Oskaloosa.com

Local News

November 12, 2010

Mormons trek through Oskaloosa

OSKALOOSA — When you see them walking down the street, their appearance tells you who they are and what they’re up to.

Neatly dressed with name tags and almost always in pairs, missionaries with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are hitting the pavement in Oskaloosa.

Eric Van Wagoner and Trapper Crockett, both just 20 years old, are going door-to-door in Oskaloosa to spread the message of their church.

“We volunteer to do this in our church,” said Crockett while standing on A Avenue East Wednesday afternoon. “It’s not looked down upon if you don’t do it. We do it to see what the world is like.”

More often than not, the world of Oskaloosa has been kind to Van Wagoner and Crockett. However, some folks are less apt to hearing their message.

“Some of them will let us in and talk to them,” said Van Wagoner after noting that he has been doing missionary work in both Iowa and Illinois. “We’ve had some slammed doors and some people yelling.”

Crockett responded by saying most people are just as nice to them as they are to Oskaloosa residents. Crockett then explained why he and fellow Latter-day Saints church members always seem to have an agreeable demeanor.

“We are always happy because of the joy Christ brings us,” explained Crockett.

When asked about what they thought the biggest misconception about their Mormon church was, Wagoner was quick to respond.

“Well, we don’t practice polygamy anymore,” said Wagoner with a laugh.

Both Van Wagoner and Crockett are completing their missionary work a long way from home. Van Wagoner hails from Portland, Ore., while Crockett calls Hyrum, Utah, home. Typically, Latter-day missionaries complete up to two years of full-time service away from home. Crockett has been doing such work for about a year and Van Wagoner said he’s been at it for 20 months.

The pair both insisted that the aim of their missionary work is not specifically to recruit members for their church, saying that bringing people to Jesus Christ and salvation therein is their main goal.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded in Upstate New York by Joseph Smith Jr. in 1830. The church would eventually establish its headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Throughout the mid-1800s, groups of Mormon pioneers crossed the United States before settling in Salt Lake City. Many historic sights of this trek can be found throughout southern Iowa.

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Herald City Editor Andy Goodell can be reached at news2@oskyherald.com.

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