Most young adults on the BYU campus wear jeans and carry backpacks, but there are a few people who roam campus wearing missionary tags and carrying copies of The Book of Mormon.
Six elders from the Utah Provo Mission are currently serving on the BYU campus.
Elder Zach Barfuss, who is serving at BYU, said he was confused when he learned where he would serve because he didn’t realize there were missionaries in Provo.
“Oh, of course I’m going to the Provo MTC, but where am I going for my mission?” Barfuss said he thought when he opened his mission call.
Barfuss’s companion Elder Daniel Bentall said he found his mission call funny since many people joke about being called to serve in Provo.
But the elders said BYU is a prime place to do missionary work. Their investigators are often prepared because they have background knowledge and support from their member friends, Barfuss said.
“It’s really awesome, because on average, BYU has a baptism every week,” Barfuss said. “In a year, there’s around 60 or so baptisms.”
Barfuss and Bentall cover 116 wards in eight young single adult stakes and three family stakes, and they said no other companionship in the world works with as many units as they do. The elders work closely with stake leaders and members, Barfuss and Bentall said, and returned missionaries often help them find investigators among non-LDS roommates or neighbors.
“It’s great and helpful,” Bentall said. “But there are a lot of people that fall through the cracks, because people don’t know that there are missionaries on campus, which can be an issue.”
Barfuss and Bentall said BYU is a coveted area in their mission.
Along with serving the church, BYU missionaries also hope to serve the students at the university. Barfuss and Bentall said this might be as simple as reminding returned missionaries of their happy experiences and bringing back the feelings of peace, love and joy they felt on their missions.
Serving on the BYU campus has also given Barfuss and Bentall an idea of how they can continue to be missionaries after returning home, they said. The elders often interact with students who are returned missionaries. They listen to those students’ stories and observe the way they carry themselves after returning from their missions.
“One of the big things I’ve learned is just from the light you can see in people’s eyes when they still really care after their missions,” Bentall said. “They want to keep doing missionary work and serving Christ.”
Barfuss and Bentall said some people may question the effectiveness of serving in Provo, but that there are people in Provo who need the gospel, too.
“I love it, it’s one of the best areas I’ve served in,” Bentall said. “It’s just a huge blessing to serve here.”
BYU student Alec Martin, now studying geology, served on the BYU campus during his mission. He said his mission and school memories remind him of the surrounding mountains.
“When you look up at the mountain, you see the layers of rocks stacked on top of each other,” Martin said. “The memories tend to do that, too. I’ll walk around and be at the JSB and think, ‘Oh, I had a baptism in there, but now I’m going to this class here,’ or ‘I went after this girl here.'”
Martin said he still finds ways to do missionary work, even though he is now a student instead of a full-time missionary on the BYU campus. He has the advantage of knowing the back end of how the missionaries function and what they want, Martin said.
“I try to become like the members I loved to work with on the mission,” Martin said. “There would be people who would be like, ‘Elders, I did this for you, set up this lesson, and there’s this person you can talk to.’ I try to become that.”