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.

13 comments:

Andy said...

I have read through some of this blog. I assume you are intentionally putting “Mormonism” in lowercase, which is a little condescending. It is still a proper noun even if you don’t want to recognize that. It’s your blog, though, so whatever.

Seth R. said...

The purpose of missionaries is to preach the Restored Gospel to people willing to listen and seriously consider it. Their purpose is not to debate with hardened counter-cultists looking for extra brownie points with God and another notch under their belt.

I applaud the missionaries for calling you out and refusing to waste their time and their divine commission on you just to give you extra blog material to brag about.

And by the way - traditional Christianity also believes that God is a divine man.

Arthur Sido said...

Seth,

Actually Christianity teaches that God took on flesh and became man, not that man became God. BIG difference. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, not flesh became the Word.

Seth R. said...

No, I don't really see a big difference.

Your own beliefs clearly state that the God-human combo isn't a problem.

So I don't see what problem the direction is.

Arthur Sido said...

So the eternal God taking on human form is not different from a created human becoming a god?

Seth R. said...

As you ought to know by now Arthur, Mormon theology does not believe that any human being was ever created from nothing.

We believe that all human beings - Jesus Christ included - are quite eternal, without beginning or end.

Travis said...

I applaud your enthusiasm for your faith. I will warn from my own experience that it may be too easy to go from one exteme to another. Focus on your love for Christ. Let your life be witness to others. You hold the key to the salvation of the world. Most people will naturally fight if they feel threatened. This certainly includese situations where dogmatic belief of any kind are under attack. Jesus certainly did his share of stirring the hornets nest, but his life was a perfect example of perfection. Also, we should be sure we are not throwing our pearls to the swine. I understand you are acting out of sincere love through Christ Jesus. Just be sure as you let your light shine, to do it in a way that is non confrontational. When faced with opposition, incorrect thought becomes more real in the mind of the one opposed.

I am the Clay said...

arthur,

It's been a while since I visited your blog. ( been witnessing to Mormons on FB :) What happened ? Did they come back? How did it go?

As a former mormon missionary, who was pretty bold, it was standard procedure for the elders to come to the point of "read, pray and get in line" or cut bait.

I remember many times I had to do the same thing with potential converts to Mormonism. When they weren't serious about praying and reading the BofM and praying about the first vision, we just told them we weren't coming back.

I am interested in finding out if they did come back and how it went.

God bless,
gloria

Arthur Sido said...

Gloria,

We had them scheduled a couple of different times to come back and they canceled on us. I am going to try calling them later this weekend to see if we can get them back over.

Seth R. said...

I am the Clay,

Yes there were missionaries like what you describe. Often they ended up being assigned as zone leaders and such.

And they tended to piss off the rest of us missionaries. Plenty of us considered them to be rather rude, insensitive, and obnoxious. I spent my last 3 months of my mission primarily trying to keep my zone leaders from a neighboring city OUT of my town. We had a couple investigators gearing up for baptism and the zone leaders wanted to speed up the process (mostly I think because they wanted the baptisms to count on their tally sheet - but it may have been genuine misdirected enthusiasm, who knows...). They wanted to visit our area and pressure my baptismal prospects to move the date up.

My role was pretty-much to tell them to hang it in their ear and get lost. And I fulfilled my duties quite well, if I do say so myself. All the people we had scheduled got baptized on their own timeline, the evil zone leaders were thwarted, and all was well with the world when I left Japan for home.

So yes, there are missionaries like the ones you describe out there. But they aren't the majority, by any stretch, and they tend to annoy the heck out of the rest of the missionaries.

Arthur Sido said...

Seth,

This guy is perhaps unique among the missionaries we have had over. Believe me we have had probably nearly 100 in our homes at one time or another and not a one of them was like this guy.

David said...

Arthur thanks for sharing what you experienced in Mormonism. I have a friend that had a similar experience in the Masons. Insight is always better then something we read in a training manual.

True faith is always challenged, and we simply need to respond in love and in truth.

When God delivers us from something that is not of Him - could be anything - it is amazing how much our hearts open and the void fills. If we truly wanted Him, we wouldn't fall for the false doctrines. I know, I did that same with the Way Ministry 30 years ago.

Christianity is a relationship with the Creator, not a religion. Jesus is the only one that rose from the dead, and He is the only one that is God. The Bible warns of false teaching many times, yet most Christians haven't even read it.

I am the Clay said...

Arthur,

You mentioned on FB that the mission president had stopped by... I dropped by your blog to see how that meeting went. If you are able to , please share how the meeting went.

God bless,
gloria