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

Missionary Invitations

Extend the Invitation

The climax of every discussion is when they ask you to make a commitment.  When they ask you to make a commitment, they should be confident, direct, specific, and clear.  It will almost always begin with "will you" and will then require a yes or no answer.  For example, The Missionary Guide says an effective invitation is "Will you obey the law of tithing by giving 10 percent of your income to the Lord?" (Missionary Guide, p. 145)  That invitation is ok, but giving the money to "the Lord" might mean in the investigator's mind that they could give the money to any charity that they felt prompted to.  What the missionaries mean is give the money to the LDS Church.  So "Will you live the law of tithing when you are baptized by contributing one-tenth of your income to the Church?" is a better invitation, and is, in fact, the way it is phrased in the discussion.

Ironically, the Missionary Guide gives the following either-or close as an example of a "Less Effective" invitation because it is pushy, manipulative, and disrespectful.

We would really like to teach you the rest of the discussions.  I'm sure that you are interested in what we have to say.  Would Tuesday or Wednesday night be better for you?

The text of the First Discussion ends with

The message we have been discussing is very important to you...We could come back on (date) at (time) or on (date) at (time). Which of those times would be best for you?

Apparently, the church's correlation committee doesn't agree among itself about what is pushy, manipulative, and disrespectful.

Even though I believe that for most people, agreeing to many of these commitments is a mistake, I don't have a problem with the way the missionaries are instructed to ask them.  The invitation of the commitment pattern is analogous to the close of the sales cycle, and unlike many of closes that a salesman is taught, the missionaries tend to be clear and not trick the investigator into buying.

Of course to the extent you believe their message they will apply intense pressure on you to do what they say.  They will say things such as "will you obey the law of..." or "will you follow the example of Jesus by..."  When they phrase it like that, not obeying God's laws and not following Jesus is far from appealing.  Of course, they might be misrepresenting God's laws and Jesus' paths, so you need to figure out if they are teaching the truth before you allow yourself to be pressured by this language.

I feel sorry for the missionaries when they invite people to make commitments.  The Missionary Guide tells them,

When some missionaries invite people, they do it uncertainly and doubtfully.  Then the people may not believe that the missionaries have confidence and faith in their message.  You must believe that you are acting in the name of the Lord and that he will support your efforts.  Have faith in the Lord.  Be confident, direct, and clear when you invite people to make a commitment. (Missionary Guide, p. 143)

This is an assault on the integrity of the missionary.  Their natural feelings are of uncertainty and doubt.  They are told that they must not feel that way.  Rather, they are told that they must believe that they are acting in the name of God.  The church is acting immorally when they try to supplant the missionaries' integrity with faith. 

This manipulation isn't fair to the investigator either--whether or not he decides to keep the commitment is largely dependent upon how much confidence and faith the missionary has in his message.  If deep down the missionary doubts his own message, he is doing the investigator a grave disservice by insincerely projecting confidence that he lacks deep down inside.

Some missionaries really believe that they are acting in the name of God.  Others don't really believe that, but rather are trying to suppress their doubts and deceitfully project faith.  As the investigator, It is your job to be a little skeptical about the missionaries convictions and weigh in the pressure the missionary is under to project confidence regardless of whether or not it is honest.

Confirm the Commitment

When I was a missionary, I found this step to be hard.  I was usually surprised when the investigator agreed to do what we asked of him, and I didn't want to rock the boat by discussing it further.  But, that is the reason why the missionary is supposed to confirm the commitment.

Confirming the commitment simply means reviewing the commitment with the investigator so that the missionary is sure that the investigator understands what he agreed to do and really is willing to do it.  The missionary is supposed to express "confidence and  faith in [the investigator]" as well faith that God will help him keep the commitment.

I think we can agree that some investigators are going to be more flaky than others.  Thus, some are going to be more likely to keep their promises than others.  Instructing the missionary to universally express confidence and faith in the investigators is tantamount to teaching them to be insincere.


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