This category of articles is about the work performed by full-time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like most of the content on this site, it is a mix of both the spiritual and practical aspects of missionary work.

This Missionary is TOAST–thriving off awkward situations today

sister missionary car stuck in mud
Editor’s note: My niece has been serving a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the past 18 months in Oklahoma, USA, Spanish speaking. She gets home this week and below is one of the last emails she sent home to her family and friends. I thought it was a good representation of mission life and a good example of hard work and persistence in the face of trials so I include it here on this website with her permission.

We were talking to one of the other missionaries the other day and he was saying his motto for his mission is “TOAST” which stands for “thriving off awkward situations today” which I’ve decided to adopt myself. So, drum roll please, get ready for the top 3 TOAST moments of the week:

1. We were out tracting (knocking doors) in the cold on Saturday. We were walking back towards the car and we saw a lady in her garage a house or two down. The little devil on my shoulder says “don’t go talk to her. That’s weird. She won’t want to talk to you anyways. She’ll probably run you off.” The little angel on my other shoulder says “open your mouth and it will be filled! Send it! Con ganas! (with desire or eagerness)” I looked at my companion, Sister Wendt and was like “well, this might be kind of awkward, but let’s go for it!” We walked down her driveway and started talking to her. She was on her way out, so really quick before she got in her car we offered her a Book of Mormon…. and she accepted! She gave us her number and we are going to schedule a time to meet with her!

2. Sister Wendt and I went out to try to contact an investigator the missionaries in this area had taught before. We got to the neighborhood and pulled over for a second so that we could figure out exactly how to get to their house. All of the sudden we hear the engine start straining, and there’s mud flinging everywhere. We didn’t realize it but we pulled over right into a deep muddy ditch, and we got super stuck. We knocked on the closest house, and the lady opens the door and she seriously at least 20 dogs came out. That is not even exaggerating. And they were all barking and yipping and howling. So we’re trying to explain to her what happened and ask for help but it’s impossible to hear because we’re trying to yell over all the racket and at the same time fend off all the dogs that were coming at us.

Finally the lady just told us to try backing out. So we go back to the car, and we try again, but we’re still stuck. At this point another guy and his daughter walk up to us and start trying to dig the car out. As we talked to them, we realized they were the former investigators we were trying to find in the first place! The digging did nothing, so we called a ward member to pull us out and they got us out, thankfully. And we did get to find that former investigator, so it all worked out in the end, and it makes for a good story now, haha. We might need a car wash now though.

3. On Saturday, we decided to watch one of the videos of Jesus’ life with one of the people we had met. In the middle of the video, the husband of the family we were with says, “wait, I just remembered another video I really like” and proceeds to look up on his phone the music video for Ray Stevens – The Mississippi Squirrel Revival. Sister Wendt and I tried to redirect the conversation, but to no avail. So we now can say we have seen the Mississippi Squirrel Revival music video. I still like the videos of Christ’s life better, but to each his own.

Love you all! I know God is watching out for all of you!

Hermana (Sister) Smith

sister smith and wendt - missionaries in oklahoma

Service Missions for Young Missionaries

service missionaries preparing food

Editor’s Note: The article below refers to the Service Mission program for young missionaries and reflects the changes announced by the Church on Nov 16, 2018. For information on Church-Service Missions for older couples and individuals, please click here.

For many years, service missions have been an option for young people who could not serve a full-time proselytizing mission due to physical, mental, or emotional health reasons. And traditionally, the process of receiving a service mission call has been handled separately from proselytizing missions. But that all changed in November 2018 when a First Presidency letter announced that “Beginning on January 2, 2019, all young missionary candidates will use the missionary online recommendation process” regardless of whether they are going on a proselytizing mission or service mission.

What is a Service Mission?

A service mission is when young people spend 6 to 24 months volunteering their services at a charitable organization, Church operations, or other Church-assigned service opportunity. Unlike proselytizing missions, service missionaries do not find, teach and baptize converts to the restored Church of Jesus Christ. Service missionaries live at home during their mission and complete their service at locations nearby, and they serve as close to full time as their capability and circumstances allow.

