oldest three kids: Andres, David, and Ruth.

Missionaries I Served With

This is my first companion in Arroyito, Elder Peterson, sitting at the study desk in our apartment.

Here is Elder Peterson and I outside the Tello’s house.

This is a P-day zone activity where we played American football. The missionaries are (left to right): Elder Decuster, myself, Elder Wasden (squating), Elder winter, Elder Merritt, Elder Nasal, Elder Jeppson, Eddie Pope, Elder Bray (squatting), Elder Peterson (laying on the ground), Elder Araya, Elder Bell, and Elder Rolon. I think Eddie might have been an American who was playing in the Argentine professional basketball league and some of the missionaries must have met him and started sharing the gospel with him.

After a month with Elder Peterson, he was transferred and I had the priveledge of training a brand new missionary, Elder Lopez. Here he is writing to his family on P-day.

This is Elder Lopez and I at a zone lunch. One of only a time or two that I ate at a restaurant in Argentina. We asked the photographer to get a picture of all the cow parts that were being cooked on the grill. Unfortunately, all we got was the cook’s back. Oh the perils of film cameras. Too bad we didn’t have digital technology back then to know immediately if the picture had turned out.

This was the same zone lunch as the picture above. They had an all-you-can-eat buffet for $5. A super deal.

Neighborhoods

This is me in front of the “Vino Toro” (“Bull” brand wine) factory. Argentina is well known for their beef, so I thought it would be cool to get my picture in front of this giant cow’s head.

I had seen this Catholic Cathedral from the bus when I served in Beltran. We passed by it whenever we took the bus from Beltran to the mission home for interviews with the mission president. It turns out this church was in my area in Arroyito and we walked by it multiple times each day.

Apartments

Here I am working on removing the drop down ceiling in our apartment. The plaster ceiling tiles had been falling and it was presenting a hazard. We talked to the land lord and got permission to remove all the tiles and the wood structure holding them up. It was our service project for the week.

Elder Lopez snapped this picture of me with a huge smile on my face. I’m not sure why I was so happy. As you can see, we were just coming into our apartment after getting caught in a rain storm. I guess when you’re in the service of the Lord, he blesses you with great joy inspite of afflictions you might face.

This was on my last day in the Arroyito area. I only had a month left in my mission and I assumed I would be staying in Arroyito for that month, but I suppose the Lord had other plans. I was transferred to the Saladillo ward and made a zone leader for my last month of my mission.

Godoy Ward: April to August 1997

I served in the Godoy Ward in the Rosario West Stake from April 23 to August 12, 1997. Rosario was the biggest city in my mission area and the location of the mission home (where the mission president lives) and the Rosario West was one of three stakes in the city. This was the sixth area/ward that I served in during my mission. The Godoy Ward was memorable because it was an area where I had more success in terms of baptisms than just about any other area on my mission. I also have great memories of the ward members and my mission companions there. Also please visit this summary page about my mission to Argentina which includes the conversion stories of people I baptized and a summary report of each of the areas or wards in which I served.

People We Taught and Baptized

This is the baptism of Maria Ines Theodoroy on May 4, 1997. The baptism was performed in a above ground swimming pool that the Godoy Ward put on the roof of the building they were renting for Church meetings. As I recall, many in her family had been baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the month prior, before I arrived in the area. Around the time I arrived, she decided she wanted to get baptized, so we taught her the discussions. This was a memorable baptism for me because I remember that it was a cool fall evening and stepping into the pool was uncomfortably cold. I went into the font first, and when Maria Ines stepped into the water, I remember a warm feeling coming over me, not just spiritual in nature, but it felt like the water got physically warmer. I took it as a sign from God that he was pleased with me as a missionary. I don’t recall if I asked Maria Ines if she felt the same thing or not. I think God was also pleased with her decision to follow Jesus Christ into the waters of baptism.

May 11, 1997. The woman on the far left was named Stella. She and three of her children were baptized that night after being taught by the other elders in the ward. My companion, Elder Loertscher, and I taught the boy in the front right named Cristian. His uncle, Walter Pizarro behind Cristian and to the left, is a member of the ward and performed the baptisms.

