Celebrate Your Missionary Heritage: Journals and Letters

June 13, 2017  - by 

Missionary journals and letters can provide a window into the past for family heritage.

Preserved missionary stories can impact future generations.
I was sitting in church yesterday when it was announced that a young man from our ward had returned home early from his mission due to some health issues. My heart mourned for this young missionary, not only for the physical but the mental anguish he was experiencing. I immediately wanted to tell him about my great-grandfather, Ralph Cutler. An extraordinary man, he was loved and revered by all who know him, but he also had to come home early from his mission because of health reasons.

Read the stories of your missionary ancestors.
He was so ill when he got home, his sister Jane recorded, that “Ralph nearly died after he returned from his mission he was so ill. There was one night that we really feared for his life.”

In his own words, “I might state here that I felt that my mission was a huge failure because I was terribly handicapped by my old intestinal trouble that bothered me most of the time and prevented me from putting my best and whole effort into the work and was unable to partake of and enjoy the hospitality of the people and to do the work required of a missionary. . . . I gradually got weaker and finally had to give up in November 1900 and come home, a disappointed and heartbroken man.”

Missionary journals can provide a different point of view for posterity.
His daughter Alice May records, “Now, lest the reader be led into believing that Ralph Cutler’s mission was, as he said, ‘a huge failure,’ a perusal of his missionary journal reveals a different point of view. Though his mission was shortened to eleven months, it was one of many varied and worthwhile experiences of fearlessly preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Ralph Cutler was a strong advocate and firm defender of the faith, whether preaching on the street corners in the cities or in the schools, churches, and homes of the country. His gift for oration, brought to the fore more extensively on his mission while preaching on the first principles of the gospel, prompted one gentleman to remark at the close of a street meeting in Columbus, Ohio, that Elder Cutler ‘was a good enough orator to be in congress.’”

Preserved missionary experiences can be humbling to read.
As I reflect on Grandpa Ralph’s life, I am humbled by the goodness and perseverance. Coming home early from his mission was difficult and something that he anguished over, but it did not define him, and he spent his life doing good, defending the faith, and testifying of Christ. His posterity calls his name blessed, for even as his great-granddaughter, I am gaining strength from the way he lived his life. Without his journals, I would have never known about his life as a missionary. I would have missed out learning that he kept track of all of his expenses, and the total cost of his life as a missionary was only $209.30.

So to this young missionary in our ward who returned home early, you are in the company of others who for whatever reason could not fulfill their entire time as missionaries. What defines you will be how you live the remaining part of your life.

My grandfather's missionary journal has been a treasure in my life.
Reading Grandpa Ralph’s words makes me think back to my mission, the differences, the similarities, the love of the Lord. I am so thankful he took the time to write about his experiences teaching. I am grateful for his grandson Theodore, who scanned and digitized his journal for us as posterity. I appreciate that my father, another grandson, has made it possible for me to read the life of his grandfather from any location in the world. It has been a treasure in my life.

Today I consider what I will do to preserve my own missionary experience for my posterity. With the technology of my smartphone and a scanning app like TurboScan, in a matter of minutes, I can preserve the words and experiences for future generations.

Missionary journals and letters provide a special glimpse of what life was like for your missionary ancestor, and you can help preserve these important documents and pass on your ancestor’s story.

  1. On the Missionaries website, type your ancestor’s name in the search box.
  2. To send your photos, documents, or other information to be included in the database, click Submit Additional Information.
    Missionary journals and letters provide a special glimpse of what life was like for your missionary ancestor.
  3. Fill out the form with all the information you have.
    How to pass on the stories of your missionary ancestors.
  4. If you have a document or photograph to submit, in the drop-down box, select Yes. You will be able to add an attachment on the next screen.
    You can help preserve these important documents and pass on your missionary ancestor’s story.
  5. Click Submit.


These missionary stories show how the spirit of missionary service can continue through generations to impact our lives.

Find out how learning about your ancestors’ missionary experiences can help shape your own.


Try these activities to get the whole family involved in the missionary spirit.

Check out our ideas to help turn missionary work into missionary fun for the whole family!

Database Research Tips

How to use the Early Mormon Missionary Database to find resources to help you find your missionary ancestors.

Try these simple tips to help you find your ancestors in the Early Mormon Missionaries database.

Your Missionary Heritage

Learning about missionary ancestors can tell us a lot about ourselves.

Discover your missionary heritage with these research tips, activities, and tools.

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