Who Can Go on a Service Mission?

Service missions are for young men (ages 18 to 25) and young women (ages 19 to 25) who are unable to serve a proselytizing mission for physical, mental, or emotional health reasons. Service missions are also an option when proselyting missionaries return home early due to accident, illness, or other health conditions and have a desire to continue their service. Proselytizing missionaries may be reassigned to a service mission if it is recommended by the missionary’s stake president and approved by the Quorum of the Twelve. The worthiness eligibility requirements for service missionaries are the same as for proselyting missionaries and can be found by clicking here.

Choosing Between a Proselytizing or Service Mission?

Now that the application process is the same for proselytizing missions and service missions, you may be wondering how it will be determined if the missionary goes on a proselytizing or service mission. The First Presidency has stated that the “missionary candidate does not choose which kind of mission he or she will serve.” Rather, “All applicants are considered first for proselyting missions. Young men and women who are unable to be called as proselyting missionaries for physical, mental, or emotional reasons may be called to serve the Lord as service missionaries.”

Service Missions Treated Equally to Proselytizing Missions

Whether the missionary candidate is selected for a proselytizing mission or a service mission, the call will come from the prophet through inspiration from God and you will get a similar call letter and packet. Service missionaries will be invited to speak in sacrament meeting before and after their missions just like proselytizing missionaries, and they will similarly report to the high council upon completion of the mission. A calling as a service missionary will be recorded on the membership record in the same way as a proselytizing mission.

What Do Service Missionaries Do?

Service missions are customized to each applicant’s unique talents and skills, and are designed to meet the needs of each individual. After a young man or young woman has been called to be a service missionary, a customized mission matching the missionary’s capabilities is created by the stake president with the help of the missionary, his or her parents, and the service mission leaders. Service missionaries serve at approved community charitable organizations such as food banks, refugee services, and shelters, or at Church operation centers such as storehouses, canneries, temples, seminaries and institutes, or in other assignments from their local Church leaders.

The schedule is developed by the missionary and the family with input from church leaders. Service missionaries are not given regular proselytizing assignments to find, teach, and baptize converts, though they may have opportunities to go on exchanges with the proselytizing missionaries. Service missionaries often serve with a Church department such as Deseret Industries, Family History, Information Technology (IT), Publishing Services, Facilities Management, Seminaries and Institutes, or Welfare. They can do a variety of tasks such as office support, building maintenance, computer support, special needs assistance, event support, cooking, cleaning, gardening, and so forth.

Other Requirements Unique to Service Missions

Other requirements to serve a service mission are that the candidate, or the family, must be able to financially support the mission, including providing for living expenses and health insurance. In many cases, the parents of service missionaries will need to commit to provide the support needed during the mission, such as following up on each day’s activities, providing transportation as needed, covering medical and auto expenses as needed, and offering loving support. Like all missionaries, service missionaries must have a strong desire to serve and show that they are willing and able to fulfill the assignment they are given.


I think the changes announced in November 2018 are a very positive development and should help remove the cultural stigma that has sometimes existed around service missions. Though these service mission assignments may largely center around temporal work, they can and should be a spiritually uplifting experience. The Lord declared, “If ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work” (D&C 4:3) and for those that labor diligently, regardless of the type of service, you will receive great blessings, including the blessings of eternal salvation. “To serve the Lord as a missionary is a glorious, sacred privilege that brings eternal blessings to the individual and those he or she serves.” (First Presidency letter)

For more official information from the Church on Service Missions, please visit

Don’t Be a Trunky Missionary, Endure to the End

I was recently reading in my missionary journal about my last week in Rosario Argentina back in November 1997. I thought I’d share some of the events of that week, and (hopefully I’m not boasting here) talk about how I worked diligently until the very end of my mission. I encourage all of you future missionaries to work hard up until the very end of your mission and resist the temptation to get “trunky” or distracted from the very important full-time missionary work you have been commissioned to do. (“Trunky” is a reference to trunks or luggage of someone who is eager to leave and go home.)