May 18, 1997. This is the baptism of a man named German Arrieta and a young man named Sergio Arrieta (no relation). From left to right, Elder Loertscher, unknown boy, myself, Sergio Arrieta, Hedgars Gonzalez who is Sergio’s friend, German Arrieta, his daughter Evelin, German’s wife Sara, and their niece. I’ve previously written about the conversion of German and his faith and testimony. Hedgars, I believe, was the ward missionary at about 19 or 20 years old here, and he was a great member-missionary. I believe he later went on a full-time mission. Sergio was Hedgars’ friend to whom he introduced the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Here’s another photo of the Arrieta family. Back row: Me, German, and Sara. Front row: Evelin (8 year old daughter), Alba (a friend), and Ivana (a younger daughter, I think).

June 15, 1997. A friend of the Gonzalez family named Jose was baptized on this day. Jose is a good friend of Noe, the one in blue behind me. Hedgars performed the baptism. From left to right: Elder Brown, Brother Gonzalez, myself, Noe, Jose, Hedgars, Sister Gonzalez.

Also on June 15, 1997, Javier Benitez, a relatively new member himself, baptized a friend of his from work, Oscar Sosa. From left to right: myself, Javier, Oscar, Elder Brown.

Here’s another photo of the baptism of Oscar Sosa. His grandfather, girlfriend, and other friends came to the baptism. Also in the picture is Carlos Godoy, Oscar’s uncle, and the rest of the Godoy family.

Myself, Jose, Elder Brown, and Oscar after the baptismal service.

July 13, 1997. This was a great day. The Godoy family was baptized and took a step towards become an eternal family. I have previously written about the conversion of the Godoy family. It was miraculous and it was a joy to teach them the gospel and see them make the sacred baptismal covenants. From the left: Elder Brown, Carlos Godoy, his son Carlos, myself, their daughter Angelica, and Beatriz Godoy.

Here is Elder Brown and myself after the baptism of the Godoy family. I’m a little embarrassed by this now, but  made them a cake and decorated it with the words “Congratulations Godoy Family. They have chosen the right.” With a crude drawing of the CTR shield in Spanish.

This picture was taken a few days before the baptism. The Godoys had been together for many years, but like many in Argentina, they weren’t actually married. They said they always intended to do it, so when we told them they had to get married in order to get baptized, they made arrangements right away. My companion and I were able to attend the civil wedding. The Godoys had a party that night with family and friends but we weren’t able to go to that.

And here is one final picture of the Godoys. This one was taken at the home of German Arrieta during the going away party that the ward threw for me when we found out I was being transferred out of the ward. Left to right: Beatriz Godoy, Carlos Godoy (with the hair cut I gave him), Carlito, myself, and Angelica (who truly was an angel).

Members in Godoy

This is some of the Theodoroy family. Most of this family had joined the Church in the months prior to me arriving in the area. From left to right: Sister Theodoroy, myself, Matias (age 15), Dafne (age 3), Sandra, and the father, Alejandro, who had not yet joined the church at this time.

This was a ward family night. From left to right, the names I remember are: Hilda, Stella, Brother Zapato, Sister Theodoroy, Dafne, Hedgar, Sister Romero, Athenas Theodoroy, Elder Bray, Matias, Unknown Sister, Jorge, Elder Araya, Carlos Pizarro, Sergio, unknown little boy, young sister Romero, Elder Loertscher, unknown sister, young sister Marquez, Sister Zapato, Maria Ines, Sister Marquez and her daughter.

The Theodoroy family fed us lunch about once a week and we were very grateful for that. It was always very delicious and they were great to visit with. Back row: Maria Ines, Sister Theodoroy, Sandra. Front row: Athenas (age 8), Dafne (age 3), myself, and Matias.

This was the baptism of Jorge and Sandra Roma. They were taught by the other Elders in our ward, Elder Bray and Elder Redd. The other young lady in white was taught by Elder Call and Elder Guest who are in the far right of the picture. The date was May 25, 1997.

After the baptism of Jorge and Sandra Roma.

When we found out that I was being transferred out of the ward, Juan Juarez, pictured here with me, set up a surprise going away party at German Arrieta’s house.

German Arrieta, at the far right in the picture above, was sad that I was leaving. He was a good man and a good friend. Also present in the picture are the Theodoroy, Gonzalez, Godoy, Marquez, and Pizarro families.

Here’s another picture of the going away party.

Missionaries I Served With

Elder Bray, Juan Juarez, and my first companion in the Godoy ward, Elder Loertscher. Juan was a recently returned missionary. When Elder Bray’s former companion, Elder Araya, received an emergency transfer, Juan became is companion for a couple of weeks.

