Latter-day Saint Life

From Bountiful to Barcelona: How missionary service took a food blogger halfway around the world

Jed Wells

This story originally ran in the May/June 2020 issue of LDS Living

Si and Grant Foster may currently be wearing missionary badges, but they have both had experiences throughout their lives that have allowed them to share their testimonies and their talents with others long before now.

Jed Wells

When Si Foster posted that she and her husband, Grant, had been called to serve as senior missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Barcelona, Spain, her phone was flooded with messages from friends wishing them well. One of them quipped, “A Barcelona Kitchen?” 

For those who are familiar with Si’s story, the text is a clever one, as Si has been a food blogger for 11 years under the name A Bountiful Kitchen. But because of her popular blog and diverse set of followers, not everyone knew how to respond to her news. When she opened her Instagram up for questions, there were a lot. Would the Fosters continue to work while on their mission? Would they have to pay for their mission? Were they required to know a foreign language beforehand? Weren’t they worried about all of the things they might miss at home? How long would they serve? Did they get to pick where they served? As had become her custom, Si answered them all. 

The truth is, the Fosters have been missionaries for a long time. But to understand what led them to formally put on black nametags, you have to understand where they’ve been.

A Miraculous Change

Grant Foster remembers his life-changing experience like it was yesterday, although it happened four decades ago. He was sitting at Porter’s Place (a restaurant that has since closed its doors) in Lehi, Utah, enjoying a meal with a friend when a boy he didn’t know joined them and started regaling them with stories from the mission he had recently returned home from. 

“I sat there mesmerized as he talked for over an hour about his mission. I didn’t know what I was feeling at the time,” Grant recalls of his 19-year-old self. “I went to church as a college student in St. George only to be eligible to play ward ball. … That was it. I got my name on the roll, totally disengaged. But [that day in the restaurant], I felt something.” 

Grant had no plans to serve a mission. He had attended seminary for one year in high school prior to his parents’ divorce—a divorce that in his mind defined his testimony of the gospel or lack thereof. He was barely eligible to play baseball for Dixie College and describes himself as a mediocre athlete, but he also knew that the traditional college athlete life of partying and getting drunk on the weekends was not the life for him.

“I knew that was no future, and then this kid sits down, and he talks about his mission . . . and I thought, ‘You know, I could do anything for two years, like a prison sentence. And if it’s really the best two years of your life?’” 

He met with his bishop, who responded quickly to Grant’s change of heart, and within weeks, Grant had a call to the Chile Osorno Mission—a place he struggled to find on a map. 

Grant knew he needed to get a patriarchal blessing prior to his departure. Wearing a pair of Levi’s and a t-shirt, he walked down the street and knocked on the patriarch’s door. When the patriarch asked to take a day to fast and prepare before giving Grant the blessing, Grant says, “I seriously was blown away that anybody would want to [do that] … because at the time, I’m a 19-year-old kid. Food was everything. And I was like, ‘He’s really going to take a day and fast for me?’”

The patriarch encouraged Grant to come back two days later and suggested that he consider wearing a shirt and tie, which he did. 

Grant was soon wearing a shirt and tie every day, but as he watched his Missionary Training Center companion work to memorize the missionary lessons, his casual attitude of “putting in his time” on the off chance that he might have a life-changing experience remained unchanged. He told his companion, “Elder Johnson, you knock yourself out. I’m going to do my time and in two years, I’ll be back on Main Street sipping Pepsi with my buddy, watching the girls drive up and down the street.” 

He didn’t love attending the temple while at the MTC and asked his branch president if he could just skip the weekly P-day temple trip. Instead, his branch president invited him to fast prior to his next temple trip. Not knowing how it really worked, Grant fasted the entire day before and through the night. He still remembers walking up the hill to the temple and then walking out a changed man. 

“Having been a student of the gospel for the last 40 years, I now know what I felt when I finished my eight weeks in the MTC of having been endowed with power,” he says, looking back. “Within the first week, I was feeling things that I had never felt before in my life.” 

But then I was faced with the reality of ‘What do I do? I don’t know anything about this gospel.’ I barely knew the Joseph Smith story. I had hardly read the Book of Mormon. But in my mind, I was like, ‘If I’m going to go do this and I’m feeling these things, it’s obviously God telling you it’s true.’”

Grant now describes what he experienced in the eight weeks that followed as an Enos-esque experience. “[Enos said] ‘My soul hungered,’ That’s where I was,” Grant says. “I was so hungry, and this was so cool and new, and it was truly delicious to my soul.” 

