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Mission in focus

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Posted: Saturday, May 28, 2005 8:06 am | Updated: 7:39 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Finding the two missionaries’ apartment was easy. A portrait of a redhaired Christ in a red robe, a depiction by artist Del Parson that is widely displayed in entrances to Mormon buildings, was taped to their window facing 82nd Street just north of McDonald Drive in Scottsdale.

Like everything in their highly programmed day, the alarm clock went off at 6:30 a.m., and elders Adam Anderson and Javier Misiego rolled out of their beds in the sparsely furnished bedroom. They made their way to the living room for 30 minutes of exercises to the accompaniment of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on CD. It’s America’s choir, they noted.

"Sometimes we stay home and do this — weights, push-ups, sit-ups — and then sometimes we run in the morning," Misiego said. "We realize that if there is a healthy body there, the spirit can dwell there, too."

They embarked on another day of their Mormon regimen — adherence to a schedule that would not let them quit until 10:30 p.m., after they recapped their day in journals.

It’s a seven-day-a-week pace in their work for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Time off comes on Mondays (until 5 p.m.), when they can do laundry, clean the apartment, write letters, shop for groceries (they say they spend only $25 a week each for food) or take a hike. Swimming is verboten because of the temptation it poses.

Also missing from their lives are TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, nonchurch books and the Internet. Misiego goes to the mission office nearby to e-mail home. Terrorists bombings in Spain in March 2004 dominated the media, but it took his mission president to inform him of the tragedy.

"We are focused on our work, so we have no distractions," Misiego said. "It could be very easy to be distracted."

A ‘CAR MISSION’

Anderson and Misiego, both 20, are paired with their seventh missionary companion under the supervision of the Arizona Mesa Mission, and they expect to be paired with others before Anderson’s twoyear mission ends in mid-December and Misiego’s stint is over in January. Anderson had started out in north Scottsdale, where he served for 7 1/2 months, then spent 4 1/2 months in Payson and then came to the nine-square-mile south Scottsdale zone that stretches from Indian Bend Road to Osborn Road and 59th Place east to Pima Road.

Misiego had first served a Spanish-speaking mission in Mesa for two months, then eight months in Taylor in an English- Spanish mission, three months back in a Spanish mission in Mesa and the past eight weeks in Scottsdale.

"There are a lot of people who have a lot more changes than we have had," Anderson said, noting that the constant flux of missionaries starting and ending their assignments, coupled with a need to match experienced missionaries with less experienced ones, make it practical to change pairs as often as every six weeks. "You learn from each one," he said. Each also acts to keep the other accountable and on track.

Their Scottsdale area is too large and heavily populated to be covered well by bicycle. They travel in a new Chevrolet Malibu, equipped with Mormon Tabernacle Choir CDs. Anderson drives, while one of Misiego’s tasks is to direct Anderson whenever he backs out of parking stalls — a rule imposed after missionaries were having too many accidents. Another rule: Never drive outside the borders of their zone.

PREPARING A DAY OF LESSONS

With their morning workout done, Misiego showered and dressed, while Anderson got out a blender and made fruit shakes from apples, bananas, frozen blackberries and strawberries and fruit juices. His former companion in Payson taught him to do it. "It’s healthier, I love it," he said.

Once they put on white shirts, dark slacks, ties and black elder name badges, they started work.

At 8:10 a.m., each knelt beside his desk in prayer and began almost two hours of scriptural study, with a guidebook, to plan seven lessons they would give that day. In silence, they pored over the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrines and Covenants. They then shared what they had studied and finalized their day’s plan.

A marking board above their desk contained the names of recent converts, those of people referred to them to be searched out, a "potential" column with most new people they had come across who had showed interest in learning more about the church and the "investigators," those who were actively studying with them. There was also a corner listing names of "less active" people.

"Things are going really good," Anderson said. "We are teaching a lot of people. We will be teaching a lot today."

Misiego’s desk contained a framed photo of Gordon B. Hinckley, the president and prophet of the church since 1995. On the wall was a composite of photos of the 165 highest leaders in the church — all males.

Pairs of carefully polished shoes were lined up by the desk, including a pair with shiny buckles, declaring "Elder" and "Misiego." This was a gift from a man who "borrowed" his shoes one day.

On the back of the apartment door was a poster of trees: "The Sacred Grove — What happened here changed the world. Let it change your life." It refers to a grove near Palmyra, N.Y., where church founder Joseph Smith is said to have had his first vision in 1820.

Their handbook, "A Guide to Missionary Service — Preach My Gospel," states, "The Lord expects you to work diligently, persistently and with great effort and care. A diligent missionary works effectively and efficiently." It instructs, "Your success as a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize and confirm people and to help them become faithful members of the church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost."

Missionaries and their families pay $400 per month regardless of the cost of living in their assigned areas, and the church typically pays most costs from that fund, including rent and, in Misiego’s and Anderson’s case, the cost of their car.

The two are among about 51,000 full-time missionaries in 140 nations and territories to proclaim the faith. More than 15,000 missionaries currently proselytize in the U.S. Thirteen percent are women who serve for 18 months. They undergo training in one of 15 centers for three weeks, or six weeks if they are learning a language.

Misiego said he has nurtured at least 30 people in the faith and brought them into the church through baptism, but he was quick to say, "I don’t want to think of them as trophies."

They go where they are sent and talk to whoever will listen.

"It all depends on the area," he said. "In Scottsdale, you get a lot of rejections. In Mesa, with the Spanish, every time, you get in because they are such welcoming people."

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