Confessions of an Anonymous Coward

Monday, March 05, 2007

Mormon Missionary Methods

This post was inspired by a post on Action Skeptics about an encounter with some missionaries. See, having been raised Mormon, I served some time as a missionary myself, and I thought some readers might find it interesting to hear about missionary training and techniques from someone who's gone through them. When I raised that idea in a comment on the aforementioned post on Action Skeptics, I got some positive response, so I decided to go ahead and write this post.

Now, keep in mind my experiences aren't necessarily representative of all missionaries. Missionaries of other denominations no doubt have some very different practices from Mormon missionaries. And even Mormon missionary practice may have changed somewhat from when I served a mission; I've heard, for example, that the set "discussions" that used to be used (I'll get to those later) have been phased out in favor of encouraging more freeform discourse. Still, I'm sure there are some common elements.

Okay...this post ended up quite long, so now that I've got that "Read More" feature implemented I may as well use it...

So. Anyway.

In the LDS church, it's expected for every worthy young man (and of course every young man should be worthy) to go on a two-year mission. Generally, they go when they're nineteen, though going a year or two later isn't unheard of. (Young women may also go on missions, but it's not considered so obligatory; also, their missions only last a year and half, and they can't go until they're twenty-one. There are also older married-couple missionaries, but much fewer of them.) In my case, I really didn't want to go. I had never really liked the idea of going on a mission. Even when I was a very young child in Primary (the Sunday School class for young children), and we sang the Primary song "I hope they call me on a mission" (yes, of course, indoctrination starts early), I'd always insert a surreptitious "don't". As for why I finally did end up going...well, it's probably not worth going into here; it's kind of beside the point for the subject of this post. Suffice to say, for now, that the pressure for young men in the LDS church to go on missions is very, very high.

As it happens, I went to Spain on my mission. It should be noted that Mormon missionaries do not get to choose where they're going; they are "called" to certain missions directly by the first presidency of the church--at least, that's the theory. In practice, I rather doubt that the first presidency of the church personally prayerfully considers each of the twenty-five thousand prospective missionaries a year and individually decides where each one is going. Regardless, the missionary-to-be receives a letter telling where he's going, and when he's expected in the MTC.

Ah, yes. The MTC--the Missionary Training Center. Actually, there's more than one Missionary Training Center; there are seventeen Missionary Training Centers scattered all over the world for missionaries from those areas; but when someone refers to the Missionary Training Center, they usually mean the one in Provo, Utah--the one that's the largest, and the one I went to. In the Missionary Training Center, missionaries are taught the basics of the techniques they're supposed to use with "investigators", as they call the people they're trying to convert. If they're going to be serving a foreign-language mission, they also learn that language in the MTC. And, of course, they get plenty of devotionals and spiritually uplifting talks--that is to say, perhaps, not to put too fine a point on it, brainwashing.

How long a missionary stays in the MTC depends on whether or not he's serving a foreign-language mission. Those who are stay two months; those who aren't only three weeks. Problems with getting visas could make their stays longer, although if it takes too long the would-be foreign missionaries are sent temporarily to stateside missions until their visa problems clear up. (My brother, who went to France on his mission, spent some time in West Virginia while his visa was being processed.)

Training doesn't end with the MTC. Each missionary is given a "missionary manual", which they're expected to study for at least an hour each day (it could have been only a half-hour; I don't remember precisely). (The missionary manual also comes with accompanying tapes the missionary can listen to but in practice usually ends up recording over.) This is in addition to an hour of scripture-reading. Then, of course, there's some time set aside for eating and sleeping, but beyond that missionaries are expected to spend pretty much all their time doing missionary work. The exception is one half-day a week called preparation day--or P-Day for short--which is relatively free; this is the time missionaries use to do laundry or take care of other chores they haven't had time for elsewhere in the week, but it's also the time when missionaries can take some time off and go sightseeing or participate in other minor recreational activities. (Though there are still restrictions, of course. For one thing, missionaries aren't allowed to go near large bodies of water. I'm not entirely sure why. I've heard weird explanations about the devil having power over the oceans, but I'm sure that's not the "official" explanation (missionary culture has legends all its own). Part of it might be, I suppose, that the church doesn't want the missionaries seen wearing bathing suits? I don't know.)

