In my latest installment of “Me & Mormons” I mentioned a story about not being allowed to visit a friend’s ward because I lived on the wrong side of the street.
I received this response:
There are geographical boundaries that separate the different wards. This is intentional, and in my opinion beneficial, since it doesn’t pit ward against ward. There is a rise of “mega-churches” that try to get as many people to go to their church from far away–so they try to make it exciting.
I’m not really trying to debate the merits of the ward boundary system. The LDS church and its membership is free to do anything they want. This isn’t by any means an issue of doctrine or heresy for either on of us. In the future I will write about mega-churches from the Evangelical side of things.
What perplexes me is that members would be so concerned about it that they would put up barriers to investigators in order to protect the ward boundaries. I’m guessing that most LDS would believe that gaining converts is fundamentally more important than ward boundaries. If it’s more likely to help an investigator to show up at a ward that he doesn’t live in so that he can be with a friend in his first visit, this seems like a reasonable exception to the rule to me. If ward boundaries are critical, then I think an investigator could come to understand them after they convert.
But everything I’ve learned about missiology says that the last thing you want to do is put up barriers to people coming to hear your message. My new LDS friends came off as rather “peculiar” and unnaturally rigid when the conversation went like this:
ME: I’d love to come to church with you (thinking this is something they’d be excited to hear)
LDS FRIENDS: No I’m sorry you can’t. You live across the street from us. We’re not allowed to bring you to our ward
ME: [thinking to myself] OMG, this is a cult.
Seth recently wrote another post which I think is another classic example of putting barriers up that keep investigators away.
The Book of Acts is a great example of how the early Christians did what ever they could to unhinder the Gospel. It seems to me that this should always be our goal. This was one of many examples of how the LDS church seemed to me so locked into the “Preach My Gospel” method that they don’t want anyone coming to the faith unless they follow this strict path laid out to them. In my many conversations with LDS over the years I run into quite a few people who melt protocol and the gospel into the same thing. As if structure, hierarchy = salvation from sin by grace