Upolu Interviews-Round One-and One New Missionary!

We started our interviews with the Upolu missionaries this week. We will finish up next week. Most of our missionaries are here. There are five zones here, two in Tutuila and three in Savai'i. It is always  a happy day when we spend it with missionaries.

President Tolman sent each missionary a copy of Elder Lynn G. Robbins talk, "Which Way Do you Face," from the most recent General Conference. He asked them to consider which way they each faced. He has said it has been an inspiring experience to listen to their insights as they have studied Elder Robbins talk. We believe his words have the power to change our mission and missionaries. As a follow-up President Tolman shared more thoughts in our February newsletter:

"Thank you all for reading and studying Elder Robbins’ talk, “Which Way Do You Face?” As you know, Elder Robbins suggests we must always face God and not fear men. The fear of men often manifests itself in the temptation to love and respect others by following traditions and culture even when doing so is inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is particularly hard here in Samoa, where culture and traditions are so strong, but being hard is no excuse when we’re asked to love God with all our heart, might, mind and strength. To do so clearly includes facing God even when it’s really hard. When we give in to the temptation to compromise our standards in order to win the love and respect of others, we do the work of Satan. When we do that, Satan laughs and his angels rejoice. (See Moses 7: 26.) In His ministry, the Savior often challenged the traditions of men. Hypocrites is what Jesus called those whose adherence to traditions kept them from keeping the commandments. (See Matt. 15: 2-3, 6-7.) Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “There is a unique Gospel culture, a set of values and expectations and practices common to all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This Gospel culture or way of life comes from the Plan of Salvation, the commandments of God, and the teachings of the Living Prophets.” Let us all evaluate our own traditions, whether they come from our families, friends or county in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and adhere to the culture of Christ in all we do and no matter how hard it is. In doing so, we must resist the concern that we have to reject or dilute Samoan culture. It simply requires us to appreciate and maintain the good traditions and reject those inconsistent with the Gospel. Samoa is rich with wonderful traditions, such of friendliness, love and support of extended family, generosity to visitors, etc. But Samoa also is burdened with cultural traditions that weigh it down and prevent spiritual progress, such as lying and stealing, unnecessarily burdensome and expensive faalavelaves, drinking kava, and inviting missionaries to break rules. As we begin to live the Gospel in its entirety, while embracing the good parts of Samoan cultural and rejecting those that are spiritually harmful, we as missionaries will develop stronger faith and begin to reap the rewards that come from facing God at all times. Just as importantly, our examples will bless the lives of others as they see the spiritual growth that inevitably will follow as we keep God's commandments and honor our covenants."

We received a new missionary this week. He is a local Samoan who has been called to serve in Papua New Guinea. His VISA did not arrive yet, so he has been temporarily assigned here. His sister also is in our mission! This is our first time receiving a temporary assignment missionary. We would love to keep him and will miss him when he goes! 

Elder Te'o with his trainers

Savai'i Interviews

We spent a good part of the week in Savai'i training and interviewing. We continued to train on area books and planners. We were told that the missionary planner was designed by President Hinckley. When Elder Pearson was here, he told our missionaries using their planners should be a revelatory process. I can see that; as the missionaries use every section of it, they will be led to receive revelation. There are sections for goals, lessons, notes, and just about anything a missionary should consider in the work. Elder Pearson also instructed that anyone can tell what kind of a missionary someone is by looking at his/her planner. That has also been proven to be true. The ordinary member of the Church probably has never looked at a missionary planner. I know I hadn't before we came to Samoa. It is a remarkable support for missionaries. Ask missionaries in your ward to see their planners. Have them teach you about how they use it. They will be excited to explain how they are used and how they support their every effort. Thank you, President Hinckley!

The missionary planner is representative of so much of what Heavenly Father does for us. We are given a plan for our eternal progression and then, along the way, we are provided everything we need for success. Sometimes those things are painful, but everything that occurs in our lives God uses for our good and our progression. I have always loved Orson Whitney's understanding of trials. He said, "No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God . . . and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven."

But even when times are good, God still provides ways for us to grow and develop. Those ways are too many to list here, but how grateful I am that He is even in the small details like a missionary planner!

The following pictures are the Savai'i missionaries.

The daily planning record.

Sources of Strength

All of our sister missionaries gathered this week for training. We currently have twenty-six sisters in the mission. They spent a few hours together being instructed by the Sister Training Leaders. It was conducted and taught in Samoan, so I was in the dark most of the time. The sisters engaged in some good discussion. Even though I could not understand what was said, I felt their strength.

Twenty-four of our sisters are local Samoans. The other two are of Samoan dissent and are from New Zealand. We just got word this week that we will be getting North American sisters! The complement will be fifteen local sisters and fifteen foreign sisters. We receive our first North American sisters in May and June. We love sister missionaries!

