Articles in this category are about everyday aspects of life while on a mission as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Finding and Teaching People Digitally during Quarantine – Reactions and Tips

In the current climate, many missionaries are being forced to stay in their homes and apartments, and do what they can digitally to find and teach and invite people to follow the Savior Jesus Christ. This has been a struggle for many missionaries, so much so that the Church announced recently that some missionaries will now be given the option to be reassigned with their original mission end date OR they can temporarily suspend their mission and return to service within 12–18 months with a new end date.

For those missionaries choosing to stay and work digitally for the next for weeks or months, I want to share what some other missionaries are doing in this situation as well as some other advice and tips. The first two reactions are from my nephews who are serving full-time missions and the second two are advice from old people, myself and a friend who works at the MTC. Scroll to keep reading or click the link to jump to each person’s advice.

Nicholas Smith Email – March 23, 2020 

Nicholas Smith Layton Utah Mission“WOW this COVID-19 has gotten crazy! So Monday and Tuesday were pretty normal missionary days. We found two new people to teach and Tuesday night we went on exchanges. Then 10:22pm hits and bam! Bombshell = dropped. We got an email from the mission president saying that we are to use technology as our only means of interact with the outside world effective immediately. So yes I’m quarantined now.

“We’ve been having a lot of lessons over Zoom. We’ve also been working on finding effective ways to use Facebook to find new people to teach. With all the changes the church is putting out a lot of the missionaries here are going home including my greeny, Elder _____. He has asthma and so they’re making him go home. It sad to see him go.

“COVID-19 has really changed up the way that missionary work works. We have almost daily updates on what to do to keep ourselves safe and healthy. Despite all the obstacles we currently face as missionaries I’m just excited. I’m starting to understand even more why I was called to be a missionary to this place at this time. I know I was sent here for a reason and that God needs my talents at this time to help hasten his work. There’s nothing that can stop the work of the Lord. I know this and I hope everyone knows this. I can’t wait to see what the next couple months bring!”

Nicholas Smith Email – March 30, 2020 

“It’s been a crazy week guys, the missionaries here keep dropping like flies. Don’t be too worried, none of them are actually sick but the church is being extremely cautious when it comes to the safety of their missionaries. One of our best missionaries in the district returned home this week. It was sad to see him go. On a happier note work is really starting to pick up here! We’re figuring out how missionary work “works” under the new quarantine rules. I’ve had to actually learn how to use Facebook (can’t wait for Corona to go away so I can delete it again). I still haven’t seen much success come from it but we’re still in our trial and error phases of Facebook.

“The greatest success we’re seeing is member work. Yes, you heard that right folks, actually working with members. How does that work you ask. Well, let me tell you. We set up some lessons with members, we share a 20ish minute lesson with them and set up a return appointment with the members in a week. At the end of our lesson we say “Is there anyone that you know that really could use a message of peace through Christ right now? Do you think that you could invite them to join our call next week?” and just like that we turned the members into missionaries.”

It doesn’t necessarily come through in his email, but Nick’s mom says he’s going stir crazy, trying to keep busy and productive while staying at home and to please keep him in your prayers!

Nicholas Smith Email – April 27, 2020

“Today we are having a baptism for our friend _____! We’re really excited for her. We have only been able to teach her over Zoom (digital video conferencing) and it’s incredible to me that we’re able to help people come closer to Christ without ever meeting with them face to face. I know that the work of the Lord won’t and can’t be frustrated by anything. Not an earthquake, some virus or anything else that tries to get in the way. The Lord has given us the tools we have for this specific time to accomplish the work He asked us to help him with. I plan on doing all that I can to help the Lord with his work. Yes there are many set backs and new things to figure out but with the Lord, all things are possible.”

Thomas Smith Email – March 30, 2020 

Thomas Smith at Mexico MTC“Good morning all of you beautiful people. Elder Smith here is back in Illinois safe and sound after roughly three days of traveling through airports. It’s cool being home, although it is a bit strange. I am still trying to do missionary work, although that definitely doesn’t look the same as I am under quarantine. I’m going to try to keep my Facebook page updated with uplifting messages or something while I’m here.

“If anyone here wants me to teach them about Jesus and the Book of Mormon, feel free to let me know, because I can’t really do much else. That includes people that are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints too. I would love the chance to talk to you guys again and share some sort of message. I’m allowed to do so through video calls.”

I asked Thomas to give me more details on how he is coping as well as any tips he has for other missionaries that have to find and teach people digitally. Once he sends me those, I’ll post them here.

Tips from My Friend Who Works at the MTC

I have been having an email dialog with a friend that works at the MTC and he had some good thoughts I wanted to share. First, he said to remember that regular mission rules are still in effect for missionaries in quarantine, unless their mission president has given specific exceptions. Missionaries should still follow their prescribed daily schedule, except, of course, the part that says to leave the apartment at a specific time. Here are some of his ideas for missionaries to productively pass the time:

  • Hold relevant virtual meetings with ward specialists like the emergency preparedness leader(s)
  • Have online meetings with the ward members, and encourage them to invite their friends, on topics such as what the scriptures teach about the days before The Second Coming of Christ
  • Find a psychologist to give a 30 minute presentation on how to be mentally healthy while quarantined–invite members to join the presentation and ask them to invite friends
  • Invite a financial planner to give an online seminar on budgeting–invite members and ask them to invite friends
  • Create and post positive memes on social media
  • Post videos of your testimony or other appropriate gospel subjects
  • Paint a picture of your favorite gospel story or create another appropriate art or craft project
  • Sew or crotchet ties, dresses, or other such items

My (Jimmy’s) Ideas for Missionaries Having to Work Digitally

Last but not least, here are my ideas:

Be Active on Social Media: If you haven’t done so, start by making sure your Facebook/Instagram profile makes it clear that you are a missionary for the Church. I would then recommend trying to post helpful, interesting, and engaging things, gospel related or service oriented. As appropriate I would invite people to learn more about the gospel through impromptu video chats and set video conferencing appointments. You may also want to try to find locally based Facebook groups to join–your ward and stake groups, if they exist, but also neighborhood or city based groups. Perhaps also follow local community organizations and participate in conversions as appropriate.

Participate in Local Newspaper and Community Websites: Look online for local community based websites, perhaps the local newspaper, and get involved on that website if it allows comments. Search for articles related to faith or serving our fellow man and make comments and engage in the online conversation. Submit letters to the editor, if possible, and find other ways to contribute user generated content that the local news site accepts.

Contribute to Mormon Wiki. The Mormon Wiki is a Wikipedia-like site sponsored by a faithful group called the More Good Foundation with content all about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Add content and sources to the articles on the Mormon Wiki. Online research to find those sources would likely be required, but that’s something right up the alley of many young missionaries.

