On May 22 and 23, members of the Des Moines Iowa Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrate 50th anniversary of the organization of the stake with an arts celebration at the Ashworth Building at 3301 Ashworth Road in West Des Moines. The display is open from 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. on Saturday May 22 and 8:00 a.m. through 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 23rd. 

The Des Moines Iowa Stake was organized in 1970, but the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been a part of the Des Moines, Ankeny, and surrounding communities for much longer than 50 years. From pioneer days to the current day, members of the church have been

These memories from Rebekah Bishop will be featured at the arts celebration along with works of music, visual art, handcraft, photography, and poetry that celebrate the stake’s 50 years along with the growth and changes over the past decades.

Members of the congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that meet in Ankeny, Iowa, are blessed to have among them a handful of such pioneers who have personally witnessed and can recount the history and growth of the Church in that community over the past six decades.

A History of the Beginnings and Growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ankeny, Iowa, as told by Rebecka Bishop

My name is Becky Bishop. My mother is Mary Boyd. We were asked to give a history of the church in the Des Moines area and more specifically, Ankeny, at a recent Relief Society activity. Now I am presenting it in this format for a larger audience. My mother and I are both native Iowans. She has lived here all of her life and, with the exception of a four-year stint at Brigham Young University and living in Germany for several months, I have, too. We live in the country just half a mile apart, 18 miles northeast of Ankeny, where we have lived for more than 50 years.

Almost from the beginning the Church has had a presence in Iowa. As seminary students, Church members learn about the Mormon Trail through Iowa and the settlements that were established to assist the migrating Saints on their journey west. Martin Harris traveled through Des Moines in 1870 when he chose to rejoin the Saints in Utah, and according to a Des Moines newspaper, was given a suit of clothes by the Latter-day Saints living there. The first congregation of the Church in Des Moines was organized in 1936. They met in rented rooms in downtown. By 1951 there were branches in Ames, Des Moines, and I believe, Boone.

Old House on Kingman

This house on Kingman Boulevard, near Drake University, was purchased by the Church and dedicated in 1943 by George Albert Smith of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. My mother joined the Church in 1956 when my family lived in Des Moines. Missionaries were sharing the message of the restored gospel in our neighborhood, and my mother invited them to come in. I was four years old. This home is still standing – I took this picture of it earlier this year. It used to be white.

Really Early Sac Mtg

This photo shows a sacrament meeting at the church building on Kingman Boulevard. My mother, Mary Boyd, is sitting tall in the third row, just to the left of a woman wearing glasses. One of the men standing at the back of the room is the grandfather of Gordon Kusel, a member of the Ankeny Ward. This photo was taken in or around the year 1957.

Really Early Primary

This was the Junior Sunday School in the church building on Kingman Boulevard. Gordon Kusel’s grandmother is seated in the back, as is my Sunday School teacher. I am sitting fourth from the left in the third row, with the lower half of my face blocked. The boy in the third row from the back whose mouth is slightly agape is Donny Russell, a member of the Ankeny Ward. He recently told me that this building was a funeral home before the Church bought it, and that our Junior Sunday School room was where the bodies were viewed.

newspaper-story-straight.jpgWe had Pioneer Day parades in Iowa, too. This appeared in the Des Moines newspaper when I was in Primary.

Ashworth Cornfield

In the late 1950s the Church purchased land on Ashworth Road in West Des Moines. Many wondered why our new building (the current stake center for the Des Moines Stake) was going to be built in the country. (You can see the cornfields in the background.) At that time 22nd Street was a gravel road. We grew corn behind the building to help with the branch budget. In 1970 Spencer W. Kimball, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and later President of the Church, organized the Des Moines Ward. By 1982 there were two wards in Des Moines.

Sept 1978 First Day Primary

I included this photo to give some context. My oldest son, Jacob, became a Sunbeam in 1978, two years before the Church changed to our current three-hour block schedule. This meant the Primary met on Wednesdays after school. We had church twice on Sundays then. Living where we still live now, we would drive 45 minutes to church in the morning, then rush home, trying to keep everyone awake so they would take naps before returning to church in the evening for sacrament meeting. Attending Primary was a challenge for me because my husband worked nights and I had to borrow my brother’s car to take three-year-old Jacob as well as 18-month-old Michael and two-month-old Joe to West Des Moines. (On the plus side, my brother drove a Camaro!) It was a blessing for all of us when the Church changed to the Sunday three-hour block schedule, but we still dreamed of having something closer.

