How to meet with Mormon missionaries

My family and I have lived in Utah for a little over two years now. Not surprisingly, when people from outside Utah ask how we’re doing and what life is like in our new state, they usually get around to asking about the LDS (Mormon) church and how it affects Utah culture. (Note: I use “LDS”–which stands for “Latter Day Saints”–rather than the term “Mormon,” because that’s the term most LDS folks prefer.) Many people assume that because we live here, we are experts on LDS beliefs and theology. More than one person has asked for advice on meeting with LDS missionaries.

We aren’t experts by any means on the LDS church, but Jennifer (my wife) and I have made an effort to learn everything we can about the “predominant religion” in our state in order to better love our neighbors and others in our community. Last summer, we had the opportunity to meet with some LDS missionaries in our home each Monday afternoon for about six weeks. It was a great learning experience, and we felt like we became pretty good friends with one of the missionaries who was at every meeting with us. Again, we’re not experts, but here are some tips for others who would like to meet with LDS missionaries (or have a meaningful conversation with an LDS friend or family member):

Be hospitable and serve good food. LDS missionaries, for the most part, are college-age single guys (and sometimes women). A great dinner or some treats will go a long way to making them feel welcome in your home. When we met with “our” missionaries, Jennifer made sure to make something each week for everyone to enjoy, and always sent the missionaries off with a Ziploc bag of extra treats. If you don’t love the missionaries that visit your home in a real, practical way, don’t you think it’s rather silly to speak about the unconditional love of God? Go the extra mile and be a good host.

Avoid the “magic bullet” approach. There is no “magic bullet” argument or one-liner that will suddenly cause a missionary to reject LDS teachings and enter into a relationship with the Jesus of the Bible. Smug, “Oh, yeah, well what about…” approaches to the conversation will only put up walls, and you’ll impress no one but yourself. Apologetic conversations take time and lots of patient discussion.

Listen more than you talk. Listen to what the missionaries have to say. If you’re not willing to learn and listen, why would you expect others to listen to you? Allow them to lay out what they believe. Ask good questions, but don’t interrupt or launch into a sermon. If you don’t understand something, say so, then listen to the explanation. If you notice an internal contradiction in the LDS worldview, simply state the perceived contradiction, and ask for an explanation.

Ask your missionaries to define their terms. Evangelical Christians and Latter-Day Saints use a lot of the same vocabulary. However, a word will often mean very different things to each. When a missionary talks about being “saved,” ask them to define what they mean, and offer your own definition. This will eliminate a lot of confusion.

Stick to topics of central importance. It’s easy in apologetic conversations to get sidetracked by discussions that are interesting but don’t get to the heart of the matter. We met with our missionaries for six weeks, but such a long time is rather unusual. I suggest that you focus on the following questions, since your time may be short:

  • What does it mean to be reconciled to God?
  • Who was Jesus and where did he come from?
  • How do we know that something is true or not?
  • What did Jesus accomplish in his suffering, and what is our role in being reconciled to God?

Pray, pray, pray, pray. Remember, it is God who works in the hearts of men and women. Rely on him to lead your conversations, pray for spiritual protection, and pray for your missionaries by name (over a year later, the missionary friend we grew close to is still on our family’s prayer list). Also, offer to pray for your missionaries before they leave your house, that God would protect them and that they would grow close to him. The missionaries who came to our house said no one had ever done that for them, and that they really appreciated us praying for them.

What has your experience been in meeting with LDS missionaries?

Comments

  1. I just wanted to say thank you for what you have written here. I have had a couple of LDS young women that have come to my door twice, and both times were not a good time to talk, so we scheduled a time to meet. I know that LDS missionaries are often treated terribly, and I was wondering how I could be hospitable in our time. Thank you for your perspective, and what you have written. So much of what you have said is so important in how we as Christians present ourselves, to be mindful of how we want to speak and be heard, and what it looks like to allow that for others.

  2. Dear Benjer,
    This is very good advice and an effective way to have a simple non-confrontational conversations. Always being courteous, kind, and offering food and water/juice makes for better conversations (I have found). On a personal note, I have spoken with LDS missionaries on every occasion during the last 28-years. Since I am not affiliated with the LDS church, I always look to learn something from the LDS missionary visits. Your points concerning prayer are valuable too. Press on, brother!

Leave a Comment

*