Here are free resources about the Alabama Birmingham Mission:
- Mission address and phone number
- Mission map
- Missionary blogs
- Facebook groups
- LDS Mission t-shirts and gifts
- List of past mission presidents
- Cultural articles written by returned missionaries
- Survey with RMs
Birmingham Mission Address
Here’s a recent address for the Birmingham Mission. We try to keep this information up to date, but it’s a good idea to check the mission address with several sources, including your mission packet or the mission office.
3100 Lorna Road, Suite 107
Birmingham, AL 35216
Phone Number: 1 205-979-0686
Mission President: President Stanford C. Sainsbury
Alabama Birmingham Mission Map
Here’s a link to the mission map for the Birmingham Mission (LDS). To access an official, up-to-date LDS.org map for the Birmingham Mission:
Birmingham Missionary Blogs
Here’s a list of LDS missionary blogs for the Birmingham Mission. This blog list includes the missionary’s name, URL and when their blog was updated.
Alabama Birmingham Mission Groups
Here are Birmingham Mission Groups- for LDS missionary moms, returned missionaries, mission presidents and other alumni of the Birmingham Mission.
- Alabama Birmingham Mission (Holzapfel) (597 members)
- Alabama Birmingham Mission (Hanks Group) (509 members)
- ABM: Birmingham Mission: Roylance Years (201 members)
- Emily Butler’s Mission to Birmingham Alabama!! (178 members)
- Alabama Birmingham Mission – President James Tate (177 members)
- Alabama Birmingham Mission – President McKell Years (140 members)
- Alabama Birmingham Mission (31 members)
- Alabama Birmingham Mission (Perri and Cindi Webb) (31 members)
- Georgia & Alabama Mission Moms (13 members)
- Alabama Birmingham Mission 2004 – 2007 (5 members)
Birmingham Mission T-Shirts
Here are T-shirts for the Alabama Birmingham Mission!
Shirt designs include Alabama Birmingham Mission logo/emblem shirts and Called to Serve shirts. The shirts make great gifts for pre-missionaries, returned missionaries and missionaries currently serving. LDS Mission shirts come in all sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, up to 4XL. The mission designs are printed on white shirts and are shipped to you.
*Simply click on a shirt design to view the details and submit an order. The designs on mission t-shirts may also be printed on other LDS mission gifts, including: Alabama Birmingham missionary aprons, Christmas stockings, ties, pillow cases, teddy bears and Christmas ornaments.
Birmingham Mission Presidents
Here’s a list of current and past Mission Presidents of the Birmingham LDS Mission.
- 2016-2019, Stanford C. Sainsbury
- 2013-2016, Richard D. Hanks
- 2010-2013, Richard Holzapfel
- 2007-2010, James R. Tate
- 2004-2007, Douglas R. Johnson
- 2001-2004, Jerry P. Peterson
- 1998-2001, Perry M. Webb
- 1995-1998, Eldon C. McKell
- 1992-1995, Robert L. Roylance
- 1989-1992, William F. Matthews
- 1986-1989, M. Dalton Cannon
- 1984-1986, Melvin M. Hall
- 1981-1984, Merrill Dimick
- 1979-1981, Willam Attwooll
Alabama LDS Statistics (2015)
- Church Membership: 36,547
- Missions: 1
- Temples: 1
- Congregations: 77
- Family History Centers: 40
Helpful Articles about Alabama
Birmingham Missionary Survey
Here are survey responses from Alabama Birmingham RMs, to give you a snapshot into what it’s like to live in the mission.
When did you serve?
- August 2013-March 2015 (Shonte)
- 2013-2014 (Christina)
- 2012-2014 (Steven)
- 2012-2014 (Christian)
- 2012-2014 (James)
- 2010-2012 (Dallany)
- 2009-2011 (Ty)
- 2007-2009 (Morgan)
- 2000-2002 (Heidi)
- 1997-1999 (Michael)
- 1997-1999 (Chris)
What areas did you serve in?
- Russellville, AL; Cahaba Heights, AL; Tupelo, MS; Birmingham/Inverness, AL; Wetumpka, AL; Montgomery, AL. (Christina)
- Ensley, Gadsden, Starkville, Corinth, New Albany. (Steven)
- Athens, Madison, Birmingham Center Point, Prattville, Demopolis. (All in Alabama). (Christian)
- Talladega, Sylacauga, Birmingham, Anniston, Clanton, Selma & Columbiana. (James)
- Birmingham AL. (Dallany)
- Wetumpka, Prattville, Millbrook, Highland Home, Ensley, Hoover. (Ty)
- Columbus, MS; Huntsville, Montgomery, Locust Fork, Leeds, Camden, Selma, Rocksprings/ Scholes. (Morgan)
- Gardendale, Homewood, Scottsboro, Jasper. (Heidi)
- Locust Fork – Huntsville – Jasper – Montgomery – Birmingham- Cullman. (Michael)
- Tuskegee, Vestavia Hills, Greenville, Haleyville, Wetumpka. (Chris)
What were some favorite foods?
