During the April 2022 general conference, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints focused, among other things, on the importance of missionary work for every member. “Every person who has made covenants with God has promised to care about others and serve those in need,” said President Russell M. Nelson.
Davis and Asialene Smith, founders of the outdoor gear company Cotopaxi, join this episode of the Church News podcast to talk about sharing the message of the Church of Jesus Christ and being better member missionaries.
Davis Smith: When I think about a mission — I used to think of it as a two-year period of my life where I would spend preaching the gospel somewhere in the world. I look at it now as, a mission is forever. I’ve been able to spend 25 years as a missionary and I look forward to spending many more where I can share this love that I have for the gospel, this love that I have for Jesus Christ, and share that immense love that I felt in one of the most challenging moments of my life. And I’m just so grateful for the gospel, and I can’t imagine having something so special and not being willing to share it with others.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m Sarah Jane Weaver, editor of the Church News. Welcome to the Church News podcast. We are taking you on a journey of connection as we discuss news and events of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
During April 2022 general conference, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ focused, among other things, on missionary work. “Every person who has made covenants with God has promised to care about others and serve those in need,” said President Russell M. Nelson. Two of those people are Davis and Asialene Smith. They’re the cofounders of Cotopaxi, an outdoor gear company with a humanitarian mission to do good. The Smiths have devoted their lives to helping and serving other people and sharing messages of the Church of Jesus Christ. They join us today to talk about how they have found ways to be member missionaries. Welcome today to the Church News podcast.
Davis Smith: Thanks, Sarah.
Asialene Smith: Thank you for having us.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m so excited to have you here to talk about all that you’ve done and about missionary work, and I want to just start with you, Davis, because your love for missionary work started as a child.
Davis Smith: It did. You know, when I was four, my family moved to the Dominican Republic, and my father was the Young Men’s president in our small ward. The Church was very young in the Dominican Republic in the early 80s, and I remember a young man named Reynaldo Reyes, and he spent a lot of time at our home and my father really loved this young man. And when I was maybe 6 or 7, Reynaldo decided that he wanted to serve a mission. And my father worked for the Church. There are eight children in my family, so we didn’t have a lot of money, but my parents came to all of us and said, “Reynaldo is going to serve a mission and we want to help him, and we want to know if any of you would be interested in helping us some of your savings to help him pay for his mission.” So as a 6- or 7-year-old, I remember giving $30 which was all the money I’d saved from — I’d get 10 cents for every piece of clothes I’d iron, I do all these chores to try to earn some money, and I gave all my money to help Reynaldo serve a mission. And he sent me a missionary tag that I would wear around my house all the time, and I loved missionary work from the time I was a child.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And that is a love that you share too, Asialene, right? Your parents are converts to the Church, and certainly, the idea of member missionary work would have a tender place for you as well.
Asialene Smith: Yes, definitely. Both my parents were baptized at a young age. So my mom was around 19 years old in the Philippines. Her family was one of three families who were members of the Church at that time in her area, and after my parents were married, my dad was touched and he was able to be baptized as well when they lived in Florida. And having missionaries in their home was always important to them, and keeping in touch with the missionaries who baptized them was important. I remember them, they would visit us, we would visit them, my parents have been to funerals of those missionaries and their family members. And just growing up, we always had the missionaries over, they always brought a special spirit into our home and always shared important messages and it left a feeling of motivation to share the gospel with those around me.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, last fall, I went to England with President M. Russell Ballard and Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Elder Quentin L. Cook, and we returned to England, which is where they all served their missions; and for five days, I watched as they thought back on that pivotal time in their life and realized what an impact it had had, how missionary service had actually shaped the ministry that each of them are doing today as Apostles. Now, I assume that you had a similar experience, Davis, as you served your own full-time mission as a young man.
Read more: How 3 Apostles received a sure witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ during missionary service in England
Davis Smith: Yeah. In fact, I listened to that podcast with the three of them. It was pretty inspiring and I definitely connect with that thought. I know Elder Jeffrey R. Holland often talks about how he’s not sure anyone was more greatly affected by their mission than he was, and I’ve always felt I might rival him. I loved my mission more than words can ever express. I’ve thought of my mission every single day for 25 years, and in my office at home, I have, on my shelf, I have my mission shoes, I have a painting from my mission, and they’re just daily reminders of how much that time meant for me, and how much it shaped my life. And, yeah, a mission is a transformational experience and I love my mission for those two years, but the beautiful part of this is that a mission is forever. It’s not just two years. I’m so connected to my mission still. And so, this mission for me has really been a 25, it feels like a 25 year mission, which I’m just so grateful for.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, Davis lives in my stake, he is a member of my stake presidency. So my two oldest daughters have served missions, and when they went out, you gave them some really interesting advice that actually shaped their missions. You said, “There’s only so many days that you get to be a full-time missionary. Don’t waste any one of them.” Can you talk about that? It actually made them think, “OK, this is a single moment in time that could have the potential to change my life, and I don’t want to waste any part of it.”
