Episode 122: Cotopaxi founders Davis and Asialene Smith on stepping away from their company to serve as mission leaders in Brazil
Cotopaxi gear founder Davis Smith shares about his call to lead the Brazil Recife North Mission in this week’s Church News podcast
Episode 122: Cotopaxi founders Davis and Asialene Smith on stepping away from their company to serve as mission leaders in Brazil
Cotopaxi gear founder Davis Smith shares about his call to lead the Brazil Recife North Mission in this week’s Church News podcast
Davis and Asialene Smith, founders of Cotopaxi — an outdoor gear company that commits a percentage of its profits to help communities experiencing poverty — join the Church News podcast to talk about their decision to serve as mission leaders for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Leaving Cotopaxi and other interests behind, the Smiths will lead the Brazil Recife North Mission, beginning July 1, 2023. They share how their calling was extended, what consecration means to them, what they are doing to prepare for full-time missionary work, and how the Lord has shaped and directed their lives.
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Davis Smith: Realizing it was my last, kind of, adventure before I go on the mission, and I actually read a quote up at the top of the mountain by a man named René Daumal. And he says, “You cannot stay on the summit forever. You have to come down again.” I suspect that René Daumal was not referring just to a mountainside. I can’t but also think of life. You know, we have this connection with our Father in Heaven. We’ve come down below, and our job is to figure out the memories of what we had higher up, the commitments that we made to our Heavenly Father and to each other. And just so grateful for the gospel, for the guidance and direction it gives us. Life is not easy. It is challenging. It is disappointing at times, but it is also so beautiful. And when we have the gospel to guide us and lead us, it helps us through those most challenging moments.
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.
In early 2022, Davis and Asialene Smith, founders of the Cotopaxi gear company, joined the Church News podcast to talk about being member missionaries. Now the couple are transferring from member missionaries to mission leaders. Beginning in July 2023, Davis and Asialene will serve as president and companion in the Brazil Recife North Mission. They are back to have a follow-up conversation on missionary work, on consecration and on seeing the hand of the Lord in their lives. Thank you guys so much for coming back to the Church News podcast.
Davis Smith: Thanks, Sarah, for having us.
Asialene Smith: Yeah, thank you so much.
Sarah Jane Weaver: It is so nice for you to come. You’re in the middle of a lot of changes coming up. Tell us about your mission call.
Davis Smith: Yeah, so a lot has happened since we were last together, Sarah. It’s been a really incredible experience. You know, we’ve always loved missionary work, and we love the gospel. And so if you were to ask us, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how excited are we?” It’s a 10. We are so, so excited. And at the same time, if we’re being honest, like, we’re really nervous. And we’re a little bit scared and a little overwhelmed with just the preparation that goes into leaving your life behind for three years. But we know the Lord will help us and guide us. And if you don’t mind, we’ll maybe talk a little bit about, like, the process a little bit. So in the fall, we got a phone call from a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, asking if Asialene and, and I could meet with him. And a few hours later, we were in his office. And I mean, we all know, as members of the Church, this is very rare, like, it is…
Sarah Jane Weaver: So you had time to put on a suit and drive downtown.
Davis Smith: We had to change all of our plans, some important work meetings, like everything got canceled, and we went and had this meeting. And it was so special. I mean, we’re pinching ourselves, it’s just such a unique opportunity to spend some time with an apostle. And about a week later, we got a phone call from a member of the First Presidency, to have a meeting. And we spent an hour with him. And we were officially extended a call to serve as mission leaders. We didn’t know where we would go. We didn’t know if it would be English-speaking or Spanish -speaking or Portuguese-speaking in the United States or somewhere else. And we had about a month and a half to think about it and to stress about it and worry about, like where we might go and how might this impact our family.
But in December, we ended up on our anniversary, actually, we got the mission assignment. And, you know, my mission assignment that I got when I was 19, I read. So I really wanted a Asialene to read this one and have that experience. And so she read it, and to my surprise, not to her surprise, we were called to Brazil. And she was hoping we’d go to Brazil. I was hoping we’d go Spanish-speaking. But at the same time, the moment we read it was like, “Yes,” like, “Whoa, we’re so excited.” So that’s when all the changes kind of began for our family. And you know, I don’t know if Asialene wants to talk a little bit about what’s been changing and what’s happened and how we’re thinking about this and preparing for it.