Write on a Personal Website or Blog. If you have a website or blog, write articles about your mission, your testimony, and other gospel subjects. Use the platform to share what you are learning in your daily scripture study and, of course, amplify the distribution of those articles by sharing them on social media.

Conduct Open Webinars for Missionary Lesson 1. Usually, the missionary lessons are taught to one investigator or one family, but I don’t think there is any reason not to set a time to teach the first lesson online and invite as many people as want to attend. You can advertise the virtual lesson on social media and you can encourage members of your ward to attend and invite their friends to watch and learn. If a large number of people attend, you might need to take steps to keep viewer participation organized, such as having questions or comments being submitted in writing in the call’s chat box. If you make note of attendees who want to learn more, this could be a great way to generate leads for the missionaries to follow up on with individuals and individual families.

Mission Transfers and the Two-Transfer Mission

sister missionaries on transfer day

When I was a missionary, in the 1990s, “transfer” was primarily a verb or perhaps a noun meaning that act of being transferred from one area to another. For today’s missionaries, however, “transfer” has taken on a whole new meaning and is usually a noun meaning a period of time, generally six weeks, between the transfer events. This shift in primary meaning for the word “transfer” seemed to have happened in the early 2000s (if someone has inside knowledge as to more precise timing, please let me know). In this article, we will discuss mission transfers within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, both the traditional and more modern meaning of the word, as well as the two-transfer mission that has become more common in recent years.

Transfer (Verb): to move from one area to another

Missionaries are assigned to serve in a large geographic area called a mission for two years, for young men, or eighteen months, for young women. The geographic area of the mission is usually very large, consisting of multiple large cities–it could be a whole state in the United States or even a whole country in parts Europe, Central America, or South East Asia. Missionaries are generally transferred ever three or four months to different cities or wards (congregations) within their mission. These cities or wards are referred to as the missionaries’ “area” within their mission.

I’m not totally sure why we do this periodic transferring, but I imagine it is designed to give missionaries a variety of experiences, which could vary from area to area, and it also keeps things new and interesting for the missionaries to keep them engaged in the work. While most missionaries spend a few months in an area before being transferred to a new one, the time frame can vary widely, and I’ve heard of missionaries being in an area only 1 month or for as long as a year.

Transfer (Noun): the period of time between two transfer events

When I was a missionary in Argentina from 1995 to 1997, we had transfers once a month, and since transfers always happened on the same day of the week, this meant that sometimes there would be four weeks between transfers and sometimes five weeks in between. That inconsistency of time between transfers, I presume, is what prompted the Church in the early 2000s to standardize the time between transfers to six weeks. Now, every six weeks, the mission president will transfer missionaries to different areas in the mission and that six-week length of time is now known as a “transfer”, as in a transfer period.

Not every missionary is moved to a different area every time there is a transfer–as stated before, missionaries can stay in an area for three or four transfers some time. And not every transfer event happens at the regular six-week interval. Sometimes, on rare occasions, a non-scheduled special transfer can occur due to situations such as an injury or illness causing a missionary to go home early. The change of missionaries assigned to one area can have a ripple effect in many other areas as the mission president shifts people around.

Mission Rules about Transfers

Missionaries are instructed, per the rules in the Missionary Handbook, to stay with their companion at all times. Obviously, this is not possible if the two missionaries have been transferred to two different areas. In my experience, mission presidents usually only transfer one missionary at a time out of an area, to keep continuity. But still, this can leave a missionary on his or her own for a while without the presence of their companion. In talking about transfers, the missionary handbook says:

“Unless otherwise directed by your mission president, go directly to your new area when you are transferred and meet your new companion without delay. If your companion is transferring but you are staying in the area, make arrangements with your district or zone leader so that you are never alone.” (Missionary Handbook)

How Missionary Transfers are Determined

Since transfers are on a regular schedule, it’s no secret when transfers are coming and missionaries are generally anticipating it, wondering if it will be their time to be transferred to a new area. Missionaries are usually kept in suspense about whether or not they will be transferred until a day or two before the transfer. I suppose this is designed to keep young missionaries busy in their regular schedule of teaching, rather than getting trunky and putting things aside if they were to know too far in advance that they are being transferred.
mission president coordinating transfers
There is no set amount of time for a missionary to be in an area–when the missionary is to come and go from an area depends on the inspiration that the mission president receives. Every six weeks, generally the week before transfers are to happen, the mission president will prayerfully consider the circumstances of missionaries, areas, and the will of the Lord to determine who should be transferred to where. As Elder W. Christopher Waddell of the Seventy reminded us in General Conference:

“Prophets, seers, and revelators assign missionaries under the direction and influence of the Holy Ghost. Inspired mission presidents direct transfers every six weeks and quickly learn that the Lord knows exactly where He wants each missionary to serve.” (The Opportunity of a Lifetime, Oct 2011)

Two-Transfer Missions

A two-transfer mission is a concept I first heard of also in the early 2000s. Since that time, I have heard them mentioned progressively more and more frequently. The November 16, 2018 letter from the First Presidency, in which they announced that service missions would be treated the same as proselytizing missions, mentioned the two-transfer mission, defined it, and explained how it is utilized by the Church.

“When the stake president is unsure if a candidate could serve a proselyting mission, he may discuss with the candidate the possibility of being called to a two-transfer mission, a service mission, or being honorably excused. …A two-transfer mission is a trial proselyting mission. If the trial mission is successful, the missionary may receive a 15-month or 21-month proselyting mission extension to the same or a different mission. If not, the missionary can be reassigned to a service mission.”

As you can see, the two-transfer mission is using the word transfer in reference to the six-week period of time between transfer events. A two-transfer mission is a trial mission that lasts for 12 weeks (2 six-week transfer periods). In recent years, more and more missionaries have been asked to do two-transfer missions , so please know that if this is asked of you that you are not being singled out.

If missionaries, their parents, or priesthood leaders are not sure if a traditional, full-time proselytizing mission is right for the individual, then then Church could ask them to do this two-transfer mission. During this trial period, the mission president will evaluate if he thinks the missionary would perform well in a full mission. If the answer is yes, the missionary will then receive a new call that will extend their mission to two years or eighteen months. If the answer is no, then the missionary will be honorable excused from missionary service or they may choose to serve a church service mission. (see the Church’s page called A Customized Experience)

Conclusion: Memorable Mission Transfers I Had

I have written about my first day in Argentina, including my journey there and traveling to my first area, which basically is a transfer though a unique one since you are transferring from the MTC. I have also written about my first transfer from one area in Argentina to another, so I recommend you reading about both of those memorable transfers. Additionally, I fondly remember one other transfer in Argentina after I had been serving in the Godoy Ward for several months. While there, I had baptized several people include an entire family with the last name of Godoy and a great man named German Arrieta. German and his family, when they heard I was being transferred to another city, quickly but thoroughly arranged a going away party for me. I was very moved by the gesture and was touched in my heart by the fact that German and the others loved me and would miss me.