Missionaries talking to man on dirt road

During the last full week of my mission, my companion and I taught three second discussions, during which we invited three families to get baptized. This was quite the momentous week because it was the only week in my mission where we made three baptismal invitations. Two of the families said yes and we set baptismal dates for them. The other family said they’d think and pray about it some more. It was very spiritually uplifting to teach these families and make plans to help them come unto Christ by entering the gate to the straight and narrow path through the waters of baptism. We had found all three of these families earlier in the month by simply working hard, following the Spirit, and opening our mouth.

Another event that happened the last week of my mission is one that I will never forget. My companion and I were serving as zone leaders and there was a companionship in our zone that was having difficulties. I don’t recall exactly what the problem was, but I don’t think the Elders were getting along with one another, and the missionary work was not going very well in there area. We decided to do exchanges with this troubled companionship; one of them came to our area, and I went with the other one to his area to work for the day.

When my temporary companion for the day and I sat down to make our plans, I asked if they had any appointments already set. He said that they did not–not for the day, not for the week. I next asked if they had any investigators who they were currently working with. Again, the answer was no. As I probed further, it turned out that they spent most of their days visiting members, going from one house to another doing little more than killing time. I told him this was not the most wise use of a missionary’s time, and that we would be spending our day together out on the street, contacting, and finding new people to teach. I was going to teach this relatively young missionary how to work.

We spent the entire day on the streets of Rosario, Argentina talking to everyone we saw. We easily spoke to 100 people during the day, and we testified to each one of them that we were true messengers of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a long, hot, tiring day. We only took a little break for lunch, and one other break when we happened to walk by a member’s house and they invited us inside for a quick drink of water.  At the end of the day we had more then 10 appointments for first discussions that this Elder and his companion would be teaching over the next week.

A couple months after I returned home, I received word that at least one of the men we had talked to on that fateful day had been baptized into the Lord’s true church. It gave me great satisfaction to know that that person had received the testimony of the missionaries, been touched by the Spirit, and exercised his faith and followed Christ into the waters of baptism for this vital, saving ordinance. It also gave me great satisfaction to know that I worked hard up until the very end of my mission and never got “trunky.” I didn’t let opportunities go by to open my mouth, share the restored gospel, and bring the blessings of salvation unto as many people as possible. I pray that each one of you will decide now never to be a trunky missionary, and to carry with you throughout your mission a desire to work hard. Make the most out of every day and endure to the end of your mission, continually teaching and testifying of our Savior Jesus Christ and this important latter-day work.

Purpose of Missionary Work

Dan Jones Mormon Missionary in WalesAs a future missionary, it’s pretty important to know the purpose of your preparation. So here we go. Your purpose as a missionary is to:

“Invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.”

You can find that statement on page 0ne of the missionary’s guide Preach My Gospel, in your mission call letter from the prophet, and in numerous other missionary materials. That purpose will be likely be studied, reviewed, and committed to memory by the time you leave the MTC. And you future missionaries would do well to learn it now.

Preach the Gospel to Every Creature

The resurrected Jesus Christ commanded his Apostles: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) The Lord has repeated this commandment to missionaries in our day:

  • “If they desire to take upon them my name with full purpose of heart, they are called to go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature.” (D&C 18:28)
  • “The sound must go forth from this place into all the world, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth—the gospel must be preached unto every creature, with signs following them that believe.” (D&C 58:64)
  • “Go ye, go ye into the world and preach the gospel to every creature that cometh under the sound of your voice.” (D&C 80:1)
  • “Purify your hearts before me; and then go ye into all the world, and preach my gospel unto every creature who has not received it.” (D&C 112:28)

Our living prophet, Thomas S. Monson, has repeated this call for young people to prepare and serve and preach the gospel to all the world. As I’ve talked about before, every other modern prophet since President Spencer W. Kimball has stated that in the Church we expect that every young man should serve a mission.

