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This past Friday (April 24th) I had my chance to have conversations about religion with a couple of Mormon missionaries at the local Mormon Missionary institute. They had given me homework to read a few chapters out of the Book of Mormon, which I did and more. I had marked down every chapter that I have read so far, and they were really happy with the effort I had put into it. Reading the BoM has been on my to do list for a while, and I'm making slow progress toward that goal. I've read the whole Bible and the whole Koran, and I've started BoM and the Bhagavad-Gita.
I had a great time. The only downside was that they showed a 15 minute video compilation of the Gospel accounts of Jesus.
The missionaries have been trained to convert people and it shows. Having an agenda in and of itself is not a bad thing. My website has an agenda. But they promote their agenda in only underhanded ways. The majority of the tactics that I write about on this site aim at driving down to what each party in a conversation thinks and why.
With the missionaries, it's different. You ask a specific question, you'll get a pre-canned story as an answer.
"Why doesn't God just make it obvious that Mormonism is right to anyone who honestly asks?"
"Let me tell you a story about a young man in Africa who was praying to God... and he saw a sign... "
Other things that were apparent: they have various conversion and pressure moves made to make you feel like the only socially acceptable response is to conform to any number of submissive commands.
They get this through asking you to read scripture out loud: "Would you mind reading Alma chapter 32 outloud please?"
And by really swinging the pendulum of control over to their side: "Would you be willing to get on your knees and pray to Heavenly Father to show you if this is truth?"
And through blatant appeal to emotion: said through choked back tears, "I promise you that if you ask God with an open heart that he will show you the truth."
I asked and worked through a number of new questions and arguments that I've been thinking about.
One of the more amusing moments for me was when one of the missionaries said something that I happened to know the exact chapter and verse that contradicted what she had just said. So I said, "Sister ____, that's just not true and you know it. Would you please turn to Jeremiah chapter 31 and read verses 31 - 33 out loud?"
An identical request made of me many times before, which I did without protest, threw them off-guard. They were the ones to teach me what the Word of God said, not the other way around. She started reading it, and realized that she was explicitly contradicted in what she had just said, and tried to wiggle out of it. We agreed to let her research this topic and to return to the topic in the future.
I think I'm finished with the Mormons for a while, though. I feel like I've learned as much from them as I can unless I start talking to some elder/priests or whatever the "higher ups" are called. I have exhausted the knowledge of the missionaries, and I think everyone in the room knew it. I have learned a lot in my interactions, and I feel that my time was well spent.
Several of the new questions and arguments will be posted in the near future. Be excited.