Going Away Party at German Arrieta Home August 1997

And so it is with mission transfers. You do great work building up the Kingdom of God on earth and meet many people and make wonderful friends but eventually you get transferred away. But those friendships endure and when we all receive our final transfer to the Celestial Kingdom of Heaven, then we will be reunited. Until we meet again, God be with you.

Missionary Phone Calls, Texts, and Video Chats with Family

sister missionaries communicating with family on pday

On February 15, 2019, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made an exciting announcement about the youth full-time missionary program. “Effective immediately, missionaries are authorized to communicate with their families each week on preparation day via text messages, online messaging, phone calls, and video chat in addition to letters and emails.” (That’s from the Missionary Department memo to Church leaders called “Missionaries Communicating with Their Families“.)

In additional to the weekly calls on preparation day (p-day) that are now allowed, missionaries also are encouraged to communicate with their families on special occasions such as their parents’ birthdays and other holidays of significance in the missionary’s home country or culture (like Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.). It should also be noted that missionaries are still encouraged to write letters or emails to their family and friends to share their spiritual experiences and to have a good written record of the mission.

Prior to this announcement, and as long as I can remember, young missionaries had been only allowed two phone calls home per year, once on Mother’s Day and once on Christmas. This mission rule was designed to help missionaries stay focused on their job of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, and there were other practical reasons for the rule. When I went on my mission to Argentina, which was only about 20 years ago, long distance phone calls would cost an arm and a leg, making the cost of calling home very often prohibitive. Nowadays, however, phone calls, even international ones, are relatively inexpensive and video chats can often take place at no charge. I suspect this change in communication technology and costs is one of the reasons for the policy change.

Included in the announcement from the Church on this topic, they released a video of Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf explaining some of the reasons why the Church has made this change. He lists the following as an explanation of why Church leadership has instituted these new mission communication rules and the benefits we can all expect to see:

  • Missionaries love their families want to share their experiences with people back home.
  • Families want to hear what their missionaries are doing.
  • Part of the joy of missionary work is sharing what you do with your loved ones.
  • The Church hopes that a closer connection between missionaries and their families will stem from this.
  • Both missionaries and families should feel more comfortable with the situation of youth being away from home for two years or 18 months.
  • Missionaries will more motivate than even to go out and serve the lord with even brighter heart and a more joyful countenance.

Here are a few other important things to remember from the communication from the Church on this topic:

  • The missionary needs to be the one who initiates the phone call, text, or video chat.
  • The call and chats are meant to take place on the missionary’s preparation day (p-day).
  • If the family has a need to contact their missionary directly, they should contact the mission president first.
  • If a missionary’s parents live in two different locations, the missionary may contact each parent separately.
  • It is not expected that missionaries will call or video chat with their parents every week.
  • Missionaries should be wise in determining the duration of phone calls and video chats, be considerate of their companions and keep in mind the purpose of their service, to invite people to follow Jesus Christ.

I personally feel that this is a positive move. I believe missionaries will now be able to get an extra boost of comfort and reassurance from their families that will help them serve with more confidence, energy, and enthusiasm. In the next few years my children will be old enough to serve missions and our family, particularly my wife, will be greatly comforted to know that she’ll be able to talk to her children once a week, hear their voice, and receive extra reassurance that they are well and that they are doing great work to build the kingdom of God.

Missionary Letters to Home that IMPACTS Others

young woman writing letterWhen I went on my mission to Rosario, Argentina in 1995, several times before I left my mom and dad gave me strict instructions to write a thoughtful letter home each and every week. They, of course, wanted me to send the details of my experiences, the work I was doing, and the people I was teaching. They also promised to keep all the letters I sent home which would form a wonderful journal of the happenings of my mission and how I grew in faith and testimony by sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.

True to form, I wrote by hand wrote a one- to two-page letter home each week, and my parents saved each one. When I returned home two years letter, they presented me with a binder containing my letters home and that record has proven very valuable to me. It has served to jog my memory on the personal mission stories and events I’ve discussed on this website. I think the advice to write a good letter home each week was one of the best pieces of advice my parents gave to me, and now I am passing it along to you, the audience of this website.

Missionary letters home are not just a good way to document the happenings of your mission, these letters are an opportunity to build the faith and testimony of family and friends back home. The influence you could have on those people could be just as powerful as the influence you will have on the members and investigators you interact with in your mission field. As you bear your testimony of the work of the Lord in your letters or now more likely, emails, to parents, family, and friends, their faith with grow and their testimonies will be strengthened.

What Makes a Good Letter to Home?

What distinguishes a good letter home from a poor one, and what advice can I give the youth to help them write a good weekly letter home? In contemplating the answers to these questions, I developed an acronym that consolidates my advice in an easy to remember mnemonic device. Remember that good letters home IMPACTS you and your family and friends in a positive and eternal way. IMPACTS is an acronym and is designed to remind to include the following in your letters or emails home:

  • Investigators. In your letters or emails home, share news and stories about the people you are teaching the restored gospel. You should respect the privacy of those about whom you write, so be careful about what you say, and perhaps you should not use their complete name, but the very essence of missionary work is the love we have for the people we teach. So talk about the people you are teaching. And when your family and friends back home hear about these people, your love for them and for the work will shine through.
  • Members. Tell about the members of the in the ward/stake/branch among whom you are serving. Many missionaries around the world have a hard time finding people to teach, but members of the Church are around almost all missionaries, sharing in the work. Talk about the members you are visiting and what you admire about them. Talk about the members, and sometimes investigators as well, who are feeding you dinner. Share your gratitude for this service that most missionaries receive, and talk about other experiences you are having with the local members of the Church.
  • Pictures. A picture says a thousand words, so remember to send home photos. Sending pictures is meaningful way to let your family and friends know you are doing well, which is why learning to take and send digital photos via email is something included on the checklist of skills to have before your mission. Don’t get too distracted taking pictures on your mission, but pictures of the members and investigators that you’re working with, and photos of the your area and companions will make for excellent keepsakes the rest of your life. When you do you weekly service projects, this is another great opportunity to take pictures to send home.
  • Authentic. Be authentic in your letters and emails by sharing the good and the bad, the hardships and the triumphs. Sincere writing is one way for you to better understand yourself, and the act of writing helps bring personal revelation. Regular, honest, introspective writing will be uplifting, and it will help you see God’s blessings in your life and the Lord’s hand in helping you endure and overcome trials. Life is full of ups and downs, and the mission is no different. In life and on your mission, acknowledge the hard things but try not to dwell on them too much.
  • Companion. Tell about your companion and the things you are learning from him or her. Many missionaries will make friendships with their mission companions that will last a lifetime. Occasionally, you will be glad when your time with a certain companion is over. Whichever the case may be, you can learn a lot from your companion, so make note of the things you like about him or her, and perhaps just make mental notes of the things you don’t like, so you can be sure not to emulate those undesirable qualities.
  • Testimony. Perhaps most importantly, use your letters or emails home to share your spiritual experiences and tell how your faith and testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ is growing. Talk about what you are learning in your personal scripture study. Talk about the miracles you’ve seen in your life and the lives of others. Bear your testimony to your family and friends just like you should also do in the missionary lessons you teach.
  • Stories. Stories applies to all the other elements. Whether you are writing about investigators or members, bearing testimony or writing about other topics, share stories that relate significant or inspiring experiences. Try to think of stories that will help the people back home who are reading your letters and emails. Writing with a purpose to help others will often lead to new insights and inspiration that you can share. Stories are an effective communication tool because people remember stories and are more likely to apply the lessons they teach. Jesus, as you know, often taught through stories we call parables.

