Jake’s Missionary Meeting

Jake outside the church where he spoke today.

As is customary for departing and returning LDS missionaries, Jake spoke in sacrament meeting today.
Here is what he said, taken from my rickety notes:


I will speak about testimony today. Preach My Gospel defines testimony as a spiritual witness. A priest is a lot different than an elder. On a service project priests have there hands in their pockets and lean against the wall. They have to be told what to do. An elder works through the spirit.

Graciela didn’t want to be baptized even though she had been to church. I like to baptize everyone I take to church. She didn’t recognize the need to repent.  My testimony wasn’t good enough to convince her. After seven months of teaching her my testimony was finally sufficient. She got baptized. She didn’t care about all my knowledge, just my testimony.

[Read more…]

Missionary Jake Returns

Welcome Home Jake: sign on our fence

Waiting For Jake

Today Jake was returning from Mexico after two years. We all climbed into our rickety old van and went to the airport to greet him. Parents and siblings were all there along with an aunt and cousin. It is indeed a happy day. After two years of weekly emails and a thirty minute phone conversation every Mothers Day and Christmas Day we were ready to talk to him face to face.

Connie and Susan joined us in the airport to wait for Jake's arrival The boys were fascinated by the Tombstone Deep Dish Pizza machine at the airport Jill is the first to greet Jake at the airport. Daniel, Sarah, and Jill are happy to see Jake.

Jake by the Mexican Flag

Jake Finally Arrives

He was very skinny and had lost weight — no doubt because of the constant missionary labor. This is our third son to return from a mission so we are getting used to the routine. Except it is never routine to see your son for the first time in two years. We had the usual sign that read WELCOME HOME ELDER WILLOUGHBY. A sign that has been stored and recycled for each of our three missionaries. And there is yet another Elder Willoughby readying himself for an October entry into the MTC and two years hence be a recipient of our aging, yet still colorful, welcome sign.

The boys occupied themselves at the airport with a Tombstone Deep Dish Pizza vending machine. Even though they would be eating shortly (their mother reminded them) they had to try out the machine by buying a pizza. Of course their sister provided the dollars to feed the machine. The boys could not be drawn away so we took our photograph amongst the food machines.

Released From His Mission

We left the airport to eat at The Olive Garden in Layton as per Jake’s request. I tried to get him to eat at each Mexico restaurant along the way but for some reason he didn’t want to. Adelaide, Steven’s wife, joined us at the restaurant. Afterwards we went home and at 7pm went to the Stake Center to meet with the stake president. Jake was released from his mission and after visiting awhile at home he left with his brothers to go on a hike.
Jake with his Stake President after being released from his mission.

Mission Reflexiones: Comienzos

Jake and his Dad at the MTC August 2006
My guest writer today is my son Jake Willoughby who just sent this post via email from Mexico.

More than two years ago in May I received my calling to Mexico as an official representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of the Savior Himself. I remember calmly opening the envelope with the cameras rolling and reading the letter that extended my call to serve in the Mexico, Mexico City North Mission. My feelings indifferent as I was glad to serve the Lord wheresoever He desired. I had a great desire to learn another language and my two brothers had learned Spanish in their missions. I believe the realization of what I had undertaking did not sink in until I entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo.

Wednesday, 23rd of August, 2006: My family accompanied me to Provo to see me off. I had already been through the experience with my two brothers so I knew what to expect. I dropped my luggage in the indicated place, and signed in. After the short meeting they instructed us to say goodbye and part from our family through opposite doors. I had learned from my older brother, Paul, that getting it over quickly is the best way. I gave a quick hug to everyone and said “goodbye.” I was eager to enter the other door and start the mission I had prepared for all of my life.

Missionary Jake – Part 10 of 10

Note: Jake comes home August 25 so Missionary Jake is not quite complete. I hope to post weekly updates from him during August to complete the story of his mission.

This is part ten of a ten part series chronicling Jake’s Mission. It is told mostly in his own words using excerpts from his letters and photographs sent home.

June 2008

Attached are pictures of the Brito Perez family. They were baptized and confirmed yesterday.

Brito Perez family

We are also going to baptize a young couple and another small family in the coming weeks. Sometimes we are so tired from climbing all of the department buildings knocking on doors and talking with everyone that we hardly even sleep from the fatigue. Truly the Lord renovates our bodies so we can keep on working. I remember that every time I have gotten sick in my mission, if I have faith and believe, it only lasts a single day. The next day I am always ready to give it all. Seeing the Brito family and others that we have found ready to be baptized and follow our Savior makes all of the work worth it. The ward keeps growing, when I came here we had an average attendance of 120-130. We set an attendance record of 204 in sacrament meeting a month or two ago. The past two weeks have been 194 (ward conference) and 177.