- Biscuits and chocolate gravy. Fried okra. Home made Macaroni and Cheese. Chick-fil-A. (Shonte)
- Greek Salad (Taziki’s style); Anything breakfast; Healthy options; Chicken pillow things; Pull-pork sandwiches. Basically, anything home-made with love! (Christina)
- The Homemade mac and cheese. Fried Chicken. Barbecue Pork. (Steven)
- Ribs. (Christian)
- BBQ anything. (James)
- Corn Bread and all the Mexican Food , because my companion and I served in a Spanish ranch, Altadena Branch, we got to try some of the delicious food that the sisters shared in family home evenings with us and even some of our investigators made for us food…(all of them were really nice and sharing people) and we tried some because one of the rules was that we couldn’t eat at the member’s houses only with investigators, it’s different if you serve in an English ward. I don’t know if that changed but we were blessed. (Dallany)
- Banana Pudding. Mayonnaise and pineapple sandwiches. BBQ. Lima Beans. Squirrel Gravy.. not really though. (Ty)
- Jim n’ Nicks was always a favorite on transfers, Sweet potato casserole, fried green tomatoes from Irondale cafe, Shrimp Grits from Sis Memory in Montgomery. (Morgan)
- Once had a member ask us if we liked meat. Said yes, what kind, anything you make is fine. Showed up for dinner, and he had BBQ pork, chicken breast, wings, beef brisket, steak, sausage, hamburgers, and a few other things I can’t remember now. Small side of corn bread. It was awesome! (Heidi)
- Everything!!😀 (Michael)
- Fried Chicken, black eyed peas and collared greens, fried Okra, red velvet cake. (Chris)
What was a funny experience?
- My companion and I were biking and we went to visit a less active. We had seen her the week before and had mentioned that we didn’t have a crock pot. Well this visit she told us she had something for us. A lovely little crock pot. Nice right? We were thrilled!! Except for the fact that we were riding bikes and still had a few other places to visit and a good bike ride back home. We told her we were on bikes, but she didn’t quite get the hint that we didn’t want to take it that day since we were on bikes. Finally, we just decided we would somehow make it work and take it with us. My companion emptied out her backpack and put the crock pot in. I put all her stuff in my backpack and we continued on biking. With a crock pot, small Cornish hen and some small treats. When we got home, we figured out the miles we had biked that day. It was a good 15 or more miles that we biked with a crock pot in our backpacks. (Shonte)
- Now it’s funny, but at the time not so much. One day while knocking doors in the summer, I somehow got flying ants in my shirt, but had to keep a cool face as we talked with people along the way home to get those crazy bugs out! (Christina)
- Everyone was voting for Mitt Romney for President but no one knew he was a member of our our faith. (Christian)
- Chasing an armadillo with one of my companions. (James)
- We had a lot of funny experiences but one of those was when we received our bikes. We used to walk a lot and and drive but when we needed to take care of our car mileage, we used our bikes to get faster to some places. I didn’t have a lot of experience with a bike but my companion was excellent on it. We were riding once returning to our home and I couldn’t use the brakes and I fell into some bushes and my companion didn’t notice. After a while, it was really funny…we laughed a lot that day! (Dallany)
- There is always great experiences that are funny in every transfer that happen between companions, from being detained in Columbus, Mississippi for going door to door, mason in locust fork. (Morgan)
- Riding a bike in a skirt. Do we still do that? (Heidi)
What was a crazy/dangerous experience?
