Here in Puerto Rico, being around the young missionaries restores our faith in the rising generation. They arrive so young, green and unsure and then week by week, they arise and are transformed and expanded to someone much bigger as they start to learn. They learn to find a friend and then follow-up every day. They learn to invite people to make remarkable commitments and then support them to keep them. They walk journeys with people who will radically transform their lives because of what the missionary has taught them.

This is no small thing for the missionaries to be interested in people whose lives are nothing like their own. They have to call on wisdom they never acquired to help someone in a rocky marriage or coax someone to marry who have lived together for years. Maturity impossible for one so young emerges as they face all the problems of the world that their new friends have wrestled with.

Giving up what you know and how you’ve been is not an easy process for a new convert, and the missionaries see them through with steadying hands. And these are twenty-year-olds devoted to these selfless and sophisticated tasks? Who are these missionaries?

The Lord sends almost children out to preach His most important gospel. What’s more He sends out children who have hardly read the product manual (the Book of Mormon), before they are on their way.

Then, hurrah, these young missionaries perform, proving all along the ancient, eternal spirits they are—still looking so young and taking on so much.

It’s simply no wonder that all the senior missionaries adore the young missionaries. We consider it the biggest treat to be with them. We look for every opportunity. It is simply a testament of God’s presence to watch what they do and who they become.

Excitement is Contagious for Family History 

We are becoming more and more able at finding spots to put up our family history booths, where we help passers-by and find their family history. Once we have found the best places, we have to obtain reservations and leap through bureaucratic hoops to make it happen. That’s why we were so happy when Elder Mitt Niederhauser and Elder Dawson Brenchley were able to get a carte blanche pass to set up at any Kash and Karry in their area at any time. That’s some good, creative work from them and involved convincing the top brass of this grocery store.

Yet, doing something new like setting up a booth, approaching strangers and actually finding their family lines very quickly at a market place takes a bit of training and a lot of confidence. Usually when a group of young missionaries are doing a booth, one among them has had some experience doing it before. It wasn’t true for the group who did a booth at Cabo Rojo last Saturday in a location almost three hours from San Juan.

We made that drive to be there with them because, though we had trained them how to do it in an hour zoom class, doing it hands-on was new for everybody. What’s more, they had only received permission that morning to do a booth.

Imagine our delight to arrive at the fair, and instead of finding missionaries with blank stares on their faces, seeing, instead, sheer light, unusual excitement and exuberant joy.

Cabo Rojo

We asked Sister Elizabeth Fisher and Sister Gissel Torres to tell us about the magic. What went so right?

Sister Fisher began, “It worked because we had no idea what we were doing, and it worked because we were all lost together. It brought almost a unity, because we didn’t know what to say when somebody came to the booth, so, as soon as we began, confidence just came. Since we were just trying to figure this out together, we led in unity with the same kind of energy.

“We didn’t waste time talking to each other,” Sister Torres said, “but paid complete attention to the people who were passing by. If someone even walked a little slowly in front of us, we said, ‘Buenas tardes, are you interested in your family? We can help you.’”

At one point 40 people stood at the booth waiting for their turn to learn about family history.

A major part of this secret was that as soon as the missionaries heard they had permission to do the booth, they called specific key members of their ward to invite them to the event and five families confirmed and came. Sister Fisher said the members were impressed. They said, “This is so awesome. What a cool booth.” The missionaries and the members played off of each other’s excitement.

“Others came by, and they could feel the excitement, too. ‘Wow, you just found his great grandfather! How did you do that?’ Even if people didn’t stop to talk to us, they loved the banner and took down the QR code. Excitement begat excitement. One person told another to tell everyone to come.”

That’s something we’ve learned. This project catches the members on fire, and when a missionary stops to help them find their ancestors to take names to the temple, they find the members, themselves, need their own work done.

“This isn’t just somebody else’s family. This is my family! This isn’t just somebody else’s work. This is my work!”

Anybody, who ever tried to persuade someone else to do something they didn’t first think of, know how vital energy is, but you just can’t manufacture whole cloth the kind of delicious excitement we saw that night at Cabo Rojo.

Sister Torres said, “The key was that we prayed to ask God to bring people to us who were prepared. We prayed that the Lord would teach us how to run a booth, since we knew so little about it ourselves.”

“There was no question the Lord’s hand was in it, because we found out about the event and asked permission late Friday and had it early Saturday As soon as it appeared this was going to happen,” said Sister Fisher, “we began to pray every moment in gratitude. Since we were nervous about doing a booth, we prayed to ask God to bless us.

“If something good happened—like the girl who could give us permission answered her phone, we prayed. The following day when she called giving us permission, we went straight to our knees. Alright! She said yes. We are so grateful.

“As soon as we got to the park and saw how amazing the venue was, we prayed in the car. Alright! This is great. In every single thing that happened, we could see the Lord’s hand blessing us. We prayed and we prayed and we prayed again.”

These missionaries were so filled with light, we wondered how anyone could resist coming to their booth.

Elder Junior Victoriano tried to explain it to us. Since we are both learning each other’s language, it was mostly through a few words and some gestures, but here’s what we got. He gestured to his heart and to his mind and he said, “So full,” and then “Exploding.”

Elder Asher Luke: “I Found My Grandfather”

Elder Luke wrote: What a life-changing experience I was able to have in my temple experience for my Grandpa 서 순영 (Seo Sun-Yeong) For a little background context: the Korean side of my family tree was lost for almost 50 years, because my dad was adopted when he was about 6 or 7 years old and was raised in California.