Mormon missionaries are addressed with the title "Elder" or "Sister" (or the equivalent in the local language), as in "Elder Smith" or "Sister Jones" (for, of course, male and female missionaries respectively). The reason for the "elder" is because that's a specific priesthood level that male missionaries hold; every male prospective missionary is "ordained to the office of an elder" before he leaves. Women in the LDS church, of course, do not hold the priesthood. While missionaries aren't necessarily forbidden to give out their first names, the custom is for them to be evasive about the matter; sometimes members delight in discovering a missionary's first name by, for instance, spotting the engraved name on the missionary's personalized scriptures. Missionaries are even supposed to refer to each other as Elder or Sister, rather than by given name.

Mormon missionaries always go in pairs. Sometimes in threes, if the numbers don't match up, but never singly. If you ever see a Mormon missionary by himself, that missionary is in serious violation of the rules and is going to get in big trouble if his mission president finds out. (Ah, yes, the mission president. That's the guy in charge of the mission, usually a married man with children who moves his whole family to the area he's serving in for the three-year duration of his calling.) Each missionary is assigned a companion, although missionaries can and do switch up occasionally for various reasons (such as if a district or zone leader--a missionary in a supervisory position--wants to go out with the missionaries of his district or zone to see them in action). Companionships generally stay together for two to four months, senior couple missionaries naturally being an exception--their companions are their spouses. (Aside from senior couples, missionaries are only paired with companions of the same gender.) Also, incidentally, missionaries usually stay in a given area for two to six months before they're transferred to somewhere else within the mission. (I was never in an area for less than five months in my mission, but that's very unusual.) All decisions about transfers and companionships are made by the mission president.

Anyway, that's the general missionary lifestyle. But I said I was going to write about their training and teaching techniques, and I haven't really gotten into that yet. So here goes.

The stereotypical image of the Mormon missionary is of clean-cut young men knocking on doors and asking people if they want to hear about Christ's visit to America, or something like that. While missionaries do do that, it's only if they can't avoid it; such cold calling is considered about the least effective way to try to get converts. More effective is convincing existing members to introduce the missionaries to their friends, or following up on "media referrals"--people who have called to request videos that the church offers through television commercials, for instance. (Frequently there are lessons in church about helping out the missionaries, stressing that something like 1% of the people the missionaries find knocking on doors end up being baptized, but 50% of those who are introduced to the missionaries through member friends. Or something like that; I don't remember the exact percentages.) Missionaries may also do street presentations, but that takes more preparation and isn't all that much more effective than just knocking on doors. When I was in Spain, there weren't many members of the church, and there weren't any media referrals (those commercials didn't run there), so I had to do a lot of knocking on doors, but where the church is more established there's much less of that--though even where that's the case, the mission president may, and I think usually does, encourage the missionaries to spend some time going door-to-door just on principle.

One of the main tactics missionaries are taught to use is called "Building Relationships of Trust". This involves trying to get into conversation with a person based on common interests or other topics the person might want to talk about, and building a rapport with him before broaching the subject of religion. A missionary might begin by complimenting a woman on her garden, say, or by asking someone what kind of music he likes, and try to draw the person into a conversation before asking if he can discuss the church with them. Even when discussing religion, Building Relationships of Trust continues on; the missionary is encouraged to try to build on common beliefs rather than initially emphasizing their differences. The very first of the missionary discussions (again, I'll get to those a little later) starts out by affirming the LDS church's commonality of belief with other churches: "Like most people, we believe in God." (I'm not sure if that's the exact wording in English; I taught the discussions in Spanish, of course, and I remember the words in that language: "Como la mayoría de las personas, nosotros creemos en Dios...")