What the Missionary Handbook Says about Writing Home

Perhaps it goes without saying, but of course, follow the instructions provided by the First Presidency of the Church regarding letter writing as outlined in the Missionary Handbook of rules:

  • “Write to your family each week on preparation day. Limit correspondence with others. Share your spiritual experiences.”
  • “Never include anything confidential, sensitive, or negative about the areas where you serve.”
  • “Use e-mail only on preparation day. You may use computers in public places, such as libraries or appropriate businesses that offer Internet access. While using computers, always stay next to your companion so that you can see each other’s monitors. Do not use members’ computers.”
  • “Do not become preoccupied with communicating with family and friends. Except as outlined under ‘Family Members and Friends’, you should communicate with family and friends only on preparation day.”
  • “Avoid slang and inappropriately casual language, even in your apartment with your companion or in letters to your family.”
  • “Do not make negative or offensive comments about political or cultural circumstances, even in letters or e-mails home.”
  • “Do not telephone, write, e-mail, or accept calls or letters from anyone of the opposite sex living within or near mission boundaries.”

Missionary Memories

Former President of the Church Thomas S. Monson said this about writing letters home:

“In many respects, a mission is a family calling. The letters which a missionary sends to Mother and Father are packed with power—spiritual power. They are filled with faith—abiding faith. I’ve always maintained that such letters seem to pass through a heavenly post office before being delivered to home and family. Mother treasures every word. Father fills with pride. The letters are read over and over again—and are never discarded.” (Missionary Memories by Thomas S. Monson)


To all the young people out there, be faithful in writing thoughtful letters or emails home each week. If you’re not sure what to say, think of the IMPACTS acronym and write about Investigators and Members, include Pictures, be Authentic, mention your Companion, include your Testimony, and tell Stories. There will be p-days when the time you have to write a letter will be short, but I promise that if you take the time to write a good letter each week, your parents, family, and friends will be grateful, and you too will be blessed on earth and in eternity for the record you’ve kept of your service to God.

P.S. A note to parents, print out a copy of your missionary’s letters home. I heard a story in Church of a parent who saved all the emails from their son on a mission by keeping them in her email system. Something happened with the email provider and all their emails were destroyed, including those precious communications from their son. I think keeping electronic backups of emails from missionaries is great, but it is also wise to print them out and have a physical backup. 🙂

Sunday Walk at the Temple

Last Sunday, we decided to take our kids on a Sunday walk around the Provo, Utah Temple. Though it was February and the middle of winter, we were having an unseasonably warm day. And with the kids having been cooped up inside most of the winter, a chance for them to get out, run around (as reverently as possible because it was Sunday and we were at the temple), and enjoy the outdoors was just what they needed.

missionaries at provo temple

When we got to the temple, we noticed a large group of missionaries standing around the fountains out front.

missionaries at provo temple

We assumed this was a group of missionaries from the MTC which is across the street from the Provo Temple. They were taking pictures, and we thought maybe they were taking some farewell pictures in anticipation of leaving the MTC for their respective missions. We didn’t want to bother the missionaries, so we started walking around the south side of the temple with our kids. But lo and behold, we ran into even more missionaries!

missionaries at provo temple

This time, we had to ask one of the sister missionaries: “Why are there so many missionaries here at the temple?” She answered: “It’s our Sunday walk.” She explained that all the missionaries at the Provo MTC get an hour on Sunday to go on a walk around the temple grounds. It seemed to be one of the highlights of their week. I guess the MTC president came to the same realization about his missionaries that we came to about our kids: it’s hard to keep them cooped up inside all winter long. It’s good to let them go outside and get their energy out 🙂

Later, we ran into this group of missionaries that will be heading to Brazil soon and asked them to pose for a picture with our kids.

missionaries at provo temple

Overall the missionaries were enjoying themselves, walking around, sitting on the grass, getting some fresh air and sunshine.

missionaries at provo temple

The MTC can be an intense experience, learning gospel principles, learning a new language, learning teaching methods, etc. We didn’t get Sunday walks when I was a missionary in the MTC (nearly 20 years ago), and I’m not sure all MTCs across the world have this in their schedule, but I’m glad they give the missionaries at the Provo MTC have this Sunday afternoon break.

All of the missionaries we met were anxious to wrap up their time at the MTC and get out into the mission field, finding, teaching, and baptizing the elect of God. As I told the ones we met that day, we pray for the missionaries each day, and hope they are safe and successful in preaching the gospel and bringing souls unto Christ.

My First Transfer

smith loesener transfer from parana gazano 1996

In April of 1996, after three months in my first mission area (Gazano Branch, city of Paraná, Argentina), I received my first transfer to another area when I was asked to go to the city of Santa Fe. I was transferred to the Rural Ward of the Santa Fe Stake. Paraná had been great, we worked hard, and we baptized two families. Most of this success, of course goes to the Lord, and to my great first companion and trainer, Elder Loesener. The night before I left the area, we were out until 10:25pm teaching what was, according to my journal, “the best first discussion we ever gave.” The man was very receptive to the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. After we finished, we had to run back to our apartment and jump right in bed to meet our 10:30pm bedtime schedule. And if I recall correctly, I think we made it.

The next morning, I got up at dawn and headed to the bus station. Santa Fe is about a 45 minute bus ride from Paraná. I was very nervous about being on my own, buying a ticket, and getting myself to my new area. At the bus station, I went to three different windows before I found the right place to buy a ticket. Then, for fear that I would miss the announcement for my bus departure, I sat myself down by the us and watched the bus like a hawk (for about an hour) until it was time to board. Soon the bus left, and luckily, I was on board. Then in Santa Fe, I got a taxi and made it smoothly to my new area.

elder pinto and smith santa fe take 1

Our landlord took this photo of Elder Pinto and I. This was in the day of film cameras, so I couldn’t see the photo right away. But I highly suspected one or both of us were cut out of the shot.

