Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Coming to the end of the line?

Last night was an interesting meeting with the missionaries. It was pretty tough sledding. There was a new guy and he was borderline belligerent. It was a lot harder than normal to try to get him “off script” because he kept going back to the Book of Mormon. Short of completely shooting him down and shooing them off, I found it hard to keep on track. The new guy is a lot more prepared and bold than the typical mormon missionary, which may be why he was assigned to his companion instead of the guy who kind of suddenly was relocated.

I did get him to admit that the only people who go to “outer darkness” are mormons. I could see his companion trying to stop him and then get frustrated and sit back. The other missionary, the one who has been coming for a while, hardly spoke at all. He is the more senior of the two but the other guy had kind of a “bull in a china shop” kind of style.

We also spoke a bit about the idea of faith and where faith comes from. I was trying to get across the point that faith is not inherent in any person, that no one intrinsically has faith and that until God works first, no one ever will have faith. They have a hard time understanding that because mormonism teaches that men are more analogous to “gods in training” and that God is an exalted man. Because of that, the idea of a hopelessly sinful human and an infinite and infinitely holy God are hard to understand.

Near the end of the second hour, we started getting an ultimatum from the new guy that amounted to: if we are going to keep teaching you, you need to basically acquiesce to the truth of mormonism by reading and “praying about” the Book of Mormon. It is interesting because the mormon method of “milk before meat” where it comes to teaching and the mormon doctrine of “outer darkness” work hand in hand here as a control tool. Mormonism has horrible retention rates among converts because “conversion” is based on an emotional response to a prayer about a book. Once someone gets in and the “meat” doctrines are rolled out, it becomes a whole lot less attractive. The rollercoaster of sin, repent, sin, repent is wearing on you. No one can live up to the impossibly high standards of mormon culture. Emphasizing your own personal “worthiness” leaves you constantly feeling “unworthy” or worse with the delusional feeling that you are worthy. All of this added together with doctrines like exaltation and the temple lead to lots of converts leaving the church or at least becoming functionally “inactive”. The mormon church may baptize lots of people each year but they are losing those same people out the back door. Of course, once you are in and receive “the gift of the Holy Ghost”, you are stuck because now if you leave, you find yourself bound for “Outer Darkness”. It is an ingenious control mechanism. Get people in based on an emotional response that is fostered by these nice young men, get them baptized and have the elders “lay hands” on them and then spring on them that if they leave they are damned. Very clever and quite literally diabolical.

I have been a bit lazy prior to the missionaries coming over. We haven’t been praying like we should before they show up and I think that was on display last night because it didn’t go well. I got them to agree to come over next week but we need as a couple to pray before they show up. This may be the last time they come over so I am going to try to put together a rock solid, fifteen minute presentation of the Gospel starting with who God is, man’s sinfulness, what was achieved at the cross and how they can be saved. Depending on how it goes, we may declare a cooling off period for six months to let them work their way out of the area and get a couple of new guys in. As always prayer is appreciated for these young men.