I remember the first set of Mormon missionaries I met that had been assigned to my university campus when I was in college. Having come from a small branch that covered a large geographical area, I was surprised that there was a set of missionaries that was assigned only to the campus and the student population. They must have attracted the attention of some students by their mere presence – after all, these were young guys who would have fit in well with the student population, but were instead ordained ministers preaching the gospel.
This is the case with a pair of missionaries assigned to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor profiled in the Michigan Daily on October 24. In fact, the article teaser goes like this: “You know those two hyper-clean cut guys on the Diag? They’re not on their way to give a presentation at the B-School. They’re here to save your soul.”
With an opener like that, these elders – Elder Stoker and Elder Mackintosh — have a lot to live up to. But the article makes it obvious that these young men are working hard and trying to do the things that missionaries should do – something that students not of the Mormon faith find particularly fascinating.
“We take these young kids in the flower of the youth and take them out of the most narcissistic, self-absorbed time of life and plant them somewhere on Earth,” Steven Hedquist, president of the Ann Arbor Stake (group of local congregations) explained. On their missions, they “realize for the first time that there are other people on this planet besides themselves.” He adds that missions often change the life perspectives of those serving.
Elder Stoker and Elder Mackintosh, just like tens of thousands of other missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, follow some strict rules and scheduling during their two years as missionaries. This particular day, they make some cold contacts on campus and hand out some cards for a free Book of Mormon.
They must stay with their partner, or “companion,” at all times. And while they are allowed to e-mail their families and write to their friends once a week, they are only allowed to call their families on Christmas and Mother’s Day and their other use of the Internet is strictly limited. Neither are they allowed to watch television, or read anything but the scriptures and other religious texts. These rules allow the missionaries to concentrate on their service to the Lord with minimal distractions.
Occasionally throughout their
Elder Stoker and Elder Mackintosh said they have rarely been harassed by students on campus. This is probably at least in part due to their peaceful approach, especially as compared to some of the other preachers on campus who draw attention by insulting and outraging the crowds around them.
Elder Stoker and Elder Mackintosh said that Mormon missionary work isn’t to scare or hassle people into joining the Church, it’s to make sure the chance to learn their faith is available to all who are interested.
A couple of blogs at LDSBlogs.com explain more about missionaries and what they do: