Savai'i Missionaries
Upolu Missionaries
Tutuila Missionaries
We are not a social media mission, so we were not able to participate in the Church's social media campaign of "He is the Gift." However, we shared the gift and joy of Christmas with the children of Samoa. We organized and held three children's carnivals/parties on each of the three islands, complete with games, chasing of a greased pig, and a Santa! I am not sure who had more fun, the missionaries or the children. It is summer here and very hot and humid; that did not deter the children from coming or the missionaries from entertaining them. Please see all of the photos on the Life with Missionary page. I tried to get enough pictures that you can get a flavor for the fun that we had. I got a call from a friend of ours following our final carnival. He said his sons got into the car after the carnival had concluded and together said, "This is the best Christmas EVER!" It was thrilling to watch the missionaries and the children participate in the joy of the Christmas season.

Following our fun, we gathered for lunch and a devotional. Each missionary received a mission shirt. The saying on the back of the shirt means "even on the darkest night" and features the Southern Cross constellation. The stars shine the brightest on the darkest nights. Our emphasis was that even on our darkest night, in our darkest hours, the Savior is ever watchful and present. Even on the darkest night, we don't give up hope. We asked the missionaries to let their shirts and the stars at night be a reminder that He never gives up on us and is ever close.

When we struggle with "dark night" events, we cannot trust our feelings about what God may or may not be doing in our lives. We can only trust the doctrine and the witness of the scriptures. There are hundreds of statements made by the Savior himself regarding His efforts in our lives:

"Behold, I have engraven thee upon the palms of my hands."

"Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you."

"For all flesh is in my hands; be still and know that I am God."

"Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will uphold thee."

We know that the Savior's most important concern is to sanctify us and redeem us. Sometimes it means things will get hard and dark as we are tutored under His watchful care.

We never give up hope in our "dark nights" because He has promised that He will rescue us.  President Tolman taught that the word used for faith in the original Greek scriptures meant trust in another person. If we truly have faith/trust in the Savior, then we don't have expectations about outcomes. We simple do what He has asked, never give up hope, and allow the Lord to work in our lives.

At times when we struggle, we find ourselves praying with greater intent, studying more diligently, and seeking direction from the spirit with open hearts. Why would the Lord want to change our circumstances when it is those very circumstances that have caused us to draw closer to Him?

In the Church's Christmas video, we are taught that HE is the gift and then invited to discover the gift, embrace the gift, and share the gift. He guides us to discover and embrace Him through our darkest nights; it is in these moments when He is the closest. 

Elder Jeffery R. Holland helps us understand God's efforts in our mortal lives: "In striving for some peace and understanding in these difficult matters, it is crucial to remember that we are living--and chose to live--in a fallen world where for divine purposes our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again. Our greatest assurance in God's plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came. It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive."  (General Conference, October 2013)

We invited the missionaries to discover and embrace the gift. We hope you will join with them in this effort. May this next year be filled with trust in Him who is the Gift.

Have You Learned for Yourself?

Elder Moe, Elder Hodges, Elder Shepherd
We said good-bye to an assistant this week, Elder Shepherd, and welcomed a new one, Elder Hodges. These young assistants learn and grow at a very fast pace while they serve and lead other missionaries. Elder Pearson taught our missionaries last month that their missions are meant to teach them to be powerful leaders. It is a joy to watch as missionaries learn the skills necessary to lead. It is profoundly remarkable to see them lead by the Spirit and do as the Savior would have done. As I have watched this happen for so many of them, I have come to a greater understanding of why God chose a 14-year old boy to be the Father of the Restoration. These young hearts are easy to touch and influence. They listen a little bit better than those of us who are a little older. Once these young missionaries determine that they are going to give their entire will to God, heavenly direction comes in fascinating ways.

There is something instructive in Joseph's words as he visited with his mother immediately following his visit with the Father and the Son. When his mother asked what was wrong, he replied, "I am well enough off." And then this statement that should teach each one of us something profound, "I have learned for myself." God has not put us here on this earth to follow blindly; that was Satan's plan. We have the opportunity to choose good or evil, life or death, happiness or misery. In order for that choice to hold real meaning, we must learn for ourselves. While God's plan is to "bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man," He has an individual plan for each of us. We agreed to and chose to come and follow that plan and path, but if we don't learn for ourselves we will never receive all that He has for us.

Elder Hodges, Elder Moe, Ashleen, Elder Shepherd

We were blessed to watch a young woman find her path and God's plan for her. Ashleen was baptized yesterday morning. She was taught the Gospel by Elder Moe and Elder Shepherd. We were privileged to have her in our home for one of her lessons. She spoke at her baptism and shared that she had many years of experience with the Church. She attended Sunday meetings for a long time, participated in many activities, and had many friends who were members.  It wasn't until she wanted to learn for herself that she understood God's plan for her. She shared that the Book of Mormon changed her life; she now really understood what the Gospel, the Church and God could mean in her life. Once she learned those things, the path was clear.

"And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?" (Alma 5:26) It is through that mighty change of heart, Ashleen learned for herself. It is the same for each of us. If we want to learn for ourselves we must seek and ask. It is required of us to find God again; to awaken our memories to that which we knew before we came here. He know us each, He knows our names, He stands ready to guide us if we will do the work necessary to learn for ourselves. What a joyous message it is. He came to offer life and safety and peace.

"When we understand the character of God, and know how to come to Him, he begins to unfold the heavens to us, and to tell us all about it. When we are ready to come to him, he is ready to come to us." Joseph Smith

PS Stayed tuned next week--our version of #ShareTheGift.

