By Kent Larsen
Missionaries Give Lesson in Tolerance and Dedication
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA -- Fascinated with those that go door-to-door selling
wares and sharing their messages, Genevieve Roja of San Jose's Metroactive
News decided to see what going door-to-door is like and spent a day tracting
with two LDS sister missionaries in San Jose. Along the way, Roja learned to
admire the dedication of the missionaries and discoveres something about the
tolerance they are learning.
When Roja meets with President W. Kent Fitzgerald of the Church's San Jose
mission, she says she feels a little like she is visiting the principal's
office. President Fitzgerald "interviews" her and then brings her into a
room covered with magnetic dry-erase boards that Roja says "reminds me of a
War Room, and in some ways, it is." The boards are covered with cards -- one
for each missionary -- along with information about each missionary, who
their companion is, where they are living, what car they are driving and
similar information. There President Fitzgerald chooses the sister
missionaries that Roja will visit. He also asked her to dress like the sisters.
Roja says she was nervous about meeting the sisters, and the next day
arrives at their residence, meeting Sister Hatley and Sister Alyson Ashton.
Sister Hatley, 22, is a BYU mechanical engineering student from Copper
Creek, Alaska who is just three weeks from finishing her mission. Sister
Ashton, 21, is from Salt Lake City and is a University of Utah nursing
major. Roja sits down at the table with the sisters who, she discovers, have
prepared a "Missionary Weekly Planner" for her, the scheduling form that the
Church provides to missionaries. She there quickly gets an idea of the
They also let her take a look at the "mysterious 'rule book'" she has heard
missionaries follow. Roja there discovers that while the rules are strict,
they are set up so that missionaries "are not distracted from the purpose of
their mission." Over the rest of the day, Roja also learns a lot of the
mission practices that are not in the rule book. One of the latter is 'ring
once, knock twice,' that being the maximum number of times that the
missionaries are allowed to knock at a single door.
More impressive to Roja is the dedication she discovers as she spends the
day with Sister's Hatley and Ashton. "I was flabbergasted by their
dedication, their ability to persist even when stubborn, godless mules
kicked the door in their face," Roja writes. She is surprised at what they
put up with, "I marveled aloud at how they walked in dress shoes for 20
miles a day of tracting." In spite of the hard work, Roja observes that
"unlike a cult, they are free to leave at any time."
But, perhaps more importantly, Roja also discovers that the missionaries are
learning tolerance that they don't get from the public. From the rule book
Roja says that the only way missionaries enter is if they are invited. And
she doesn't see the sisters push too hard, "The sisters never press their
religion . . . and depart from the doorstep with a 'We have an 800 number
...' Other than that, no one is guilt-tripped into appointments."
Instead, they put up with teenagers staring at them when they go to lunch,
and when Roja asks them about it, Sister Ashton replies, "Oh, we're used to
it." They tell Rojas about how they handle doors slammed in their face, "You
just walk away," says Sister Ashton. "This isn't their calling," says Sister
Hatley, "This isn't their time to accept God." Sister Ashton adds, "It is
their home and they have the right to refuse, and some people do it in
In the end, Sister Hatley says that they are learning about tolerance, "Can
I just tell you how much I've learned about the world since I've been on
this mission? Tolerance isn't in abundance. This helps you build tolerance."
Roja is impressed by that, "In the end, I believe, the kingdom they are
seeking -- literally or metaphorically -- probably will be theirs, while the
rest of us will be searching for the front door."
San Jose CA Metroactive News 26Jul01 N1
By Genevieve Roja