Bring the World the Glorious Truths of the Gospel

Most people want “peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come” (D&C 59:23), but they are “kept from the truth because they know not where to find it” (D&C 123:12). As a called representative of Jesus Christ, you can help people find that peace, joy, and eternal life. You do this by inviting them to come unto Jesus Christ and become converted to His restored gospel. To come to the Savior they must have faith in Him, repentant, and be baptized. As your understanding grows of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the plan of salvation, your desire to share the gospel with others will increase. You will feel, as Lehi did, the “great . . . importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth” (2 Nephi 2:8).

The gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith and will bless the families of the earth and help them fulfill their truest desires. As an authorized representative of Jesus Christ, missionaries teach people with power and authority that “redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah,” and that no one “can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:6, 8). As people come to accept the restored gospel and receive the ordinances of baptism and confirmation by priesthood authority, they can be assured that they “are not cast off forever” (Book of Mormon, Title Page).

Power to Fulfill Your Purpose

Missionaries have a heavy responsibility, but they have been ordained with authority and power to fulfill their mission call. When missionaries are set apart by priesthood authority at the beginning of their mission, they receive the privilege and power to represent the Lord. President Spencer W. Kimball said: “The setting apart may be taken literally; it is a setting apart from sin, apart from the carnal; apart from everything which is crude, low, vicious, cheap, or vulgar; set apart from the world to a higher plane of thought and activity. The blessing is conditional upon faithful performance” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 478).

Do not be afraid or shy about fulfilling this commission. As I’ve said many times on this site, open your mouth. As a missionary, if you prayerfully and worthily exercise the authority they have been given, you will receive spiritual power to fulfill the call you have been given.

There is no greater work than to be engaged in building the kingdom of God as missionaries. As the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith manual). May the Lord bless you as you prepare to preach the gospel and may you have much success in fulfilling your purpose as a missionary.

Mission Bikes: What Type to Choose, Mountain or Urban?

Shaun Gogarty is one of the founders of Pedal With A Purpose, a site dedicated to providing Mormon missionaries with better bikes so they can focus on the real purpose of missionary work. Pedal With A Purpose does this through education on the Pedal With A Purpose Blog, and by outfitting missionaries with the right types of mission bicycles (i.e. bikes better for the urban environment most missionaries work in).

Marathons and Missions

mormon missionaries on bikesA marathon is a 26.2 mile endurance race and similarly a mission is an endurance event. Read any guide on preparing for a marathon and you will find within the top ten suggestions: do not use anything new on race day! Many would be marathoners have failed because of a new shirt chafing or new shoes causing blisters with each step. Similarly many new missionaries are spiritually well prepared, but physically miserable because they are using new equipment, their mission bike, in a very physical event.

Accomplishing your mission of inviting others to come unto Christ requires that you first go to the people so you can invite them. Crossing continents or oceans to get to your country is easy – buy a ticket. However, getting around in the country is often the challenge. This is the first of a series of articles will help you be prepared to effectively use one of the most common missionary tools: the bicycle. Hopefully you will then be able to avoid the chafing and blistering that too frequently occur when new missionaries meet new tools.

Mountain or Urban?

Getting around on a bike is fun and should be. There are many different styles of bikes but a general division of mountain and urban makes for a good comparison. Which type of bike is really best for missionary work?

Mountain Bikes: Not Ideal for Missionary Work

Every company makes mountain bikes. They are fun to ride and seem durable. It should not be a surprise that mountain bikes were designed for riding on dirt mountain trails. But it is a surprise that many missionaries have traditionally been directed to mountain bikes. The wide, knobby tires are great for dirt but slow on pavement. The heavy shocks (sometimes front and back) add cost, weight, and repair issues while almost never being needed even on the worst city roads. Finally, too often mountain bikes lead missionaries to try off road “tricks” which can easily lead to bike and body damage.

