Turning Straw into Gold
November 1985

“Turning Straw into Gold,” New Era, Nov. 1985, 12

Turning Straw into Gold

It doesn’t take a fairy tale to turn hard work and imagination into money for a mission.

“How much money do I have in my mission fund, Mom?” asked Hyrum, age eight.

“About 75 dollars,” I answered.

“How much do missions cost?”


“Will you pay for my mission, Mom?”

“There will be four of you on missions at the same time while two others will be in college. Since money will be stretched pretty thin, you had better plan on paying for your own mission.”

“Where will I find lots of money? If I were Rumpelstiltskin I could turn straw into gold, but I don’t even have straw,” he said.

“Why don’t we ask the missionaries we know how they financed their missions?” I said. We did.

Elder Wall from the Spain Barcelona Mission had a wealth of information. “I didn’t turn straw into gold; I used hay, sheep, a TV, spare parts, wood, cars, and a lot of paint,” he said.

Hyrum was speechless. This guy knew the secret. We begged him to tell us more. He laughed.

“I’ve been working since I can remember. When I was eight my dad put me on a tractor and pointed me at a hay field. I worked when other kids fished. Sometimes I would dream about lying on a riverbank, but I don’t regret working. I painted curbs with house numbers when I was ten. I sold candy bars in junior high and made more money than the school store. I picked berries. I learned to drive a truck before I drove a car. That led to driving a forklift and later a berry harvester for $8.00 an hour. I’ve laid over 100,000 feet of sprinkler pipe; planted shrubbery; trimmed, pruned, and mowed lots of lawns. During high school, Ernie Harwood and I formed a housepainting partnership. He completely paid for his mission to Japan with this job. We bid for jobs with a realty company. Before I left I trained one of the priests, who will carry on with the contacts we made. I hope they keep passing the job around the quorum. I earned a lot of my mission fund this way.

“The most unusual job I had was six weeks as a sheepherder. I lived in a camper 70 miles from the nearest settlement. There was no hot water, shower, or washing machine. The weather was often 15 degrees with a 30-mile-an-hour wind. I cared for sick sheep and helped with the lambing.

“My favorite work was the least profitable. I love to invent. I formed a direct sales company partnership to sell my inventions all across the United States. I even invented a device to prevent ewes from rolling onto their newborns. My boss said it would save millions of dollars by preventing lamb deaths.

“I’ve chopped several cords of wood, delivered and stacked it. There are opportunities all around if you keep your eyes open. I bought things at auctions, then cleaned, fixed, and sold them at a profit, still giving the customer a bargain. This became a game. A popcorn machine, calves, mag wheels, televisions, cars, and motorcycles all turned into gold.

“You can spin anything into gold if you turn yourself into an expert first. I never watched television. I read how-to books. The best advice I can give you is to keep your eyes open, read and learn, and listen to your dad.”

Elder Lund leaves soon for his mission. He told us, “I worked at a dry cleaner for two years. I found the position when I took a buddy to his interview. He told the lady he couldn’t take the job because of the hours but that I could. I did. I worked the cash register, took in dirty clothes, and gave out the clean ones. I also cleaned up after closing. When I started the job I was very shy. I learned to speak up and explain things to people. I gained a lot of confidence. Now I don’t have trouble communicating with people.

“My brother and I bought broken lawn mowers, repaired them, and sold them for a profit. We didn’t have to spend money for parts. They just needed our mechanical knowledge.

“I put my money into a savings account. I recommend everyone use a savings account. But give the bankbook to your mom so you can’t take the money out again. You need to start early in life to save because you can’t cram in the last few months like you might for a test.”

Elder Hale returned recently from the California Ventura Mission. “I worked as a dietician’s assistant for two years. I made up the trays for the older sisters in a Catholic convent. I took them their food and helped them eat it. We enjoyed great religion discussions. They sent me researching history and facts. I loved the ladies like grandmas. I learned to respect them and their beliefs. My job in the school cafeteria led me to the convent job. I also raised rabbits and sold them through the pet stores for a commission.

“When I had enough money I loaned it out and received a steady income with interest. I put aside 10 percent for tithing and then another 20 percent for my mission.

“Work hard. The harder you work on a job, the harder you will work on your mission. It is difficult to be rejected at doors when tracting. Only the ability to work hard will keep you going back to one more door at the end of a long day.”

Pumping gas and farm work supported Elder Rudolph in the Texas Houston Mission. “When I was 12 my bishop challenged me to set aside 50 percent of all I earned for a mission fund. I gulped and promised. At age 14 my parents told me I was responsible for buying all my clothes. I gave 10 percent to the Lord, 50 percent to the mission fund, clothed and entertained myself with the remaining 40 percent. I earned all my money and wasn’t worried at the last minute about how I would eat.”

“I earned my money in lots of ways during the six years I saved,” said Elder Fenley of the Illinois Chicago South Mission. “I picked produce, worked in a service station, and washed dishes in a Chinese restaurant. I also worked as a short-order cook in a fast-food restaurant. I heard about my jobs from friends and my dad. I put aside 50 percent of all I earned for my mission. People respected my beliefs where I worked. I felt I was a good example. I am grateful I have the funds to be out here now. Develop a good working attitude. Not everything you do is fun, but a good attitude will help you work and serve the Lord.”

Sister Peterson in the South Carolina Columbia Mission advised, “Learn to live on a limited income early in life, and then you won’t have trouble living on the bare essentials as a missionary. I didn’t know I was going on a mission, so I didn’t have any savings. I did have a few debts. I worked in a commercial laundry to pay my doctor and dentist bills. I sold my car but depend on my parents for most of my support. My companion, a Navajo Indian, sold cosmetics to support herself.”

“I should have started saving earlier,” said Elder Dana Redford. “I don’t have enough yet for my mission. I have only two months to earn the rest. I work at a cardboard warehouse on a substitute basis. Whenever anyone is sick or on vacation they call me. The job is steady, and I do different types of work. I cut boxes, bundle cardboard, stack, move inventory, make up orders, and deliver them. I have sold lid openers (an invention of Elder Wall), worked a paper route, and done lots of yard work. People call me because they know I am saving for a mission. I think they see it as a charitable contribution as well as a means of getting their work done.

“The most important attribute an employee can have is a good attitude. One job leads to another, so if you don’t like the work, try harder and think about the future jobs this one might bring.”

Hyrum learned a lot from the missionaries as he said, “I don’t have to be Rumpelstiltskin to turn straw into gold.”

He and his brothers and sisters learned to paint house numbers on curbs. Their story appeared in the local newspaper, which helped business. Another family wanted to form a similar business, so the children charged a learning fee. They have ideas of hiring other kids and expanding their business.

Hyrum worked with a companion, gathered equipment, memorized a door approach, kept records, advertised, corrected sloppy work, cleaned messes, paid tithing, and met savings goals. He learned to overcome disappointment by going on to the next house when turned down at the first one, the second one, and so on.

Hyrum spun paint into gold, several kinds of gold—the kind a boy saves, the kind a mother treasures, and the kind Heavenly Father honors.

Photos by Bill Dean

Laying sprinkler pipe is hard work, but it makes a mission bank account grow.

Homeowners are often willing to pay you for trimming hedges and shrubbery, or for mowing lawns.

Stencils for numbers and a can of spray paint are the basic tools for painting house numbers on curbs.

When houses or fences need a fresh coat of paint, wielding a brush is another way to bolster your missionary funds.

A part-time job at a dry cleaner’s helps earn money and teaches you communication skills.

Enjoy knowing that the money you’ve earned keeps on growing when you put it in the bank.