Will the Mormon kids come back to teach me their religion?
December 1, 2011 1:48 PM   Subscribe

Can I get the Mormon kids who stopped by my door the other day back to teach me their religion?

A while ago, two Mormon kids knocked on my door to talk with me. I talked to them briefly. During our talk, my own baby needed my attention, so I didn't talk to them long. They practiced speaking Chinese with me during our conversation, which they seemed to enjoy. I didn't think too much about this for a while, then I think it will be cool to learn Mormon religion from them, or learn more about the bible with them. They can practice Chinese with me too. But is it ok to contact their local Mormon church to request somebody to visit me and teach me their religion? Due to my busy schedule, and the lack of interest of my husband, our family don't go to church. I start to have interest in the bible, which I can read myself, but I would be more interested in joining a mother-baby bible study group or have some one on one bible study thing. I grow up in a country where there's no education on religion, so I have very vague idea of the Christian culture in America. I have no idea among all the different Christian churches, which one is more likely to provide something I am looking for. I really don't want to go bible study and then be pressured on to join a church or convert to Christianity. I am at a lost as to how to find a fit for me. Check out church website? Call them to ask about small group bible study for beginners? There is an Catholic church right next door to my home. But they seem to only welcome Catholic. People who know churches, please help me.
posted by akomom to Religion & Philosophy (44 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I can assure you there is absolutely nothing the LDS church would love more than for you to call them up and ask them to send people over to you to talk about their religion. Their religion is practically predicated on the concept.
posted by griphus at 1:54 PM on December 1, 2011 [30 favorites]

You can chat online with members of the Mormon church here. Hopefully they can point you in the right direction w/ regard to learning more about their religion. Best wishes on finding happiness and fulfillment on your spiritual journey.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:55 PM on December 1, 2011

I really don't want to go bible study and then be pressured on to join a church or convert to Christianity.

Avoid studying with the Mormons then.
posted by andoatnp at 1:55 PM on December 1, 2011 [48 favorites]

I tried calling my local Mormon church to get the missionaries who came by to stop back when I had more time to talk. The church set up a time for someone to come over and no one ever did. And that's the story of how I got stood up by the Mormons.
posted by thewestinggame at 1:56 PM on December 1, 2011 [17 favorites]

The Mormons will likely expect you to convert to their particular understanding of their faith, which is one that many, if not most, Christian churches consider to be outside of the realm of Christianity.

If you want to learn more about what is called mainline Christianity, which less (if any) pressure to convert, I'd suggest something more along the lines of the United Methodist, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, or Episcopal churches.
posted by 4ster at 1:56 PM on December 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Please be sure to look at other religions in your area. There are many different communities, and I strongly urge you to pick the one that works best for you.
posted by Mr. Papagiorgio at 1:57 PM on December 1, 2011

I'm sure you could call your local Church of Latter-Day Saints (the official name of the Mormon church) and ask someone to come visit you, but my experience has been that once you express any interest in the church whatsoever, you can never get rid of them. They will keep calling and calling, visiting and visiting, trying to get you into the church. YMMV, of course.

Anyone is welcome in a Catholic church, but I don't think the Catholic church is as warm and welcoming as many Protestant churches are (I was raised Catholic). If I were looking for a friendly, accepting, welcoming church to go to, I would go to a Unitarian Universalist church.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 1:57 PM on December 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

Since people so rarely WANT to have the people who knock on their doors talking about religion with them, I have a feeling that if you called the local Mormon church to ASK for it, they'd fall all over themselves to comply. They may even be able to track down the specific people who spoke to you, if you can remember an exact date.

Although, I'd be up-front about what your aims are - if you don't want to convert just yet, but just want to know more about it, let them know right away that that's what you're interested in. (This is the only reason they may not agree -- they may be a little grumpy if you meet with people a lot and then say "oh, by the way, I don't want to be Christian after all -- but thanks anyway.")

If you're looking for more general information about religion, without someone pressuring you to convert, I'd look for the "Universal Unitarian" church in your area. They are a sort of "a little bit of everything" religious group, and may have a more "information only, instead of conversion" approach. If there is an "interfaith" group in your area that may be a good place to start too.

Good luck -- I also know of a very good web site if you want (memail me if you want the name).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:57 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, the Mormon church will be happy to send missionaries back to your door. However, they will definitely pressure you to convert and join their church. If you are looking for a laid back bible study group I would look at other churches.
posted by steinwald at 1:57 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your best bet would be to start with any friends that you have who happen to belong to a Christian denomination. Failing that, you could start with a well-meaning soul who's willing to share as much information as they can without pressuring you in any particular direction.

