Sister Jessica Neifert has been mistaken for a missionary who has lost her way.
Sometimes students here at Brigham Young University spot Sister Neifert and her companion, Sister Kristell Nguyen, walking across the Provo, Utah, campus and guess the sister missionaries have wandered from the Missionary Training Center just up the road.
But Sister Neifert's no "greenie." She's a 17-month missionary veteran and, yes, BYU is right where she belongs. The Church-owned university is not only an institute of higher learning, it's a vibrant spot of gospel instruction where people are being fellowshipped, taught and baptized.
"It's the mission field," said Sister Neifert, who serves on campus with Sister Nguyen and six other full-time missionaries from the Utah Provo Mission.
Even BYU students may be surprised to learn the work of finding people to teach is happening here every day. An engineering student from, say, Nepal, may be learning about the Plan of Salvation even as an undergraduate from Texas is accepting the missionaries' invitation to be baptized. Discussions in English, Spanish and other languages are being taught in married student housing, in student lounges or inside on-campus meetinghouses.
One campus benefit? Finding members to assist with the missionary discussions is always easy, said Sister Neifert, laughing.
"BYU is one of the best baptizing areas in the mission," said Utah Provo Mission President Harold Brown.
Of course the vast majority of BYU's students, staff and faculty are members. But visitors won't find a single sign reading: "Welcome to BYU you have now left the mission field."
But it's a common misconception. A native of St. Louis, Mo., Sister Neifert assumed her 18 months in the Utah Provo Mission would be spent reactivating fellow members. "I was surprised to see how much missionary work is being done," she said.
President Brown points to the missionary success at BYU as proof that opportunities to share the gospel can be found anywhere. If Sister Neifert, Sister Nguyen and her colleagues can find people to teach and baptize at BYU, folks living in other predominately LDS communities can do the same.
It's no mystery why missionary work at BYU is thriving, added President Brown. "There is so much influence for good here."
Church leaders have long taught that scripture study, prayer and a missionary zeal are preparatory steps for sharing the gospel. At BYU, students of all faiths follow an honor code and enroll in religion and Book of Mormon courses. Classrooms are filled with young men and women who have served missions themselves. Prayer is stitched into the day-to-day campus fabric.
Sister Neifert said it's the Spirit that guides missionary work at BYU. She often asks her investigators why they chose to enroll at the Church school. Some say they were drawn to specific academic programs "but a lot more say they felt prompted to come here, and they didn't know why."
LDS students at BYU are no different than members in any other community, said President Brown. They are examples to others for good or ill.
"We are noticed. We are watched."
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