For the first time since I moved into my new home in Florida, Mormon missionaries stopped by. Now, as I have officially resigned, and because I asked the Elders, I’m sure they didn’t swing by my house because I’m still on the rolls. I watched them contact several houses on my street before they stopped by my house. Anyway, their visit was relatively short – maybe 10 minutes. As soon as they walked up to our house I started pestering them with questions: “Where are you from, Elders?” “How long have you been out?” “How many Elders are there in the mission?” “Have you baptized anyone recently?” Etc. It took them a couple minutes to catch on that I wasn’t your standard “random contact.” They eventually asked how I knew so much about Mormon missionaries and I told them that I was one, a loooong time ago! Since they hadn’t seen me in church, they quickly put 2 and 2 together and realized I was either completely inactive or a former Mormon, though, interestingly, they didn’t actually ask me that.
Eventually they did ask me if they could come by another time to share a lesson with me. I told them they were always welcome as I know how hard it is to be a missionary. But it was also at this point that I told them it was unlikely they would have anything to teach me about Mormonism. “Why?” they asked. I told them that I’m a college professor and that one of my research interests is Mormonism. I know a fair bit about the religion and, in all likelihood, any meeting we had would boil down to either me correcting what they were trying to teach me or them trying to convince me that I should have faith and me informing them that I think faith is highly over-rated. Once my occupation came up, they pretty quickly decided it was time to move on and headed down the street to annoy my neighbors on a nice Florida Saturday night.
Now to the juicy part of the story. I posted a short comment about this as Facebook status update:
Mormon missionaries tracted our house tonight. Why do they always run away once they find out what I do for a living?
There were a lot of comments, mostly from my Mormon relatives. But one really stuck with me:
[ProfXM], do you think they just leave when the[y] feel the spirit leave? 😉
The more I thought about this comment, the more it pissed me off. Just for clarification in case a reader doesn’t know, what this person is referring to is the Holy Ghost. While the Holy Ghost is an actual entity in Mormon theology, the Holy Ghost is intentionally disembodiedso he can dwell within humans. But, of course, the key point here is that, because the Holy Ghost is disembodied, he can dwell in all humans, simultaneously. Of course, Mormons also believe that the Holy Ghost only visits unconfirmed Mormons, he doesn’t actually stay with them. Ritual confirmation post baptism creates some supernatural bond that makes the Holy Ghost a permanent indweller in Mormons, assuming they are worthy. The assumption, then, is that Mormons carry with them in some supernatural way “the spirit.”
Now enter the problems…
According to this comment, good worthy Mormons are so in tune with this “spirit” that they can detect when this “spirit” leaves. But what can make the Holy Ghost leave a worthy Mormon? If I’m not mistaken, the only thing that can make it leave is if the worthy Mormon becomes unworthy. Right? (Do correct me if I’m wrong.) There are lots of things a worthy Mormon could do to become unworthy, but simply coming into contact with a non-Mormon shouldn’t be one of them, right? If that’s not the case, then most Mormons are constantly having the spirit leave them because they are regularly in contact with non-Mormons. So, that doesn’t seem logical (not that Mormon thought has to be logical, but I’m trying here).
What if a worthy Mormon comes into contact with a particularly “evil” person, like, say, me? I mean, I am a returned missionary, temple endowed, married in the temple former apologist and TBM who resigned his membership, giving up all of his priesthood and ordinances in the process, and have now become an atheist and critic of the LDS Church. Yes, I’m generally a moral person: I pay my taxes, vote, am faithful to my wife, spend a lot of time with my son, do service, give to charities, and genuinely care about other people. But, well, I was a Mormon insider and now I’m a Mormon outsider using my insider knowledge to criticize the religion. So, I am “evil.” Would coming into contact with me drive the spirit away from a worthy Mormon? Again, this seems illogical. The worthy Mormon didn’t do something unworthy simply by coming into contact with me. At least, I don’t think the missionaries did. The missionaries were, in fact, being worthy by contacting late into the evening on a Saturday night. And, in fact, doesn’t it seem like they would need the spirit more than ever to discern just how “evil” I am and that they should leave?
Another possibility is that my raising the fact that I’m somewhat knowledgeable about Mormonism and even briefly talking about religion was “offensive” to the spirit, forcing it to leave. Since all we discussed was religion, specifically Mormonism, this seems odd. How could discussing religion, specifically Mormonism, make Mormon missionaries unworthy, thereby forcing the spirit to leave? That, too, seems illogical.
For the life of me I can’t figure out why the spirit would “leave” these worthy young men when they did nothing to make themselves unworthy. So, let’s pretend that the spirit did not, in fact, leave these worthy young men when they contacted me, since reason and logic suggest that it would not.
If that is the case, why did my relative say what he did? In thinking this through, I think what he was suggesting is probably that the missionaries were told by “the spirit” that I was a lost cause. Thus, “the spirit” didn’t actually leave, it just told them to leave. Why, if this is really what my relative meant, didn’t he say, “The spirit told them to leave when it became apparent that you are an “evil” apostate.”?
Of course, regardless of how it is said, the statement is still phrased in a way that says that I am evil or that I say evil things. But, insult aside, why say it this way?
It’s possible I’m reading too much into this and it really is just a reflection of the doctrinal ignorance of some Mormons. Or maybe this is just Mormon shorthand and I’ve been out too long to understand it. What do you think he was trying to say by saying what he did?