(Incidentally, as a sign that this building on common beliefs isn't something unique to the LDS approach: Once on my mission another missionary somehow got his hands on a pamphlet given to Jehovah's Witnesses to supply them with different approaches to open a discussion. (I don't know if this was something issued by the worldwide leadership of the Watchtower Society or just a local thing.) Unlike the LDS missionary manual, the Jehovah's Witness pamphlet listed specific responses the would-be proselytizer could use for various objections his interlocutor could raise. Among the responses were the following: If the person the Jehovah's Witness was talking to objected that he was already a Christian, the Jehovah's Witness was told to reply, "That's all right. We're Christians too." If the person the Jehovah's Witness was talking to objected on the grounds that he didn't believe in Christ, the Jehovah's Witness was told to reply, "That's all right. We're not Christians either." My fellow missionaries and I found this blatant incitement to deceit (after all, the two responses are contradictory; one of them has to be a lie) rather amusing. Still, it goes to show that the Jehovah's Witnesses--and presumably other missionaries as well--also try to build on common ground.)

When the missionary does get in to talk to someone--either because of a media referral or a referral from a member or just because he meets an unusually receptive person in his door-to-door travails--that's when the discussions begin. A missionary will generally ask (after the requisite Building Relationships of Trust, of course) whether his interlocutor is willing to have some brief discussions about religion. Of course, the person the missionary is speaking to has no idea that the "discussions" in question are in fact specific prepared presentations--or at least were when I was a missionary; as I mentioned before, I've heard the prepared discussions have since been phased out. Still, I'll keep referring to the discussions as they were at the time, since that's what I know and since I assume that, even if they're not using the specific discussion format, the missionaries today are still encouraged to talk about the same topics, just in a less formalized procedure.

The first discussion starts out, as I've mentioned, with the assurance that Mormons believe in God. It then segues into the fact that Mormons believe in continuing revelation--in the existence of prophets today that receive word directly from God. The story of Joseph Smith's "First Vision" is then related, and when I was a missionary we were encouraged to learn his first-person account of his vision, if nothing else, by heart, the idea being that if we could say it while maintaining eye contact with the investigator, rather than having to refer down to the discussion booklet, it would be that much more compelling and effective. Let's see how well I still remember those words:

Vi una columna de luz, directamenta arriba de mi cabeza. Y esta columna gradualmente descendió sobre mí. Y al descender sobre mí esta luz, vi en el aire arriba de mí a dos personajes, cuyo fulgor y gloria fueron más brillante que el sol. Y uno de los personajes me habló, llamándome por mi nombre, y me dijo, indicando al otro, "Éste es mi hijo amado. Escúchalo."


Eh...okay, that wasn't completely correct (here's the actual account, starting in the last line of verse 16 and eliding the first sentence of verse 17), but considering how long it's been, not too far off. That was really drilled into my head. (The English version, if you're curious, is here--again, starting at the last line of verse 16 (beginning with "I saw a pillar of light") and continuing through verse 17, skipping the first sentence ("It no sooner appeared..."). Since I was serving a Spanish-speaking mission, it's in Spanish that I memorized it.)

Anyway, the missionaries then bring up the Book of Mormon, though without fully explaining its premise and backstory; that's for a later discussion--I think maybe number four (we seldom got past the first one or two in my mission, so I'm foggier on the later ones). In particular, they read with the investigator three specific verses: Moroni 10:3-5, known in the church as "Moroni's promise":

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.


God here promises, the missionaries explain, that anyone who reads the Book of Mormon and sincerely prays to ask Him if it is true will receive the witness of the Holy Ghost testifying of its truth. They then give the investigator a copy of the Book of Mormon (if they haven't already) and ask him if he'll read it and pray about it. Of course, those who've come this far and who say yes generally already want to believe, so if they do read and pray about it they'll probably be able to convince themselves they've received such a witness (or a "testimony", as it's generally called within the church).

Incidentally, this touches on another technique that missionaries are taught to use. Whenever the missionary asks an investigator to do something, he's encouraged to always ask a direct "will-you" question. Not, "So, would you like to ask God if the Book of Mormon is true?" Not, "What do you think about asking God if the Book of Mormon is true?" But "Will you ask God if the Book of Mormon is true?" The idea is that here the investigator has unambiguously committed to doing what the missionary has asked, whereas if he'd asked the question in a weaker way the investigator wouldn't necessarily have really promised to do anything. The missionary is told to always ask "Will you" questions. "Will you come to church this Sunday?" (not "Do you think you can come to church this Sunday?"). "Will you get baptized?"

