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Officially entitled “the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania was one of the original thirteen British colonies in the New World. Founded first by the Dutch (1631) and later the English (beginning 1664). In 1681, William Penn–leader of the Quakers, who were prominent in Pennsylvania–signed a peace treaty with native tribes; Pennsylvania is named after him. Pennsylvania has a long and storied history, with Gettysburg and other battles fought there during the United States Civil War; Philadelphia hosting the first Constitutional Convention; and other historical events. It was also a site of the Restoration when the Prophet Joseph Smith lived with his wife in Harmony, PA near other early Church members. Current US Census data indicate that the state has over 12,700,000 inhabitants, making it one of the ten highest-populated US states in both overall citizenship and density (see Census.gov).
Demographically, Pennsylvania has a higher-than-average portion of native Pennsylvanians who remain in-state their whole lives. It tends to be one of the most religious states, with churches dotting nearly every city. Data from the Pew “Religion and Public Life Project” shows higher-than-average percentages for Catholic (29% of the state’s population) and mainline Protestant (25%). As well, around 18% are Evangelical Christian and around 10% other Christian (including traditional Black churches, Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witness, and others). Overall, less than .5% of the state’s population are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (see this link for more information). That small proportion, however, according to Church Newsroom reports, results in a total of 51,141 members in Pennsylvania, 2 missions, 108 congregations, and 40 family history centers (Mormon Newsroom Facts and Statistics).
The present-day Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission encompasses roughly the western two-thirds of this great state along with small portions of Ohio, West Virginia, and New York. With the expansion of missionaries, there are nearly 250 missionaries serving in the Pittsburgh mission, including over 70 sisters.
The heritage of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pennsylvania is rich, with Sections 2-13 and 24-27 of the Doctrine and Covenants received in Harmony, PA, on the eastern side of the state. The total percentage of members in Pennsylvania in 2013 is around .43% of the state’s total population but is growing. There is currently no temple within the Pittsburgh Mission boundaries; however, a temple is nearing completion in Philadelphia, on the other side of the state. Members live within the Washington, D.C. Temple district.
General United States fare (fast-food, chain restaurants) is common throughout the state. Traditional Amish fare can be found in areas with high Amish or Mennonite concentrations.
Perogies are a type of potato/pasta dish that is popular in certain areas in Pennsylvania.
Central Pennsylvania is famous for its ice creams and custards; one of the famous brands is Rita’s.
Missionaries in the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission typically walk or drive in a mission vehicle; most biking areas have been closed. Some companionships share cars in cities with good bus or metro systems.
“Yous all” and “yinz guys” serve as plural forms of “you.”
“Let” and “leave” are sometimes interchanged in conversation, i.e., “Let us a message!”
A very warm coat, boots, and other equipment for below-freezing winter weather.
2600 Boyce Plaza Suite 101
Upper St. Clair PA 15241
Straight from the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“The US has everything.”
“Sometimes health foods are a little hard to come by”
“You can pretty much get anything you normally would get in Pittsburgh”
“Green Chile!!!! Salsa other than Pace and proper tortillas.”
“Taco Time, Cafe Rio”
“We had everything because it was state side”
“My mother’s homemade soap. Healthy salads without fries on them in restaurants. A Deseret Book :)”
*What did you eat the most of?
“Heavy country food. Meat and potatoes type meals.”
“Fish and Italian food are less expensive here”
“Peanut butter, fruit, juice”
“I enjoyed a lot of cereal and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”
“Spaghetti, meats with gravy, sandwiches”
“Steak, chicken, potatoes, eggs, bacon, Sister Francis’ breakfast casserole, hamburgers”
“Italian food and hot pockets”
“China Sea’s cheese won tons. Kretchmar’s Bakery canolis. Subway. People cooked home fries and perogies.”
“Rita’s frozen custard… yum!”
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“Hog Maw….its sausage, onions and potatoes stuffed in a pigs stomach. Its an Amish dish.”
