Are missionaries primarily there to convert or to teach?


Eddie32
 Share

Recommended Posts

I'm not a member, but I've learned a lot about the church and have some good friends that are members.  I had met with a lot of missionaries, but stopped a couple years ago.  Recently I visited temple square and one of the missionaries asked if she could call me.  I explained that the church in my area wasn't really setup for someone like me and that I didn't feel comfortable going there and the word "baptism" makes me cringe.  That being said, I told her she could call to teach me more about the doctrine, history, culture, etc.

 

Instead of being interested in teaching me, she and her companion seemed extremely focused on getting me to follow these commitments and didn't seem that interested in my thoughts or questions other than if I agreed to commit to do or to say I believed whatever they wanted that day.  In the next lesson I tried asking about questions I had from the previous one and tried steering the conversation to things about the church I wanted to learn about, but they had this laser like focus on their lessons and commitments.

 

So after a few lessons where they kept pushing the importance of going to church they said something like "let us know how church goes and we'll be happy to teach you again".  Obviously that was the last I heard from them.  After that experience, I was just curious if missionaries are teaching to check investigator commitments off a list or if they're actually supposed to teach people that are interested about the church even if the investigator does not seem to be interested in converting?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Missionaries' primary goal is to serve God. God's will is to have us return to Him. Therefore, missionary's goal is to help God's children return to Him. That means convert. But it's not one or the other. One is a means to the other. Missionaries are there to teach in order to convert. The goal of the missionaries is to bring people to Christ through the principles and ordinances of His gospel.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Missionaries are there to serve and to bring souls to Christ. Missionaries are not there to visit casually for a few hours or come over for bridge. (That's what I'm here for.)

 

A missionary is to teach the doctrine and so lead people to Christ. The way to Christ leads through baptism; it is the door to enter into the kingdom. If a person does not want to be baptized. the missionary will politely (we hope) take leave of the person and go in search of someone who wants to walk the path of salvation.

 

I have never heard of missionaries having a literaly checklist of commitments -- I certainly never had one -- but they do keep track of how their "investigators" are progressing. If an investigator stops progressing, the missionaries try to find out why and to remove the impediments. But if the investigator makes it clear that s/he just isn't interested in pursuing baptism, the missionaries will probably move on to more fruitful labor.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The missionaries are called to do the following

 

D&C 50

13 Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained?

14 To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.

 

They are not there to debate you...  They are not there to discuss history with you.  They are not there solely to have 'a good time'

 

They are there to preach the gospel of Christ by the power of the spirit.  Generally speaking when one gains a spiritual witness that something is of God then they need to ACT on that witness.  Failure to act on that witness causes the spirit to withdraw and no further spiritual enlightenment to be received. 

 

If all you want to do is discuss things then you need to befriend a member who is also willing to discuss thing.  Or join an on-line group like this one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have never heard of missionaries having a literaly checklist of commitments -- I certainly never had one -- but they do keep track of how their "investigators" are progressing. If an investigator stops progressing, the missionaries try to find out why and to remove the impediments. But if the investigator makes it clear that s/he just isn't interested in pursuing baptism, the missionaries will probably move on to more fruitful labor.

 

I think it's a natural checklist that comes from the inherent needs of conversion progress...as in, read the Book of Mormon. Pray about the Book of Mormon. Attend church. Word of Wisdom changes. Etc., leading to baptism. I can see how this might be viewed as a "checklist" by someone. It's not really...but it is in a way. Can you remove one and still travel the right path to conversion to Christ? Can one never attend church and still progress to baptism? Never read the Book of Mormon? Etc? So, yes, it can look like a checklist. But it's really just the natural steps of commitment that are required to turn one's soul over to Christ and to prepare oneself for the commitment of making the baptismal covenant with Him.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The missionaries are called to do the following

 

D&C 50

13 Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained?

14 To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.

 

They are not there to debate you...  They are not there to discuss history with you.  They are not there solely to have 'a good time'

 

They are there to preach the gospel of Christ by the power of the spirit.  Generally speaking when one gains a spiritual witness that something is of God then they need to ACT on that witness.  Failure to act on that witness causes the spirit to withdraw and no further spiritual enlightenment to be received. 

 

If all you want to do is discuss things then you need to befriend a member who is also willing to discuss thing.  Or join an on-line group like this one.

 

I'm confused by what it means to "preach the gospel",  I thought it meant explain and teach the "good news" and everything about the church.  I'm also confused why they would insist on calling me when I made it clear I was tired of people asking me to be baptized and that there's no LDS church in my area I feel comfortable going to.

