September 2, 2009

Notes For Mormon Missionaries Preaching To The Heathen Suburban Masses

I was paid a visit by Mormon missionaries on Monday evening. I took notes and have suggestions.

Interrupting people - actually holding up your hands and stopping them - when they're doing laborious outdoor chores such as mowing their yards will not endear you to the suburban population. Plus, lawnmowers, specifically their blades, are not immune from becoming the tools of Satan when wielded by disgruntled heathen suburbanites on a mission to finish mowing their yards by sundown.

Don't touch kids. Look, you're already dressed alike, riding around neighborhoods wearing matching helmets, clutching the Book Of Mormon while wearing name tags. While your intent may be innocent, the whole package starts to turn creepy when you reach out and touch the kids that belong to the parents you're so desperately trying to convert. It probably sends the wrong message.

When a potential convert, taking a child for a walk in a stroller, says that he's going for a walk with his son, the absolute incorrect response is well, I'll walk with you. By virtue of existing in the same socio-economic plane, we're all committed to the same social contract. In short, this social contract requires that when the target politely attempts to dodge the missionary, the missionary should respond by politely excusing himself. To avoid following this social contract puts everyone in a bad position. A missionary position, if you will.

Understand your audience and roll with the times. Your speech about finding a personal savior and the need to pray especially in tough economic times is admirable. But dwelling on the history of the church might not be the best way to talk suburbanites into embracing religion. Instead, maybe, focus on the economy, focus on war, focus on harnessing the strength of religion to transcend the bad things in the world. Context is everything.

If someone says they're a Quaker - specifically says I'm a Quaker, like that oats guy - you should really believe them, not give them a suspicious, quizzical look. Sure they're lying but where's your faith?

Know more about your subject than suburban heathens. Know, for instance, that Joseph Smith published the Book Of Mormon in 1830, not 1820. Know that the church was organized in New York, not Utah. An opinionated, apparently Quaker suburban heathen might correct you and that will embarrass you, for how do they know more about your religion than you do?

I admire faith. I am truly in awe of it. Especially a faith that gets kids - because, let's face it, these are fresh-faced kids who could be cooking meth or sexting high-school cheerleaders - patrolling neighborhoods, enthusiastically talking about their faith despite being faced with unfamiliar neighborhoods and hours of rejection. I don't share that faith but I'm in awe of it. But when I see them coming, I can't help wanting to run the other way. And I can't help but feel defensive, as though I am somehow seen as inferior in their eyes. Which, I suppose, I am. Being a heathen and all. And in no way a Quaker.

My gut instinct when approached is to say yes, I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior and believe Joseph Smith to be the true modern day prophet of the Lord and I also really enjoy Big Love on the TV. But I'm afraid I'd be asked for proof, to show off my special Mormon underwear, to publicly sacrifice a perfectly good cup of fully-caffeinated Starbucks house brew, or provide some secret code to authenticate my membership in their little club to which I'd have to respond oh, you know, I was getting hitched to my fourth child bride the day they covered that in god school. And then I'll be revealed to be a dumb, suburban heathen Quaker wannabe. Who needs salvation even more.

Posted by Chris at September 2, 2009 7:18 AM
Comments

Recently the Mormon family of the young girl I have been mentoring took her and sent her away to Utah to a private school. They told her it was wrong to love anyone but your immediate family and that it was very wrong for her to love Hubby and I like we were family.
They have cut off her ability to email, phone, write, or receive letters from anyone who isn't Mormon or in her immediate family. I cannot fathom doing that to a 14 year old girl!
My heart breaks for her and I miss her terribly!!

Posted by: Maribeth at September 2, 2009 7:35 AM

my husband loves dealing with the Mormons and Jehovah's that come a knocking. He starts asking them questions...like "well, whats your policy on masturbation, because I masturbate at least 5 times a day...I can't stop, its an addiction. And I'd hate to have to give up my porn collection, I started it back when I was 12 and its really pretty impressive! Wanna see it?"