Asialene Smith: Oh, yeah. So our lives have completely changed. Our focus has changed. We are listening to podcasts on how to train and teach missionaries. We’re preparing for our kids to attend an international school. We’re getting ready to, you know, pack and move our house, all of our belongings. And we’re studying “Preach My Gospel.” And, just, our focus is different. We’re focusing on missionaries. We’re looking at the flashcards that we’ve been given of the missionaries and our mission right now. And so we’re memorizing their names and seeing their pictures and faces and learning about them. So it’s a big change.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, tell me about the minute you read that call. Did it feel right? Were you surprised?
Asialene Smith: I was so excited. We just had all these guesses, and we even had our neighbors come over the night before. And we had a big large map on our front porch, and the kids and parents put their guesses on the map. And we, I really wanted to go to Brazil. I really did. But I figured, “Davis is the mission president, and he will be the one speaking more. So I’m good with Spanish speaking, because that’s what he really wants.” But as soon as I read and saw “Brazil,” I was so excited. And the girls, both of our girls lived in Brazil when they were younger, and they were so happy, and they started crying of happiness. It was really sweet. And our 8-year-old boy had guessed Brazil. So he was so excited that he got the guess right. And we had looked into every mission possible. We knew all of the areas that would be open this summer. And so we did a little bit of research. And we knew that this was one of the missions that we could get called to.
Davis Smith: Maybe one funny story. When we were meeting with this member of the First Presidency, we were having a conversation, and I had grown up in Spanish-speaking Latin America. I had served my mission Spanish speaking. And we had lived in Peru together, Asialene and I had, and we’d also spent some time in Brazil. But this member of the First Presidency said, “Davis, I can see why you speak Spanish, but why, in your paperwork here, does it say that your primary or preferred language is Portuguese?” I didn’t even know what paperwork he’s looking at. I didn’t, I didn’t fill out anything. So I was like, “Oh, that’s a mistake.” I was like, “We’ve got to fix this. It should say Spanish is the preferred language.” And he said, “OK, don’t worry. I’ll make that change.” And when we left his office, I was so nervous about it I actually emailed the secretary and said, “Just to make sure, this should say Spanish, not Portuguese.” Well, of course, the Lord knew where we were supposed to go. And we’re so thrilled about Brazil and Portuguese, but there’s definitely a little more nervousness that we have, because of the language.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And the great joy of being in Brazil is that you’ll get Spanish-speaking missionaries who are learning Portuguese, you’ll get English missionaries that are learning Portuguese ,and you’ll probably get to speak all three, quite a bit.
Davis Smith: Yeah, we’ve talked about this. Yeah, we have quite a few missionaries from Spanish-speaking countries. And so I’m thinking, “OK, I’m going to be doing some interviews and blessings and other things in Portuguese, some in Spanish, some in English.” So, it’ll be fun.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And not only are you walking away from the things we’ve talked about here, you know, packing up your home, looking and changing your focus, but you’re leaving behind a company that you have been very, very visible in. What is that like? What kind of response have you gotten from colleagues, and is it hard to walk away from something that you’ve built?
Davis Smith: Yeah, it is really hard, actually. There’s a little bit of grief and sadness that comes with that. I mean, building Cotopaxi has been just a highlight of my life, because of its purpose. And I really felt it was a calling for me. Even the way the idea came to me was through prayer. And I felt it was an answer to decades of prayer, looking for a way that I could find a way to help people. And so in a lot of ways, leaving it is painful and sad. And at the same time, I’ve always felt — and even use the word “stewardship” — like, I feel a stewardship. It’s not that I own this business. I’m a steward of this business that is meant to lift people out of poverty and made to make a difference in people’s lives.
And so that made it a lot easier to say “Yes,” because we’ve always known that I would be a steward of this brand for some time and I was going to do the very best I could with the talents I had. And at some point, it would be time to hand it to someone else to lead it to the next chapter of growth. And so, you know, when I received the mission call, I knew I would obviously need to talk to my board and to my executive team members. And so, a couple of weeks after receiving the call, I decided on a Saturday it was time to call everyone, and I called every one of them individually, 15 different people. And of the 15, only two are members of the Church, one of my executive team members and one of our board members. And I was a little nervous, because I wasn’t sure how they would, I mean, they all know I’m a member of the Church, and they know quite a bit. I mean, I’m very open about my faith. But it was beautiful. I spent the whole day on the phone talking to these people, one by one.
