Missionaries on a mission

Youths go door-to-door spreading their faith
2012-06-17T00:30:00Z 2013-12-12T13:35:25Z Missionaries on a missionJENNIFER HUFFMAN Napa Valley Register
June 17, 2012 12:30 am  • 

Pedaling around Napa on bicycles, wearing white button-up shirts and ties, black pants and name tags pinned over their chests, the clean-cut-looking young men are hard to miss. To some, their confident knock at the door is an irritation. To others, it may be a welcome interruption.

They are Mormon missionaries and they want to talk to you about their religion.

At any one time, eight to 10 Mormon missionaries, primarily in their early 20s, are stationed in the Napa area. Working in teams called “companionships,” they canvass local neighborhoods, religious books in hand and a devotion to their work in their hearts. Their goal is to share the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“People see it as we’re trying to bug them, but that’s not what we want to do,” said Napa missionary Jace Felix, 20. “We want everyone to know the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Felix and Ty Mair, 19, are two Latter-day Saints (LDS) missionaries  living in Napa. Known as Elder Felix and Elder Mair, both are from Utah, the home state of the LDS church.

Felix began his two-year mission in January of 2011. Since then, he’s served in Santa Rosa, Vacaville and Novato. He came to Napa in April. Napa is Mair’s first mission assignment — he arrived just a few weeks ago.

Many young Mormon men look forward to going on a mission, Felix said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “We’re serving the people and the Lord.”

“I always knew I’d go” on a mission, Mair said. “I wanted people to know that God loves them personally.”

Missionaries want to share their faith “in a personal way so that every person has an opportunity to hear it on their own terms,” said LDS mission President Jonathon Bunker. He supervises the approximately 180 missionaries serving in the North Bay.

“We want to break down barriers of suspicion or intolerance, and give an invitation to learn what we believe,” Bunker said.

“The Book of Mormon teaches us when you’re in the service of your fellow beings, you’re in the service of your god,” LDS church member George Anderson explained. Latter-day Saints members consider the Book of Mormon to be another testament of Jesus Christ.

The goal of missionary work is “to bring people closer to Jesus Christ,” Anderson said, and ultimately baptism and membership in the LDS church. Another part of the mission includes community service for local organizations as well as the LDS church.

A mission isn’t mandatory for Mormons, Bunker said. But from a young age, church members are taught that it would be “a worthy service and it’s something they are encouraged to do,” he said. About 50 percent of Mormon youth go on a mission, he said. Of the 180 missionaries he supervises, 32 are women.

Bill Kastner, Jr. is the bishop of one LDS congregation in Napa. His 19-year-old son, David, recently traveled to Chile to begin a two-year mission.

“We always encouraged him to go,” Kastner said. “It’s the culmination of 19 years of teaching. You hope they have a life-changing experience, that he would truly know what he was doing and why he was doing it.”

Kastner said his family was sad to see his son leave, “but at the same time, he’s serving God for two years. I’m ecstatic.”

According to the LDS website, more than 52,000 full-time missionaries are stationed throughout the world. Young men typically serve for two years and young women for 18 months, although some married couples also serve as missionaries.

Missionaries or their families are expected to contribute $400 a month to a general fund that helps pay for the missionary program, Kastner explained. Each missionary receives a debit card for daily expenses and lives in an apartment or housing leased by the church.

The life of a Mormon missionary is different from that of a typical 19- or 20-year-old. Besides a ban on smoking, drinking and sexual relationships, the missionaries do not watch TV, go to movies, listen to non-religious music or read newspapers.

They are expected to dress in a “clean, modest appearance,” which means a white shirt and dark pants for men and longer skirts for women. Missionaries are permitted to call home just twice a year — on Mother’s Day and Christmas Day. They are allowed to write letters and use a designated LDS email address on Mondays only, known as “Preparation Day.”

Missionaries rise at 6:30 a.m. and exercise for 30 minutes. From 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. they spend time studying alone and together. From 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. they walk, ride bikes or drive around Napa in a church-provided car, talking to anyone who will listen.

