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Posted 05 Aug 2001   For week ended July 27, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 27Jul01

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 missionary's day.

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 different ways."

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."


Belle Ringers
San Jose CA Metroactive News 26Jul01 N1
By Genevieve Roja


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