Zone Conference and a Final Good-bye

We met with the zones here on Upolu. They are learning and growing right before our eyes. Missionaries who were shy and quiet have become powerful agents. They teach doctrine with their comments and testify of the Savior in ways that change lives.

Northeast and Northwest Zones

Central, Apia and Southwest Zone

We sadly announce that we have been given a medical release by the Church. President Tolman has struggled for many months with health issues and has developed a new condition that cannot be diagnosed or treated here. There are not words adequate to express the sadness we feel leaving these remarkable disciples. We love every single one of these missionaries. We know they have great things to do and to accomplish here in Samoa. They will continue to have our hearts and our prayers.

An interm mission president couple has been called. Elder and Sister Saunders have been serving for 15 months in American Samoa. They have run the mission office there and are extremely capable. They know most of our missionaries and already love them. These missionaries will be well-cared for and will continue to grow under their inspired and loving leadership.

A new mission president is being called. We do not know the timeline for their arrival, but I am sure they will bring wonderful things to the Samoa Apia Mission.

It is in times like these where nothing seems to make sense that the only thing we can do is to trust in God. I read a quote a few months ago. It went something like this, "When trials seem unbearable, do not trust your feelings. The only thing you can trust is the doctrine you know about God." Trying to find the whys in a situation like this only leads to unproductive places, so we have chosen to trust the doctrine we know about God. We know he loves us and is working in our lives to bring about change and growth. That doesn't mean that sometimes it won't hurt. One of our missionaries said this week at zone conference he believes God does His best work in times of darkness and despair. I think that says it all. We are deeply grateful to have spent time with your sons and daughters. We feel privileged to have cared for them and loved them!

If you wish to continue to follow the happenings of the mission, you can do that on the Saunders blog. It can be found at

President and Sister Saunders

Zone Conference

Over the past two weeks, we have met with five of the ten zones. The other five are scheduled for this coming week. It is always a good day when we get to spend it with missionaries! It is fun to watch them reconnect. They become attached to one another in the MTC and when they serve together; transfers can scatter them for many months. They are always excited to see one another and catch up.

I love what Elder Holland said in October Conference 2012, "The call is to come back, to stay true, to love God, and to lend a hand. I include in that call to fixed faithfulness every returned missionary who ever stood in a baptismal font and with arm to the square said, 'Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ.' That commission was to have changed your convert forever, but it was surely supposed to have changed you forever as well."

It is a privilege to watch that change occur in the lives of these missionaries. We see them develop the "fixed faithfulness" mentioned by Elder Holland. They set their faces towards God and allow this experience to sanctify them and prepare them.

Savaii Zones

Tutuila Zones


We just received seventeen new missionaries; nine of them are sisters. We are thrilled to have a growing number of sisters in our mission.

Sheri Dew, in 1999, after talking about her grandmother said this: "To the world, my grandma was ordinary. But to me, she represents the unsung heroines of this century who lived up to their pre-mortal promises and left a foundation of faith upon which we may build. Grandma wasn't perfect, but she was a woman of God. Now, it is for you and for me to carry forward the banner into the next century. We are not women of the world. We are women of God. And women of God will be among the greatest heroines of the 21st century."

I marvel as I watch these sisters come. I see women of great faith and devotion. I see women of God and disciples of the Savior. They serve with priesthood authority and great heavenly power. I am ever so grateful for them. They help me to be stronger and more committed. They stand as witnesses in all things and in all places. They are a force for all that is good and praiseworthy; 1600 of them enter the mission field every month. Watching these sisters serve is a remarkable blessing.

New Missionaries (More photos on Life with Missionaries page)

As exciting as it is to welcome new missionaries, it is always sad at the end of the week to say good-bye to those who are returning home. We will miss them. Along with our young missionaries, our office couple, the Jacksons also went home. They will be missed by all of us! It is our hope as our missionaries leave us that each of them will feel the approval of the Savior for their sacred consecrated work.

Departing Missionaries