Pioneer Proselyters: Full-time Missionaries at BYU

For Elder Phillip McKay and Elder Dan Doerflien the day’s work begins at 6:30 every morning. Like missionaries throughout the world, these elders tract homes, follow up on referrals, and teach the discussion lessons. But Elder McKay and Elder Doerflien are also pioneers of sorts. They are the first full-time missionaries assigned in the Provo-Orem, Utah, area—a community that includes some 25,000 Brigham Young University students.

It was just over a year ago that the Utah Salt Lake City Mission was opened. President Ernest Eberhard, Jr., and some 130 missionaries have met with immediate and resounding success. During one recent month there were 326 convert baptisms in the mission. Elders from Detroit and New York, along with Elder McKay from Bay City, Texas, and Elder Doerflien of College Park, Maryland, have been greeted by members with referrals, Sunday dinners, and “real missionaries in Utah!” stares.

“It’s different here in Utah,” says Elder Doerflien, who has served in seven states. “When we opened Logan, Utah, the members were excited and somewhat dumbfounded at first. When we’d walk into a department store, all the cash registers would stop; everyone would turn around just to look at us.”

Like missionaries throughout the Church, the Provo elders’ greatest successes come from member referrals. One particular program has excited both members and investigators alike. A personalized copy of the Book of Mormon, including a handwritten testimony on the inside cover, is given by a member to a nonmember friend. The missionaries then receive a referral card from the member, and the doorway is opened. This widespread practice has led to the nickname the “Book of Mormon Mission.” The elders’ proselyting in Utah is especially effective when combined with other missionary efforts. “We correlate everything we do with the stake missionary programs,” says Elder McKay. “We are here as a catalyst to missionary work in Provo.”

Although 95 percent of the students at BYU are members of the Church, Elder McKay and Elder Doerflien have plenty to keep them busy on the campus.

“For the first few days, no one even knew who we were. Finally we set up a booth in the activity center where clubs are allowed displays to contact potential members,” says Elder Doerflien. “The results were more than 100 referrals within two weeks.” People even went up to the missionaries and asked to be baptized. It was just a matter of days before their first contact actually joined the Church.

Elders McKay and Doerflien know the gospel message is worldwide and its membership is also. And Utah and BYU have introduced the elders to investigators from throughout the globe. One contact met while jogging, accepted baptism on the fourth discussion. He now plans to return to his homeland, India, and share the gospel with his people.

[photos] Photos by Laird Roberts

[photo] An information table in BYU’s activity center brought more than 100 referrals in two weeks

[photo] On the move through BYU’s activity center, Elder Doerflien (left) and Elder McKay are pioneers of sorts in the Provo-Orem area

[photo] Repentance is part of the gospel message, Elder McKay explains during a discussion in one Provo home

[photo] The elders get their share of Sunday dinners, referrals, and tracting as do other missionaries across the world

[photo] Work between stake and full-time missionaries is a “corporation of love,” John Kinnear, president of the BYU Fourth Stake, tells Elder McKay

[photo] Elder McKay and Elder Randy Foutz, mission secretary from Farmington, New Mexico, receive another referral

[photo] The elders have found an abundance of investigators, although the majority of the community is LDS

[photo] All white is standard baptismal apparel—so are the smiles