One of my board members, as I told her why I was choosing to go, she told me that she got goosebumps. She’s like, “Davis, I tell you, I got, I got the chills. I got goosebumps as you were telling me why you were choosing to go.” Another board member, he told me, “Davis, as you’re telling me about this, I am getting emotional. I’m just hearing you talk about why this matters to you.” Another executive member told me that he was jealous. He said, “I wish I felt so deeply about something, and I wish I had that in my life, something that I felt so deeply, I could leave everything behind.” And so, it was a beautiful experience for me to be able to share and articulate why this was something I was willing to do and not just willing, but wanting to do. And at the same time, it’s a hard thing to leave. And so, you know, that’s part of this next few months is kind of preparing to do that separation.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And your mission, as a young man, had such an impact in your life. I saw social media posts where you said, “Hey, now I get the chance to have that kind of impact on somebody else.” Talk about that full circle kind of thing in your life, where you have this pivotal experience, and then you get to actually provide that for others.
Davis Smith: Yeah, I love this part of it, because my mission in Bolivia, I go back to Bolivia often. I think about Bolivia, every single day for 25 years. Every week, I’m talking to a convert of mine. It’s part of who I am. And Tim and Sherry Parker, my mission leaders, were incredible. And they were young, as well. They were, I think, maybe in their late 40s, early 50s, when they started. And so, you know, I’ve had them as part of my life since. Asialene and I have visited their home in Washington, right after we got married, and they’ve now moved to Utah, and we’ve had missionaries at my home with them. And just the idea that we’ll have an opportunity to have missionaries in our lives for the next 40 years is just so amazing, and so touching to us. And we hope that we can shape their lives in some way and that they can shape ours.
Sarah Jane Weaver: So one of the things, Davis, that I’ve heard you talk about is this impact in your life during your mission, that you knew the Lord was aware of you. And I’m hoping each of you can share that sort of perspective, how you, at times in your life, have felt seen by divinity.
Asialene Smith: So when I think of this call, and how the Lord was preparing me for this, what stands out the most to me, is my call to be a Young Women adviser right now. So a couple years ago, I was asked by a bishopric member to consider a call with Young Women. And they were hesitant to call me, because they knew Davis was really busy with his stake calling and he was gone in the evenings. And the bishopric member said, “You know, just kind of think about it. But the Young Women president feels strongly that this is who she wants for this adviser calling, but think about it.”
And I accepted the calling, and it’s been great. And I think that it’s preparing me to be with young people, to be with young missionaries. And so I’ve just grown a lot being with all the youth and hearing their testimonies, hearing their struggles, knowing a little bit about what they’re going through. And some of them are serving missions now and preparing to serve missions. So it’s been a really beautiful experience. And I’m grateful that I’ve had that.
Davis Smith: So one experience that comes to mind for me, a few years ago, we had moved to Utah from Brazil, and we’d lived here a few years, and our two daughters are going to a school about 30 minutes away from where we live, closer to downtown Salt Lake, and I worked in downtown Salt Lake. And our oldest daughter was about to go into high school. So she was in eighth grade, and we started talking about maybe it would make sense for us to move and to be closer to their school, closer to work. We kind of live far away from those things. And we found a home that we loved, and we were really excited about and we visited it a few times. And we decided we were going to make an offer on this home.
And as I was driving back to our home one day, around this time, in our neighborhood, I had the most overwhelming impression that we should not move. And specifically, because we had something we needed to do in that area in our ward, in our stake. And I didn’t know exactly what that meant. But I went home, and I told Asialene about it. And I said, “This is why we can’t move.” And I didn’t know what that meant, but it was, it was so strong.
And a few months later, I was called into the stake presidency, which to be totally honest, was a shock to me. It was not something I anticipated at all. But I look at the last five years where I’ve been able to serve with our dear stake president, Joe Staples, and the other counselor, Alan Matheson. And it has been one of the greatest gifts of my life, and it has prepared me for this calling. I couldn’t possibly be prepared to do this if I had not have had the mentorship and guidance from them, two just incredible men. And for me, it’s a testimony builder that God has His hand in our lives, even in the smallest things.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And for those of our listeners who maybe didn’t hear our last podcast, the Smiths live in my stake. And so you staying in the stake and accepting leadership has blessed my family. You know, I sent two girls on missions while you were serving in the capacity as a stake leader. And both of them said the same thing, that at one point, you had shared some advice with them about how you only have so many days as a missionary and don’t waste any one of them. And they both came to places in their mission where they were tired and wanted to give up. And then they remembered the Davis Smith advice that said, “Don’t waste this day. It won’t come again. You only get so many days as a full-time missionary.” So we’re so grateful for that, but let’s talk about these opportunities that come that maybe don’t come again.