I think they now have a warning to avoid our house because we see them going up and down the street and NEVER knock on our door anymore!

Posted by: Lisa at September 2, 2009 7:51 AM

HA! When I was a teen the Jehovah Witness chapter would come by almost daily to the point where I would have to hide on the floor in the living room until they went away (big picture window) then one time we were having a family party and luckily my parents sent me to the store to get more of something and the Jehovah's just walked right into the backyard and my mother said "Ummm we are having a family gathering and Dee isn't here" WTF??? I couldn't shake them. It must have been because I said that I did believe God created wars. They needed to keep coming back.

Posted by: Dee at September 2, 2009 7:52 AM

I know those guys! I used to see them ride their bikes through my neighborhood everyday when I lived in Woodbridge. I would never answer the door when they came knocking. I've also seen them riding about Manassas and Fairfax. They must really ride all over NoVa trying to convert people.

Posted by: Mel at September 2, 2009 8:23 AM

My husband opened the door to some of these nice fellas a few years back. He took one look at them as our dogs went ape shit in the back ground and the baby started screaming and I was wild eyed in the background - dogs barking, baby screaming OMFG MISSIONARIES! My husband being the nice guy that he is before closing the door on them said politely "we are all set with our religious beliefs, thank you." Such a nice Canadian, eh?!

Posted by: Christina at September 2, 2009 8:44 AM

I have a disclaimer before my story

I have the utmost respect for the Mormon Church. I wish all churches would encourage their youth to a) find their beliefs b) set out on their own to a strange place and defend their beliefs

Now, I used to have a minister who LOVED to talk to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Most of the time their logic is so flimsy you can catch them in their own trap. They would call him and the minister would roll through his deep knowledge of scripture countering them at every point. By the end of the call they were Baptists.

Posted by: Knot at September 2, 2009 8:49 AM

Ha! Had to laugh because I was raised as one of those Mormon people. I was given the choice as to whether or not to keep going to church when I was 16 and I haven't been back since. But let me tell you, even if you leave the church, if your family members (my mom) remain involved and faithful, they will keep the church informed as to your whereabouts so that they can continue to send their minions out to get you to come back to the fold. 'Cause they firmly believe that you can take the girl out of the church, but not the church out of the girl. The last time they showed up at my door (expecting me to invite them in no less!) I had to go outside and shut the door so that I could speak using colorful language that I did not want my kids to hear and tell them that they were not to come back to my house because I would consider any future visits harrassment and would call the police. Yeah, it was that bad. So they haven't come back in a couple of years, but I still get letters every month or so that end up in the recycling bin unopened. Now I love my mom, but I told her to keep her church off me!

Oh and don't tell them you are Mormon, becuase they will *know* that you aren't. They are very organized with their rolls and lists and such! The only way to get rid of them is to be really rude.

Posted by: Elizabeth at September 2, 2009 8:50 AM

Um. As a former church worker, I'll just say that when I was asked at one point to go door to door and talk to people about their faith? I outright refused. Was I chicken? No. I was horrified.

Posted by: k8 at September 2, 2009 8:52 AM

I consider myself a pretty easy going, laid back kind of person. Live and let live, you know? But something about the way these people stick their noses into everything and will not leave you alone (imagine the emphasis here) drives me up the wall.

Especially when they used to insist on ringing my doorbell at about 10 am on a Saturday morning a few times a month. After the fifth time, I told them in no uncertain times that I had absolutely no interest, had asked them to stop bothering me at least twice before and that it was time to respect my privacy. Apparently I was targeted due to the fact that I have a very English sounding last name on the door. Just my luck.

Live and let live. Really, not too hard.

Though I like the bit where they don't realize that the Mormon faith was founded in NY (I'd forgotten until you reminded me, honest) and that they got the date of their bible wrong. At least something good came out of it! :)

Posted by: Hannah at September 2, 2009 9:22 AM

I haven't had any Mormon's stop by lately, but we did have some Catholic kids come by a couple weeks ago. They were very nice teenagers, so I was glad I answered the door and not my husband...he has a real problem with Catholic priests.