This is Elder Brown who replaced Elder Loertscher after we had been together for a month. This was taken when we still lived in one of the worst apartments of my mission. It was a one car garage with a make shift bathroom in the corner. We moved a couple weeks after this picture was taken.

On this day, all the missionaries in our zone got together to eat lunch and play basketball.

I love to play basketball, but didn’t get to play it a whole lot on my mission. Every once in a while, perhaps once a month, on a p-day, we would be able to make arrangements to play. This picture was the same zone activity as above.

Here Elder Brown is sporting the present the Godoy family gave him for Friends Day, a River Plate hat (River Plate is one of the big futbol/soccer teams in Argentina). The Godoys gave me a tie for the occasion. Also in the picture is Juan Juarez, who needed a place to stay for a few nights. In our new apartment, we had an extra bed and we were so grateful for his help earlier, so we let him stay.

This is the Rosario West Zone (which corresponded to the Rosario West Stake) at a zone conference.

This is a get together of the missionaries of the Rosario West zone at the Argentina National Flag Monument. It was good to see my former companion Elder Sanchez there.

Neighborhoods

This is Juan Juarez and I at a Catholic Cemetary that was in our area. We always had to walk around it and it was quite large so I guess one day we decided if we could take a look inside.

This is a photo I snapped near the Godoy’s house of a man selling fruits and vegetables from his house drawn cart. A common sight in Argentina.

Every day we walked past this statue. It is of the newest Catholic Saint, Gauchito Gil, who is said to have performed some miracles during his life.

We visited a Catholic Cathedral one day and snapped these two interesting pictures, or at least to us as Mormons it was really fascinating. The one above is a shrine to the Virgin Mary and the one below is of course our slain Savior Jesus Christ before he resurrected.

Apartments

I arrived in the Godoy ward to find the missionaries living in this apartment that was no more than (loosely) converted garage. It was cold and damp and small. Living conditions in general were lower than what most North American missionaries were used to, but this apartment was pretty pathetic even compared to all the other apartments I had been in. Elder Loertscher didn’t complain, though. But still, I talked to the mission president about it right away and began making plans to move.

After my first month in the Godoy ward, we moved from that terrible garage apartment into the house of Walter Pizarro for a short time and then into this apartment pictured. Walter and Hedgars Gonzalez helped us move. The owner of the home, Theodoro, lived in the front of the house, and we missionaries lived around back where there was a separate apartment with its own entrance. This new apartment was twice as big, had little kitchen, and better bathroom facilities.

Elder Brown told me that he could tell I had been out on my mission for a long time because of all the holes in my socks. I thought it was a badge of honor for putting in all those long hours, day after day, walking the streets of Argentina, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Standard Missionary Interview Questions

young man interview with bishop priesthood leaderAs many of you have already heard, last week, on October 20, 2017, the First Presidency of the Church put out a statement introducing a standard set of missionary interview questions. They asked that all priesthood leaders across the Church use these same standardized interview questions when meeting with young men and women who are prospective candidates to go on a mission. The First presidency asked that youth and their parents be made aware of these questions well in advance of the actual interview. Therefore, I am publishing them here to help get the word out. Click the following button to download a one-page PDF of the questions, or see the list of question in the body of this article below.

Goal: To help missionaries be prepared and have a joyous experience

The supplemental material sent with the First Presidency letter sheds more light on why these standard interview questions have been established. They have been released as part of the LDS Church’s continued efforts to help future missionaries be better “spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared for missionary service.” Missionary service is a major milestone in people’s spiritual growth and Church leaders want the mission to be a positive, “joyous and faith-building experience for every missionary.” In order to accomplish that, “it is imperative that each missionary be appropriately prepared, worthy, and healthy” and these questions will help do that by encouraging conversations between youth and leaders on a variety of important topics of mission prep.

While “these questions do not represent any change in the standards for missionary service,” the Church is making a greater effort to help future missionaries and their parents better “understand the requirements for full-time missionary service.” These “questions are intended to guide” the pre-mission conversations between missionary candidates and their priesthood leaders (bishops and stake presidents) and help all parties know if the “missionary candidate may be unable to fulfill the requirements of a full-time mission” because of spiritual, physical, emotional, or mental health challenges.

