Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Reverse Missionary Work

I got one of those comments on my blog yesterday--you know the type--urging me to leave the Church if I didn't like certain aspects of how it is run. "Anonymous" said:

"I think you are one of those people that is looking for an excuse to be mad and to be offended. A truly humble person can not be offended. Go join the Catholic church. Because the Prophet of this church agrees with Julie B Beck, so if you don't agree with her you don't agree with the Prophet. Maybe it is time for you to find an easier religion!"

I've read these types of comments quite often, and I view them as "reverse missionary work." This week I've been trying to understand why anyone would become involved in reverse missionary work, and what their motivations might be. (And why they are always "Anonymous.") Let's try to put ourselves in the place of these "Anti-Missionaries" and see what they are trying to accomplish:

1. Reverse missionary work will cleanse the Church from those who might be a corrupting influence.

2. Those who complain against Church leaders or policies might lead others astray. For the good of these weaker members, the complainers should be driven away from the body of the Church.

3. People who don't believe the mainstream teachings of the Church are different, and do not belong. They make the faithful members feel uncomfortable. They should leave the Church and find another group which is more closely aligned to their beliefs.

4. Members of the Church have a responsibility to call their less faithful brothers and sisters to repentance. Perhaps inviting them to leave will show them the error of their ways.

5. Faithful members should not have to listen to contention. Dissenters cause a lack of unity and thus do not belong with believers who are trying to build Zion.

6. What other reasoning lies behind reverse missionary work?

And you, dear reader? Are you a missionary, an anti-missionary, or are you lukewarm on the issue? Do you feel a responsibility to keep members like me in the Church, would you rather I leave, or don't you care one way or the other? What is your opinion on reverse missionary work?


james said...

An do you think you are being a "missionary" with about all your complaints about the MORMONS?


p.s. The anonymous bloggers probably know you personally and just want to finally get back at you someway.

Bored in Vernal said...

James weighs in on the side of reverse missionary work.

#6. Faithful members should "get back" at those who are complainers.

james said...

YOU HAVE AN ANSWER FOR EVERYTING DON'T YOU. I am neither a "Mormon". a faithful member, or a missionary. What have you got to say to that? I was just curious about your cult. Don't know if I am anymore though.


Bored in Vernal said...

well, James, thanks for sharing.

Mark IV said...


I think you are being too charitable, since there is no rational motive for that kind of ugliness. It is petty and childish, and unbecoming anybody who even aspires to be called a saint.

Do you feel a responsibility to keep members like me in the Church

I see no distinction between you and any other member, but yes, I do think the church needs you.

silence for safety said...

BiV, sometimes this is the biggest concern in my mind. If I don't agree with the teachings on an institution, if they have hurt me, am I blind to think I can help it become better by remaining a part of it? Or can I really do any good surrounded by people who will not look at me the way I really am? They don't want to see my greyness, but I am proud of it.

I am lucky because those who love me have never tried to push me out. But it's because they keep a false portrait of me in their minds.

Living in the middle is not an easy place to live.

I try to give the police a little break, though. I remember how it felt when my faith was threatened; it was terrifying.

onelowerlight said...

It's at times like this when I think that my impenetrable stubbornness is more of a virtue than a vice: people can say the nastiest things about me and I'll laugh in their faces and still do what I was going to do anyways. My membership in the church is between me, God, and my ecclesiastical leaders, and I really don't care what anyone else says about it. If anyone in the church really did try to tell me to leave, I'd interpret it as a sign of personal insecurity and pity them more than anything else.

Janell said...

I love that you used the China Cyber-police/Cyber-censors graphic ^_^

The wording of this post confuses me a bit. Are you referring to missionaries of other religions attempting to convert you to another religion, or are you referring to people within your religion attempting to push you out?

Tanya Sue said...

The comment if you don't like it, leave always cracks me up. Let me tell you why. About 10 months ago I started struggling with my testimony. I talked to my priesthood leader, etc. I needed some breathing room while I sorted things out. I have had more visits and calls since that happened than in the entire 10 years before (and I had some very significant health problems in those 10 years).

