Daniel L. Johnson

BOUNTIFUL — Just do it. Talk to your bishop and put in your papers to serve a mission.

That was the counsel given to senior couples by Elder Daniel L. Johnson of the First Quorum of the Seventy at a fireside in Bountiful on Sunday night.

Elder Johnson said senior missionaries are needed all over the world to teach new members how to lead.

Elder Johnson serves as first counselor in the area presidency over the Caribbean. He and his wife, LeAnn, reside in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

He told the story of a missionary couple who spoke no Spanish sent to an area where nobody spoke English and where the husband would be branch president. "What should we do when we get there?" the couple asked.

"Just love them and do the best you can," they were told.

When Elder Johnson visited the area two months later, attendance at sacrament meeting had doubled.

"What have you done?" the husband was asked.

"I don't know," he replied. "We just visited them in their homes."

A man wanted the missionaries to teach his family. At the first appointment, there were 15 people wanting to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the second meeting, there were 35. And at the third meeting, there were 65 people — and all were asked if they would be baptized. Forty-three accepted the challenge.

Sacrament meetings were held in an open field because there was no house big enough to hold the 85 people — only seven of whom were members — who attended.

"That's what couple missionaries can do," Elder Johnson said. "Young missionaries can't do it and will never be able to do it."

He told bishops in the audience Sunday, "Don't wait for couples to come to you" — talk to couples about serving. "We need missionary couples desperately," he said.

Addressing the concern many senior couples have about leaving their grandchildren and missing baby blessings, baptisms and other family events to serve, Elder Johnson said, "You'll affect their lives much more by serving a mission than by attending any of those events. ... If you go out and serve, you'll never regret it."

Your family will be fine and your family will be blessed, he said. "If you're able physically and financially, just go."

The fireside, held at the Bountiful Utah Orchard Stake Center, began with the showing of "Couple Missionaries: A Time to Serve," followed by remarks by Sister Johnson.

She said her husband, raised in the Mexican Mormon colonies, told her he wanted to live internationally. The home they recently purchased in the Salt Lake area is No. 24. Among the places they have lived are Mexico City, Honduras, Uruguay, Ecuador, Venezuela and Salt Lake City.

"That is the hard part," being away from your family, she said. But modern technology — Internet-telephone service and a camera on the computer — make it bearable.

As they have lived out of the country, she and her husband have seen what couple missionaries can do.

"I could tell you story after story (about) the influence couples have had," she said. "Our Heavenly Father has given us so much."

He doesn't give us blessings for selfishness, she said, but has given them to us to share.

"You're going to have a wonderful eternity," Sister Johnson said. "It will be even better if you (help) save souls."

In his talk, Elder Johnson gave some background information about the Caribbean, where every island is a country and the vast majority of the population is descended from slaves. On the smaller islands, missionaries are very isolated, but with missionary couples comes stability. He attributes huge gains in convert baptisms to the addition of missionary couples.

Once you go on one mission, you're likely to go on more. "You feel needed and you just can't not go," Elder Johnson said.


E-mail: rwalsh@desnews.com