Worthiness, Chastity, Sexual Purity, and Repentance

Large sections of the supplemental material give guidance to youth, parents, and church leaders about topics of worthiness, the law of chastity, sexual purity, and repentance, indicating this is a major area of concern by the First Presidency. In operating this website for many years, I too have noticed that repenting of sexual sin is one of the most read and discussed topics on the website. The material stresses that sexual sin and other “serious sins may disqualify you, either temporarily or permanently, from serving a full-time mission.” It even quotes a couple of paragraphs from Handbook 1 which says:

“A person who has been guilty of adultery, fornication, heavy petting, homosexual activity, [and] other sexual perversions …must repent before he or she may be recommended for missionary service.” And that period of repentance “could be as long as three years for multiple serious transgressions and should not be less than one year from the most recent serious transgression.”

The supplemental material also dives into tithing, the word of wisdom, keeping the sabbath-day holy, and honesty, revealing that these are also topics that are likely stumbling blocks for many young people today.

Why a different set of questions than for the temple?

The First Presidency also sent out answers to anticipated frequently asked questions, one of which was on my  mind: “Why are these questions different than for a temple recommend?” All missionaries are required to answer those standardized temple questions in an interview before their mission, so it does beg the question. Their answer:

“Many of the interview questions are similar to those asked in a standard temple recommend interview and are included to help priesthood leaders determine whether a prospective missionary is worthy to serve. However, missionary service is far more physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding than is temple attendance. The additional questions help gauge the prospective missionary’s physical, mental, and emotional preparedness to serve.”

Mental Health

Another very interesting aspect of these questions is how they dive into the mental health issues of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and autism spectrum disorder, including Asperger’s Syndrome. I have a son who is high functioning autistic (Asperger’s), so my wife and I are very interested in the Church’s stance regarding his possibility of serving a full-time mission some day. Will the Church let him go on a regular full-time mission while he is actively taking medication for his condition? Will the Church require him to do a Church Service Mission because of his condition? I wish there were more answers, but unfortunately, while the topic is brought up in the questions, the supplemental material gave few answers regarding what youth, parents, or priesthood leaders are to do about someone who has these conditions and functions well with the aid of prescription medications. Perhaps the Church’s policy is to handle those on a case by case basis and that’s why they don’t specify further.

But enough of my commentary and analysis. Here are the questions:

Standard Interview Questions for Prospective Missionaries

  1. Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost?
  2. Do you have a testimony that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God and the Savior and Redeemer of the world? Please share your testimony with me. How has the Atonement of Jesus Christ influenced your life?
  3. What does it mean to you to repent? Do you feel that you have fully repented of past transgressions?
  4. Will you share your testimony with me that the gospel and Church of Jesus Christ have been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith and that [current Church President] is a prophet of God?
  5. Full-time missionary service requires living gospel standards. What do you understand about the following standards?
    a. The law of chastity In reference to the law of chastity, have you always lived in accordance with what has been discussed? If not, how long ago did the transgression(s) occur? What have you done to repent?
    b. Avoiding pornography
    c. The law of tithing
    d. The Word of Wisdom, including the use of drugs or the abuse of prescribed medications
    e. Keeping the Sabbath day holy
    f. Being honest in all you say and do
    Have you lived in accordance with all of these standards? Are you now living in accordance with them? Will you live in accordance with them as a full-time missionary?
  6. Do you have any legal actions pending against you? (If yes, ask the candidate to explain in detail possible legal or financial obligations. See Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops [2010], 4.4.)
  7. Have you ever committed a serious violation of criminal law, regardless of whether or not you were arrested, you were convicted, or the record was expunged? (If yes, ask the missionary candidate to explain in detail what happened, the outcome of any criminal charges, whether there are criminal or other legal requirements that have not been completed, and what he or she has done to repent. See Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops [2010], 4.4 and “Serious Transgressions” in 4.5.2.)
  8. Have you ever sexually abused a child in any way, regardless of whether or not you were charged, you were convicted, or the record was expunged? (If yes, and the abuse has not been reported, see Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops [2010], 17.3.2, for instructions. If the abuse was previously resolved, see Handbook 1, 4.4, for direction.)
  9. Have you ever committed any other serious transgression or misdeed that should be resolved before your mission? (If yes, ask the candidate to explain in detail what happened, the outcome of any criminal charges, whether there are criminal or other legal requirements that have not been completed, and what he or she has done to repent.)
  10. Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
  11. Do you have any unpaid debts? How will these debts be paid off before your mission or managed while you serve a mission? (See Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops [2010], 4.4.)
  12. Do you currently have or have you ever had any physical, mental, or emotional condition that would make it difficult for you to maintain a normal missionary schedule, which requires that you work for 12–15 hours a day, including studying for 2–4 hours a day, walking or biking for up to 8–10 hours a day, and so forth?
  13. Have you ever been diagnosed with or received treatment for dyslexia or other reading disorder? If so, are you comfortable reading the scriptures and other documents aloud? Do you believe that you could memorize appropriate scriptures and other information with the assistance of your companion? In what ways do you now compensate for this disorder?
  14. Have you ever been diagnosed with or received treatment for a speech disorder? If so, are you comfortable speaking in front of others? Do you feel that you have adequate tools to help you learn, teach, and communicate?
  15. Have you ever been on medication or otherwise treated for any of the following conditions: attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or autism spectrum disorder (including Asperger’s)? If yes, please explain.
  16. If you were being treated for one of these conditions and discontinued treatment, did you do so under a doctor’s supervision? If not, why did you stop? How well have you been functioning without treatment or medication? When was the last time you were on medication for these issues?