Which is a really fancy way of saying "If you'd like to talk about aspects of Christianity without getting pressure, please feel free to MeMail me." :)
posted by DWRoelands at 1:59 PM on December 1, 2011

Try going to the services of different denominations, you're not required to be a member to attend services and most churches also offer bible studies and welcome newcomers. You don't have to join. Also, if you have friends, neighbors or co-workers that are churchgoers, ask them about their churches. Most would be happy to have you visit their church.
posted by shoesietart at 2:01 PM on December 1, 2011

I'd recommend trying to find a Unitarian church in your area and maybe phoning them. They are a very open religious group and have more of a concept of people finding their own versions of spirituality. It would be a good place to start and meet people with a wide range of beliefs while you worked out what worked for you.

If you want a particularly Christian church it doesn't hurt to shop around and go to a few services and see what interests you. Most churches have someone who will go up and talk to new visitors and make them feel welcome and answer questions about groups they might have such as the Mother groups you are interested in. Over the years in my search I've been to all sorts of churches for several different religions and while some might be more reserved than others I've always been welcomed.
posted by wwax at 2:03 PM on December 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

The Mormons will likely expect you to convert to their particular understanding of their faith, which is one that many, if not most, Christian churches consider to be outside of the realm of Christianity.

This is very important. They will be more than willing to come back over and are often quite nice people. However Mormonism is definitely one of those " you are in or you are out" sorts of things which may be a little more all-or-nothing than you are looking for and is definitely a lot more restrictive than most other types of American-style Christianity than you would find. I've found that ReligiousTolerance.org is a good go-to place if I'm curious about a particular religious tradition but I'm concerned about getting prosyletized to by speaking to adherents of a particular faith. Mormonism specifically has a strong missionary culture to bring people in to the fold, so you are more than welcome to have them come back to talk with you, but there will likely be pressure to join their church.
posted by jessamyn at 2:03 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

If it was 'a while ago' then you are likely not to get the same ones coming back, and they won't speak Chinese.
posted by CodeMonkey at 2:03 PM on December 1, 2011

Definitely check out the Episcopalians. They're the only 'mainline' Christian denomination in the States that are truly accepting of all comers, in the sense that women and gay people are as welcome in the church laity and clergy as white males are, etc. Of course there are certain parishes in the organization that quietly disagree, but they're not hard to detect after a short while.

The Unitarians are awesome folks but their religion is almost an anti-religion. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by zomg at 2:04 PM on December 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Depending on where you are, there may also be local Chinese Christian congregations as well. I live in an area with a high first-generation Asian population, and Googling shows several Chinese Christian churches in my area.
posted by pie ninja at 2:05 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, please be aware that people that come to your door to talk about their religion tend to have fundamentalist/extreme views that veer a bit from the norm of many mainstream Christian churches, i.e. Mormons, Jehova's Witnesses. You might want to start with a non-denominational church.
posted by shoesietart at 2:06 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you more interested in learning something esoteric about biblical stories or are you more focused on just reading with people of faith? It might be possible for you to audit a religion class at a local university. Your profile doesn't show your location, but there might be a university near you that would let you sit in on classes that would focus on the Bible as literature. That way, you could learn the stories and some historical context with no pressure whatsoever to join a church.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:07 PM on December 1, 2011

Definitely check out the Episcopalians. They're the only 'mainline' Christian denomination in the States that are truly accepting of all comers, in the sense that women and gay people are as welcome in the church laity and clergy as white males are, etc. Of course there are certain parishes in the organization that quietly disagree, but they're not hard to detect after a short while.

This may be true in some parts of the world, but in the southeastern US, Episcopal churches are splitting over these issues.
posted by 4ster at 2:08 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a dufus. I missed a sentence in zomg's post. My apologies.
posted by 4ster at 2:09 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

There also might be Christian/Bible/Seminary schools in your area that have informal extracurricular study groups not tied to a church membership.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:09 PM on December 1, 2011

I understand your urge for bible study, I often have had that urge but like others said it is really not possible that these young Mormon men will essentially tutor you without trying to convert you. I agree that the young men on missions are very charming (our atheist household has a strict policy of inviting them in and offering a beverage), but if you are looking to learn about Christianity this is not the way to go. Look into chinese churches in you area and if there are none go with unitarian or episcopalian.
posted by boobjob at 2:12 PM on December 1, 2011

I can assure you there is absolutely nothing the LDS church would love more than for you to call them up and ask them to send people over to you to talk about their religion. Their religion is practically predicated on the concept.