Mom, now that you recognize many blessings, remember that every blessing is received based on our obedience to the law which governs it. You can backtrack from the blessing to your righteous action that triggered it and learn to repeat it. When the stake president set me apart as a missionary he blessed me so that I could serve a full 24 months without any health problems. I imagine that when I am released I will suddenly have a heart attack because of the all spicy food I am eating.

I don’t really eat cereal for breakfast anymore. Do not worry about my account or transferring money or anything. If you want to send a package I will send a member’s direction where I am at so it will get here faster.

The Gutierrez Family

We found the Gutierrez family knocking on doors. She asked “Where is your church? I want to go.” Before teaching her anything she asked “What do I have to do to join your church?” She had read about the church on the Internet (I assume the church’s website) and was really interested, but the missionaries had never knocked on her door. The others are her husband and her mother.

This week we baptized Claudia and Arat. I taught them when I first came to the area, but her husband didn’t let her be baptized at that time. Last week he went to church with her and said that he liked it. He then gave permission for them to be baptized.

Let me know where Daniel is going [on his Mission]. I will ask this week what they searched for and what site they went to.

Claudia and Arat with Jake and companion

[Read more…]

Missionary Jake – Part 9 of 10

This is part nine of a ten part series chronicling Jake’s Mission. It is told mostly in his own words using excerpts from his letters and photographs sent home.

March 2008

Not much time to write. The package is probably sitting in the mission office. We are not going to have a zone conference because the president wants us to work every day of this month, we are going to set a new mission record of 700 baptisms. This week a lot of our investigators attended church. In the next week we will have a lot of baptisms. Say “Hi” to Tyler [Stout]. I don’t think we’ve even written in more than two years.

I typed up a nice letter but the session timed out and I lost most of it. Congratulations Steven and Adelaide. Make a cardboard Elder Willoughby for the reception. About the letter. It would help to pull out the official letter that they sent to suspend [the scholarship] and use the same formatting and terminology. “Please reinstate the Presidential Scholarship suspended (28 March 2006, but the correct date) for religious service. It will be reinstated for the Fall 2008 semester.” You don’t have to say anything about that I am going to miss school. The first week they usually cancel classes anyway, and I still have a week to change my schedule without penalties. Paul can fill it up with the best options and I can drop and change the ones that I don’t like. I usually sign “Jake Willoughby” in the majority of cases.

Jake and companion prior to baptisms

I am going to send [photos] one by one. I hope everyone has Gmail so they don’t get maxed out. I sent some pictures of baptisms that we had yesterday and last week. We average between two or three baptisms every week. It is a lot of work but really rewarding keeping everything balanced. The ward and bishop want to help, but they have no idea how. We help them along the best we can.

This month should be records for the mission, the zone, and for my personal mission. Every day we seek to magnify better our calling of establishing the Kingdom by baptizing more and more.

Daniel. If you want to know how to prepare for the mission, I recommend D&C 11. I like especially verses 20-21 which apply to you right now. Just put your name in as if the Lord was speaking directly to you (see verse 27).

The shoes do fit. I doubt there will be anything else that I need.

Arturo was baptized yesterday. It was a neat service because a family sang and played the flute. The only problem was I missed it because I was in a meeting! It is alright because the meeting will help us to baptize more and keep our converts active. I will make sure to get a picture with Arturo and I as evidence. Everything is good to go here. If I need anything I will just buy it. Keep me informed on of the good news each week.

[Read more…]

Missionary Jake – Part 8 of 10

This is part eight of a ten part series chronicling Jake’s Mission. It is told mostly in his own words using excerpts from his letters and photographs sent home.

January 2008

Looks like I have several cavities. The dentist says I could take them out right now or wait until I get back so it would be under the insurance.

Mom, I hear the exuse of “I am too old to (change/learn something new/whatever thing)” from a lot of people. The mind only gets old from disuse. The prophet is 97 years old and he has a mind very active! What a great example of diligence and perseverance. Learn the song in Spanish, not just how to sing it but what each word means and why it is that way. I have seen many people who have been born from above (see John 3:3-7 and the footnotes) in their old age and have truly walked in new life (see Romans 6:4). We should not just follow what the prophet says but also what he does.

P days we sometimes play soccer. Every chapel has a small soccer court.

Jake ready to baptize in February

The priesthood holder that I baptized, Alan Olmos, baptized his niece this week. We are also teaching more people from his family and their baptism will be in a few weeks. I forgot the cables to download the photos from the camera, until next week!

This week we found two great families. The mom of one family said “I’ve been praying to know which church is the true church.” I said something like “Perfect, we have an answer.” She will be baptized in two weeks along with two of her five children and her mother.

I have several extremely small cavities, they don’t even show up on the X-ray. He used a blue light to find them and show me them.