My favorite response to those people is that I'm a Satanist. The look on their faces!

Posted by: sherri at September 2, 2009 9:29 AM

Those kids OBVIOUSLY don't watch South Park. (Not that I do either; I think the Mormon episode is the only one I've seen all the way through.)

Those are some pushy Mormons! The ones who used to come around my college campus would leave you alone as long as you told them (or lied, in my case) you went to any church.

Posted by: stephanie at September 2, 2009 9:38 AM

Well that's another good thing about my neighborhood, I guess: no missionaries! The part that really burns my ass is them saying "well, I'll walk with you." No. No, you won't. I don't like to be nasty, as some of these people (especially the younger ones) truly believe they're doing good, but ... sometimes it really is the only way to get through to people.

If we got door-to-door missionaries here, I'd probably let the husband handle it. He's pretty good at cleverly getting people all flustered. I can guarantee they'd leave us alone after they got done talking to him.

Posted by: Fraulein N at September 2, 2009 9:42 AM

don't worry, your soul is not completely lost to the outer darkness. they probably prayed for you last night.

i've got to give those poor guys credit, but i do NOT want to actually talk with them. when anyone comes to my door (your first mistake was mowing the front lawn, exposed like a rabbit in an open field), i crack the door so they can hear my dog going crazy and my cat poking its head out trying to escape and my toddler crying in the living room and say no thank you and close the door again before they can even get a word out.

and then i turn off all the lights and hide.

Posted by: kati at September 2, 2009 11:02 AM

I'm a lapsed Quaker. ;p

Posted by: Hope at September 2, 2009 11:05 AM

I've had them follow me around on the playground. They will walk and talk even though you are ignoring them. Hard to be rude when you have your 5 yr old with you.

Posted by: greenie at September 2, 2009 11:20 AM

Wouldn't you feel defensive because you want to avoid a half-hour long conversation that gets absolutely nowhere because you have zero interest in its central premise? Because call me defensive, but I'd rather not waste my time. At least not in that way.

Maybe someone should program a weekly time-waster where the object is to dash through a neighborhood avoiding white-shirted, black-tied missionaries on bikes.

Posted by: Laura at September 2, 2009 11:59 AM

I have only been visited by Mormons once, but found a rather easy way to get them to leave.

At the time, I worked at a [non-Mormon] church as a youth director. I simply told the guys that came to the door that I worked at a church, and they left.

Apparently, the didn't feel like arguing theology with someone who might actually know theology.

It would be wrong to lie, but if you think you can pass it off, I whole-heartedly suggest trying the "I work for God" thing to get them to go away.

If they push you, try to convert them to Flying Spaghetti Monsterism. Turn-about is fair play.

Posted by: Kelly at September 2, 2009 12:33 PM

Oh brave heathen Quaker boy:
Are you ever going to get some nasty emails.

Posted by: Wack-a-do at September 2, 2009 12:51 PM

I always say I am Catholic (which I am but that beside the point)- I've found that either scares or disgusts just about everyone...

Once someone came to our door by the name of "Elder Chris"...I am pretty sure I could have been his mother so the whole "elder" designation was interesting. I told him I'm Catholic and he left. Not so hard to prove either, just have a rosary on hand.

Posted by: Jane in Pa at September 2, 2009 1:01 PM

You know, I really must say, I just flat-out enjoy reading your blog. It makes me smile, makes me think...so, thanks for that!

Posted by: Tricia at September 2, 2009 1:03 PM

2 other prudent ideas.
1) Do not solicit doors that have crosses on them. This suggests that the inhabitants already have a faith that they aren't afraid to share with the neighborhood. Do you want to know how we don't condemn homosexuals? I didn't think so.

2) Do not, when confronted with a person with a disability from aforementioned house, tell them that you hope they feel better soon. This will cause them to knowingly choose not to answer the door the next time that you come, ecumenical kindness be damned.