Davis Smith: Yeah, I got some similar advice from an uncle of mine when I left, the day that I gave my farewell talk, and it stuck with me and I thought of it every day in my mission. And I wasn’t a perfect missionary. No one is. But every day, I tried to remember how important it was. And I remember that the rest of your life, you get to reflect back on how you served, and you remember every moment and there’s little regrets that you have. I remember being in a bus and feeling like I should talk to someone and it was just too, I don’t remember exactly if I was too nervous or just not feeling in the mood to talk to someone, but you have those moments and you think, “I don’t want to feel that again.” And by the end of my mission, anytime I was on a bus, I was standing up in the bus, telling everyone about the Church. I was unashamed, and part of it was I knew what it felt like to share and I knew what it felt like when I didn’t. And I want it to be someone that could look back and think “I gave it everything that I have.”
Sarah Jane Weaver: So you served in Bolivia in the late 1990s. In 1997, President Russell M. Nelson visited your mission. Talk about what he said and how that impacted you.
Davis Smith: Yeah, this was really special. He was obviously one of the younger members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at the time, but when he spoke to us, he told us that every one of us, our converts are our converts for life, and that we had a responsibility to stay in touch with those converts, he said, at least until the time they go through the temple. And at the time, it felt like, “Wow, how am I even going to do that?” In Bolivia, there was no internet, people didn’t even have telephones, there were no addresses to write someone a letter. But when I got home from a mission, it was like, email all of a sudden existed, and I had the blessing of going back to my mission a year after I finished and I made a concerted effort to stay in touch with my converts. And this has been actually a really important part of my adulthood, has been these special relationships and Asialene has even had a chance to participate in those relationships.
Asialene Smith: Yeah, so the first, about 10 years of our marriage, I heard all about Bolivia. I heard the names of his investigators and converts and names of mission companions, and I met several of those mission companions. I even met sister missionaries, and he always spoke so highly of the sister missionaries in his mission. I really admired that. And then 10 years later, we finally planned a big trip, and my mom watched our kids for two weeks, and we got to visit all of his five areas. One of them was a 12-hour bus ride. That was really scary, I was really nervous to go on that bus ride and I prayed hard that we would make it home safely to our kids. But it was so special to meet all these people that I had heard about and to see them hugging Davis and crying and just to see how special he was to them, and we went to the temple with one of his baptisms and brother. And one of his areas that we went to, they gathered all of the extended family, we sat in a big circle and for a couple of hours, it was like an in-home testimony meeting. Everyone just shared their testimonies and everyone was crying and the Spirit was so strong, and it was just incredible to see that it was full of members.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I actually feel like I got to see some of the ripple of the work that you started or continued in Bolivia, because in 2019, President Nelson visited Bolivia as part of his global ministry. We flew into that country and pulled into the stadium, and there were these buses everywhere there, the buses, Asialene, that you just talked about, that had come from all over that nation, and the stadium was filled. And yet, when the Prophet walked in, there was a silence that was beautiful, that showed how much those people cared about the gospel and the Prophet.
Davis Smith: Sarah, I was actually in Bolivia during that. I flew in that same day, and I had organized a mission reunion where we had maybe 70 or 60 of our missionary friends that we all flew into Bolivia for a 20 year mission reunion, and it just happened to coincide with this beautiful visit. And for me, it really was a miracle to see that many members of the Church. A year after I finished my mission, I went back for the temple dedication in Cochabamba; and President [Gordon B.] Hinckley, during the dedicatory prayer, talked about how he had a vision that Father Lehi and Mother Sariah were at the temple, and he had worried that maybe they built a temple too large for this country. They just announced these small temples that they would be building around the world, and he thought, “Maybe we built something too big.” And he said, in this vision, he realized he’d not only built a temple that wasn’t too big, it was going to be too small, and he said that the temple would overflow with members of the Church. And since that time, the Church has exploded in Bolivia, there’s now two more temples that have been announced in Bolivia. And so for me, that was really prophecy that was being fulfilled.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And, you know, I think all of us have these moments and this great understanding and this love for countries and people that come from our missions. Certainly, I’ve seen that as I’ve had daughters return from Honduras and Brazil. I think the harder part is carrying on that spirit of missionary work that you gain as a young man into your profession, into your lives, into your neighborhoods. And so do you have any advice, both of you, on how you can keep the spirit of missionary work lit?
