Sunday, September 14, 2008

What to do if Mormon missionaries knock on your door

Mormons are widely known for their attempts to proselyte door-to-door. Chances are you've seen young Mormon missionaries in white shirts and ties "tracting" a neighborhood, looking for people interested in learning about the Mormon faith. Perhaps they've even come to your house before.

In this post I'll give some tips on what to do if Mormon missionaries knock on your door or contact you on the street, whether you're interested or not. These tips come from my own experience of two years as a Mormon missionary in Argentina and various other times volunteering with missionaries in the United States.

There are a few things that make Mormons different from other people that might knock on your door. First, Mormons are not selling anything; they are paying their own way to be on the mission and they stand to gain no status, privilege, or monetary reward from finding proselytes or teaching lessons. Second, Mormons do not believe that you are doomed to a fiery eternity in hell if you don't listen to their message. Mormon theology is not this superficial, which is one reason I find it so believable. When Mormon missionaries knock on your door, they are sharing a religious message that they feel will augment or enlighten existing beliefs that you have.

Mormon missionaries are instructed not to argue with people or deride their beliefs. If missionaries do this to you, ask them for their local mission president's telephone number so you can report their misconduct. But I really doubt this will happen. The vast majority of missionaries feel that their time is too valuable to spend extensive effort trying to persuade people who are not really interested.

With this in mind, here are some tips for conversing with Mormon missionaries that approach you, depending on your attitude about hearing their message:

If you're not interested in what they have to say...

Politely and briefly explain that you are not interested. If you really don't want them to come back, don't make up an excuse like, "I have to go to work right now," which might be misconstrued as possible interest. You're not going to offend the missionaries if you politely explain that you're not interested. It's nothing they haven't heard before.

I also suggest that you don't ignore the knocking. It's possible the missionaries are looking for a neighbor, or maybe they got your address by mistake. Perhaps unbeknownst to you, someone at your house requested a visit. If the missionaries think someone with possible interest is living at your address, they will come back many times even if no one answers.

Missionaries rotate areas usually every 3 to 6 months, so it's possible you will get them coming to the door again even if you are not interested. If this happens it will only take you a few seconds to explain that you are not interested and that will take care of them for a while longer. Given the amount of work missionaries have, I think it's unlikely they will knock on your door by chance more than once a year. Missionaries usually only knock on doors when they cannot find people to teach by other means (member and media referrals, etc.)

If you're not sure if you're interested...

Ask them to give you the 5 minute overview on your doorstep. They will be thrilled to do this. I think you will have a good idea after 5 minutes if you want to continue listening. In many cases, people are more attracted to the "spirit" of the missionaries rather than what they are saying. This makes sense. If someone really is bringing a message from Jesus Christ, as the missionaries purport to do, it should be detectable in the way you feel while you are talking to them.

If you are interested in what they have to say but they caught you at a bad time...

Tell them this and suggest a time they can return. Accustomed to rejection, some missionaries will interpret, "This isn't a good time right now" as "I'm not interested." If you suggest a time for them to come back and indicate that you are really interested, the missionaries will gladly make an effort to return to your house at the time you suggest.

If you are interested in what they have to say and you have some time...

Invite them in and tell them a little bit about your religious background. If you have a Bible on hand, go grab it. Then listen closely as they present their message, which should last about 30 - 45 minutes. If you like the visit, the missionaries have additional lessons they can share with you during other visits. At any time you can decide if you want to continue hearing more or if you want to discontinue the lessons.

If you want the missionaries to knock on your door but they never do...

Visit the Have missionaries contact me page at the web site. You can fill out a form with your contact information that will be sent to your local missionaries.

If you're interested in learning about Mormons but you're not ready for the missionaries to visit...

Take a look at the Church's informational web site If you click Basic Beliefs and go down the menu items on the left, you'll get a good outline of the message that missionaries share when they visit people's homes.

1 comment:

gregg + camille said...

Nice post...very well done!