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Thursday, April 23, 2015

We Are Not Trying To Convert You

This one goes out to everyone who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

Anyone who has served a full time mission for the said church or has invited a friend to listen to them has probably heard something like "they/you aren't going to try to convert me are they/you?"

Yes, there are many people who are afraid that we are trying to induct them into some creepy secret society of cultists who make blood sacrifices or something weird like that.  Many of these are the same people who think Mormons grow horns, baptize corpses, slaughter babies, enslave women or that Joseph Smith magically pulled the Book of Mormon out of a hat.  While these people are just as mis- or uninformed as someone who knows absolutely nothing about our faith, they still deserve the correct answers to their questions.  Herein I will focus on the question I posed.

That straight up answer? No, we are not trying to convert you.  Nothing of the sort.  Here's what we ARE trying to do.

One of the church's missionary resources, Preach My Gospel, makes it clear that the purpose of missionary work is to "invite others to come unto Christ...".  We consider ourselves successful each time we invite someone to learn about our beliefs regardless of the response.  Because our beliefs are centered on Jesus Christ and His example throughout His entire life was to invite others to come unto Him and have the happiness He enjoys, we try to do the same.  God gave each of us the ability to choose and we celebrate that gift given to all of His children by allowing people the chance to either accept or reject our message, His message.

This can be taken from two angles (or more, but I'll specify two).  The first is this.  Since we find life's deepest, permanent and most pure joys as we live our religion it would be absolutely selfish of us to keep that joy to ourselves and thereby deprive others of the opportunity to have that same happiness in their lives.  If you reject that invitation, for whatever reason, that is your right.  Some of us may be hurt or disappointed that you are not interested in what we have.  Many of us continue to invite in different ways even if you say no the first time.  Please do not misunderstand this.  We do not want you to feel pushed or overwhelmed.  Many of us are too afraid to loose your friendship to not care about what you think.  The main reason most of us continue to invite you to "come and see" is because we have seen the exponential increase of joy and peace our faith has caused in millions of different lifestyles and perspectives.  We cannot even pretend to see life from your unique point of view, but we know the difference the Lord's church can make in any life or culture, so whether or not you accept our invitation, we consider it selfish to just give up after one attempt.

Another angle from which to consider our invitations to learn more about our faith is this.  The culture of the Latter-Day Saints is so saturated with it's own jargon that the stronger our faith in Christ, the more our conversations are dominated by terminology associated with His church.  If we didn't invite you to learn more about our faith, much of our conversations would sound like greek to you and we LOVE being your friend, so we try to keep it from being an awkward conversation by keeping you in loop.

So where does the concept of conversion come into all of this?

The role of the Holy Ghost is to, because of Christ, comfort, purify, warn, and change/convert the heart to Christ.  We are not the Holy Ghost and since that is His and His role alone, we are not only not trying (or at least, shouldn't be) to convert you.  We are completely incapable of doing so anyways.  Conversion of the heart to the truth, whatever that truth is, is a spiritual process, not an audible, visual, physical or social process.  It can only be caused by the Holy Ghost and can only take place in the mind and heart.  We can say, show and do things, speak truths to you and set examples for our standards in ways that you can physically sense; and the Holy Ghost can confirm the validity of those things to you, but even He cannot rob your of your ability to choose whether or not to accept it, even when He confirms it in your heart, and neither can we.  It just can't be done.  Even God Himself won't coerce you.  It's a choice only you can make.

Any Latter-Day Saint who, in their mind and heart, is actually trying to convert you and overbearingly persuade you to join the Mormon church is doing it all wrong.  Please be patient with us.  We are all still learning to be Christlike.  So many of us have grown in our love for the Savior so much that we feel like we could just yell it from the rooftops if it didn't make us look like a lunatic.  If you feel overwhelmed, scared or worried by us, remember that we are all at different places in our spiritual journey in coming to know the Savior and some of us are more socially adept and conversationally savvy than others.  We love you.  We really love you.  Most of us try so hard to live the best we know how in staying the course to repent and come to know and become like our loving Savior.  We strive zealously to make use of His Atonement.  Sometimes we get defensive if we feel, even by misinterpretation, that our faith is being mocked, rudely challenged or ridiculed.  We are always seeking for peaceful conversion about our Savior and Heavenly Father and Their plan.  We care about Him so much that when someone is unkind or irreverent when they speak of our faith in and relationship with Him, it hurts, just like it would anyone else.

But again, please remember.  We are not trying to convert you.  We are incapable of doing that.  If someone seems like they are trying to do so, be patient with them.  It's simply a misdirected effort to share the goodness we have with you or a reflection of our misunderstanding or ignorance of your perspective.

We would be and are utterly overjoyed when our friends and family see the joys of our faith as we do and decide to join with us, so we just keep trying, as kindly, humbly and happily as we can, to invite you to "come and see".