The doorbell seems to ring at the most inopportune time. Standing outside are two young men dressed in suits. Immediately you think, “Oh, no. Mormon missionaries!” Feeling unprepared, bothered, and even annoyed, most of us either politely express a lack of interest or sometimes even pretend we are not home. There is another alternative. My encouragement is to open the door. Christians can overcome the fear and intimidation of having Mormon missionaries appear at their door and, instead, use it as an opportunity to plant the seeds of God’s Word.
According to recent statistics released last fall by the LDS Church, there are now over 55,000 Mormon missionaries serving around the world. We expect this number to rapidly increase with the recent announcement that the minimum age requirement for a missionary has been lowered from nineteen to eighteen for young men and from twenty-one to nineteen for young women. Combined with aggressive Mormon.org media campaigns targeting cities throughout the U.S., and the increased awareness of Mormonism from the recent presidential campaign, we expect an increase in missionary activity in the next few years. Instead of remaining silent, Christians can respond with love and zeal at those golden opportunities when the doorbell rings and Mormon missionaries appear at our doorstep. Instead of “Oh, no!” it is my prayer that Christians will immediately think, “Oh, yes! Thank you, Lord!”
Quite often, the first step in sharing God’s Word with Mormon missionaries is to overcome the intimidation factor.
These young men and women are excellent at presenting themselves as wholesome Christians who are confident and assured in the teachings of their faith. Don’t let appearances deceive you. It’s helpful to consider the following:
First, Mormon missionaries are typically young college-aged men in their late teens. They receive only two to three weeks of training at the Missionary Training Center in Provo before they are sent out into the field. Missionaries must pay their own way, provide their own clothes, and regularly switch partners during the course of their mission. Their schedule is exhausting and they experience a high amount of stress. Contact with family is kept at a minimum. When missionaries appear at your door, don’t look at their polished exterior, but at the internal burdens they are carrying. It is helpful to remember that they are largely untrained, exceptionally tired, and probably stressed out.
Second, becoming a missionary is mandated by the LDS Church. At the latest General Conference held last October, LDS President Thomas S. Monson declared, “We affirm that missionary work is a priesthood duty – and we encourage all young men who are worthy and who are physically able and mentally capable to respond to the call to serve. Many young women also serve, but they are not under the same mandate to serve as are the young men.” Young men who desire to be worthy members of their church are expected to go on missions. This is instilled upon them at an early age. The motivation for being a missionary is largely based out of loyalty to family and to their church. Mormonism teaches that since Jesus Christ paid the debt of their sins on the cross, they must strive to repay that debt to prove their worthiness to Heavenly Father. Becoming a missionary is an important work to help pay off that debt.
Finally, being a missionary is one of the higher callings of carrying out a young man’s priesthood authority in the church. It is a foundational part of fulfilling their duty to God. A higher status within the culture of their church awaits young men who faithfully complete their two-year mission.
Share the love of Christ by displaying the love of Christ
Jesus Christ extended kindness, grace, and mercy to those who were ignored or treated poorly by society. He even gave his attention to those who were considered to be hopeless cases. We can emulate Christ by doing the same. With an appreciation for the stresses associated with Mormon young men serving their church as missionaries, we can begin to empathize with their predicament. To be honest, there are a surprising number of Mormon missionaries who would simply rather not be at your door. Don’t let appearances fool you. Mormon missionaries are reachable. They not only need the truth of God’s Word to have saving faith, but many have never heard the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We know this to be true because I met them during a mission trip to Provo last summer as part of a media outreach campaign for www.beyeperfect.org.
While canvassing the neighborhoods surrounding Brigham Young University, TILM missionaries received opportunities to meet hundreds of returning missionaries who are now married and full-time students. Many greeted us warmly at the door and readily offered us glasses of cold water. They admired the fact that we were walking in their shoes to share our faith. They knew full well how much we would appreciate these acts of kindness on a hot summer day. Granted, most did not express particular interest in what we had to say, yet they were certainly intrigued when we planted the seed of God’s Word by sharing that we were already perfect in Christ. One returning missionary even confessed to us that kindness offered at the door by Christians, plus an exhibition of sound character and faith, can have a major impact on impressionable young Mormon men. They are not only experiencing high degrees of stress and fatigue, but could also be questioning their own beliefs. These interactions solidified our belief that Christians can have a heavy impact on Mormon missionaries when they appear at your door. And to do so is not as difficult as you might think.
How can Christians lovingly respond to Mormon missionaries at our doors?
Based on our experiences, here’s what you can do to make a lasting impact on Mormon missionaries:
1. Please open the door. Share the love of Christ by displaying the love of Christ. Offer something to drink. These are nice young men who would appreciate a kind smile and a warm conversation. Consider inviting them inside your home to rest and relax.
2. You know far more about what the Bible teaches than they do. Don’t panic, but rely on the Holy Spirit to remind you of all the promises of God. Don’t be afraid to share what you know to be true and be confident and joyful about it. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit can provide the words to say.
3. Bring all conversations back to what Christ has already done for you. We can plant the seeds of God’s Word by declaring that we are already perfect in Christ. We know this to be true because of Christ’s substitution on the cross. As a result, we are fully forgiven right now.
4. Don’t fall into the temptation of feeling that you have to defend Christianity and win an argument. Instead, focus on winning the soul through the power of God’s Word.
5. If you feel like you are going around and around on a certain subject, take the time to carefully define key words like forgiveness, grace, and repentance. You will quickly find out that Mormons have a far different understanding of the same words.
6. Enjoy the experience. These are typically very nice young men who are very appreciative that they are being treated with kindness and respect from a Christian.
When Christian focus on extending love and planting the seed of God’s Word, they are sharing the true gospel of Jesus Christ. The focus is no longer on us, but on the gospel. We can confidently leave the results to God. The road from Mormonism to saving faith in Jesus Christ is often a long, tortuous journey. The Lord may be using you to play an important part of that process in the life of a Mormon whom God loves dearly.
You can do this, because we trust God’s promise that we can do anything through Christ who gives us the strength.
To start your adventure in sharing God’s Word with a Mormon missionary, we recommend the following:
1. Request a brochure entitled, “Please Open the Door” by sending an email to email@example.com.
2. Go to Mormon.org and request a visit by a Mormon missionary or call 1-888-537-6600. [Why not? If you have taken the time to prepare yourself, then take advantage of that preparation and request a visit. Instead of being surprised, be ready for that knock on the door.]
3. Begin to pray about the visit.
Please open the door when a pair of Mormon missionaries knock at your door. The Lord may provide you with a golden opportunity to share the true gospel of Jesus Christ.