The Joy of Service

I was asked to give a talk in church about the joy of service in relation to a recent trip I made to Houston, Texas with other members of our congregation to help in the cleanup effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. I thought the joy of service was a good topic for mission prep, so I’m sharing the talk here.

Hurricane Katrina Cleanup – 2005

Before talking about the Houston trip after Hurricane Harvey, let me take you back 12 years to the fall of 2005. My wife and I were living in Memphis, TN, and we had two small children. Hurricane Katrina had just hit New Orleans and other cities near there on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. There was an announcement at church that our congregation was one of many throughout the south that was asked to send a team of workers to New Orleans for a weekend to help clean up. I was excited about the chance to go participate in the hurricane cleanup. The announcement struck me as a rare opportunity to do some great service, and I immediately volunteered. My only hesitation was leaving my wife at home for a long weekend alone with the children, but I knew I would have her support.Hurricane Katrina Relief Trip to Waveland Mississippi October 2005

I went with dozens of other men from LDS Church congregations in and around Memphis. On that first of three trips I made to the Gulf coast for Hurricane Katrina relief, we mostly cleared brush, sawed up fallen trees, and hauled yard debris out to the street for many homeowners in the town of Waveland, Mississippi. About a month later, we were called on again, and again I went down to the Gulf coast, this time to the city of Slidell, Louisiana. We spent the bulk of our time on this trip in mucking out a few homes. Then, about a year later, I went to the Gulf coast a third time for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, and this time we were in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana, part of a crew that replaced the roof of a woman’s home.Hurricane Katrina Relief Trip to Slidell Louisiana November 2005

Each of us who went on these trips made many sacrifices of our time. We would leave around 6pm on a Friday night and make the six hour drive to New Orleans, arriving around midnight. We would sleep either in tents on an LDS Church property or in sleeping bags on the floor inside the church. We would work all day Saturday and the first half of the day Sunday. Then we would drive back to Memphis, arriving late Sunday night, so we could all go back to our regular jobs Monday morning. While it was hard work, it was also satisfying and enjoyable to help those in need. I also formed special bonds of friendship with the other men who went on the relief trips. The blessings went both ways, to the givers and receivers of the service, and I was glad I went on every one of those service weekends. At the time I volunteered, I wasn’t sure if I would ever have the opportunity to participate in a massive service project like that again, so I wanted to take advantage of it. As it turns out, 12 years later I would have a very similar opportunity.Hurricane Katrina Relief Trip to New Orleans Louisiana December 2006

Hurricane Harvey Cleanup – 2017

A few months ago, Hurricane Harvey struck the Houston, Texas area, bringing wind damage and much flooding all along the Gulf coast in that region. Once again, the LDS Church sent out a call for volunteers, and once again, when I heard the request, I jumped at the chance to go and help. This time I was able to bring, Abe, my now 13-year-old son, with me on the relief trip. We got up very early on a Saturday morning in September and made the four-hour drive from the Dallas area to Houston. By mid-morning our crew, of about 12 men and women and youth were pulling up the wet and rotting floors of in a home owned by a couple named Barry and Jennifer. In the afternoon, we went across the street to pull wet sheet rock out of the house of a single woman named Beverly. That night, our team of workers were taken care of by some very nice members of the Church who fed us and gave us a comfortable place to sleep. We headed back out to work on Sunday morning after a church service with the sacrament, a couple of testimonies, and a stirring rendition of the hymn How Great Thou Art by a quartet of three women and one man. We did some more mucking and debris removal from the home of a woman named Carolyn, and then we drove back home to the Dallas area on Sunday afternoon.

