Missionaries on Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City are not visiting any official venues of the 2002 Winter Games this February. They do not plan to step foot onto the 2002 Olympic Medals Plaza located just minutes from where they serve. They aren't even watching athletic events on television.
Still, they explain, they have much in common with many of the thousands of people visiting Utah this month. They feel the excitement. They have tasted the Olympic spirit.
Working extended hours, until 11 p.m. each night, the more than 200 sister missionaries are greeting an estimated 10,000 -20,000 Olympic visitors a day.
Even on a Sunday morning, when the square is typically quiet after the Tabernacle Choir's Music and Spoken Word broadcast, visitors from all over the world can be spotted taking in Salt Lake's most prominent tourist destination.
One reporter compared Temple Square — where tour information is regularly broadcast in multiple languages — to a bustling international city.
Temple Square Mission President M. Garfield Cook can understand how visitors could make that connection. Guided tours of Temple Square, Salt Lake City's nucleus, are offered in more than 40 languages; other languages are available if requested. And, during the Olympic Games, each sister missionary wears the flag of her home country along with her name tag — an instant reminder of the international nature of the women serving here.
Even a reporter's request to visit with a missionary from Switzerland and Australia can be accommodated in less than 10 minutes. President Cook explains that the reporter could have picked almost any nation; for example, there are currently 12 sister missionaries from Korea on the square.
Thanks to a languages coordination system, international guests can receive a guided tour in their own languages, a great majority of the time from a missionary from their country, he added.
While missionaries on Temple Square do not proselytize, they do answer questions, give tours and explain the significance of historic locations.
Sister Sariah Wiesner of Basel, Switzerland, said that is enough to change the hearts of the many visitors who have never before met a member of the Church.
She, like so many other missionaries, never thought she would have the opportunity to help the Church in her own country by serving in Salt Lake City.
"I think even to see a smile, to feel of our friendliness makes them change," she said. "They see we are normal people and happy people. They will take that home."
That's why she and other missionaries don't mind the long hours or freezing weather at a time when, it seems, almost everyone is interested in Temple Square.
Television crews can be spotted on the square almost constantly. Pictures of the Church's historic buildings are included prominently in many television networks' coverage of the Games. One network in Japan even built a replica of the temple to be included in its Salt Lake City broadcast booth from the Olympic media center.
"It is almost indescribable," said President Cook. "Now it is just an exciting time to be with people from all nations . . . people flowing to Salt Lake City to see the Games. . . . There is a feeling of great anticipation from the sister missionaries. They know that out of this is going to come so much good for the world. They sense they are part of it. They feel they are a part of history."