United We Stand

Every mission president is different. They each have their own style and priorities. Their wives are different, too. Some have children with them in the field, some do not. Each mission president couple must work out together how their mission will operate.

I am very grateful that President Tolman and I work as equal partners and a team. The only thing he does on his own is worthiness interviews. We work together on everything else. We have always been a good team, but working together for the good of God's missionaries has been an incredibly sweet experience. 

When we work side-by-side in the work of the Lord, remarkable things happen. I believe it is part of the reason that our missionaries have companions. We learn to love others who are different from us. We become friends with someone who under different circumstances we may have never even talked to. We find power in each other's strengths and discover ways to change weaknesses. Testifying of the Savior as authorized representatives sent two-by-two invites the Spirit, who really provides a tender and God-filled testimony.

Do you remember Elder Oaks talk entitled "The Keys and Authority of the Priesthood" given in April 2104 General Conference? He said this, "We are not accustomed to speaking of women having the authority of the priesthood in their Church callings, but what other authority can it be? When a woman-young or old-is set apart to preach the gospel as a full-time missionary, she is given priesthood authority to perform a priesthood function. The same is true when a woman is set apart to function as an officer or teacher in a Church organization under the direction of one who holds the keys of the priesthood. Whoever functions in an office or calling received from one who holds priesthood keys exercises priesthood authority in performing her or his assigned duties."

As President Tolman and I exercise our authority together and with the Savior, powerful things occur. It is impossible to articulate what those things are, but it is a clear communication through the Spirit directing the affairs of this mission. 

Serving in this way, together with shared authority, has given me a glimpse of the heavens. There is no other church currently organized that has the same deep, rich and clear doctrine regarding women. Sometimes we, as women, shy away from the notion of carrying and acting in authority. Let us remember that during the Savior's ministry "women were not just bystanders but engaged contributors to his ministry." (Nyla McBain) We must be willing to be engaged and lend our spiritual power and authority to His work, in His way, and in His timing. 


Hi all. We have had a couple of incredibly busy weeks. We welcomed new missionaries and said good-bye to some returning. We had another Mission Leadership Council, which was remarkable, as always.

The failure occurred because I did not do a good job with the pictures. I am sorry! I know how important it is to parents to see their missionaries in their new environment. Please forgive me. Here are the pictures I did take. There are more on the Life with Missionaries page.

Our Mission Leaders

Our New Missionaries

Some of Our Departing Missionaries-forgot to get the whole group.

Failure is an interesting thing. We angst and worry and ultimately in the end somehow we come to grips with our shortcomings and hopefully change and grow in the process. I loved President Uchtdorf's talk in the priesthood session of the most recent General Conference. He said: "None of us likes to admit when we are drifting off the right course. Often we try to avoid looking deeply into our souls and confronting our weaknesses, limitations, and fears. Consequently, when we do examine our lives, we look through the filter of biases, excuses, and stories we tell ourselves in order to justify unworthy thoughts and actions.

But being able to see ourselves clearly is essential to our spiritual growth and well-being. If our weaknesses and shortcomings remain obscured in the shadows, then the redeeming power of the Savior cannot heal them and make them strengths. Ironically, our blindness toward our human weaknesses will also make us blind to the divine potential that our Father yearns to nurture within us."

Serving a mission strips away many of our excuses and helps us look "deeply into our souls and confront our weaknesses." It is truly a privilege to watch these young men and women wrestle through things and discover their strengths and weaknesses. I have experienced much of the same thing. We get to a certain place in our lives and think that we kind of have it all figured out. Serving here in this capacity has taught me very clearly that the Savior is never done tutoring and sanctifying us. It is humbling to realize that He continues to be busy in our lives; why would we think we are ever done growing and changing? I have experienced a greater gratitude for and power in the Atonement as my weaknesses have become clear through this experience. I know that many of our missionaries have experienced the same thing. It is a blessing to watch their progress and witness even their countenances change. 

President Uchtdorf went on to counsel, "Those who want to improve and progress, those who learn of the Savior and desire to be like Him, those who humble themselves as a little child and seek to bring their thoughts and actions into harmony with our Father in Heaven-they will experience the miracle of the Savior's Atonement. They will surely feel God's resplendent Spirit. They will taste the indescribable joy that is the fruit of a meek and humble heart. They will be blessed with the desire and discipline to become true disciples of Jesus Christ."

This mission experience for these young missionaries is meant to change them. It is meant to teach them to be good fathers and mothers and leaders. It is meant to teach them how to create eternal families. It is meant to teach them to be disciples of the Jesus Christ. It truly happens that way for the ones who are willing to look deeply into their souls.

The Blessings of a Mission Tour

We had the powerful experience of spending three days with our missionaries and Elder and Sister Pearson of the First Quorum of Seventy. Elder Pearson is the Pacific Area President. They met with our missionaries, provided training for them and for us, assessed the spiritual strength of the mission, and lifted every one of us. It is an experience that I will treasure. There are so many blessing that come from serving a mission; this one, however, doesn't come very often. The combination of being set apart from the world to do His work and the spirit they carried brought about remarkable learning and growth for all of us.

I could share their teachings every day between now and the end of the year and not cover everything. Sister Pearson helped us understand that becoming a powerful missionary is very different than acting like one. She gave us some assignments to help us become. She asked us to be willingly obedient; this is how we will find success. She asked us to read the Joseph Smith Story once a week for a month and apply his experiences to our own lives. I invite you to do the same.