Davis Smith: So, for me, it started with just fulfilling that request from President Nelson to continue to stay in contact with my converts, and so that was a very important part of that. I talk to my converts nearly every week, it’s really something that matters to me, my children see me speaking to my converts in Spanish, and they know how much I love them. And they call me when they have a child going on a mission or when they get a new calling, or when something horrible has happened and they just need someone to talk to. I’ve been able to reactivate some of my converts, I’ve been able to go through the temple with some. Some have left that are not active anymore, and I still — what they do know is that I love them, and that I will never not be part of their lives, and so that’s a part of it for me.
But another part has been learning how to be a member missionary, and that has taken some time and I haven’t done it perfectly, but I’ve had some really fun experiences. When I was in business school, I had a number of my classmates that would come to Church with us. One of them even joined what was called the LDSSA, which is the student association for members of the Church that were in business school. One of them was not a member of the Church, but was active in this group with us and would come and do our devotionals with us in the mornings once a week. And just in the last couple months, I’ve had some really fun missionary experiences where I had a friend that I met over 10 years ago that reached out and said, “Hey, I’ve been looking for more purpose in my life,” and he said, “I’ve just been watching you from afar, and I think, of anyone in my life, it feels like you have an understanding of what your purpose is.” And so we had a Zoom call where he lives in Miami, and we talked about the Church and I shared some articles with him that he read, and that conversation is ongoing. I have two other friends that have, in the last couple months, started meeting with the missionaries, and both of these families have accepted the challenge to be baptized. And so there is no better feeling than sharing the gospel, and every time I do it, I’m just reminded of the feeling I had as a missionary, that light and that fire that lights inside of you that confirms the truthfulness of the gospel. We feel that when we share the gospel with others.
Asialene Smith: I think that our neighborhood does a really great job with inviting non-members to the Church activities and to neighborhood activities, and I think in the day and age that we live in, we have so much technology that allows us to be able to share and invite more than we were able to when I was growing up, it was a lot harder. But, for example, our neighborhood has a GroupMe, and there are about 100, mostly women on there, and so we’re constantly sharing what’s happening in our neighborhood, and anytime there’s a neighborhood or Church activity, everyone sees that and we’ve held several activities and backyards and in our homes. And one time we specifically were asked to host a progressive dinner at our home, and we were able to get two of our neighbors who are non-members to join, and that was really special. It was organized by the ward, but they were able to attend that with us.
And there are times when I don’t see my neighbors all the time, but I have a neighbor where I’ll just invite her to the Halloween party or whatever is going on, and it is just so easy to do that by text so you don’t have to wait until you see them in person. So, there’s a lot of different ways we can do this. And I appreciate #LightTheWorld and the year that we did President Russell M. Nelson’s challenge on social media to #GiveThanks, and Easter time with the videos that the Church comes out with. Those are all such great resources for us, and I found them really useful to be able to share those, and I see a lot of my friends who — from high school or other times in my life that I don’t live near —we don’t keep in touch with but when I see them like it, it means so much because then it makes me feel like they appreciate my testimony. They appreciate that I believe in a Savior. Or it makes me realize, “Oh, this person, I think they also believe.” We may not be part of the same religion, but it’s just such a good feeling when you can share something that the Church has put together like an Easter video, and get comments and likes off of that, and you know people are seeing that.
Davis Smith: You know, one of the things I love is this new invitation and discussion around loving, sharing and inviting — love, share and invite. It feels so in line with what we all know is true about sharing the gospel, which is when we love someone and they know we love them, it’s so much easier to invite them and share the gospel with them. One of these women that came to that dinner, one of our neighbors we’ve become very close to and we invited her, I remember, to one of our son’s baby blessings when he was born and she came to Church, and she just gave us the biggest hug afterwards. We just developed a really special relationship with her, and she brings us Persian food to our home and she just, every time we see her out walking her dog, we stop and talk and we just developed this really special friendship and so when we invite her to things at Church, she’s come to a few things, she always is there. Also, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf talked about sharing the gospel in normal and natural ways. That really resonated with me and I think with everyone in the Church. Baby blessings and those special moments are really great opportunities to invite people. When we had our son Rockwell born, I ended up inviting my entire company to come to the blessing, and it was a very emotional and special time for me to bless. We’d waited 10 years for another baby, and so it was a very special moment, and we had 20 people that came — not members of the Church that came, and experienced Church in a special moment with us, and they came because I love them and they knew how much I cared about them and I invited them and I wanted to share something that mattered to me and they wanted to be a part of that.
