“I’m Going to Idaho!”

There’s a funny scene in the movie Singles’ Ward where one of the characters gets his mission call. He finally opens it and learns he is goiing to Idaho. His buddies are all disappointed for him–but he is actually excited for the prospect. The humor derives from the likelihood that probably no prospective missionary dreams of going to Idaho for his mission.

One of our speakers at church today told a story that made me think of that scene. His son recently received a letter from an elder serving in Africa.

The elder had been a listless young 18-year old in Idaho when the speaker’s son was serving there as a missionary. The young man had gone on a split-off with the Idaho missionary. They went tracting together, and didn’t get in a single door. Hardly a memorable experience.

But there was something about the experience that moved that young man. All they were doing was their basic duty, with no great glamorous or glorious results discernible from their effort. But that young man was inspired by that experience, and he determined that he wanted to go and serve a mission himself. (The Idaho elder is a great guy and an engaging young man, and I imagine that some of his influence may have been the strength of his personalilty. Just guessing about that part.)

So this young man goes on a mission and gets called to Africa. And he is enjoying tremendous success there. And he took the time to write a letter to that elder who had taken him tracting, because he wanted that elder to understand that his seemingly modest effort on the streets of Idaho was now having a dramatic impact in Africa, half a world away.

I thought it was very nice of that young man to reach out to the Idaho missionary and tell him of the impact his efforts have made. And the whole story put that scene from Singles’ Ward in an entirely different light for me.


  1. very nice.

  2. nice, and well said. the best part of a mission is the conversation with people. doesn’t matter where they are from. it is what makes a mission so wonderful, and full of impact and influence.

    in my case, when I was preparing for the mission, my friends all thought I was going to be called to Romania, seeing that I’m from there. I downplayed that possibility or I knew I would be disappointed if I was called to, say Ohio (nothing against Ohio—but it just ain’t Romania). :) When I did get my call, I was called to the Romania mission. I don’t know how many people’s lives I influenced. I know that from one family, the husband became the District President and the wife head of CES for all of Romania. Finding them definitely required the spirit. They prayed to find the truth, and a week later we knock on their door. However, when we knock they were cold to us, thinking we were just another JW type. We gave them the Book of Mormon and they told us to come back in a month. When we go back, they warmly invite us in, and ask questions on every topic imaginable. Because of how much I studied the scriptures on my mission, I was able to answer every single one of their question with scripture. So impressed, and the spirit so strong in our discussions, they got baptized.

    Wherever you go in this world, people are generally the same, and they require the same message from God.

  3. I am of the opinion that all Idahoans are great people, full of the Spirit, and generally better than the rest of you.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    When I was 17 or 18 there was a pair of missionaries that had that same kind of impact on me. They were great guys, just as cool as cool could be. I mean seriously cool. And they were terrific missionaries, but very humble abouit it. (Later they were made apes, but they weren’t the type to seek that out.) I went tracting with them on more than one occasion, and on p-days we played a lot of basketball together. Their very positive example made it possible for me to consider going on a mission myself.

  5. Scott B, I agree!

  6. Great story Kevin.
    My little brother has been serving in the Pocatello Idaho mission for a month now. He loves it. It’s perfect for him. He was honestly as excited at the kid in the movie when he opened his call.
    At first, all 8 of us older and wiser siblings:P who have served missions were almost trying to console him. My sister, who served in Minnesota said she was disappointed when she opened her call–and just laughs at how excited he was/is to serve in Idaho.

  7. I have known people who have requested different mission calls (and got it) after being called to Idaho. I feel very sad for someone with that type of attitude. Idaho is a great place with some very good people. I know it is a cliche, but “It isn’t where you go, but how you serve.” Personally I love sharing the gospel with anyone who will listen.

  8. What a great story.

  9. I spent about 25% of my mission in Idaho (50% in Montana, 25% in ND, 1965). We worked mostly under the Bishop, as there were so many Stake missionaries. We were asked not to go door to door (90% Mormon). Lots of fill in! (OK). We worked with visits to hospials, elderly, poor, inactive members, and on the Church potato farm.
    Salmon, ID was weird, (sorry). It had two wards. One attened by the young, or those with kids. The other, old and emply nester. The same buiding.