Elder Pearson explained that as we come to understand our identity, it changes everything we think and do. Ultimately, our reality is shaped by our identity. We act based upon our beliefs and who we understand we are. As we come to know that we are all children of our Heavenly Father, it reshapes our reality. As His children, we will want to pray to Him and to follow Him. Our actions always align with our identity. The first thing that missionaries teach new investigators is they have a loving Heavenly Father who wants to bless their lives. For many, this knowledge alone brings a great desire to change.

Nephi states, "I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life." Elder Pearson asked us if we were missionaries who used to be something else or were we still our old selves on a mission. As His disciples, what must we let go? He asked us to fill in the following statement: "Because I am a disciple of Jesus Christ I am no longer . . .." He gave some examples like lazy, disobedient, afraid, homesick. After we had considered that statement, he asked us to finish this one: "Because I am a disciple of Jesus Christ I . . .."

It was enlightening and somewhat troubling as I searched my heart. Am I truly a disciple? Am I acting like a great missionary or becoming a great missionary? Elder Pearson counseled us that the most important decision we have to make is will we become a disciple of the Lord, Jesus Christ. As each of us considers if we are His disciples, we have to consider what is holding us back. Is it our lack of obedience? Is it our pride? Is it being selfish with our time? Is it fear? Is it doubt? Not everyone can be a missionary, but each of us can be the Savior's disciple. I invite you to search your heart. Are you a disciple? What do you need to let go? What do you need to change? The hastening of His work involves so much more than missionary work. He needs strong disciples raising strong families. He needs strong leaders prepared to support the people who will flock to the Church as the last haven of safety. He needs us, every single one of us.

Elder Pearson reminded us that disciples carry as their motto, "I never give in. I never give up. I never give out." I want to be that kind of disciple. I want to "stand blameless" at the last day. I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with each of these wonderful missionaries knowing that we never gave in, never gave up, and never gave out!

Savai'i Conference

Upolu Conference

Tutuila Conference


We met together for another Mission Leadership Council. I cannot believe how quickly the month passes and another meeting is upon us. These missionaries represent the very best of the mission. We are grateful for their courage, obedience and dedication. They are valiant in their testimonies of Christ and full of hope for His promised blessings. Every month, we have new leaders. They bring new insights and desire to help. It is exciting to watch them grow and learn from those more experienced. We see future leaders in His kingdom, future fathers and mothers and committed disciples of the Savior.

I love the war chapters of the Book of Mormon. Embedded in the record are life-saving and life-guiding principles. When I look at these missionaries who are part of the Mission Leadership Council, I see brave warriors who are willing to carry the cause of Christ full of hope for a better world.

Helaman teaches this great principle of hope. In the 58th chapter of Alma, we read an account of a time of great discouragement and despair. He shares they were without aid and provisions for many months. "And we did wait in these difficult circumstances for the space of many months, even until we were about to perish for the want of food." In fear for their lives and their homes, full of grief and fear, they began to pour out their souls to God, "that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people. Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him. And we did take courage with our small force which we had received, and were fixed with a determination . . .."

The trials missionaries and all of us face most likely are not of this nature. Our enemies might be the heat and humidity, the dirt, the strange food, physical illness, homesickness. We may feel abandoned by God and "wait in these difficult circumstances" for a very long time. Helaman and his band of men teach us that as we pour out our souls to God he will strengthen us and in some way deliver us from the hands of our enemies. Waiting can prove to be difficult. The kind of strength He sends may not be what we had in mind, but eventually, and in His time, it will come.

Preach My Gospel on page 117 teaches: "Hope is an abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to you. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance. It is believing and expecting that something will occur. When you have hope, you work through trials and difficulties with the confidence and assurance that all things will work together for your good. Hope helps you conquer discouragement." 

President James E. Faust taught: "Hope is the anchor of our souls . . .."

It is amazing to see the hope in the eyes of these missionaries. They struggle through difficult experiences holding onto the hope that He surely provides. It is a sacred moment to watch how the Savior provides His relief and in His time. It isn't always a big change or a miracle. It sometimes is as simple as noticing that when they come to meetings in an air-conditioned building they are wearing their long-sleeved shirts. The Lord has lightened their burden by blessing their bodies to adjust to the intense heat and humidity. We see them understanding and growing in Gospel knowledge. We see them being motivated to be obedient. We see them solving problems and supporting other missionaries as they struggle. They truly understand Mormon's counsel to his son, Moroni: "My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever."

"Do You Love Me?"

The past three weeks have been extremely busy. We have been interviewing missionaries. With 185, it takes some significant time! In between interview days, we have traveled three weekends in a row to stake conferences; two in Savai'i and one in American Samoa. Yes, you guessed it; I start feeling sorry for myself during times like these. Ridiculous, I know, but true, none-the-less. It always seems when I start feeling this way I get a little reminder of what is most important and we rub shoulders with one whose commitment is greater than ours. As we attended stake conferences, we accompanied two Area Seventies and their wives, Elder and Sister Dudfield and Elder and Sister Tarati. These area authorities live at home and continue to provide for their families while maintaining a rigorous schedule for the Church.  We also accompanied President Pearson, Pacific Area President and a member of the First Quorum of Seventy. The members of area presidencies live away from home and devote their lives to the work of the Lord full-time.  As I watch them and learn of their schedules and responsibilities, I wonder if we, as members of His Church, can even grasp the magnitude of their callings. I know I have been guilty at times believing that they have a pretty good life. After all, the area presidencies get to live in exotic places and travel the world. The area authorities live at home, but get to travel throughout their assigned areas. They are treated with great respect and honor. From a distance, their lives seem to be pretty amazing. I have come to see in a very real and personal way the sacrifice that they are making for the Lord and His work. It is remarkable, breath-taking really. It makes me think of Elder Holland's conference talk from October 2012:

"After a joyful reunion with the resurrected Jesus, Peter had an exchange with the Savior that I consider the crucial turning point of the apostolic ministry generally and certainly for Peter personally, moving this great rock of a man to a majestic life of devoted service and leadership. Looking at their battered little boats, their frayed nets, and a stunning pile of 153 fish, Jesus said to His senior Apostle, 'Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?' Peter said, 'Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.'