 

Is the general idea that they tell me "you need to do/stop doing x,y,z" and I'm just supposed to say "ok"?  I'm not expected to ask any questions or tell them I honestly don't feel comfortable or understand some things?  Am I supposed to be a passive follower of everything they say?  For example, they asked me to read a talk from general conference and then asked what I thought of it.  So I read the talk and wanted to go through it almost line by line to understand what he was saying and how it ties into other things they had taught.  Instead they basically told me "the talk says ..., will you do what the talk says?"    I told them I didn't understand it, but I'd read it again.  Then the next lesson they'd have something else and weren't at all interested in discussing the talk.   It seems like them asking "did that make sense" was more of a rhetorical question.

 

I had no interest in debating, coming over for bridge or having a good time with them.  They're in a completely different state.  I did think they were supposed to discuss church history as they brought up Joseph Smith and were talking about what he did.  If he's so important isn't it natural to what to know more about him and also understand how and why the church is structured the way it is?  I mean, before someone becomes a citizen of a country they usually want to know something about the country's history.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Missionaries are here to convert they will not spend time with someone who does not have a sincere desire to do so.

 

The mission is run like a business. A mission works under the area 70's who manage a large geographical area/ group of missions. Missions track convert baptisms, lessons taught, contacts made, referrals, etc, etc. District leaders report to zone leaders, who report to the AP's who report to the mission president. The mission President reports his numbers to the Area presidency who in turn report to salt lake.

 

Make no mistake about it when there is a dip in convert baptisms the higher ups want to know why.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm confused by what it means to "preach the gospel",  I thought it meant explain and teach the "good news" and everything about the church.  I'm also confused why they would insist on calling me when I made it clear I was tired of people asking me to be baptized and that there's no LDS church in my area I feel comfortable going to.

 

Is the general idea that they tell me "you need to do/stop doing x,y,z" and I'm just supposed to say "ok"?  I'm not expected to ask any questions or tell them I honestly don't feel comfortable or understand some things?  Am I supposed to be a passive follower of everything they say?  For example, they asked me to read a talk from general conference and then asked what I thought of it.  So I read the talk and wanted to go through it almost line by line to understand what he was saying and how it ties into other things they had taught.  Instead they basically told me "the talk says ..., will you do what the talk says?"    I told them I didn't understand it, but I'd read it again.  Then the next lesson they'd have something else and weren't at all interested in discussing the talk.   It seems like them asking "did that make sense" was more of a rhetorical question.

 

I had no interest in debating, coming over for bridge or having a good time with them.  They're in a completely different state.  I did think they were supposed to discuss church history as they brought up Joseph Smith and were talking about what he did.  If he's so important isn't it natural to what to know more about him and also understand how and why the church is structured the way it is?  I mean, before someone becomes a citizen of a country they usually want to know something about the country's history.

You are asking all of the right questions, just to the wrong set of people. A missionaries time is short and they have a set group of items to teach which in theory lead to conversion.

 

18-19 YO kids are not the people you want to ask about church history because they are not prepared to discuss it on the level that you need in order to have your concerns addressed. They are not the people you want to discuss higher theological questions with, in general their understanding is at a basic level.

 

Find a long time member who is knowledgeable and they can help you. this forum is a great resource. There are plenty of guys and ladies on here who are much smarter than me and can discuss almost any topic you may have a question about.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Eddie,

 

I understand your frustration that missionaries primary purpose is to prepare people for baptism (it drives me bonkers too).  The missionaries on Temple Square particularly are narrow in their focus, because the people the see usually are just in town a few days before driving home.  

 

Now, that's not to say Mormons don't love questions!! I do for sure :).  It's just not the missionaries focus.  Instead, I would recommend you ask other members (either here or in real life).

 

-Jane

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Certainly your experience with the Temple Square missionaries is a very interesting data point, but I wonder if it's the rule or the exception. 

 

I was inactive for many years and visited Temple Square twice, once last December and once last August.  I wasn't specifically looking to engage anyone in deep discussions, but I wanted to get some ground truth for everying I had studied about the Church previously.

 

In December I met two sister missionaries.  After I returned home, they called me and emailed me periodically and texted me once.  They were utterly charming and seemed just to be checking in with me to see where I was and whether they could answer any questions about the Church.  (I did.)  I didn't feel the slightest pressure to commit to anything.  Their emails were long and rich, often with Scripture verses that they liked.  I always enjoyed hearing from them.  (But I got frustrated with their email software, which systematically deleted every link I included in my emails, even links to harmless newspaper articles and to photos of my pet cat.)

