Sunday, October 31, 2010

Knock, knock

Have you ever had people knock your door and want to talk to you about religion? How did you react? Did you slam the door in their face? Did you nicely tell them, "I'm not interested" and then slam the door in their face? Did you invite them in with a hope that you can show them the error of their ways? Or perhaps, just perhaps, did you stop for a moment and wondered, "What would inspire a person to come knock on my door?"
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (AKA "The Mormons"), and at one time, I was one of those young men who had doors slammed in my face. But before doors were slammed, you had to get to the doors first.
Here is a quick tale of getting to my first door:
I was called to serve in the Mexico Merida mission (that's on the Yucatan Peninsula). Before going to Mexico, I spent nine weeks in the Missionary Training Center--not only to learn the lessons we would teach people, but also to learn to speak Spanish.
We were assigned into groups, called "districts". After our training time, off to Mexico we went. Of my district, four of us were going to the same mission. We landed in Mexico and were taken to the mission office. We spent the night there and were told we would get our assignments the next day.
The four of us had grown close over the last couple of months, and it was sad to see us sent off in different directions.
We waited in our room until it was our turn to be told where we were going, and then the person selected would leave.
I was the last one to go. I sat in the room, by myself, for what seemed a couple of hours or so. Finally, two of the more seasoned missionaries came to get me. Neither spoke English and the only Spanish I knew was from my crash course over the last nine weeks.
They drove me to a bus station. From what I gathered from them, they said, "You are going to Motul. The missionaries are at a hotel there. They don't know you are coming (phones were not common where we were). Your companion is Elder Soto Lopez. You will be serving in Dzemul. There has never been missionaries there before."
With those instructions, I was put on the bus and sent on my way. Now, this was one of those buses that had not only people, but chickens, dogs and a few animals I'd never heard of before. I sat next to a man who looked to be about one hundred and forty years old. I tried to talk to him, but he would just smile a toothless grin and nod at me. It wasn't for a few hours later that the person behind me explained that the man spoke only Mayan. Even then, I had a hard time talking to the person behind me, and he seemed to barely understand me. What I did gather, though, is that the trip would take us about eight hours.
We arrived in Motul after the sun had set. The bus station was empty aside from a boy who must have been about ten or so. He walked over to me and picked up one of my two suit cases and asked, "Hotel?"
Now, I had no idea how big Motul was, or how many hotels there were, or how far away it was. So, I used my excellent Spanish and responded "Si!"
With that, the boy took off down the road with my suitcase. I was right behind him with my other suitcase. He appeared to know where he was going. We took several streets, made several turns and after about fifteen minutes ended up in front of a two storied building with letters written in faded paint that said "Hotel".
The boy grinned up at me and held out his hand for payment. I didn't have any pesos on my person and the smallest bill I had was a 10 dollar bill. I gave it to the boy and he looked as if he had just won the lottery.
I approached the office. There was a large man sitting behind the counter. He took one look at me and pointed to go up the stairs.
For a moment, I realized that I was in a foreign country, in a town I'd never heard of with basic grasp of the language. But, I had made it that far, so the man above had to be watching over me.
I climbed the stairs, wondering which room the missionaries were staying in. The thought of just knocking on random doors didn't seem like the best of ideas (the irony of that isn't lost on me now).
However, at the end of the hall was a door with the words "Los Eldres de Israel". It was the first door I knocked on in Mexico--but it certainly wasn't the last.


  1. Yes, I have often had people knock on my door, usually Mormons, and I have been asked to do door-to-door witnessing in the past for my former church. I said "no."

    Respectfully, I don't believe in door-to-door witnessing. I think it is essentially a violation of privacy, and takes advantage of social pressure - like peer pressure - to behave a certain way towards unexpected and often unwanted guests. It puts the recipient of the visit in a very awkward position. You may be interrupting an argument with a spouse, a sleeping baby, a cherished quiet hour for a harried housewife, last-minute preparations for invited guests, the sleep of an exhausted laborer on night shift.

    If you look at the Bible, Jesus never knocked on doors. He never chased anyone to try to convince them to follow him. He lived his live, spoke his message and the people flocked to him. I think His is the best example.

    I greatly respect the Latter Day Saints for their efforts and understand the very generous motives behind their (and other religious groups') efforts. When anyone comes to my door, I hope my barking dogs will scare them away. If they still knock, I say with a smile through the screen door, "I'm a Born Again Christian and you don't want to talk to me." (because I will take out my Bible and debate every point and it will take hours that I don't have, with the result that no one will be converted to either religion,) and send them on their way.

  2. P.S. I should add that I know Born-Again Christians who can't wait for some poor, unsuspecting LDS or JW to come to their door so they can get them in the house and try to convince them of the truth. I'm not that way.

  3. I respect your candid response. Thanks for posting!

  4. J Lloyd,that was some ride in there with the chickens! Events like that make great stories, even though they are not fun to live through.

    I was an investigator myself and write about my experience with LDS missionaries in my first book, "Who's at the Door? A Memoir of Me and the Missionaries" being released with Cedar Fort this month.

    These elders were some of the most dedicated young men I ever met, and I am proud to call them my friends. I'm sure somewhere in Mexico there are people who feel the same way about you.