The Savior responds to that reply, but continues to look into the eyes of His disciple and says again, 'Peter, do you love me?' Undoubtedly confused a bit by the repetition of the question, the great fisherman answers a second time, 'Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.'

The Savior again gives a brief response, but with relentless scrutiny He asks for the third time, 'Peter, do you love me?' By now surely Peter is feeling truly uncomfortable. Perhaps there is in his heart the memory of only a few days earlier when he had been asked another question three times and he had answered equally emphatically--but in the negative. Or perhaps he began to wonder if he misunderstood the Master Teacher's question. Or perhaps he was searching his heart, seeking honest confirmation of the answer he had given so readily, almost automatically. Whatever his feelings, Peter said for the third time, 'Lord . . . thou knowest that I love thee.'

To which Jesus responded . . . perhaps saying something like: Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn't it obvious then and isn't it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples--and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I needs someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly loves me, and loves what our Father In Heaven has commissioned me to do. Ours is not a feeble message. It is not a fleeting task. It is not hapless; it is not hopeless; it is not to be consigned to the ash heap of history. It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally until the day in which they will do to you exactly what they did to me. . ..

I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgement Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: 'Did you love me?'" (Jeffrey R. Holland, October 2012)

It has been an incredible blessing to learn from those who have boldly and courageously declared their unfailing love for the Savior. They leave home, family, comforts, friends, and wards. They go to places unfamiliar and sometimes unsafe to carry His hope-filled message to all the world. 

There are times I know the Lord wonders how I will answer the question, "Do you love me?" I wonder if I have enough love, enough courage--can I boldly declare "Lord, thou knowest that I love thee?" I am ever so grateful for the example of those who, like Peter, declare their love and understand that the Master Teacher needs disciples and needs them forever. 

Elder Dudfield (I didn't have a brain and forgot to get a picture with Sister Dudfield)
They are from Melbourne, Australia.

Elder and Sister Tarati (from Tahiti)

President Pearson and some missionaries serving in Savai'i

New Missionaries Bring New Energy

We welcomed new missionaries last week. They come with energy and purpose. As we send them on their way with their new companions, we witness the excitement that they take with them into the field. We are grateful for their decision to join us!

New missionaries and trainers. Make sure to see other photos on the page Life with Missionaries.

We also said good-bye to some great missionaries. We miss them already and know they will go on to do great things.

I have been thinking about the day we left the heavens. Did we leave with energy and purpose? Were we excited for the challenges ahead of us? As these missionaries who leave us reunite with their families, there is great reason for celebration. They have sacrificed for the cause of Him who saves us all. I am sure as we return to the heavens there will be great rejoicing. Through our efforts to live a repentant life and allow the Savior to complete us and perfect us, there will be much to be celebrated. 

Which Way Do You Face?

We had a surprise visit from one of President Tolman's Missionary Training Center teachers, Vaitu'u Kaio. I have heard many times over these many years how much Brother Kaio was loved by the young missionaries he taught. He instilled in them a great love for Samoa before they ever arrived. Brother Kaio was famous for playing basketball barefooted. Brother and Sister Kaio and their two sons dropped in at the mission office to see us this week. They came on a day when we were dealing with some difficult issues. Their visit lifted our spirits and reminded us of one of sweet blessings of missionary work. Friendships developed in the Lord's service are unique.

We said good-bye to a lifelong friend this week. One of our assistants, Elder Si'ilata, returned home. It was difficult to say good-bye. He has been an incredible strength to both of us. We asked him to extend for a month to help us get things settled. We will forever be grateful for his help, his wisdom, his respect and certainly his love. We miss you Elder Si'ilata!

Our new assistant is Elder Moe. He and Elder Shepherd will carry on in a powerful way. When we were on our way home from the airport after saying good-bye to Elder Si'ilata, I made the comment that our assistants are our guardian angels. I truly meant it. Trying to describe what an assistant does is almost impossible. I truly don't know what we would do without them. They do everything from organizing a transfer to ministering individually to missionaries. They look for ways to make our lives easier even when they are overworked and exhausted. Assistants understand their purpose and work to embrace that purpose in everything they do. Watching these assistants manage all that is in their charge is a testimony to the teaching that "the Lord qualifies those he calls." Other young men of their age are in college learning and playing; they are generally concerned about themselves and their own needs. Missionaries, and most certainly assistants, are concerned only for the welfare of others. Always looking for ways to serve, they walk in the footsteps of the Savior. We have learned much from them. They help us to understand when our expectations are out of line. They see and hear things that we do not. They carefully and thoughtfully help us understand other missionaries.