Boyd's Pond

There were a number of Latter-day Saint families living in the Ankeny area by then, and with our bishop’s blessing, we began socializing as a group, while still busily fulfilling our callings in the ward. We had several missionary firesides at Boyd’s Pond, pictured above. We had picnics and budget dinners. Also, home teaching and visiting teaching routes were primarily in our area.

And then, in February 1983, the organization of the Ankeny Branch was approved by the First Presidency of the Church, with Patrick Bishop (my husband) called as the branch president. Our branch was unique in that Patrick, a convert at age 20, was the only member of the branch who had experience being in a small branch. The rest of us were used to attending church in a large ward in a lovely building which was also the stake center. We took much of the leadership of the Des Moines First Ward with us – three who had served in the bishopric, the elders quorum president and both counselors, the Young Women president, two Relief Society counselors, the service and activities chairman, and even the very musical Primary chorister, who had done the original choreography for The City of Joseph pageant in Nauvoo. We had a lot of experienced leadership in our new little branch.

Legion Hall-outside

The American Legion Hall on 3rd and Cherry became our new home, and we were thrilled! We came on Sunday mornings bringing lace tablecloths, flowers, a podium, a portable organ, and hymn books – everything we would need. We brought the Spirit with us as we set up, and for three hours it was as holy as any chapel.

Legion Hall-sac mtg

There were about 50 people at our first sacrament meeting, and that number continued to grow. There were inactive members of the Church who began coming and remained active. My mother made the comment that we just needed to “bring the Church to them.” Patrick said that when the branch presidency came early on that first Sunday, the building (which wasn’t very large) was filled with cigarette smoke from the night before. One of his counselors was appalled and felt that they needed to cancel church. Pat assured him that it would be okay. Pat said that as members began arriving and setting things up, the smell completely disappeared. Then later, as everyone had left after the three hours and Pat was locking up, he realized that the small had returned. (We weren’t quite as fortunate on the morning after a big sweet corn dinner – the Legion Hall was filled with flies. I think the Lord wanted to keep us humble. We used our programs as fans and fly swatters, and we managed.)

Legion Hall-whole Primary

The Primary was our largest organization and the one where we were most lacking in experience. We met in the bar of the Legion Hall and used the booths as individual classes with posters on the mirrors identifying each class. All other organizations met in the corners of the room that we used for sacrament meeting. Our youth consisted of two young women (who were sisters) and one young man who was a deacon. Since most of us were serving in the Primary, just the sisters in the Relief Society presidency met for Relief Society. My brother Mike, who was in the elders quorum on the other side of the room, used to complain about the sisters in Relief Society always singing.

Legion Hall-Primary room

The bar itself was handy for storage during Primary.

Legion Hall-Primary class in booth

We used the booths in the bar for Primary classes, and it actually worked quite well.

Oct 1983 Primary sac mtg program

This was the Primary’s first sacrament meeting presentation.

First Branch Bday Party Legion Hall 1984

We found many opportunities to do things together as a branch. Sometimes we were able to use the Legion Hall on days other than Sundays, and sometimes we found other places to get together. This was our first birthday party to celebrate the organization of the Ankeny Branch.

Branch Bday Party March 1984 ribbons for firsts

At our birthday party for the branch we gave out awards for the branch’s “firsts,” including prayers, talks, etc. Clearly pictured in this photo are several current members of both the Ankeny Ward and the Rock Creek Ward, the two wards that meet in the Ankeny building.

Relief Society Social March 1984

This was our first Relief Society birthday party. A member of the branch lived in a mobile home court in Ankeny, so she was able to reserve their community center for our homemaking meetings. When the community center wasn’t available, we met at someone’s house.

Outdoor picnic in white shelter-color

This was the branch’s first Fourth of July breakfast, a tradition that continues today with the Ankeny Ward and the Rock Creek Ward.

New Building Groundbreaking July 1984

In July 1984, about 15 months after we met for the first time as a branch, we had a groundbreaking ceremony for our new building. By then we had an average sacrament meeting attendance of 80. First Street can be seen in the background.

New Bldg Groundbreaking-July 1984

Another photo from the groundbreaking ceremony. Our church was built on a grassy vacant lot.

New Bldg Under Construction

This is a view of the new chapel from the south. Our building was built in phases and was added onto as we grew. This was the first phase.

New Bldg Open House

We met for the first time in our new building in March 1985. Later, in August, we had an open house for the community. The man fourth from the left is Ollie Weigel, who was mayor of Ankeny at the time.

Open House Exhibits

Here is one of the open house displays.

Pat Bishop and Kids in bishop's office

Pat was pleased to finally have a branch president’s office. Before, he would meet with people either at our house or theirs. Tithing settlement was held in his counselor’s basement. This is now the branch president’s office for the Young Single Adult Branch.