Davis Smith: That advice that I shared with your daughters, it was actually advice that I got on the day of my farewell from one of my uncles, and I thought about it my whole mission. It was something that, in those moments where I felt so tired, exhausted, where you didn’t feel like talking to someone else, I’m more — probably more — introverted. I mean, I love people. But I, also, you know, talking to people all day long, can be really tiring. But I think of some of the people that I met and that I was able to teach the gospel to,and join the Church, and they’re active and faithful members of the Church today. One of them sold ice creams, and I just felt like I needed to go talk to her and bought an ice cream and talked to her about the Church. And others were people that I just met by opening my mouth, in times where maybe it was uncomfortable or difficult for me to do. And so you have these special moments in life that you can either listen to the Spirit and follow, or not. And in our lives, we found over and over and over again, and I think especially on my mission I learned this principle, was when you feel the whispering of the Spirit to tell you to do something, you don’t think about it again, you just act.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And that leads me into my next question, because as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we make promises in the temple to consecrate all that we have to the Lord. And Asialene, what does this idea of consecration mean to you, especially now, as you’re sort of walking away from one life to move into another one?
Asialene Smith: So there is a quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell and he said, “Consecration is yielding up of oneself to God, heart, soul and mind.” I love that, and I completely agree. I think it starts with our hearts, having our heart in the right place. And for me, I think my testimony of that has started with keeping the Sabbath day holy. When I think of that commandment, and I think of how Jesus Christ, under the direction of our Heavenly Father, created the earth and worked for six days and specifically set aside the seventh day and made it holy and made it a sacred day. And He did that for us, so that we can rest, so that we can draw closer to Him, so we can worship Him on those days. Life gets so busy. We all have so many things going on. And I can’t imagine not having that day of rest and that day of worship. And so I’ve been really grateful for that commandment, specifically in my life, because that is what I need.
And I think of an example of some wonderful members. So when we were newly married, we did an internship in Grand Cayman in the Caribbean on a small island. And there was just a small branch. There was no church, we met in the courthouse. And we had a wonderful branch president, but the counselor there was called after two months of being a member of the Church. And so just a lot of new members there. But they did a great job. There’s one young man, one young woman, no Primary. But obviously, it’s a beautiful island in the Caribbean, and so there are a lot of tourists. And every Sunday, we always had tourists come.
And the ones that stood out to us were the ones that were in their Sunday best and stayed for the full three hours, back then it was three hours. And that was such a great example to us, because when you’re on vacation, you don’t have much time anyway, and there are the beautiful beaches and the sun. It was not only just seeing them but what it was was seeing how they contributed to the branch, because the branch relied upon those members. They would give wonderful comments in the lessons. They would bear their testimonies. And this is what the branch needed, because there were so few members, and they were just learning how the Church works. And so that always stood out to us. And that’s something that we try to do when we travel.
Davis Smith: Maybe one beautiful, kind of wrap-up to that story is, we were back in the Cayman Islands with our family a few weeks ago during the holiday break. And we walked into a chapel, they now have a chapel, which is amazing. And it was full of people and in the very front, this man who was a brand-new member, second counselor, maybe it was, there was only one counselor in the branch presidency, I think, when we were there as interns. But he is up there with a missionary tag, and he was a counselor in the mission presidency of the Jamaica Kingston Mission. And his two daughters have gone to BYU, have married in the temple to returned missionaries, like, their lives are completely changed. And so to see this transformation that comes from consecration, and to, you know, fulfilling the commandments that we’ve been given to be, you know, faithful to our covenant that we make in the temple, like we saw the blessings, you know, 20 years later.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And I want to talk to you a little bit more about this, because before I ever knew Dave Smith, I knew his mother, because she was my daughter’s third grade elementary school teacher. And the goodness that came from her, you could tell it influenced all of us in a way that was really, really important at that time in her life. And so, Davis, you were raised by parents who consecrated everything they had. They moved all over, working for the Church. What kind of example did they set in this regard?