The assistants are representative of the good in every missionary. We have some remarkable missionaries who understand "which way they face." Today in General Conference Elder Robbins asked us to consider which way we face.  He taught that "trying to please others before pleasing God is inverting the first and second great commandments. It is forgetting which way we face." He continued and then gave this example, "Some young missionaries carry this fear of man into the mission field and fail to report the flagrant disobedience of a companion to their mission president because they don't want to offend their wayward companion. Decisions of character are made by remembering the right order of the first and second great commandments. When these confused missionaries realize they are accountable to God and not their companion, it should give them courage to do an about face." We have tried to help all of our missionaries understand that protecting a companion means helping them to live the rules. The one soul they may save is their companion.

If every missionary would enter the mission field with nothing more than knowing which way he or she faced, beautiful and breath-taking events would occur.  Parents, please help your missionary to understand what it means to face God. As you correspond with them teach them the importance of keeping the first and second commandment in the right order. Plead with them "when others demand approval in defiance of God's commandments"  to remember "whose disciples [they] are and which way [they] face." When we first love God and then others, we begin to understand His work in His way.

A Few of My Favorite Things

When each of my own boys went on missions, I gave them a small stone from home. I suggested that they keep it in their pocket so that every time they put their hand into their pocket they would feel the small stone. I asked that they use it as a reminder of how they are loved by family and how close we really are. I also asked that they see it as a reminder of the strength of the Savior and the love He has for them. 

We had been here about a month when we received a package from home. When we first arrived the mornings were a bit chilly (weird), and when we went for a walk, Reed felt like he needed a long sleeved shirt. We asked Ryan to send one. Included in the package was a small stone. No note about the stone, but none was needed. I was flooded with gratitude for the reminder that it presented me-love from home and from our Savior. I keep the stone in my very large purse. Often when I am digging for something I will come across it. I pull it out and let memories and love wash over me. I don't think it is a coincidence that I seem to find it on the very hardest of days. It has very quickly become one of my favorite things.

I was taught a significant lesson by one of our missionaries during our most recent zone conferences. He said, "Charity can only occur between people. We can't have charity towards other things. We may love food or our pets, but charity can only exist between people." While I probably have always known this, when he said it, I realized how right he was. It is the charity of others that brings us to a place of greater peace, understanding and clarity. 

I think there may be times in our lives when we miss seeing the charitable acts of others. We don't often think of family love as charity. But isn't that exactly what it is? There seems to be no better sphere to be charitable than within our own families. "And charity suffererth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."(Moroni 7:44)  Can you imagine what our homes and families would be like if this was our driving force?

The scripture continues: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all . . .." (Moroni 7:46) I have always evaluated my own charity against this standard. While that evaluation is important, I have come to understand it in a new way. I am nothing without the charity of others. I am nothing if their charity towards me fails. As I cleave unto others' charity for me I discover what is greatest of all. This little stone signifies charity and love; the kind of love that is the greatest of all. 

This past week, we had our Mission Leadership Council. This day has become my favorite of the entire month. We gather all of the mission leadership and counsel together. It is a time of exploration and discovery. These leaders represent the best of the mission. They bring great insight as we discuss issues and concerns. It is a time of renewal and recommitment for us all. We had some changes and had some new zone leaders this time. We see the wisdom in change; new ideas and perspective are important as we work to lift and move the mission forward. What powerful representatives of the Savior!

And finally, some of my very favorite people. This is Dallin and Fita Talataina and their darling son Liam. We met Dallin when we served here before teaching institute. He quickly became a friend and a great support to our efforts. Dallin embodies everything good about Samoa. He is true to his Samoan heritage, yet governs his life and his family based on gospel principles. Dallin and Fita were married in Salt Lake City a couple of years ago. We attended the wedding. As I embraced him following the ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple, I realized just how much I had missed him. I have learned much from Dallin about generosity and optimism. It is a tender mercy to be here again and spend moments of time with one of my favorite people and his new precious family.  

A Call to Action

We finished our zone conferences on Friday. It was, as always, uplifting to meet with the missionaries. They carry amazing power and strength. Serving a mission is hard. I think it is meant to be that way. Getting a glimpse of the change that takes place as they submit to the will of God is a sweet gift. Be sure to check out the pictures on the Life with Missionaries page.

Meet the Harpers. They are our newest senior couple. They come to us from Idaho. As you can see, they are young! Their assignment is to train and support internet specialists in the stakes of Samoa, plus to work some magic with the internet and the systems in the church buildings. We are delighted they have joined us.

In 1999, Sherri Dew said, "This is a call to arms, it is a call to action, a call to arise. A call to arm ourselves with power and with righteousness. A call to rely on the arm of the Lord rather than the arm of the flesh. A call to "arise and shine forth, that our light may be a standard for nations." I echo her words and issue a call to action. The Lord needs senior missionaries like the Harpers. There are over 130 missions in the world that don't have senior couples. They are vital to the workings of a mission. Our office couple goes home the first part of December. As of right now, there is not one coming to replace them. We would love to have you join us. It will be nothing like you have ever experienced! I know that there are worries associated with leaving family and home. But I also know that the Lord can and does take better care of my family than I am capable of doing. I have witnessed it for myself; my children and grandchildren have witnessed it. "Be strong and of good courage" and come.

In a recent address, Elder David Bednar said "The Lord is hastening His work, and it is no coincidence that these powerful communication innovations and inventions are occurring in the dispensation of the fulness of times. Social media channels are global tools that can personally and positively impact large numbers of individuals and families. And I believe the time has come for us as disciples of Christ to use these inspired tools appropriately and more effectively to testify of God the Eternal Father, His plan of happiness for His children, and His Son, Jesus Christ, as the Savior of the world; to proclaim the reality of the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days; and to accomplish the Lord's work."