The MTC’s strict lights-out policy interrupted Grant’s hunger, but he found that if he laid his scriptures in a specific spot on the windowsill, the lights from outside illuminated his scriptures enough that he could read. In the eight weeks that he was in the MTC, he read the entire Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the New Testament, despite previously never having read a significant book of any kind cover to cover.

Grant had been in the mission field for two months when he had the opportunity to meet with Elder Robert E. Wells of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who asked how he was doing with learning the discussions. Grant replied that he had memorized every one of them. “Elder Foster, if you have truly memorized every one of the discussions word for word, there is not a curriculum in the United States you cannot master,” he remembers Elder Wells saying. 

“I have never forgotten those words. Those were empowering words to a kid who had to scramble to be eligible for college baseball,” Grant says.

In short, Grant Foster’s mission changed his life. 

“Forty years ago, I walked into the MTC as a pretty confused missionary, and all I have seen for 40 years stemming from that decision has just been blessing upon blessing,” he says. 

Upon returning home, he earned the first 4.0 GPA of his life. He received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Utah engineering department and then went to Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland and graduated in the top one-third of his class. He has been a practicing patent attorney for 30 years and has worked with some of the largest companies in the world, receiving recognition as one of the best attorneys in the United States. Still, while his mission experience was no doubt formative, there is no question that he has also been shaped by the woman he met shortly after returning home from his mission.

Meeting Si

As the daughter of an American serviceman who had met his wife—Si’s mother—while stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Si was very new to the gospel when she met Grant. While her father was a descendant of Latter-day Saint pioneers, he had stopped attending church when he left home at age 18. By the time Si was born, her father was a heavy drinker and a three-pack-a-day smoker. Her mother, a native of Okinawa, has never been a member of the Church. 

Despite this, Si was baptized at 10 years old, and her parents dropped both her and her brother off at church every week. When she was 12, her parents gave them the choice of whether or not to continue to attend. After years of going to church by themselves and sitting with other families, Si and her brother opted out. They knew they were different. Si realized years later how they must have reeked of cigarette smoke as they walked in the chapel each Sunday, and still, the members of the congregation loved and accepted them.

In high school, after a close friend passed away in a car accident, Si decided something was missing in her life. Her search for what that something might be is what led her to return to church, where a bishop went out of his way to reach out to her. By the time Si moved to St. George, Utah, a few years later, she had decided the Church could potentially fill the void she recognized in her life. 

Within a week of being in St. George, Si met Grant, who remembers seeing her at church after hearing about her from a friend. He immediately thought she was “beyond beautiful.” 

Photo courtesy of the Fosters.

Conveniently, he was in charge of home teaching assignments and assigned himself to be her home teacher. He then set to work on a mission to get to know her. As they shared with each other their unique backgrounds, they discovered that their “goals were so similar in life.” Si was now enthusiastic about the gospel, and she loved that Grant loved it. They were both afraid of repeating their parents’ mistakes but were determined to break the cycle of unbelief, and with confirmation from God, they were married.

“When I met her, it was like a fire just ready to go,” Grant says in regard to their desire to devote their lives to God. And yet, he adds, “Here’s the crazy thing, you see Si for what she is today—unbelievable. There’s no way I could go back and put everything she is today into a young woman. Nobody would ever measure up. Not even she would measure up because of the amazing person she’s become over the years [of] being a mom and a servant of God and a wonderful wife to me.”

Together they have raised four children, but as their children started to grow up and “leave the nest,” Si found herself with more time, and she entered a world that was new to her and relatively new to the rest of the world—the world of blogging.

A Bountiful Kitchen

Si has always loved food, but when she left home, she knew how to make one meal: lasagna. She soon realized as a young newlywed, however, that if she wanted to have good food, she was going to have to make it herself. She eventually learned to love cooking, and that love led to starting a recipe blog with the help of her daughter Corrine 11 years ago. The name for her blog came to her in the middle of the night when she decided, “If I ever write a cookbook, I’m going to call it A Bountiful Kitchen,” an obvious nod to the Utah city where she and Grant have lived and raised their children. The blog started small with friends occasionally visiting the site, and Si says it was at least five years in before she ever made any money on it. But today? Si’s blog will single-handedly pay for her and Grant’s mission.