Urban Bikes: Better Suited for Missionary Work

Interestingly bike messengers have led to a revolution of sorts in bike usage. Their bike needs — transportation, reliability and simplicity — have typically led them to single speed, urban bikes. The urban bikes have narrower tires and solid frames. These make them faster on city streets because of less rolling resistance and weight. A fringe benefit is they have fewer parts to buy and repair. Missionaries need the same things bike messengers need: transportation, reliability and simplicity. While you shouldn’t jump an urban bike off a cliff, it still provides fast and durable city transportation.

Either bike type will work for getting a missionary around town. And yes, the mountain bike will be more suited to “p-day activities”. However, since most missionaries are based in urban settings, the urban bike will be provide reliable, easy to ride, simple transportation for daily mission work.

Warsaw Poland Mission Video

This video will give you a taste of missionary work in the Warsaw Poland Mission. My brother, Elder Michael Smith, is serving there now. His companion’s uncle, Randy Guthrie, filmed this video. Enjoy!

I Will Go Where You Want Me to Go

One of my favorite missionary hymns was written by a good woman, who was not a Latter-day Saint, Mary Brown, who’s words express the faithful commitment of followers of Christ in all ages: I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go.

It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea,
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me.
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.
I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,
Over mountain or plain or sea;
I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord;
I’ll be what you want me to be.
(“I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” Hymns, no. 270)

Ammon-Teaching-King-Lamoni Ammon and the other sons of Mosiah in their mission to the Lamanites… Alma and Amulek crying repentance unto the people of Ammonihah… Nephi and his brother Lehi preaching throughout the land of Nephi… Samuel the Lamanite high on the Zarahemla city wall: All of these faithful Book of Mormon missionaries and prophets showed their obedience to the Lord’s call and their faith in His all powerful hand by going where the He wanted them to go.

When you submit your mission papers, you indicate your willingness to serve as a missionary for the Lord wherever he, through his living prophet, sends you. Some missionaries, it has been reported, when they receive their mission call letter, have feelings of disappointment regarding where they have been called to serve. To those missionaries and their families, I quote from Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Almost a decade ago, I read a letter from a returned missionary… He had written to thank those who direct missionary work “for daring to send me where the Lord required rather than where I had deemed appropriate.” He had come, he said, “from a background of proud, competitive intellectualism.” Before his mission he was a student at a prestigious university in the eastern United States. Quote:

“I guess out of a sense of obligation and inertia, I filled out my [missionary] papers and sent them in, extremely careful to mark the column indicating greatest desire to serve abroad and in a foreign language. I was careful to make it apparent that I was an accomplished student of Russian and fully capable of spending two years among the Russian people. Confident that no committee could resist such qualifications, I rested confident that I would enjoy a wonderfully mind-expanding cultural adventure.”

He was shocked to receive a call to serve in a mission in the United States. He didn’t know anything about the state where he would serve, except that it was in his own country speaking English rather than abroad speaking the language he had learned, and, as he said, “The people I would work with would likely be academic incompetents.” He continued, “I almost refused to accept the call, feeling that I would be more fulfilled by enlisting in the Peace Corps or something else.”

Fortunately, this proud young man found the courage and faith to accept the call and to follow the direction and counsel of his fine mission president. Then the miracle of spiritual growth began. He described it thus:

“As I began to serve among the uneducated people of [this state], I struggled mightily for several months, but gradually the sweet workings of the Spirit began to tear down the walls of pride and disbelief that had wrapped themselves so tightly around my soul. The miracle of a conversion to Christ began. The sense of the reality of God and the eternal brotherhood of all men came more and more powerfully to my troubled mind.”

It was not easy, he admitted, but with the influence of his great mission president and with his growing love for the people he served, it was possible, and it occurred.

“My desire to love and serve these people who in the ultimate scale were at least my peers, almost definitely my superiors, waxed stronger and stronger. I learned humility for the first time in my life; I learned what it means to make our valuations of others [without relying on the] irrelevant details of life. I began to feel swelling within my heart a love of the spirits that came here to earth with me.” I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go, by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October 2002.