Posted by: Megan Lynae at September 2, 2009 1:16 PM

I have quite a few bloggy Mormon friends who are amazing people.

In every religion there are...well..the overzealous. I grew up Pentecostal, and for me, it was normal until I left home and realized that it SO WASN'T.

The whole dancing in the aisles, visions, prophesies, casting out demons, speaking in tongues, save the world, speak to the lost, Jesus is coming back and the world is going to end thing was quite extreme.

A lot of people gasp and say that I'm lucky to have turned out mostly unscathed. On the other hand, I don't believe in religion anymore and if anyone tries to convert me to ANYTHING, I'm likely to close the door in their face.

Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. Ya. Church, of any kind, is SO not for me.

Posted by: Scattered Mom at September 2, 2009 1:46 PM

I have quite a few bloggy Mormon friends who are amazing people.

In every religion there are...well..the overzealous. I grew up Pentecostal, and for me, it was normal until I left home and realized that it SO WASN'T.

The whole dancing in the aisles, visions, prophesies, casting out demons, speaking in tongues, save the world, speak to the lost, Jesus is coming back and the world is going to end thing was quite extreme.

A lot of people gasp and say that I'm lucky to have turned out mostly unscathed. On the other hand, I don't believe in religion anymore and if anyone tries to convert me to ANYTHING, I'm likely to close the door in their face.

Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. Ya. Church, of any kind, is SO not for me.

Posted by: Scattered Mom at September 2, 2009 1:47 PM

oops! Sorry. Didn't mean to post twice.

Posted by: Scattered Mom at September 2, 2009 1:48 PM

A couple years ago, someone from some "Jesus Christ Church of Jesus Will Save You" or something came to my door ON PASSOVER! I explained that I am Jewish, and it was in really bad faith that they came asking me to accept Jesus on PASSOVER. To which, he replied "What is passover?"

I closed the door.

Posted by: Lisa at September 2, 2009 2:06 PM

I have been known to invite Jehovah's Witnesses into the house for coffee, followed by my innocently answering their questions and then posing many of my own, few of which they have a response to and most of which make them squirm. I find it enlightening that the squirming begins with my declaration of 'I do believe in God and have done my homework, so answer me this...'

Mormons, however, invite my inner asshole out to play, as I think of their religion in the context of a bunch of kool-aid drinking theological neophytes with little or no ability to discern when someone is bat-shit crazy or seemingly led by a desire to help others. Joseph Smith was the former and even a cursory reading of his life's story culminating in the church's creation screams this from the rooftops.

Still, and since I'm basically writing a blog post in your comments section, anything that lights the flame of faith in someone potentially means that they may dive deeper into theological waters that lead them to ask hard questions and find the answers on their own. This is how faith SHOULD work and frequently results in a belief that can't be explained to others precisely because you understand that they need to figure it out for themselves.

Posted by: You can call me, 'Sir' at September 2, 2009 2:13 PM

Here's my take:
I resent anyone trying to push their beliefs onto me. I don't care what religion you are. If it works for you, that's terrific. If I am interested in learning about a religion or interested in converting, I will seek you out. Leave my agnostic, fallen Catholic ass alone, thank you very much :)
Actually, the same goes for salespeople also. If I want your product, I will find you. Don't come to my door, don't call, don't send mail, don't fill my email with spam. I don't patronize companies that do that, just as a matter of principal.

Posted by: LaineyDid at September 2, 2009 2:46 PM

I was raised a Mormon but I left the church (as I had planned) when I moved out of my parents' house (and they couldn't make me go anymore).

Now when Mormons come around, I simply say I was raised a Mormon but I'm now an atheist. After I say that, they just go away (I guess since there's nothing they can say that I haven't already heard). They don't come around anymore.

Posted by: Rengirl at September 2, 2009 3:49 PM

When I was in High School, this woman came to my house to preach to me. She brought her totally hot teenage daughter. I almost converted.

Posted by: Jon (was) in Michigan at September 2, 2009 4:05 PM

I am printing this out for the next time I have a little visit. Then I am going to fold it into a paper airplane and aim it at their heads.

