Missionaries serving on Temple Square have the distinction of having as their field of labor what is, according to the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, the No. 5 top tourist attraction in the nation and the major attraction in Utah. (According to reports, some 4.3 million visitors went to Temple Square during 1989.)
With the summer tourist season fast approaching, Temple Square is already bustling with activity – and with missionary success."It is a choice blessing to be assigned to serve on Temple Square," said Ralph Bradley, director of Temple Square who handles all missionary efforts on the famous 10-acre block. "I feel the Lord brings people to Temple Square. I think most people who come here are searching or are praying in some way that they can find the truth."
Tours on Temple Square are functioning under a program in which 40 sister missionaries and 25 missionary couples are drawn from the three missions in Utah, with headquarters in Salt Lake City, Ogden and Provo.
"Before the sister missionaries are assigned to Temple Square, they have had missionary experience in the field," said Elder Bradley. "They have gone to the Missionary Training Center, and have served for three months in various communities within their missions, and then they are assigned for the remainder of their mission to Temple Square."
Some missionary couples also go to the Missionary Training Center and are then assigned to Temple Square. A few couples – especially those who have served earlier missions or who previously were volunteers on the Square – report directly to Temple Square.
"If visitors are from Utah and are interested in learning about the Church, missionaries on the Square generally present them the first discussion," said Elder Bradley. "After that, the missionaries refer them to missionaries in the stakes and wards where the investigators live. That is important because the person learning about the Church is able to develop a relationship with the members in their own wards and stakes.
"Quite often, missionaries have the opportunity to teach all six discussions on Temple Square. Some people from out of state spend a week or more in Salt Lake City and come to Temple Square every day. If they are interested in receiving the missionary discussions here, the missionaries present them all."
In addition to teaching discussions, missionaries are "extremely effective in working with tours that come here," said Elder Bradley. "By the height of the tourist season, we will have 68 sister missionaries, in addition to the missionary couples, serving on Temple Square."
Elder Bradley said the key to the missionaries' success on Temple Square is love. "You can't teach anyone you can't love," he said. "Our missionaries love people, just like the Savior said we should. Visitors feel that love."
The missionaries also have valuable language skills. "Many of the missionaries, especially the young sisters, are bilingual or multilingual," Elder Bradley observed. "We have a lot of tourists from Japan, China, Germany and many other countries. Since many of the tourists don't speak English, it is a pleasant experience for them to discover that missionaries on Temple Square speak their languages.
"We have six sisters from Germany, four or five from Japan, and some coming from Taiwan who speak Mandarin."
One of the multilingual missionaries serving on Temple Square is Sister Marie-France Ronghetto who was born in France to Italian parents. She grew up speaking French and Italian equally well.
After she graduated from high school in Grenoble, France, she studied in Rome, Italy, and then at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. She is fluent in English, and speaks Spanish well enough to conduct tours in that language.
Two of her recent experiences are typical for missionaries on Temple Square. On Sunday, April 22, she conducted a tour for 24 Italian students, none of whom had ever heard of the Church.
"They were on a tour in the United States and just stopped by Temple Square on Sunday morning," she said. "I took them to the Tabernacle Choir broadcast, and on a tour of the Square. All 24 students, as well as two teachers traveling with them, signed cards indicating they wanted to know more about the Church."
Sister Ronghetto conducted a tour one evening in March for international students from Utah State University in Logan.
"The 28 students were from many different countries, including Indonesia, Taiwan, China, India, Bolivia, Honduras, Argentina, Thailand and Korea," she said. "I immediately felt a special love for the students. I was reminded of my own college days a few years ago when I was studying English as a second language in Philadelphia.
"With that special feeling of love and closeness, and with the companionship of the Holy Ghost, we started our tour. I did not do anything different than my other tours, but I did try to speak slowly and clearly so the students could understand what I was saying. I stopped as necessary to explain long, difficult or new words to them.
"At the end, I told them they could know more by checking the box and having missionaries visit and teach them and bring them a copy of the Book of Mormon for their own prayerful study.
"I know, of course, that when we make a full effort and the Lord adds His blessings, that marvelous things come to pass. It was so that night. Seventeen of the 28 students checked the box, wanting to know more about the gospel and Church of Jesus Christ, and wanting to have a personal copy of the Book of Mormon."