 

In August I returned to Temple Square to see all the things I had missed the first time and to visit the renovated Ogden Temple during its open house.  It was a nice trip, but there was no missionary follow-up at all.

 

And yet I watched "The District" videos on YouTube (sort of a reality show about LDS missionaries) and I was struck by how quickly the missionaries pushed their investigators toward baptism.  I suppose with 88,000 missionaries you're going to see some natural variation in their work style.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Its the difference between preaching and talking.  Preaching includes inviting/requesting people change/repent/act on what they hear.  If the missionaries aren't inviting you to change they are not doing their job.  If the missionaries come to the conclusion that the people they are Preaching to aren't interested in changing at this time, then they will most likely think that the time/effort/money they are sacrificing to preach the gospel might be better used elsewhere, and move on.

 

Seems to me for what you want you are better off seeking out members

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Missionaries are people, with widely varying personalities. Some are gifted teachers, others are naturally friendly and take personal interest, and many are...pretty much what you would expect from sincere but callow 19-year-old young men and women.

 

While I disagree with the general tone of omegaseamaster's responses, which strike me as somewhat dismissive and more than a little cynical, I think he has a point about discussing matters of Church history with missionaries. Very few missionaries are in a position to do more than touch on such historical issues. That is not their calling, and it's not what they are trained for.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Per Preach My Gospel a missionary's purpose is:

 

 

 

 Your purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end.

 

 

Preach My Gospel is the manual that missionaries currently use. If you are interested in the more involved answer, there is an entire chapter dedicated to the subject intended to help missionaries understand their purpose. You can find it here: https://www.lds.org/manual/preach-my-gospel-a-guide-to-missionary-service/what-is-my-purpose-as-a-missionary?lang=eng

Edited by Dravin
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Missionaries are people, with widely varying personalities. Some are gifted teachers, others are naturally friendly and take personal interest, and many are...pretty much what you would expect from sincere but callow 19-year-old young men and women.

 

While I disagree with the general tone of omegaseamaster's responses, which strike me as somewhat dismissive and more than a little cynical, I think he has a point about discussing matters of Church history with missionaries. Very few missionaries are in a position to do more than touch on such historical issues. That is not their calling, and it's not what they are trained for.

What specifically say that was dismissive? or cynical?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What specifically say that was dismissive? or cynical?

 

I'm sorry if I was offensive, omegaseamaster. It's one of my gifts, one I'm working hard to bury. Since you ask, I'll try to answer your questions.

 

To my ears, "The mission is run like a business...Make no mistake about it when there is a dip in convert baptisms the higher ups want to know why" sounded like undisguised cynicism. I know that in some missions, this is an accurate statement, but obviously the Church and most of its mission presidents seek to have a much higher standard for mission administration than "running it like a business".

 

Similarly, "18-19 YO kids are not the people you want to ask about church history because they are not prepared to discuss it on the level that you need in order to have your concerns addressed. They are not the people you want to discuss higher theological questions with, in general their understanding is at a basic level" comes across (to me) as dismissive, though in fact I somewhat agree with you. These young men and women not only provide a great service, but many of them are perfectly competent to deal with some such issues. (I have little patience for intricate questions of "higher theology", which are almost invariably a waste of time.)

 

Again, I apologize for offending.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm sorry if I was offensive, omegaseamaster. It's one of my gifts, one I'm working hard to bury. Since you ask, I'll try to answer your questions.

 

To my ears, "The mission is run like a business...Make no mistake about it when there is a dip in convert baptisms the higher ups want to know why" sounded like undisguised cynicism. I know that in some missions, this is an accurate statement, but obviously the Church and most of its mission presidents seek to have a much higher standard for mission administration than "running it like a business".

 

Similarly, "18-19 YO kids are not the people you want to ask about church history because they are not prepared to discuss it on the level that you need in order to have your concerns addressed. They are not the people you want to discuss higher theological questions with, in general their understanding is at a basic level" comes across (to me) as dismissive, though in fact I somewhat agree with you. These young men and women not only provide a great service, but many of them are perfectly competent to deal with some such issues. (I have little patience for intricate questions of "higher theology", which are almost invariably a waste of time.)

 

Again, I apologize for offending.