It is Not Where You Serve, But How

i-will-go-where-you-want-me-to-go When I was a 19 year old boy awaiting my mission call, I was hoping to go to France or really just about anywhere French-speaking. I had studied French in High School, instead of Spanish like my brothers.  My older brother got called to Salta Argentina, and was still serving there when I got my call. Prior to opening my call letter, I was hoping to go anywhere outside the US and outside Spanish-speaking Latin America.  I wanted to go somewhere different and unique, but when I opened the letter, I found that I would be serving in Argentina just like my older brother, though in a different part of the country.

For a brief moment I felt the pride and resentment of someone disappointed by where they were called to serve. But those feelings soon left as the Spirit confirmed that Argentina was where the Lord needed me to serve.  And of course, in retrospect, I can’t imagine having served anywhere else.  I met so many good people, and was able to see many families come into the waters of baptism. I had great companions and mission presidents that influenced me to become better. There is no doubt that the Rosario, Argentina mission is where the Lord needed me, and where I needed to be.

By accepting my mission call and seeking to magnify that calling in a manner pleasing unto the Lord, I learned that it is not where you serve that matters, but how you serve. This lesson was taught powerfully, through word and deed, by President J. Reuben Clark, former counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, when he said: “In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one takes the place to which one is duly called, which place one neither seeks nor declines” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1951, 154). This he said, by the way, when he was called as second counselor in the First Presidency, after serving for over 16 years as first counselor.

Examples of Willingness to Go Where Needed

senior-couple-missionaries Quoting again from Elder Oaks, “I recently reviewed the missionary papers of over 50 senior couples. All had already served at least three missions when they submitted their papers for another call…The priesthood leaders’ comments on the papers of these couples are testimonies of service and sacrifice. I quote several:

  • “Willing to go anyplace, do anything for whatever length of time required.”
  • “[These] are great examples of Church members who dedicate their lives to the Lord.”
  • “Willing to serve in whatever capacity called.”
  • “Will go anywhere and do what is asked. It is not a sacrifice; it is a privilege.”

I hope the same can be said about each of you, and about me one day when my wife and I apply to serve as missionaries.

Jesus, the Perfect Example

Of course, our Savior Jesus Christ gave the greatest example of willingness to go where Heavenly Father wants us to go.  The Savior would have rather not drank the bitter cup and suffered for our sins in Gethsemane and on the cross of Calvary (see D&C 19:18), But he, in all humility, said to the Father, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

May we follow the example of Christ, and seek the will of the Father, and not our own.  May we, through our words and deeds, always say “I will go where you want me to go, dear Lord.” Truly, missionaries are called by God, and through faithful service, they and their families will be greatly blessed of the Lord.

Doctrinal Basis of Missionary Work

dallin h oaks For those of you who don’t subscribe to the New Era magazine, or haven’t had a chance to read the lead article yet, this month it was called Why Do We Do Missionary Work? by Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. The article is great; here are some excerpts:

The doctrinal basis of missionary work is contained in the Savior’s statement to Nicodemus: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

The “kingdom of God” referred to here is the celestial kingdom.

We do not preach and teach in order to “bring people into the Church” or to increase the membership of the Church. We do not preach and teach just to persuade people to live better lives. We honor and appreciate the many ministers and others who are involved in the kind of ministry that makes bad men good and good men better. That is important, but we offer something more.  One can qualify for the terrestrial kingdom instead of the telestial kingdom without the aid of this Church. We are concerned with a higher destination.

The purpose of our missionary work is to help the children of God fulfill a condition prescribed by our Savior and Redeemer. We preach and teach in order to baptize the children of God so that they can be saved in the celestial kingdom instead of being limited to a lesser kingdom. We do missionary work in order to baptize and confirm. That is the doctrinal basis of missionary work.