Sac Mtg in New Building

This was our first sacrament meeting in the new building. The first phase of the building ended at the hallway between the current Primary and Relief Society rooms and the nursery. It included the baptismal font that opened into that hallway. As you can see, these rooms were also smaller, being enlarged some years later as the additional phases were added.

Sac Mtg Hymn in New Bldg

This is another photo of our first sacrament meeting in the new building. That is my mother, Mary Boyd, at the organ.

Spring Primary Activity Showing WM on First Street

This is a view from the southeast corner of the new building looking across First Street to what was a Wal-Mart at the time. Notice the fields to the east.

Relief Society Christmas Party 1985

This was a Relief Society Christmas party  in the new building. Current members of the Ankeny Ward, including me, are clearly visible in this photo.

Garden Grove May 1986

We frequently found activities to do as a branch, with everyone being invited. This was a branch outing at Garden Grove in southern Iowa.

Pinewood Derby

This, of course, was a scout Pinewood Derby. As I recall, the members of the elders quorum participated, too, with cars they had made.

Pinewood Derby Awards

As soon as we had boys old enough, we had a very active scout troop.

Mt. Pisgah May 1988

This was our first branch campout at Mount Pisgah on Memorial Day weekend in 1988. Five families participated, although everyone was invited. That evening after supper we had Family Home Evening as we sat on the hillside overlooking the valley.

Spring Primary Kite Activity 1989

This is a photo of the branch’s Primary kite activity held at the Ankeny church building in the spring of 1989. The grassy lawn is now the parking lot on the south side of the building.

Mt. Pisgah May 1990

We had nine families at our next Mount Pisgah Memorial Day weekend campout in 1990. We were a ward by then!

Garden Grove Memorial Weekend May 1990

The next day we went to Garden Grove, where we had a picnic and softball game. You can see how our numbers had grown.

Boyds' Hayride October 1990

We had a tradition for years of a hayride party at Boyd’s Pond, something that actually started when we were still attending church in Des Moines. This photo was taken in the fall of 1990.

Boyd's Pond Party October 1991

This is my mother, Mary Boyd, at the ward’s hayride party at Boyd’s Pond in October 1991.

Ankeny Ward Aaronic Priesthood 1991

This is a picture of our young men in the early days of being a ward. Current members of the Ankeny Ward are pictured in this photo.

Eagle Court of Honor November 1991

These boys were the first Eagle Scouts from the Ankeny Ward. I get to be the proud mother and claim the boys on both sides.

Mt. Pisgah May 1992

This was our ward’s last Memorial Day weekend campout at Mount Pisgah, in 1992. The children were getting older, and weekends were getting busier. Over 50 families came and together we had a special Family Home Evening.

Baptism at Mt. Pisgah May 1992

Our program that evening was a baptism performed by our bishop, Mark Cottrel, for his son Brent. This is part of my journal entry from that evening: “Brent’s baptism went very well. We had the songs and talks at our ‘natural amphitheater’ that overlooked the valley. What a beautiful spot! Everything is green and has a hazy appearance in the early evening light. After a talk on baptism and a song by the Primary children, we drove our cars back on a dirt road for a mile until we got to a bridge. The river was far below so we could all stand above and had a great view of Brent being baptized. Their clothes looked especially white in the dark water. (It was a very cool evening – about 60 degrees.) After that, we returned for Patrick’s talk on the Holy Ghost. I found myself with tears in my eyes when he spoke about the spirits who felt it had been a long time since someone had been baptized at that river at Mt. Pisgah.” There is a monument at Mt. Pisgah with some of the names of the more than 150 early Church members who are buried there.

Second phase-again

This is a picture of the dedication of the second phase of our building, which included a cultural hall where we met for sacrament meeting. It wasn’t long before the third phase was added and then another addition as the Church continued growing in Ankeny.

03042013 Anniversary PhotoThis “alumni” picture of Church members who were part of the original Ankeny Branch was taken in 2013 to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ankeny.

In 1980, three years before the Ankeny Branch was organized, the population of Ankeny was a little over 15,000. Altoona’s was less than 6,000 and Bondurant’s was 1200. In 2016 Ankeny’s population was more than 58,000, and the city was identified as the third fastest growing in the United States. Altoona’s population had reached 18,000 and Bondurant’s was almost 4,000. Certainly the Lord knew the Church would grow in this area. And my mother, who for many years dreamed of having a church closer than West Des Moines, is now talking about a branch in Maxwell!