Sarah Jane Weaver: It is true that it is very difficult to have an impact on people without a relationship. Sister Sharon Eubank, who is the director of Latter-day Saint Charities and a member of the general Relief Society presidency, talks about this a lot. She talks about service that matters most is the service where we build and connect and actually strengthen relationships with people, and that seems like the very basis of love, share and invite, that the love comes first.
Asialene Smith: For me, this actually isn’t too hard because I like people, I like to be social, and so anything where I can see my neighbors and hang out with them is great. So that’s not too hard for me, but it can be really nerve wracking when it comes to inviting them to Church or to a family home evening, and especially giving a Book of Mormon, and there was a time when I had a neighbor, she lived a very different lifestyle than me, and I don’t know if she was religious at all. But I had this really strong impression to give her a Book of Mormon, and I was really nervous. I didn’t even know if I could even do it, but I had to just have the courage. I told myself that this was a prompting from the Holy Ghost, and had to be done. So I wrote a note and then I don’t remember what I said, and I gave it to her, and I knew I could give it to her because we had a friendship. We did yoga together and our kids played together, so I knew that it would be meaningful to do this, and so I was so nervous. And a couple days later, maybe a week later, I got a thank you note from her and it was so sincere and she thanked me. She was so grateful that I would share something that was so important to me, and after that, it gave me courage to be able to do that again, and it just really set the tone to be able to do that with other neighbors and other people I’ve met since then.
Davis Smith: Asialene has been a great example of sharing the Book of Mormon, and just in the last few weeks, I think she’s done it two or three times. And it’s a reminder, for me, it’s maybe not the first thing I go to, and it’s not for her either, but it feels like that’s something I can do better with. And I just love seeing how confident she is, and even though she’s nervous, in being willing to share the gospel with others.
Asialene Smith: Yeah, the copies of the Book of Mormon that I’ve given out recently have been with people I’ve known for several years — and one of them in particular, again, I had this really strong impression. He’s actually my hairstylist. I’ve known him for eight years, but the thought just came to me that I should give him a Book of Mormon. And my initial thought was, “His lifestyle is so different from me, we do not have the same standards, we have even very little in common as we talk for the hours that he does my hair.” But I just knew it’s not up to me. If Heavenly Father wants him to have a Book of Mormon handed to him, from me, I knew I had to do it. So I put together a little bundle of some of my favorite things like candy bars and things like that, and then to kind of help me feel a little more comfortable, I gave it to him and was like, “Inside, you’ll find some of my favorite things.” And then I was able to write a note on the inside cover of the Book of Mormon. And one thing that I find very useful if I’m sharing a Book of Mormon is because I’ve developed that relationship with them, and I have that love for them, I can tell them in the note. I can say, “You’re such a positive person, I love spending time with you, and these are the things I admire about you.” It’s kind of like when you would write a birthday card or a thank you note, and so I do something really similar. And then toward the end, I share whatever message I think is important for them to hear, whether it is like a very powerful testimony from me or something simple as, “You’ll feel the Spirit if you read this book.” You know, it’s different for everybody. But I, again, I find that I need to follow the Spirit. If I feel that, I will regret it forever.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and the late Clayton Christensen, who I think all of us came to know as sort of the quintessential member missionary, because he was so bold in proclaiming the work of the Church, not just with his work at Harvard Business School, but in his writings and in other things. He once said that we will know when we’re not supposed to move forward and certainly we know when we are. I always get kind of caught up in the anxiety of the whole situation. How do you know when it’s good to move forward?
Davis Smith: It’s a great question, and Clayton Christensen is just one of my heroes. I remember hearing him speak once where he talked about how Satan was going to convince us that the workplace was not a place to share the gospel, but then he said, “But then when you’re not at work, and you’re a member of the Church, in the evenings you’re with your family, you’re in your Church calling on Sundays, on the weekends you’re with your family or with Church members. So when else will you share it?” And so he was really an inspiration to me to be able to live that authentic life where I’m not separating my spiritual and my professional life.
