“Start at the Real Grass Roots as an Agricultural Missionary,” Ensign, Apr. 1975, 68–69
“Agricultural missionaries are people (generally man and wife) who are qualified to go in the mission field and teach members how to produce more from their soil and related resources and how to increase their nutritional standards.” (Church Welfare Department Bulletin on Agricultural Missionaries.)
As the first agricultural missionaries to serve outside the United States, Brother and Sister Daniel Noorlander were, in some respects, pioneers. Building on their success, the agricultural missionary program is just beginning to show its potential. Today, Brother and Sister Jordan Rasmussen are serving in the Guatemala Guatemala City Mission, and ten more couples are expected to be in the field in 1975, serving among American Indians.
“As President Harold B. Lee said, you can’t have a good member of the Church who’s hungry,” reminds Henry E. Peterson, assistant managing director of the Church Welfare Department. “These agricultural missionaries are broadening people’s diets, increasing yields from the land, and teaching them to produce more from resources at hand.”
Agricultural missionaries also teach use of fertilizer, utilization of livestock, and help members make the best use of local governmental sources of agricultural information. The sister in the missionary team often teaches sanitation, nutrition, and food use and preservation. A married couple working together can thus emphasize most aspects of food. They do not try to impose methods or equipment used in more developed countries upon the farmers with whom they work. As Brother Peterson says, “If they’re plowing with a stick, we teach them how to sharpen the stick.”
Although they do not directly proselyte, the agricultural missionaries are effective in distributing Church literature and referring contacts to proselyting missionaries. Their major assignment is with members, and they are responsible to the mission president. Often they work under the direction of a branch or district president.
Couples considered for this service are interviewed, recommended, and called just as proselyting missionaries are; they must meet the same standards of worthiness, good health, and financial independence. The words “agricultural missionary candidate” should be written at the top of the recommendation form. According to the Priesthood Bulletin 19:2, these missionaries should have no dependents at home.
Although Brother Noorlander “didn’t know what to expect” when he was first called, his meeting with the priesthood members of the branch in Patzicia, Guatemala, where he was assigned, was fruitful. The branch formed a successful cooperative and work was begun on six acres of Church-owned land next to the chapel. The members also continued to farm their own sharecropping plots, but incorporated better methods.
Some experimental crops were planted, rabbit raising was introduced, and dairy goats were sent in. Later, a carpentry shop was added to the cooperative.
“I firmly believe that we are to be the ‘nursing fathers and mothers’ that the Book of Mormon speaks of concerning these people,” says Brother Noorlander. “The promise that the Lamanites ‘shall blossom as a rose’ is not an abstract dream. If they are given what they need to get started, they will blossom. I have never seen a people more industrious.”