Not having any connection with them, he lost all connection with his biological side. Thanks to the magical miracles of missionary work in the Lord’s vineyard, my cousin who was called to serve in Korea in the last month of her mission found my biological Korean side of the family. Now we have a couple of records, and it all stems off from my grandparents. This happened in the year 2022, so when my family went to do the proxy temple baptisms in 2023, I was off to the CCM for missionary training.

Almost one year later, I am serving as a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in beautiful Puerto Rico, and as missionaries we had the opportunity to take a missionary temple trip the 12th of April 2024. I had been asking for the Korean side of my family for about 6 months, and the code to add my Korean side of the family in the FamilySearch app was given to me about 1 week before we were prepping for the temple.

A couple days before the trip, I got online and something told me to check my Korean family’s side. I then saw that my grandpa didn’t have his work past baptism. It felt like he was shouting in my brain “I’m here!, You found me!” and I wanted to do his so badly! I got permission from President Horstmeier to call my dad to see if he wanted to do it instead. He said that I could and I’ve never felt so excited!

Then I realized he needed initiatories and endowments, but the missionary temple trip was just for endowments. I asked President Horstmeier about it and he said “Elder — this is too important not to do. I just talked to the temple president. If you can be there by 7:00 am, I’ll come over and get someone else and we’ll do the initiatory for you.

What a special, once-in-a-life time experience. You just have to do this tomorrow!” The excitement shot back into my head and I knew my Grandpa was screaming again “YES FINALLY. I’VE BEEN WAITING!”

As I was preparing for the temple trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about my own endowment where all my fresh new white clothes were ironed and prepped, I started preparing as if it was my first time. Little did I know this wouldn’t affect me until later. S

The day of the temple we arrived and how beautiful it was. We waited for all to show up and I saw Victor (a great member friend from an old area) and Elder Dean (a senior missionary in the mission), and then President showed up and we went inside the temple to get ready. I got all dressed up in white putting on everything, and I was thinking of how it was for my first time in the temple. I started getting a little nervous and I knew my grandpa was feeling nervous, so I said a little prayer for the both of us.

As we were waiting outside of the changing rooms on a bench while the initiatory room was being all set, President Horstmeier sat down next to me and made sure I understood how the ordnance goes, and how to do it all. After all was set and ready, and it was time to get up, President looked me in the eyes and said “He’s here by the way.” Never before had I felt, with such a surety and confirmation, that I had my personal angels watching over me, those angels being my ancestors specifically my Grandpa 순영.

I remember sitting in that room going through the initiatory, and, wow, the spirit in that room was so strong I felt the power of God helping all of us to understand the importance of what was going on and to feel His love filling the small, but comforting room. Near the end of the initiatory, I felt a soft, but undeniable hand on my back. Now I have no clue whether it was Elder Dean or if it was my grandpa (I believe it was my grandpa), but I know without a doubt my grandpa was there with us in that moment.

Now I’m not a crier, but I let some happy tears slip through for sure. Then we were off to the endowment room and this is when my mind completely changed. As I was sitting down, I thought I’m up front because this is an important day for my grandpa, (a little bit of a worldly thought) and then it hit me. Every single one of these missionaries is representing someone who is going through the endowment for the first time. Until that moment I didn’t truly understand the importance of the work for the dead. Every time we go to the temple, do we truly understand who we’re doing it for? Are we ironing our pants, cleaning and nicely folding the socks, or are we just throwing the white shoes in the bag cause “We haven’t been to the temple in a while?”

Every time you go to the temple, there is someone who is waiting and has been waiting for a while, maybe even centuries. I got my own personal understanding of why the family history work, the missionary work, and the work of the temple are all one work, the work of the Lord, and I got so excited like never before.

I went through the endowment, and it was such a spiritually-filled room. After the session, while in the celestial room, I was looking around, trying to remember as many details as possible so that my grandpa could see through my eyes and feel what it was like in that peace-filled place.

I bawled, not out loud, but I needed more than one tissue to say the least. It was in the celestial room, where I closed my eyes and offered one of the most unique prayers I’ve ever said. I thanked my Heavenly Father for giving me the opportunity to go through the temple for my grandpa. As I prayed, I thanked him for being able to feel my grandfather’s presence. I asked him sincerely with all my heart to help my grandpa accept the ordinances, and every time I think about it still, I get the same feeling of confirmation that my grandpa was willing and was waiting, that he did accept them and thanked me. I felt his love. I felt a warm embrace like never before.

Now I never met him nor saw his face or heard his voice, but I sensed his presence. I felt his love. I felt his hand upon me. I KNOW one day I will feel his warm embrace again when we are in the Lord’s kingdom together. I wrote about it in my weekly email home and my aunt did the work for my biological grandma and so now they are endowed and waiting to be sealed.

I testify that the power of God is in the temple, I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to change me, and my testimony for life about the importance of temple work. I know my God loves me. I know he cares. I know his plan is to allow all to make it to exaltation in the celestial kingdom, and it is our responsibility as endowed children of God to BRING THEM HOME. I know with all surety of heart, I will see my grandpa one day, and we will rejoice in one big reunion as we help more of God’s children on their journey home. He is with me, and I know God gives us angels to watch over us. This is my testimony.