In four of the six Arizona missions, new mission presidencies and their wives were called earlier this year and began their service July 31.
Called as president of the Arizona Gilbert Mission Richard William Wheeler, 61, and his wife Linda, come to Arizona from Ephraim, Utah, where they were members of the Ephraim 8th Ward, Ephraim Utah Stake.
“We have honestly loved every day of these first weeks of our service here in the Gilbert Mission,” says President Wheeler. “It is a privilege and honor to have been called to this part of the world.”
At the time of their call, President Wheeler was serving as an Area Seventy. He has also served as stake president, as a counselor in a stake presidency and as a bishop. President Wheeler, who formerly worked as vice president and professor of Snow College, served as a young missionary in the Florida Tallahassee Mission.
Sister Wheeler is a former stake Relief Society president and ward Young Women and Primary president. She also served as a counselor in a ward Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary presidency. She also served as a temple worker. The Wheelers have six children.
President and Sister Wheeler love working with the Church members and the missionaries serving in this area.
“The incredible missionaries and members of the area have embraced us in a way that has touched and changed our hearts forever. We are so impressed with the devotion of the missionaries to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and their willingness to sacrifice this portion of their lives to share His message of peace and happiness,” says President Wheeler. “We are committed to help share this message with all those who are willing to ‘come unto Him.’ We simply feel blessed to be part of this great work.”
It would seem Marc Burton Robinson, 57, was born into missionary work. Indeed, the new president of the Arizona Scottsdale Mission, President Robinson was born in the mission field in Helsinki, Finland, while his dad, Phileon Robinson, Jr., was serving as the mission president.
Having served in the California Oakland Mission as a young man, he later was a stake mission president, and he and his wife, Leean, were serving together as Pathway program missionaries when they received their call to Arizona.
President Robinson has also served as a stake president, bishop, ward Young Men president and Sunday School teacher.
Sister Robinson formerly served as a counselor in the stake Young Women presidency, as ward Relief Society and Primary president, Relief Society teacher and ward choir director. The Robinsons are from the Brookside Ward, Stockton California Stake, and they have six children.
While his love for missionary work runs deep, President Robinson says every member can feel the same.
“It’s hard to be a member of this Church and not love missionary work,” he says.
“Growing up in a family where the gospel is part of everything we did, the gospel was a way of life,” he says. “I didn’t fully realize what kind of influence the gospel had in my life until I was older.”
Among the meetings and mission farewells and the variety of everyday activities, he developed a “depth of conversion” he now knows he can rely on.
He says members can be missionaries through “Christian living,” and by extending invitations and “doing the type of things that open doors to missionaries.”
The new president of the Mesa Arizona Mission, Lonny E. Townsend, 59, agrees.
“We simply need to get to know people and bring up gospel topics as we talk. We need to open our mouths and talk to people,” President Townsend says.
He adds that this is part of the promise we made at baptism.
“We as members covenant when we are baptized to stand as witnesses of Christ and to think of missionary work as our responsibility. The full-time missionaries are here to help us keep that covenant.”
President Townsend and his wife, Lori, are from the Mount Erie Ward, Mount Vernon Washington Stake. They have five children.
He formerly served as a bishop, high councilor, counselor in a stake presidency and a bishopric, and as an MTC branch president. As a young elder, President Townsend served in the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission. Sister Townsend served with her husband in an MTC branch. She has also served as ward Young Women presidency counselor and as a seminary teacher.
The new president of the Arizona Tempe Mission, Spencer Christensen, 53, and his wife, Carolyn, are from the Rolling Hills Ward, Centerville Utah Canyon View Stake. President Christensen, the owner of Mr. Mac clothing stores, was a missionary in the Canada Toronto Mission as a young elder. President Christensen formerly served as a stake presidency counselor, a bishop and bishopric counselor, as a high councilor and ward Young Men president.
Sister Christensen was serving as a Sunday School teacher when the Christensens received the couple received their mission call. Formerly, she was a counselor in a stake Young Women and Primary presidency, a counselor in a ward Relief Society and Primary presidency. She was also a Relief Society compassionate service coordinator and Young Women adviser.
President Christensen echoes the sentiments of the other three new Arizona mission presidents, saying he and his wife have already found a great deal of enjoyment serving in Arizona. “It is wonderful to work with such dedicated and consecrated missionaries and members,” he says.