- It was towards the end of the month and we were running out of miles for our car. So we decided we would take the bus that day. My companion and I were in a sketchy part of town trying to visit a less active but she wasn’t there. So we decided to take the bus and head to a different part of town. As we were waiting at the bus stop, we noticed this guy on a bike ride down the street on our right then came out on a different street on our right. Then he came up to us and was talking to us. Mostly asking us if we had a boyfriend and where he was and why he wasn’t with us. We ended up waiting for the bus for long time and decided to walk down to a different stop that we knew had more traffic. As we started walking towards the new bus stop, the guy rode in front of us. Then all of a sudden there was a big group of black guys, really rough looking, who crossed the street towards us. Do we walked a little faster, being two little white girls in a bad part of town with high crime rates. Well they started hollering at us. We ignored them and walked a little faster. They followed us for another two blocks. We hurried and texted our Zone Leaders to let them know where we were and that we were being followed. They told us to get to a public place. By now, we had walked three blocks with the group of guys still following us. Finally after we rounded the corner, they finally stopped following us. We literally thought we were going to be raped and killed that day. (Shonte)
- Being followed by a man for a few blocks; someone trying to break into our apartment late at night. (Christina)
- I almost got shot when I knocked over a man’s chair. I was biking and he had a chair in the middle of the sidewalk. My companion dodged it but I didn’t. The man ran out of his store and started screaming words I won’t repeat and reached for his weapon. Another man from the store ran out and told us to run away as fast as we could. (Steven)
- Living next to a drug dealer. (Christian)
- Going into the GWC housing projects. (James)
- We had a lot of crazy , dangerous experiences. One of those was when we were tracting in a complex and the police arrived telling us that we couldn’t tract because they thought that we were selling things. We were scared but once everything was clear, we obeyed and we left that place. Another time, a crazy man followed us with a dog and was yelling at us. I don’t know what he was yelling because English is my second language but I knew for sure they were bad things. We entered to a Wendy’s Restaurant and we called our Branch President to help us out and they picked us up and we were safe. In another time, we were tracting and a man invited us to come in his house in a strange way. We gave a pamphlet and invited him to church and that was all. We left because you know when the Spirit indicates to you that something is not good. We were warned by the Spirit a lot of times. (Dallany)
- Got 2 guns pulled on me, not pointed at me though. Just called to my attention because they thought we were robbers, which doesn’t make sense. It was in the country, not the ghetto. (Ty)
- Bottles thrown at you while walking, guns pulled on you for doing what missionaries do. (Morgan)
- Thinking I could find our way through the woods in the dark back to the road our car was parked on. Yea, don’t do that. My companion finally convinced me how crazy I was when we almost fell down a ravine. Then we had to embarrassingly exit through someone’s backyard just as they were pulling up the driveway. (Heidi)
- Living through a F5 tornado outbreak and then through Hurricane Georges. (Chris)
What was a spiritual experience?
- My last Christmas in the mission my companion and I and the Elders had an opportunity to do a Secret Santa for a few families. We got to wrap tons of presents for three different families. One family was one of our investigators, one was for a single mom who had presents for her 2 little girls, but none for her baby boy. The other family was a referral from a lady in our ward, who was a teacher. She told us about a little girl she taught in school, who’s mom was in jail, and so the little girl and her siblings were living with their grandparents. A day or two before Christmas, we and the Elders delivered all the presents. Our investigators were happy to have a few dolls for their little girls. Little Jayden didn’t really understand what was going on as we helped him unwrap his gifts. But the most humbling experience was the last family. We pulled up to their little house. Knocked on the door. They let us in and let the 4 little kids help us put the two garbage bags full of toys under the tree. We talked with the kids for a little bit and gave them each a picture of Jesus, which they were SO excited about! Then we sang a few Christmas songs for them. As we were singing Silent Night, I couldn’t help but notice the tears in the grandparents eyes. They thanked us as we left. I will never forget that experience! It was the most amazing Emmaus experience of my mission. To be able to serve those who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to have much of a Christmas experience. (Shonte)
- Too many to share. Going on splits with a wonderful lady who had cancer and having her sweet spirit in attendance during lessons. (Christina)
- Some of the most amazing experiences happened in the tiniest dirty homes. I got to speak with people who thought God didn’t care about them and I got to tell them how much He loves them. It was incredible to see the smile on their faces when we told them that God loves them. (Steven)
- Prayer about where to knock. Knocked, and now the lady has gone to and graduated from BYU and married a return missionary. (Christian)
- Helping my newest best friends into the waters of baptism. (James)
- Well one of the things that I can say and that it’s incredible is when you can see the light in your investigator’s countenance when they start reading and keeping the commitments. It’s so incredible and beautiful, but it’s so sad when they decide other things and that light is gone. (Dallany)
- Teaching a family of 4 and we had many experiences of the Holy Ghost being present. The family felt warm at the showing of the baptismal font. The mom and the daughter thought they heard trumpets in the Sacrament room, nobody else was there. And as we taught about the Atonement, they really felt change in their life. The mother stopped drinking alcohol, she was an alcoholic. (Ty)
- Seeing people accepting Christ/ gospel in to their life, temple work, visions for both the work and personal life. (Morgan)
- We drove by a road near a river on the way to district meetings. Every time I thought we should stop there. Finally we did. We taught a nice young couple a few lessons, and then they started to not be there when we came. I was disappointed, but we decided to stop one last time. As we were walking back after knocking to no response, someone called out “Sisters!” A man came from the other side of the road where you could barely see a house on the river. He had seen us come several times, was an inactive member that wanted to come back to teach his 2 year old son, and he was motivated to do most of the work himself. I believe we were inspired to be in the right place at the right time to help his family. The last I heard his wife had joined the church as well. (Heidi)
- My first baptism. Also now looking back, seeing people and families I taught stay active in the Gospel. (Michael)
What are some interesting facts about the Birmingham Mission?
