The lack of social gatherings and other side effects of the pandemic is also disrupting missionary work for the young missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving in Williston.

They used to spend much of their week before COVID-19 teaching others about God and prophets, while performing 10 hours of community service. Under current conditions they are trying something different.

The president of the Dakota Mission, Scott L. Howell, a university administrator on leave from Brigham Young University, and a former sexton of a small cemetery and an amateur genealogist himself said, “I thought it would be helpful for our missionaries during this time of social distancing to get out in the fresh air and do something meaningful like take photos of headstones in cemeteries for genealogy purposes.”

Two of the missionaries currently serving in Williston, Sisters Echo Booth from Las Vegas, Nevada and Moana Fonotoe from Samoa, said, “We have gained a stronger appreciation for our ancestors and the project helps us to get involved in our community.”

Currently, the local missionaries have photographed thousands of headstones in the Williston area and uploaded them to the BillionGraves website where other volunteers will transcribe the information so interested family and genealogists may electronically access the information and photo of the headstone from the comfort of their own homes.

If readers are aware of any small/private cemeteries in the area that they would like photographed, they can contact the Williston missionaries at (701) 214-1526.

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