And so in terms of when I know, I don’t know that I have a great answer other than just to say the Spirit. Definitely, I felt confirmation when there’s times where there are people that I’ve known for years where I felt like, “OK, now’s the right time.” There’s one of my favorite stories, and I know, Sarah, you know this story of a young boy the Asialene and I met when he was 9 years old living in Peru. We were doing an internship when we were college students. We worked for the Church for this internship, and we met this little shoeshine boy, a little 9-year-old boy named Edgar. And we would find him every day and bring him food. It was the highlight of our day finding this little boy, and it was really an impactful experience. When we left Peru, we made a commitment to each other that we were going to use our lives to find a way to help kids like this. And years later, 14 years later, I went back to Peru with a desire to find this boy who is now a man, and I found him and it’s become one of the most special relationships in my life, and we’re in touch every week. And over the last seven years, he’s gotten married and has a child of his own, and I’ve shared the gospel with them a number of times. And I’ve asked him even if you’d be interested in meeting with the missionaries, and he always would say, “Thank you, but no thank you.” And I’ve had a lot of friends that have gone to Peru and had met with him and one of my friends who’s another CEO here in Utah, a really wonderful man named Arian Lewis. He went down with his kids and he met with Edgar and he spent several days with them and he shared the gospel with him and Edgar was really touched and actually asked if he could meet with the missionaries, and so I sent the missionaries. And he, over the last few months, has committed to baptism with his wife, and I’m just over the moon, but it took 20 years. We’ve known Edgar for almost 21 years, and we tried along the way, and we knew when it was the right time, and he was ready. He’d had enough experiences where his heart was open and his mind was open to exploring some that he knew mattered a lot.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I’m so glad that you talked about that experience, because so many people know you because of your work with Cotopaxi; and certainly, it’s a company where service is built right into its very mission. And so as followers of Christ, we do a lot of things. We not only share the messages of the Savior, but we do our best to act as true followers of Him, or as we think he would want us to act. So can you tell us a little bit about your business model and how that’s been received by so many people all over the world?
Davis Smith: Yeah, so Cotopaxi is, we’re an outdoor gear brand, we make backpacks and jackets and other great gear. But what really makes us unique is that our business is not a company that sells outdoor gear, it’s really about creating a movement of helping others, and so we use our profits to support poverty alleviation. Last year, we helped almost 1.3 million people living in poverty, mostly in Latin America, where I grew up as a kid and where I served my mission. It’s built into the very DNA of the business and the brand. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave a great talk in 2014 about helping others, about using our lives to find a way to help those that are living in poverty, and he talked about how we may not know exactly how we’re supposed to fulfill this commandment of the Lord has given us again and again, but he says the Lord knows. And he promised us that if we would go to the Lord, and we’d ask for guidance, and we’d diligently look for ways to do this that He would help us figure it out, and that is the exact situation that we have. Asialene and I, when we started this business, the entire reason that we wanted to start it was to find a way that we could help others. We’d wanted to do that our whole lives, we’d made a commitment to each other that’s how he wanted to live, and we just hadn’t quite figured it out. And one night, the Lord — I had a really unique experience with the Lord. I spent all night and the following next day, and the following night, so 36 hours where the Lord helped me understand how I was supposed to use my life. And so for me, this is a very special thing to be able to spend my life doing, is building something that really matters, that’s impacting lives around the world and helping others.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Asialene, ao you want to talk about what it means to teach your kids about service, or what this legacy actually means to your family?
Asialene Smith: Yes, so with my background, and being part Filipino and seeing what I’ve seen, and with our experiences in Latin America, it’s really important to us to teach that to our kids to give them experiences, where they know that there are others out there who are in a lot of need outside of our little bubble here in Utah, where we live. So we’ve tried to take them to do service projects. Locally, we’ve done a lot with refugees, and they feel passionate about that, and whenever we go on an international trip, we try to find some service to do, usually with children, school supplies, or visiting schools, donating products, and it hasn’t been easy. They don’t always do it willingly, but we always try. And we were really impressed because most recently, our teenage daughters wanted to help and bake and put together a bake sale to raise funds for the Ukrainian refugees. So we spent 24 hours working on this and I told them, I said, “I’m happy to help you. I will get a babysitter to help with the boys. I’ll be here, but I’m not doing this on my own. If you want to do this, then you need to make the sacrifices,” and I was so impressed with what they did. They went shopping because they can both drive, so they got Ukrainian flags and posters and T-shirts all in blue and yellow, they bought ribbon and ingredients for baking and they involved their friends, and we stayed up till two in the morning baking and I only did cookies and they did everything else. And the next day we went and set up a table and we were so touched by all the support we received and it was just from people driving by and they had such a great experience. It was so touching for them to be able to see how generous people were and how everyone does want to help.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I think that’s such a good lesson. I love that we talked earlier about sharing the gospel in normal and natural ways. As followers of Christ, we can follow our instincts to serve other people and we can also follow our instincts to share what we know about the Savior and help them come to know Him better. I was noticing, Asialene, that there were times when you lived in Brazil that you would play conference in Portuguese so that others could hear those messages. There seems to be so many small decisions we make everyday that can help us share the gospel. I think all of us sometimes worry that we’re going to fail. Now, is it okay to share the gospel and get rejected?