Davis Smith: Yeah, I was truly born to godly parents [Ole and Dena Smith]. And my mom goes to the temple every single day. And if she has to miss for any reason, she goes twice the day before. It’s like, “Wow, this is like, next level of commitment, Mom. This is amazing.” She’s a great example. You know, growing up, my family moved to Latin America, when I was a child, when I was 4. My dad worked for the Church. And I’m just so grateful for the parents that I had, the experiences that I had, as a child, shaped me.
One specific experience, when I was 4,, my dad had this little, green, metal box. And on the top of this box, he wrote, “B. O. S. S.,” boss, and it was the “Bank of Smith’s Savings.” And every week, we had a weekly meeting with my dad, where he had a little book with a ledger that he’d document all of our savings. And I was looking at this just a few weeks ago, 40 years later, and has all these little entries for me, a 13-cent deposit, like all these, you know, I’m saving up my pennies and nickels. And it wasn’t just about saving, it was also about sacrifice. In this ledger, there’s also some withdrawals $5, $15, $25, which for me was a lot of my money. But it was helping someone in our ward pay for his mission in the Dominican Republic, it was helping a young couple that just got married to go travel to the United States to get married in the temple, because there was no temple in the countries we lived in, it was using some of my money to buy Christmas gifts for an orphanage. My life was really shaped by my parents and by the great example that they set for me.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And, Asialene, I’m sure that you have great parents [Elmo and Angelina Elmore] as well, who taught you this lesson of consecration, just like Davis’s parents modeled that for him.
Asialene Smith: Yes, definitely. So I remember them, one of the early memories I have of them is going to the temple every month together. And because they were converts, they really relied on the members of the ward to learn more about the gospel and to develop these habits. And so we just had such a wonderful ward that had temple night, and they always look forward to going to that. And I remember going to church, every single Sunday. We never missed church for anything. I mean, maybe if we were sick, but someone always went. And so, I just love seeing their commitment to the gospel and to our Savior. And the example they gave to us. We prayed daily together. Every morning, we would have a prayer and every night, we would take turns praying. And so that has shaped who I am today, from seeing that.
Sarah Jane Weaver: As we think about consecration and giving everything to the Lord and this decision to serve, you’re also working with young people who have done the same, who have walked away from their lives for two years. What do you want your future missionaries to know about each of you?
Davis Smith: You know, one of the things that comes to mind, for me, as we’re going through this mission leadership training, has been this idea of having high expectations and high love. And so what I’d want them to know is we love them. And we also expect great things out of them, because the Lord expects great things out of them. So that’s what comes to mind, for me.
Asialene Smith: I hope that they would know how important it is to grow and have their testimonies strengthened as they serve. I have such a strong testimony of this Church and this gospel. And I know it’s because of the effort that I put into it. So I hope that they — wherever they are — when they start their missions that they know, it doesn’t matter where they are, they can learn more, and they can grow. And this is the perfect opportunity for them to strengthen their faith.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, I hope that they know, in addition to being spiritual, you’re both really, really fun.
Davis Smith: I hope we have a lot of fun, yeah.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, and I love that you’re going to Recife. And as we talk about consecration, you can’t help but think about the temple and the covenants we make. And before this podcast, Davis was telling us that his father actually helped build the Recife temple.
Davis Smith: Yes, when I was a missionary in Bolivia, my dad was building temples for the Church in Latin America. And Recife is one of the temples that he built. And my dad has shown us a thousand pictures. He’s, I think he might be more excited than we are about us going to Recife. So he’s so thrilled that we’re going to go, and the apartment we’re going to live in actually has a window that looks at the temple. And so we can walk to the temple from the apartment we’ll be living in. So we’re very excited about that.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And Asialene, you’re taking your kids with you. Tell us how they’re doing with this idea of moving to Brazil.
Asialene Smith: So we were really excited when we got the call, and we were nervous to tell the kids. But when we told each of our daughters who are teenagers, we told them separately, because we were most nervous about them, they were both thrilled. It was such a blessing. They were happy for us, and mainly, because they remember their experiences living there as young girls, and so they were excited for the boys to have this opportunity. And then it was time to tell our boys.