- We have the best Mission President! At one point on my mission, we were the largest mission. We had the most Sister missionaries and had the most Spanish Sisters. We cover three states. (Shonte)
- Uhhh….that it is the BEST! At one point, we had the most sister missionaries within our mission than any other mission. (Christina)
- Huntsville, Alabama is the national aerospace research capital of the south. (Christian)
- When I was in the mission, it had the most missionaries in the world. (James)
- I just love Alabama Birmingham Mission, the members and nonmembers, the experiences, your companions and your presidents. You will realize that God’s timing is perfect and that you are blessed to be there to serve and learn there. (Dallany)
- I served in Prattville/Millbrook for almost a year and 3 months in Wetumpka. I spent the majority of my time in the Montgomery Stake. The More diligent I was, the more people I taught. Riding bikes made the mission more enjoyable than driving a car. (Ty)
- I was a recent convert then it was some one who was baptized less than 2 years, so for my first 2 transfers we had a lot of lessons with a recent convert. (Morgan)
- There are lots of Civil Rights historical sites in Birmingham, the temple is in Gardendale, and the NASA space center is in Huntsville. (Heidi)
- The difference in saying Haleyville and Greenville.. HALEY-VILL, GREEN-VULL. (Chris)
What was the weather like?
- Hot and humid during the summer. Cool during the winter. You would need a coat in the morning but could wear short sleeves in the afternoon. Because of the cold/humidity you could layer but still be cold. The few times it snowed, it was absolutely freezing!! (Shonte)
- HUMID! BONE-CHILLING in the winter. (Christina)
- Hotter than heck with 100% humidity in the summer. Freezing cold with high humidity in the winter. (Steven)
- Hot then cold then wet. (Christian)
- It rained more in Alabama in 2 years than all of my life in Utah. (James)
- The weather, when I was serving there, was cold, not too much but it was cold, rainy and humid. We used to be happy when the weather was changing from hot to fresh and cloudy because we realized that it could become a tornado, but I love Alabama, I was blessed to serve there. (Dallany)
- HOT and HUMID in the summer and pretty cold in winter. (Ty)
- All four seasons in one day, it was hot in the summer and also very cold in the winter that humidity will get you, but when it was nice boy was it nice and loved the thunder storms especially at night that helped me sleep. (Morgan)
- It is humid and generally hot, but the winters are a wet cold too so don’t forget an insulated raincoat. The fall is fabulously beautiful, and spring is very nice too. (Heidi)
- Humid. (Michael)
- Hot and humid, or cold and humid. (Chris)
Any things you really like about the area/people?
- I loved the southern hospitality. We would be tracting and people would offer us food and water. Every area was so different. But all very kind…for the most part. Even if they already had a church, most of them would at least let you share a scripture or say a prayer with them. (Shonte)
- Just that, I am forever in awe of the love I had for the people I served and how quickly it appeared–before I even truly knew them. Those you serve the most, you love fiercely. (Christina)
- I loved the people. So many of them are so nice and are great Bible believing people. The place is beautiful. Although many of the areas I served in were run down, the country was absolutely gorgeous. (Steven)
- People all love God. (Christian)
- The people were so loving. (James)
- I Love the place where I served. You will always find good people everywhere you serve and from whom you will always learn with tender hearts, there’s no coincidence that you will meet people whom will accept the gospel and others won’t. But there’s a purpose why you are there and if you declare the gospel to everyone, you will find great happiness and that’s for sure. Just follow the Spirit and he will guide you. (Dallany)
- The people are all mostly nice. I loved it there and I’d go back if my wife would go with me. (Ty)
- The people of the South are friendly, kind and good-hearted people that sincerely want to follow Christ. (Heidi)
- They are like family to me and I love them. I want them to be happy. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about them. I know I was supposed to be there to serve them. (Michael)
- Some of the nicest people I have ever met. They treat strangers like they are family. (Chris)
Any packing/clothing advice?