Nicodemus Taught by ChristHe continued:

The restored gospel gives us added knowledge about Jesus Christ and His doctrine. But the uniqueness of our message is not just added knowledge. The requirement of baptism reminds us that the truths we teach are not academic. The restored gospel consists of doctrines and ordinances. We proclaim that baptism is necessary in order to redeem us from sins according to the conditions prescribed by the Redeemer and that only priesthood holders of this Church have the God-given authority that transforms the act of immersion in water into an ordinance of the everlasting gospel. Our preaching and teaching is unto baptism.

Elder Oaks finished by saying:

The doctrinal basis of missionary work is the word of God,  revealed in every age,  that man cannot be saved in the celestial kingdom without the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and that the only way to lay claim to the merits of that Atonement is to follow the command of its author: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you” (Acts 2:38).  We are called to assist in this great effort.

Mission Presidents

Mission presidents are called to watch over and lead a mission (a specific region and its missionaries), generally, for the space of three years.   They are responsible for the spiritual and physical well-being of the missionaries in their mission.  The mission president and his wife manage the affairs of the missionaries in the mission and are both set apart as full-time missionaries during their service.

Mission presidents have many duties, including:

  • Welcoming and providing orientation for new missionaries.
  • Interviewing departing missionaries (an important part of missionary work is the personal growth of the missionary himself/herself).
  • Assigning mission companions and the areas where missionaries will work.
  • Traveling to and presiding over zone conferences where training and interviews of missionaries take place.
  • Reading weekly letters from each of the missionaries in the mission.
  • Making sure that the housing and food provided for missionaries is clean and safe.
  • Providing for the medical care of missionaries in case of illness or accident.

Relationship between Missionary and Mission PresidentQuentin L Cook

Most missionaries develop deep respect and admiration for their mission presidents.  Prior to their mission, though, many missionaries, including myself, don’t realize the special bond that will be formed between them and their mission president.  Mission presidents are spiritually mature leaders under whose tutelage missionaries will grow and develop.  Elder Quentin L. Cook said one of the “blessings of serving a mission are having the opportunity of being nurtured under the guidance of a mission president who has been called by inspiration.” (from Be a Missionary All Your Life, Ensign September 2008)

First Meetings with My Mission President

My first mission president, President Coburn, had a reputation for being very strict.  (You may recall some of the strict rules in our Argentina, Rosario mission that I discussed in my post about preparation day.)  I wasn’t too fond of the strict rules at first, but I eventually came to realize the blessings of those rules.  I had a brief interview with my mission president upon arriving the in the country.  He told me that he had been given my picture and other information from my missionary application, and that he felt inspired in assigning my area (the city of Parana) and my companion (Elder Loesener).

elder loesener and smith parana argentina After about a month in the country, I had my first zone conference and accompanying interview with President Coburn. I had been having some disagreements with my senior companion, which I had mentioned in my weekly letters, as, perhaps, did my companion. President Coburn spoke very frankly to me at that time because, he said, he felt I could handle it. I felt honored by his statement, but those pleasant feelings vanished quickly as he “bajo la caña” (Spanish for “dropped the hammer”) on me.

My mission president told me to repent, to swallow my pride, to stop “kicking against the pricks”, and do better at following my senior companion, who was, in effect, my Priesthood leader. I went away from that interview fuming inside; I had never been spoken to in that manner by a Church leader.  It took me about a week, but in time I realized that President Coburn was completely right.  I tried to follow his advice and my relationship with my companion did improve.  (I also learned a valuable lesson I would never forget about sustaining Priesthood leaders.)

I will always love and appreciate President Coburn for the things he taught me.

My Second Mission Presidentpresident ontiveros rosario argentina

Sadly, I was only with President Coburn for 6 months when his term of service was up.  But my new mission president, President Ontiveros, though a different type of personality, was equally wonderful.  One thing that stands out most in my memory about President Ontiveros was a talk he gave on having your “eye single to the glory of God.”  He gave a powerful sermon based largely on the Helaman chapter 5 where Nephi and Lehi are imprisoned and fire encircles them without causing them harm.  Soon, in this chapter, a cloud of darkness overshadows their Lamanite captors.