Most nights, the missionaries eat at a LDS church member’s home. Bedtime is 10:30 p.m. sharp. On Sunday, they attend LDS church services.

While many men their age might find the daily schedule too restrictive and would rather spend time with friends, date or go out at night, Felix and Mair said they don’t feel like they are missing out on life.

“It’s a blast,” Mair said of being a missionary. “You get to talk to new people every day. You lose yourself in the work,” he said. “Hanging out with friends is fun, but being (on a mission) is the happiest thing I’ve ever done.”

Are there specific accomplishments missionaries are expected to complete?

The missionaries might set personal goals, Bunker said, “but it is not a sales job.” There’s no quota requirement. “The best way to measure the success of a mission is the life of the missionary and the life of the members that join the church,” he said.

The missionaries in Napa meet regularly at the LDS church on Trower Avenue. At one recent meeting, they sat at a conference table in a meeting room and took turns reading scriptures from the Book of Mormon and from the missionary handbook.

Referring to one another by their formal titles, the young men and women talked about their missionary goals.

“I want to use the scriptures more as I teach,” Felix said. “I want to talk less and say more,” he added.

“I want to use a scripture every time I talk to someone,” said Jamie Robinson, 22, of Utah, who is known as Sister Robinson.

For some young men and women, going on a mission is the first time they’ve been away from home, Bunker said. But becoming a missionary is a great learning experience, he said. “They stretch, learn and grow. They get out of the mode of ‘What’s in it for me?’ and do a lot of good for people. In the process it helps them say, ‘What do I really want from my life?’”

Missionaries get homesick “sometimes,” Felix admitted. But “it’s fleeting.”

“Last week, I was kind of homesick,” Mair said. “But it goes away.”

While on a mission, “You forget about personal matters,” he said. “You’re just serving everyone else, not yourself.”

What do they do when they feel discouraged or have a bad day?

“I pray,” Mair said. “I pray for assurance that I should be here,” and for health, comfort, guidance and patience, he said.

Felix said he finds support for his mission from his family and other missionaries. When he feels down, “I think about the people we are serving and what we can do for them.”

When his mission ends, “it will be mixed emotions,” Mair said.

“I think I’m going to be sad,” Felix said. “We were called to do something and we did our best,” he added, “but I’ll miss the experience and the opportunity to serve other people.”

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(44) Comments

  1. John Richards
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    John Richards - June 17, 2012 9:07 am
    It is a perversion of logic (as well as anti-biblical) to call a 19 year old an "Elder."
  2. odiedog52
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    odiedog52 - June 17, 2012 12:48 pm
    Don't knock on my door.
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    REPUBLICANKID - June 17, 2012 3:21 pm
    I will make up my own mind about any higher power thanks
  4. Grits
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    Grits - June 17, 2012 6:00 pm
    Me too
  5. AdaMo
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    AdaMo - June 17, 2012 6:24 pm
    Thank you for your faithful service and commitment to God.
  6. napa1957
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    napa1957 - June 17, 2012 8:11 pm
    We have a couple of Mormon families in our neighborhood, and the kids get so excited when the "teachers" are coming down the road. While it may not be my belief system, I completely endorse their level of envolvement in something that is nothing but good. The love and family values I see everyday in our neighbors reminds me of my childhood and the way so many families were then.
  7. JMB
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    JMB - June 17, 2012 9:27 pm
    This seems a bit sad to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad these are good kids who aren't getting into trouble. But the fact that they can barely talk to their parents, can't read newspapers? That seems very closed off to the greater world around them. Part of education is knowing world events and politics and what goes on outside the bubble. I will wish them well though, and hope they get a well-rounded education in the future.
  8. Paddy
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    Paddy - June 17, 2012 10:27 pm
    These are really great guys. It's unfortunate that there are those who have closed their minds to, for them, new thoughts and ideas. Even if you don't believe in the religion these are caring and intelligent human beings who can make you a better person.

