Saturday, August 7, 2010

How do you (gently) turn down the missionaries?

You know all those old jokes about how Mormons are always getting mistaken for Jehovah's Witnesses (and vice versa)? Well, I'm living that joke and it feels more like the Twilight Zone than anything else.

Here's the situation: for the last few Saturday mornings two sweet Jehovah's Witness sister missionaries have been stopping by to share a scripture with me and bear their testimony of God's love. They usually stay for about five minutes and chat with the kids and ask about my life and then open up their Bibles. (Side question: Do they use the NIV? Because theirs is slightly modernized and sounds a little different, and my inner literati wants to know.) They smile so big and they are so genuine, I think they think I'm their golden investigator!

The first time they stopped by I made sure to mention that I was Mormon twice during our discussion and I even mentioned the Book of Mormon and that we read it every single day as a family. I think what the JW missionaries heard was "Yes, we're religious and we'd love to hear what you have to say!" But the truth is, I don't want to hear what they have to say--at least not in the way they want me to. I DO want to be respectful. I DO want them to know that I am happy that they have a testimony of Jesus and His love for them. I DO want them to know that I appreciate their good intentions. But I also want them to know that I am deeply committed to the religion I have and that they are not going to change my mind. I don't want to be a Jehovah's Witness. I'm a Mormon, a Latter-day Saint, and I firmly believe that the priesthood we have and the covenants I have made make the LDS church the right one for me. However,I don't want to be rude or insensitive to their beliefs. I also don't want to waste their time.

I have to admit that the part of me that was a ward missionary back in college keeps thinking that there must be a way to turn this around and share my beliefs with them. Who knows, maybe THEY are the golden investigators and they just don't know it! Doesn't that sound like the kind of story that would make the Ensign or a General Conference talk?

But that's just the thing. That's a story. Not real life with real people. Real people and real testimonies are a lot more complicated. I want to do right by these women because I know that they are doing the thing that they believe in and I respect that. And I think about our missionaries and how I want them treated even when people are not interested and I hope that they are being nice to them too. There's some sort of missionary karma out there, I'm sure. Politely letting them down seems like the right thing to do. I just don't know how!

The whole thing is so ironic because we used to live about a block from a Kingdom Hall and we saw the JW missionaries ALL the TIME. They knew that our neighborhood had been completely tracted out and the most they were going to get from us was an offer to give them a cool beverage. But now that we're in a different spot they just keep coming back.

What would you guys do? I seriously need some tips. If you served a mission what was the best/most polite way you were turned down? If you run into missionaries from other churches what do you say? If you aren't Mormon (and don't want to be!)and you run into our missionaries how do you turn them down without being rude?


Amy said...

Laura, I don't think you could say it more perfectly than you wrote it!
Say it just like that, in fact you could read it, because it sounds THAT good!
My parents got stuck in the same predicament, and they really didn't stop coming until my mom came out and told them the same sort of thing you said. They appreciated how upfront she was and her dedication to her church. I don't think you're going to get rid of them any other way! Good luck and let us know what you do!!!

Vincent Tylor said...

Here, this will help enlighten you about Jehovah's Witnesses some. I was one for over 15 years, but left the religion four years ago for very sincere reasons as written to my congregation in the above link. I hope it helps. All the best, Vince

Becca Jones said...

When I was a missionary, we lived down the street from the JWs and they would send their little 13 yo missionaries to us. Usually we just said, "Hey, we love what you're doing, but we're completely devoted to our church and don't want to waste your time." That usually worked.

If that didn't, we respectfully and kindly gave them each a copy of the Book of Mormon for a present. That almost always worked.

As a missionary, when we tracted into people who were devout in their churches, we really did appreciate them telling us when they really were never going to change.

Unknown said...

We used to have JW's come and my mom always said that they could come if she could give them a Book of Mormon and then when they got a little too persistent she said they come in if they said "The Pledge of Alligence" to the flag. Not the nicest way but it worked when the nice ways didn't.

When I was a missionary being told that they respected but weren't interested was the best way.Some of the nice "no thanks" were better than the reluctant "yeses". Good luck and anything you do with sincerity and good intentions hopefully will be accepted.

Katie L. said...

Do you mind the visits? If not, you can say something as simple as: "I've really enjoyed getting to know you over the past few weeks. I'm inspired by your love for God. I don't want you to waste your time, so I feel it's only right for me to let you know that I am completely committed to my church and have no desire to change -- but you are always welcome to stop by on Saturdays so we can have these chats, as long as they remain positive and friendly. I just want you to understand upfront what you're getting into so you don't feel as though I'm leading you on. If you're good with that, so am I."

If you'd rather not visit with them, instead of inviting them back, you can say, "I just think it would be best if you don't visit anymore -- though I truly appreciate your kindness and interest in our family and am grateful for the time we've spent together."

I would have LOVED people to be that clear when I was a missionary, and in my experience most folks will respect your boundaries when you are direct but kind about it. If not, you can always resort to being more firm next time.

Charlotte said...

When I had a similar experience in Seattle, I finally just had to come straight out and tell them, "I really appreciate your time but I'm a devout Mormon and I'm not interested in hearing any more about your church. Thanks!" They were very sweet people and didn't come back after that. Like Amy said, you wrote it so well - I have no doubt that when they come again you'll be able to say it equally as well!

Johanna said...

My mom had a similar experience and one time she asked the women who were coming if she could explain why she was committed to the church. She shared the first vision story and bore her testimony. They didn't come back again, but they did feel the spirit. As a former missionary, I definitely appreciated the people who were kind about turning us down, instead of being rude.

Misty Lynne said...

Yah, I've been there too. They were really nice, and I did find it interesting to learning about what they believed. But, I wasn't going to change my religion, and I felt bad for waisting their time and getting their hopes up.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite have the guts to tell them to their face (I'm such a woos), so instead, I wrote them a letter telling them "thank you" for sharing their religion and added in a copy of our Articles of Faith as a return gesture. Then I left it on the door when I knew they would be coming. They never came back.

reb said...

I noticed no one answered your question, they use the New World Translation of the bible.

Anonymous said...

I have found that the simplest way to get rid of Jehovahs Witnesses is offer them a Book of Mormon. You couldeven offer to trade it for one of their books.

It seems that once you do this they lose interest very quickly.

MikeyA said...

Tell them the truth. You know the signs, tokens (and maybe penalties, depending on when you went) to get into the celestial kingdom and they don't. Their salvation is on the line, so testify that they will never get to live with their heavenly father and heavenly mother until THEY accept the right religion. So many members pussyfoot around and are afraid to teach the truth in case they offend someone. Jesus was never afraid to rebuke the Pharisees and Saducees, why should we be?

Why be all la-de-da exchanging pleasantries when so much is at stake? "Oh, sorry I'm not really interested..." These are real people. They are definately interested in god and feel they have the truth but have been deceived. Tell them the truth, show them the way!!

Rebeckah said...

I am simply honest with all missionaries who visit me. (And yes, I offer cool drinks too.)

But I just say, "No thank you, I'm not interested in what you are offering."

It helps not to argue or offer explainations, as those are often seen as something that can be refuted. Just a simple statement of disinterest is the best way to go. You can certainly say that kindly and respectfully. :)

Anonymous said...

I am a devouted Jehovah's Witness and do not wish to get into a 'debate' as such but if I turned up at your door, I would appreciate you being as honest with me as possible as I would not want to waste your time or mine. We do not get paid for what we do, we give up a lot of precious time to come and talk to people who are genuinely interested. Take care and all the best x