Ah yes...that question. In the six discussions, care to guess where it comes up? No, not the sixth. The second. By then, the hope is that the investigator has already prayed about the Book of Mormon and received a testimony of its truth--and hey, if he knows the Book of Mormon is true, then the church must be true too, and what's to prevent him from being baptized? Naturally, the investigator doesn't always commit to being baptized on the second discussion, and he isn't expected to--but the question is brought up that early to get him thinking about it.

During the discussions, the missionary also works to get the investigator introduced to the local congregation, and feeling comfortable there. Getting the investigator to come to church is a big part of this, of course; missionaries are also encouraged to teach the discussion with a regular member of the congregation present, if possible, to help build ties between that member and the investigator. (And, of course, the members are encouraged to help out, with teaching with the missionaries, with being welcoming toward investigators attending the church, and with referring the missionaries to their friends: former church president David O. McKay originated the phrase "Every Member A Missionary", and it's a phrase that's been frequently repeated in the church since--and the principle behind which was around well before President McKay.)

Well. I hope some of you have found this account of missionary training and techniques interesting. As I said, this was specific to Mormon missionaries, because that's what I was and what I know from first-hand experience, but I'm sure some of the same principles, if not the details, are had in common by missionaries of other denominations too.

So what should you do if the Mormon missionaries show up at your door?

Well, as tempting as it might be, I'd discourage you from being too rude or nasty to them. Yes, they may be trying to push their religion on you, but (for the most part) they're brainwashed kids who don't know any better; they're not necessarily bad people, and they're not the ones who deserve your full scorn. (Though of course, having served my time as a missionary myself, I may be a little biased here.) Generally, if you firmly tell them you're not interested, they'll leave you alone, though you may have to repeat yourself a few times. (Of course, if they start getting too pushy--they're not supposed to, according to their training, but that doesn't mean some of them may not try it--, well, then it may be justifiable to be rude to them, if that's what it takes to get them to go away.)

If you've got the free time, though, now that you have some idea what's coming, it might not be an altogether bad idea to invite them in and talk to them--and see if you can get them to reexamine their beliefs. Of course, they've been thoroughly trained on how to address most common concerns, but they're generally not expecting someone to dig too deep at the roots of their own convictions. Ask them, maybe, for instance, how they know the witness is really coming from the Holy Ghost, and that they're not just imagining it themselves--they'll have an answer to that, but not a very convincing one. Sure, most of them are probably thoroughly enough indoctrinated that they won't be willing to seriously entertain any challenge to their beliefs...but maybe it's possible to sow in some of them some seeds of honest doubt that can take root later.

But of course, I'm not saying that everyone should necessarily invite missionaries into their homes and try to deconvert them; I know not everyone has that kind of time, or enjoys that kind of confrontation. At best, though, however you want to deal with them, maybe now you have a better idea of where missionaries are coming from, and how they work. Do with that information what you will.

26 Comments:

At 3/05/2007 1:23 PM, Blogger Qalmlea said...

Fascinating. Thank you for posting on this.

 
At 3/05/2007 4:50 PM, Blogger Jesse said...

Or you could just try to actually listen to them and consider what they have to say. Usually they will leave you alone if you just consider their message and still disagree with it afterwards. And believe it or not, while you may have felt brainwashed, some of them actually believe, and came to believe through choice, not brainwashing that what they believe is true. The whole foundations of the Mormon Church is based on choice, so any "brainwashing" that occurs is by man, not the Church (and yes, I too was one of those Missionaries).

 
At 3/05/2007 7:13 PM, Blogger Mojoey said...

Welcome to the Atheist Blogroll

 
At 3/05/2007 9:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regards to the missionarying changing. I was informed by my sister-in-law that the members in her (and technically my) stake are not aloud to invite the missionaries over unles there is an investigator there.
When I heard this I was a bit annoyed. And as the missionaries happen to live in my building, and I'm not active and my sister (whom I live with). Has converted to Catholicsm. I should invite them over, for dinner.

 
At 3/06/2007 12:45 AM, Blogger Akusai said...

Well, as tempting as it might be, I'd discourage you from being too rude or nasty to them.

I have a hard time being rude to LDS missionaries, as they are, by and large, very, super, incredibly polite, and I'm not as mean as I like to pretend online.