My new companion was Elder Pinto from the city of Mendoza, Argentina. Elder Pinto, unlike my first companion, didn’t speak any English. My Spanish was still pretty weak at this point, so it was a tough few weeks we had together.

The Hot Dog Story

On my first day with Elder Pinto in the city of Santa Fe, it was lunch time and we didn’t have a lunch appointment with a member family, per the norm, so we went to a little corner store together. Elder Pinto bought hot dogs and I bought some crackers and cookies, among other things. When we got back to our apartment, Elder Pinto cooked up one of the hot dogs and offered it to me. I politely declined because I really do not like hot dogs (ok, they completely disgust me). It was then that Elder Pinto admitted that he didn’t like hot dogs either. He thought all Americans liked hot dogs, and since we were not communicating very well, he wanted to be nice and buy something for me that I would like. We got a good laugh out of that one, as we sat there in our apartment, with a big package of hot dogs that neither one of us wanted to eat.

elder pinto and smith santa fe take 2

Suspecting that the first photo turn out, I took this one of Elder Pinto and myself as a backup.

The Rural ward in Santa Fe was big, averaging well over 100 people per week in sacrament meeting, and they also had a nice, large, Church-owned building to meet in. This was a huge contrast to my first mission area where I was in a small branch, with about 25 people attending per week, and meeting in a small rented home. Another major difference was that my first area was on the outskirts of the city and had many middle-class neighborhoods and dirt roads. My new area was much more urban, with tall buildings, apartments, and also some very poverty-stricken, run-down neighborhoods.

Language Learning

Elder Pinto and I were only together for one month before he was transferred to another area. He was a great companion, but it was difficult not being able to speak English to him or anyone else for a whole month. During that time, I can remember dreaming through the night in English, only to wake up and realize that I had to speak Spanish all day. For a newby like me, this was a major effort and the thought of having to speak Spanish all day long was daunting.  But I made it through, and this probably helped my Spanish language abilities tremendously.

Language learning is an important skill for Mormon missionaries who have been called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in a language that is new to them. Below are some additional articles I have written on that subject:

Pouch Mail System

Missionaries love to get mail, but even when us family and friends back home remember to send them cards and packages, it can be expensive and unreliable to get them to the recipients who can be serving in some of the farthest reaching parts of the globe. For many missionaries, the “pouch” mail system of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides and affordable and reliable alternative for sending a simple letter to a missionary.

What is the Pouch Mail System?

pouch mail tri-fold letterIn about 38 countries, effecting approximately one-third of full-time missionaries worldwide, local postal systems are often unreliable. To help get letters to the missionaries, the Church provides a mail service known as the “pouch,” wherein family and friends send their letters to Salt Lake City where they are then forwarded to mission headquarters around the world. The Church mail room staff sorts the letters into packets for each of the missions on the pouch the service and then ships the bundle of letters using a reliable global carrier directly to the mission homes. The pouch system isn’t fast, it can often take several weeks for a letter to arrive, but it has proven to be a reliable way for missionaries to get their mail.

Pouch Guidelines

Your mission call packet will tell you if your mission is on the pouch system or not, and if so, it will provide detailed instructions on how to use it. In order for the pouch system to work, the letters sent through it must comply with several guidelines. Laws in each country are different, but most have regulations and taxes that apply to these types of postal items. The Church must comply with these regulations or they will not be able to continue the pouch service, therefore they have developed the following guidelines.

  • You can send two kinds of letter through the pouch: either a postcard or a letter on one side of a single sheet of paper. These are the only types of correspondence the pouch mail service will accept. The service does not accept envelopes or packages.
  • If you are using a piece of paper, the sheet should be folded into three parts, as is commonly done to insert a letter into a business envelope. The top edge of the sheet should be fastened with tape on the top edge only, no closer than one inch to either side. They recommend a single 8 1/2-inch x 11-inch sheet of 20-pound paper (the equivalent of paper used in most copiers).
  • Write your return address in the top left corner. Apply a US postage stamp to the top right corner of the tri-folded paper or post card, and mail it to Church headquarters at this address, printed in the middle:

Name of the missionary
Mission name
P.O. Box 30150
Salt Lake City, UT 84130-0150

For more information, read this Church News article on Pouch Service Regulations, or, if you have received your mission call, check the instructions in your mission call packet.

See the related article on care packages for missionaries.

The Worth of Soles – Shoe and Foot Care 101

Our Grandma Dot used to tell us there are two things worth spending the money in your life for good health: a good mattress and good shoes! That advice holds up today. This is one area where missionaries should not scrimp. Do the research and spend the extra money to get good shoes.

Shoe and Foot CareHere are our tips for good foot health. These are universal for elders and sisters.

• Keep your feet clean. Take a minute as part of your nightly routine to wash your feet. It may even help to apply foot lotion or anti-fungal cream after and let your feet rest. If you are struggling with a foot fungus, try to keep your feet clean and dry. It can also help to use a foot powder during the day to absorb moisture and prevent infection.

• Keep your nails trimmed properly. Learn how to cut your toenails to prevent painful ingrown toenails, and make sure your shoes are a good fit. When trimming toenails, trim straight across and not down into the sides. If you feel an ingrown toenail coming on, take care of it sooner rather than later. Ingrown nails can get infected or may require surgery if neglected.

• Wear some sort of barrier between your shoes and your feet. Wear a sock that wicks away moisture and allows your foot to breathe. Make sure to wear clean socks everyday. We have some excellent socks that have a double padded bottom and mesh top that are very breathable, durable, and help feet stay healthy.

For sisters, going without some sort of sock is the cardinal sin of foot care! It thrashes your shoes to wear them without a sock liner, and creates an environment where foot infections will flourish. Invest in “no-show” socks, and make it a point to never wear your shoes without another layer in between.

• Invest in some shower sandals to be worn around the apartment. Missionary apartments and showers are notorious for the spreading of foot fungi. Keep your shower sandals clean. They will protect your feet from infection that could spread from your companions. Choose shower sandals that are not a flip-flop style, but that have just the band around the front of the foot so you can wear them with your socks as you walk around your mission apartment. This helps your socks last longer. Also, choose a sandal that doesn’t have fabric on it. The fabric or webbing will stay wet, and culture microorganisms. It also means you couldn’t wear them in the apartment with your socks after you shower because they wouldn’t be dry.