  9. saraislds
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    saraislds - June 17, 2012 10:57 pm
    For those of you close minded readers, get to know these missionaries and know they are normal people and go out of their way to help anyone even if you arent a member of our faith. their is a reason they dont talk with their families or read newspapers. Its so the could devote themselves to the work of the lord without distraction.
  10. Napa william
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    Napa william - June 17, 2012 11:10 pm
    My son David writes and emails more now that he is on his mission more than he was away at college! My wife loves his meaningful, thoughtful letters. As hard as you try, these are hard working loving, chaste, virtuous men, that love the Lord and want to serve their fellow men.
  11. vocal-de-local
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    vocal-de-local - June 17, 2012 11:48 pm
    We used to have a Mormon family in our old neighborhood. These people are incredibly committed to their religion. I have never met a Mormon who wasn't incredibly nice.

    That said, an issue for me is that I do not open my doors to strangers. It's a rule I am strict about. Women, in particular, make themselves extremely vulnerable by doing so. I sometimes open a nearby window to ask what it is they want but I do not open the door. And if you have teen kids at home, encourage them to follow the same rule. Sorry if that offends anyone but not everyone who comes to a front door has good intentions.
  12. ReneeFannin
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    ReneeFannin - June 18, 2012 8:36 am
    I'm sure they are all nice kids. However, let us not pretend the Mormon church is made up of roses and everything nice. Let us not forget that it was the Mormon church that heavily funded the unconstitutional Prop 8, where they directed people from the Pulpit to put Yes On 8 signs in their lawn. So, while I'm sure they are " nice" young men & women, this married Mom of 2 would politely decline the spoon fed Jesus... Or maybe I wouldn't, maybe I would offer them some education in return about other religions, cultures and beliefs so they could begin a journey into young adulthood of thinking for themselves.
  13. noway
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    noway - June 18, 2012 10:29 am
    I truly respect what they do & believe but please respect mine. Don't come to my house during my time to force your beliefs on me. If I want religion, vacuums, newpapers.... I know where to find them when I want it on my own time. My last neighborhood we had a phone tree & warned eachother they were in the neighborhood (or anyone else selling something I don't need). I also had a "NO SOLICITOR" sign at my door bell, yet they would still ring it. I asked them if they saw the sign & they said yes but they were not soliciting? I asked them to put down the bible for a moment and pick up a dictionary & look up what it means as I was closing the door. They must have looked it up because they did not come back.

    My ex brother-in-law was tired of them coming every Saturday morning. He worked nights & they would wake him. After many many attempts to tell them not to disturb him, the last time he came to the door naked with a hand gun at his side... and that was the last time they came!
  14. napavgirl
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    napavgirl - June 18, 2012 11:21 am
    I guess I shouldn't be shocked my previous comment wasn't posted.
    The mormon church is estimated to be worth $30 billion. Most of their money is spent on buildings and structures. Tax exemption? Not worthy in my opinion.
  15. reason-ator
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    reason-ator - June 18, 2012 12:12 pm
    Let us not forget, judging from the election results ( since over half of the voters voted for Prop 8 ), that you've just endorsed the Mormon church to the majority of voters.

    Problee not the intent, but thanks for the reminder.
  16. John Richards
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    John Richards - June 18, 2012 1:16 pm
    I am sure these are very nice, virtuous young people, but that does not excuse them from going where they are not wanted.
  17. Paddy
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    Paddy - June 18, 2012 1:59 pm
    Many religions endorsed Prop 8. The majority of the voters, with or without religious affiliations, endorsed Prop 8. I don't know what these boys' opinion might be but you obviously don't care to open up to find out.