It was fun for me to look through my old pictures and remember so many who have come and gone from our Ankeny congregations in the past 35 years. For those of us who have remained, it has been sad to say goodbye to dear friends, but also exciting to meet the new ones who move in. This is the nature of the Church as we continue to find opportunities to serve and to share the gospel wherever we live.

Special thanks to Rebecka Bishop and Mary Boyd for recording and sharing the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Ankeny area, and to all the early members of the Church in the Ankeny area whose faithfulness blazed a gospel path for thousands of others to follow.

A Jubilee Look at the Beginnings and Growth of the Church in Des Moines and Ankeny, Iowa

Elder Sam Lee: California to Korea and Finding Joy in the Journey

Elder Sam Lee in California

“It’s crazy to think that I’ve been a missionary for eight whole months now. As almost every missionary will confirm, time moves in a very strange way on the mission. After spending half a year in the field in Southern California, I finally got my visa to head over to Korea.

Although I studied Korean every day in California, I still can’t speak the language. I’ll tell you what though, the last three months I’ve spent in California have come to be brighter than the first three months. Being a reassigned missionary, you are inadvertently and unfortunately faced with a short-term mindset. Once I was able to recognize that and take steps to improve my outlook on the mission, I saw my joy increase. There is no greater joy than helping others recognize their divine potential. The divine potential of others is not something that’s merely existent in the short-term. There is nothing more everlasting than that, nor is there anything more everlasting than the means to obtain that—through the means of Jesus Christ.

Missions are hard in ways you wouldn’t expect them to be hard. They challenge your patience. They may challenge your faith. No wonder Paul triumphs almost ironically in tribulation, “knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience and experience; and experience, hope” (Romans 5:3-4). Why is there hope? Where is it? Hope is found in Christ. There would be no means to triumph save it be for Jesus Christ. He is the healer of all wounds and the succor of all trials. There has been a direct relationship between my personal faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement and my ability to teach others about the very same principles. I do not doubt God’s timing. While I am quite excited to assist the Lord’s work in Korea, I will not dismiss nor forget the impact California has had on me, and hopefully, the impact I was able to bring to others. I am sad to leave Southern California. I’ve learned so much and gotten through so much. Korea is yet the challenge laid ahead. “Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail” (D&C 6:34).”

The photo at the bottom left shows Elder Sam Lee in Korea, while the other photos were taken in Southern California.

Volunteering through JustServe: Sewing for Native Nations

Early this spring, the service organization Sewing For Native Nations contacted JustServe administrators in Iowa seeking to fill the huge need for masks for native peoples. Many health centers, schools, and communities were suffering high numbers of COVID infections, and they did not have masks.

In a month, members of the Des Moines Iowa Stake sewed and purchased 541 masks to benefit the Kayenta Health Center on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. Over a dozen other groups and individuals saw the need through posts on JustServe and also made and shipped masks to other Native peoples in need. Erin Besperat, a member of the Sewing for Native Nations administrative staff, said, “I just wanted to reach out and thank you for your excitement and generosity! …So many kind hearts.”

Besperat stressed that the need is great, and each and every mask will be used. “We have had people email or join our Facebook group who saw Sewing for Native Nations on the JustServe site,” she said. “There was even a super sweet high school student who created a neighborhood fundraiser, purchased fabric and then cut the fabric into precut kits for our community to sew. Thank you!”

Where can you serve today? Check out JustServe.org for ideas!

Eli Helps the Homeless

Eli Shill is a nine-year-old in Ankeny, Iowa who wanted to help.

He noticed people standing on street corners asking for money in the cold, Iowa winter, and thought that maybe he could do something to make their situation better.

Eli set a goal to create kits that he and others could hand out to those folks in need. He enlisted the help of his family, particularly his mother, Emily Shill. She sat down with Eli to decide on some things that would be useful that they could put in a kit. They came up with a list, with Eli being specific about the snacks that would be included (Goldfish was his top choice). Other items included hand warmers, hand sanitizer, water bottles, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and a warm blanket.

Emily then created a Facebook post, asking for donations to help with the kits. She said that Eli collected donations and put together the kits, and then he would give some of the kits back to those who had donated so that many people could participate in handing the kits out to those in need.

Eli collected enough donations for 52 kits, which are now being delivered to the donors and given out to those who are homeless or in meager circumstances.

Elder Murdoch: Miracles in Portland, Oregon

Elder Murdoch in front of a waterway
Elder Anthony Murdoch in the Portland Oregon Mission

Elder Anthony Murdoch, is from West Des Moines, Iowa. A pianist and percussionist, he played drums in the marching band and several jazz bands in high school. He’s loved music since he was young, starting piano lessons when he was eight and continuing for nine years. He later taught piano and drum lessons during high school. He enjoys hiking and backpacking, especially in the mountains of Idaho and Utah with his family.