Asialene Smith: Yes, definitely. That’s part of it. I was really touched by Elder Uchtdorf’s talk a few years ago, where he talked about five ways that we can share the gospel, and this was the talk where I think he introduced sharing the gospel in normal and natural ways. After that talk, I was at an appointment, and my stylist was asking me about my weekend, and nothing came to mind because really, what I was doing was teaching Young Women and Elder Uchtdorf’s talk popped into my mind about how he mentioned we can talk about our weekend and going to Church. So I decided to tell her that I was preparing a lesson to teach the young women in my neighborhood. She asked me what it was about, and it was about the plan of salvation, and it was such a wonderful conversation, and she was so receptive towards it. And I just came away feeling so good about that and it was truly inspired because of that talk from Elder Uchtdorf.
Davis Smith: You know, failure is an option and it’s okay to fail. And I think it’s OK to try and for things to not go well, and that’s how we learn how to do things better. We have certainly shared the gospel at times when, or we’ve invited neighbors to things where they’ve said, “Respectfully, no,” but the interesting thing is, they’re never offended, they’re never angry at us. If anything, it strengthens our relationship, because they know how much it matters to us and so, and we talk about those things, we talk about them with our kids when things don’t go perfectly, and it’s good for us to experience that, and for our children to see that. But one of the things that I think is really important is if we want our children to be great missionaries, we have to model that, we have to be great missionaries ourselves. And so if they see us making efforts and trying and maybe not always succeeding, that’s really great for children to be able to see.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And you spoke about what it means to take your religion into the workplace, that that can sometimes be hard. Do you feel like you have to separate anything about who you are when you’re at work?
Davis Smith: You know, we recently hired a senior leader in our company, and she was asking me, as she was getting onboarded, she really wanted to understand. She didn’t know a lot about the Church, and she knew I was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and she wanted to help. She wanted to understand better maybe lines that are drawn between my religion and our brand, and she asked me how I separated those. And my answer to her was that I don’t. I don’t separate them. The reason this brand is what it is, is because of my deep belief in God, and in this religion, and my duty to use my life to help others and so I don’t separate the two. And I don’t know if that’s the answer she wanted, but that was the truth and that’s how I try to live my life. People that see me at work and see me professionally, they know. who I am, and I’m the same person when I go to Church on Sunday as I am when I go into the office every other day of the week.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Now, you’ve organized some mission reunions that have taken you and others in your mission back to Bolivia, and that have actually allowed you the opportunity to seek out people you knew on your mission. Talk about what it means to actually get to revisit that special time of your life.
Davis Smith: So I’ve gone back maybe six times — in fact, I’m going back this summer and taking our oldest daughter. She’s going to be 19. She’s 18 now and I can’t wait to take her and have her experience this place that she knows means so much to me. Every time I go back, I have that fire relit inside of me, and I have these really special and unique experiences. The last time I went I was able to see a woman that I baptized nearly 20 years, 20 something years before, and it was such a testament to me of how the Lord works in sharing the gospel. Her family, she was maybe 12 years old, she grew up in a very, very poor home. Her parents, her dad had been in a severe trucking accident, he had been a truck driver, and was disabled, had had a brain injury. And her mother didn’t know how to read, and she just washed clothes. And so that’s how they supported the family, was this woman would wash clothes out in the street, on the dirt street every day. And I’d walk by this woman all the time. And one day — I’d walked by her for months, and one day, I just felt the strong prompting to go talk to her. And I’m a little embarrassed to say I made a judgment in my head, where I thought, “I don’t know if this family is ready for the gospel.” It seemed like they didn’t really — she couldn’t read anything, the husband didn’t seem to understand what we were talking about a lot of times, and they had these two teenage daughters. But they started going to Church, and they were the most faithful people and going to Church, they ended up choosing to be baptized. And I, when I saw this, this young woman who’s now an adult woman, she’s the stake Young Women president in her stake, and she’s married a return missionary who has been a bishop, and it was just — I remember feeling and as a missionary, “Are these people even ready? Do they even understand what they’re committing to?” And it wasn’t for me to decide, it wasn’t for me to judge, the Lord knew. And He inspired me to go talk to them and He knew they were ready. And so sometimes when we feel these feelings of, “I don’t know if this person is ready to receive or outwardly, I don’t think this person is ready.” It’s not for us to decide, the Lord knows and He’ll help inspire us when He knows they’re ready.