President Ontiveros explained that these two events were physical manifestations of spiritual realities.  Since then I have always remembered that a spiritual “cloud of darkness” hangs over us when we make bad choices.  But when we choose the right and keep our eye single to the glory of God, we can withstand the fiery brilliance of God’s presence without being consumed.


Always obey, honor and sustain your mission president.  He was called of God to preside over your mission.  He will be one of the greatest influences for good in your mission, and you will develop a great love and bond with him.  He will place you where you need to be, in areas and with companions that are inspired of God.  Write good letters to your mission president every week and let him know how the missionary work is going in your area, how you are getting along with your companionship, and how you are personally progressing.  By so doing, he will be better able to counsel you and help you become the best missionary you can be.

Missionary Name Tag

LDS_missionary_name_tags The Mormon missionary name tag or badge is one of the most recognizable visual features our missionaries carry.  On the one hand, it is simply a name tag, while on the other hand, it is symbolic of the work missionaries have been called to do.  It is a symbol of the Church they have been called the represent and of the Savior whose messengers they are.

My Missionary Commission

The missionary tag is a sign of the commission missionaries have been given.  During my mission, several of my companions had a quote from Elder Bruce R. McConkie printed on a poster as a constant reminder of who they were and who they were representing.  It reads:

I am called of God. My authority is above that of the kings of the earth. By revelation I have been selected as a personal representative of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my Master and He has chosen me to represent Him. To stand in His place, to say and do what He himself would say and do if He personally were ministering to the very people to whom He has sent me. My voice is His voice, and my acts are His acts; my words are His words and my doctrine is His doctrine. My commission is to do what He wants done. To say what He wants said. To be a living modern witness in word and deed of the divinity of His great and marvelous latter-day work. (from How Great Is My Calling, an address delivered while Elder McConkie was serving as president of the Australian Mission from 1961 to 1964)

My dear wifey, Heather, has an Etsy shop where she sells digital prints and other inspiring LDS subway art. She has an item in her store of Elder McConkie’s My Missionary Commission. It’s only $5 and it’s available in many colors. Then you can print it at various sizes: 16×20, 11×14, 8×10, 5×7, or 4×6. Frame it and it makes a great gift for current and future missionaries.

baptism with lds church logo on buildingA Sister Missionary’s Name Tag

In researching what I wanted to say about the missionary name tag, I found the following story from Elder Robert L. Simpson’s talk in the May 1984 Ensign Magazine called The Simplicity of Gospel Truths.

“Few are aware of the pure Christian service being administered at refugee camps in Thailand and in the Philippines by our missionary sisters. Basically, these sisters are restricted to teaching the English language and Western culture, but there is a deeper teaching that takes place through their pure love and sweet attitude toward these displaced people.

The story is told of a young camp refugee from Cambodia who was relocated in California. He found his way into one of our Church meetinghouses because the name of the Church on the sign out front corresponded with the one he used to look at each day on the name tag of the wonderful missionary sister who taught him at the camp. People don’t soon forget acts of simple kindness. Pure love can transcend all differences.”

An Outward Sign of IdentitySusan W Tanner

And finally, here is another reminder about the importance of the missionary name tag from Sister Susan W. Tanner’s talk in the May 2007 Ensign Magazine titled Daughters of Heavenly Father.

“Has your mother or father ever reminded you as you were leaving the house to ‘remember who you are’? What do they mean by that?  ‘Remember that you are part of this family, with a reputation to uphold.’ And, even more importantly, ‘remember that you are a child of God and must act accordingly.’ Missionaries wear a badge as a constant reminder that they are representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This reminds missionaries to dress modestly and comely, to treat people with politeness, and to strive to have Christ’s image in their countenances. They must do these things because they wear that name tag, an outward sign of their identity.”