No offense taken, while on the face of it Mission administration is fronted as being run in the service of bring souls to Christ (which it is), as members we tend to lose track of or not want to see the bureaucratic side of the equation. This does in fact exist. If this comes off as cynical I apologize, but it is a reality of the mission and how they are run.

 

I have tried to have more in-depth discussions with the missionaries in my ward and they are unprepared to answer questions that the OP has for them. I can see the OP's frustration with this and the single laser beam focus of the missionaries.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you everyone for your very thoughtful explanations.  I appreciate you taking the time to explain the way the missionary program is setup.  I'm so glad I asked on that forum because I was completely wrong in what I thought the missionaries were all about and what their purpose is.

 

I thought they went to a training center to learn even greater details than they learned as just being members and learned how to answer non-members questions and explain the church's beliefs.  In other words, I thought that they were full time ambassadors for the church and would be more willing and able to answer follow up questions than "regular" members since they focused 100% on being missionaries.  My thought was that because they're talking to so many people they'd probably encounter a lot of questions and they'd probably have something like a "FAQ" with common questions and how to answer them.  To PolarVortex, I met with a couple missionaries before that were the way you described, but I'm not sure how many of them there are like that.

 

My mormon friends always say I can ask them anything, but I view them as friends 1st and don't really want to discuss religion or challenge them on their beliefs, since I know how important it is to them and know that it's helped them.  

 

Again, I'm so appreciate for the straight forward answers here.  I wish you all the very best

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Happy to help!

 

 

I thought they went to a training center to learn even greater details than they learned as just being members and learned how to answer non-members questions and explain the church's beliefs.  In other words, I thought that they were full time ambassadors for the church and would be more willing and able to answer follow up questions than "regular" members since they focused 100% on being missionaries.  My thought was that because they're talking to so many people they'd probably encounter a lot of questions and they'd probably have something like a "FAQ" with common questions and how to answer them.  

 

  Have you seen the FAQ section on the church official website?  I'd check it out.  http://www.mormon.org/faq

 


 

My mormon friends always say I can ask them anything, but I view them as friends 1st and don't really want to discuss religion or challenge them on their beliefs, since I know how important it is to them and know that it's helped them.  

 

There's no harm in asking them.  If you step on something too sensitive or stick your-foot-in-your-mouth, you're friends will tell you (is that was friends are for?) 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 8 months later...
Guest MormonGator

They are there to spread the joy and love of Christ wherever they go. 

I love missionaries. I've said it before, but they are the most undervalued treasures of the church.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What a great movie that was. Really quite profound. I'm so sad that Dutcher left the Church.

 

Whoa!  Man!  You just put a gray cloud over one of my favorite LDS movies.  Waaaaa.

I forgive you. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you everyone for your very thoughtful explanations.  I appreciate you taking the time to explain the way the missionary program is setup.  I'm so glad I asked on that forum because I was completely wrong in what I thought the missionaries were all about and what their purpose is.

 

I thought they went to a training center to learn even greater details than they learned as just being members and learned how to answer non-members questions and explain the church's beliefs.  In other words, I thought that they were full time ambassadors for the church and would be more willing and able to answer follow up questions than "regular" members since they focused 100% on being missionaries.  My thought was that because they're talking to so many people they'd probably encounter a lot of questions and they'd probably have something like a "FAQ" with common questions and how to answer them.  To PolarVortex, I met with a couple missionaries before that were the way you described, but I'm not sure how many of them there are like that.

 

My mormon friends always say I can ask them anything, but I view them as friends 1st and don't really want to discuss religion or challenge them on their beliefs, since I know how important it is to them and know that it's helped them.  

 

Again, I'm so appreciate for the straight forward answers here.  I wish you all the very best

I think that this post is a great example of what people, even members, think missionaries should know, and taught, and what they are actually taught at the Missionary Training Center. Missionaries are only at the Center for a few weeks, not months, or even years, that Preachers take at universities learning to be Preachers. It is surprising, even shocking what missionaries are NOT required to do before, or even on their mission.

They are not required to read the Book of Mormon.

They are not required to know church history.

They are not told or given FAQs, with answers that missionaries can give in response.

I could go on, but, to me, these alone should be surprising.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Whoa!  Man!  You just put a gray cloud over one of my favorite LDS movies.  Waaaaa.

I forgive you. :)

From what I understand, his leaving was triggered in part by "God's Army 2" being a commercial flop. 

 

He blamed his fellow members when, in reality, it likely had more to do with the general Mormon film market being turbulent at the time due to all of Halestorm's duds. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share