Have you ever hear you can leave the church but you can't leave it alone? Well I would add you can leave the church but they won't leave you alone.

I also think it is important to note that we never hear GA's or the Prophet tell people if they don't like it leave. They may chastise of correct, but I have NEVER heard a GA tell a group of people to leave. My experience is that those who truly love and understand the gospel just want to love and help each other. The would rather patiently wait for people to work things out than to encourage others to leave the church.

As far as I go? I am not sure what I am. I am working through some issues in my testimony, but would never want to influence anyone to leave the church or to cause them doubt. I think reverse missionaries are missing the point.

I had someone online that I was debating with a little. We took it offline. She heard me out, listened to me, etc. She doesn't agree with the same things I think, has a much more conservative opinion. I can say she has done more for my testimony in the church and building my faith that anyone encouraging me to leave ever has. In fact, she keeps telling me she hopes I won't leave.

Ann said...

I don't know what the hell they're thinking. I have some other bad words I can assign to these people, but this is a Mormon blog so I will refrain.

It's my church, too. As much as it is theirs. My butt is in a pew every Sunday, except when I'm leading the music. I direct the choir every Sunday afternoon choir and go to cub scouts every Wednesday night. My faith is AT BEST tenuous, and usually non-existent, but I have thrown my lot in with the Saints and by golly nobody is going to make the choice to leave for me.

Why do they want us to leave? Because it disturbs their happy little image of the church as a place where everybody believes exactly the same thing and votes the same way and does things exactly the way THEY want them done. We make them uncomfortable. Tough. If they don't like it, they can leave.

Bored in Vernal said...

Janell, Reverse missionary work is when someone tells you to leave the Church if you don't like the way things are run.

Bored in Vernal said...

Silence, and Ann,
I think you are right, some members feel very threatened by an image of the Church which is not the tidy one which they wish to hold in their mind. They probably prefer that we would leave their image of Mormonism alone rather than mess with the edges of it. Thus they ask us to leave.

Do you think it is possible that they are putting themselves in our place? Maybe they feel that if they had as many questions as we did, and were as conflicted as we are, that they would no longer be able to stay in this Church. So they can't understand why we don't just leave rather than subject ourselves (and them) to that kind of mental anguish. ???

silence for safety said...

BiV, in my experience, the people who have the hardest time with my faith cannot put themselves in my place. That's what makes them ignore the problem. However, they're not pushing me out.

Fortunately, unlike Tanya Sue, my bishop has been amazingly patient and understanding throughout my journey. To my knowledge, he has even kept the information secret. If all people were so understanding and charitable, i would not be so torn about choosing a church to raise my daughter in.

GeckoMan said...

Give the reverse missionaries something futile to do: stay.

BiV, thanks for holding your torch up high. I'm all for liberty of thought and faith, even in the church.

J G-W said...

Count me a missionary. I love the Church. I give copies of the Book of Mormon to friends and co-workers. I seek opportunities to dispel negative myths and stereotypes about the Church, and openly share with friends all the reasons I love and believe in the Church.

I also love diversity -- of every kind. I love that you stay committed to the Church even with your struggles and doubts. Hang in there.

By the way... I've been told by non-Mormon friends that my willingness to acknowledge both strengths and weaknesses within the Mormon community makes me a much more credible witness of the strengths and the truths to which the Church bears witness.

Bored in Vernal said...

j g-w
You are indeed the best missionary I know. Your testimony never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Thanks for commenting here.

sarah k. said...

I can't really add anything that hasn't already been said. Except that the history of Christianity is replete with examples of people who totally missed the point and definition of "Christian." I love it when people tell you to leave, rather than asking how they can help.

What a waste of time, to go around looking for people who are actually examining their beliefs, and tell them to leave the church. I always wonder how that sort of thing will be punished in heaven. Maybe it cancels out any converts you get on your mission.

Dr. B. said...