  10. Its refreshing to think that when you serve a mission it affects so many different people both those who are members of the LDS faith, as well as those who are not. Reading this experience brought back thoughts of missionary years in Oregon a little more than 10 years ago. Thank you for the post.

  11. Sister #1: Japan
    Sister #2: Japan
    Sister #3: Madagascar
    My little brother, the first one who “had” to serve a mission: Idaho.

    He took it well.

    I think it helped when Sister #4 served in California and Brother #2 went to Texas.

  12. I was called to the Utah Provo Mission, which I think tops Idaho as the last place you’d expect to go on a mission. My little sister later went to the same mission.

  13. My attitude changed on my mission to South Africa. One of hte local missionaries had a habit of thanking us for coming to his country. He loved his country and really felt his country needed the gospel. That has changed my outlook. America really needs the gospel. Ever since my mission i have thanked missionaries for serving here, in the country I love.

  14. I had a similar experience. As a youth I went on team ups with our local elders and knocked doors and never got in to teach, but I felt fantastic and decided to serve a mission. As a missionary, my companion and I tried to take the youth out with us and saw the same type of reaction over and over. It was great! Thanks for bringing back good memories.

  15. Yes. Damn that Idaho. Worst place a missionary can go. I mean, dinner appointments every night. High membership involvement. Lots of quality baptisms without a lot of serious effort at “finding.” Never have to serve as branch president. Seriously, who would want to serve in Idaho?

  16. I served 30 minutes from home, even saw my parents at traffic lights every now and again. But even that close, being a teenager at home and an Elder 30 minutes to the North was like being a totally different world (of course anyone from London will tell you outside the ring road is a foriegn country :-)

    But my Mom totally had the Singles Ward reaction to my call, except she couldn’t even manage a false excitement for me. She vocally conveyed it was crap.

  17. I remember wanting to go to Germany, even bought a German hymn book, I was soooooo sure. But then I thought, what happens if I get a call to somewhere in North America? What then. I decided I would be ok if I got called to California.

    10 days after submitting I got my call. I went to San Jose California.

    A few days in the Mission field and I did not care a whit about where I served. I loved it most of the time and that was enough for me.

  18. That should say I got my call to California San Jose… I did not go for about six weeks after I got it back.

  19. GatorAdeMomma says:

    Just a comment about all the great influence missionaries serving in the field have on the decision of youth to serve mission. We have had a change in policy for the last couple of Mission Presidents. The Elders and Sisters are greatly limited in their access to dinners at members home. We used to get more excited about giving referrals to the missionaries we grew to know, love, and trust…and the kids who don’t have older siblings/aunts/uncles/cousins who are serving/served missions were greatly influenced by regular contact with the missionaries. In our stake we see referrals numbers declining and increasing numbers of youth choosing not to serve missions. Is part of a mission the opportunity to share the gospel, but also to help motivate the youth to desire to serve, too? Youth need to know real people serve missions and love it.

  20. I’ve never understood the disdain for Idaho/Utah missions. They are among the highest baptizing missions in the world. Who wouldn’t want to go to a mission where you can baptize tons of people? Looking down with disdain on the location of your call says a lot more about the character of the person than it does about the location.

    I served in the Pocatello Mission and loved it. I went to school and now work in my mission.

    What always irritated me was being out on splits with ward missionaries and hearing them refer to anywhere outside Utah/Idaho as “the mission field.” As if I was sent there to deliver the mail or something.

  21. I had friend in southern Idaho who got her mission call to Ogden. The farthest she got from home was the MTC. A cousin of mine married a guy who served in Ogden – he had two main complaints. First, every member a mission president. Second, you get plunked down in an area ten blocks by ten blocks, told that’s two stakes, and you’re not allowed to leave that area. A stake might not even include a grocery store. He said it felt like a jail cell at times.

