You know the little thrill of fear- you look through the window and see that the doorbell was rung not by neighborhood kids, not by a friend, but by two young men all dressed up, wearing name badges indicating they are Elder so-and-so. What do you do? This is not a comprehensive, definitive guide for what you should do in every situation, but it’s a good way to get started if you want to engage the two young people at your door in a meaningful way. There are many different personalities and a variety of approaches God has used to spread the gospel, but these are some of the lessons that have served Sarah and I over the years. So - they are on your doorstep now. What do you do?
1. Open the door.
Just open it! What are they going to do, bite you? Even if you don’t feel prepared, just open it! You want to talk about unprepared? These guys are 18-20 years old, have probably never lived away from their parents’ homes before, and got sent to a random area on their own with six weeks of boilerplate training in a windowless room with dozens of other teenage boys. You, by comparison, have the Holy Spirit and truth with you. How can their arsenal compare with yours? Don’t be afraid!
Even if this visit takes you completely by surprise, take ten seconds to pray. Ask the Lord to be with you and give you the words to say and the right heart and attitude. Before they arrive for your second appointment (because you will set one up), take some time to pray for the appointment- for them to be open to the truth and recognize it when they see it, to crave for answers that the LDS church cannot offer, and for the Lord to reveal himself to them through your heart, your words, and the truth of the Bible.
3. Recognize the opportunity you’ve been given.
Each Christian has been commissioned by Jesus to make disciples (Matt. 28:16-20) and to be ready to give an answer for the hope they have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). How convenient to have lost people come to your door, of all doors! You have read an article on how to witness to them (about half of one by this point, at least), you’re not going to slam the door in their face, and you are inclined to speak to them with love, kindness, and truth. The chances of these factors coming together are actually pretty slim! Most LDS missionaries encounter only a few Christians who are equipped to minister to them during their two year mission-and they came to your door!
4. Don’t feel the pressure.
You cannot change what they believe any more than you can forgive their sins. Only the Lord can reach them, your job is to be the willing instrument that he uses to reach them. God is the only one with the power to chase away the demons covering their eyes and ears so that they can hear truth and choose to love and follow Christ. For those inclined to use their Bibles as a thumping tool and not a beacon of hope: recognize dominating a conversation with proof texts will just cause them to tune out; they get that all the time. For those paralyzed by fear: recognize that the pressure isn’t on you, you only need to present the true gospel, it is the Lord’s task to change their hearts, and their choice to accept truth or not.
5. Relax and be open.
Job #1 in reaching missionaries is to build a relationship with them. Be yourself and make friends with them like they are any other human being. Although the false gospel they bear is poison, they are not maliciously trying to deceive your family. They are themselves deceived, but they generally think that they are truly bringing you a message of truth. The best way to show them the light is not by treating them as a threat, but by building a foundation for a relationship so they’ll be willing to listen to you. Also, be open and honest- don’t lead them to think that you’re really interested in converting; this deception is not a good tactic in the end, nor is it honest. Openness and honesty should be core themes in your interaction- consider discussing 'ground rules' in your home, e.g. that all resources can be considered (e.g. non-LDS ones), that truth is truth and can withstand questioning, etc.
5b. Be nice.
Sadly, a lot of Christians are rude to LDS missionaries. What kind of witness is that? Not to mention ineffective- these young men (and sometimes women) get rudeness all the time and have long since learned to tune rude people out. You won’t likely reach them that way. Instead, follow the biblical imperative to practice hospitality. The word translated as 'hospitality' in the Bible is often the Greek philoxenia, meaning “loving strangers”. You stand a much better chance of the missionaries considering what you say if you genuinely try to build a relationship with them and invite them to be themselves. Wouldn’t you be more likely to accept a grave concern brought to you from kind, considerate person than from someone you didn’t know who was being argumentative?
6. Don’t sweat the first meeting.
Many Christians meeting with many missionaries have found that it’s very difficult to redirect the first meeting. The outline for this meeting is the same everywhere, with every missionary, and it is drilled into them very strongly. It’s practically scripted. Use the first meeting to build a relationship with them instead of trying to dive into deep theological discussion. You don’t have to affirm everything they say, just let them know you are interested in hearing them tell you what they believe the truth is.
7. Invite them back.
They will probably suggest a second meeting- take them up on this. Make them dinner. These poor boys are on a strict budget and might not know how to cook! They get fed by LDS church members sometimes, but you can bet that making them a tasty home-cooked meal will go a long way in building the relationship you will need to speak truth to them.
8. Speak the true gospel of Jesus Christ
This is the big part! You’ve had to take a lot of steps to get to the point where you can actually do the thing that makes an eternal difference in these youngsters’ lives. Prepare yourself by being well-versed in the biblical gospel first, and have some key verses marked in your Bible. Ask them to look the passage up in their own (LDS-church-approved) Bibles along with you. Their Bibles are King James Version like any other KJV (with some extra LDS notes and references) but reading from a text with the LDS seal rather than your copy avoids an argument. Be prepared to give a defense of the Bible’s reliability and historicity. Resources for this and many other methods of reaching LDS missionaries are available on Tri-grace’s Resources section. There is no one right topic or method of reaching LDS missionaries. Although they all teach identical lessons from the same materials, they are unique individuals who will all respond to different things. As you get to know them and their stories, you can pick topics that reach them. I often find it useful to use elements of the Impossible Gospel, contrasting Jesus’ words with LDS teaching, and telling my own story of finding a relationship with Jesus to be useful tools.
9. Continue to minister
Keep on meeting with the missionaries and speaking truth to them as long as they are willing to. You will need to turn to more exhaustive resources than this for doctrinal and theological arguments. Always pray for the missionaries before and after meetings with them, and after your last meeting. I am not afraid to pray with the missionaries during the meeting either- I keep it clear in my heart and it should be clear to them through your discussion that you are praying to a God that they are not. I see no reason not to pray to the true God in the presence of those who we’re trying to guide to him. Lastly, try to exchange some method of contacting the missionaries after they are done with their missions. As of this post’s writing, many missionaries are permitted to have profiles on social networks such as Facebook for the purposes of their missions, and this is a good way to be able to reconnect with them after their mission, when they are more free to engage with you.
Remember, you are only offering truth. You cannot change these young people’s hearts, only God can draw them towards himself in that way- you are but the tool He can use. Still, your role is an important one, and it behooves each Christian to be ready to give a skilled, authentic, and passionate answer for why they choose to put their hope in Jesus.
Sarah and I gained our experience in reaching Mormons through short-term missions that turned into year-long assignments as assistant staff with Tri-Grace Ministries. We'll be returning there as missionaries this fall. You can read our story here, and learn more about being involved in our ministry by clicking here.