People sometimes express frustration over the way Mormons are always doing missionary work. Today I read an article about interviews done with young atheists. The purpose was to find out what drove them to become atheists. The majority had been Christians who left faith completely, often during their teen years. One particularly interesting aspect of the article was that the atheists most respected those Christians who do missionary work.
One student said he didn’t consider a person a good moral Christian unless he was trying to convert that student. Why? The author of the article quoted atheist Penn Jillett: “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward…. How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?” (Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity)
On the various social media sites I visit, I see people passionately proselytizing for their favorite diet, politician, kitchen tools, and vacation spots. Many of those same people are too embarrassed to talk about their faith. While their diet or political beliefs might make life a little better for a little while, their faith could potentially make life better for eternity. Why aren’t they sharing it? Why spend multiple posts trying to convince people to read your favorite book but not spend even one telling them how to find eternal joy?
Sharing what matters most
This is why Mormons keep trying to convert you. They know they have something that will make you happier than the latest diet or best new television program and they care enough about you to risk rejection in order to bring you happiness. It is something they have put to the test and found to be the very best path to happiness and so naturally, they want to help others get where they now are.
The commandment from God to share the gospel began in the beginning of time. Adam and Eve taught their own children about God because they loved their children and wanted them to love God. Some did and some did not, but that was their choice. Believing is an individual responsibility. Adam and Eve carried out their responsibility and their children either accepted or rejected their own responsibility. Whether or not the children chose to follow God did not negate the responsibility Adam and Eve had to share it.
“Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12.)
This scripture, the teaching of the apostle Paul in the New Testament, tells us how we’re supposed to share our faith—both by our example and by our words. We are taught to let our light shine so others can see it, rather than hiding it under a bushel. We’re supposed to talk about our faith, showing others how it impacts our lives, how it makes a difference. Mormons receive lots of help learning how to share their faith, but they also learn why to share it.
Missionary work is an act of love
“[There is] a marvelous phenomenon which occurs among men when the light of the gospel illuminates their lives. Almost instinctively, it seems, the light of truth sparks a desire to share. When our minds are expanded by new knowledge, we want others to know; when our spirits are elevated by heavenly influence, we want others to feel; and when our lives are filled with goodness, we want others, particularly those whom we love, to enjoy similar experiences” (Carlos E. Asay, in Conference Report, Oct. 1976, p. 58; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, p. 41).
The next time a Mormon wants to share with you what he or she believes, take it for what it is. There are no prizes or rewards (at least not the temporal kind) involved. There are no quotas for member missionaries. It’s merely a desire to share with someone else what matters most. It’s a gift of love and when seen in that light…can you really be upset about it? Wouldn’t it be much worse if no one cared enough about you to share things they thought might make your happier? While you might choose not to accept, you might also be surprised to discover there are at least bits and pieces you love and want to incorporate into your life or your beliefs. Before I became a Mormon, people who were Mormon shared their beliefs with me and from time to time I heard a piece that resonated and I would know that little bit was true. I tucked it away to ponder and often it would become part of my belief system. I didn’t accept it all right away, but the bits I did accept had a powerful impact on my life, helping me to find comforting answers, hope, and courage. I am grateful for every Mormon who shared their favorite parts of the gospel with me.
In fact, I’m grateful for people of all faiths who share their favorite parts of their faith with me. Mormons believe that truth can be found in many places, not just our own faith, and we are supposed to welcome truth anywhere we encounter it. Often people of other faiths help me to understand my own beliefs better just because they come at it from a unique perspective.
Gifts of love—you really can’t get too many of those.