This past Monday, while I was in the final stages of preparing dinner, the Mormon sister missionaries knocked on my door. I imagine that garlic and oregano somehow played a prominent role in setting the mood for the exchange.
“Hi, how are you doing this evening?” one of them asked. Or something very similar.
This was a moment I was well prepared for. I knew it could go in any of many different directions. I also knew well enough just to go with the flow. The situation was in essence a challenge.”Doing alright. You?”
“Just fine, thank you,” she said (or something like that). “We were wondering if you knew anything about our church.” She said it so awkwardly. It seemed like such a struggle for her. I wondered if she was new, though I knew that, in theory, neither of the two should ever be very new. They would send three missionaries out before they sent out two greenies.
So many things I could say here. Do I pretend I don’t know anything about the church to see what they say, just to toy with them, and admit to my lie later just to be a pain? No. The situation called for sincerity. “Yes, I do.”
“Oh, good!” Her eyes brightened. This much progress seemed to be rare for them. “Could you tell us how…?” And still she struggled to speak.
“I was raised in the church, actually,” I said, knowing very well what would happen.
“Oh!” This was good news, indeed, to her ears. Progress indeed. An inactive member! “Are you… still active?”
I wanted to laugh. I wanted to lash out. I felt nearly insulted that anyone would suggest I might be an active member of the Church. “No. Your church has made it clear that you don’t like my kind.” I suppose maybe I did lash out a little bit, yet still in perfect sincerity.
They were clearly a little thrown off. “And what is that?”
“Homosexual,” I answered simply.
Now they were much more thrown off. It’s still astonishing that this wasn’t obvious to them right away, not because of my gentle voice but because we are the people their church very actively, very vocally dislikes. “I’m sorry you feel that way.” She said. “But I just want you to know that we still feel love for you.”
Very slowly now, very calmly, pronouncing each word carefully and clearly, I responded. “I don’t believe that. You’ve made it very clear that you don’t. Very clear.” I did recognize that I was using the word ‘you’ in two different ways at once, but correcting the equivocation would only have added more words without changing the meaning.
Now they had no idea how to respond. Again, one of them said, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Then she asked, oddly, “Is there anything we can do?”
Still the epitome of calmness and clarity, I answered, “Educate yourselves.” Pause. “I know that you have been told your entire lives that there are some things you aren’t allowed to listen to, some things you aren’t allowed to read, some questions you aren’t allowed to ask. There are things about your church’s history you aren’t supposed to know.”
BAM! It was like I’d hit each of them with a sledgehammer.
I continued, “How can you trust that?”
Quickly recovering, admirably, she responded, “I will say that I trust certain experiences I’ve had, certain things that my Heavenly Father has shown me.”
Right. She expected that to be her trump card. This is their most powerful weapon, the direct felt experience of the love of their Father in Heaven. The two options for me now, as they probably saw it, would be either to accept such experiences as confirmation of the truth of the Church, or deny them. I guess I found a third option. “There are many beings who are greater than us and your god might be one of them. I trust that you have had the experiences you say you have had. But that’s not the whole story. There’s more going on.”
They seemed a little frightened at this point. I had hit them hard. My words meant something to them. In rapid succession, in three different ways, I had thrown them both off balance. They appeared ready to fall over.
The sisters nodded acknowledgement that I’d spoken, then said goodbye.
“I wish the best for both of you,” I said. All sincerity.
“Thank you.” And then they left and I returned to my pasta sauce.
Rarely can you say you’ve won an encounter like this, but I very clearly did. I made them think, and I did so without giving them anything to frame as my being a bad guy. They had no response for anything. It was like the moment I’d been preparing for all my life. It tipped the balance just enough that I feel I might finally have a winning record in the battle against the demon who has that church enslaved.
I had meant what I’d said. I do believe that their god is real. I’ve been there. They do engage with something that isn’t easily found or recreated outside of the Church. I do not believe their god is what they say he is. I do not believe they know what they’re dealing with, and I believe that makes them more easily manipulated by this force that literally seeks global domination of every human heart and mind through the efforts of missionary work, with the eventual intent to destroy the world in Armageddon, in accordance with their overarching myth. They are “latter-day saints,” after all.
Minds are more easily manipulated if you create a gap in understanding that must be crossed with a leap of faith. By this I am referring to their believing patently false things as historical fact, such as that the Native Americans are the descendants of the “Lamanites” who sailed in a ship to the Americas sometime around 600 BC, despite literally all evidence to the contrary. The list, of course, goes on and on. Plenty of other websites, including their own, if you look, are devoted to dismantling the stories they tell their members. That they expose themselves, very plainly, as fraudulent and retain the wholehearted support of their members is exactly what I’m talking about. This kind of inverted zen koan is powerful.
I do feel sorry for the sister missionaries. I do wish them the best. I hope they can somehow cross that gap in their psyches and from there apply their faith more naturally. Faith is not meant to force belief in the presence of conflicting evidence. Faith is, rather, the very core of every behavior, that which allows us to act in the absence of certainty.