Mormon Missionaries and Raking Leaves

raking.jpgI spend a couple days a week simultaneously working and taking care of kids. Needless to say, I choose the work rather carefully (nothing that can’t be interrupted by kids) and don’t work an entire day those days. Generally, the pattern of the day goes like this:

Morning: I work while they watch Sesame Street and then play.
Afternoon: Some sort of outside activity like going to a park or running errands, possibly both.

Today the afternoon’s outside activity was raking leaves. I needed to do the raking and I was pretty sure that Abby and Rebecca would want to jump in the leaves.

As I was doing it, I noticed two men walking down the street, both of them in button down shirts and ties. Having been alive for a while, I know what this means. The people walking down the street with books in their hands are probably pushing some faith. Mormonism seemed most likely given their ages.

At this point I had a choice. I could stay outside and wait for the inevitable attempt to share the faith or I could bring the kids back inside and pretend to not be home when they knocked on the door. I decided to stay outside, largely because I wanted to finish raking.

I have a visceral negative reaction to salesmen of any kind. I just don’t like it when someone attempts to convince me that they have something I need. I prefer to make that decision myself, preferably without someone constantly talking at me.

I watched them as I raked, observing as they knocked on the door of each house on my street, slowly getting closer. Amusingly, no one opened the door at any house–even where I knew people were home.

As they grew slowly closer, I thought about how to respond to an invitation to learn more about the Book of Mormon. My options as I saw them at the time:

1. Hostility: “Get the @#$%#$ off my lawn!”
2. Irony: I could attempt to convert them to my religion. As someone with a B.A in religion who put in two years of seminary, I can tell people much more than they want to know about John Calvin, the Heidelberg Catechism, TULIP (five doctrines of Calvinism), and the history of Christianity. Unfortunately, this would start a long (and possibly interesting) conversation and I just wanted to rake my leaves.
3. Listen politely: Again, I wasn’t up for being polite at that moment. Watching a 3 and 4 year old (next to a slightly busy street) doesn’t lend itself to long conversations.

Bearing in mind my personality, three was the most likely option. I don’t personally enjoy being rude or attempting to convince people that I’m right about things. By contrast, I’m sure I’ve listened politely to people I disagree with for hours at a time.

In the end, things turned out okay. The conversation went like this:

Them: Would you like any help raking leaves?
Me: Nope. I’ve pretty much got it covered.
Them: Are you interested in the Book of Mormon?
Me: No. Not really.
Them: Well, have a good day. We’ll see you around.

You know what’s ironic though? I actually am interested in the Book of Mormon. I majored in religion because religion interests me and the Church of the Latter Day Saints is a growing religious organization. One of these days I’d like to read more about their beliefs. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet and I don’t want do it with someone hovering over my shoulder, hoping that I’ll convert.

8 thoughts on “Mormon Missionaries and Raking Leaves”

  1. Eh, you can’t learn about Mormonism from the missionaries anyway. They’re just a couple kids with a three-week intensive sales course behind ‘em.

  2. That’s pretty ironic. One would hope that they’d have a greater depth of knowlege than that.

    On the other hand, I suppose that that makes them no different from many salespeople (and better trained than some).

  3. Yeah. Stumping Mormon missionaries is so easy it’s not even fun. They’re trained to follow their little lesson plans and to disengage from anything that deviates.

    There’s every reason to think that the real point of LDS missionary work is to make the missionaries loyal to the church, not to bring in new members. Something like half of the converts to Mormonism don’t attend three services before they drop out.

  4. You’re probably right on that one–at least from what I vaguely remember from social psychology classes.

    There’s something about telling other people that you believe something (even if you don’t know the people) that makes you likely to stick with what you said.

    For example, the guy who started Alchoholics Anonymous was a drinker who found that talking with other people about drinking helped keep him from drinking.

    The denomination I’m a member of has a similar program that sends high school students out on mission work for a large portion of the summer.

    I never went, but the people who do often seem to come back having had some very intense experiences. Whether it helps keeps them within the denomination, I don’t know, but I imagine it helps.

  5. vincent, mormon missionary’s actually have 19 years of religous education behind them, which includes four years of seminary where they study the old testament, new tetament, book of mormon and doctorine and covenants. Just to keep you up to date they have also done away with the lesson plans completely.

  6. We let a group of Mormon boys visit our house on several occasions over a course of months, just so my wife could stir the pot and challenge them to think.

    The Book of Mormon is an interesting little plagiarism. The first section was supposedly written before the Jewish people were exiled, when a family was told by God to travel to North America. Well, that section (circa 600 B.C.) quite often references parts of the Bible that weren’t written until circa 150 – 300 A.D. Nice work on the unmentioned time travel.

  7. From what I learned while in college, the book’s even more plagiarised than that… According to my “Religion in America” prof, the Book of Mormon shows strong similarities to book by another cult leader of the period. I’d have to email the prof to find out who (it’s been a while since taking that course), but it’s kind of funny that way.

    Also, as a bonus, a Mormon linguist analyzed the thing and found no patterns of speech similar to any Egyptian language, but many similar to 18/19th century English (and the King James Bible).

    Go figure.

  8. Great fun-ask them about Mark Hoffman. He forged Mormon documents and sold them to the Mormon leaders. Apparently the divine insight the leaders claim to have wasn’t working too well.

    Not only that, Hoffman murdered two people. A pretty serious Godly lapse, don’t you think?

    Then ask them about the Book of Abraham. Joseph Smith said it was something special. Turned out to be funerary instructions.

    Then tell ‘em you wanna shag Marie Osmond.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.