By Jenny Rollins
BU News Service
When the “bomb cyclone” hit Boston this January, the streets were an immaculate frosty white, nearly undisturbed except for two 19-year-olds, a cancer survivor and a former tennis champion, wading through knee-high snow.
The tall and thin young men were both decked in thermals, suits, ties, sweaters, winter gloves, wool hats, snow boots, and heavy winter coats. Perched on top of all of the layers, just above their hearts, were little black and white badges reading, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
These Mormon missionaries, Elder Parker Rogers and Elder Tyler Blotter, had just left a warm apartment after teaching someone about Jesus Christ when they realized they had locked their keys in their own apartment.
They were stuck outside in over 13 inches of snow with 51 m.p.h. winds, so they made snow angels.
“I thought it was fun,” Blotter said. “I thought it would’ve been kind of cool to build ice forts and sleep in those. I helped a friend build one when I was younger.”
Their formal attire didn’t stop them from throwing snowballs as they waited for other missionaries in the area to take them in.
But their boyish, upbeat attitudes don’t always help them stay warm though while talking with people on the streets for hours each day.
Blotter, born and raised in Utah, is proud of his state’s slogan: “The best snow on earth.” But he admitted Boston’s humidity and wind get to him. Layers don’t always help, he explained.
“It feels like the wind always goes through your clothes,” Blotter said.
The young men get up at 6:30 every morning to read their scriptures and prepare lessons. Then, they head out into the streets to tell people about God, Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith.
They return home at 9:00 p.m. and head promptly to bed at 10:30 every night.
Blotter and Rogers are just two of nearly 71,000 Mormon missionaries, men and women, all over the world. Mormon men have to be at least 18 years old to go and Mormon women have to be 19.
LDS church leaders assign each missionary to a part of the world sectioned off as a “mission.” There are 422 missions all over the world, each varying in size of city, number of missionaries and areas of land covered.
Male missionaries usually serve for two years; female missionaries serve 18 months. During this time, they are expected to stick to a rigorous schedule and only contact their families once a week by email and twice a year by Skype or phone.
Wendy Lewis, a warm-loving 27-year-old Boston University law student, said she served in the Moscow West Mission where she experienced the coldest times of her life.
After visiting one woman living in an unheated house on the outskirts of Tver, Lewis and her companion waited for a taxi on white-covered ground that was anything but blanket-like.
“It got really cold to the point where your brain starts to fog over,” Lewis said. “I swear I almost died.”
Mormon missionaries are not paid. In fact, missionaries pay $400 a month to serve missions, a total of $9,600 for men and $7,200 for women. While young men are strongly encouraged to serve missions, it is not a requirement.
“When things get hard, I just think about how I’m not forced to be out here,” Blotter said. “It was my own free will and choice to serve a mission and it’s what I signed up for.”
Rogers recounted an experience earlier that day when a man noticed the little black tag on their shirts and approached him on the T. The man asked Rogers and Blotter if they had to be there. They said no. The man asked them if they got paid. They said no again. Then why, the man asked, are you here?
“We do this out of service and out of love for the Lord,” Rogers had said to the man, who then accepted a copy of the “Book of Mormon,” the religious text Mormons use along with the Bible, and expressed interest in meeting them again.
“Moments like that — sharing what we know is true, makes it worth it,” Rogers said.
“I think that they, like many missionaries, are motivated by their testimony of Christ,” said Ryan Madsen, the ward mission co-leader for the Longfellow Park 1 ward, a local congregation of single young adults.
Madsen served for two years in Jakarta, Indonesia, biking an average of 20 miles a day in humid weather, even during the flooding of the rainy season. He said his desire to share his faith in Jesus Christ kept him going.
Both Rogers and Blotter said their favorite part of their mission was being able to help people be happy.
“I’ve never really felt like the mission’s a job,” Rogers said. “We’re here to share what we believe. The thing that I love the most is just talking to people.”
People, however, are not always happy to see them. Blotter said that a few months ago, when he was serving in Connecticut, he was approached by an intoxicated man who suddenly punched him in the face. Blotter was knocked back onto the hood of the car.
When Blotter was back on his feet, he found someone had already called the police. He filed a police report, got checked by a medical professional and went back to work.
“That’s what you do when you’re on a mission,” Lewis said. “You just put on your ten layers and go.”