Dude, when I was at USMC bootcamp (MCRD-San Diego), the only enjoyment I received was going to Mormon service on Sundays. My choices were to go go to a christian service or stay in the barracks while the drill instructors played mind games on us ("you think you're better than me because you read newspapers, boy?"). They sang tons of songs. My favorite was "fly jesus fly". Totally fucked up since I'm muslim...but it made me feel like I wasn't at bootcamp anymore.

In my second to last week at bootcamp and I went to the service (we had the choice to go to sunday service, or to just fuck around without any mindgames), and asked to speak with the two young gentlemen who invited me in and talked to me soooo damn nicely. Well they weren't on shift or whatever that week. No biggie, I thought.

It didn't matter. They found out who those people were ("redhead guy with freckles and his black haired buddy"), and made them come over. at 11pm that night, my drill instructor woke me up and asked me if I'm mormon. I told him "This recruit is as Mormon as he is white, SIR". (I broke several rules there and had to do pushups). But after that, he made me leave the barracks and go outside...?!?! Standing there, in full mormon getup were the two guys.

HOLY SHIT. I just made an offhand comment...I had no idea that they would...

I told them that even though I don't share their beliefs and culture, I really respected them for inviting me in and treating me like their brother (totally true). They were there for me, when I just wanted some comfort to know that I wasn't going crazy or I wasn't going to die from stress. Totally cool.

AND THEN...they told me to "look deep in my heart and think about whether Jesus Christ is your actual savior and lord rather than 'Alo and momammend'"

That killed the moment I'll just stick with memories of fly jesus fly.

But yeah, dude...my suggestion is to ask for the EXACT same people. I want you to know that they will prepare for meeting you because of it.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:17 PM on December 1, 2011 [14 favorites]

Mormon's are actually pretty laid back about pressuring people to join. They'll come over and help with chores and do bible study for a long while before they start the hard sell.

But just to re-iterate what others have said: Mormonism is just slightly more theologically related to mainstream Christianity than Islam is. What they teach you about the bible is going to be way off from what 90% of Christians believe, and they have a whole alternate history where Jews came to America, etc, and entirely new book of the bible that literally no one excepts but Mormons.

It's still interesting as hell, but if your goal is to learn what "western Christianity" is like, you'd be better off talking to Catholics or baptists or lutherans.
posted by empath at 2:19 PM on December 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Also, catholics absolutely will teach you about Catholicism, but you'll usually have to sign up for classes, rather than someone going to your house. Just show up to the rectory(where the priests live) and ask.
posted by empath at 2:21 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

zomg --- I assure you, the Presbyterian Church (USA) is VERY welcoming; you may be thinking of the Presbyterian Church in America, the other main Presbyterian sect in the US, which is somewhat more conservative. In my area (northern Virginia), the Episcopalians are mostly on the conservative end of the scale, and as 4ster notes, some of their congregations are fragmenting over these issues.

As for the Mormons (or more formally, the LDS or Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints): you are certainly welcome to call them, and they will probably be extremely happy to schedule an appointment for some of their missionairies to visit you, but be aware that
1. they WILL pressure you to join the church, that's their job description as missionairies; and
2. as someone else says above, the LDS church is NOT usually considered one of the mainstream Christian denominations; indeed, there are anti-Mormon people/groups who do not even consider them to BE Christians.
posted by easily confused at 2:24 PM on December 1, 2011

LDS (Mormonism) is extremely different from Catholicism, which is fairly different from Protestantism. Are you looking for a faith system, or just want to study the Christian Bible? because you can definitely get Mormon missionaries to come back, but they won't be interested in discussing differing views of the Bible except from the Mormon viewpoint.

If you think you want religion in your life, it might be worth taking a few minutes and playing with the Belief-O-Matic questionnaire, which starts with what you already believe and then shows you which religions / denominations match most closely to your worldview.
posted by Mchelly at 2:32 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

"I would be more interested in joining a mother-baby bible study group or have some one on one bible study thing."

Akomom, you might google "mother-baby bible study" + "your town" or sound out your local facebook (or whatever) network -- there is actually EXACTLY what you're asking about in a church in my city. It's a mother-baby bible study where you can either keep the baby with you OR they have licensed sitters in the baby care room so you can have the hour to yourself, they meet once a week, and they alternate between Bible study one week and parenting discussions the next. It's at a Methodist Church and nominally Methodist, but in that program they explicitly state it's about fellowship with other parents, not conversion. The people I know who go to it love it, even if they're not Christian or only nominally Christian.

