Someone recently asked me to tell him everything he needs to know about Mormonism. The catch was that I only had 5 to 10 minutes to do it. I decided then and there that the most important thing I can teach other Evangelicals about Mormonism is what to do when missionaries show up at their door.
I think there is a lot that Evangelicals can do to change Mormonism, and since the place Mormons and Evangelicals are most likely to meet is the door step, I think it would be helpful for Evangelicals to have a preset strategy. Those missionaries are sent out with a specific set of instructions and teachings to prioritize. It’s only right that we welcome them to our homes with the same level of organization. The problem for me is that Mormon missionaries spend about 3 months studying and getting ready. I’ve got 5 minutes to tell an Evangelical everything they need to know.
One thing I’ve learned is that Mormons generally walk away from their missions with a really bad taste in their mouth from Evangelicals. Any hope we might have of bringing them into one of our churches after their mission is pretty slim, particularly if they were sent to the Bible Belt. They’ve just spent 2 years having doors slammed in their face, being yelled at, having rocks thrown at them, and being told they are on their way to hell as a means of introduction, all in the name of Jesus. For many good reasons, they view Evangelicals as “the enemy” (among the reasons the fact that we view them as “the enemy” as well).
Many people suggest a number of theological talking points to emphasize when speaking to Mormons. Some suggest you educate them on all the things they don’t know about Mormonism. Others suggest making life a miserable as possible for them so as to discourage them from further service. Still others hope for missionaries willing enough to sit through an hour long video about the lack of credibility found in “The Book of Abraham”.
I’ve got a different idea than all of those and I think you’re more likely to successfully finish my plan more than any other; plus I can teach you everything you need to know in just 5 minutes.
Step 1 – The Introduction
Answer the door, smile politely and say “I would LOVE to talk with you more about faith, but I’ve found that it’s really difficult to find meaningful conversation with strangers. Would you like to come back on a different night and have dinner? We could just get to know each other a little bit first and then on another night we could meet up again to talk about each other’s faith.”
I’d be VERY surprised if Mormon missionaries didn’t take you up on this. You’re offering a home cooked meal and two separate appointments. They have nothing more important to do than meet with non-Mormons in their own homes.
Step 2 – The Dinner
Have dinner with them. Remember they don’t consume caffeine or alcohol. Pass on it yourself for the evening out of respect. Do NOT talk about theology. Share all about your life. Include where you’re originally from, where you went to school, your hobbies, what sports teams you root for, etc. Make sure to ask them for all of the same info. You’re likely to find you have a lot in common. That’s good. If possible, pry their first names out of them. Don’t be too pushy, they’re “technically” not supposed to use them. But gently chide them about both of them not really being born with the first name “Elder”. It’s unimportant to learn their first names, but it’s a nice bonus. See if they want to play a board game (If they take you up on video games they’re breaking the rules. They’ll have fun, but feel guilty later).
Let them know at some point in the evening know that your phone and internet access are available to them if they’d like to contact somebody back home. They will decline, but make sure they know that they can return any time in the future to use either one.
Make sure to set up a time for your next meeting and assure them you’ll let them talk all about the Mormon faith.
Step 3 – The Testimony Meeting
In preparation for the missionaries coming over, set out some extra toiletries for them to take home. They’re living off of something like $1.25 a day (at their own expense). They would love extra shampoo and toothpaste and it’s likely you’ve got some extra stored up in your pantry already.
Feel free to pray with them if you or they want to open in prayer. Doctrinally speaking, you are safe to pray with anyone and everyone who wants to pray with you. Jesus is never angry that people are praying to him, no matter who they are. If you’re uncomfortable with it, respectfully pass.
Ask the missionaries to share with you their testimonies. In Mormon ears this is something akin to someone asking you “Could you tell me about the four spiritual laws?” They will LOVE this opportunity to tell you about how they became Mormons and what it means to their lives.
Listen respectfully. Don’t interrupt; you’ll get your chance to talk soon.
When they’re finished, ask if you could share your own testimony. This is your own story of what Jesus has done for you, so I’m not going to tell you how to script it. Your story is more powerful than anything I could tell you to say. One caveat, if you’ve experienced miracles, talk about those miracles (and I don’t mean “I-found-my-keys” kind of miracles, I mean genuine healings and things ONLY explained by the Holy Spirit).
Close in prayer and thank them for coming over. Again, let them know your phone and internet access are available if they need to contact someone back home (don’t be pushy or creepy about it). If you’re really interested in studying up on Mormonism and talking more with them that’s totally up to you.
If this is all you do, you’ve just given those young men (or women) an oasis experience amidst a very difficult two years. They WILL remember your kindness and hospitality and they will remember that it was someone desperately in love with Jesus who gave it to them. I guarantee this approach will open doors that have previously been sealed shut for other Evangelicals who do know a lot about Mormonism.
That’s it! You’ve now learned everything you need to know about handling Mormons at your door and it didn’t take me three month to teach it to you. I hope you get the chance to try it out.
The post is a part of a collection of posts by other Evangelicals who have different ideas for what you should do. I recommend you read what Jack at Clobber Blog and Aaron at Mormon Coffee have to say. Gloria also wrote a similar post.