Sunday, July 3, 2011
When Mormons Knock
A few days ago, I had the privilege of hosting two very nice Mormons after they unknowingly knocked on the door of one of the most eager of homes in Virginia to share the Catholic faith with nonbelievers. In the past, I have brushed off these missionaries (as they call themselves) by simply telling them I'm Catholic. I thought this is what us Catholics were supposed to do. But then I listened to a very good Lighthouse CD called From Mormon Missionary to Catholic Church by Thomas Smith. This convert informed me that we should always open our doors to the missionaries because they need to see people of other faiths living out their faith. He said most of the time, these missionaries lived very sheltered lives and had no idea that there were people who also lived faithful lives with different beliefs. Also, he says that our witness could plant a seed a doubt in their minds, which could lead them to conversion. As you can imagine, many of the homes they go into are ill educated, nonpracticing Catholics who are easily swayed. Our missionaries boys affirmed this well known fact to us and expressed surprise over our convictions.
So when the Mormons knocked, the day we got back from vacation, I was ready. My better half was not. He answered the door and almost shooed them away with a "bad timing" excuse. When they asked if they could come a different time, I quickly answered, YES! tomorrow! Later Eric tells me he was so glad I invited them in because he also didn't know what I said in the above paragraph. The extra day turned out to be the perfect amount of time to prep for our evangelization talk. My husband scoured the CatholicAnswers.com and I listened to my CD again. It also gave us time to think about what our attitudes should be- full of love for neighbor and God. Not defensive or confrontational, I kept telling my husband who can get very.... um, passionate about his beliefs.
3:00pm the next day rolls around and who knocks again, but our poor, sweet and naive Mormon boys (ages 19 and 20). We treated them like brothers and had a very delightful 2 hour conversation. We were ready for a good debate, but it turned out that there were not as ready. The didn't have very good Bible knowledge or arguments. They mostly asked us question about our faith and as time when on, we could tell they were sincere questions. They had very little knowledge about the Catholic faith, and even had a hard time holding up their beliefs against ours. They were so sweet and kind, but just not not what I thought the Mormon missionaries would be like. We shared conversion stories, family and school background, and our deepest convictions about our faith. It was truly enjoyable!
Evangelizing with my husband was such a good thing for our marriage too. With the graces of our marriage, the Holy Spirit made us a seamless tag-team. If I got stuck on a thought, my husband was able to pick up the pieces of my scattered brain and put it all together. I don't feel like I did as good of a job at explaining things as my husband did, but he tells me I helped to further explain things that he got stuck on. It was an exhilarating feeling to evangelize with him and feel those sacramental graces flowing. It was one of those rare times in a marriage when you for certain that this marriage is not about me or him, it's about a union made by God; joined as one. From our "evangilization on the beach days", we knew that when one person was talking, the other was to pray for the Holy Spirit to speak through us. We did this and it made everything feel so natural.
One of the boys asked what our belief on the Trinity was and how we wrap our heads around it. I asked him if he had ever heard how St. Patrick used the three leaf clover to teach about the Trinity (funny, since I didn't know his name was Patrick). He hadn't. The Mormons are pseudo Christians (though they don't admit to this) because they don't believe in the true Trinity. They don't believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are ONE God. In fact, they don't even believe that Jesus is really God. They said he had god-like qualities. This is why it can be very deceiving when Mormons come knocking. They couch their beliefs in Christian language and make it seem like we believe the same thing. This is what they kept telling us. My husband was very good and gentle about asserting that we don't. We believe Jesus is God. If a person believes in everything else, but doesn't confess that Jesus is God, then what's the point? I could see Patrick's wheels turning in his head when we explained the Trinity and why Jesus can be nothing but God.
They also asked about heaven more than once too, which I thought was peculiar. We were aware the strange Mormon ideas of heaven. Populating planets, becoming Gods, etc. We asserted that Heaven will be bliss just being in the presence of God. There is no such thing as time or space in Heaven, so there's no really doing, it's just being; and being in the presence of God who love is more joy than we can ever imagine here on earth. I could also see the wheels turning at this point. Mormons believe that each planet has their own god. They don't like to admit this either because deep in all of our hearts, we know for certain that this is not true. From their responses, I could tell they wanted to believe too-- that there is ONE God who loves us all--throughout all space and time.
At the beginning of the conversation, they were surprised to learn that Eric and I had both done some evangilization work before (in college). Before they left, they asked if we did this sort of thing on a regular basis for our Church! Haha. We said we'd love to, but right now, we are working on converting our little heathens before we venture out of our home. total joke. Our kids convert us more than we convert them. They knew what we meant though.
Passing along a Catholic bible was a big accomplishment too. Mormons are only allowed to read the King James version of the Bible, which is the most inaccurate version of the Bible in language and content. In fact, their teaching on heaven comes from an inaccurate translation of the words for heaven and earth! We tried to convey the message of their flawed Bible to them throughout the conversion, however we weren't so good about the history and specifics about the translations. At least before they left, one of them willing took the NAB version (New American Bible) from us. He assured us that he would read it and come back with it someday, so we hope that we will have another good discussion in the future.
At the end of our discussion, they asked Eric to lead a prayer. They watched us and our son make the sign of the cross and when we finished, one of them was trying it out for himself (the one whose name was Patrick and who asked about the Trinity. Interesting, huh?).
One of little secrets that we learned about Mormons from the CD is that they are given the title- Elder, and their first names almost become obsolete. Elder Johnson, Elder Smith, etc. becomes the only name they are referred to by other Mormons. Not even their missionary partner knows the other's first name most of the time. So, to find out their first name and call them by that, strips them of their authority and makes them more vulnerable. Thomas Smith said on the CD that a protestant missionary did this to him, saying that when he died, God would be calling him by his first name- not his title.
Eric and I were waiting for an opportunity to get it out of them and before they left, Eric goes, "I'm not very good with last names, can I get your first names so I can remember you?" It worked like a charm, even though one of them stopped himself for a moment before giving in. We were then able to say goodbye to the boys with their real names.
I believe a seed of doubt was planted (especially in Patrick) and so now I pray for Patrick and Zachary and I asked your prayers too.