In part 2 I talked about a six-week series of member-missionary lessons I was supposed to give. This was hard for me because I’m not a big member-missionary guy. I feel very awkward trying to push the Church on people, and frankly I just don’t do it. So I knew I was going to feel like a hypocrite teaching those lessons.
But the thought occurred to me that if I feel that way, I’m sure others do, too, and the class confirmed that that was indeed the case. So I came up with a missionary approach for the rest of us, for those of us who are maybe a little introverted or don’t want to be socially invasive. I call it inciting a gospel conversation.
Here’s the basic concept: people aren’t idiots. They know Mormons are big time proselyters. And they know you’re Mormon. So when you open your mouth and try to push something, anything, related to the Church, the drawbridge goes up, the defense mechanisms are immediately put into place, and you’re left talking to the moat. And can you really blame them?
But, as I said, people do know you’re Mormon, and there’s some definite curiousity there as well. So the key is to get them to initiate the conversation. When that happens, there are no defense mechanisms, because they’re the ones who started it. You can respond, and their question and your response can flower into an actual conversation. It might go places or it might not, but your odds of success are way better if you let them make the first move.
So how does one incite a gospel conversation? Basically just by plainly and openly living the weird lives we Mormons live. People will notice and be curious, and if they’re comfortable with you as a friend at some point they’ll ask about it.
When I had my first job as an attorney, I decorated my office with stuff from Mormon history, like that big Nauvoo map and an antiqued copy of a circular of the Nauvoo High Council (which included my GGGGrandfather, Thomas Grover). Whenever people came into my office, inevitably they would ask me about these items, and conversation would ensue and would flow smoothly and easily with no awkwardness.
If you’re on a plane, don’t try to shove a BoM on your poor seatmate. Instead, should you feel so inclined, read a BoM or some other Church book. If your neighbor gets a peek at it and asks what you’re reading, you then have permission to explain it, and that is not socially intrusive because he or she actually asked.
When you go out for drinks with your colleagues at work and order that ginger ale, you can be sure you’re going to get the question about whether you’re Mormon. Now’s your chance to tell them about the church.
When I was clerking after my second year of law school, my fellow clerk knew I was Mormon, and she kind of watched the way I acted. Out of the blue one day over lunch she asked me what it’s like to be a Mormon. That’s the kind of situation in which you can easily and naturally discuss the church with someone.
Do any of you have any experiences with incting a gospel conversation? Does that seem like an easier, more effective approach to you, or are you comfortable with initiating such conversations directly?