The Catholic Church next door would probably be delighted to have you. They sometimes don't seem as welcoming because Catholics in the U.S. are not actually very good at converting people; traditionally, they got new members by having big families, not by evangelizing. Their interactions with outsiders are typically less-coordinated (and sometimes more flailing) than Protestant churches.

Most Catholic or mainline Protestant churches that you called up and said, "I'm interested in a Bible study, because I want to learn more about it, and in maybe a mother's group, but I don't want to be pressured to convert because I'm not sure about that right now" would accommodate you. Most churches are community institutions as well as religious ones and unless they're pretty evangelically-oriented (and typically conservative) they'll respect it if you say "I want to check this stuff out but I don't want pressure." Churches (also the synagogues, Hindu temple, and Muslim community center) around here have community events all the time with no religious pressure except they say a brief prayer at the beginning.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:38 PM on December 1, 2011 [8 favorites]

A friend of mine did exactly this while he was recovering from foot surgery. He learned a lot, and had some good discussions before he decided he'd had enough.
posted by lab.beetle at 2:43 PM on December 1, 2011

I would be more interested in joining a mother-baby bible study group or have some one on one bible study thing

You might see if there's a MOPs meeting in your area.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:50 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not Christian, but I sometimes go to the local UCC church because it's nice to be in a place where people are together promoting love and understanding. Also, it is helping me learn the local language. No one has ever asked if I was a Christian, but they have invited me to their homes for food and fellowship! Every church is different, but this kind of welcome has not been a unique experience for me at churches in Texas, California and Hawaii.

Don't be afraid. Christianity teaches to welcome strangers and love one another. Some churches, like some people, are better at this than others.
posted by kamikazegopher at 3:12 PM on December 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I was Roman Catholic, and still go to Catholic Mass once in a while.

You're more than welcome to visit a Roman Catholic church, attend a Mass, what have you. The only restriction is that, as a non-Roman Catholic, you're not allowed to partake in the Eucharist.

If you are interested in becoming Roman Catholic, there's a class called Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. I went through this when I became RC, and it's about a 9 month long process. Basically, they want you to be sure that you know what you're getting into before you commit to the Roman Catholic church. Although I eventually defected to the Episcopalians, I did get a lot out of the process.
posted by spinifex23 at 4:07 PM on December 1, 2011

Akomom, if you want to learn about Christianity, I strongly, strongly urge you to heed the advice others have given to check out local, established mainline Protestant churches. The United Church of Christ, as mentioned above, would be a good place to visit; so would a United Methodist Church; they are both very warm, welcoming, and what I would call "safe" churches, because they are part of established organizations with very mainstream American religious doctrines, and they are actually very similar in terms of beliefs and values, although the UCC is much more welcoming to gay members. (The United Church of Christ is different from the Church of Christ, by the way). They will be very happy to see you. Other mainstream churches include the United Presbyterians and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), which, despite having the word "evangelical" in its name, is not a fundamentalist church.

I would be wary of nondenominational churches. While this is not true of all such churches, many are very, very large, and their worship style differs considerably from that of a traditional American Protestant worship service, which involves the singing of hymns and sung and spoken responses, a choir and instruments used in traditional sacred music (organ, piano, and perhaps some classical instruments such as violin, flute, or trumpet). As others have mentioned, nondenominational and other evangelical denominations tend to be conservative both politically and theologically and are less tolerant of differences in belief among congregants. You are also more likely to experience pressure to convert at one of these churches.

Whatever church you choose to visit, go to the service (best to get there about ten minutes early, sit quietly, and listen to the organ). There will likely be a "passing of the peace" when congregants greet one another and shake hands, and they will greet you. If you decide you're interested in continuing to attend, there is usually a card in the back of the pew that you can fill out and place in the offering plate. You can request to meet with a pastor, who will likely be able to answer your questions and guide you to resources to help you learn about the church. There is often a coffee hour afterwards, and my experience has always been that visitors are encouraged and greeted there warmly as well.

That doesn't mean you should completely avoid the Mormons, nondenominational Christians, etc., but they are not really representative of traditional American Christianity. And Unitarians are wonderful people (I have been one) but they are not a typical Christian church (and many congregations are not at all Christian in orientation). A Catholic service is also very typical, but also more of a "members-only" religion. That said, you may find that one of those faiths appeals to you more.