Hurricane Harvey Cleanup Houston Texas September 2017

Service Brings True Joy

When I was asked to talk about the weekend in Houston and the joy of service, I pondered about what I could say. The thought occurred to me, and I think it was inspiration from the Spirit of God, that perhaps I should talk about what inspires me. What inspires me to drop everything in my life at short notice, drive hundreds of miles, and work all day in hot and dirty conditions to help people I have never met before? Honestly, my next thought was who wouldn’t want to go and do service projects like this. These were wonderful experiences. For me, there is nothing better than to truly help people who have a sincere need.

My father taught me in my youth, by word and example, of the importance of serving others and the joy it brings to the recipients as well as the providers of such service. And I suppose, due to those lessons that I learned in my youth, it has led me throughout my life to seeking out and enjoying opportunities to serve others. Perhaps this is why President Monson has given a similar message to young men and women of the Church. He said:

“Learn in your youth the joy of service in the cause of the Master. …As we look heavenward, we inevitably learn of our responsibility to reach outward. To find real happiness, we must seek for it in a focus outside ourselves. No one has learned the meaning of living until he has surrendered his ego to the service of his fellow man. Service to others is akin to duty, the fulfillment of which brings true joy.”(The Joy of Service, New Era, Oct 2009).

Sacrifice Brings Light. Christ’s Light Brings Hope and Happiness.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has also recently spoken about the joy and other blessings that come to both the givers and receivers of selfless service. He said:

“Every time you notice someone in need and sacrifice your own comfort to reach out in love, the light [of God] expands and swells. Every time you reject temptation and choose purity, every time you seek or extend forgiveness, every time you courageously testify of truth, the light chases away darkness and attracts others who are also seeking light and truth.”

“Christ’s light brings hope, happiness, and healing of any spiritual wound or ailment. Those who experience this refining influence become instruments in the hands of the Light of the World to give light to others. They will feel what King Lamoni felt: “This light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and … the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul” (Alma 19:6). (Bearers of Heavenly Light, Gen Conf, Oct 2017)

The Widow’s Heart

There is one more thing I have felt inspired to mention regarding the blessings of serving others and that is a lesson that stems from the Savior’s story of the Widow’s Mite. With the estimated damage in the billions of dollars from these natural disasters that I talked about above, my relatively measly contribution to the cleanup and recovery would certainly equate to no more than a mite or two. But one of the points of the widow’s mite story is that God has a different way of measuring, compared to the rest of the world, when determining the value of our actions and contributions.

Most of us are very familiar with this story of the widow with her two mites. It’s found in Mark 12:41-44 and goes like this:

“41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44 For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”

While we often call this the story of the widow’s mite, I feel it might be better if we referred to the story as “the widow’s heart.” The point of the story isn’t the money, it’s that by giving all her money the widow demonstrated that she had given her whole heart and soul to God. The wealthy people may have put in a lot of gold and silver into the treasury, but that was not something of much value to God. God doesn’t need our gold and our silver, He can command the elements and create a planet full of gold and silver. What God values is our souls (see D&C 18:10 and Moses 1:39). And the widow, in giving all that she had, demonstrated that she was giving her entire heart and soul to God and that’s why Jesus said that she put in more than all the other rich people.

Now, how does this relate to the joy of service? Elder O. Vincent Haleck explained this concept of the widow’s heart during his recent general conference talk, and he explained how it relates to the joy of service. He talked about the Latter-day Saints of the Pacific and how through the years he has seen them serve and sacrifice, despite their poverty (or as the scripture puts it, their “want”), and as a result they have received great blessings of joy and happiness. He said:

“The heart of the widow who gave her two mites is a heart that will give all by making sacrifices; by enduring hardship, persecution, and rejection; and by bearing burdens of many kinds. The heart of the widow is a heart that senses, feels, and knows the light of truth and will give anything to embrace that truth. It also helps others to see that same light and come to the same measure of eternal happiness and joy. …Let us join as worldwide Saints in doing that which is necessary to have the widow’s heart, truly rejoicing in the blessings that will fill the ‘want’ that results.” (The Heart of the Widow, LDS General Conference, October 2017)

Conclusion

Brothers and Sisters, I know that in our service to others is found the key to receiving joy and happiness. Our duties and our covenants compel us to give freely of our time and talents in the service of others (see Mosiah 18:9), and all the commandments and the whole gospel plan is designed to bring us the greatest joy possible (see D&C 14:7). In John 15:10-11 Jesus explained that this is why he has given us the commandments to love and serve each other: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” I know these things are true.

