Taste the Blessings of Missionary Work

“No, thank you. I am not interested.” The woman yelled in Italian from her doorstep and slammed the door shut.

With a sigh, my companion crossed off another neighborhood from our list. It was a hot day in July and my mission companion and I were street contacting in a tiny rural town in southeast Italy. Sulking over the disappointment, we slowly walked back to our bus stop. The heat of the Italian summer scorched our faces and necks. Sweat drenched our clothes and hair. Our soles were sore from walking on rocky dirt roads. 

It was our fifth neighborhood that week with no luck finding people ready to hear the gospel. I was on the verge of tears and thought to myself, “Why can’t we find anyone to teach? Why was I called here?”

The bus arrived. My companion and I stood separately from each other to talk to others riding with us. The bus jolted forward, braking at another stop. An African woman gracefully walked up the metal stairs and sat in an empty row. I couldn’t help but feel drawn to her.

“I really like your shoes! Where did you get them?” I asked. Her face lit up as she told me about the store.

She leaned closer and tilted her head, taking a better look at my facial features. “Where are you from? Are you African?” she asked politely.

I proceeded to tell her that I was from the United States, but my family was from the Pacific Islands. I explained that I was in Italy to help others learn more about Christ and His gospel.

I asked if she had a family and she said that she had a son and a daughter. I told that I had to leave my family for a little while so I could help teach other families how they could be together forever. 

When I showed her a picture of the Rome Temple, her eyes widened with amazement. The bus stopped and I explained that my companion and I had to leave. 

“Oh! Can we talk tomorrow please? I want to know more about that building,” she said, quickly writing down her number and handing it to me.

When we got off the bus my companion and I shrieked with excitement and gave each other a high-five. We celebrated by eating warm, flaky sfogliatelle from the bakery down the street from our apartment. 

Sfogliatelle Image Credit: Guido Pedrelli

FOOD FOR THE SOUL

Food is comforting to the soul, especially for me. After a successful lesson or a difficult day of finding, my companion and I would reward ourselves with a little treat. Sfogliatelle was only a small reward compared to the immense joy I felt listening to and following the Spirit in missionary work. 

That night discouragement whisked away, and I prayed to God in gratitude for leading us to one of His children. Like Jeremiah I had suffered rebuke that morning, but then felt joy in my efforts to take upon myself God’s name and do His will (Jeremiah 15:15-16).

Rejection and fatigue are not uncommon for servants of the Lord. In November 1835, when Wilford Woodruff was serving a mission in the southern part of the United States, he and his traveling companions received the Lord’s guidance in a time of trial.

One evening, when a storm was brewing, they arrived at a creek that had enlarged from the intense rain. As they tried to cross the river, they became lost in the thick woods, unable to see past the rain and fallen treetops.

Wilford wrote: “We crossed streams nearly twenty times. … But the Lord was merciful unto us in the midst of our troubles, for while we were groping in the dark, running the risk of killing both ourselves and [our] animals, by riding off precipitous bluffs, a bright light suddenly shone round about us, and revealed our perilous situation, as we were upon the edge of a deep gulf. The light continued with us until we found a house, and learned the right road.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Autobiography, November 15, 1835.) 

In his first year of his mission, he traveled 3,248 miles, held 170 meetings, baptized 43 people, confirmed 35 people, organized three branches, ordained two Teachers and one Deacon, and had 3 mobs rise against him. (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, December 31, 1835.) On December 31, 1835 he celebrated his success by sharing “johnny-cake, butter and honey” with the Smoot family, recent converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Leaves From My Journal, page 21.)

Johnny Cake Image Credit: Brittany Conerly

FEAST UPON THE WORDS OF CHRIST

Food can comfort us during hard times, even if it’s as simple as sfogliatelle or johnny-cakes. However, what’s more important is to listen to the Comforter while doing the Lord’s work and to “feast upon the words of Christ” every day (2 Nephi 32:3). God has promised that if we will feast upon the fruit of the tree of life, “even until [we] are filled” then we will “hunger not, neither shall [we] thirst” (Alma 32:42).

Whether it’s finding one of God’s children or finding one hundred, He celebrates with us in our efforts to gather Israel. When we recognize His hand in our work, we too can “taste” the blessings He has in store for us. 

Now, imagine yourself celebrating with Wilford Woodruff as you make this recipe for johnny-cakes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk or buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup pork fat, rendered lard, bacon grease, or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Instructions:

  1. Place 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup yellow cornmeal, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Beat 2 large eggs in a small bowl until broken up. Add the eggs, 3/4 cup whole milk or buttermilk, and 1/4 cup water to the flour mixture and stir to combine.
  3. Heat 1/2 cup pork fat and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat until melted and shimmering. Use a 1/4-cup measuring cup to drop two portions of the batter into the pan. Cook until crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining batter.

Please subscribe to our newsletter for more recipes and stories from the life of Wilford Woodruff!