Following his high school graduation from Valley High School, he chose to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and is now in the Portland Oregon Mission. He says “the ball is rolling so fast, I am struggling to keep up.”

A recent experience reminded him of God’s individual care for each of his children. “I had a really small but cool miracle this week,” he said. “I pulled out my phone to do something, and tried to type in my password. But instead of my password, I typed “Monica.” There is a woman in our area named Monica that we tried to contact about a month ago, but she didn’t want to visit with us at that time. I told my companion that we needed to call Monica, but he said we should probably wait until tomorrow because it was so late. I agreed he was probably right and went back to study. I pulled out my phone again and somehow typed “Monica” again. I told my companion we needed to call her right then. She answered after the first ring and said she had been thinking about us and wanted to talk with us. We’re going over later this week.

“We called another Monica as well, who also picked up the phone right away. She needed help moving out of her apartment, so we helped her move all of her things.”

Elder Murdoch was originally called to the Lisbon, Portugal mission and hopes he gets to serve there when pandemic restrictions are mitigated. After his mission, he plans to study medicine.

Individualized English Classes Offered at Latter-day Saint Church

Jesus Galivan and the missionaries who teach his English class
Jesus Gavilan studies English with the missionaries at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

If you are a Spanish speaker looking for an affordable and personalized way to learn English as second language, then The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a great option for you.  The Church provides free English classes for Spanish speakers in the Des Moines metro community. 

The English class is taught by Spanish-speaking church missionaries, and though student attendance varies somewhat from week to week, the class always has a fairly low student-to teacher ratio.  This makes it ideal for any individuals who may have previously felt intimidated in a larger classroom setting. 

One such student is Jesús Gavilan. Jesús and his girlfriend Maria have been attending the English class for the past few months.  He says he has been much more successful in the small class environment. Jesús explained that he has to speak English for his job and had previously taken an English as a Second Language (ESL) course at Des Moines Area Community College. But he felt overwhelmed by the fast pace of the class and the fact that it was taught entirely in English. 

Jesús said, “I like [this class] because there are nice people here, the teachers are nice. They care about [me and my progress].” Speaking entirely in English during his interview, Jesús said he didn’t know why more Spanish speakers trying to learn English don’t take advantage of this smaller, more personalized class setting.

Classes are held at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday evenings at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Saints building at 3301 Ashworth Road, West Des Moines.

120 Years Later: The Sister Missionaries from Central Iowa

April 2018 marks the 120th anniversary of the commissioning of the first official single proselyting sister missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To commemorate this anniversary, and to pay respect to the Church’s sister missionaries down through the decades and throughout the world, we present this look at the Latter-day Saint (Mormon) women from Central Iowa who are currently serving God and the human family through full-time volunteer missionary work.

None of these women knew where she would be called to serve, and each serves at her own expense for a period of 18 months. Each of them prepared to serve a mission by attending Sunday School and youth seminary classes, engaging in regular personal scripture study and prayer, serving others, and trying to live Christ’s teachings and develop His attributes. Each of them has put school, career, dating, and other pursuits on hold for 18 months.

Russell M. Nelson, now President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a memorable address on missionary service in a worldwide meeting of the Church in October 2012, when he was yet a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “All missionaries,” he said in his address, “serve with the sole hope of making life better for other people.” In these Central Iowa missionaries’ expressions of love and testimony, President Nelson’s words are confirmed.

Madeline Cook

Sister Madeline Cook
Home congregation: Saylorville Young Single Adult Branch, Des Moines Iowa Stake

Mission: Alpine German-Speaking

Madeline is following in the footsteps of her great-grandmother, Elna West Clifford, who as a young adult served in the New England States Mission.

Deciding to serve a mission ended up being the best decision I have ever made! I have noticed in my studies of the Book of Mormon that when there is a hardship, there is also an amazing blessing. That is so true! Heavenly Father loves us so much and wants to bless us!
~ Sister Madeline Cook

Camilla Cox

Sister Camilla Cox
Home congregation: Rock Creek Ward, Des Moines Iowa Stake

Mission: Arizona Tempe

Camilla is following in the footsteps of her great-grandmother, who served a mission in Chicago, Illinois; her great-aunt, who served a mission in Canada; and her aunt, who served a mission in Mississippi.