    There was a elder I served with in Maryland who had lived there until his junior year of high school, then moved to Utah. From Utah, he got a call to Washington DC North. While he was serving, his parents moved back to the DC area. Early in his mission, he was sent to his old ward where his former girlfriend lived – he finally had enough and asked for a transfer. But, for his last area, the mission president sent him back to that same exact ward, now where his parents and family were living. His mom scheduled the missionaries for dinner appointments every Monday and they’d take their laundry over. When it came time to return home, his dad drove over and picked up the rest of his stuff. One week in Church, he was the honorable missionary, ready to return home after a hard two year effort. The next week, he was giving his report in the same exact ward, with his last companion sitting right there in the chapel.

  22. On the same theme, here’s what one ward did to get the (now) local missionary home:

  23. I’ll never forget the deacon in Brooklyn who, when we were discussing in quorum meeting where the boys might like to go on their missions, answered “Staten Island.”

    We all smiled–and succeeded, mostly, in not laughing.

  24. Aah…Montana! Nothing but free food. Beef, elk, duck. Baked pies/bread. “Here Elders, take this paper bag out to the garden/corn field and fill it up”. Here’s Elders, a gallon of milk (weekly), four inches of cream on top…

  25. 1. Some research into where the RMs in our ward have served have shown me that (and this is not statistically significant, but it is all the data I have access to) sisters are more likely to serve foreign-country or foreign-language missions than elders.

    2. I was always “taught” by fellow classmates at BYU to envision the place you don’t want to go. I was certain Ogden was the place I didn’t want to go (I have family there). Then a brother on our floor, the only member in his family, got called there, and was so excited. The only other place I wouldn’t want to go was Iowa, but I know a brother who had his call changed from Idaho to Iowa (and loved it).

    3. I know it sounds like urban legend, but I’ve met people who, after admitting that they asked for a new call, got the same call the second time *OR* were told by the Mission Department that if they chose not to serve, they needn’t.

  26. Second, you get plunked down in an area ten blocks by ten blocks, told that’s two stakes, and you’re not allowed to leave that area. A stake might not even include a grocery store. He said it felt like a jail cell at times.

    DW served in Spanish-speaking Anaheim. One of her areas (I’m guessing Santa Ana) was three blocks by two blocks. They actually had to live outside the area and commute in, but other than that, they didn’t leave their 2×3 area.

  27. I prayed so hard for a mission call to Oklahoma. I figured no one in the world prayed to serve Oklahoma so it would be a sure thing for me if that is what I wanted. What I wanted was not to have to learn a foreign language. I had suffered through three semesters (well, four actually since I had to retake the first semester) of German at BYU. Mission call? Brazil. I did learn to speak Portuguese. I did LOVE the people of Brazil and love my mission. I did have a strong spiritual experience about 2/3 of the way through my mission that I was in the right place at the right time. Another Trust in the Lord experience.

  28. Kevin Barney says:

    Jones, I too was leary of serving a foreign mission and learning a language, and I got called to Colorado. I was thrilled; I had lived in the state before, it has mountains, and no blood sausage in sight.

    I liked serving in Colorado, but only later at college did it fully hit me what a tremendous educational advantage it would have been for me if I had had the chance to serve a foreign mission and learn a language.

  29. thanks for this. Interesting post, I served in the Idaho Pocatello Mission too. It was a great place, I did my best.

  30. PS- here is something I submitted awhile ago to a humor website..it tells about my experience w/being called to Idaho!


  31. Never have to serve as branch president.

    Serving as a branch president in my mission was one of the highlights, actually.

  32. I am of the opinion that all Ohioans are great people, full of the Spirit, and generally better than the rest of you.
    We have and Elder serving in the Ohio Cincinnati Mission who is from Columbus. I hear he was thrilled when he got his call.

  33. I am of the opinion that all Ohioans are great people, full of the Spirit, and generally better than the rest of you.

