The Other Side of the Missionary Discussions

Today I listened to Julia Sweeney talk about her estrangement from Christianity.  Julia’s faith began to crack after reading Biblical passages like where Abraham is about to cut the throat of his beloved son, Isaac.

Maybe even more interesting, however, is her discussion about receiving two LDS missionaries in her home.  I found it interesting to see the thought processes going on on the “receiving end” of the Missionary discussions (ie people being nicer than what they’re actually thinking in their head).

Enjoy the story from This American Life!


~ by bonoboi on February 12, 2007.

4 Responses to “The Other Side of the Missionary Discussions”

  1. Nice to see you blogging again!

    I think it would be beneficial for LDS missionaries to read or listen to accounts from former “investigators” about how the discussions felt from their point of view.

    Listening to Julia Sweeney’s account, it was obvious that what the missionaries were trying to say and what she heard weren’t always the same thing. It was also apparent that she embellished (or maybe just confused) the missionaries’ message with stuff she probably heard elsewhere (like about the peep stone in the hat).

    In any case, I think the missionary discussions are terribly outdated and ineffective. Even the new-and-improved “Preach My Gospel” versions. In fact, I think it would take a pretty dramatic change in LDS missionary philosophy and culture in order for missionaries to gain any credibility when speaking with your average, skeptical Westerner.

  2. Nice to hear from you, Steve M! I’m glad you’ve kept blogging all this time. It’s been really fun accompanying you as your journey unfolds little by little. We have many things in common, I can tell from our blogs (except for you being well-read and me being well…slept).

    I don’t know who would care, but I think I’ll share the reason why I haven’t blogged for a while in this comment section (it’s a nice “hidden” place where people who know me might not find it). My time off has been basically for 3 reasons:

    1. My story with Mormonism has taken a somewhat dark turn. I still go to Church every now and then (as a complete NOM), but the “issues”/problems I’m going through, which I would normally blog about, now deal mostly with family and in-laws, and it’s almost making me sick. It is sad. It is frustrating. It was even infuriating, one particular day. And I don’t want to embarrass anyone close to me by sharing these issues we’re going through. Suffice it to say, however, my marriage has been very strong throughout all of this- it’s the relationships with parents and in-laws that are struggling.

    Some days this constant battle pushes me far far away from Mormonism, other days it makes me want to “fake it”, just for relationship purposes. When I’m around family I hate having that damn “elephant in the room”. Everyone in my family knows about my dis-belief except my little bro’s and sister and it’s hard for the older folk to be accepting and just deal with it, move on, love on.

    2. I won’t say “I’ve moved on” from Mormonism, or even from Mormon Studies, but I don’t spend as much time every day worrying about the possible ways I can again make Mormonism believable to myself (does that make sense?). Yeah, I really can’t “leave it alone”, quite yet, and I still want it to be true again, but I’ve almost passed out from holding my breath.

    Hopefully I can be NOM (to better my familial relationships- the Church is literally everything to my parents and in-laws, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t put up with it every once in a while and leave my integrity at home. What matters most is that I just strive to be the best husband and dad I can be, at home.

    So back to the 2nd reason, I just haven’t been pouring over Mormon Studies and issues as of late. Not like before, at least.

    3. I am still studying a ton, however. I’ve been reading some books by Skeptics like Michael Shermer, Carl Sagan and Thomas Kida. My favorite podcast now (well at least it’s right up there with Mormon Stories) is The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. So the 3rd reason I haven’t blogged here very much is that I’m more interested in Science, Secular Humanism, and any truth, anywhere I can find it. I blog about things other than Moism on my other blog

    Thanks for listening. You have no idea the amount of drama the Church has caused me as of late. I really appreciate you listening, though, whoever’s out there.

  3. Mark, thanks for sharing.

    I can relate to some of your feelings, even though I haven’t yet “outed myself” as a NOM/liberal Mormon/partial disbeliever/whatever to my parents or in-laws. Your experience perfectly describes my fears about what would happen if I were to come out about it.

    For the most part, I can go to church and do a lot of things that most Mormons do without experiencing any cognitive dissonance. But I kind of have to “fake it” on occasion, which I really, really dislike. Like, my wife’s parents want to go with us to the temple this weekend. I still have a current recommend, and I wouldn’t consider myself “unworthy” per se, but I don’t feel totally right about going. But I’ll go this weekend, to appease my in-laws. I don’t know if it’s right or not, but it’s one of those dilemmas that I’ve got to deal with.

    I won’t say “I’ve moved on” from Mormonism, or even from Mormon Studies, but I don’t spend as much time every day worrying about the possible ways I can again make Mormonism believable to myself (does that make sense?)

    That definitely makes sense. I used to wonder if I could somehow “salvage” a traditional testimony, and although I was studying Mormonism a lot, for a while I wouldn’t let myself connect the dots. I wanted to genuinely believe like I had on my mission. I wanted to be the model Mormon son, brother, son-in-law, and husband that I was expected to be.

    Then I had this dream that I was on a mission again, and that I was being transferred to a new area. In my dream, I imagined myself sitting in discussions telling people about Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon from gold plates and being literally visited by resurrected beings, and I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. So I called the APs and told them I was going home.

    That’s kind of when it clicked for me. And suddenly I wasn’t struggling with my beliefs, but felt comfortable and happy with the new beliefs I was forming. Of course, trying to fit these beliefs into the Mormon lifestyle is a challenge I’ve continued to deal with.

    Fortunately, I have a great, understanding wife who’s kind of going through a transformation of her beliefs as well (although it’s much different for her). We’ve supported each other, and in the end, I’m sure we’ll make our decision about what to do with Mormonism together. But for now, we’re trying to stick it out.

    Wow, I don’t know where all that came from. I guess your thoughts really got me thinking. Really, thanks for sharing.

    I am still studying a ton, however. I’ve been reading some books by Skeptics like Michael Shermer, Carl Sagan and Thomas Kida.

    And you’re calling me well-read?

  4. very intresting

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