Mormon Missionaries Face Winter in Faith

Cover of The Book of Mormon. March 6, 2018. Photo by Gaelen Morse / BU News Service

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.”


  • Mormons believe in the Christianity of the New Testament era. Catholics and Protestants believe in Fourth Century Creedal Christianity. Here are the differences:

    1. Baptism by immersion by the father (who has the authority) of the family
    2. Lay clergy
    3. Baptism by proxy for deceased ancestors
    4. God and Jesus organized the world, rather than creatio ex nihilo.
    5. Belief in a tripartite anthropomorphic Godhead
    6. Belief in theosis or divinization (that faithful Christians can acquire god-like attributes).
    7. Belief in sacred esoteric ordinances which allow faithful Christians to ascend to the highest heaven. Cyril, Bishop of Jerusalem, administered these ordinances until 350 AD.
    8. Belief in Eternal Marriage, as recorded in the Book of the Apostle Philip.

    Which is the true Christianity? New Testament Era or Creedal?

  • I served a Spanish-speaking mission to Pennsylvania 45 years ago. Doesn’t sound like daily missionary life has changed one bit. Same 12+ hour work days, 6 days a week for 2 years. Taught me what real work was that came in handy later at the university and throughout my career. Everything good in my life I owe to those 2 difficult years. It was worth it 1,000 times over. Most of all my conviction of the reality of Jesus Christ and his atonement grew as I witnessed him change lives, and bring clarity and peace into other’s confused and tumultuous lives. I discovered that I loved people, LDS and non-LDS alike, whether they accepted or rejected our message, like Mae Vega who I recently visited in a rest home in Phillie before her passing at age 101. Returned missionaries forget the freezing days out in the snow and cold, the summer humidity and the doors slammed in our faces, but we never forget the people we grew to love and the impact they had in our lives. We were so grateful when someone would let us in and give us some hot chocolate (or lemonade or water in the Summer) and listen to our 15-minute message. Just this past weekend I communicated with an old companion, and others within the past week. I thank God every day he allowed me the privilege of serving a mission.

  • Did you know Boston University currently has one of its own serving a full time mission for the LDS church in Mendoza, Argentina? Nearly two years ago, Dustin Gubernick, then a BU CAS freshman and member of BU’s club baseball team, volunteered to be a full-time missionary. His paperwork and assignment from the LDS church arrived in his dorm at Sleeper Hall. There, he gathered with a group of friends, Skyped his family who were anxiously awaiting the news in California, and opened the paperwork that determined his future. He was assigned to serve in the Argentina-Mendoza from June 2016 to June 2018, speaking Spanish. The BU dorm-mates, teammates, staff and faculty could not have been more supportive of his decision to serve. Thank you, BU! And thank you, Jenny Rollins, for writing this piece and shedding a little light on what these missionaries believe and do. I was pleased to see Deseret News take note of the article too! Elder Dustin Gubernick will get a kick out of reading it!

  • Thanks, Jeff! That book is coming, I promise. I loved your blog today on this and your thoughts here. According to Hugh Nibley, Paanchi was one of the names that impressed William F. Albright. It is really hard to get away from that one as an Egyptian name, and it”s intriguing to consider a connection with UA *onka / *oŋa. Your connection made me think of Mormon”s words to Moroni in Moroni 8:12: “But little children are alive in Christ, even from the foundation of the world; if not so, God is a partial God, and also a changeable God, and a respecter to persons and in Moroni 8:22: For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law. This, I think, is especially relevant given the deteriorating circumstances in which Mormon wrote this letter: death was extremely prevalent and the dwindling remnant of Nephite faithful were apparently anxious to have their children baptized before they were killed.

  • Thanks Ms. Rollins, for a fun read. It brought back memories of nearly identical feelings and experiences I had during my two years in Mexico over 40 years ago, including the grueling two-month program of intense Spanish language training before landing “in country.” I agree with an earlier poster. That brief period early in my life prepared me for most of what has transpired since then: from understanding highs and lows, to overcoming challenges in school, career and relationships, to raising successful children and nurturing a 40-year marriage. Some say giving up college/career and the opposite sex for two years (for missionary service!) is far too much to ask of a 20 year old man or woman. My answer to that borders on selfishness. When I look at the sacrifice I made, and combine it with whatever good I did, then compare those with the life-long blessings I’ve received, it’s not even close. I got the best deal in that trade, by far.

  • I also served a mission more than 20 years ago in Salvador, Brazil. I just told my 14 year-old son a few days ago, that those two years prepared me for the rest of my life more than anything else I have ever done. Learning to selflessly act out of love for God and other people has earned me a lifetime of happiness as I continue to follow those basic principles. Teaching the true Gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of Brazil was an honor for me that I will always be grateful for. Thanks for the great article.

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