Mormon missionaries describe daily lives in Bloomington

Indiana Daily Student/February 18, 2008

Each day, Nicholas DiGiuseppe and Shane Jacobson wake up at 6:30 a.m.

Then they exercise for 30 minutes. Shave, shower and bathe for 30 minutes. Study for an hour. Eat for 30 minutes. Study scripture together for an hour.

Finally, at 10 a.m., they begin the long walk to campus from their apartment near College Mall.

They find a place - using prayer - to stand and talk to IU students about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormonism.

After five hours of spreading the word of Mormonism, they eat dinner for two hours and talk to students for four more hours.

By 10:30 p.m. they are in bed. Each morning, five days a week, they start the routine again.

As Mormon missionaries, the pair's days are planned down to the minute for two years, when they go wherever the mission sends them.

This week holds a transfer day for the missionaries and DiGiuseppe, Jacobson or both may leave Bloomington. A missionary usually stays in one place for four to six months, so DiGiuseppe won't be surprised if he leaves this week.

But, for now, their home is Bloomington, where they are one of four pairs of missionaries.

Every six weeks they have "transfer days," when they might get a call from the mission president. If the phone rings, they must leave the next day. They don't know where they will be going or how long they will stay.

Finding the faith

DiGiuseppe is the "black sheep" of his Catholic family. In high school, he was dissatisfied spiritually and began exploring all types of faiths.

"I didn't buy it," he said.

After stumbling upon the Book of Mormon, DiGiuseppe prayed and said he received his answer.

"I just felt an increasing sense of inner peace and closeness to God," he said. "It's something that continued to supply me with happiness."

After graduating from college, DiGiuseppe said he decided to serve God by becoming a missionary.

Unlike DiGiuseppe, Jacobson grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Idaho, where his faith initially came from his family.

Jacobson's two older brothers both went on missions when their chance came, and, after one year at college playing soccer, Jacobson decided it was his turn.

Closer to God

Most of DiGiuseppe and Jacobson's time is split between standing on campus proselytizing and individual lessons. They have no time for surfing the Web or reading - no movies, radio or electronic games.

They don't read the newspaper, watch TV or listen to music.

And they don't care to.

Their only day "off" is Sunday, but this is when they must do laundry, clean, call people and make appointments and do anything they haven't been able to do throughout the week.

Neither man knows what is happening outside his small apartment or with students they talk to on campus, they said.

Both men said before becoming missionaries, they both thought not knowing what was going on in the world would drive them crazy.

"You have this feeling that everything is going to change, but nothing does," Jacobson said.

In the end, both men like life without distractions, one where they said they can focus on what is really important - God.

"It's nice to have everything that's not extra important go into the periphery," DiGiuseppe said. "Nothing else matters."

Mormons receive mixed reactions

Both men have stories to tell about proselytizing on campus, both good and bad.

DiGiuseppe remembers being on campus when someone stuck his middle finger right in the missionary's face.

"I almost started bursting out laughing, because that's just the most ridiculous thing," DiGiuseppe said. "That guy was so upset, and I just asked if I could talk to him."

Both men said students have misconceptions about what it means to be Mormon.

DiGiuseppe said someone once asked him why he didn't eat corn.

Astonished, he replied, "If you have some corn right now, I will eat it for you to put this to rest."

Sometimes people will go out of their way - such as crossing a street - to avoid the missionaries.

"For some reason, people think I'm like a crazy monster robot that will force you to be Mormon," DiGiuseppe said with a laugh.

Both men said they aren't like what others imagine and try not to bother people who want to be left alone.

"We are people like everyone else," DiGiuseppe said. "We have a job to do. We really are only interested in people who are looking to become closer to God."

The men have greeted students some days and none stopped to talk. But every once in a while, they find someone interested in learning more, an "investigator." If they are lucky, several of these people will be baptized every few months.

Last Saturday, a man was baptized after he initially stopped to talk to and learn more from DiGiuseppe.

"You go through so many emotional ups and downs, but a baptism is worth it," DiGiuseppe said. "To see the brightness around them is the best part. They just glow."

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