- Bring a coat. Sisters bring fleece lined tights. Ear muffs are a wonderful thing. (Shonte)
- For sisters, biking shorts are a must! Shorts sleeves for the summer, layering and cardigans for the winter with a good coat! (Christina)
- Bring a coat. They told me to bring light sweaters and I froze in the winter when it dropped below freezing. (Steven)
- 95% short sleeves. 5 % long sleeves. Water bottles that you can put ice in. You will drink a lot of water. If using a bike, get a mountain bike because lots of dirt roads. (Christian)
- Light, breathable clothing for the summer. A good coat for the winter. (James)
- Boots are really good in the winter time, comfy shoes to walk, a good raincoat, light jacket and coat, that worked for me. (Dallany)
- You need a good coat, but not too thick, sweater. Plenty of short sleeve shirts. Nothing too extreme though. (Ty)
- Order bedding online and have it shipped to the mission home so you don’t have to pack it with you, warm coat, gloves, ear muff I enjoyed the 1080 brand. (Morgan)
- Good shoes that you like and are comfortable walking in, insulated raincoat, boots would have been nice, all cotton garments if you ask me. (Heidi)
- Extra shirts and garments. (Michael)
- Bring extra white shirts if possible. And extra socks. (Chris)
What blessings did you receive from serving a mission?
- I learned to love and serve freely. “Those we love we serve, but those we serve we love fiercely.” You can never be too kind. I gained a stronger testimony of my Savior, the gospel, the scriptures. I learned how to search the scriptures to receive answers to my questions/prayers. I was blessed to be able to gain many, many lifelong friends. (Shonte)
- Too many to count or name off. Biggest would be the growth I acquired–and the fact that my non-member family back home was taken care of while I was gone for 18 months. (Christina)
- So many. I’ve been incredibly blessed with a beautiful wife, great jobs, and help in school. I also built a testimony that helped me to build my life upon the Savior, Jesus Christ. (Steven)
- Celestial marriage. (Christian)
- The day I got home from my mission was my future wife’s birthday. I would not have noticed her as much if that wasn’t the day I got home. (James)
- I learned to recognize the way that the Spirit talked to me personally and have more humility, love and patience. (Dallany)
- Beautiful Wife. Happy Life. (Ty)
- Life long love for the people of the south as well as the food, love for the gospel many more that are just in day to day life that help you grow. (Morgan)
- I don’t think I can list them all here. The mission strengthened my testimony, helped me learn to reach out to people and put myself in their shoes, gave me the chance to know people of other cultures, humbled me, gave me good friends, helped me find more confidence in myself and in following the Spirit, and strengthened my relationship with God. I would recommend a mission to everyone. It is one of the most valuable experiences of my life. (Heidi)
- It has made me who I am today. It built a foundation that I still build upon and live by today. (Michael)
What are some skills you gained?
- I learned how to communicate better. Leadership skills. Learned to listen to and accept rules even if I didn’t understand them fully. (Shonte)
- Better at talking with people; pro-biker; cooking; loving people; pro-knocker of doors. (Christina)
- I became really good at talking to people I didn’t know. I also learned how to work hard and reach goals. (Steven)
- How to talk to strangers. (Christian)
- Being open and friendly with others and being able to effectively communicate. (James)
- Talk to people, be clear and bold, that’s for sure because I considered myself a shy person. Love and serve more. (Dallany)
- I can juggle. I can do the Rubix cube. I can talk to people more efficiently. My testimony was definitely strengthened and I learned more about the gospel especially since I was a convert. I learned patience with others. I learned to understand others and that we all have different things to go through, like Abraham and having to put his son on an alter. We will all have to endure hard things. And we all have our own weaknesses. The quicker you acknowledge a person’s weakness, the quicker you can accept them for who they are and notice their good qualities. (Ty)
- How to study the scriptures and how to look deeper for meaning and doctrine. How to work hard and to never give up. (Michael)
What do you wish you knew/did at the beginning of your mission?
