Sunday, November 30, 2014

My latest encounter with LDS (Mormon) missionaries, or: To debate or not to debate?

Since my departure from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, visits from LDS (Mormon) missionaries have become a semi-regular occurrence. As much as it pains me to admit it, when I finalized my departure from the LDS faith I harbored much disdain for the religion and its official representatives. When I saw missionaries approaching, or was visited by them at home, I thought only of ways to expose to them the errors of their faith, and I often wasn't gracious in my efforts to put my thoughts into action.

At some point, perhaps due to the grace provided me by my entrance into the Orthodox faith, my anger subsided and eventually disappeared altogether. This was most apparent yesterday when I invited two young men representing the LDS faith into my home. Rather than assessing the situation to determine the most opportune moment to pounce, I instead attempted to take interest in and listen to what the missionaries had to say. I was, of course, more interested in the missionaries themselves than the message they had to share.

The best part of the experience was that these two young men reciprocated. Whereas missionaries in the past were eager to remove themselves from my defensive, sometimes combative presence, my most recent visitors wanted to learn more not just about me but about my faith. I shared the Church's history and how Orthodox Christians view Christ, and they asked questions aimed not to lead the conversation back to Mormonism, but to learn more about my beliefs.

By attempting to show these two young men that I cared about them and what they had to say, rather than using them to practice my debate techniques and boost my ego, I shared the Orthodox Christian faith and it didn't fall on deaf ears. Mine is only one experience, but I did find that sometimes listening and sharing is more effective method than argument. This may be especially true with LDS missionaries who have been conditioned to see attacks against their faith as signs of their divine calling.

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