In December we broke a mission record of baptisms. The last record was set more than 20 years ago when my mission president was the assistant here. He said he was a little sad to see it fall, but not to missionaries like us. The Lord is truly working a marvelous work here in Mexico.

I think my email last week got returned. Transfers were today. I am now in Cuatitlan Izcali with Elder Martinez. It is a great new opportunity to build the kingdom and accelerate the work of the Lord.

[Read more…]

Missionary Jake – Part 7 of 10

This is part seven of a ten part series chronicling Jake’s Mission. It is told mostly in his own words using excerpts from his letters and photographs sent home.

October 2007

I’ll buy the camera. Transfer some money from my savings to my checking so I can buy it directly from the card. I am still in the best zone in the mission going for 3 months baptizing more than cualquier otra. Who is Adelaide? Maybe a picture of them dos with her last name? Elder Ontiveros is my new companion. The mission continues progressing baptizing more than every other mission in Mexico for a couple of months. Good to see that Steven is happy as ever.

Halloween is the same here in Mexico. Just think of Mexico as the United States but with a culture twist to everything. I don’t know what you can send in the newsletter. I barely have time to get an email off to the family. Just don’t paste in things like “my mission is the best in the world”. They might not like stuff like that.

Missionaries from my zone

The camera was probably stolen from my backpack in the chapel. Another missionary had his camera stolen from the same chapel. There really isn’t a way to report it. The police would just laugh. The members are keeping an eye out, and we are thinking of setting a trap so I can at least get my pictures if they even still exist. The cameras here are about double the price as in the United States. I am going to buy a new little Canon for 4100 pesos.

[Read more…]

Missionary Jake – Part 6 of 10

This is part six of a ten part series chronicling Jake’s Mission. It is told mostly in his own words using excerpts from his letters and photographs sent home.

August 2007

Oakland Temple statue of Jesus Christ
This week we didn’t have any baptisms, but we found a lot of families to teach. My companion is learning all of the words that they use differently here. He is a native Spanish speaker—I have to correct some of his Spanish :). Transfers today. I am going to the Zone Valle Dorado. It is the best zone in the mission. There are 12 zones in the mission and Valle Dorado baptizes about 1/4 of the total baptisms. I still haven’t met my companion and I don’t know in what part I’ll be so I will let you know next week.

Yes, we are baptizing stakes. This month we are going to baptize even more. I am just going to tell you this for right now, but this past week I was assigned District Leader. It is exciting to be in charge of other missionaries and have to teach them how to work! The mission is great. [Dad], I appreciate your small letters that don’t distract me too much but also don’t leave me out in the cold. Feel free to write more if you would like.

[Dad] please include God in every important decision that you have to make about your health. That is what Joseph Smith did. If you do that every time you have a doubt, if are sufficiently humble, God will give you the answer “abundantemente y sin reproche” (James 1:5). He will never tell you to do or take something that will do you harm instead of good. If I can ask one thing of you it is to always do this. Ask Him if you can trust Him, ask Him if you should consult Him in this. He will give you the truth, ETERNAL truth, that will “greatly enlarge the soul without guile”.

Everyday I teach the principle of “Ask and ye shall receive”, but I myself always forget to apply it. I try and demand answers from people, sometimes getting frustrated with them. But they cannot make my decisions and give me answers that I have to look for myself. Ask God for every little answer that you want. He will give it “without reproach”. He never will say “But you did not do x or y”. If you ask for bread He gives you bread.

[Dad] please let me know what you think of this principle, and if you were able to apply it successfully in this week. Please excuse the Spanish. It is difficult to keep it from sneaking in :).

[Read more…]

Missionary Jake – Part 5 of 10

This is part five of a ten part series chronicling Jake’s Mission. It is told mostly in his own words using excerpts from his letters and photographs sent home.

June 2007

Photo of Elder Willoughby knocking on the door of an abandoned home
Work is going great. I think someone requested a photo of me doing some missionary work. I’ve attached one. Throw some skittles in the package, I can’t seem to find any here.

There are a lot of people in my area that are listening to our message. Since I have been in the same place almost 6 months we keep on running into the same people over and over again. It is great because after the second or third time of feeling the spirit they usually get it. The area is big so I could spend another year in the same area.

The question about converts. Almost of my converts are active. As a mission we have about 70-80% retention. The church as a whole is growing fast, and it depends a lot on Mexico and Brazil for its growth. The ward that I am in was a branch the previous year and now they are going to divide the ward. The [mission] president always reminds us that the Lord has blessed us greatly by calling us to Mexico.

Paul, what sort of schooling are you going to get after your Bachelors? After hearing the Rise up and be Men talk by President Hinckley I think I’ll try and get into some fancy technology university for my PHD. Can’t let the girls win.

[Read more…]