“Amish Habanero Cheddar”
“A one-and-a-quarter pound cheeseburger on a dare from the Elders.”
“Pittsburgh didn’t really have weird food. I did have collared greens cooked with bacon and that was terrible.”
“Pig stomach, but it was at a buffet, so it was totally my choice”
“Permanti Brothers Sandwich”
“The 70% grease, and 20% carbon home fries cooked in the most unsanitary kitchen I’ve seen.”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
“How many churches there were. How beautiful the fields were. Lots of low economy towns. Things seemed old and run down.”
“Crazy road system – one ward member said the early road builders followed a hog around in the woods with a cement truck.”
“The Pittsburghese dialect was all three!”
“I served in Lancaster County, so the Amish people! It never got old to see a horse and buggy drive by. There was even horse and buggy parking at the local stores–including Walmart!”
“No straight or level roads”
“The difference between race and Amish”
“They say, “How ye’ens doin’”? The traffic “Pittsburgh Left” which is an efficient way to use a specific gap of time in traffic light intersections. The standard way of parallel parking is to back up INTO the one car’s bumper (jostling the car), and then forward again into the other car’s bumper. Sometime’s repeating for a 3rd bump into the first car’s bumper. You assume everyone you meet smokes.”
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission?
“Enjoy the work and enjoy the friendships you make.”
“Be ready to offer your very best, and not worry about the numbers”
“It’s the same advice I’d give to any missionary, and that is to be obedient.”
“LOVE the people. Be obedient. Work hard.”
“Love the people…this is a very family oriented area and they are great people. Don’t go tracting on Steelers Sundays.”
“Have fun and don’t worry about following every single rule… Your not perfect nor will your companions be [perfect].”
“Bring warm layers (I recommend long johns & regular socks, under two layers of tights, and even leg warmers some days on top of that). Stay away from the areas where people shoot each other.”
*What do you wish you had known before you served?
“I wish I learned Russian–at least some basics.”
“How to teach with the Spirit.”
“That it was really hard!”
“The lack of good Mexican food.”
“That I need to have my own personal health habits and resilience under control first. I dealt with depression (and what I came to learn later was bipolar) and OCD symptoms. I had a hard time succeeding in school, and for some reason I thought I would handle the mission fine? The Lord’s response to my prayer as to whether to serve or not was permitting me to leave, and even though I came home early for treatment, I had an amazing experience while there, so I can’t say it was wrong to serve necessarily, but I wish I realized I could have stabilized myself more before serving. We’re always so anxious to do things now or fast when we’re young. I thought I had to serve quick, so I could return sooner and marry as soon as possible (that’s the Gospel plan!), but, I’ve found since returning I am still finalizing my recovery and stable lifestyle, and have not found a partner (I am 28 now, served shortly after turning 21). I could have waited.”
“This is the time to listen–to really listen to the Holy Ghost. Every missionary will be tested in this realm regardless of location.”
“Think it through… I’m very glad I served but wish I wasn’t so strict with the rules with myself and my companions… Made it not spiritual at times.”
“Just because 10:30pm is the bedtime, doesn’t mean you have to stay up until 10:30pm to go to bed. I would have sacrificed my other activities before that and gone to bed at 9:45pm, to save my exhaustion, if I had realized that. I’d be more productive and happy with my awake time then. Another caution, the film “The District” that they show in the MTC, is not a depiction of what you are likely going to see when entering the field, meaning, the ideal missionary behavior exemplified in that film does not mean when you are plopped into your first area, or any area, that your companions will have been working with good habits and standards. I had assumed all missionaries would have the same dedication and philosophies in practice, and was not prepared to realize extra patientce and love may be necessary to work with them and build up to the ideal standard. The movie “Errand of Angels” depicts what I mean quite well. I have encouraged a number of called missionaries to view it.”
**Did you serve in the Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Mission? If so we would love to hear your advice and your stories! Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org**