Mormon Missionaries: Ten Ways Evangelicals Can Love Them Better
Meeting My First Mormon Friend
Last year a Mormon (or LDS) missionary reached out to me. She found me through a friend on Facebook and wanted to talk to me about her beliefs. To be honest, I dreaded the thought. As an evangelical Christian, I have always kind of lumped Mormon people in with other cult groups such as Jehovah Witnesses, who have a reputation of being more aggressive. So when I considered spending time with her, I imagined a tense battle over every doctrine and scripture. How exhausting and unfruitful, I thought. We both know what we believe…wouldn’t it be a waste of time?
But something in my heart kept revisiting her invitation. I decided to meet with her just one time. In the interim, I read every single piece of literature I could find on the Mormon religion. I realized that I knew very little about what they believed and I wanted to change that before we met. In the process, I discovered so much that truly broke my heart and made me care deeply for them.
I have since met over a dozen LDS men and women and I gather with them weekly as much as possible. I’ve now spent countless evenings with LDS women huddled in my living room, drinking cider, nibbling up goodies and sharing deep thoughts. And I have come to love and cherish them deeply.
I’ve also come to learn that sadly, evangelicals are typically dismissive or combative with Mormon missionaries. Therefore very few missionaries ever get exposure to the evangelical view of the gospel, or to close relationships with evangelicals. We can do better than this! Because these missionaries are hungry for opportunities to meet with us, we can simply contact the local LDS church and request a meeting with them at any time! But before we do that, here are:
Ten Ways to Love Mormon Missionaries Well
1)Don’t Use the Term Mormon When Speaking With Them
Though I must use the term ‘Mormon’ often in writing to keep things clear, I know that Mormon missionaries feel frustrated with that label. They wear name tags that carry the full name of their church for a reason. “We want the focus to be Jesus Christ rather than the Book of Mormon”, they’ve told me. Therefore, they call themselves Latter-Day Saints of the Church of Jesus Christ. And they’d like us to call them Latter-Day Saints or LDS, too. Out of respect for them, we can easily oblige them in this. And we can also address them by Sister or Elder as they prefer that too.
2)Don’t Tell a Mormon They Aren’t a Christian
In the past, LDS leaders tried to separate their church from traditional christianity. Their prophets once cried, “This is not just another Church. This is not just one of a family of Christian churches. This is the Church and kingdom of God, the only true Church upon the face of the earth.”
But LDS missionaries today have changed their stance on this. Today’s LDS are eager to identify with evangelical Christians and to point out the similarities. When you tell them, “I’m a Christian, I love Jesus and I believe He is the Savior” don’t be surprised when they come back with an “Amen, me too”. It does no good to argue about this.
3) Be a Welcoming Friend to Mormon Missionaries
- are young adults, usually 18-21 years of age
- leave their homes for periods of eighteen months to two years.
- are permitted just one (monitored) ‘check in’ with their families per week.
- must rise daily at 6:30am, exercise, have devotions, attend meetings and proselytize until their nine o’clock curfew.
- cannot watch TV, go on social media (except to proselytize) or listen to any form of music except hymns
- must find people to ‘teach’ by knocking on doors, searching social media, or asking other church members.
- deal with lots of hostility
Therefore, I think it’s safe to assume that most of these young men and women are probably exhausted and pretty homesick. Being a friend to them really doesn’t require a whole lot. We can:
- invite them over
- feed them goodies or meals
- talk to them about their lives and families
- ask about how their mission is going
- pray for them
- be a friendly familiar face in the sea of change they face daily
4)Invite Them to Church and Attend Theirs
Surprisingly, during their ‘mission’ many LDS men and women are permitted to attend other churches and they an opportunity to do so. So invite them! If you can let your friends know how to engage with them respectfully ahead of time that’s even more helpful.
You most likely won’t get an invite to the Mormon temple, but if they invite you to their church or bible study, try to go! This gives you an opportunity to meet others in their world, build on your relationship with them and learn the type of teaching and customs they are used to. It’s a win-win.
5)Put Down the Boxing Gloves
Though we may be eager to tell them all the reasons they are wrong about everything they believe, the old adage still rings true. No one cares what you know ’til they know that you care.
Because of this, we don’t need to start sharing our own personal beliefs with them right away. Even once we began sharing, we can do so with gentleness, and respect, allowing them to disagree without being combative.
Missionaries are trained to leave a conversation that is ‘contentious’. But from my experience, every single one has been willing to answer questions and ask them in return once respect has been established. During my third meeting with LDS sisters, they were super inquisitive about my gospel message! This was the result of two previous meetings where I had listened to them thoroughly, taken notes, and asked lots of questions. They were curious and eager to do the same for me.
When meeting with Mormon missionaries, ask thoughtful questions rather than making inflammatory statements.
6) Reach Out to Them on Social Media
After establishing a relationship, feel free to ask if you can add them on Facebook! Though (during their mission) LDS brothers and sisters are only allowed social media time for proselytizing, they are often enthusiastic about receiving questions through tools like Facebook messenger.
As long as you add a spiritual element to the conversation, you can talk to them about anything and they can listen and respond. They also like to send passages from the bible or Book of Mormon. So it’s a great opportunity for you to send thoughtfully considered scripture too!
7)Have a Bible Study
Mormon missionaries usually delight in the idea of reading scripture together with you!
What other people group from outside the evangelical faith would be anxious to sit in your living room and discuss deep theological and spiritual matters?
What an opportunity we have to learn about each other and about God! Choosing a book or a parable to study is a non-pressure way for everyone to share their understanding of the text. And it opens many doors to sharing the gospel message that gives us hope.
8)Use the King James Bible
In discussions where you may be talking about scripture with Latter-Day-Saints it’s important to note that they believe the King James bible is the best of all the translations today. While we may consider other versions more readable or closer to the original languages, using anything other than KJV is not an option for our LDS friends. Indulging them in using this translation is one easy way to show respect and keep things going smoothly. If you don’t have one, they will often offer you one! Plus, it’s totally accessible online!
9) Define Your Terms and Theirs
Latter-Day Saints use the same language as Christians, but they often mean very different things! That’s why one of our first conversations with LDS missionaries should be an exchange of definitions for common words. They have different meanings for words such as salvation, repentance, heaven, hell, and gospel. They even have a different understanding of who the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are.
Getting these definitions down sooner rather than later will prevent a lot of confusion as you continue meeting.
10)Pray Over Their Hearts and Lives
This is last but certainly not least! As our new Mormon friends begin sharing their lives with us, we can learn specific ways to pray for them. We can begin to see their hearts, the things that trouble them, the stresses they are under. We can pray when we are with them. We can pray when we are not.
We can pray before every conversation we have with them and after. We can ask others for prayer, too. Because we know that ultimately God is the only One who can move hearts or reveal His truth to us all. And that’s a powerful thing.
You may also like: https://totsandtidbits.org/christianity-and-mormonism/