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Things Carried

Shoulder bag

The American missionaries are not as keen about those shoulder-strap bags. The other missionaries sometimes tease me about it and say it’s a handbag. But over here in Europe, it’s fine.

Name tags

Most missionaries would spell their name phonetically in Albanian [Kosovo’s main language], so it’s easier to pronounce.

Umbrella

When you’re working outside, it’s nice not to get caught out in the rain.

Church pamphlets

This is what people who are looking for more information seem more interested in. They take it, and it’s free. They like to learn about new things.

Planner

If I didn’t write things down in my planner, I’d forget them. I guess it is old-fashioned, but it gets the job done.

The Bible

The main reason I have it is for when people ask questions specifically about the [non-Mormon] Bible. You can say, “Yes, we read the Bible—here is one in my hand.” Sometimes in a lesson we’ll share scripture from the Bible, as well as the Book of Mormon.

Ping-pong paddle

It’s very easy for people to see us as just missionaries. But it’s also good to show that we’re people, too, and not robots. And you’ve got to find ways to enjoy yourself. I like to think I’m pretty good.

Missionary handbook

A lot of the rules are common sense, but we’re still required to have the handbook with us all the time. It can come in handy. Sometimes it’s like, “Are we allowed to do this? Let’s just double-check.”

Albanian translation of the Book of Mormon

Most people would take a copy if we advertised that we have free books. So it’s important for us to only give them away to people who are actually going to read it; otherwise, we’d run out.

Nokia cell phone

You get a lot of numbers. You’re calling potential and current church members to set up appointments and calling other missionaries too.

Passport

I and the other missionaries went to Macedonia today, so I had to have my passport. We go and visit the elders there once every six weeks. We also go to Albania once a month for a meeting of the full regional mission. We all discuss what things went well in the month, stuff like that.

Hand sanitizer

It’s good to have because sometimes the water shuts off in Pristina.

The Things They Carried

The Mormon Missionary

Interview by Nate Tabak | Photographs by Atdhe Mulla

Being a Mormon missionary can be slow work. Over 16 months, Daniel Harlow, 19, has helped convert only three or four people. “Our purpose is to invite others to come to Christ,” says the soft-spoken native of Leeds, England, whose mission has brought him to Kosovo. “We don’t force anyone to try to do things. So it can be pretty frustrating when you’re trying to help people and they’re not helping themselves.”

Elder Daniel Marlow

Elder Daniel Marlow

Harlow is among 83,000 full-time missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who serve in 405 missions around the world. The number of full-time missionaries has risen by some 40 percent since 2012, when the church lowered the minimum age for serving from 19 to 18 for men and from 21 to 19 for women. But conversions haven’t kept pace: The church recorded just 3.4 baptisms per missionary in 2013, compared with 4.6 in 2012.

The church still struggles with its image, particularly the perception of Mormons as oddballs who shun fun and practice polygamy (which the church actually banned over a century ago). But this stereotype is virtually unknown in Kosovo, where the church has only hosted a mission since 2011. “[People] don’t really slam the door like they do in England,” Harlow says.

To be sure, work in Kosovo is not without danger. As of June, two alleged jihadists were being held in connection with a November 2013 attack on two women serving as missionaries in Pristina, the country’s capital. (Although not particularly religious, Kosovo is predominantly Muslim, and radicalism is on the rise.) But Harlow says the incident hasn’t given him pause about his work. “If something’s going to happen,” he says, “it’s going to happen.”

Harlow’s life is highly regimented. After waking up at 6:30 each morning and exercising for a mission-mandated 30 minutes, he distributes pamphlets on streets or at front doors and follows up with potential converts. Bedtime is 10:30 p.m. Contact with home is limited to weekly emails and two calls per year—typically on Mother’s Day and Christmas. Dating is forbidden.

In May, Foreign Policy met with Harlow at the local church headquarters—a storefront space with some furniture, a piano, and a ping-pong table—to learn about what he takes with him for a typical day of preaching the Book of Mormon.

Shoulder Bag—The American missionaries are not as keen about those shoulder-strap bags. The other missionaries sometimes tease me about it and say it’s a handbag. But over here in Europe, it’s fine.

The Bible—The main reason I have it is for when people ask questions specifically about the [non-Mormon] Bible. You can say, “Yes, we read the Bible—here is one in my hand.” Sometimes in a lesson we’ll share scripture from the Bible, as well as the Book of Mormon.

Albanian translation of the Book of Mormon—Most people would take a copy if we advertised that we have free books. So it’s important for us to only give them away to people who are actually going to read it; otherwise, we’d run out.

Missionary handbook—A lot of the rules are common sense, but we’re still required to have the handbook with us all the time. It can come in handy. Sometimes it’s like, “Are we allowed to do this? Let’s just double-check.”

Hand sanitizer—It’s good to have because sometimes the water shuts off in Pristina.

Name tags—Most missionaries would spell their name phonetically in Albanian [Kosovo’s main language], so it’s easier to pronounce.

Planner—If I didn’t write things down in my planner, I’d forget them. I guess it is old-fashioned, but it gets the job done.

Passport—I and the other missionaries went to Macedonia today, so I had to have my passport. We go and visit the elders there once every six weeks. We also go to Albania once a month for a meeting of the full regional mission. We all discuss what things went well in the month, stuff like that.

Church pamphlets—This is what people who are looking for more information seem more interested in. They take it, and it’s free. They like to learn about new things.

Nokia cell phone—You get a lot of numbers. You’re calling potential and current church members to set up appointments and calling other missionaries too.

Ping-pong paddle—It’s very easy for people to see us as just missionaries. But it’s also good to show that we’re people, too, and not robots. And you’ve got to find ways to enjoy yourself. I like to think I’m pretty good.

Umbrella—When you’re working outside, it’s nice not to get caught out in the rain.

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