Don't be afraid. Christianity teaches to welcome strangers and love one another. Some churches, like some people, are better at this than others.

This is absolutely true.
posted by tully_monster at 4:07 PM on December 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

If you have only a vague idea about Christian culture in America, I'll Nth the comments above that Mormonism isn't really representative of most Christian culture.

And I'll add to it that going to them for Bible study would be odd, since they have the Book of Mormon, which is like an extra Testament that other Christians don't accept as genuine.
posted by RobotHero at 4:12 PM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

My husband is a former Mormon; if you are interested in his take memail me. We can also discuss nondenominational Charismatic Christianity, plus my son is Orthodox so we know a wee bit about that as well.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:08 PM on December 1, 2011

Hell, I'm an actual currently-active Mormon high priest; memail me if you want. I can give you some tips on avoiding any pressure from the young missionaries.
posted by circular at 5:12 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

As a Mormon myself:

1. If you want to know about Mormonism, go to Mormon.org.
2. If you want to know about generic Christianity (and I refuse to get into the "are Mormons Christians or not" thing here because, no) you need to decide on if you want to know "what is shared amongst most Christians in terms of basic doctrine" or "what do most people in America who call themselves Christian actually believe?" For the first one, read the New Testament. For the second, attend services at a few different churches (I'd pick Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, and Baptist.) Do not bother trying to figure out the official doctrinal differences right now; chances are the people in the seats wouldn't be able to explain the differences if you asked them.
3. If you still want to know about Mormonism, memail me or another member here. Or read Mormonism for Dummies, which is actually pretty darned informative. There are similar books about Christianity, but I haven't read them.
posted by SMPA at 5:38 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ni hao, Akomom -- a Chinese friend of mine who attended grad school in the US did Bible Study while she was a student, and lots of her Chinese classmates did the same. I'm thinking this might be common among Chinese students across the US, in which case I would suggest seeing if you can get in touch with Chinese students at a local university to see if they have Bible study groups that they recommend.
posted by imalaowai at 5:44 PM on December 1, 2011

Might I recommend that you listen to some podcasts? These two folks (Ross and Carrie) investigate various religions on their podcasts, and they actually went so far as to officially join the Mormon Church. That will give you a good idea as to what the experience of chatting with Mormons on a regular basis is like.

Ross and Carrie Go Mormon, Part 1.

Part 2.

Followup, months later.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:17 PM on December 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, if you'd prefer your religion served as a snarky sampler platter, have a look at the Year of Sundays Blog on beliefnet. Writers Joel and Amanda are agnostic bloggers who have been visiting a different church every week for the better part of a year. It's pretty interesting/entertaining at times. Some of the churches seem downright wonderful, while others are just unbelievably frightening batshit crazy.
posted by bmosher at 10:07 PM on December 1, 2011

Thanks everybody for offering knowledge and advice! Lots of good suggestions. So I won't call up the Mormons since I don't want pressure. Simple google search does not turn up any mother-baby bible study group locally. Navigating local churches takes time and effort, I will gradually give it a try. It's hard to find Group bible study to match my learning need. So I will go for self-study plus individual advice pathway for right now. Appreciate all your book, podcast, blog recommendations!
posted by akomom at 11:40 PM on December 1, 2011

A policy of not buying from unsolicited door-to-door salespeople will generally serve you well, and should be applied as much to religion as to any other bill of goods.
posted by flabdablet at 12:06 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Akomom, I don't know if you're still reading the thread, but if you're interested, I can put together a list of books and references (besides the bible) for you to read.

Christianity is a huge subject, and there has never been anybody who has written about it who didn't have an agenda, and you can't take anything at face value. And don't just read the Bible. People have been writing about Christianity for almost 2000 years. There's a LOT out there about it. The more you read from various perspectives, the less likely it is you'll get wrapped up into one sect's narrow perspective on what it means.

As a start, I'd pick up Karen Armstrong's "A History of God", which covers the entire history of Western Monotheism, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. She's a former Catholic nun, but she writes in a way that tends to present the best possible side of every single religion and sect she writes about.

It might not be something to read straight through, but it would be handy to have as reference.

If you want more recommendations, I can give you plenty.
posted by empath at 7:46 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a Mormon too, and my best friend is Chinese (Buddhist.) MeMail me if you want any specific questions answers. I haven't tried to convert my best friend and I won't try to convert you.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:15 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

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