Posted by: Aimee Greeblemonkey at September 2, 2009 4:46 PM

when i was about 17 my dad was outside painting. he was approached my two missionaries who said, "good afternoon sir. is this your home? do you have a family?" my dad responded, "yes. i have a wife and a daughter." they proceeded, "have you hugged your daughter today?" he responded, "no. i have not seen her in three days. when i find her, i'm gonna kick her ass." they wished him well and rode away.

Posted by: coral at September 2, 2009 6:31 PM

I firmly believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster as well. I was raised Catholic, but the FSM is sooo much more intriguing. And? Don't push your religion on me... you won't like my reaction. Needless to say, in the 2 years we've lived in this house, we've only had one visit from missionaries from some church or other...

Oh how steamed I would have been had they offered to walk with me... I cannot even put it into words!!!

Posted by: ironic1 at September 2, 2009 6:52 PM

Because I am evil incarnate, according to them, I like to talk to them. I also like to immediately offer them a drink. You know, coffee, coke, or a glass of wine. No, I'm sorry. I have no lemonade or sprite or milk and the water in my house? It's not potable. Sorry.

I also studied their texts and Mormon Apologetics for 18 months in a youth group Bible Study because I grew up in an area SWARMING with Mormons and they were always trying to convert us. And, um, I was engaged to one that tried to convert me. As did his dad. The Bishop.

So - I know tons of stuff. Tons more than any of the kids fresh from high school know. And - I - um. Well - since I'm already being cast into the outer darkness according to them anyway - what can it hurt admitting?

I take great pride and a perverse pleasure in the ability to make them question their own faith and cry right in front of me. On my couch, in my home.

Posted by: Mindy at September 2, 2009 6:54 PM

"I'll walk with you" is pretty bad.

I had one walk into the house I was renting the top half of and then walk through my (unlocked but closed) apartment door. I was working on a tight deadline and hadn't bothered changing out of my PJs yet, even though it was about 1pm.

I can't remember what I did say, but it was something about trespassing, breaking and entering, and calling the cops. I do remember my throat hurt from screaming when I was done. Still took a couple of minutes for the guy to leave.

Do they ever think of how they would feel if someone did that to their family?

Posted by: Kat at September 2, 2009 10:05 PM

My brother is awesome at repelling missionaries and solicitors alike. I think the key is to begin advancing rapidly toward them as they approach, and with crazed intensity--like you've been waiting all day for them. He also tends to wear a weasel pelt (legs still attached) for a hat, which probably doesn't hurt.

Posted by: Sphincter at September 2, 2009 10:19 PM

My husband is the stay-at-home dad. He took on the Mormons AND the JW (separate and recurrent attacks for each). He did his research & took down their arguments one by one. It was a beautiful thing. They don't come around anymore. I fell in love with him all over again.

Posted by: harmzie at September 2, 2009 11:43 PM

I was a Mormon Missionary (about 15 years ago, not at your house recently). For two years I wore the name tag, rode the bike, and knocked on doors. And yes, I heard every line you can possibly throw at an uninvited religious zealot standing on your doorstep.

But I will tell you (briefly) one of my favorite experiences...

We were out knocking doors on a particularly cold day in Missouri (-11 F) when were invited into the home a couple in their early 60's. They were some of the nicest people you could possible meet. They fed us hot chocolate and chatted us up for nearly an hour.

Eventually the topic of religion came up (gasp) and as we started discussing some of our beliefs we handed them a copy of the Book of Mormon. Suddenly the room became very noticeably uncomfortable. When we asked them about it, they explained that they thought we were Jehovah’s Witnesses and that’s why they had invited us in (and agreed with every word we had said for an hour)… not awkward at all. We politely excused ourselves and went on our way.

My mission was a great learning experience and I’m glad I went. But I’m totally on your side about the whole showing up unannounced and bothering you when you’re busy thing. I hated that part of it the most. If they show up again give ‘em hell… it’s good for them.

