Tuesday, April 11, 2006

More musings on mishies

You may have noticed the battle of condescension in my latest adventure with the LDS missionaries (here and here).

When the warriors of Truth (with a capital "T"!) discovered that I was a former Mormon yet not hostile towards Mormonism, they immediately assumed that I'd never tried very hard to believe in it. That's what I figured they'd conclude -- if they're confident that their beliefs are correct, that would be the most logical explanation for them of my situation.

For my part, whenever I chat with the mishies (as with these earlier adventures) it's all I can do to avoid hearing the Cat Stevens music swelling in the background:

...you're still young, that's your fault,
There's so much you have to go through.
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy.

I was once like you are now...


etc.

But really, I try to avoid taking the attitude of "Aren't you the cutest little thing? When you grow up, you'll see it's all a fairy tale." Because that does nothing but insult them.

They're adults, off on their own (sort of), and have chosen to go through this difficult-yet-wacky rite of passage. And I have no particular reason to think that any of the ones I talk to will ever leave the church.

These are guys who will likely go on to be corporate executives (or cogs), voting against gay rights, etc. So maybe I should join my fellow exmos in seeing the missionaries' attitude as arrogance rather than seeing it as the friendly confidence and ambition appropriate to their age.

Still, those who are going to go back and become part of the backbone of conservative society would do well to see that Mormons and other religious people aren't the only good people out there.

Or perhaps it's just my own arrogance that makes me say that if they've taken the trouble to come all the way to France to teach the people here, then we here can return the favor by giving them some food for thought as well, to take back with them...

21 comments:

Joseph's Left One said...

Um, they aren't that confident. They doubt just like every other Mormon, but they're not allowed to say so. Some of them are probably close to figuring out that it's a load of crap.

No, it's not condescending to give them things to think about. Half of them don't want to be on missions, anyway.

C.L. Hanson said...

The funny thing is that I've talked to a lot of them, and they always seem confident when they talk to me.

I think part of it may be that -- whenever they're not reciting the lessons they've memorized -- I'm generally interested in listening to what they have to say about themselves and their experiences.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

I have to admit that when I was a mishie, I was not confident. Keep it up... you might save a few.
:-)

Rebecca said...

Hey, more power to you (yes, I did just write that)! They always seem way confident about what they're teaching, but who knows. I was never a missionary, but I was always pretty confident that I was in the One True Church.

Watt Mahoun said...

The missionaries dropped-in on us the other day because we're the member family that lives above the investigator that ditched their appointment.

[Point of trivia: one of the elders is just new in the field from Preston, ID and happens to be the guy who puts Napolean's tape into the deck so he could do his vote for pedro dance.]

Anyway, the elders were lamenting the fact that our neighbor had found stuff on the internet about DNA and the BoM that caused him to loose interest in Mormonism. They were pretty bummed, and said they really didn't have anything to counter this internet stuff except to bear testimony and challenge him to pray more...which they clearly felt was not enough.

All I could say to comfort them was that it used to be easier...damn (er, dang) internet! Of course, this didn't make them feel better.

Sideon said...

Tit for tat with mishies. Okay, I'll match anyone's arrogance, not just mishies'. I can't help it, I just don't do well when someone cops an attitude.

When mishies came by one summer, I invited them in on the condition that they don't get into lessons or testimonies (they agreed), and offered them drinks/food (they declined). ((It didn't hurt that they were also cute.)) We talked at length about Utah - I used to live there, and that's where they both were from. They tried steering the topic towards beliefs and I told them I was familiar with Mormonism, that it didn't work for me, and that overall I enjoyed not knowing the mysteries of life: paganism worked just fine for me. Bad move on my part! One guy got all puffed up and started with his testimony. I cut him off. They were stunned. I said that his belief wouldn't change mine, so respect what I had asked when they came in. The de-puffed elder actually got misty eyed and contrite. I wished them well, told them I wasn't interested in further discussions, but they were welcome to come by through the summer if they ever needed a break or refreshments. I never saw them again.

Chanson... I think it's great that you DO leave them with something. It's the epitome of arrogance to think missionaries can go to a country and NOT be involved with the culture or history. "When in Rome," eh? :)

C.L. Hanson said...

Darn that Internet!!! So full of the right questions to ask... ;^)

That's part of the reason why I don't feel any desire to try to challenge their beliefs -- I'm sure they're already being regularly confronted with challenging information. So even if I figure I'm right, I doubt I would be helping them by presenting them with "anti" evidence and arguments that they're already familiar with.

Really, whether they're confident in their beliefs for real or not is their own business. Basically I just like to do like Sideon and have a friendly exchange in which -- despite our religious differences -- they don't have to apologize for who they are, and I'm sure as hell not going to apologize for who I am... ;^)

Joseph's Left One said...

Here's the deal. For the most part, they aren't being confronted with information. Most investigators don't know much about the church, so the first discussion goes about as planned. If they go out on the internet after the missionaries leave, they generally just tell the missionaries not to come back. Why have them back to argue? So, missionaries occasionally get this stuff, which they will dismiss as "typical anti-Mormon lies," but they really don't know much.

C.L. Hanson said...

Do you really think they're not aware of the problems with Book of Mormon archaeological/DNA evidence? Or of the even more glaring problems with the Book of Abraham?

I mean that as a serious question, not a rhetorical question. It seems astonishing to me that anyone in the church could fail to at least have a general idea about these problems, but maybe I don't have a realistic view of what the average Mormon knows...