• Don’t go for Fashion Grade shoes over Mission Grade. Obviously this is more of a problem for sisters than elders. We see it all the time where sisters choose “cute” over “practical.” The good news is that we have worked hard to carry shoes that are somewhat “cute” as well as Mission Grade. No matter how “cute” they are, if the shoes can’t let you walk great distances comfortably or be on your feet long hours, they are worthless to missionary work.

• Wear the correct size of shoe. Take time to have your foot properly fit in a good shoe. You can sustain serious foot conditions and injuries if you aren’t wearing the correct size, not to mention the discomfort after being on your feet all day long. A shoe that is too big can injure you with a rolled ankle, or cause you to trip and injure your hip, back, or knee. A shoe that is too small can cause painful ingrown toenails. Recent studies have shown that if your shoes are too flat, it can contribute to bunions or plantar faciitis—two
painful and uncomfortable foot conditions that can be avoided or remedied by wearing properly fit shoes. A little support in a shoe goes a long way. Look for a shoe that carries the American Podiatric Medical Association seal of approval. They have a certification process to determine if a shoe is good for foot health, and they will label them as such (see for more information and a list of approved shoes).

Tract Shoes - Missionary MormonAdDansko brand shoes carry this certification, and we carry a full line of their approved shoes for women, and their APMA approved shoes for men. Here are our suggestion for shoe care. They will ensure that your shoes serve you well.

• Clean your shoes regularly inside and out. Before you polish your shoes, clean them off with a soft, damp cloth. If your shoes have removeable insoles, take them out and clean them. This will cut down on the microbial growth in your shoes. If the insole wears out, replace it. Often, the shoe is not worn through, it is only the insole. Replacements are not too expensive or hard to find, and they will prolong the life of your shoe.

• Keep the leather of your shoes supple and cared for. Shoes are made of skin and skin will dry and crack if it isn’t moisturized and cared for. The same happens to your shoes. Begin with a leather conditioner that you apply regularly to your shoes, and then polish them at least a couple of times a month. The leather cream/conditioner is like the moisturizer, and the shoe polish is like the “make-up” that makes them look nice. Regularly doing this helps the shoes to be more resistant to water. If you are serving in a very wet climate, regularly apply a waterproofing agent to your shoes. Using a cedar shoe tree also helps remove moisture from the inside of your shoes.

• Rotate your shoes daily. Rotating allows your shoes to recover from the wear and tear of the day before you put them to the task again. Your feet sweat an average of 1 cup of moisture a day. Rotating gives shoes time to dry out, and that helps inhibit microbial infections. It also allows the polyurethane or rubber in the sole to relax a day and rebound. If you find you prefer one pair of shoes over another, take two of the same style. If you aren’t going to wear one of the styles because you don’t like as well, you will wear out one pair by wearing it all the time and not giving it time to rest. In our stores, we suggest taking two pair of the same shoes for this very reason.

• Take time to properly take your shoes on and off. Most of the damage to shoes that we see happens when the are put on and off. If you are going to invest in good shoes, take the time to properly treat them. If wearing a slip-on shoe, don’t just mash your foot into the shoe. Use a shoehorn! If wearing a lace-up shoe, again, don’t mash your foot into it. Don’t treat it as a slipon. If you want a slip-on, buy a slip-on. Unlace your lace-ups to remove them, and unlace them before putting them on again. Also, taking time to reach down and remove your shoes with your hand rather than kicking them off with your feet. This protects the heel collar from breaking down. For sisters, if you are going to take a mary jane style shoe with a buckle, take time to unbuckle them. You will save the elastic behind the buckle and prolong the life of your shoe.

• Pray on your knees without bending your toes in your shoes, or pray without shoes on at home. While at home, if you are going to pray on your knees, don’t wear your shoes. If you must wear your shoes to pray, lay your feet flat underneath you instead of bending up on your toes. This prevents your shoe soles from snapping or cracking right at the ball of your foot. It is easier to buff out scratches on the toes of your shoes than it is to replace the sole.

• If you weigh more than 200 lbs, and serving foreign, it is a good idea to take more than two pairs of shoes. Even with the 2-year wearproof guarantee for elders, shipping charges and duties can easily exceed the cost of a third pair of shoes.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamshirt – Laundry Tips and Tricks

[colored_box color=”blue”]Editor’s Note:  This is a guest post by Jon and Jenni Theobald, founders of MissionaryMall and Sister Missionary Mall. We welcome them and encourage you to check out their website. [/colored_box]

At the far end of the MTC laundry room, there is a bin of shame. A bin filled with pink and periwinkle dress shirts, and shirts polka dotted with ink from the pens of distracted missionaries. These missionaries who ruin their shirts must now sheepishly write home that they need more shirts. Don’t be that elder, Elder!

Amazing Technicolor Dreamshirt - Laundry Tips and Tricks

Clothing care is one of the most important skills that you will need to be successful as a missionary. Too often, missionaries learn these things on their mission—when they should have learned them before you came out. These skills will serve you well for the rest of your life. As part of your mission prep, go spend some time with your mother learning to wash clothes. She will love the company, and you will love that you know what to do when you are in the field away from your favorite laundress!

To this end, here are some laundry tips and tricks that will help you look like a missionary for the whole two years of your mission.

General Basics

Sort your laundry by color and fabric content. Usually you will have one dark batch and one light batch. For sisters, you may even have a colored batch of light colors. However, beware of reds! They must almost always be washed alone unless you know for certain that they are colorfast. Make sure to wash like colors together. Also, be aware of the fabric content of the clothing. Some fabrics are to be washed in different temperature water than others. The typical elder wash loads usually go something like this: 1 batch darks that have washable dress slacks, socks, and sweaters (and maybe a washable tie or two if needed), 1 batch whites that has shirts, garments etc., and 1 batch towels and sheets that can be bleached to be disinfected. Also, don’t forget to wash your laundry bag with your clothes! Sisters laundry could also include a colored batch.

Use chlorine bleach only for disinfecting, not for brightening your clothes. Chlorine bleach will disinfect your clothing, but do not use it to brighten your whites. It actually takes the coloring out of your clothing. Unbeknownst to most people, plain cotton is not white. It is gray. It is dyed white. So, when you bleach your white garments, and white shirts, and they begin to turn gray, it is actually because you are taking the coloring out of them. A better alternative would be a “color safe” bleach, which disinfects and brightens with a little bit of bluing in the mixture (which is why the liquid is blue…) If you are serving in the US, oxygenated whitening products (think Oxy CleanTM) are a great alternative too.

Realize that you don’t have to put everything in the dryer. This applies more to sisters. Any article of clothing with a high content of polyester will come out of a good washing machine practically dry. You can save yourself some ironing by pulling these items out of the dryer and hanging them to dry. It also cuts down on the wear and tear of the item so that it looks new longer.