Sarah Jane Weaver: You’ve had that same experience, Asialene, as you felt promptings to just share or reach out or talk to someone about the Church.
Asialene Smith: Yes, it’s true. It’s hard to not, like Davis said, to judge a person, according to if they’re ready for the gospel or not. But a couple of times now, I’ve just had to ignore the judgment. And the people that I’ve given copies of the Book of Mormon to, as far as I know, have not been baptized and are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But I don’t regret doing that, because I knew what was supposed to happen. So as long as we’re following the Holy Ghost and being sensitive to the Spirit, and always being mindful of sharing the gospel, we don’t need to have any regrets.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Asialene, is there anything that helps you think about being a member missionary?
Asialene Smith: So recently, I was talking to my sister who lives in San Antonio, and we were talking about love, share and invite and she told me the neatest thing. Her ward has some mission goals, and it is, “love daily, share weekly, and invite monthly.” And I just think that’s so beautiful. If we always keep that in mind, if we have those goals, we can — love daily can be loving others, and it’s also loving God, it’s doing the things to feel His love and to show our love to Him and develop that relationship with Him. We can share weekly on social media, or in person, whatever. We can invite monthly, try to invite to a Church activity or to have a family home evening, whatever it may be. And that makes it feel more attainable, instead of just jumping straight to invite, if you can do that monthly. I thought that was perfect.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Davis, you said something that was interesting, because once you have relationships with people and you love them, and you want what’s best for them, it is natural to talk with them about the Church.
Davis Smith: Yeah, and there’s actually a little more fear that happens when you know someone really well versus as a missionary, if you talk to someone in the bus that you don’t know, it’s like, “Well, I have nothing to lose, I don’t know this person.” But when you know someone, you have that deep relationship, sometimes it can create a little bit more anxiety or fear about sharing. But at the end of the day, those people, they know. They know how much we care about them and they know how much we care about our faith. And so when we share, it’s only going to strengthen those relationships.
Asialene Smith: Something that helps me is to remember the times when someone from another religion has shared their beliefs with me. So growing up in Seattle, I was really fortunate to have a lot of religious friends. A lot of Catholics, a lot of born-again Christians, and they went to youth groups and Church, they’re really active in their religions. It was so great to have people around me that believe in Jesus Christ and believe in a God. And today, I see them on Facebook, I see them on Instagram and I see what they post, they post their own beliefs, and how they celebrate Easter and Christmas, and I admire that. I admire that. And I think, “That doesn’t offend me one bit.” I have some slightly different beliefs than them, but they are brave to do that and it doesn’t bother me one bit. And there’s been times where I’ve been on the street somewhere — most recently on spring break, we were in an outlet mall in California and someone was handing out a flyer and telling us that Jesus loves us. And they just want to share the love of Christ and it doesn’t offend me one bit. And so, I have to tell myself that when I want to share the Book of Mormon or invite someone to Church, it doesn’t have to get in the way of our friendship and most likely, like what happened with my one neighbor: she sent me the thank you note, because it meant so much to her. So, that really helps me with sharing the gospel, to remember those things.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Davis, do you have an anecdote or something that epitomizes missionary work for you personally?
Davis Smith: Yeah, so one of my favorite missionary stories is when I was a child, and I was in Little League Baseball. My family lived in Puerto Rico at the time, and my dad was our coach and Puerto Ricans love baseball. And this is at the peak of Dale Murphy’s career, he has been the MVP of Major League Baseball two years in a row. And everyone knows who Dale Murphy is and everyone knows he’s a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and my dad ended up writing him a letter and sent him a bunch of copies of the Book of Mormon, and asked him if he’d be willing to dedicate a Book of Mormon to each of the boys on our baseball team. And Dale Murphy sent back this box with all these copies of the Book of Mormon, signed by him with his testimony written in every one of them, and also signed a baseball for every one of these kids with their names, sent them baseball cards that he’d signed, and it was a great example for me as a young boy to see someone as important as Dale Murphy being willing to take time out of his life to go be a missionary. And you have those moments as a child, and it really reinforces the importance of missionary work.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And President Nelson said at conference, he issued a powerful invitation. He asked all young men to serve a mission, he actually called it a powerful opportunity for young women if they choose that, and said it would bless their lives. And most of us can see how missions can help us with our families, with our commitment to the Church. That also would spill over into business. Missions have to be a preparation for much of what happens in the workplace as well.