    Amen! (As a native Northeast Ohioan)

  34. Molly Bennion says:

    Long ago a friend whose call was to Florida sincerely believed he was to go to England. He appealed to the Twelve and met with Bruce R. McConkie who was less than pleased. But the Twelve took up the matter and changed the assignment to England. After tossing his silly but required hat into the Thames, my friend broke multiple mission records serving a most successful mission. He reported profound spiritual experiences. Today he is not active. I have no idea if there is any relationship to where he served or how he got there. Probably not. But I’ve wondered.

  35. It’s true! Idaho Rocks Hard.

  36. Having lived in Idaho Falls, I can affirm there are plenty of good people who have not yet joined the Church, but who have generally positive experiences with their LDS neighbors. They also have a lot of Spanish-speaking families who work on the many farms in the area.

    Among the missionaries who served in our stake were a sister from Mongolia and an elder from Kenya. They were outstanding people. It was a reminder that even Idaho Falls is exotic for some people. And the winters at 5,000 feet and above guarantee that you will have plenty of stories of tracting through snowdrifts to tell your kids.

    At the same time, I would have been very disappointed if I had not been called to serve in my native Japan. When my mission call came in the mail, my Mom and I were making mochi (rice cakes), a traditional New Years food, with the entire Japanese language branch in Salt Lake. My Dad was the mail man on our route. He called us up and read the letter to me. When I announced I was going to the Japan mission, everybody cheered.

    I got to visit my Japanese grandmother and other family a couple of times during my mission, so it was a real bonus for me, beyond the missionary experiences everyone has.

    The foreign missions Americans get called to tend to be those with fewer local members, who can’t shoulder their own missionary burden. My own ward sent half its missionaries to Africa and eastern Europe. The Japanese Liahona carries the mission calls of 10 to 20 new missionaries every month, most of them to somewhere else in Japan, although one or two each month will get called to a foreign mission like San Jose, California. A couple of years ago, one of the sisters called to Temple Square was the daughter of my Japanese missionary companion. He came to Utah when she finished her mission, so we had a chance to visit, go see our mission president, and the American sister missionary who had baptized her mom.

    The whole process of mission calls to places near and far builds a web of friendships and even families that forms the blood and sinew of the Church, over and beyond the bare bones of the ecclesiastical organization. That game about “6 degrees of separation” can connect most any Mormon to another one anywhere on earth.

    One example: Idaho Falls native John H. Groberg, after serving several missions in Tonga, is given responsibility to oversee the early missionary efforts in Mongolia. The Mongolian government is not being cooperative in renewing the visas of the US missionaries. Elder Groberg travels from Hong Kong to Mongolia, taking along his daughter, who just returned from a mission in Slovenia. They find out that the government official who can help them is very busy because he has been assigned to be ambassador to–Slovenia! He doesn’t know anything about the country, so Sister Groberg gives him all sorts of details about the country and its people, as well as insight into the work of LDS missionaries. The problem is solved, through that web of LDS connections that embraces the world.

  37. Reader’s Digest Condensed Comments, RTS Volume 1:

    I’m from Idaho.

    Missionaries from foreign countries serve here and hate snow.

    Everyone cheered when I was sent to Japan.

    I am capable of speculating on the demographics of stateside missions and missionaries.

    Kevin Bacon is related to most missionaries.

    Elder Groberg would have drowned as a missionary, but his Mongolian daughter saved him with Slovenian trivia.

  38. When I opened my mission call in fall, 2002, Singles Ward had been out for about a year (I think). I was startled to read “Boise, Idaho.” One of my best friends had been called there just 6 weeks previous, and I was ticked because I felt like I was supposed to go there.

    Of course as I shouted, “Boise, Idaho!” everyone thought I was kidding. And I never ran short of members asking, “So, were you disappointed when you got called to Boise? Have you seen Singles Ward?”

    So yeah, there is probably a tiny minority of missionaries who want to go to Boise.

  39. Да уж… Тут как люди раньше говорили: Аппетит приходит во время еды :)

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