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.


  1. We are so grateful for the opportunity our son has to serve with you and we know of the great love he feels for you and President Tolman. It is a blessing for him to serve closely with you and work himself to exhaustion in the labor of the Lord in the Samoa Apia Mission. Thank you for your blog and the photos.

  2. I was especially grateful for Elder Shepherd last week when he helped get medical attention for my son. He was kind, thorough, and sympathetic. No wonder he is AP!

  3. Mary Murray Murdoch and her family joined the church in Scotland in the early 1850s. Mary was known as Wee Granny, as she was only 4 feet, 7 inches tall, and weighed 90. Her son, John, a sheepherder was soon was asked to come to Utah to tend Brigham Young’s sheep. After five years he saved enough money to send for the rest of his family -- brothers and sisters, a brother-in-law, etc., and Wee Granny, now 73 years old. Across the ocean they came, then by train to Iowa, then by handcart the rest of the journey across the plains to Utah. The company had to camp at Chimney Rock, Nebraska for a few days because so many were either sick or too weary travel. Her spirit was strong, but Mary’s body was not able to finish the journey to Zion to join her son, John. The next morning (October 3, 1856), word was sent through the camp that Wee Granny had passed away during the night from the hardships of the trek. In ten more days she was to turn 74.

    As she lay near death there on the plains of Nebraska, her family gathered around. Wee Granny’s last spoken words were a plea that the burning faith and love for the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ be made known to her son in Utah. She concluded, "Tell John I died with my face toward Zion."