We also held our Mission Leadership Council this week. I wish I could articulate what this experience is like for me every month. These mission leaders are powerful examples to me. They do the hard work of studying and working in the extreme heat and humidity, but because they are aligned with the Lord they are happy and energized. These are the kinds of missionaries who make the world feel balanced. They bring a feeling that all will be well and that together we can accomplish what God has sent us all here to do. These missionaries lay claim to the blessings promised to another of God's army, "And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will." (Helaman 10:5)

We enjoyed a visit from our area medical advisors, Elder and Sister Brown. They toured medical facilities on the island, examined a few missionaries, and spoke to our Mission Leadership Council. Sister Brown reminded us to remain optimistic and find joy in the journey. Elder Brown instructed the missionaries on the giant threat of the mosquito. I say that with tongue in cheek, but this is nothing to take lightly. Currently, there is a mosquito that carries a human virus called chikungunya. It causes a high fever, rash and severe body aches. This disease is not for sissies. We estimate that sixty-percent of our missionaries have had chikungunya. Even though it knocks them down for a few days, they don't give up, give out, or give in. The Browns strengthened us and our missionaries by their short visit. We are grateful for their consecrated service!

As you may remember, we asked our missionaries to think of a theme or phrase that would guide their year in Samoa. I thought you would like to read the ones that we have collected. Some of them are phrases, some quotes, some scriptures. I have not heard them all yet, but am pleased that at least some of them are giving thought to it.

"O be wise, what more can I say?" Jacob 6:12
"We have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to feel, so let us reach out and rescue someone." President Thomas S. Monson
"Earn your pillow."
"I am mindful of you always in my prayers, continually praying unto God the Father in the name of his Holy Child, Jesus, that he, throughout His infinite goodness and grace, will keep you through the endurance of faith on His name to the end." Moroni 8:3
"For in His love, He caused the storm; t'was He who set the sail." Unknown
"Decisions determine destiny."
"Be still and know that I am God."
"Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord they God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." Joshua 1:9
"Do not expect to become perfect all at once; if you do, you will be disappointed. Be better today than you were yesterday and be better tomorrow than you were today." President Lorenzo Snow
"Preaching and talking mean but very little unless our lives are lived in perfect harmony with our teachings." President Heber J. Grant
"Abstain from all appearance of evil." 1 Thessalonians 5:21
"Pe a faigata le ala, taumafai"
"Pray always."
"Every thought."
"I don't give in, I don't give out, I don't give up."

Don't you agree, we have some incredible missionaries? I will continue to post these as I hear them; I hope you have chosen a phrase for your 2015! Thanks again Emily for inspiring us and our missionaries!

Interview Time

We started our next round of interviews. We spent a couple of days in Tutuila this week. While President Tolman interviewed, Elder Moe, Elder Hodges and I trained the waiting missionaries. We learned about area books and daily planners. We searched Preach My Gospel together. It brought back an earlier gratitude I had developed for Preach My Gospel and the tools provided to missionaries. President Tolman has said on more than one occasion that it is the greatest book written since the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. There really aren't any other tools necessary for success in the mission field. We don't need to reinvent anything; it is all in Preach My Gospel. President Boyd K. Packer said Preach My Gospel was "designed beyond the veil and put together here." Elder Holland's perspective helps us see the profoundly remarkable gift that this book is. He said, "This was created to convert the missionary before we tried to convert the investigator." Speaking to missionaries, he said, "Preach My Gospel is supposed to get in your bones, it is supposed to be down in the marrow of your soul. The most important contact and conversion, investigator and baptism you will ever have is yourself. In a way we could say that your mission will be a success if you don't convert anybody but yourself. It will still be worth it and it will still be right and it will still have its impact." This book can be studied for a lifetime and still find direction and guidance. It is a testament to the living nature of our Church and leaders.

These pictures are the missionaries in Tutuila. Savai'i and Upolu to come in the next few weeks.


We experienced a unique opportunity this week. We welcomed new missionaries and said good-bye to others all near the first of the new year! Every new year now for the rest of these missionaries' lives will be a reminder of their consecrated service in the mission field. It is exciting to watch them come and equally exciting to see them go home and on to achieve great things beyond their time here. We consider ourselves privileged to observe the workings of God in their lives. (More pictures on the Life with Missionaries page)

New Missionaries

New Missionaries and Trainers

Departing Missionaries

Earlier this week, I read the blog of a friend of mine. She wrote about deciding upon a theme, a saying, or a scripture to guide the new year. It got me thinking about a scripture that recently has great meaning in my life. In Helaman 15:6 we read, "Yea, I say unto you, that the more part of them are doing this, and they are striving with unwearied diligence that they may bring the remainder of their brethren to the knowledge of the truth . . .." My phrase for the year 2015 is "unwearied diligence." I have already used it several times to remind myself of the importance of continuing to move forward with great strength and faith.

We have invited the missionaries to develop a phrase of their own. We suggested they start by pondering their favorite scripture. Parents, please visit with your missionary about his/her phrase. Find one of your own and share it with them. Together we can be a powerful force for good in the world!