Today I heard the first missionary discussion taught to a new investigator to the Mormon church, and it made me suprised how effective the approach is, considering how un-compelling it felt to me. Perhaps I was just too familiar with the subject matter, too jaded, critical or skeptical (or all of the above) but when I tried to see the discussion through the eyes of the investigator (a 25 year old presbyterian from Cameroon) the content and delivery just didn’t grab me.
For those who don’t know. Mormon missionaries teach others about the church through teaching a series of core principles and leading people through a series of commitments. For those Evangelicals who want to become completely familiar with our subtle brainwashing techniques they can download their own copy of the complete missionary handbook “Preach my Gospel” here. This manual probably provides as close as you can get to the “official doctrines” of the church because these are the elementary doctrines that the leadership has decided to have taught to all missionaries and every new member of the church.
The missionaries introduce the church with the idea that God lives and sent his Son to save us and has always spoken through prophets and that he spoke to Joseph Smith in our time and that our church They then explain the role and mission of Jesus, the pre-earth life, the fall and redemption through the atonement of Christ, and the potential to inherit various kingdoms of glory through making and keeping covenants. They ask those interested in the church to read the book of mormon, be baptized, come to church, quite smoking, drinking, having extra-marital sex and to pay 10% of their income in tithing. This usually happens in the course of 2-3 weeks but times vary greatly.
Central to the entire process is teaching people about the Spirit of God and how to recognize it. Essentially the missionary process is an attempt to invite people to receive personal revelation to become members of the church.
I didn’t feel the Spirit when they taught the first lesson to the young business student from Africa today,(Maybe I was too concerned with the annoying way the young missionary was bobbing his head when he spoke, not sure). I have felt the Spirit dozens of times when I taught the same lesson on my mission.
Tens of thousands each year make these commitments and become Mormons, in spite of annoying head bobs or other foibles of the barely-post-teenage missionaries that teach people about the church.
The experience made me think about how Evangelicals would go about converting me or someone unintiated to the faith and the meaning and significance of the different approaches.
How would evangelical missionaries go about converting me (other than through internet blogs 🙂 ) ? How much of the approach involves teaching me how Mormonism is heresy vs. presenting a compelling alternative?