By the way, did you know it was legal in Missouri to shoot a Mormon on sight until 1983?

Posted by: Scott at September 3, 2009 1:00 AM

they always managed to come to my house when i was painting... i would answer the door with the brush still in my hand... and they would "want to talk"... i handed one of them my brush...said okay come on in, i'll get a brush for the other guy too... that sent them away...

Posted by: theunicorn at September 3, 2009 7:17 AM

Telling them we're Catholic is usually enough to scare any missionaries away quite quickly!

Posted by: La Petite Chic at September 3, 2009 9:59 AM

This is too funny. I have a JW stalker friend at the moment. She's really nice and keeps comimg back even though she never is allowed to step foot in the house.

For some reason the Mormans never stop by and they are in the neighborhood a lot. Maybe becuase we bought our house from someone very important and involved in "the church" and they don't realize she's gone?

Anyway, love all the comments. :)

Posted by: debb at September 3, 2009 11:02 AM

I usually just ask them to say a little prayer for me and my family and to be on their way. I figure it can't hurt anything, cover all my bases you know!!

Posted by: Christine at September 3, 2009 4:43 PM

I usually just ask them to say a little prayer for me and my family and to be on their way. I figure it can't hurt anything, cover all my bases you know!!

Posted by: Christine at September 3, 2009 4:44 PM

DUDE!!! I am with you on this one all the way!
I grew up in a 95% mormon community, and they are non stop. The way we got them to finally give up?

My dad saw them coming, stripped to his underwear in the living room, grabbed a beer and answered the door. He enthusiastically invited them in to have a beer and watch some football and the rude punks declined!!! .. that was the end of that..

Posted by: Ross at September 3, 2009 6:41 PM

We generally just ask them to tell us their secret names they were given when they were baptized in the temple or ask them questions about the magic underwear. That usually gets them sufficiently antsy and before we know it, they're ready to be on their way. :)

Posted by: Shannon at September 4, 2009 10:00 AM

You crack me up. Move to Idaho, where it's LDS central, and you can be a heathen here, I'll welcome you guys with Starbucks for everyone, and beer...muhahahahahahaa

Posted by: Lisa at September 5, 2009 2:06 PM

You know the strange thing is, as I'm reading, I'm thinking back on my experiences with Mormons. I've lived around Mormons for most of my life, worked with many of them, etc. I find them to be honest, hard-working and kind people who would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it. And not one of them ever tried to convert me, they never even mentioned it.

One of the guys I used to work with would go on a business trip, take the company credit card knowing that he was authorized to stay at a nicer hotel and eat at a nicer restaurant. Not only would he always stay at a $35/night travel lodge, but he would always buy his own meals. When I once confronted him about this, informing him that I authorize his use of it, he replied, "Well sir, I just don't think that's right. The company could use that money for something better." And he was being completely sincere.

Also, just a thought, if you won't say something to another person around your children, doesn't that mean that you wouldn't want your children saying it as well? Or learn to treat people that way? Perhaps, and again just a thought, you shouldn't either. :-)

Posted by: Matt at October 5, 2009 1:28 AM

You know the strange thing is, as I'm reading, I'm thinking back on my experiences with Mormons. I've lived around Mormons for most of my life, worked with many of them, etc. I find them to be honest, hard-working and kind people who would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it. And not one of them ever tried to convert me, they never even mentioned it.

One of the guys I used to work with would go on a business trip, take the company credit card knowing that he was authorized to stay at a nicer hotel and eat at a nicer restaurant. Not only would he always stay at a $35/night travel lodge, but he would always buy his own meals. When I once confronted him about this, informing him that I authorize his use of it, he replied, "Well sir, I just don't think that's right. The company could use that money for something better." And he was being completely sincere.

Also, just a thought, if you won't say something to another person around your children, doesn't that mean that you wouldn't want your children saying it as well? Or learn to treat people that way? Perhaps, and again just a thought, you shouldn't either. :-)

Posted by: Matt at October 5, 2009 1:32 AM


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