So later that day or night before they went to bed, we just talked about Lehi, and we read the story of Lehi and explained how he sacrificed, he took his family, and they left everything behind, and they traveled in the wilderness. They didn’t know where they were going, and it must have been really scary for them, but they even knew that this is what the Lord asked them to do. And so Lehi was willing to do that. And so we talked to them about that and read a scripture in 1 Nephi 3:7 and, “Will we follow the Lord? Will we do the things that He asks us to do? And would you do that?” And they said they would. And so we told them we have this opportunity to leave our home and our school and our church friends and to go somewhere for three years, and we don’t know where it will be. We have no idea. But we’ve committed to doing this, no matter where it will be, we will go. And so it was exciting to think about a move. But it was really hard for our 8 year old, which we were surprised by that. He was sad, thinking about leaving his friends, and he’s never lived anywhere else but the home that we live in.
Davis Smith: And he cried himself to sleep that night, it was the saddest thing.
Asialene Smith: Yeah, he was sad. But since then, we’ve been learning about Brazil and Recife and the different Portuguese words, and so it’s been really special. I saw him on the globe, actually, earlier this morning, looking at Brazil on the globe. So it’ll be good, but our oldest will stay here in college. And so, I think it will be hard for her. She won’t have that home base. She won’t be able to come home to us on the weekends and spend time with us. But she has lots of family here. And then our second daughter will be a senior. And we told her when we got the call. We said, “It’s your choice. You have lots of family members you can stay back with and finish out your senior year here, or you can come with us.” And so she really wanted to come with us, and she’s excited. And she has not said anything negative. So, we feel really lucky about that.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, that’s amazing. For our listeners who don’t know, you have one of those great, great families where the Lord’s blessings come in His timing, not in yours, so you have two older girls, and then two younger boys.
Davis Smith: A 10-year gap, and it wasn’t by design. We wanted more sooner, and we got them as we were given them.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And so now your boys are much the same age as you were when you started and were learning languages and living abroad.
Davis Smith: Yeah, our youngest, Bowman, is 4. And that’s how old I was. So I actually just giggle looking at him thinking, “Oh my gosh, it’s gonna be such a wonderful experience for him.” He’s such a cute little guy. And so, yeah, we’re excited. He’s learning some words. And he came to me the other day and was like, “Tudo bem,” which means, “How are you doing?” I was like, “I didn’t even remember that.” So, he was super cute.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And, Asialene, I’d love to know, have there been specific experiences that prepared you for this exact moment?
Asialene Smith: Yes. So, well, first of all, when Davis and I were dating and engaged, we talked about, maybe we would live abroad. So I knew what I was getting myself into. And so immediately he found an internship in Peru. We lived there for a semester. And at the time, married couples for this particular internship through BYU could go to Mexico City, Santiago, Chile, or Lima, Peru. And Davis’ parents were called to the Santiago Chile Mission, one of those missions, and that’s where we really wanted to go. And we made it very clear to the coordinators, and we thought we would go there. We thought, “OK, they’re gonna send us there.” There’s, you know, 33% chance that we could go.
And then we were in the BYU health center, I remember, checking the computer that was in the lobby there, like over and over, “When is this — our assignment — going to be given for this internship?” And we read it and it said, “Lima, Peru.” And I was really nervous. I knew nothing about it. I hadn’t served a mission and didn’t know what I was getting myself into. So I was really nervous about it.
But when we got our call and knew that in a month and a half or so we would receive our assignment for our location, I just kept telling myself, “It doesn’t matter where we get called, because I did not want to go to Peru, but it was one of the best experiences of our lives.” I know that was where we were supposed to be at that time. And the experiences we had there are what we needed, and they have shaped our lives forever. So that really helped in preparation for receiving our assignment and our location and just living abroad.
And then also our time living in Brazil for three years while Davis started a company down there. That experience was wonderful. I met a lot of neat people. And when people ask me how I liked it, I always say the first six months were so hard. I thought I would love it. I was so excited. I thought we would go down and I was going to love it from day one. But it was not easy. It was very different than I had expected. But once I got settled in, I loved it. And by the time we had to leave, when it was time for us to do something new, I wasn’t ready, I wanted to stay.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Well, it sounds like a mission.
