Visitors Welcome

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.

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5 thoughts on “Visitors Welcome

  1. I don’t blame someone for feeling this way although really there is no need to think something is expected of you. That is if all you want to do is come and see how LDS members worship. People probably asked you where you lived as a way of starting a conversation. No one really wants to track you down.

    I have always felt apprehensive in visiting other churches just because almost every time I have gone to another church I get hit up for money. The “pot” gets passed around and if I don’t put anything in you feel like an ungrateful citizen. I really would like to go to other churches but this experience has made me think twice about it and ultimately discourages me from doing so. I much prefer the LDS way of collecting offerings. I think it is better to give in secret than to do it in front of everyone. Passing a collection plate around makes me think the pastor wants people to feel the pressure from others so they will give. I don’t like it. Other than that I really have no aversion to going to other churches and I do occasionally with friends or family.

    The “visitors welcome” signs have always been posted outside LDS chapels as long as I can remember. Most of the time it is posted under “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” on the front of the building.

  2. Yes, a lot of abuse has been committed while asking for money at Protestant churches. Many churches are now making it clear that nothing is expected of visitors.

    My church doesn’t pass a plate at all and we rarely tell people where they can give to the church if they want to. It’s a bit of an over-reaction, but probably necessary for a time. We currently are making a big deal of people giving to some specific causes, but we make it clear that they are for things outside of our church (building a school in Africa, helping the rebuilding effort in New Orleans, AIDS hospice, etc.) and we don’t take money during the service.

    I think it’s important for people to understand that the way they worship with their money is probably more important than how well they sing. They don’t need to be giving it to a specific church, but they do need to serve God’s causes with it.

  3. I do believe there is some confusion between temples (where only “worthy members” can go) and chapels/ward meetinghouses where “visitors are welcome.” I’ve come across plenty of people who didn;t even know there was a difference between the two- they just thought all the places of worship were temples.

  4. Doesn’t the mormon church have neighborhoods divided up so you are told which stake house to go to? (Like Catholic parishes used to do) Maybe that’s why they were asking you where you live…to make sure you were at the right place.

  5. Yeah, but it should be a no-brainer if the missionaries brought him, because their areas gnerally coincide with ward boundaries, and they’re not even really allowed to leave their area without permission, much less teach someone in another missionary’s area.

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