A Lifelong Legacy of Missionary Work

  By Whitney Evans, Church News staff writer

  • 14 January 2013

LaVona Richardson, 77, flies to Salt Lake City from Arizona once a week to conduct tours on Temple Square.  Photo by Tom Smart.

Article Highlights

  • LaVona Richardson, a senior sister missionary, flies from Arizona once a week to conduct tours of the Conference Center on Temple Square.
  • Sister Richardson became a Temple Square tour guide after her husband died and her daughter suggested she stay busy.
  • After more than 37 tours, Sister Johnson said she enjoys being able to share the gospel with the myriad of visitors she meets.

One Latter-day Saint woman has found a way to continue a lifelong legacy of missionary work by conducting tours at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. This is typical of many older Latter-day Saints, but one thing sets LaVona Richardson, 77, apart—she flies in from Phoenix, Arizona, for her weekly shift, a feat made possible because of her earlier career with US Air.

“Sister Richardson is as spry as any one of the hosts working in the building and, after a four-hour shift from one to five p.m., does not seem any more exhausted than the younger hosts on her shift,” said Brother Earl V. Elmont, another missionary on Temple Square.

Shortly after her husband died, Sister Richardson’s daughter suggested she do something to stay busy. Having already served in Mexico when she was 20, as a ward and stake missionary, and two missions with her late husband—one to Indonesia and one to Nauvoo—a mission as a Temple Square tour guide seemed to be the perfect fit.

“I love it,” Sister Richardson said after wrapping up her 37th tour of the Conference Center.

Nearly every Wednesday she flies in around 10 a.m. and flies out around 6 p.m. She keeps a log of the tours she conducts and something interesting that happens each day. On Thursdays following her tours, her grandchildren will call her to hear about their 77-year-old grandmother’s experiences.

Her experiences range from the humorous to the profoundly spiritual.

“My next tour was with a couple from the state of Washington. … The lady wanted to take pictures of everything. I didn’t think I would ever finish the tour,” she wrote on July 25, 2012.

On July 18, 2012, she recorded, “My third tour was with a couple who came on their motorcycles. … They looked like rough characters and said they only had a short time to take the tour,” she wrote.

“The man especially was very interested and wanted to stop and read everything. … He said that it made sense that God spoke to His children in other ways than just the Bible and how the Bible had been interpreted differently by so many different religions. This was a perfect opportunity to tell them about the First Vision and about the Book of Mormon. They are ready for the truth.”

Sister Richardson constantly looks for ways to start up a conversation about the gospel. On weeks when it is her turn to bring treats for the other Conference Center missionaries, she jokes that she has to keep airport security at bay so they don’t steal the cookies and Rice Krispie treats from one of her two little pieces of carry-on luggage. She also engages with other passengers on the shuttle, encouraging them to come for a tour while they are in Salt Lake.

Her favorite part of being a tour guide is the people, especially those who are not members, she said, her eyes brimming with excitement.

“It’s just wonderful to be able to bear testimony to them,” she said.