“It’s a really sweet thing for me,” Si says. “I think a lot of times as women when you stay home and you raise your children, you know you’re contributing to your children and to raising them, and it’s such an important work. But it’s really easy at times to feel like you’re not contributing financially. I think it’s so sweet that as a community, really unknowingly, A Bountiful Kitchen readers have supported this mission.”

Today, those who follow the A Bountiful Kitchen website or Instagram page are not strangers to hearing about Si’s faith, but she still remembers the first time she shared anything about her faith on the blog. It was during Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012 when Si posted a series of recipes called “What Mitt Ate Last Night.” She still remembers somewhat timidly typing the words, “In case you didn’t know it, I’m a Mormon.”

A few months later, when her oldest son, Stephen, left on his mission, Si shared a breakfast enchilada recipe that he loved and revealed to readers that he would be serving as a missionary for the next two years. She wrote about what that meant and linked to the Church’s website. It was long before the Church’s #ShareGoodness campaigns—Si simply continued to follow her heart when it came to sharing her faith.

Later, while sitting in a busy airport on Easter Sunday, she felt prompted for the first time to share her testimony on her A Bountiful Kitchen Instagram page.

 “It occurred to me that these people at LAX were running around trying to get on their flights,” Si recalls. “And I thought, ‘So many of these people don’t know what I know. They don’t have a testimony of the Savior, they don’t even know about the Savior,’ … remember when I pushed the post button, I thought, ‘I hope this isn’t offensive to people.’” But the backlash never really came. She has gotten questions, but rarely negativity. 

Photos courtesy of the Fosters.

Si’s daughters, Corrine Stokoe and Brooke Eliason, who are also bloggers, often share their faith online as well. This may not seem significant until you understand that collectively, Si and her daughters reach 242,000 Instagram users in addition to the thousands they reach through their websites.

“The women in our family are rock stars,” Grant says. “They are the shining lights, if you will, in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I believe that there’s a plan that God has for them to share their light, as is evident with what they’ve done and the fruits of their boldness.”

The three women have a group text where they talk about ideas and challenges they’re having, which they consider to be an advisory board of sorts. If you know of or follow one of them, you likely follow the other two, so there is a benefit to their consulting together. But Grant says he believes their success is also a credit to who they are as individuals.

“There’s a humongous tie to the way they live their lives,” he says. “And I believe with all my heart that we are blessed in all things, temporal and spiritual, as we strive to be good people.”

Spain Bound

In many ways, the Fosters feel their entire marriage has led up to the 18 months they will serve as missionaries in Spain. It was, after all, Grant’s zeal for missionary work that led him to catch Si’s attention 38 years ago.

“Grant is the most enthusiastic person you will ever meet [when it comes to] his mission,” Si says. “He’s pushing 60, but he loved his mission. For years I’ve heard him talk about his mission … and that was really one of the things that was so attractive to me about Grant when I first met him. He just had this zeal for the gospel … so to be able to finally do this, and do this together, means everything.”

The Fosters are firm believers that there is a season for all things, and while they are young to be considered “senior missionaries,” the pieces have undeniably fallen into place to make it possible for them to serve now. They have witnessed a miraculous chain of events, including being able to work out with his managing director (who was also Grant’s stake president) a leave of absence at his law practice instead of retiring. And Si’s blog? It will live on.

At the time of their mission call, the Fosters wondered if Si would be encouraged to step away from blogging, but Grant remembers the mission president in Spain, Craig D. Galli, telling Si, “Not only do I want you to continue to have a presence, I hope you grow it. That will be part of your mission here, to influence people. That’s part of who you are. We want that to be part of this experience.”

Grant is thrilled to return to the mission field—this time with his eternal companion.

As their children are beginning to have grandchildren, Si and Grant know there are things they will miss at home, but they believe those sacrifices will only make their relationships sweeter when they return. They trust that their family will be blessed in their absence.

Photo by Emilee Dahl of Life Chapters Photography

“Our whole life has been built—our married life and our life with our children—on the gospel of Jesus Christ. I look back at the Lord’s hand in my life, and it’s undeniable,” Si says of the Lord’s influence on her family. “When it comes down to one reason we chose to serve a mission at this point in our lives, even when it seems to not make sense, it’s because the gospel of Jesus Christ is everything to us. It brings us joy. And if we feel so much joy, we have to share the source of that joy with others.”

▶ You may also like: Quilting sensation Jenny Doan on faith, creativity, and accidentally building an empire

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