On the other hand, if I bring up these issues and they aren't already aware of them, then they'll assume I'm just lying in order to attack the church, which would undermine the one and only message I really care about leaving with them, namely the idea that exmos aren't necessarily mean, angry people inspired by satan to tear down the church.....

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

No, they probably do not know. When I was doing the mishie thing, we were not allowed to read the papers or anything else not mission approved. Unless other people tell them, which doesn't always happen, they are pretty much isolated.

C.L. Hanson said...

True...

But questions that are hard to answer are so basic, I can't even imagine how they could avoid them -- even if they're isolated from secular reading material.

For example, suppose they're giving their usual discussion about how their book tells about the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. Their victim hardly has to be very educated to innocently come up with a question like "How interesting! Which civilizations? Like the Mayans? Aztec? Olmec?"

To which the mishie would logically answer "Hmmm... I don't know..." And then naturally start wondering why such an obvious question is never answered in any church materials...

Am I overestimating their natural curiosity here? Maybe I'm projecting my own LDS experience onto others, but I have a very hard time imagining a case where this type of cognitive dissonance is absent....

Rudi said...

I think part of the problem is that there is a kind of "inner" culture (it's only a short hop from culture to cult) when you are a missionary.

You see yourself as separate from the "world". The closest analogy I can think of is that of soldiers - you live in a closed environment, where there is tremendous pressure to conform. You have a certain sense of destiny as well and you are encouraged (without even realising it) to view the world as "them" and "us".

It's not so much arrogance as ignorance, and also a certain fear of being tainted by the world. Plus the whole missionary culture is designed like the army to make you fit in and conform.

I fell for it despite all my ultra-liberal leanings.

Rudi

C.L. Hanson said...

Hey Rudi!!!

I can't even imagine how awful that would be to give up all individuality like that.

Personally, there's no way I could ever have made it as a missionary, even if they had persuaded me that I'd fry in hell otherwise...

Fortunately, being a girl, I was never even pressured into it. Whew!!

Joseph's Left One said...

Rudi got it just about right. You are isolated, taught to use peer pressure to keep each other in line. You aren't allowed to read anything but the approved stuff.

When you run up against that kind of stuff (say, DNA), you just say "Oh well, they weren't ready" and move on. You wouldn't dare look for an answer because that would mean going outside the approved list of reading materials, and then you'd be halfway to the telestial kingdom.

Pressure and frying in hell. Yep, that's what they say to keep you in the program.

Damned cult.

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Yep, yep... exactly what I was trying to say. Although sister mishies are even more isolated. ;-)

And I don't remember having someone ever ask ... what culture. You could say south america and everyone would be satisfied. Of course, I was in South Africa...

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

Yep, yep... exactly what I was trying to say. Although sister mishies are even more isolated. ;-)

And I don't remember having someone ever ask ... what culture. You could say south america and everyone would be satisfied. Of course, I was in South Africa...

Cynthia E. Bagley said...

I am sorry that I double-posted.. DAng blogger comments

Stephen said...

Saw your post on Feminist Mormon Housewives and dropped over.

noell said...

On my mission I had no idea there about all the controversial stuff. In fact, I can only think of one time I ever heard something new that seemed shady, which was that Joseph Smith had more than one wife. Honestly, I thought I knew all about the church (HA HA HA!), my companion even told me she regarded me an LDS scholar (and that was my ambition). But I had no idea Joseph ever married anyone else. I never knew any of the other stuff until I finally decided the church wasn't true (by reading scripture and going to church). Not until I felt sure it wasn't true did I actually start learning all the wacky stuff!

Think about it: if you are reading the BofM everyday, the Ensign, and all the other stuff, who has time to learn what they don't want you to know?

C.L. Hanson said...

That's a good point, Noell.

I was surprised when I found out that they aren't allowed to read anything at all besides church materials!!! I had thought that learning the language would be considered an important enough task that they would be allowed to read local papers and magazines as a natural, logical component of their language study.

But keeping them isolated is clearly more important than making sure they learn the language well...

Still, Watt's story illustrates how the Internet affects the church's ability to keep controversial information at bay. As in his anecdote, it's probably not at all rare for an investigator to go look up Mormonism on the Internet and then ask the missionaries questions about what they find.

Additionally, I think the rank-and-file members are more aware of the controversial issues in Mormonism than they were ten years ago (and hence more likely to just casually mention some dangerous information in conversation to missionaries and other members). The thing is that many Mormons consider it safe to read pro-LDS apologist sites or discussion boards, and even there they're confronted with new information.

When one person posts to one of these sites to ask "How do I reconcile X with my testimony?" the people who already knew about X will likely be happy with the apologist responses. But at the same time there are undoubtedly plenty of unsuspecting LDS reading the same post who will say "What? I didn't know about X!! What is going on here?" and start questioning and/or actively discussing X with other members to get to the bottom of it...

(Substitute your favorite LDS "issue" for X above...)

Bored Dominatrix said...

Found your blog via Chris Bigelow--glad to know you're here!

I served a mission because I thought it would help me get over my doubts, let me come home a true believer. It didn't work. I couldn't believe the crap I was preaching, but since I was in Asia speaking and so very, very isolated, I just became convinced that my inability to "have a testimony" meant I was going straight to hell.

It pretty much sucked, you know? I can see elders without freaking out, but running into sister missionaries gives me a panic attack, and I've been home for a hell of a long time.