By Kathryn Richards
The two men wearing dark suits and missionary name tags aren”t just over-zealous returned missionaries. They are BYU”s very own set of LDS missionaries.
At a university saturated with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it might seem like there”s nobody for the BYU missionaries to teach. Surprisingly, though, missionary work at BYU is thriving.
“It”s great. There”s a lot of work going on,” said Elder Vatikan, 20, from Vavau, Tonga, who has served at BYU for the past six months.
Vatikan and his companion, Elder Rapier, 20, from Moreno Valley, Calif., said BYU is an ideal atmosphere for missionary work with its strong spirit and abundance of pre- and returned missionaries
“There”s really a missionary spirit here,” Rapier said.
Vatikan and Rapier said they find people to teach through members. They can often be found on campus or tracting in nearby neighborhoods, asking students if they have non-member friends interested in learning about the church.
Jeff Bush, 21, a freshman from Houston, Texas majoring in computer engineering, returned nine months ago from his two years as a missionary in the Utah Provo Mission. He spent the first three months of his mission serving on BYU”s campus.
“I loved working with college students my age, and to be able to interact with them as friends,” Bush said.
Bush said the atmosphere at BYU is helpful to missionary work. Activities like devotionals were great missionary resources, he said. He noticed a positive atmosphere at BYU.
“You”d walk around campus and feel the spirit,” he said. “It felt different from other college campuses.”
Lawrence Flake, professor of church history and doctrine, teaches a religion class for non-member students. He said his students are impressed with friendliness, openness and helpfulness of BYU students. This helps create a good atmosphere for missionary work on campus, he said.
“There is a synergism here of so many great Latter-day Saints,” Flake said. “There”s a spirit on campus that makes it a great atmosphere for missionary work.”
There are, however, challenges to being a missionary at BYU.
“At first, when they told me I was coming to serve at BYU I was scared because most of the people are my same age,” Vatikan said.
Rapier said some missionaries worry that the many returned missionaries found on campus will be judgmental of their work.
Staying focused with so many college activities around was another challenge for BYU missionaries, Bush said.
Despite these challenges, though, the missionaries say they”ve learned a lot serving at BYU.
“I”ve learned how effective missionary work can be when the members are really involved,” Rapier said.