- I wish I would have trusted myself more at the beginning of my mission. I wish I would have memorized the first vision sooner. There is power in being able to recite it during a lesson! Journal every single day. No matter what. Take pictures with investigators and members more often. And just taken more pictures in general. Especially of the people and everyday sights. (Shonte)
- I wish I didn’t stress out so much in Mission Training Center and the beginning of being out in the field. I wish I had stopped and enjoyed myself more, let my true self come out more. (Christina)
- I wish I had known how great the life in the mission is. Everything is taken care of. At the beginning, I was ungrateful for all of the blessings I was given such as an apartment and a car and food. I wish I had been grateful for the little I had. (Steven)
- I came prepared. (Christian)
- Knowing that it doesn’t do anyone any good to get baptized when they are not ready to be baptized. It only causes future problems if someone is baptized and doesn’t come back to church. Make sure that they are really 110% ready to make this life changing experience. (James)
- I wish I had studied more the gospel. (Dallany)
- Nothing, it was a great experience. I enjoyed all that I learned out there. (Ty)
- I wish I was more prepared. The best way to learn is to go to work and listen to the Spirit. (Michael)
- Not being prepared for the humidity. (Chris)
Any advice/testimony for pre-missionaries going to Alabama?
- You can do hard things for two weeks! Just take it day by day at first. It is scary. But you will soon learn how it all works. Be confident. But don’t be a robot. Be real with people. That is what interests them. (Shonte)
- Just remember to be steadfast in Christ and serve with all your heart, might, mind and strength. Service does soften stony souls! (Christina)
- God loves you. There were days when I knocked hundreds of doors and didn’t get to teach a single lesson. Those are the days when you feel God’s love. I remember biking home one night in the freezing cold after having no success at all. My companion and I were talking when we got home about how happy we were. It made no logical sense. Our day was awful but we were so happy because we could feel God’s love for us and this work. (Steven)
- Do everything your Mission President and the rule book says and you will be blessed abundantly for obedience. (Christian)
- Work your hardest! (James)
- Be obedient, humble, grateful, and love your companion, always. Love for real your mission and the people with whom you will work. Be diligent, always make an effort, study and always look for the guidance from the Spirit. Don’t waste God’s time. No regrets that you always had in mind that you did all that was in you. That’s priceless and you will feel great joy. (Dallany)
- Get ready to serve. Lose yourself in service and work hard. Some missionaries may not follow the rules, but if you do follow the rules, they will want to be more obedient because you will be getting blessed for being diligent and faithful both to God and to your Mission President. (Ty)
- In every area, there is someone you were sent there to find, whether they get baptized or not. In every companionship, there is a purpose and every prayer is heard by Heavenly Father. (Heidi)
- Listen to the Spirit. Each person and family you teach is different. Do not rush a person faster than he or she has the strength to go. (Michael)
- Learn the proper etiquette for eating. Eating dessert before everyone is ready is a major no-no. (Chris)
What was a funny language mistake?
- “Y’all” is acceptable, “you guys” is not. (James)
- In some lessons, my companion started talking in Spanish when we were teaching English people and vice versa. When I was teaching English, some words came out of my mouth in Spanish…it was funny. We taught in both languages but could reach a lot of people…we loved it. (Dallany)
- If you practice reading all “i”s in Biblical verses as “ah”, you can learn Southern pretty fast. (Heidi)
- See the mispronunciation of people’s cities. And do not.. not matter what.. do not say, “Who is Bear Bryant?” Study up on your football, and especially the rivalry between Tuscaloosa and Auburn. 🙂 (Chris)
Kristin (Alabama Birmingham Mission)
–Paraphrased from Kristin’s mission interview–
In Alabama we cover three different states: Alabama up to Tennessee and a little bit of Mississippi. We have 300 missionaries. It was the largest amount of missionaries in the world at the time. Half of those were sisters. Our mission president, President Hanks, is handling it so well. There are six stakes in Alabama and a temple in Birmingham. There are lots of wards in branches. They speak English and Spanish mostly as the main languages. There is a really good number of Spanish speakers and Spanish branches.
There are still segregated churches in some areas. Elvis’ birthplace is in one of the Mississippi areas where I got to serve. Rosa Parks lived in Montgomery. We went to the museum for her and the civil rights movement there. There is a lot of history down there for sure. Talladega Nascar Racetrack is there. That was my last area. Every area is a little different. The part of Mississippi that we covered had the real Southern women with the way that they cooked and the people have thicker accents. In Alabama they have the Southern women as well, but they are more industrialized. There is a lot of racial differences.
