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

How To Treat the Missionaries

You should treat the missionaries with respect. Most of them are sacrificing a lot as missionaries because it is what they honestly think they should do. The world needs more people who are willing to do that, and it needs to respect the ones that already are. Of course there are some missionaries that are so self-righteous or hypocritical that they donít deserve much respect, but those are in the minority. When you meet a missionary give him the benefit of the doubt and show him respect.

How do you respect the missionaries? First of all, call them by their titleóElder for males and Sister for females. Some people donít acknowledge the alleged validity of the Mormon priesthood, and they feel that calling a missionary "Elder" would somehow imply that they believe the Mormon priesthood is valid. Others refuse to address them with the title Elder because they donít even recognize them as valid ministers in a general sense. And others refuse to use the title "Elder" because they think by arguing about whether or not it is a valid title that they will be able to some how get the missionary to snap out of the trance that Mormonism has put him in. Others do it just to be rude. Iíd like to suggest that the concept of good manners supersedes all of those objectives, and therefore you should call the missionaries by their titles unless they request otherwise.

The next thing Iíd suggest is that you become familiar with the missionary rules, and encourage the missionaries to stick to them. I am not saying that you should be a vigilante, spying on them and reporting every infraction of the rules you see. Rather, Iím just saying that you should be aware of the rules and host the missionaries in a way that is in harmony with them.

At the same time, the rulebook is so patronizing towards the poor missionaries I find the rulebook itself contemptible. If an idea for an activity comes up that breaks a rule or two, I think it is ok to suggest itójust donít try to pressure them into accepting. For example, you can say "I realize this might be an inappropriate activity for missionaries, but I am taking the wife and kids to go see The Little Mermaid tonight and you guys are invited to come with us. Weíre stopping by Baskin Robbins on the way homeómy treat." Now if they decline, you shouldnít try to pressure them into it. Rather just say, "I respect that."

Regardless of whether youíre a member, an investigator, or a potential investigator, if the missionaries are doing their job they are going to ask commitments of youóthe commitment pattern is drilled into their speech pattern. When the missionaries do ask you to do something, give them a straight, honest answer.  If you tell them you will do something, then do it.  If you don't want to do something, then don't say you will.  For example, if you promise to read 5 pages of the Book of Mormon by next Thursday, then you need to make it a priority to keep that promise. Breaking commitments isnít just being rude to the missionaries, it is also bad for your own sense of integrity. And try not to be wishy-washy with the commitmentsódonít say, "Iíll try" (Si Dios quiere). Say yes or no. Or, offer a more acceptable promise, "5 pages seems like a lot, but I will promise to read 2 pages."

There is one major exception to what I just said--for heaven's sake, don't get baptized just because you promised the missionaries that you would.  If you change your mind about that commitment, then by all means back out of it.  Just as its better to cancel a wedding than a marriage, it is better to cancel a baptism than a membership in a church.

When you set up an appointment with the missionaries, it goes without saying that you should be there. Furthermore, why donít you go the extra mile and call them the night before to confirm the appointment? Riding a bike 5 miles or more to an investigatorís house is a big sacrifice of their time and energy. Even if they have a car, they have very tight mileage allotments. They will likely be a bit hesitant to call you up the night before to confirm an appointment, because they are afraid that you would use that as an opportunity to cancel. They will be thrilled if you give them a call and let them know that you remember them and will be there.

When they arrive, always offer them something to drink. If water is all you have, then thatís greatómany missionariesí drink of choice. You may also offer them a little snackócrackers, cookies, carrots sticksóthat kind of thing. If you want to offer them a snack, do it when they first arrive. They should only be staying for about an hour, and the last half of the visit will usually be more focused on teaching, and they donít want people munching on things while they are expounding the mysteries of the universe.

If after a visit or two you find that you and the missionaries enjoy each otherís company, then invite them over for dinner some time. They live on a shoestring and depend upon good people offering them meals. On the nights when they arenít invited to somebodyís house for dinner, they usually end up eating macaroni and cheese or some other meal-in-a-box for 79 cents. What should you feed them? In most parts of America, people frequently feed the missionaries either spaghetti or casserole, so you might want to give them a break from that and choose something else. Stir fry, hamburgers, tacos, fish, chef salad, and pizza are some ideas that come to mind. It doesnít need to be fancy. If youíre not sure what theyíll like, when you set up the appointment think up a couple of ideas and offer them a choice. Donít just ask them what they want without throwing out some ideasómost missionaries are uncomfortable with carte blanche.

One of the mission rues is don't debate.  Sometimes, Evangelists will try to argue with the missionaries and prove that they are wrong because their views don't conform to what the Bible says.  They tempt the missionaries to open up their scriptures and defend their views from the Bible.  In missionary jargon, this is known as "Bible Bashing".  Don't engage in that.  It's fine to talk about what you believe, and ask them questions about what they believe and why, but don't argue about it.

If you follow these guidelines, your encounters with the missionaries should be pleasant and informative.

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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