Soul searching

By Sandi P. Beason

Daily Journal

TUPELO – You may have seen them recently in your neighborhood, going door to door.

Elder Jaynes of Filer, Idaho, and Elder Jones of Thatcher, Ariz., two missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, are canvassing Tupelo and the surrounding area to spread their faith. The two men have eschewed their first names during their mission.

“It's been a lot of fun,” Jaynes said. “We don't know what to expect. We get everything from, Come on in,' to the door closing.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, whose members are commonly known as Mormons, is represented by more than 50,000 missionaries in 162 countries, according to the church's Web site. Missionaries generally begin serving when they are 19-21 years old, and serve from 18 months to two years, at their own expense.

“Our purpose is to help others receive the restored gospel of Jesus Christ through repentance, baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost,” Jaynes said.

Respect and invitations

Since Northeast Mississippi is predominately a Christian area, Jones and Jaynes know they may not be well received when they knock on a door.

“Every now and then, someone is mean or threatening, but people respect what we are doing,” Jones said. “A lot of them don't agree, but they respect our position as missionaries going out and spreading the gospel.”

Most people are polite, Jaynes said.

“We are never rude,” said Sonya Hill of Saltillo. “The last time they came, we told them we were busy and couldn't talk. … We usually get more Jehovah's Witnesses than Mormons.”

Terry Shannon, resident of Jefferson Street in Tupelo, said he usually invites the missionaries inside.

“As long as they're doing God's work, I'm all for that,” he said.

Joe Murray, who lives on Jackson Street in Tupelo, said he also likes to invite the missionaries inside for a discussion.

“I'll ask where they are from, where they go to school,” he said. “Then they'll ask me if I'm familiar with the Book of Mormon.”

Murray said he often challenges them on passages in the book, but not to be rude or confrontational.

“It has to be a two-way conversation,” he said. “Engage them in your conversation. … Make them defend themselves. Make them think about what they believe. Sometimes, it's best to just ask questions about what they believe.”

Missionary experience

Before serving a mission, a person completes an application process. Each missionary call is issued from church headquarters. The missionary then enters one of 15 missionary training centers around the world for three weeks of training, or nine weeks if the missionary will learn a foreign language.

Jones and Jaynes were assigned to the Alabama-Birmingham geographical area. The church dictates how long they serve in one place.

“We wake up at 6 or 6:30,” Jaynes said. “We exercise and study for two hours, individually and as a companionship. From 10 to 9 o'clock we proselytize.”

They did not know each other before being assigned to work together, but said it has worked out.

“When you both have one purpose, you'll usually get along,” Jaynes said.

Contact Sandi P. Beason at 678-1598 or sandi.pullen@djournal.com