People and Culture
The people are so wonderful and kind. They will take care of you and love you because they are very Christian. They aren’t afraid to talk about God to anybody. They love Jesus and love to follow what He commanded in the Bible. They are very humble and willing to talk about that with you. They will invite you over to dinner even if they don’t know you well. They play Christian music in stores. Football is a religion itself down there. They taught us to not go tracting on game days. Life rotates around Alabama football. In one of my areas we found some people that wanted to hear more because she was white dating a black guy and the churches around there in the small town wouldn’t let them come in together dating. It’s easy for people to come to church because there are so many different religions down there.
Bronte (Alabama Birmingham Mission)
–Paraphrased from Bronte’s mission interview–
The Birmingham Alabama mission is the best mission in the world. Everybody that goes there thinks that. It is the home to some really crazy football fans. Roll tide and War Eagle are like war cries there because you have Auburn and Alabama football.
The Most Sister Missionaries in the World
In my mission, we had the most sisters in the world for a time. We had about equal numbers of elders and sisters. Maybe 150 sisters and the same amount of elders for a time. My transfer was the first giant transfer of sister missionaries. We had about 30. I can’t remember exactly, but we had a lot of sisters. I asked the elders how they felt about it and at first they thought it was weird because they had already been out about 6 months before the first big group of age change missionaries. It was a big blessing later on because when sisters and elders work together for the same cause with their different gifts and natural talents they work together well.
Alabama Birmingham Mission Boundaries
My mission covered the top half of Alabama. Montgomery area up to a little tiny chunk of Tennessee in Fayatteville. It was just a little section. And we had a good chunk of Mississippi. It was awesome.
There is so much love. People love Jesus Christ and would do anything for the Lord. They love to be His hands and to really help people. One time we were biking in Huntsville where it is pretty rich and wealthy and has people from all over the world and we came across this meat smoker. We pulled our bikes over and started talking to him. He said he was smelling BBQ and asked who we were. We told him that we were representatives from the Lord and are from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He pulled out these beautiful plates of BBQ sandwiches with baked beans and said they were for us for no charge because we were serving the Lord. They are not closed off at all to serving people that are serving God. They want to be good people. They know the commandments and know how they should be living. They have such great stock in the Bible.
Whitney (Alabama Birmingham Mission)
–Paraphrased from Whitney’s mission interview–
Arriving to the Mission
It seems like most everyone that was flying out to our district were all in and out of having a cold. We were all stuffed up and sick all night. I remember my ear wouldn’t pop and I felt half deaf. I was so excited to land in Alabama and meet the Mission President and all of the new missionaries. That first day was so fun, but I was so scared. I remember looking around and seeing these people at the airport and I was terrified to talk to them and share the gospel with them, but I was just really excited to do it. Even though there were a lot of ups and downs emotionally, it was a fun exciting time.
Alabama Birmingham Mission Geography
The Alabama Birmingham mission covers the top two thirds of the state. The farthest southern edge is in Greenville. I served there on the border. The bottom third is part of the Tallahassee Mission. We cover mostly the state of Alabama and a little bit of Mississippi and part of Georgia. You’ll mostly be in Alabama if you’re called to this mission. We have the Birmingham temple. The mission president was great and tried to get us there a few times a year. Sometimes it didn’t happen but he tried to make sure we could go do sessions a few times on our mission.
The Bible Belt
Alabama is part of the Bible Belt. People would tell us that it is the buckle of the Bible Belt. I really liked being in the South and experiencing that culture, because religion is such an important part of the Southern way of life. Walking around talking to people about Jesus was totally acceptable and a lot of people were excited about it. We could always find people to talk to about the Gospel because religion is so important to them. I really loved that. It’s a huge advantage going to the Southern states because it gives you a chance to build on the faith that they already have in Jesus and give them more.
A lot of deep fried food. If you go to any festival or town market, they will have deep fried oreos or deep fried snickers. One food I saw was chitlins. I didn’t have to try it, but I heard a lot of horror stories. They have a lot of vegetables. They have greens, which is like a leafy vegetable that they would stew. I wasn’t crazy about it. They have okra too. I like fried okra, but it’s really slimy when it’s stewed. They have lots of peaches in the summer and wonderful produce. You can get homemade mac n cheese, fried chicken, and other things that are really great. Biscuits and gravy is another weird breakfast food that I didn’t have before. Deer meat is popular during hunting season, and everyone likes to hunt. Grits are okay. You’ll find normal things too. The food is always really good.
Everyone goes to church, and everyone has a relative somewhere that is a preacher. It’s definitely a relaxed environment. Southern hospitality is definitely a thing, especially in the small towns because everybody knows everybody else. Every house has a porch on it and everyone sits on their porch in the summer and drinks sweet tea. I had never seen that before, but everyone drinks sweet tea.