Take shirts right out of the dryer and hang them up immediately. By hanging up your shirts hot from the dryer, you can cut down on what you need to iron. Often you can do some finger pressing while the shirt is still warm, and it will keep its wrinkle free appearance. The same goes for washable dress slacks. Learn how to hang them properly, and you will find that they look nice without a lot of fuss. On the flip side, if you leave things to cool in the dryer, they will wrinkle pretty bad. Make sure you take them right out.

Handwashing is not as hard as it sounds. If you are serving in an area where there are no washing machines or laundromats (such as a foreign land) you may be faced with handwashing. The easiest way to manage handwashing is to start by cutting down the amount of handwashing you need to do by washing your garments when you shower daily. Keep a block of laundry soap in the shower, and when you step in, wash your garments during your shower. After you get out, hang them to dry. This will make your laundry load much less on P-day when you go to wash the rest of your clothing. Also, make sure not to let things soak together that are not like colors.

Fabric softener is your friend. Stateside, you can opt to use liquid softener, or dryer sheets. They both will do a nice job of keeping your clothing from static electricity. However, overseas there is an even bigger reason. Almost everywhere else in the world they do not use dryers like we do. So, when you hang your clothing to dry, it is stiff when you take it off the clothesline. The way to fix this is to use fabric softener. They usually only have the liquid. It only takes a little bit too. Put some water in bucket, add the fabric
softener, and after you have rinsed your clothing, wring it out and dip it in the fabric softener water mixture. Wring it out again, and hang it up. When it is dry, it will be softer.

[colored_box color=”red”]Tip: Don’t use fabric softener with any microfiber towels or blankets. It will coat the towel and make it less absorbent.[/colored_box]

If something says “dry clean only” how do I know if I can wash it? Manufacturers that sell in the US are required by law to include a care label on the clothing  they produce. The care label usually refers to the “best result” of how to care for the clothing. However, many things that are labeled as “dry clean only” can be gently hand washed or washed on gentle in the machine.

Often they are labeled for dry cleaning not because they can’t get wet or be laundered with detergent, but because the twisting and friction of machine washing is very hard on clothing and can ruin the fibers of the garment and the shape. So, the garment gets a “dry clean only” tag because the process is much more gentle.

A general rule of thumb is to look at the fiber content to see if the fiber in the garment is washable. A good example of this is that we carried a blouse that was 100% polyester crepe de chine. The tag said “dry clean only”, but we had a similar blouse from a different manufacturer made from the same fabric and it said “machine wash cold with like colors.” We  tested both, and they both did fine being washed.

White Shirt Specifics

For elders, white shirts make up the bulk of your weekly P-day laundry. The biggest trick with white shirts is keeping them white! First things first, don’t be lost in thought while loading that wash basin or washing machine. Pay attention! Make sure to remove pens, crayons, scripture markers, colored paper, gum, food, etc. Please don’t wash white shirts with dark colors, especially red. Remember, the 2-year guarantee will protect you from fires, dogs, bike wrecks, wear, tear, floods, etc. but it won’t protect you from “duh.” Many missionaries like to write their names in their clothing. That is smart, but what isn’t smart is to write your name in every single article of clothing before trying it on. We can’t take shirts back that have names in them simply because there is only one Elder Rupert Pasaquah Methuselah Rinkenhofferworth. While that is a name to be proud of, no one else wants it in their shirt.

Yellowing of the underarms is one of the biggest challenges for elders. The culprit is usually antiperspirant deodorant. The aluminum in the deodorant mixes with salt in the perspiration to create yellow stains. There are a few ways to minimize this from the source—get a deodorant with less aluminum, and allow the deodorant to dry before getting dressed, or dry the deodorant with a talc like Gold Bond(TM) before getting dressed. That will cut down on the yellow caking that happens in the shirts.

A missionary’s first instinct when seeing yellowing is to hit it full force with the bleach, but not so fast. Bleach can actually cause the problem to get worse by removing the white dye from the fabric! Our top pick is Oxyclean (TM), but if you don’t have access to that, one of the best laundry boosters available anywhere in the world is the “1-1-1.” One part baking soda, one part hydrogen peroxide, and one part water (about a quarter cup of each for each shirt). Apply to the stains and let sit for about 30 minutes. You can also use an old toothbrush to scrub at it a bit, then just wash as usual. Another alternative is to soak the underarms of the shirt in white vinegar.
Use a gentle brush (a nailbrush will do) to scrub the area with a quality laundry detergent and then rinse. It should help minimize or remove the yellow.

A few other tips for white shirts:

  • Wash them as soon as possible after getting a stain.
  • Don’t let damp shirts sit in a bag or other unventilated laundry hamper—in some climates they will mold and black mold stains are nearly impossible to remove.
  • Dryers set stains, so if possible, hang your clothing in the sun to dry.
  • Turns out that the brightest whites have a slightly blue hue to them. White fabrics with a blue hue (why are you crying?) actually reflect more light. See Mrs. Stewart’s Liquid Bluing.

Suits and Dress Pants

A suit or dress pant with a good Polyester/Wool blend will be fairly easy to take care of. Wool is somewhat self cleaning as a natural fiber and has natural antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. What this means for you is that your wool-blend clothing won’t require a lot of washing. You can gently spot clean it if you get something on it, but it shouldn’t need much washing. In some missions it is only required to wear suits during the winter, but most never need to dry clean their suits. The layer under the suit (garments or thermals) helps absorb perspiration and oils from the skin. If your suit gets muddy, wait for the mud to dry and then brush it off. If they get wet in the rain, just let them dry out for a few days before wearing them again.

There may be an occasion when you will need to clean your suit jacket. As hard as we have tried, we have never successfully developed a washable jacket. Suit jackets are complex, so getting the lining, fusing, and shell to all expand and contract at the same rate for washing and drying is almost impossible.

For suit pants, they can tolerate a little bit of hand washing with a gentle detergent or machine wash on the gentle cycle. The biggest concern with suit pants is that they will no longer match the suit jacket if washed frequently, so wash suit pants sparingly. For dress pants that don’t need to match a suit jacket, wash as often as you would like. Our poly wool dress pants are rated up to 100 industrial washings, so wash to your heart’s content.

I would suggest though that you make life easy and never put suits or dress pants in the dryer. It is so much easier to hang to dry by the hems of the pant. Again, this isn’t really a “wearout” issue, but pants lose their crease and ironing them correctly is a pain. If you do need to iron wool blend pants, grab a light weight dish towel, get it damp, and then lay it over the pants you want to press. Not only does it add steam, but it protects the fabric from getting shiny.


