18 In; 16 Out

It is hard to believe another six weeks has come and gone. I neglected to get a group picture of the new group, but you can see their individual pictures on the Life with Missionaries page. It is such a incredibly busy week; I am surprised I remember to do much of anything. We are grateful they have chosen to serve. We look forward to great things and many blessings for them and because of them.

We said good-bye to sixteen missionaries who will now go back and bless lives by their growth and conversion to the gospel. I know for many of them the transition home will be harder than the transition into the mission field. Adjusting to the world, while "holding the ground" (Jeffrey R. Holland) they have won, can be challenging. Families and friends, you can help them by allowing them to be different than before they left. You can help them by not inviting them to do things that are now not in accordance with who they want to be. You can help them by allowing them to lead and following their examples. For those who have made great changes, they may not be recognizable to some of you. Celebrate their goodness, their conversion, and the light they bring with them. When they leave, I am always reminded of the line from Star Wars, "I have felt a great disturbance in the force . . .." It is hard to lose their strength, their leadership and their determination to do good and be good.

Departing Missionaries

We also said good-bye to one of our assistants, Elder Moe. It is with heavy hearts that we send him home. He has been a warrior for all that is right and good in a missionary's life. His legacy of great love and leadership will be felt for a long time in the lives of the missionaries he touched and taught.

Elder Reid, Elder Wengert, Elder Moe, Elder Hodges, Elder Suiaounoa on a very humid day!

We welcome Elder Reid! He will bring strength and insight into our efforts to help our missionaries understand who they are and why they are here. Our assistants will be rotating in and out of the office. Two will always be in the field on exchanges blessing the companionships and work of the missionaries. We love having them in the field helping, supporting, counseling and lifting. These young men will be the catalyst for change and growth in the lives of many. We are ever so grateful for them.

We got sad news from home today. Our oldest grandson, Daxton, broke his collar bone. While we yet do not know the extent of the injury and whether he will need surgery or not, it is difficult to be 6000 miles from home when there is crisis. While this is not the first crisis we have faced since being here, and certainly it won't be the last, these prove to be the most challenging pieces of serving a mission. I am learning to wait on the Lord and seek comfort in knowing that He can take better care of them than I can. I wonder if I will ever get better at this, though. I struggle to be still and let Him do His work in my life and the lives of those I hold most dear. This most recent event was caused by the careless actions of another and prevents Daxton from playing on his school volleyball team and yet, he is not angry. His father said of him, "You wouldn't believe how incredible this young man of ours is. He is not mad; he just seems to be letting it all roll of off his back. What did I do to get such an amazing kid? He is naturally good to the core." And he is. Lessons on faith and patience from an injured boy reach and teach his grandmother 6000 miles away. He seems to understand so clearly counsel given by many and spoken so eloquently by Elder Neal A. Maxwell: "The acceptance of the reality that we are in the Lord's loving hands is only a recognition that we have never really been anywhere else."

Join Us!

What would happen to our mission if we all read the Book of Mormon together over the next six months? What would happen if we read the Book of Mormon looking for an answer to a personal question? The missionaries responded in our zone conferences this month with answers like increased faith, unity, greater confidence before God, peace, knowledge, greater capacity to do His work and His will.

I asked the missionaries to share their questions. Here is a sampling:

"What do I need to do to have a happy life?"

"What do I need to do to be an instrument in His hands?"

"What profession should I pursue?"

"Am I ready to do all of the hard things required of me as a missionary?"

"How can the Atonement help me trust God?"

"How can I stay grounded and faith-filled during times of stress?"

"How can I help my family be fully converted?"

"How can I learn to stand alone?'

"How can I keep my spirituality, even in difficult circumstances?"

"How did Jesus Christ fulfill all righteousness? And how can my life change with this understanding?"

"How can the Atonement heal the damage done to the brain caused by addictions?"

"How can I be bold and open my mouth to invite others to come unto Christ?"

The Book of Mormon can answer all of these questions and the 170+ of the other missionaries. The missionaries received a notebook to record their answers. I am looking forward to hearing what they find. I absolutely believe they are correct that all the things they listed will happen in our mission because reading the Book of Mormon changes lives; it is God's direction for all who will listen.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said of the Book of Mormon, "For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history--perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. In this I stand with my own great-grandfather, who said simply enough, "No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so."

The Book of Mormon has blessed my life in countless ways. It testifies of the Savior; it brings peace and hope. I have learned for myself that it is the word of God. What an remarkable blessing it is to the world. We heard the sweet witness of one of our missionaries who has read the Book of Mormon four times while serving a mission. It has changed his relationship with God and has given him strength beyond his own.

Please join us; nothing else you do will bless your life more. If you are not a member of our Church and would like to join us in this pursuit, find a missionary and ask for a copy of the Book of Mormon or get a copy here. I would love to hear from you. What is your question?

We love your sons and daughters; they bring life and joy into this mighty work. Thank you for sending them, and for trusting us with them. It is a privilege to watch them grow in confidence and faith.

Savai'i Zone Conference

Savai'i Leadership Training

Tutuila Leadership Training

Tutuila Zone Conference

Upolu Leadership Training

Upolu Zone Conference

Upolu Zone Conference


Heroes are interesting, aren't they? My favorite definition is "a warrior of special strength, courage or ability." We rub shoulders with these warriors all day every day. We spent the last week in leadership training meetings and zone conferences. Spending time learning with missionaries is an experience I will treasure forever. Watching them discover truth and committing to live the life of a disciple gives me a glimpse of how God sees them.

