Mormon Missionaries: Week 2
Well, here I am only two days before they’re due to come back. But to be fair, you’re lucky to be hearing from me at all. For some reason life is a never-ending stream of chaos right now, and it seems like it will continue to be until I head off on my wonderful road trip in 2 weeks. Just saying. All the same, I am trying to get back to the blogging, so here I am.
First up, a correction from last week. I have the privilege currently of talking about these concepts not only with the kiddos coming to our door every week, but also with someone I was friends with when I was 6 to 9 years old. Piffle to anyone who says the internet isn’t a flipping amazing thing. Anyway, this wonderful individual has been so kind as to answer all of my questions, no matter how silly some of them probably are, from her personal experience and perspective having grown up in the church. It has been a wonderful and really enlightening conversation for me in a lot of ways, and I’m so grateful that she has been willing to be my Token Mormon Friend (I’ll be calling her TMF for fun in this blog) for this experience. Also, she told me last week that apparently the missionaries can be up to 24, so that was my bad. Still really young though.
This week we had just our missionaries, as they were apparently unable to secure a community member. I’m guessing that 4pm on a Thursday is a bad time for most people who work normal hours, but we’ll see if they find someone for future meetings. The first thing I noticed was that both of them seemed a lot more comfortable this time. Whether that is because they weren’t being overseen by an adult, or because they were less nervous with us (I can only assume coming into people’s homes can be a bit nerve-wracking) remains to be seen.
I won’t go through the whole conversation, as that seems like a poor use of everyone’s time. Instead I’m going break it up into a couple of highlights and things I have learned/things I am finding I have a real problem with (these things are often — though not always — turning out to be the same things). Some of what is ahead may be a bit facetious, which seems to be a tendency I have trouble curbing.
- I learned that they will answer personal questions when asked, which pleased me greatly. I am trying to restrain myself to a few questions per meeting so it doesn’t seem like I’m grilling them. This week I learned where they are from (Utah and California), that they both grew up in the church, that they are both going to attend BYU after their missions, and how long they have remaining on their missions (6 months and 17 months). Also, one of them has a sister who apparently gave him the tie I complimented.
- This week I learned more about the periods of apostasy, which I find very troubling. It would seem that sometimes God got upset because his care-o-meter was low, and people were not loving him in the way that they should have been, and so God removed the truth and the priesthood blessing from the earth. Like… physically, I guess? Or as physically as you can remove a metaphysical concept anyway. It appeared to be something like God’s version of the silent treatment. During these periods of time, people did still search for the truth, but they were not able to find it because it wasn’t there to be found.
I asked many questions about this and did not really get a satisfactory response. See, if you are coming from my side of things — a heathen who thinks that Joseph Smith was more or less a gifted con man who hit on a great religious idea after a few false starts — it seems that he needed a reason why he was the one to come up with all of this. These periods of apostasy sort-of explain why all of the great men and women (although no one seems too concerned about the women) of faith who had gone before him hadn’t found these pretty huge truths, but it also puts God in a pretty bad light. After a lot of pressing as to why exactly Joseph Smith was worthy of these great truths but other folks weren’t, the end of the line logic seemed to be “we can’t understand God’s timing” but that doesn’t really feel like enough. If I was a Christian martyr who died horribly for Jesus, I don’t know that I would be in a great place emotionally when I got to Spirit World and found out that God had actually been hiding this huge stuff for me and I had only had a partial relationship with him.
- This leads me to the next thing. I did learn that overall, the Mormons do seem to have a more merciful version of the afterlife. I am left to ponder if there is anyone who has a less merciful view of the afterlife than evangelical Christians, because if there is I have certainly never heard it and, if not, what exactly that says about that community. But that is a digression that deserves a different post. Apparently Mormons believe when you die and go to Spirit World, you are ministered to and told the true things, so there is still a path back to God, however long that might take. And so far there’s no word on it being horrible torture. I had a lot of questions about Spirit World but was told to hold those, because that comes later. I was also told that “everything good comes from God” and that they believed that meant that there were people in every religion who did have a relationship with God. When I said, “So they could be worshiping Jesus by accident?” they said yes, which left me with some conflicted feelings. On the one hand, certainly better than what I grew up with (what isn’t?) but on the other hand, there is a certain condescension to the viewpoint, and I can’t help but wonder how they would feel if they found out they had been accidentally worshiping Allah (or whoever) all along.
- David is very good at the questions and the missionaries were not afraid to say they didn’t know and take notes to go study more. I appreciated that and told them as much. Even if they come back with answers that don’t particularly impress me, I think that being able to say you don’t know is a really important skill.
- They could only stay 45 minutes and when we invited them to stay for longer, or make a longer appointment for next time they admitted that it was strongly discouraged. I found this somewhat baffling and asked my TMF and she pointed out that for one thing they are really encouraged to stick to missionary work and not be friends, but also they are very young. Having a time limit like that gives them a way to get out of a situation they might uncomfortable in. Safety reasons make a lot of sense to me, especially with such youngsters. So, although this may mean we’re on this study for a year, I will grudgingly accept.
I definitely had more thoughts but if I try to put all of my thoughts in every week… well, I’ll just stop writing. So I’ll hope these are the highlights. More next week! Probably.