“However many chances you think you have missed, however many mistakes you feel you have made or talents you think you don’t have, or however far from home and family and God you feel you have traveled, I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.” —Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I have met person after person on my mission who has either forgotten or simply doesn’t know who they are to their Father in Heaven. We often acknowledge that He is our God and our Creator, someone to be treated with respect and awe, but we miss out on the fact that we are not simply God’s creations; we are His children! He loves us! He wants a relationship with us, so He can help us return back home! He loves us so much, He sacrificed His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, so He could lift us and break down all barriers (including the barriers we create for ourselves) that keep us from growing, improving, and becoming something better than we are! It doesn’t matter how undeserving we think we are of that love; we cannot change our divine identity nor the sacrifice that Christ made for us! We are loved beyond measure, and They can reach beyond circumstance to lift us and raise us to where They know we can be! It is not possible for any of us to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ shines! I love you!
~ Sister Camilla Cox

Ashtyn Fiala

Sister Ashtyn Fiala
Home congregation: Raccoon River Ward, Des Moines Mount Pisgah Stake

Mission: Brazil Recife

I am excited to serve the people of Brazil and bring them to Christ.  I know his atoning sacrifice can help every person change and improve to become the best version of themselves.  I love this scripture from the Book of Mormon: “Yea, and even all they who wrought miracles wrought them by faith, even those who were before Christ and also those who were after.” (Ether 12:16)
~ Sister Ashtyn Fiala

Emma Garrett

Sister Emma Garrett
Home congregation: Waukee Ward, Des Moines Mount Pisgah Stake

Mission: Mexico Aguascalientes

I have seen so many miracles this week. I am happier than ever. The work is hard but I love every second. I know that we can chose to be happy no matter the circumstance.  I love just being able to walk around and enjoy Mexico. I so love the people and the culture. I may not come home lol. I can’t wait to share the message of the restored gospel with them. I love them because God loves them. I am grateful every day that I got called to Mexico.
~ Sister Emma Garrett

Ashley Giles-2-cropped

Sister Ashley Giles
Home congregation: Walnut Hills Ward, Des Moines Mount Pisgah Stake

Mission: California San Fernando

My favorite thing about being a missionary is seeing all the miracles that God still does for His children. He’s still a God of miracles and He’s with us every step of the way as we do His work and His will. He’s so good to us. A chapter in the Book of Mormon that has really meant a lot to me recently is 2 Nephi 4. I know that Christ will make us into just the person we need to be if we let Him.
~ Sister Ashley Giles

Olivia Helton

Sister Olivia Helton
Home congregation: Des Moines Ward, Des Moines Iowa Stake

Mission: Spain Barcelona

Olivia is the first sister missionary in her direct line of ancestors, but was inspired by three aunts who served missions: her aunt Leslie Bachelder served in Hungary; her aunt Lara Bachelder served in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania; and her aunt Launa Helton served in France.

Favorite scripture: “And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it be for the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand. And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one.” (3 Nephi 28:9-10)

We met the woman of my dreams this week. We gave her a lesson on the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and gave her a Book of Mormon. As I held it out to her, offering it as a gift, she began to cry, saying this was the best gift I could’ve ever given her. It turns out, the day she met the missionaries on the street, she was feeling depressed and felt prompted just to stand in the middle of the street. The woman didn’t know why, but seconds later she met us, the sister missionaries. She told us that we were two angels sent by God. In that moment, I knew. I am on the Lord’s errand. I am his representative, finding the people he is preparing. I love this work. I love my God and my Savior, Jesus Christ. We become more than our physical frame through his love and grace.
~ Sister Olivia Helton

Swaesy Johnson

Sister Swaesy Johnson
Home congregation: Ames 1st Ward, Ames Iowa Stake

Mission: Arizona Tucson Spanish-Speaking

I absolutely adore being a missionary. There is no greater joy that I have ever experienced than the joy that I carry with me constantly as a missionary. That joy comes from watching people’s eyes light up when they hear and understand the restored gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time. There are so many people who are searching for what we have and when they find it, they are like little kids in a candy store with a limitless amount they can get. I have seen little changes and great changes in the lives of the people that I get to serve and it is all through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Nothing brings me more happiness than when someone I am teaching finally understands the impact the Atonement can have on their lives and, in turn, teaches me through what they have learned. The gospel is true and I am so grateful to be in this wonderful work.
~ Sister Swaesy Johnson

Celeste Manning

Sister Celeste Manning
Home congregation: Story City Branch, Ames Iowa Stake

Mission: California Bakersfield

I love being a missionary. It has brought me so much joy watching the gospel change lives. I feel so blessed to be an instrument in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s hands.
~ Sister Celeste Manning

Keilani Murdock

Sister Keilani Murdock
Home congregation: Beaver Creek Ward, Des Moines Iowa Stake

Mission: Nevada Reno

Keilani comes from a sister missionary family! Six of her eight aunts (her mom’s sisters and sisters-in-law) served missions, as did six of her female cousins on her mom’s side and two of her female cousins on her dad’s side.