    If your 2 children turn out just half as good as these guys then congratulations, you've done a good job. I'm not Mormon by the way but I am a fan of great young men and women. These are two of them.
  18. Napa william
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    Napa william - June 18, 2012 2:36 pm
    How would they possibly know they were not wanted if they didn't first go there and ask? I'm a convert and thank God I met a missionary :)
  19. Napa william
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    Napa william - June 18, 2012 2:43 pm
    The church officially spend about $2,500. Of which was legal fees and paper. Members contributed personally. The leaders never preach politics from the pulpit. And the Supreme Court hasn't ruled yet as far as constitutionality.
  20. whocares21
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    whocares21 - June 18, 2012 4:11 pm
    How did an article about two young men talking about God get turned into a Prop 8 debate? Why do we vote in this state on props when no one accepts the vote after it's over? The PEOPLE of California voted in favor of Prop 8 and these young men probably didn't even vote so why criticize their religion and what they are doing when you know nothing about them? I'm glad the Register covered this story and happy to see it on the front page. Why do we constantly fight and blame others for our woes. These guys are truly inspiring young men. IF you don't want to listen to their message, just let them know that. I'm sure they're not at your door to pester you, just to inform. WE all need a little more God in our lives. This country is so angry it's unbelievable. Get along people!
  21. odiedog52
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    odiedog52 - June 18, 2012 4:55 pm
    How did two articles about mormon missionaries end up in NVR to begin with?
  22. vinovalleygirl
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    vinovalleygirl - June 18, 2012 5:47 pm
    I don't like people knocking on my door when I have to bathe my child, or feed him dinner, or get him ready for his Saturday karate class. My home is my sanctuary, and it is invasive to me when I have to window peep to see who is ringing my bell. I wish there was some other venue they could spread their word in rather than coming on my property.
    With that being said, I applaud these young adults for not being sucked up into what young adults do these days. Although I am not Mormon, I can't be angry about young people on some path of good. Just please, don't bring it to my porch.
  23. orchid lady
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    orchid lady - June 19, 2012 2:08 pm
    You know, I'm not Mormon, but I have spent time talking with the young people who come by from time to time. I questioned their beliefs, they questioned mine, and we had great conversations. They often offered to help around the house or do a little yard work as we spoke, very nice people. When I grew tired of the visits, I just told them, I no longer had an interest in our weekly talks, and wished them the best. They stopped by about a month later to check in, because "they were in the neighborhood". I exchanged pleasantries with them and let them know that I had no intention of changing my faith, and had simply lost interest. They wished my the best, and I haven't seen them since.

    Just remember...God works in ways we don't understand, and when He knocks at your door, He will know if you opened it for Him. After my visits with the young Mormon Elders, I found a renewed strength in my Faith.
  24. napavgirl
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    napavgirl - June 19, 2012 5:06 pm
    You might feel you need more god in your life, but I don't, thank you very much. Maybe I should let them in and inform them of current events since they aren't allowed to know what's going on in the world around them, or inform them on styles of music other than religious. You think they'd want me to inform them? They wouldn't, so why should we allow them to 'inform' us?
  25. napavgirl
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    napavgirl - June 19, 2012 5:08 pm
    What is it that 'young adults do these days' that's so wrong in your eyes?
  26. Darqua
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    Darqua - June 19, 2012 9:32 pm
    A lot doesn't get posted on NVR's web site. Freedom of speech isn't supported by the free press in this county.
  27. JonC
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    JonC - June 19, 2012 10:57 pm
    "We want to break down barriers of suspicion or intolerance." Really? Perhaps these young men should read about their organization's involvement in Proposition 8.
  28. Raven
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    Raven - June 20, 2012 7:15 am
    might want to double check your figures...
    "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints filed the final report of its contributions that helped support California's Proposition 8 campaign.

    It says the church's in-kind donations totaled almost $190,000.

    The report lists travel expenses for top church officials, including airfare, hotel bills and car rentals. It also listed just less than $100,000 worth of "compensated staff time" for Church employees."
  29. Raven
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    Raven - June 20, 2012 7:18 am
    context JR, to a 10 year, 19 is an elder...and just how does it become anti-biblical? can't a church call its members what it wants...is there a biblical definition that must prevail?
  30. Raven
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    Raven - June 20, 2012 7:19 am
    there is no right to express yourself on a web site...
  31. Raven
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    Raven - June 20, 2012 7:19 am
    Mormons are a segment of the Napa community, so why shouldn't it be covered?
  32. Napa william
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    Napa william - June 20, 2012 1:36 pm
    Please accept my apology. Zero dollars were donated and the headquarters used resources to the tune of $190,000. Less than 1/2 of 1% of prop 8 funds. Again California affiliated LDS churches spent less than $2500 in non cash donations. All cash donations were donated on the behalf of individual members. Please don't twist my words.
  33. Raven
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    Raven - June 20, 2012 10:00 pm
    napawilliams if you want to use numbers, don't try and sugar coat them .... at the urging of the church, thru letters, sermons and video according to the WSJ, "Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have contributed more than a third of the approximately $15.4 million raised since June 1 to support Proposition 8.