There are some missions around the world where the missionaries are using technology in the work of conversion, retention and activation. The Samoa Apia Mission, however, is not one of them. But now that our missionaries can email, we together can accomplish what Elder Bednar has asked. Through blogs and other social media we can share the miracles that occur in this mission. Parents and friends of missionaries, please use the stories and pictures your missionary sends home to help hasten His work.

Elder Bednar provided some important guidelines.  He said, "First, we are disciples and our messages  should be authentic. Our messages should be truthful, honest and accurate. Second, we and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than to argue, debate, condemn or belittle. Third, we and our messages should respect the property of other people and organizations. This simply means that you should not create your own content using someone else's art, name, photos, music, video, or other content without permission. Fourth, be wise and vigilant in protecting yourself and those you love. We should remember that the Internet never forgets. Anything you communicate through a social media channel indeed will live forever. Only say it or post it if you want the entire world to have access to your message or picture for all time."

He then offered this call to action, "Beginning at this place on this day, I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth-messages that are authentic, edifying, and praiseworthy-and literally to sweep the earth as with a flood."

As we post things about the Samoa Mission, let us share those things that communicate the dignity and sanctity of the calling of missionaries. Let us be mindful about the content and follow carefully the guidelines outlined by Elder Bednar.

It is an incredible journey that each of these missionaries experiences here in Samoa. I know you have heard stories of growth and strength. They probably have told you stories of struggle and of the sweet feeling of finally being rescued by the Savior. Please mindfully share their stories of faith and testimony.

For those of you who read this blog and do not have a missionary in Samoa, this call of action is for you, too. The Lord is hastening His work. Will we keep pace? Will we use these wonderful inventions of this last dispensation in His work, in His way? What do you share with the world? Do they know what is most important to you by what you post on social media? Let us flood the earth with the goodness that is His Gospel!

I Missed a Sunday

I don't mean that I missed posting last week, although I did. We missed the Sabbath. We were in American Samoa last weekend for a celebration commemorating the landing of the first mission president, Joseph Dean. We flew out of Pago Pago early Sunday morning and arrived here in Apia 35 minutes later on Monday morning. It is a tricky process to plan and purchase flights, etc., when we are a day ahead of American Samoa. It felt pretty awful to miss the Sabbath. It made me even more grateful for the blessing that the Sabbath day is.

Beginning with the Creation of the world, one day was set apart from all other days. "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it." Even God rested from His labors on this day and expects the same of us. Central to Sabbath day observance is worshipping God and partaking of the sacrament. We read in the Doctrine and Covenants: "And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayers and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day; For verily this is a day appointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy devotions unto the Most High..."

In our family, we have tried to make the Sabbath a day different from the other six days in the week. It was a day for family and church. It has become our life-long pattern. I truly missed it last week. It seemed that there wasn't time to catch my breath. There wasn't time to stop and remember all that He has done for me. There wasn't time to ponder and find clear direction for the new week. There is great power in the Sabbath day; it is our time to touch heaven for just a moment.

The celebration in Aunu'u was a glimpse into old Samoa. We watched and listened to a talking chief as he greeted visitors and shared history. We ate and ate and ate. Elder Anderson was introduced as Joseph Dean's great-grandson. It was a remarkable moment to see history come full circle in the Anderson family. We were blessed to share the experience with him.

Boat ride to Aunu'u
Dock at Aunu'u

Following are pictures of the fafaga. 

All of this food was for me! There was more that I couldn't fit into the picture.

My day prior to the celebration was spent with Elder and Sister Saunders. They are a missionary couple who serve in Pago and take care of the missionaries there. They are incredible people who have bridged meaningful friendships with our missionaries and the people of Pago in the few short months they have been there. We rely on them and are so grateful for their willingness to always help.  It is hard having missionaries on three different islands; we worry about them. The Saunders keep that worry at bay for us.

Sister Saunders, Elder Anderson, Elder Haws, Elder Saunders

The Lesas joined us, too. They are part of our mission presidency. They serve with willing hearts. We appreciate the way that they help our missionaries understand the culture and customs as well as motivating them to work hard. They bring a spirit of enthusiasm to the work.

Sister Saunders, Elder Anderson, President and Sister Lesa

We started zone conferences this week. They will continue through next week as well. It always brings a sense of strength as we meet with the missionaries. When they are together, it seems nothing is impossible. These are God's soldiers. They live places that are primitive, do their wash in a bucket, work in the sometimes oppressive heat and humidity and yet they thrive! It is a sweet thing to watch their hearts change, to see them find God, and to understand how much He loves them. The pictures from the Upolu zone conference are on the Life with Missionaries page.

We welcomed a new missionary this week! Elder Wallwork was supposed to come with the group in August, but he broke his finger and had to stay behind and allow it to heal. We are thrilled to have him. He is the great-grandson of Percy Rivers, the first stake president of Samoa and a great disciple of the Savior. I am sure that Elder Wallwork will feel the presence of his great-grandfather as he continues his work here in his beloved Samoa.