Being a missionary is the greatest thing I have ever done. My relationship with Christ has grown so much and being able to help others have that relationship with him brings joy beyond measure! There is nothing I would rather be doing than serving the Lord by serving the people here in lovely northern Nevada. I especially like this quote: “It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry . . . If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God and move forward with faith.” —President Gordon B. Hinckley
~ Sister Keilani Murdock

Arwen Oakley-cropped

Sister Arwen Oakley
Home congregation: Rock Creek Ward, Des Moines Iowa Stake

Mission: Provo (Utah) Missionary Training Center – Referral Center

Arwen is the following in the footsteps of her great-great-great-grandmother Jean Clara Holbrook, who was the fourth official single proselyting sister missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jean Clara Holbrook served in the British Mission from May 1899 until June 1901. One of her missionary companions was Inez White, one of the Church’s first two sister missionaries. Arwen is the next woman in this direct line to serve a mission. Coincidentally, Arwen and her first missionary companion were only the third and fourth sister missionaries called directly to serve in the Provo MTC (Referral Center) Mission, where they get to chat with and teach people around the world using a variety of technologies.

Hello all! I serve as an online missionary, which is super cool since we can talk with anyone in the WHOLE WORLD, except those that are not allowed such as North Koreans. I think the best thing about my mission so far is talking with people from all walks of life. I love being able to talk with anyone in the world. Once we were teaching people from Canada, Scotland, and Louisiana. I also love talking with people on chats from Mormon.org. On Mormon.org we talk with so many people and get to help them understand Christ better.

I think one of the other things I have learned more is the love Jesus Christ has for all of us, even when we are not at our best. We as missionaries have developed this love for all, even for complete strangers. Once I was talking with a lady on Mormon.org who was was struggling with some things and was wondering what she should do. I did not know what to say, but the promise from God and Jesus Christ that They will provide words in the very hour we need them was proven to me once again (see Doctrine & Covenants 100:6). I was able to help her find the answer for herself. I also felt at the very end to tell her that even though I did not know her well, I loved her and knew God and Jesus Christ loved her even more. I knew what I said was true and I also knew that this woman was meant to talk with me over Mormon.org. I am sure that many missionaries have had this feeling before. We do not need to see people face to face to reach out a helping hand, nor do we need to be physically there to help people feel the Spirit and help them to come closer to Jesus Christ.

I am so thankful to all of you for being so supportive of all of us missionaries. I can not repay the lessons and the growth of testimony from this mission. Please be confident. You never know when something you say will help someone out. So I ask you, do you know someone who is having a hard time? Could they use an uplifting message? Could they be helped by hearing that they are not alone and that Jesus Christ is always there for them? If so, then write it down. Not somewhere where you will forget. Then give it to the missionaries, or even just text them now 🙂  As I have learned, any good thoughts are from God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. If someone’s name pops into your head, it is not just a coincidence. God does not work by chance, but by miracles! Thank you for taking time to read this! 🙂
~ Sister Arwen Oakley

Lila Rice

Sister Lila Rice
Home congregation: Ames 1st Ward, Ames Iowa Stake

Mission: Adriatic South (Macedonian-speaking)

Lila is following in the footsteps of several members of her immediate family, including her mother, who served a mission in Indiana.

Being a missionary is such an incredible calling! I’ve gained a lot of perspective as I’ve really begun to see that everyone is a precious child of God who can benefit from the gospel. I have seen the light in people’s eyes grow as they come closer to Jesus Christ, and it is so fulfilling! I love Macedonia and all the people here, but most of all I just love Jesus Christ and His gospel!
~ Sister Lila Rice

Emily Rundall-cropped

Sister Emily Rundall
Home congregation: Walnut Hills Ward, Des Moines Mount Pisgah Stake

Mission: Korea Seoul South

Serving a mission brings out the best and the worst in people. It brings to light all the bad, and makes me exercise every last bit of good in myself, and then some. The level of reliance on the Lord is unfathomable, because whenever I think I have it, I am reminded of another flaw. With this reminder, though, comes those testimony building whispers from the Holy Ghost reminding me that I can be made more through Christ. He is ALWAYS with me, and thank goodness for that because I could not do this alone. I am, simply, not enough on my own. But He never leaves me on my own. He is with us all wherever we may be in life! I know that He lives and He loves us all no matter what we are doing or have done or will do. He loves us because He knows us!!
~ Sister Emily Rundall

