The Unauthorized Investigator's Guide to
The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints

Building Relationships of Trust

Become Acquainted

The first step in Building Relationships of Trust is to become acquainted.  The missionaries will introduce themselves to you and help you to understand that even though Mormon missionaries look like interchangeable robots, they are really unique individuals.  They will likely tell you about where they are from, their family, their pre-mission interests, and why they are serving a mission.

While they are trying to get you to know them, they will express interest in you and try to make you feel that they care about you.  They'll ask you about your family, your interests, your work, whether you know any members of the Mormon church,  and your feelings about God.  You can bet your last dollar that if you have some tennis trophies on the fireplace mantle, that they will admire and ask about them.

Build on Common Beliefs

The second step of Building Relationships of Trust is to build on common beliefs.  Many Christians criticize the Mormon religion for trying to appear more mainstream than it really is, and for using the same language as mainstream Christianity but meaning something different by it.  I believe there is a lot of validity to this criticism, and that the Mormon church intentionally obfuscates its position by focusing on similarities rather than differences in the name of building on common beliefs.

When you are trying to build relationships of trust at the office, there are two areas where the unwritten rules say you should tread lightly.  Those two areas are religion and politics.  People have charged feelings about those two things, and if it turns out that two people disagree on those topics, talking about them will tend to alienate the conversation's participants.

The missionaries' goal is to build a "good, spiritual relationship" with you that is "more than a casual friendship."  It is really hard to do that when you are alienated by talking about religion, and the purpose of the discussions is to talk about religion.  That concept is so important to the whole missionary discussion experience that it deserves its own name.  Let's call it The Missionaries' Dilemma.  The Missionaries' Dilemma is this:

  1. The missionaries' purpose is to convert you to their religion.

  2. They need to build a good spiritual relationship with you in order to do that.

  3. Talking about religion among people with different convictions tends to alienate rather than bring together the conversation's participants.

Faced with the choice between being clear about what they believe and building relationships, the church has decided to forgo clarity for relationships.

Of course, the church can only take this concept so far.  If they took the concept of building a relationship of trust on common beliefs to the extreme, they would say they believe everything that the investigator believes, and the investigator would see no point in switching religions.  So, the committee who wrote the discussions tried to distill the very minimum set of beliefs that would be required to motivate somebody to drop their religion in favor of Mormonism.  Those minimum distinguishing beliefs are concentrated in the third discussion.  The rest of the teachings tend to focus on creating uplifting conversations built on common beliefs, coupled with commitments to assume the Mormon lifestyle, step by step.

Show Empathy

The third step of building on common beliefs is to show empathy.  A prerequisite of showing empathy is having empathy.  They will try to understand how you feel, and show you that they understand.


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If you have a question or would like to discuss these topics, I suggest that you go to a Mormon-related bulletin board (here are some recommendations). If you'd like to contact me with comments or feedback, you may send an email to