And last, but certainly not least. The Samoa mission is now an emailing mission! When we carefully look at past experiences, we can clearly see the Lord's hand in His work and our lives. Emailing in Samoa just a couple of years ago proved to be impossible. Internet cafes are very scarce. Not all church buildings had internet and there was no network on the island. Now every church building has internet and computers. The stake presidents and bishops will be working with the missionaries to give them access to the buildings so they can email their families, send a letter to President Tolman and report their work electronically. We are thrilled and so thankful for the positive cooperation of the stake presidents. Parents, be patient; it may take a couple of weeks to work out the bugs. God is good, and we are sweetly blessed to witness how He is hastening His work.

A Nod from Heaven

We said good-bye to another group of missionaries. They leave with the love of Samoa in their hearts, increased faith and greater love for the Savior. They have touched lives and boldly shared the good news. We will miss them, but are confident that they will continue to influence others for good. The Lord loves them. We love them and miss them already.

Tofa Soifua

We also received our first big group of new missionaries. They come from all over the United States. We also have one from New Zealand and one from here in Samoa. It was energizing to be with them and feel of the spirit they brought from the Missionary Training Center. Every one of them was positive and anxious to get to work. We kept them for a couple of days in the mission home to allow them to rest and recover from their travel. As we interviewed each one, we heard stories of faith and devotion to the Savior. We are thrilled to have them; they will be a powerful force to move the work of miracles forward in Samoa.  Be sure to check the Life with Missionaries page for more pictures!

Talofa Lava!

Our new missionaries and trainers

One of the sweetest doctrines of the gospel is the doctrine of personal revelation. We are told in scripture:

"If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you." 1 Nephi 15:11

"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." John 14:26

We have seen over and over again how mindful God is of His missionaries. We had such a moment this week. When we consider transfers and placing new missionaries we diligently seek His help.  These new missionaries are unknown to us, but what is very apparent is that they are very much known by Him.  President Tolman assigned one of the new missionaries, Elder Anderson, to serve in American Samoa in an area that covers the small island of Aunu'u. Aunu'u is significant in the history of the mission because it is the landing place of the first mission president, Joseph Dean. (See the Mission page) Aunu'u is remembered as the place where the church had its beginnings. What we did not know until two days before the new missionaries arrived is that Elder Anderson is the great-great grandson of Joseph Dean!

As we labor to makes sure each missionary has faith-filled experiences we strive to listen and be mindful of His will. Sometimes things are very clear; sometimes we wonder if we have heard correctly. And then every once in a while we receive a little nod from the Heavens that He is there in every detail.

Elder Anderson and the monument honoring his great-great grandfather

Are You In, Or Are You Out?

Last week brought some great experiences. We had another Mission Leadership Council. It is always a treat to be with the mission leaders. They are enthused about and dedicated to missionary work.  They are trustworthy. They take responsibility for those in their zones and sisters whom they lead. As we use this time to counsel together we learn much from one another. Each one of them brings a unique perspective to this work. We learn from them and appreciate their willingness to work together to bring about miracles in Samoa.

Be sure to check the Life in Samoa page for more pictures from the day we spent together!

The Mission Leadership Council

President Tolman shined shoes before the council meeting began; everyone got a new shine!

President Tolman organized his presidency this week. We are thrilled to be working with the Lesas and the Masoes. Unfortunately, we did not get a picture when we were all together. President and Sister Lesa live in American Samoa and President and Sister Masoe live in Savai'i. The missionaries will grow to love them.  We felt of their strength and their love for God when we met with them. We look forward to a great friendship as we work together in the hastening the work! Thank you Lasas and Masoes! Alofa tele atu.

President Gifford and Sister Wendy Nielsen from the Area Presidency visited us this past weekend. They helped us understand more clearly the vision for the mission and counseled us to be patient as it unfolds. Wise counsel to two of the most impatient people in the world!

President Gifford and Sister Wendy Nielsen

They spent time training some of our missionaries. Sister Nielsen reminded us that we need to live a balanced life--socially, spiritually and physically. It was a good reminder for our missionaries. Living in a hot, humid climate it is often easy to let exercise go. Being busy missionaries, sometimes breakfast may be neglected. Studying in a hot, stuffy house can prove to be very difficult. Balanced missionaries are better prepared to do the Lord's work in His way.

President Nielsen explained the process of assigning missionaries. Each mission assignment is made by a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. He testified that it is through the revelatory process that each of our missionaries was sent to Samoa. He asked them why they were on this mission. What did they view as their purpose? There were dozens of good answers; his answer was "to learn to become good husbands and fathers, wives and mothers." He admonished them that there will be no other time like this in their lives. This is a time set aside by the Lord for their growth and development, a time that provides them with the sweet opportunity of being in His service 24/7. And then he asked "are you in, or are you out?" Will you serve this mission with dedication and great effort or will you float along as the months drift by.

There is something each of us can learn from that question "are you in, or are you out?" So many times the days pass us by and we live below our privilege. God needs us in this work of His; he needs warriors who will stand for truth and righteousness in all things and in all places. He needs angels who will reach out in love to bless the life of another through service and the peace that comes through the gospel. He needs moms and dads who consistently teach their children that He is the source of all good. He needs these great missionaries of ours and around the world to sound the clarion call to join His ranks in the battle for good. So I ask you, "are you in, or are you out?"

I'm Late, very, very late!

We were in Savai'i last weekend, so I didn't get a chance to post. Savai'i is the biggest of the islands here in Samoa. It is more rural than the other two major islands and incredibly beautiful. We went over for meetings and to do the "run." Each Monday morning, some of our wonderful senior missionaries drive the islands and deliver supplies, mail, etc. to each companionship. The couple who does the Savai'i run was in Australia for a couple of weeks. So since we were going to be over there on Sunday, we decided to stay and do the run on Monday and visit with each of the missionaries. It was joyous to see them. The pictures are scenes of Savai'i.