Davis Smith: Yes, I mean, it does, yeah. You know, that Brazil experience was, from a business perspective, was very challenging, a lot of, of success in some ways, and some really painful experiences in other ways. When we left, you know, there was some sadness of leaving Brazil and also, a lot of pain and sadness for other reasons. And, you know, we’ve always looked back, and, you know, that experience was really challenging. And, you know, 10 years later, I look back and think, “Oh, my gosh, I’m so grateful for every challenge that we had, for that experience that we had,” because it’s prepared us for everything we’ve done since.
Sarah Jane Weaver: Now, Davis, you have a group of colleagues that you go on adventures with occasionally. And I read a post recently, where you were reflecting on an experience you had just had in Ecuador, where you actually had the opportunity to stand on the glacier for which your company is named. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Davis Smith: Yeah. So, you know, I moved to Ecuador as a kid and lived there into my early teenage years and just have a special place in my heart for Ecuador. And I’ve been back quite often over the last few years. And kind of a last hurrah with these friends of mine, every year, we do a trip together, and they’re just incredible men. And we spent a week together talking about fatherhood and our families and about business and then about our faith. And we lift each other and strengthen each other. And we decided we wanted to go climb some mountains down in Ecuador.
And so we went and spent a week climbing a few different mountains. And our last one was Cotopaxi. And it’s erupting right now, so there’s no way to summit it, but we chose to do it anyways. And it was amazing. We were on the mountain when we hear this huge “boom.” And we look up and this massive black cloud of ash and smoke starts shooting up out of the volcano, and we kept climbing up to the glacier. And by the end like we’re covered in ash, like we can feel it in our mouths, like in our teeth. And it was just a really unique experience. But we’re on this beautiful blue glacier, and it was an emotional moment for me to look down, you know, hiking at that altitude, very high altitude. The mountain is almost 20,000 feet at the peak. You know, it’s exhausting, and at the same time. I just felt such a connection to this place and realizing it was my last kind of adventure before I go on the mission.
And I actually read a quote up at the top of the mountain, one of my favorite poems by a man named René Daumal and he says, “You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”
And while I think this poem is about a summit, a mountain summit, I suspect that René Daumal was not referring just to a mountain summit. I think of my mission, and a mission doesn’t last forever. It’s a short period of our lives. But there is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. And I can’t but also think of life, you know. We have this connection with our Father in Heaven. We’ve come down below, and our job is to figure out, you know, what was higher up, the memories of what we had higher up, the commitments that we made to our Heavenly Father and to each other. And just so grateful for the gospel, for the guidance and direction it gives us. Life is not easy. It is challenging. It is disappointing at times, but it is also so beautiful. And when we have the gospel to guide us and lead us, it helps us through those most challenging moments.
Sarah Jane Weaver: And I think that brings us kind of full circle with all that we’ve talked about today. We have a tradition at the Church News podcast where we always end with the same question. And we always give our guests the opportunity to share their testimonies, and then tell us what they know now. And so as we close today, I hope each of you can tell us what you know now, as you’ve contemplated full-time missionary service and a full-time commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Asialene Smith: So in preparation for this call, what I know now, is Heavenly Father loves the missionaries. He is so pleased with their choice to serve. And I haven’t even started yet, but I have felt this overwhelming love from our Father in Heaven of the choice I’ve made to serve a mission and the love that I already feel for the missionaries that I will be training. I already love them from seeing their pictures. I love them and I know how much Heavenly Father loves them.
Davis Smith: What I know now is that the Lord has His hand in even the smallest pieces of our lives. We’re on a path of stepping stones, and we take each one one at a time, and each one of those is preparation for something great the Lord has in store for us. I also know that the Lord uses imperfect people. We don’t speak Portuguese that well, we’re really nervous about it. You know, we’re replacing [President Christopher C. Nordfelt and Sister Mandy Nordfelt] who are an amazing couple. You know, they speak Portuguese great. You know, President Nordfeldt, you know, served his mission Portuguese-speaking already, so he knew it coming in. He’s a CES teacher, like he knows the scriptures so well. I am not going to know the scriptures as well as him, like, it can be really intimidating.
When I think about it, we are not perfect, and we’re gonna have things that we’re not great at. But I know that God has prepared us for this and that He will qualify us for this work. And He will use the unique talents that we have, even though we’re not great at everything, He’ll use the talents that we have to further His work. And while we may not be great at a lot of things, we love the gospel, we love the Lord, and we can’t wait to love these missionaries.
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.