I think what I would do if they came to my house (I've only ever run across them on college campuses before) is invite them in and get them to star in my superhero porn flick.

 
At 3/06/2007 12:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would never, be rude to them. One my brother went on a mission and 2 of my good friends our on missions right now, two they helped us move, three they helped us move, and four I like coming up with new reasons why I don't go to church anymore.

 
At 3/06/2007 9:18 AM, Blogger An Anonymous Coward said...

Jesse -- You might try reading the rest of the blog and knowing my full story before posting an irrelevant comment. I didn't feel brainwashed at the time I was serving a mission; it's only much later I came to realize the baselessness of my beliefs. And yes, of course part of the brainwashing is making you think you came to it by your own choice...

(Maybe I shouldn't have used the word "brainwashing"; it's kind of a strong and loaded word. Though not inaccurate...)

 
At 3/07/2007 4:28 AM, Anonymous Liz Case said...

Re: Anonymous

Really? I thought one of the perks of being a missionary was getting invited over for dinner. I quite enjoyed cooking for missionaries back in the day when I was active.

As both of us count as inactive, so we should invite them over. Or would that be getting their hopes up?

I need an excuse for baking ;)

 
At 3/07/2007 6:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually got a couple of Jehovah' Witnesses to shut up. I told them "If we can believe there is a "God", then wouldn't he want us to be happy? But my brother was gay. Being with men made him happy. Is is better for him to "obey God" and be miserable or for him to be with men,even if that made God unahppy?" They said that they would get back to me on that. They never did.

 
At 3/25/2007 1:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always wondered... after the elders park their bikes, take off their helmets and their black ties, to they slap each other high-five and say, "Yes! I bagged four today!" Is there a competitive game for scalps? Do missionaries carve notches into their handlebars for every baptism? Is there a big leaderboard back at the tabernacle keeping track of the world-wide score?

 
At 3/26/2007 10:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if at some point in life anyone has ever actually felt a conviction that the LDS church were true, and now say that it is not true, or revert to saying that those feelings were atributed to brainwashing have lost true faith. that's the whole basis of belief in God- faith. That's why it's the first principle of the gospel. If faith isn't nurtured, obviously it's going to die, and those once had feelings are going to fade. That's a basic Christian doctrine. It doesn't necessarily mean that the person "wised up" or realized that they were fooled by LDS teachings. And as a general point, I'm sure that nearly all returned LDS missionaries, regardless of their current devotion or support of the LDS church, agree that millions of peoples lives have been changed for the better, in different ways, because of the message that the missionaries shared with them. Obviously, many people later choose to deny or turn away from those things that motivated them to join the LDS church, but again, that doesn't change the fact that at one time in the past they truly felt(for the majority) that what they were following came from God. We might choose to change what we follow in life but, feelings and convictions which come from the Holy Spirit are the only things that remain the same. When we change in life, many times it's because of things that we decide, regardless of what's truly right. It's all about free agency- God's not gonna stop us from making decisions, even if they are wrong or bad for us.

 
At 4/23/2007 9:31 PM, Blogger An Anonymous Coward said...

And as a general point, I'm sure that nearly all returned LDS missionaries, regardless of their current devotion or support of the LDS church, agree that millions of peoples lives have been changed for the better, in different ways, because of the message that the missionaries shared with them.

Absolutely not. I don't think that people's lives are really changed for the better at all by that "message", even if they're fooled into thinking they are. On the contrary, that "message" ends up doing people a lot of harm, in a lot of ways. And I'd guess that most returned missionaries who have since left the church would agree with me.

Obviously, many people later choose to deny or turn away from those things that motivated them to join the LDS church, but again, that doesn't change the fact that at one time in the past they truly felt(for the majority) that what they were following came from God.

That doesn't mean they were right. The brain is an amazing organ, and has a great capacity for self-deception. What you call "true faith" is nothing more than that: convincing yourself you've felt something from God, when all it really is is an effect of your own mind. In that respect, yes, I have "lost true faith", in that I've managed to finally realize what it really was and stop lying to myself.

 
At 6/10/2007 8:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I'm actually not an atheist looking to get a mormon missionary to "deprogram"...I'm a Christian trying to do that. It was quite insightful to know where they're coming from in general.