    The tally of Mormon contributions was provided by Frank Schubert, campaign manager for ProtectMarriage.com -- Yes on 8, the initiative's primary backer. A finance-tracking group corroborated Mormon fund-raising dominance, saying it could exceed 40%."
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122186063716658279.html sept 2008
  34. Napa william
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    Napa william - June 21, 2012 6:36 am
    Raven, I personally donated 500, I believe marriage is of God, and that no matter how bad you want to change a definition it is still between a man and a woman. No sugar coating I would do it again.

    I received death threats my business was attacked and vandalized, and I was pushed into oncoming traffic by a " peaceful" no on prop supporter who spit in my face!

    We know we are on the right side and not afraid to lovingly say it.
  35. John Richards
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    John Richards - June 22, 2012 11:12 am
    Well, you are the exception to the rule. I don't think the collateral damage that is done (ill will) justifies the gaining of a few converts. Other religions manage to attract converts without going door-to-door.
  36. Badgerman
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    Badgerman - June 22, 2012 2:39 pm
    Which is why Prop 8 was struck down. Because you're on the right side?
  37. John Richards
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    John Richards - June 23, 2012 8:22 am
    It is highly premature to label Prop 8 unconstitutional until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on it. As far as California's Supreme Court is concerned, Prop 8 is constitutional, and in fact, no gay marriages are currently being performed in California.

    The Mormon church, like other conservative churches, has an absolute right to oppose the unbiblical concept of gay marriage.
  38. John Richards
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    John Richards - June 23, 2012 8:28 am
    Still, that's a mere pittance compared to the total of $83 million spent by proponents and opponents of Prop 8.
  39. John Richards
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    John Richards - June 23, 2012 8:50 am
    Hmmm, if Prop 8 was "struck down" can you tell me why gay marriages are currently not allowed to be performed in California?
  40. John Richards
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    John Richards - June 23, 2012 8:55 am
    The fact that individual Mormon Church members contributed to the Prop 8 cause is immaterial. As a private non-Mormon Christian I also contributed out of a personal conviction as to the rightness of the cause. My church never mentioned Prop 8 from the pulpit or otherwise.
  41. Raven
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    Raven - June 24, 2012 8:42 pm
    and if your church had issued a video and sent out a letter advocating you support prop 8, is it still immaterial?
  42. John Richards
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    John Richards - June 25, 2012 10:42 am
    I was not aware of the Mormon video or letter. It's not immaterial, but well within the bounds of what is allowable conduct. I'm assuming the individual monetary contributions were voluntary and not tracked by the Mormon Church hierarchy.
  43. imaginethat
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    imaginethat - July 03, 2012 7:23 am
    In my neighborhood (ABC streets) they drive up in a NICE car, unload their expensive bokes and then ride 2 blocks away to the house they are siting. When they are done with their visit they reload their bikes and drive away. Perhaps this is an isolated incident but they seem "fishy" to me.
  44. Marie Mohorovich
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    Marie Mohorovich - July 13, 2012 7:44 pm
    The LDS Mission, alongside US Military basic training and the Navajo Kinaalda, is one of precious few remaining American rites of passage and for this reason alone, a cultural treasure. The Mission is a transformative life experience that will forever shape the worldview of every missionary who endures till the end.

    The psychological and emotional stability required of missionaries drives the crucible of their personal, spiritual, social transformation and must not be disregarded.

    Yes: Most of Christendom and mainstream America remains mired in political discourse of contested genders and sexualities, LDS Church included.
    We can waste precious time bickering on the internet, reducing people to the level of pawns.
    Such bickering does not produce lovingkindness. It does not find me a ride home because I missed the last bus. It doesn’t bear witness to my suffering, nor does it lift my burden.
    In my house, LDS missionaries are respected guests.
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