Unversidad Branch, Concordia: Feb 1997 to April 1997

I served as a missionary in the Universidad Branch of the LDS Church in the city of Concordia, Argentina from February 19, 1997 to April 22, 1997. Here is a brief summary of my service in that area. Also please visit this summary page about my mission to Argentina which includes the conversion stories of people I baptized and a summary report of each of the areas or wards in which I served.

People We Taught and Baptized


Four days after I arrived in the city of Condordia to serve in the Universidad Branch, we had the baptism of Maria Grillé on Feb 23, 1997. In the photo is me on the far left, then the brother performing the baptism is Ramón Dartuquí, then Maria, and then my companion, Elder Sanchez.  I don’t remember much about Maria because she had already been taught all the missionary discussions before I arrived. But I do remember visiting her modest home a few times and the fact that she was part of a large family.


Here is Maria Grillé surrounded by much of her family on the day of her baptism. The baptism was held at an LDS Church owned building in the city, but that was not where the Universidad Brand met. In the picture are Maria’s mom Dolores, who was baptized two weeks earlier, her brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephews.


Here is the wonderful Lescano Family who I have previously written about and the miraculous way God guided us to them. I wish I had written down their names. I know Jorge is the father and Beatriz  is the mother, and I think the son is Jorge Jr. but I do’t remember the names of the daughters in the family. They were such a darling family. I still remember the discussions we had around their dining room table.


I was transferred after only two months in the city of Concordia and it just a week or two prior to the bastism of the Lescano family. My companion while I was in Concordia, Elder Sanchez, gave me this photo of their baptism.


When I told Jorge Lescano that I was being transferred he got a little emotional. I too was sad to be leaving and not see their baptism. I was surprised when Jorge pulled out a photo album and gave me a picture of he and his wife Beatriz on their wedding day. He said he wanted me to keep it as a “recuerdo” (memento) and he even wrote his name and phone number on the back of the photo. I certainly will always remember him and his family.

Members in Concordia


This is the Dartuquí family along with a couple of their friends. The Universidad branch was rather small so there weren’t a lot of families to feed the missionaries. But not to worry, the Dartuquí family stepped us and fed us lunch three times a week. I’m sure it was a sacrifice for them and I’m sure the Lord blessed them for it. If my memory serves me, the people in the photo are, left to right, Celestino, Sister Dartuquí, Esteban, Maria, Claudia, Sandra, Ramón, and Miguel.


This picture was taken at the building that was rented for the Universidad Branch to meet in. The occasion was a branch Famil Home Evening activity. Pictured left to right are: an unknown baby, Elder Sanchez, myself, Esteban Dartuquí, the Sister Missionaries Jara and Salva, and Sister Dartuquí.


And here’s another picture from that same Family Home Evening activity.


Here is my companion, Elder Sanchez, with Ramón Dartuquí. He must have come with us to an appointment. Or perhaps we were doing exchanges with the members. They are standing in our apartment in front of our study area.

Missionaries I Served With


This picture was taken on one of my first day in the city of Concordia. This is my companion, Elder Sanchez, standing outside of our apartment. Elder Sanchez was a great missionary and I wish I could have been with him longer. Though Elder Sanchez got to this branch first, and you would have expected him to be transferred out first, it was actually me who got transferred out first, after only two months together.

Neighborhoods


Here is a guy selling buckets, mops, and other household cleaning supplies. He simply walks down the street and shouts out what he is selling and people that are interested stop him to buy what they need. I thought it was an interesting aspect of Argentine culture, so I snapped a photo.

Apartment


Here I am in our “pench” (short for pension which is Spanish for apartment). Mine is the first bed. I don’t remember being so sloppy and unorganized, and I apologize for not cleaning up a little before snapping this photo. Perhaps the picture was impromptu.

Mission Prep Quotes from October 2017 General Conference

I Have a Work for Thee” by Elder John C. Pingree Jr.

“As God works through us, the adversary may tempt us to take credit for any accomplishments. However, we can emulate the Savior’s humility by deflecting personal praise and glorifying the Father (see Matthew 5:16; Moses 4:2). When a reporter tried to recognize Mother Teresa for her life’s mission to help the poor, she retorted: “It’s [God’s] work. I am like a … pencil in his hand. … He does the thinking. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it. The pencil has only to be allowed to be used.”