Jaxon (Alabama Birmingham Mission)
–Paraphrased from Jaxon’s mission interview–
Birmingham Mission Geography
I served at a time where a big transition took place in the mission. Geographically, the mission covers as far north as Fayetteville TN and then the very bottom of the mission is Greenville Alabama, which is about a 4 1/2 to 5 hour drive from top to bottom. To the west we covered the Tupelo MI which covers Tupelo MI on down to Starkville. We also covered little parts of Tennessee, so it is a pretty big mission geographically. Member wise there are six stakes, Huntsville, Madison, Tupelo, Birmingham, Bessemer, Montgomery. In total, there’s about 30,000 members of the church in the mission, so it’s pretty strong. There’s a temple just north of Birmingham which covers all of the stakes in the Birmingham mission, plus a few more to the south just outside of the mission. It’s a small temple, but it’s filled to capacity whenever they have a session.
Missionaries in Birmingham
Missionary wise, there were 150-160 missionaries when I got into the mission. When the age change happened in October, nothing immediately changed. But in the months after in the spring, the number of missionaries rose to over 300, which was a big, big change. Obviously, the number of sisters skyrocketed as well.
There are 4 Spanish branches in the mission, so we had about 50 or 60 Spanish missionaries, since there was a lot of Hispanics in Alabama. The branches were really strong and well functioning, so they needed little help from the stake. Talking to other missionaries who served in the South, it seems that our mission had an abnormally large amount of branches. When you get there, you’ll find all these towns that have been there forever, and people are slowly moving away to bigger cities. As people leave the branches, which used to be wards, are still there, and about 50-60% of the areas in the mission are branches. It is a great experience, you feel so much more a part of everything that happens because you are an integral part of the unit. The Branch president needs you to do things, the members love you, and that’s a great dynamic in the South; to be a part of the family and the southern hospitality of those people.
Alabama is the heart of the civil rights movement. MLK jr preached in a church in Montgomery for many years. Rosa Parks lived in the area. People are very proud of that. It’s a fun thing to be a part of. Segregation isn’t a problem down there like people might think. As a missionary especially, they are very welcoming. I think it’s one of the real treats of serving there. I really wanted to learn more about other faiths when I went down there and I got to. The Southern Baptist Church is very strong down there. They typically believe in the Trinity. They love the Bible. They read it every day and have Bible study outside of church. I remember one guy that was a pastor who asked us how well we knew the Bible. He started listing off scriptures to his wife and she just could quote all of them. She knew almost 700 verses. Methodists are there as well. They were very kind to us. Presbyterian isn’t quite as big. They do have a really big church down there though. Seventh Day Adventist is more common in the north of the mission. They have a university up there. It’s really the culture for these people. You come to see the passion that people have for religion. In the grocery store line, people ask you what team you root for and what church you go to. The Church had a rough history in the South. The missionary work is progressing slowly, but there are still a lot of misconceptions of us down there. You will come to love the Bible and to understand the importance of the Book of Mormon as well.
I thought it would be hot year round. It was hot when I got there. It starts warming up in May and it goes until the fall. The winter months really surprised me. I didn’t even bring a coat. It was freezing, because of the humidity. It didn’t matter what you put on. The cold went straight to your bones. Bring leggings, gloves, underarmor, hats. It snowed in February and it shut down the whole state. We were driving home and there were cars lined up on the side of the road because people were just too afraid to drive. It gets really cold down there, but it gets really hot too. You will sweat a lot. One day we biked a lot and then we played basketball with some investigators. At the end of the day I weighed seven pounds less than when I weighed myself in the morning. I had no idea tornadoes existed there but they do. We dealt with quite a few when I was there.
Diversity in Alabama
There is a movie called Sweet Home Alabama, and I had this thought that everyone in Alabama was white and a farmer, but there are a lot of African Americans in reality. There are a lot of towns that used to have factories that supported the town, but when those factories close down, the people there are often stuck there and don’t have a lot of options. I had heard the word “projects” before my mission, but I really learned what they are in Alabama. It’s just government funded housing for people that need help and can’t work for whatever reason. There are a few areas in the mission that are agricultural, but the majority of the saints there live in the cities, because that’s where the jobs are. Huntsville has a plant for NASA where they built the first rocket that went to the moon, so there is a large engineering presence there. Birmingham has very strong medical schools and programs. You’ll deal with people of both races and also there are a lot of Hispanics. It’s a very unique mix and the people are amazing.