Friday, January 31, 2014

Enjoying the Tsaagan Sar Sunrise, West Zone Conference

Only in Mongolia. Last year at this time, Elders Stewart and England and a group of missionaries climbed a mountain on Tsaagan Sar morning. Both Darlene and I were recovering from the pneumonia that plagued us during most of January so I didn’t go on this particular outing.
New housing development at the base of the mountain we climbed
Elder Stewart brought back some amazing pictures of the Tsaagan Sar sunrise ritual. I made a note that I wanted to experience this year’s Tsaagan Sar in the same way.   
Elder Stewart was out of the city on assignment and the other seniors either had other commitments, didn’t want to go or were sick (Elder England). Elder Odd and I collaborated on a plan for climbing a mountain.
He approached Pres. Benson for permission. He said it would be OK if the group was small and that we should show respect for the culture and customs while witnessing the event.

Elders Moore, Hayter, Standley, Erickson, Higgs, and Odd
Six Elders and I (four were dressed in deels) climbed the mountain. We met at 7:00 am, took a couple of taxis to the base of the mountain (no buses were running that early on the holiday), and climbed to the top arriving at 8:05 am. Sunrise was as 8:22 am.

Elders Odd and Moore posing with a boy who wasn't exactly thrilled with his new friends
Mongolian men (including boys and young men) have a custom of going to mountain peaks and raising their arms to the sun at sunrise. They also chant "Ooooohai" in Mongolian encouraging the sunrise to happen. I learned later that "Ooooohai" is the equivalent of "hurrah" in English or "Opaa" in Greek.

They arrive early and build small fires to keep warm while waiting for the sunrise. This happens all around the peaks surrounding UB and also at the Gandan Monastery in the heart of UB.

Two photos just above and below taken by Karl Schuler

They also throw milk, vodka and bread to the wind and walk around the stone altar three times. A few also bow and pray at the ovoo built at the peak of the mountain. 

Within 5 to ten minutes after the sunrise, the Mongolians left, leaving the mountain top to ourselves.  
The views were spectacular. We enjoyed our cultural experience together (understatement).

The valley at the upper part of the picture is UB covered in smoke

West Zone Conference
The Senior couples attending church in the West Stake were asked to attend the West Zone Conference for the missionaries also serving in that part of UB.
Assistants to the President, Elder Ocorjamaa interpreting for English speakers and Elder Munkhchudur timing the presenters
I was also interested in watching the Assistants to the President train the missionaries on conflict resolution.
Practicing talking and resolving problems in companionships
I had trained them in the concepts and helped them put together a plan for their presentation. Their training in last week with the Darkhan Zone brought rave reviews from the Mission President. I was anxious to see them in action.
The day was jammed packed with training from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Sister Benson with Mary Ann
President and Sister Benson both trained and taught as did several other missionaries with special teaching assignments. Here are a couple more pictures from the day.

Pizza for lunch - Pictured are Tommy, Pres. Benson, Elder Munkhchudur, Elder and Sister Gardner, Elders Odd and Moore

Smiling Sister missionaries at the conference
 The day ended with a group photo - I was the designated photographer in Elder Stewart's absence.


  1. How amazing the people are at Tsaagan Sar. What a beautiful day and experience. I am glad Elder Moore got to go, too. He was with Elder Palmer in the MTC and he is a cutie bug. I am glad you got to go, too. Thanks so much for everything! Jeanette

  2. I gotta hand it to you dad, you are such a go-getter, to get up and going early and witness the sun-rise ceremony first hand. Those are some lucky elders that were able to experience that too. Glad to hear your conflict resolution training went well.