By User:bobjgalindo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By User:bobjgalindo (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Understanding Mormon missionaries will make you think twice before slamming the door in their faces.

Mormon missionaries have achieved a level of unexpected fame as cultural icons in the United States, particularly in the post-war era of Saturday morning suburbia. Many of us have had the experience of getting a knock on the door and seeing someone at the door with a pamphlet, book, and a smile. Mormon missionaries are usually spotted by their white, short-sleeved shirts, black ties, and possible bicycle helmets.

When you think about it, though, even if answering your door and then pretending like you’re the busiest person in the neighborhood who’s still wearing a robe seems like an annoyance, Mormon missionaries showing up in your neighborhood with hopes of spreading various forms of good news to you is one of the great things about America. It’s the First Amendment at work.

Recently, author Mette Ivie Harrison wrote a piece titled “How to Manage Mormon Missionaries” in the Huffington Post. Harrison, a self-described “Mormon mother of 5”, goes into great detail into the lives and hopes of the young missionaries you see. Many people in the United States still don’t fully understand the tenets of the Mormon Church, despite the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints founded by Joseph Smith in upstate New York almost 200 years ago.

Harrison’s in-depth list, meant to help people fully understand the Mormon missionaries they might encounter, brings an authenticity and a character to these missionaries that, for many, had been missing. It’s easy to not listen to a young 18-21 year old man or woman when you only think of them as an irregular annoyance that occasionally knocks on your door. But when you start to learn who these people are, and what they have given up to be there, knocking on your door on a Saturday, you might be inclined to listen. Or at least to be polite.

Many Mormon missionaries fund their mission from their own savings,” Harrison points out. “When other teens are saving money to buy clothes, a car, or for college, many Mormon teens are instead saving to go on a mission.” This fact alone might give anyone reason to pause.

Harrison doesn’t stop there.

“Mormon missionaries aren’t supposed to talk to family and friends basically for the course of their entire mission. They can email once a week only. And they get to Skype or make a phone call on Christmas and Mother’s Day. That’s it.”

That right there will stop you in your tracks. You mean the bright, happy, smiling kids on my doorstep haven’t spoken to their families since Christmas? Mother’s Day? One email a week?

Harrison’s piece goes on to talk about the difficulties, physically, mentally, and spiritually, that many Mormon missionaries go through during their 18-month or 24-month missions.

She also addresses how you should talk to a Mormon missionary, even if you aren’t interested in anything they have to say. Simply put, if breakfast one day is interrupted by a Mormon missionary just trying to best serve their faith, just be as nice and polite as they are.

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