I think Gordon B. Hinckley said it best: "The great Atonement was the supreme act of forgiveness. The suffering was so great, the agony so intense, that none of us can understand it when the Savior offered Himself as a ransom for the sins of all mankind. I know only that it happened and that it was for me and for you. It is through Him that we gain forgiveness. It is through Him that all mankind will be granted resurrection from the dead. It is through Him and His great sacrifice that we are offered the opportunity through obedience of eternal life.

May God help us to be a little kinder, to be more forgiving, to lay aside old grudges and nurture them no more."

Howard W. Hunter said something also: "Sooner or later, and we pray sooner than later, everyone will acknowledge that Christ’s way is not only the right way, but ultimately the only way to hope and joy. Every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that gentleness is better than brutality, that kindness is greater than coercion, that the soft voice turneth away wrath. In the end, and sooner than that whenever possible, we must be more like him. “To those who fall, how kind thou art!/How good to those who seek!”"

James might want to think about being more kind if he is a member. There is a place even for bleeding heart liberals in the church so hang in there.

m_and_m said...

I think sometimes people act out of fear or ignorance. They can't imagine staying in a church that is appearing to cause so much grief and frustration. I think just as you want respect, and maybe even compassion, they might need a little Christlike love, too, for everyone has a story, and everyone deserves to be heard.

For people who have never run into this before, they may really think that you would be happier leaving, not understanding the complexities of it all -- how much you do love and identify with, and how it isn't all just on or off for those who struggle. I've also seen people say things like this because they really didn't know what else to say. It all just befuddled them too much. When we lack empathy, it's awfully hard to say the right thing, and awfully easy to take a band-aid approach to fixing a problem, which of course is not often bandaidable.

I think James has an interesting point, though, that whether we like it or not, we are missionaries, and all of our interactions can give an impression, for good or for ill, about the Church. As much as I understand how discussion of all types can help people sort through their faith, I'm always grateful when those same people, esp. those who struggle, will open up and share something positive and uplifting from their life along the way. Those kinds of things can help balance out the frustrations that may come out, so people like James won't feel it's all bad. There's a lot of good, or else people wouldn't stick around, right? :)

journeygal said...

The reverse missionary that talked me out of church (click here, fourth paragraph down) did it, I think, because he thought if he challenged me I would turn full-face back to the church. It kind of back-fired. I was very young (I still am, but I was even younger then) and it was the wrong reason to leave.

That said, I don't know if his influence pushed me faster where I was already going, or turned me in a direction I would have never gone on my own.

Hopefully I will live a long full life and be able to discover the answer to that slowly over the next 60 or 70 years. I made a rush decision the first time around, and if nothing else, it taught me that I should consider things very, very carefully before making decisions. Especially important ones.

Perhaps your blog - complaints, praise, and everything in between - is evidence that you are considering things very carefully? It is unfortunate that some see that carefully consideration negatively. How nice that you are dealing with issues without picking the answer/destination prior to pondering. Even more nice that you are sharing it with all of us! :-)

Bored in Vernal said...

Elise, I read your story and was very touched by it. I wish I could have been there for that young BYU student to let her know that the Church is just as much for her as for any other. And it still is, and I'm glad you still enjoy engaging with Mormon topics. I've enjoyed your take on many issues.

Stephen, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I appreciate how you shared your feelings without being condemning.

I am glad you have had the experience of doubt and confusion, for I have found that those members who have never experienced such things have a very difficult time understanding my need to explore my feelings.

I am almost certain that you will disagree with my method of dealing with ambiguity in my spiritual life. However, I would ask you to consider that many of us with questions or things that are unsettling in our lives have no one we can talk to about these things. Not our bishops, not our families, many times even our spouses do not understand. It helps to be able to throw things out into the computer world and find people who have been through many of the same experiences. In writing about some of our confusions, we often come to terms with them.

I feel no compunction about talking of difficult issues. Perhaps it might be unsettling for some to read of my frustrations with Patriarchy, for example. If they disagree, they can always make a case for it being a "glorious principle." It is a good thing for us to realize that we don't always see things the exact same way. Because I struggle with some of the things church leaders have said does not mean I have less of a testimony than anyone else. As you noted, we all have different struggles and different areas where we are strong.