 
At 9/20/2007 4:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back when I was in college I lived with a childhood friend of mine. Back then I would have answered that I was a Catholic, although I didn't go to mass once in four years in college. Just Christmas and Easter.

Anyway, my friend got tired of waking me up on Sundays after coming back from mass. He knew I had a good singing voice, and asked me to come and sing in the choir with him. I agreed, and for the next three years I was drawn into the wild world of Charismatic Catholicism.

For several months I sung in a youth choir (all people my age or a little younger). I had a great time. These people seemed pretty normal. Then I was asked to go to a Koinonia (literally meaning community). It was a weekend retreat in the boonies, complete with bonfires and bunkbeds. Most of the weekend was spent listening to other group members talk about defeating alcoholism or wayward sexual thoughts.

The really weird moment for me, and the one that relates most directly to this discussion, involved something called the "Christ Clown". In this little segment, the Koinonians sit in a large circle. I knew something was up when I saw people handing out boxes of Kleenex. What on earth would make me need all of those hankies? Then a man dressed as a clown came out and started doing a long pantomime routine, where (I think) he gave away all of his clothes. He didn't get naked or anything that crazy, but at the end he gives his life for something. Never did figure out what. Anyway, everybody in the room was honking on kleenex and crying, including my friends. I'm not a real crier by nature, and I sure didn't feel like crying at the moment, but the peer pressure to get all sudsy was overwhelming. I started thinking about sad stuff just to get a little misty. No dice. I felt like a heartless monster at the time.

I can't help but wonder how many other people in that room were thinking of their dead grandmother just to get the tears welling up. So was this brainwashing, or was it personal choice? Was this whole thing part of the Pope's plan to bring me into the fold, or was it just a bunch of teenagers trying to find a common bond? I tend to think the latter, but that's just my perspective.

 
At 11/01/2007 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had many friends leave to go on LDS missions, as well as many family members. I've never met a returned missionary who has regretted going, or one that has felt that it was not a choice to go. My response is drawn to the divergence of 'brainwashing' and belief. If this blog is debating how one comes to believe in a 'truth' or trying to label belief as 'self convincing', then based on this guideline, are you suggesting that all belief schemata’s are founded on an individual convincing themselves of something they wish to believe? It's hard to try to prove that a truth is wrong when that truth is based on faith and cannot be empirically proven wrong. I think people take too much of an analytical point of view and all too often reject the idea of trying for a more heart felt approach on confronting what is believed but not seen. If your debating truth, then I suggest attacking it by debating truth in general, and not through trying to prove one iota of all universal truth wrong or label it as 'brainwashed', when it cannot be scientifically or single handedly proven that way.

 
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At 1/28/2009 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You assume, using basic logic (without a definition of terms) that the Jehova Witness manual is openly deceitful or a lie. You must first understand that it is likely (in the mind of the JW) that the prospect is less educated about the finer details of religious doctrine, thus the words the prospect might use (like: "I am/am not a Christian") are not yet defined by both parties (JW & prospect mutually) and the JW can assume that the use of these words in this statement are used ignorantly by the prospect. Based on the definition of terms used by a prospect, a JW can either be defined as a Christian or Not, because no definition has been agreed upon yet, it is perfectly understand-able for the JW to choose the definition that suits the purpose of building a bridge with the prospect and thus claim they (JW) are whatever the prospect is. Mormons could do this to if they wanted to because their are many who claim mormons are not christians, but because mormons prefer to classify themselves as christians they do not use an approach based on not being a christian as a JW might.

 
At 5/16/2010 10:24 PM, Anonymous investigator said...

The tactics are still true. I answered the door last week, thinking it was my brother, but instead 2 missionaries. I haven't been to church in years and was curious. It was 8:30 at night and since they were male, and I'm a single female they couldn't come in. Anyway, they came back the next day with someone from the church. They seemed nice, we prayed, talked in general, and read some from the book of mormon. They left me a copy with pages marked that they wanted me to read. As they were leaving one pointed out the PADI letter and dive flag sticker I had on the coffee table and we had a discussion about scuba diving. The next time they came over started my "first discussion" and it was about Smith and how the book of mormon was translated. During the "second discussion" they told me they had set a baptisim date for a month later and tried to convince me to come to church the next morning. It seemed to be moving fast for me so I was scared, and started searching on the internet for more information. I ran across your post. It makes me sad that they were just trying to find common ground. They seemed so nice and I felt like they were people I could be friends with.....but I feel differently now.