Repentance Is Always Positive by Stephen W. Owen

“Recently I visited a missionary training center when a group of brand-new missionaries arrived. I was deeply moved as I watched them and observed the light in their eyes. They seemed so bright and happy and enthusiastic. Then a thought came to me: “They have experienced faith unto repentance. This is why they are filled with joy and hope.”

“You who are preparing for full-time missions and you who are returning, take note! It is not enough just to gain a testimony; you have to maintain it and strengthen it. As every missionary knows, if you stop pedaling a bicycle, it will fall, and if you stop feeding your testimony, it will weaken.”

church service requires humility cook oct 2017 gen conf

The Eternal Everyday by Elder Quentin L. Cook

“The humility that undergirded this incredible missionary effort allowed the Lord to establish His Church in a remarkable way. Gratefully, we continually see this in the Church today. Members, including the rising generation, give up their time and defer education and employment to serve missions. Many senior members leave employment and make other sacrifices in order to serve God in whatever capacity they are called. We do not allow personal issues to distract or divert us from accomplishing His purposes. Church service requires humility. We humbly serve as called with all our might, mind, and strength. At every level of the Church, it is important to understand the Christlike attribute of humility.”

By Divine Design by Elder Ronald A. Rasband

“The Lord placed me in a home with loving parents. By the world’s standards, they were very ordinary people; my father, a devoted man, was a truck driver; my angel mother, a stay-at-home mom. The Lord helped me find my lovely wife, Melanie; He prompted a businessman, who became a dear friend, to give me an employment opportunity. The Lord called me to serve in the mission field, both as a young man and as a mission president; He called me to the Quorum of the Seventy; and now He has called me as an Apostle. Looking back, I realize I did not orchestrate any of those moves; the Lord did, just as He is orchestrating important moves for you and for those you love.”

The Truth of All Things by Elder David F. Evans

“There came a time, early in my mission, when I knew that I had to know whether the Church was true and Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. …I knew what was necessary. I needed to read the Book of Mormon with a sincere heart, with real intent, and ask God whether it is true….I started at the beginning of the book and read every day. Some receive a witness very quickly. For others, it will take more time and more prayer and may include reading the book several times. I needed to read the entire book before I received the promised witness. However, God did manifest the truth of it unto me by the power of the Holy Ghost.

In my missionary journal, I described my joy in knowing the truth as well as my personal expression of commitment and real intent to act on the truth I had received. I wrote: “I have pledged with my Father in Heaven and with myself to do my very best, to give it 100 percent for the rest of my life, whatever I am asked, I’ll do, but for now I have the rest of my mission and I am going to make it a great mission, one that I won’t feel bad about, but not for me, for the Lord. I love the Lord, and I love the work, and I just pray that that feeling will never leave me.”

…Over the years I have asked missionaries and young people around the world how they started in their personal effort to seek truth and gain a testimony. Almost without exception, they respond that their own effort to gain a personal testimony started with the personal decision to read the Book of Mormon from the beginning and ask God if it is true.”

assisting our missionaries ballard oct 2017 gen conf

The Trek Continues! by Elder M. Russell Ballard

“Please remember there is no blessing anyone can share greater than the message of the Restoration, which, when received and lived, promises everlasting joy and peace—even eternal life. Let us use our energy, strength, and testimonies in assisting our missionaries to find, teach, and baptize God’s children so they may have the power of the gospel doctrine guiding their daily lives.

We need to embrace God’s children compassionately and eliminate any prejudice, including racism, sexism, and nationalism. Let it be said that we truly believe the blessings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are for every child of God.”

Do We Trust Him? Hard Is Good by Elder Stanley G. Ellis

“Looking back, I learned some of the best lessons during the hardest times—whether as a youth, on a mission, starting a new career, striving to magnify my callings, raising a large family, or struggling to be self-reliant. It seems clear that hard is good!”

Neil Andersen Gen Conf know enoughThe Voice of the Lord by Elder Neil L. Andersen

Quoting himself from his October 2008 General Conference talked called You Know Enough, when he was a member of the Presidency of the Seventy: “Nearly 40 years ago as I contemplated the challenge of a mission, I felt very inadequate and unprepared. I remember praying, “Heavenly Father, how can I serve a mission when I know so little?” I believed in the Church, but I felt my spiritual knowledge was very limited. As I prayed, the feeling came: “You don’t know everything, but you know enough!” That reassurance gave me the courage to take the next step into the mission field.”