In case you haven’t ever had this happen to you before, one day soon you are probably going to have two guys or girls show up at your door trying to teach you about their religion. If the guys are wearing white shirts and ties, and if they have a black nametag denoting first names like “Elder” or “Sister,” then these uninvited visitors are Mormon missionaries. For up to two years they do nothing but try to share their faith with as many people as possible.
As a Mormon, I need to let you in on a secret. For us, “missionary work” goes way beyond the up to two years we spend on those full time missions. It’s something we try to do as much as we can for our entire lives. Sound intimidating? It can be.
We don’t necessarily keep knocking doors, but we do try to talk about our religion frequently and invite people to worship, serve, and have fun with us. Basically, it involves anything that leads us to our ultimate goal of missionary work, which leads us into asking why we do this in the first place…
Why We Do It
The basic goal of missionary work is to help people develop or strengthen their relationship with God and Jesus Christ. There are several reasons why we share our faith with others (and quite a few why most of the time, we actually don’t). Most of the reasons for doing missionary work boil down to two categories: we want to do it and we feel we are supposed to.
Although it may not seem like it, I think it is easy to understand how we might want to share our faiths with others. Who doesn’t read a great book, try a fantastic new restaurant, or lose weight on a really effective diet without recommending it to someone? It is just human nature to want to share things you love with others. And believe it or not, being Mormon is something most of us love.
The other reason we share our faith is because we are commanded to. The Bible tells us to, the Book of Mormon tells us to, and our leaders have consistently asked us to. Doing something because you are asked to is definitely less glamorous than doing it because you want to, but it is still an important reason. I think that the fact that missionary work is expected of us is one of the things that gets us over some of the hurdles I will talk about in the next section.
Why We Often Don’t Do It
Ok, so even though I often want to share my faith and even know I’m supposed to, I often just end up not saying anything. I think a lot of Mormons are in the same boat. Why? There are a lot of reasons. Religion is personal and people have strong feelings about it, hence bringing it up often makes people uncomfortable or defensive. There is also a sort of “social taboo” in our society, which teaches us that the two subjects you don’t bring up when socializing are politics and religion.
Not only is faith a very personal thing for you, it is for me also. Sharing it with someone requires putting a lot of yourself out on the line. There is nothing like sharing your deepest feelings and beliefs with someone to make you feel out of your comfort zone. Especially if there is a decent chance that the other person isn’t going to be very receptive. There are other reasons—we are afraid of people rejecting something important to us, we don’t want to offend anyone, and my mother-in-law mentioned that she is afraid that she won’t be able to answer people’s questions and leave a bad impression.
Lastly, I need to point out that we don’t view this process as convincing someone to become Mormon. Discovering your faith is an intensely personal thing (between you and God) and we are just trying to point out some resources that we have found helpful. Because of this, I find that I am often sensitive to coming off “too strong” which often results in me simply waiting for the other person to bring up the topic. Unfortunately, the other person probably feels as hesitant to talk about religion as I am and we end up missing the opportunity.
Be Understanding as Your Mormon Friends Try to Talk About Religion with You.
To sum up, we Mormons put a lot of value on missionary work, but we often struggle with it. So the next time your Mormon friend starts an awkward conversation, I’d encourage you to be patient and to give it a chance. Even though we may seem a little blundering at times, we do it because we care. You may even want to do them a favor and ask them a question or two.