President said to a group of them last week that he would go into any battle with them. We are in a battle for the souls of men. We, like the stripling warriors, are a band of missionaries seeking the fallen and binding their wounds.

These heroes come in every shape, size, nationality and personality. Their heroic acts are as different as they are. For some it was overcoming the challenges of coming on a mission initially. For others it is battling illness while still continuing to seek those who search for truth. For some it is recognizing change that needs to occur in their own lives. For all of them it is acting in faith to follow the path God desires for them and helping others to find His path.

I had some heroes come to my rescue this week. President was on another island overnight and I locked myself out of the house. Our assistants came to my rescue. We couldn't find another key so we had to wiggle a hanger in-between the two doors, hook the handle and pull. That all might sound easy; it was anything but easy. They were persistent and, after many tries, successful! Elder Wengert pulled the handle and then celebrated like he had just won the lottery. We all celebrated! It was a victory over something insignificant; the celebration was fitting to the effort and their tender concern for me.

Last week our assistants showed up at our planning meeting looking like this:

I thought is was pretty clever. They all just happened to have supermen shirts. Little did I know that they would come to my rescue within just a few days. These four missionaries are heroes is the most important ways. They support and guide through their example and love. I am always grateful for their strength and courage. They do hard things and they do it with cheerfulness and "unwearied diligence."

The events of this past week have made me ponder the strength that is impossible to articulate when surrounded by missionaries. Yes, they are young. Yes, some of them do stupid things. Yes, some of them stumble. But there is a palpable feeling of tremendous strength in a group of God's warriors. There is a real sense of their purpose and their bond with each other. And it is extremely interesting to me that their strength is in direct correlation to their obedience. They truly are a reflection of the stripling warriors. "They were exceedingly valiant for courage, and also for strength and activity; but behold, this was not all--they were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. Yea, they were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him." (Alma 53:20-21)

Sometimes, I struggle when I know they struggle. I worry when they are ill. I fret when they stumble. But, as I watch the Lord work in their lives, I am reminded very clearly that "His ways are not my ways." He is busy in the lives of these missionaries. As they align themselves with His will, He makes heroes out of them!

P.S.  Be sure to check the Life with Missionary Page for pictures from our conferences in Savai'i and Tutuila. Upolu conferences are this week.


We met with our mission leadership this week. It is always a joy to be with them. We truly are grateful for what they do and who they are. 

The Mission Leadership Council

One of the things we discussed this week was our Standards of Excellence. Each mission president has the opportunity to develop and set standards specific to his mission. Several months ago, with the help of the mission leaders, we developed four Standards of Excellence. We call them our BLPP. The missionaries report on their BLPP each week in their letters to the President. 

Samoa Apia Mission BLLP:

B-2 Baptisms per month
L-20 Lessons taught per week
P-7 Planning sessions per week
P-5 Perfect mornings per week

Elder Pearson shared with our missionaries several months ago that it is easy to tell what kind of a missionary someone is by looking at his/her planner. With a good plan, comes a great day. Lessons taught include lessons to members as well as investigators. A perfect morning includes getting up at 6:30, praying, exercising, eating, showering, dressing like a missionary, personal study and companionship study. The standard is five because Sundays and P-days follow a different schedule. The missionaries can still achieve a perfect morning on those days; they just look different for each companionship. 

It has been exciting to see the missionaries responding to these Standards. Many, many of our missionaries exceed these standards every single week. We have witnessed a direct correlation in their success and their happiness when they achieve the Standards. I think most of it comes from knowing that the effort is what really counts. We can't always be perfect in performance, but we can always be perfect in effort. Even those who may fall short on lessons or baptisms can look to their planning and their perfect mornings and know they are doing all that they can. It is in those times when we work hard and fall short that our faith is stretched and we turn more sincerely to the Lord. 

We found these BLPP missionaries at a Stake Conference today!

I often wonder if we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints forget the constant nature of the help we receive from our Heavenly Father. We learn in 2 Nephi 25:23 (Book of Mormon), "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." I fear that we focus too intensely on the "after all we can do" part, believing that His grace and help will finish off what we have so earnestly tried to accomplish. Is it possible that we are reading it wrong? Do we miss the true meaning? Could the meaning be that "after all," you can never do enough and without Him we will never be enough? Elder Todd D. Christofferson explained, "After here does not refer to a sequence or chronology. It means beyond or above. The Lord will provide all that is needed beyond our capacity to accomplish in repenting and becoming reconciled to God. His aid is not reserved or delayed until the end, but is constantly with us in the journey." I am blessed to witness His aid in the lives of our missionaries even and most often when they struggle. 

Elder Christofferson continues, "I am under no illusion that this can be achieved by our own efforts alone without His very substantial and constant help. We do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help-divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience. But I know that beyond desiring His help, we must exert ourselves, repent, and choose God for Him to be able to act in our lives consistent with justice and moral agency. My plea is simply to take responsibility and go to work so there is something for God to help us with."

As missionaries go to work and take responsibility in achieving the Standards of Excellence, God makes up what they lack. I see it every single day here without exception. Nephi had it right when he said, "I will go and do as the Lord has commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, SAVE HE SHALL PREPARE A WAY FOR THEM that they may accomplish the thing which he commanded them." Is that not the most amazing thing? God asks us to do something and then prepares a way through his grace to achieve what He has asked! We simply must be willing.