Davis Smith: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’ve often heard that missionary work prepares people to be great entrepreneurs, and I did an interview with Guy Raz, who does a podcast called “How I Built This.” We spent an hour talking about the Church. One thing that he said, and that I’ve heard many times is that if you can sell religion, you can sell anything; and while it’s kind of a funny quip and I’ve used it myself, I want to stop saying that because the reality is, as missionaries, we’re not selling anything. We are loving, we are sharing, and we are inviting and it’s all about love. As a missionary, you’re doing this only, not because you have anything to gain, you’re doing it only because you love somebody, and you care about them and you want them to have the joy that you have in living the gospel. And we do it because we know that He lives, and just like Mary Magdalene wanted to run and share what she discovered as Christ was resurrected, we want to do the same and we want to share the joy that comes from living the gospel and from knowing Christ.
Sarah Jane Weaver: I wish we could talk about this longer, because I think it is so important for all of us to do as President Nelson has asked us to do, which is gather Israel on both sides of the veil. And so, it’s sometimes easier for us to book some time in the temple or make some time to do some family history work, but an important part of this is speaking up and talking to people who don’t yet know what we believe or maybe don’t even know what’s missing from their lives, that we could help them with the truths that we know that have blessed us. So as we conclude, we end each Church News podcast with the same question, and we ask people to answer what they know now. And so let’s start, Asialene, with you, and I hope you’ll take this as an opportunity to also share your testimony of the Church and how it’s been a blessing to you. But what do you know now after your membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and what do you know now as you’ve made efforts to try and share that?
Asialene Smith: What I’ve learned from being a member missionary and sharing the gospel, is to not ignore those promptings. There was a time when I did ignore that. When I was single in college, I had this impression that I should send a relative a Book of Mormon, and I didn’t listen, I put it off, and to this day, I regret it. And so that is partly why I have tried to improve that, and if I ever feel prompted to do anything, I will do it because I don’t like that feeling. It’s a way better feeling after you share the gospel or invite someone to do something with you in the Church, the weight that’s lifted and the happy feeling you have, than not following the prompting and the guilt that you feel and knowing what opportunity could have been missed. And so for me, it really is following the promptings of the Holy Ghost. And so I’m just so grateful to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I’m so grateful that my parents were introduced to the gospel, because I was born into a home where I was taught the gospel from infancy. I’m grateful for those missionaries that dedicated their time and sacrificed those two years of their missions to travel and teach my parents and their family, to teach my parents about the gospel. Both my parents were prepared, they have really special stories of how the Lord was preparing them up until that point, and I’m so blessed to have the direction that I have because I’m a member of this Church. And because what the scriptures teach me about my Savior, I know that He loves me, and He loves everyone on this earth. And I know that because I feel that peace and His love and the comfort that He brings into my life. It’s why I want to share the gospel, anyone that’s going through a hardship. I can’t imagine life without the hope of Christ, and so I want everyone to feel that.
Davis Smith: A few weeks into my mission in Bolivia, I remember being incredibly homesick, and was in a very poor part of Bolivia, no paved roads, no running water, even where we met for Church meetings was just a little house with a hole in the back for the bathroom. And it was very hard, a hard adjustment, and I remember one night feeling very lonely, very discouraged. And I went outside and I prayed out loud for the first time as a missionary, and I prayed to Heavenly Father to help me, and I had the most overwhelming feeling of love that maybe I’ve ever felt in my life. And some of those feelings didn’t go away immediately, of discouragement, or of homesickness, but that feeling of overwhelming love is something that gave me strength to continue on, and it inspired me to help others make sure that they felt those feelings. And so what I know now: when I think about a mission, I used to think of it as a two-year period of my life, where I would spend preaching the gospel somewhere in the world. I look at it now as, a mission is forever. I’ve been able to spend 25 years as a missionary and I look forward to spending many more where I can share this love that I have for the gospel, this love that I have for Jesus Christ, and share that immense love that I felt in one of the most challenging moments of my life. And I’m just so grateful for the gospel, and I can’t imagine having something so special and not being willing to share it with others.
Sarah Jane Weaver: You have been listening to the Church News podcast. I’m your host, Church News Editor Sarah Jane Weaver. I hope you have learned something today about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by peering with me through the Church News window. Please remember to subscribe to this podcast. And if you enjoyed the messages we shared today, please make sure you share the podcast with others. Thanks to our guests, to my producer, KellieAnn Halvorsen, and others who make this podcast possible. Join us every week for a new episode. Find us on your favorite podcasting channel or with other news and updates about the Church on TheChurchNews.com.