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

Difficult Questions for Missionaries

Somebody said on a discussion board:

When you are in the Missionary Training Center, they teach you absolutely nothing about how to address the issues of polygamy and blacks and the priesthood, even though they know that people will ask you questions about these are left totally unprepared on how to answer these difficult and critical questions of: why did your church for many years ban blacks from receiving the priesthood and why did your church teach that allowing men to have more than one wife is doctrine from God?

I was asked these questions several times while serving a mission in Pennsylvania and heck if I knew how to answer it and even when I did give my feeble answers, I felt very uncomfortable and even surprised when those people we were teaching the discussions to would accept the weak answers I gave.

Somebody Replied:

I agree, the MTC doesn't prepare you for the real world of teaching because the real issues are never discussed in the MTC. I think they do this intentionally, so you'll have to learn "lying for the lord", which is the one concept that will make you a true believer for life.

For example, a lot of people asked about polygamy, which I hardly knew anything about at the time. I started making things up - just anything that seemed to work - to succeed in the discussion.

We missionaries would share "techniques" among ourselves to address the hard questions like polygamy, the blacks, etc.. We were swapping excuses, not doctrinal points, although I didn't see it that way at the time.

There were times we would totally lie to our investigators about the Church. They would respond so well to our fabrications that we would chalk it up to the spirit wanting them in the water. For good missionaries, making things up about the Church is the easiest and most effective way for investigators to "feel the spirit" and get baptized. It's easy to justify when you think baptism is salvation and you're being bumped for numbers every week.

I caught my Mission President doing the same things to us on many occasions. I think the same thing happens all the way up the Church leadership. I certainly see Hinckley doing it to the news media.

If you really look at the doctrine, (on gospel principles like Section 132 of the D&C), you'll discover that the Church is a hoax. It's so much better and easier for the Church to get you to believe in the Church before you really investigate the doctrine.

It's much better for the Church if members just make excuses for doctrine, because they can tailor the explanation to whatever excuse that works in a given situation.

Now that's the art of missionary work.

My Response:

I have to agree with these observations.  And it makes sense.  The missionaries main objective is to baptize.  He receives no training on how to respond to difficult issues.  He isn't even allowed to read books that might contain answers to these difficult questions.  Thus, he has to figure out his own answers.  The criterion for judging the quality of the answers is how the investigator responds rather than how well it explains the evidence.  In my opinion, really good answers to these questions don't exist, so a process of natural selection leads the missionary to discovering and promulgating really good lies.

Am I being too harsh?  Please help me with an experiment.  Track down some missionaries and ask them some open-ended questions about polygamy.  Something along the lines of:

  • How many wives did Joseph Smith have?
  • I heard that Joseph Smith married a couple of dozen women but lied about it to most of the members of the church and to all non-members and investigators.
  • Is it true that the D&C in the 1830's and 1840's contained a passage that denied the rumors that Saints believed in or practiced polygamy?


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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