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:
The missionaries' purpose is to convert you to their
They need to build a good spiritual relationship with you
in order to do that.
Talking about religion among people with different
convictions tends to alienate rather than bring together the
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.
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.