I am making a change to the blog. The page entitled Life in Samoa will be filled with pictures of missionaries. After all, that is our life in Samoa! Stop by and see if there is someone you know.

Comings and Goings

This week brought us a new missionary, Elder Falema'i. We are thrilled to have him join our mission. He carries an incredible spirit and determination. Welcome Elder Falema'i!

We said good-bye to three remarkable missionaries this week. I told them we would feel a "loss in the force" as they return home. They have been noble missionaries and representatives of Jesus Christ. They have come to love the people of Samoa. We were able to witness some of the sweet farewells with those they had loved and served. What they have learned in Samoa will bless their lives. The Samoan people have taught them generosity, charity, friendship and faith. They will be missed by many. Tofa soifua Elders.

Left to right, front row: Elder Swenson, Elder King, Elder Massey
Back row: Elder Shepherd and Elder Si'ilata (our assistants)

Our shipment container from home came this last week. It felt like Christmas morning as I unpacked each box of belongings from home. I was anxious to find the box that contained my most prized possessions. Of course, it was the last box I opened! As I unpacked and arranged the pictures of our family, my heart was heavy. I miss them. And yet, I somehow know somewhere deep inside of myself that the blessings they will receive in our absence will be far greater than anything I could provide by being home.

Before we came to Samoa, we spent five days at the MTC in Provo being instructed by the twelve apostles, seventies and other authorities. Many times our family was mentioned and many promises of blessings were given. I am so grateful for those promised blessings.

Leaving family for three years was a difficult reality to accept. This kind of an assignment causes deep searching. Can we do this? Is it even possible? The bottom line is that we serve because we love Him; we serve because we have made covenants.

Bishop Caussé taught at the seminar that the Savior's invitation to "come and follow" Him requires two distinct actions on our part. Coming to the Savior requires sacrifice on our part, but following Him requires us to live the principle of consecration. When we follow Him the journey is likely to never be easy or comfortable. We must be ready and willing to face the same experiences that He faced as he overcame temptation and trials.

Elder Bednar taught on a different occasion, "The principle of sacrifice is a lesser law-preparation for the principle of consecration. Consecration includes and encompasses sacrifice and so much more." Bishop Caussé taught that we cannot be content if we limit ourselves to the law of sacrifice. He went on to teach that consecrated missionaries are valiant in their testimony of the Savior. They have no fear of being rejected or mocked because they know that the Lord will accompany them and protect them always. He went on to teach, "They are not satisfied with a reasonable effort, but work to the very limits of their strength."

These teachings have bolstered my faith and resolve to be a consecrated missionary. I want every promised blessing for my family. I want them to grow in power and testimony. I want them to feel the effects of the sacrifice and consecration that they make by supporting our efforts. They are amazing people. Each member of our family blesses our lives in some unique way. They reach out to us and find ways of showing support from 6000 miles away. Consecration requires the very best of what we have to offer. It requires that we do hard things like travel to a distant land very different from our own. It certainly requires finding faith we didn't think we had.

To our children, their spouses and our grandchildren: we love you. Thank you for who you are and who you are becoming. You motivate us to work a little harder and stand a little taller. Your examples inspire us. Your love for each other comforts and strengthens us.

The Title of Liberty

Captain Moroni was a man of valor and conviction. It is said of him in the 47th chapter, 17th verse of the book of Alma:

"Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men."

He led the Nephite armies through many difficult years of battle. A righteous Nephite commander, he led his people to victory over those who would see them suffer and die. At a point of dissension among his people, he responded in a way that inspired them to commit themselves to their God, their freedom, and their families. 

Courtesy Reign of the Judges Movie

"And now it came to pass that when Moroni...had heard of these dissensions, he was angry....
And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it--In memory of our God, our religion, our freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children--and he fastened it upon the end of a pole... He took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren...he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice...whoseover will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant...And it came to pass that when Moroni had proclaimed these words, behold, the people came running together...rending their garments...as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God..."

Moroni and his title of liberty rallied the people to goodness and determination to serve their God at all costs. When we were at the mission presidents' seminar in June, Elder Ballard taught "mission culture is what happens when you are not there."

This week we met with our Mission Leadership Council, which is comprised of all of the zone leaders and sister training leaders. We talked about Captain Moroni and his title of liberty. Could we rally our missionaries with our own "title of liberty?" Could we develop a mission statement that spoke of who we are?  It was inspiring to watch as President Tolman led a discussion about what it means to be a representative of Jesus Christ. He asked could our missionary badges stand as our title of liberty? How does a representative of the Savior look, act and feel? I was thrilled to see the dedication and devotion that these leaders hold for their sacred callings. Together we developed our "title of liberty"--our mission statement.

Samoa Apia Mission

Every day, when we put on our missionary badges, we declare we represent Jesus Christ. As His representatives and because we love Him:
We obey with exactness.
We earn respect and trust by the way we act and dress.
We govern ourselves.
We love and protect each other.
We teach as He taught.
We honor and live Preach My Gospel.
We prayerfully invite others to come unto Christ.
We rejoice in His service.
As we do these things, He will bless us to be noble missionaries. 

It is a privilege and a blessing to serve with His noble missionaries. We are so proud of them.

PS. It was such a busy day I neglected to take a photo of these incredible missionaries. I regret that you cannot see those who developed the mission statement. We meet again in three weeks. I will post one then.  So sorry parents.