News Story

Missionary Service Is a Family Affair

Many young Latter-day Saints devote 18 months to two years of their lives as full-time missionaries. Thousands of retired seniors also serve in various assignments from employment services to humanitarian relief. But a number of years ago, Reginald Nelson Burt confided to a granddaughter that he had always lamented the fact that he did not have the opportunity to be a missionary for his faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Burt, who was born in 1892 and passed away in 1978 at the age of 85, would be happy to note that many of his descendants — 116 in fact — have served or are currently serving as missionaries.    

Two years ago on the July 4 weekend, 37 Burt family members gathered at the family ranch, just south of Evanston, Wyoming, to honor the military veterans of the family.

During that event, Reginald’s daughter-in-law Evelyn Burt talked about honoring the missionaries of the family. Granddaughter, Andrea Fisher Dunsmore, picked up the cue and suggested getting a large world map and placing pins in the states of the United States and in other countries where the Burt family members served.  

At another, more recent family gathering, Richard Burt brought an extensive family tree on a chart and placed it on a sheet of plywood.  It showed all of the posterity of Reginald Burt and his wife, Amelia: seven children, 34 grandchildren, 142 great-grandchildren and 180 great-great-grandchildren as of 2008.    

Since every family was represented at the ranch, the missionaries were identified fairly quickly.  Many were those who had married into the Burt family. The 116 missionaries had served or were serving in 33 countries and 36 states of the United States.  As part of the event, flags from the 33 countries and 36 states were in front of the main flag pole.   

Mission certificates of appreciation were created by Neil and Russell Burt and presented to each missionary or a representative. A color guard made the presentations.   

At one point in the program, the 225 people in attendance gathered by the flags and sang the Mormon missionary hymn “Called to Serve.”

Richard Burt issued a challenge to those who had not yet been missionaries: “You have the privilege and the responsibility to extend Grandma and Grandpa Burt’s heritage and legacy by also serving as a missionary.”

Richard and his wife, Evelyn, have followed their own advice, having served four missions in:  Illinois, the Philippines, New York City and Wisconsin. The majority of their service has been spent helping people do family history research.

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