Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sacrifice Brings Forth the Blessings of Heaven

After almost two months in the mission field, I am finally beginning to grasp just how complex — and how many "moving parts" there are — in a successfully operated mission.

At last count, we have 188 young missionaries and 33 "older" missionaries serving in the Australia Melbourne Mission. Every 6 weeks we have what is called "Transfers" and many of the missionaries are moved to new geographic locations (called areas) to work with new companions. At the same time, a dozen or so of them conclude their missions and go back home, and a similar number arrive to begin their missions. Next month we will have a "net gain" of 7 or 8 new Elders and Sisters. Transfer time is a very busy time for everyone, including especially the office staff.

Some of our incredible departing missionaries (We'll miss them!)

Coordinating the activity of all of those missionaries is a massive undertaking. In addition to transfers every 6 weeks, there is housing to arrange and manage, hundreds of bills to pay and other missionary-related finances to tend to. There is the fleet of 85 vehicles and the related maintenance and repair tasks associated with all those cars, not to mention the all-too-frequent traffic accident or speeding ticket (called infringements here) to deal with.

There are baptismal records to record, referrals to manage and distribute, supplies to order and medical issues to address. And, of course, there are other administrative tasks related to things such as answering phones, coordinating travel, planning Zone Conferences, missionary phones, public transportation, and dozens more that have to be attended to every month.

A few of the cars in our fleet

Our missionary force is like the United Nations of missions. Currently, we have Elders and Sisters from 29 different countries serving in the mission!!! (In a few months it will be up to 32!) There are areas within the mission itself where the missionaries have been specifically called to teach the gospel in Chinese, Vietnamese, Samoan and, of course, English.

Similarly, Melbourne is a bit of a melting pot of cultural diversity as well. Its citizens come from many, many different countries. This is evident by (what we call) the Book of Mormon Wall in the Mission Office. We stock copies of The Book of Mormon is 77 languages!!!

Our Book of Mormon Wall

Yes, it takes a lot of resources, manpower and time (and a lot of money) to operate a mission. And the Australia Melbourne Mission is just one of 418 missions in operation throughout the world today. Last time I checked, those missions had 74,079 missionaries. And in case you didn't know, missionary work is voluntary. Missionaries fund their own missions — except for their transportation to and from their field of labor — and are not paid for their services. That's a lot of volunteer service.

For some, it may beg the question, "Why? Why would 74,079 people, young and old, take 18 months to 2 years out of their lives do this?" The answer is two-fold:

First, because Christ's church has always been and always will be a missionary church. The missionary effort is based on the New Testament pattern of missionaries serving in pairs, teaching the gospel and baptizing believers in the name of Jesus Christ. The work of Peter and John found in the book of Acts are great biblical examples of missionary work. Of course one of the greatest New Testament missionaries was Paul. (If you don't know who Paul is, take the time to read up about his conversion story. It's pretty amazing.)

The second reason tens of thousands of us serve is because we sincerely believe that the messages of the restoration, eternal families, and God's plan of happiness are worth sharing. So, we follow the example of the Savior's disciples and we share the gospel, literally, throughout the world.

Sister Gray and I are loving serving. We are forever grateful to anyone and everyone who played a part in some way to make it possible for us to serve. And while we may not be out actually teaching like most of the other missionaries, our efforts with a few of those many "moving parts" helps them do the most important work: Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Mormons Are Coming!

You've probably heard of the play called 'The Book of Mormon - Musical'. It is a religious satire musical that pokes fun at the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The lyrics and music were written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park. It's been a big hit, winning 9 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Reviewers have praised it for its music and originality, but also point out the play’s blasphemous and offensive themes and language. I'm not going to see it and I don't recommend you do either.


An interesting thing is happening with this play. Many thought the Church would be upset about it, or that there might even be protests. But as people quickly found out, that's not the LDS Church's way at all. When the musical opened in the U.S., the Church released the following statement: “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”

Well, two weeks ago the play opened here in Melbourne. Advertisements with the message “The Mormons are Coming” have been running for months now. The message is on TV, in the paper, and even on the sides of the trains and buses. Hundreds of people in Melbourne have posted their excitement about the musical on their social media pages. Word is that The Book of Mormon play has been the best selling show in Melbourne's Princess Theatre’s 159-year history. Who would have thought the three words 'Book ... of ... Mormon' could ever be so widely heard and spoken in Melbourne, Australia?!

Of course, as Michael Otterson, the managing director of Public Affairs for the Church pointed out, "Parody isn’t reality ... The danger is not when people laugh, but when they take it seriously [and] leave a theater believing that Mormons really do live in some kind of a surreal world of self-deception and illusion."

Clearly there's a wonderful opportunity here to set the record straight, which comes in the form of increased genuine curiosity about the Church, the missionaries, and the real Book of Mormon. Since the show started its promotional efforts last January, searches on the Internet in the greater Melbourne area about “Mormons” are 10 times greater than before.

Starting about a week ago, and running through most of February, the Church has launched a media initiative in downtown Melbourne that is incredible! Southern Cross train station (which has daily traffic of over 155,000 and is the major railway station and transport hub for Melbourne) is plastered with Book of Mormon-related themes that "set the record straight" about who we are and what's really inside the Book of Mormon.

Here are a bunch of photos taken in Southern Cross Station, but I wish you all could see it in person. It's amazing! (Click on any image to see a larger, more detailed view.)

Needless to say, it's an exciting time to be a missionary in Victoria, Australia! You should go to the Australia site ( and take a look at some of the videos and how this campaign is being tied to social media. It's really well done.