Mission Reunion

One hundred-two former Elders and Sisters gathered on Wednesday, July 14th at a ranch near Salina Utah with their Mission President and his wife, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of their missionary service together in the Italy North Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

They had served their missions together when men last walked on the moon (1971 and 72); when Pong became the first commercially successful video game (1972). In 1973, the Viet Nam war ended and the early space probe Pioneer 10 sent back the first close-up photographs of Jupiter. In 1974 the Heimlich Maneuver for rescuing choking victims was first published. During those three years, three! Presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: Joseph Fielding Smith, Jr., Harold B. Lee and Spencer W. Kimball.

1971 to 1974 are the years of the Italy North Mission. Organized in July of 1971, 32 year-old Dan C Jorgensen, with his wife Elaine, began service as the mission’s only President. Prior to that date, all of Italy was the Italian Mission. In July 1974, as President and Sister Jorgensen returned home, the mission was renamed the Italy Milan Mission.

To celebrate, and remember, and to appreciate their shared experiences, an effort was launched through internet searches, emails, social media posts, text messages, phone calls and even a few knocks on doors to attempt to locate all who served during that unique time. Those found were invited to bring their spouses to the Jorgensen ranch east of Salina Utah.

Four hundred-four former missionaries, INMers as they call themselves, were identified among those who served. 27 have died and their obituaries documented. One hundred sixty-five replied to invitations and on July 14th more than one hundred of these fellow-servants met to express appreciation for their Mission President and his wife—who are still physically active and thriving on a working ranch, 50 years after starting their service.

As a young couple, the Jorgensens brought two young children with them when they began their mission. Two more children were born to them while serving in Italy. President and Sister Jorgensen guided growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in northern Italy and mentored over four hundred missionaries during their time of service.

Elder Legrand R. Curtis Jr. of the Seventy, currently serves as Church Historian and Recorder and is an INMer. Of the reunion and the opportunity to meet again with the Jorgensens and “their missionaries,” Elder Curtis said, “I am deeply grateful for the opportunity that I had to serve a mission. My experience with President and Sister Jorgensen as a missionary in Italy was life shaping. I am grateful for all that I learned from them, and my fellow missionaries, and the chance to gather together for this reunion and remember the spiritual experiences we had together in our beloved Italy.”

Richard Chamberlain, an attorney in Richfield and also an INMer, reflected on the experience of a fifty-year reunion with his fellow former missionaries and with the Jorgensens, “It was fun and rewarding to be able to renew old acquaintances and reminisce about mission experiences. It was an opportunity to reflect on my life and how it has been blessed because of my association with President and Sister Jorgensen, companions and other missionaries as well as the Italian people that opened their doors and allowed us to get to know them regardless of their interest in the Church.”

President Craig Pacini, another INMer, is currently the President of the Rome Italy Temple. Speaking at the reunion, he described to the group that there are blessings still seen today from the work of fifty years ago. In many cases, he said, missionaries who served then do not know the fruits that now exist from their labors.

Former missionaries at the reunion have returned from having served missions with their spouses in Italy and throughout the world. Some serve now. A zoom link from Salina was established during the reunion with colleagues of the Italy North Mission who currently are missionaries with their spouses at the Rome Temple. (photo with caption of Salina group watching the zoom screen.)

The reunion was a time of joyful remembering, trying hard to recognize the former young faces that are now framed by gray and white hair, conversing with surprising success in Italian, and being encouraged and appreciated once again by their Mission President of 50 years ago and his wife.

A commemorative lapel pin had been struck and was presented to the attendees at the event. The commitment was made by these former missionaries to wear their pin and continue serving together in the spirit of Love, Share, and Invite—the guidance recently encouraged throughout The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

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Lora Fielding

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