The word here is polyester. The super-fine modern polyester weaving techniques mean that unless you light the tie on fire, a nice polyester or microfiber tie is indistinguishable from silk. (silk burns and polyester melts, and no, the guarantee does not cover clothing that you purposefully set ablaze, though we do get a kick out of the pictures.) Polyester also won’t bleed onto your shirt in a downpour and since it is basically plastic, it won’t stain easily. If you purchase a polyester tie that also has a polyester core, you can also machine or hand wash your ties. Again, the dryer is not your friend here. Hang to dry and don’t wash them with your shirts.


Wash your socks with your darks and they are fairly indestructible. I would make one suggestion though, get only black and all the same style. The sock fairy (your dear, sainted mother) is not coming with you, so if you do this, you’ll save a ton of time mating your socks.


For Elders, we suggest take acrylic sweaters. Acrylic is a synthetic fiber made to mimic wool. They are just about as warm as wool, but a whole lot easier to care for. Plus they don’t pill onto your shirt or bleed onto your shirt if they get wet, and best of all they don’t shrink.

It is about at this point that we suggest you write a letter to your sweet mother. As you realize here all that goes in to taking care of your things, you should feel inclined to writing her a nice 5-6 page letter of gratitude for all of the work she has put in to making you look nice all these years.

My First Day in the Mission Field

Note to my good friends in Argentina: Many of my initial reactions to life in Argentina were completely changed after living there. In this post, though, I tried to capture some of my first reactions, as misguided as they may have been. I love Argentina and the people there and look forward to visiting again some day soon.

map of trip to argentinaI left the MTC in Provo Utah on December 26, 1995. I flew from Salt Lake City to San Francisco en route to Miami, FL. I remember waiting in the airport in Miami, a city with many Spanish speakers, and hearing the announcements for departing flights made in both English and Spanish. I hardly understood anything when they made the Spanish announcements. I sincerely hoped my lack of understanding was due to the poor quality PA system, but honestly I knew my Spanish language skills were pretty weak and it made me very nervous.

From Miami, me and a few other missionaries took a 13 hour flight to Buenos Aires. When I stepped off the plan in Buenos Aires I was astounded by the heat and humidity, and also by the uniformed and armed military personnel standing at the end of the jetway. All of us of missionaries gathered together and none of us knew what to do next. Luckily, a local member of the Church showed up to greet us and help us get our luggage. We sincerely appreciated the assistance. We piled in to a van, and this wonderful helper took us to another, smaller airport. As we waited in this airport, I had to go to the bathroom, and when I went inside I found a toilet and a bidet but no toilet paper. I don’t recall what I did, but I guess I figured something out. Soon we got onto another plane, a small, propellered one, which took us to the city of Rosario.

At the Rosario airport, we were greeted by two missionaries, who were the Assistants to the Mission President. They took us to the mission home, which housed the mission president’s family and also served as the central office for the mission. There we had a meal with the mission president’s family, then a group meeting, and then individual meetings with the president. In the group meeting, the president’s wife spoke about sanitation, being careful of water and washing vegetables thoroughly. I was very concerned about contracting a parasite and her talk actually set my mind at ease somewhat. Still, I was wary of the water. For more detail about my first meeting with my mission president, see this post about arriving in your mission and this post about preparation day.

After a couple of hours at the mission home, the assistants took us to the bus station to catch a bus to our respective areas. I remember being amazed at the assistant’s skill with the Spanish language and the confidence with which they spoke to the bus driver. I longed for the day I could speak Spanish that well (read more on my experience learning a language here). With some trepidation, I boarded the bus and prayed fervently that I would make it to the right city, Paraná, where I had been assigned to work.

Mormon Missionaries in Paraná Argentina 1995I arrived in Paraná late in the evening. Once again I was extremely blessed to be greeted at the bus station by two Elders, the Zone Leaders. They helped me get my suitcases, and then we took a taxi to the apartment where my companion was supposed to be waiting for me. As it turned out, my companion wasn’t expecting me, because he already had a companion. None of us knew it until that moment, but we had been made into a three-person companionship.

The Elders in the apartment were kind and helped me get settled. There wasn’t a third bed in the apartment, so one of them, an American named Elder Ballou, volunteered to sleep on the floor. I was tired from the traveling, yet I still had a restless nights sleep. In the morning, I showered, studied the scriptures, and had breakfast much like I would every other morning in my mission. I was amazed at the electrical device hooked up directly to the shower head to provide hot water (read this post on what to expect in Argentina for more info on the calefón, the common shower water heating device). I counted myself blessed for not being electrocuted. I was pleasantly surprised to find a refrigerator in the apartment, though this turned out to be a luxury I had in only about half of my missionary apartments.

As we went out to work that morning, I followed the other Elders diligently. We walked many dusty roads that day, and I had some difficulty keeping up with the fast pace. We stopped by a few members houses and they each offered us something to drink. Whether it was justified or not, I still had a real fear to drink the beverages offered to us by the members. One of the first places we stopped at, the members offered us some “jugo” (juice). I didn’t want to offend them by not taking it, so I drank it and found it to be significantly watered down flavored drink mix. I didn’t ask for seconds.

Later in the afternoon, we stopped at another member’s home and they offered us some “agua fria” (cold water). I remember being so excited that I actually understood the offer, and I was thrilled just to get some normal, plain cold water to drink. It was a hot day, and when the sister handed me the cup, I gulped it down right away. Big mistake. As the beverage hit my tongue, I almost spit it out. It was carbonated water. And while it was cold and refreshing, it was not what I was expecting.

At one point late in the afternoon, we stopped at a small neighborhood store (a “kiosko”), and Elder Ballou bought a two liter of lemon-lime soda from. Finally, I thought, something good to drink. I had no fear of this drink because we had been told that bottled drinks from the store were safe. After being out in the hot sun for most of the day with little to drink, this was the best tasting drink I had ever had.

That evening, when we got back to the apartment, the Zone Leaders showed up again, expectantly. They said Elder Ballou was getting transferred to another area and he needed to leave right away. Our trio only lasted for one day. Our companionship was back down to two, per the norm, me and Elder Loesener, a native Argentine who spoke English about as well as I spoke Spanish. I was a little worried at first, but Elder Loesener turned out to be a great companion and trainer. Read more about how Elder Loesener helped me in my post on practical steps for mission prep.

It was a whirlwind of a first day in Argentina and first day as a full-time missionary in the field. All in all, I think it went pretty well. We visited with many wonderful members. I don’t recall teaching any non-member discussions on this first day, but there would be plenty of those in the days and weeks ahead (this city is where we found and baptized the wonderful Almada family). In a relatively short period of time I became more comfortable with the language, the food, the people, and the lifestyle. I grew to love Argentina. I met and shared profound gospel discussions with many great people there, and I was blessed to see many families baptized and enter the gate that leads to eternal life with Heavenly Father. Missionary work truly is the work of the Lord.