In the presentation of the “Truth Restored” marketing campaign, I noticed that one of the Elders said a big problem the church has is that visitors don’t feel like they can come to a ward service on their own. They feel like something is required or expected of them before they can enter.
As a non-LDS who has visited a ward service, I can think of a couple of reasons for this. First is the temple. If anyone knows anything about LDS temples it’s that visitors are not welcome. To non-LDS, it appears to be a looming, ominous and stoic place and all they really know about it is that they’re not allowed to go there. Somehow (whether it’s logical or not) this translates ithat they are not allowed to visit the local ward either. I think there is something in people’s mind that tells them “I’m not allowed to go everywhere, since I don’t know where my access is going to get cut off, I don’t want to start and find out it’s at the local church.”
The second reason I can think of is that LDS are not prone to invite people to church as a first step. EVERY single Mormon who has invited me to learn more about their church has suggested that I invite the missionaries over to my home. Never has a Mormon invited me to their service. The missionaries I have had over to my home have never been quick to invite me to the ward. In fact only once has a missionary invited me to the ward, and that was not to a sacrament meeting but to a baptism. I had to invite them to my own church and tell them I would go to a sacrament meeting in return before they invited me. (as a side note, the people were friendly enough, but everyone kept asking my wife and I exactly where we lived, that got kind of creepy after about the 3rd or 4th person).
So it makes sense to me that research shows that people don’t know that visitors are welcome at Sacrament meeting. I’ve noticed that many ward houses now have a big “visitors welcome” sign on the front. Instead of “Truth Restored” I think the LDS church should use “Visitors Welcome” as a tag line. That would do big things to improve that perception.