Sydney Sheffield-cropped

Sister Sydney Sheffield
Home congregation: Walnut Hills Ward, Des Moines Mount Pisgah Stake

Mission: Romania Moldova

“Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.” (Doctrine & Covenants 123:17) Romanians are a tough, honest, “tell it like it is” kind of people. And I love them SO much! All I want is to cheerfully do all in my power to serve them every day and bring them unto Christ for the remainder of my mission.
~ Sister Sydney Sheffield

Molly Skouson

Sister Molly Skouson
Home congregation: Newton Branch, Des Moines Iowa Stake

Mission: France Paris

Molly is following in the footsteps of her mother, who served in the Philippines Baguio Mission; her maternal grandmother, who is currently serving a mission in Indonesia; and her paternal grandmother, served a mission in Berlin, Germany in 1960-61 and witnessed the building of the Berlin Wall. Molly also has great-grandmothers who served in Salt Lake City, the Philippines, and the Navaho Nation.

I read part of Romans 8 a few days ago during my personal study. Verse 28 has been one of my favorite scriptures for years and has helped me get through a lot, but today I want to share verses 35, 38-39“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Most things in this world change, and often that’s a good thing. I’m certainly grateful that I’m not the same person I was a few years ago, or even a month ago. But one thing that doesn’t change is God’s love for you. Nothing we can do or say or think or be can make Him love us any less or any differently. 
~ Sister Molly Skouson

Hannah Stovie

Sister Hannah Stovie
Home congregation: Walnut Hills Ward, Des Moines Mount Pisgah Stake

Mission: Georgia Macon

I am Sister Hannah Stovie and I am serving in the Georgia Macon Mission. I have been out for about 11 months. My favorite thing about being a missionary is being able to share my testimony of the Savior with everyone that I come in contact with! It is an incredible experience to be set apart for 18 months as a full-time servant of the Lord. A simple scripture that always comes to mind is Doctrine & Covenants 4:3: “Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work . . .” This teaches us that all we need is a desire to share the gospel and Heavenly Father will provide a way for that to happen if we are willing to follow Him. I am so grateful for my mission thus far. I have learned much more than I thought I could in 11 months. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that He leads this church by apostles and prophets. 
~ Sister Hannah Stovie

Kelsey White

Sister Kelsey White
Home congregation: Kelsey left for her mission from her home in Florida, but her mother has since moved to Iowa, where she is a member of the Ankeny Ward, Des Moines Iowa Stake

Mission: Japan Nagoya

Kelsey is the first sister missionary among her family members, who are converts to the Church. She won’t be the last, though. Her mother would like to serve a mission, having been motivated by Kelsey and her brother, who served in the California Los Angeles Mission.

Just wanted to share a little something that I have been learning more about since I have been in Japan. Every day, I meet people who don’t know who Christ is. They seem happy and content, but once we really start talking, it’s clear something is missing from their lives. They are uncertain and don’t know what to do. It’s like they’re trying to drink out of a cup without water in it, and they don’t know there is supposed to be water. But there is something they can have. And it will fill their lives and make them happy and satisfied. Christ really is an amazing person. He has the power to help us and make our lives whole. We just need to trust Him, and hand Him the cup. Let Him take away the bad, and follow Him down a good path. The best path. The path to eternal happiness.
~ Sister Kelsey White

Special thanks to all the missionaries and missionary parents who contributed to this article.

My Trek Experience

Rachel Z., 15, Des Moines Stake

When people think of vacations, they usually imagine going someplace warm and sunny, attending a water park, or something along those lines. Well, I didn’t go to a water park by any means, but I did have the amazing opportunity to attend my stake’s Trek with my older sister, Sarah, and younger brother, Richard.  I enjoyed Trek so much, I would go back in a heartbeat. Two months ago, if anyone had told me how much fun and joy I would experience, I wouldn’t have believed them. Continue reading

Gearing up for Trek

Several hundred youth from the Des Moines and Mt. Pisgah Stakes are abandoning the comfort of air conditioning, trading in their sneakers for a pair of boots and leaving their cell phones at home in exchange for hats, bonnets, walking sticks and the opportunity to step back in time as they walk across Iowa. And, just in case you’re wondering, they volunteered for the opportunity. Really? Continue reading

Lending a hand at the Emergency Residence project

The Ames Wards were involved with a project through St. Cecilia’s Catholic Church that involved renovating several shelters in Ames last fall.

“The Emergency Residence project was designed to completely remodel four apartments in Ames next to the community shelter on Kellogg,” said Brad Schrader, a member of the Ames LDS ward. Members of the Ames wards assisted other volunteers from St. Cecilia’s and from the Ames community on the restoration project. Continue reading