 
At 7/08/2010 4:36 AM, Blogger Patmos Pete said...

Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

 
At 11/13/2010 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am actually a returned missionary that still believes (gasp!). I went under the same rules that this post talks about, and what this post says is fairly accurate (I just skimmed it--so I can't say it is 100% accurate).

However, I want to make one point. Yes, we were taught to build relationships of trust on common ground and ask direct questions, but isn't that what everybody does? I mean, don't salesmen, school teachers, fellow students, neighbors, friends, relatives, missionaries, doctors, nurses, etc. do the same thing?

I think that it is just human nature to do one of two things: find common interests or disagree with each other. One causes people to be enemies, the other causes them to be friends. What is wrong with missionaries being trained on how to effectively become friends with somebody?

I will just add this as an aside. I am a 4th year medical student, and did you know they actually taught us to "build relationships of trust" and to build that trust on common ground? It is a common training in many jobs that has direct interaction with people.

I guess what I am saying is that just because missionaries were trained to build a relationship of trust on common ground does not mean they are not sincere. Honestly, it has been just shy of 10 years since my mission, and I am still friends with people I talked to on my mission because I was sincere in building that trust. Do I care if these people are Mormons or not? No. They are my friends.

I still use the same "techniques" today with my friends and new acquaintances. Why? Because that is the best way to make new friends and to strengthen existing friendships.

I do want to add one thing--if the missionary ISN'T sincere in building the relationship of trust, I would be frustrated too! But I would wager that most are sincere and really do want to be your friend.

 
At 9/13/2011 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there are so many of you who dislike the Mormons - why do you spend so much of your time discussing them.
Don't you have better things to do ?

 
At 3/12/2012 9:15 AM, Blogger Smorg said...

What an enlightening read! Thanks for posting this. :o) I 'investigated' for a few months late last year. Not converting, though keeping in touch with a couple of missionaries.

I think most of the missionaries I met (had discussions with 6 of them) sincerely thought they were doing me a huge favor in 'teaching' me the 'gospel'... But unlike the previous MD-to-be commenter, I wouldn't equate BRT with doctors - patients relation (full disclosure: my mother is an oncologist, and I'm a med tech).

Finding common ground to bond with someone because you want to get to know the person better either because you are interested in really being their friends or because you are trying to help a patient with his illness/medical condition is quite different from using BRT in order to manipulate a stranger into buying a car that is being over-sold/advertised or into committing himself to a religion before he properly knows its creeds and operative clauses and what sort of expectations and impositions its church would impose upon him.

Even the nicest of the missionaries I've met (I've only talked with the sisters.... unlike the elders, the sisters are all zealous believers who truly volunteered to serve. I'm sure many elders also truly volunteered, but many are just pressured into it) always pushed for baptism and always barked at disclosing the 'meat'.

They tried to pin a baptism date on me on our 3rd meeting! And I was never told about D&C or PoGP or any of the wacky dogma and beliefs of the church. I had to find those out myself... That leaves me no doubt what ranked higher on their priority list: getting me to baptize (and then the local members could take over from there) or really giving me the info I would need to make informed decision about whether I should join the church or not. It is always the former.

As to missionaries truly wanting to be their investigators' 'friends'... Dude, the misshies get shuffled every 6-12 weeks. They move to a different ward to start over this BRT I-wanna-be-your-BFF thingy over again with their next prospectives. Even if they want to be friends with their investigators/converts, they hardly have enough time on P-Days to keep in touch with family and real friends (the ones they had before they started this mission thing) to begin with. I'm extremely lucky that the 2 misshies I'm keeping in touch with have managed to write me a couple of snail mails in 4 months. And I can hardly tell if they really want to be friends or if they are still just holding on to hope that they might still convert me somehow.

That's the rub with having any sort of relationship with Mormons... There is an agenda to them. They always want to convert you. :o(

 
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