If you can’t sell stuff on a bus…

Mission Mission Field

Then why should missionaries be able to proselytize on a bus? Makes sense to me. Apparently it makes sense to Stagecoach bus lines in Lancaster England as well(hat tip to Peggy Fletcher Stack at the SLTrib for posting about this).

There are some choice quotes from the article. For instance, the guy interviewed for the article had this to say:

Rick Seymour was travelling on the 2A bus service from Lancaster to Morecambe last Tuesday afternoon, and heard a conversation between three young men.

Two of the men, he said, were Mormons using the bus as a way to engage members of the public to tell them about their love for Jesus. Mr Seymour said that he himself had been engaged by Mormons on two previous occasions while travelling on the bus, and in a letter to Stagecoach Bus Company said: I firmly believe that the Mormon Church is using your service as a place where the public cannot escape the attempt to indoctrinate them.Mr Seymour, 31, of Greenshank Close, Heysham, added: Whilst I respect that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs or none, telling others that their beliefs are misguided or plain wrong is wrong in itself. Practice your own personal beliefs in your own home and do not ram it down others throats.”

I think he has a good point. It’s not like you can just get off the bus wherever to avoid Mormon missionaries. If you paid a fare, you have a right to ride in peace.

The company gets it:

Stephie Barber, operations manager for Stagecoach in Lancaster said that bus drivers had recently reported similar occurences.We do not permit any commercial or other organisation to promote their products, services or views through direct engagement with passengers on our services, he said.In cases where we are made aware of any activity of this nature, we follow it up with the organisation involved.We are also doing so in this particular case to make our position clear.

But in typical Mormon fashion, the Mission President over there doesn’t get what the problem is:

Robert Preston, England Manchester Mission President for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, said he considered the 140 young people in the North West of England actively engaged in trying to convert people as persistent and couragous.He added: They will sit next to someone, and they will introduce themselves and try and have a good conversation to explain a point of view that someone might never have heard before.We do encourage this, but we would not want people to feel intimidated.If it becomes clear that someone does not want to hear that message they should move away.

I just had this debate with a brother of mine on Facebook. Mormons just don’t seem to understand that telling people that their religion is wrong is offensive and not really welcome. If someone is interested in Mormonism, it’s not that hard to find out more information about. As has recently been pointed out, the LDS Church is king of SEO these days. And I’m positive Mormon missionaries would come running if someone emailed, texted, phoned, or Facebooked a request for additional information. So, why not do the world a favor, Mormon Church: Stop proselytizing! And if that is unacceptable, at least don’t do it when and where people can’t escape.

(NOTE: I did this a few times when I was a Mormon missionary. We would often split up and talk with people on long bus rides. But I often found myself either taking a genuine interest in the person and not talking about religion or simply being too tired to try and falling asleep.)

12 thoughts on “If you can’t sell stuff on a bus…

  1. They’re never gonna get it. Speaking of SEO, BCC tried explaining the problem, and the LDS spam brigade showed up and proved that they have no idea what Kyle Monson is talking about here:

    But Jesse, the employment pages meta data specifically says the service helps members get jobs. So while high search placement might be useful for you and your ward members, its spam for everyone else in your community. (emphasis added)

    Whether it’s cornering people on a bus or trying to corner search terms so that users are forced to wade through unwanted LDS results, these are shenanigans that are ultimately bad, bad, bad for the LDS brand.

    The biggest problem that I can see is the way hiring/calling works in the LDS church. The church winds up with a bunch of managers who remind everybody else of that Barry Switzer quote: “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple.” For example, regarding the apparent LDS success at SEO, this is probably more important than any other single factor:

    The reason our church has good SEO is not because were savvy at it. Its because all the evangelical churches are split up into local mega-churches, each with its own little website. We only have one website, LDS.ORG, and all 1 million website-owning Mormons link to it. There are maybe 25 million website-owning evangelicals in America, but they probably link to several thousand different little church websites.

    Were not good at SEO. Were just centralized. We have just one website. (emphasis added)

    You’d think that with all the built-in advantages to working for such a large, well-funded organization, mission presidents and media staff would be able to come up with strategies that don’t annoy the hell out of the rest of the planet. Sadly, no.

  2. It’s not “persistent and courageous” to harass a captive audience. It’s rude and annoying. My wife dealt with one such individual on a subway train. The woman kept at her even after my wife said “no” several times. Finally my wife stood up and yelled “NO” into the woman’s face. The other passengers applauded.

  3. Extending my tangent here… it’s not that hard to find online instances of the reaction that Buffy described. For example, here’s a piece about the Mormon enthusiasm for Google Plus:

    http://blog.chron.com/iconia/2011/09/mormons-google/

    It’s an otherwise forgettable fluff piece, but I happened to recognize one of the commenters and his contribution cracked me up:

    Coming up tomorrow: Why are people wearing blue sweaters flocking to Google Plus and giving it the +1?

    Translation: Give the pep rally a rest already.

    But just like the Mission President quoted in the OP, LDSNana is enlisted to provide a personal testimony of the outreach:

    I believe, that in general, the most effective use of social networking to share religious beliefs, is still done at the one-on-one level.

    Thing is, if that’s true, where are the converts? If collaring folks on the bus (or capturing them through advanced online social networking voodoo) actually worked, why aren’t we reading their (the converts’) testimonies? As far as I can tell, whether it’s the bus or G+, it’s all just more busywork that gets assigned to missionaries and members… less because of any real utility and mostly because a venue has been identified as the latest, greatest happy hunting grounds.

  4. Heh. A few years ago one pair hit me up on the subway. Had a pleasant brief conversation with them during which I mentioned 1) that I’d gone on a mission before they were born and 2) that I was now a big old queer. To their credit, they did not immediately slink away (this is San Francisco, however, where Teh Gay is everywhere) but (in what I sometimes amuse myself by characterizing as Divine Providence) since then I’ve had no knocks at the door by friendly youngsters wanting to lure me back into the fold, something that had been until then a depressingly frequent occurrence.

  5. Whilst I respect that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs or none, telling others that their beliefs are misguided or plain wrong is wrong in itself. Practice your own personal beliefs in your own home and do not ram it down others throats.

    Um, what if my belief happens to be that it is right to share my beliefs with others on a bus? So now it’s ok for you to tell me that by beliefs are misguided or plain wrong because you don’t agree with my belief? But you telling me my beliefs are misguided and wrong is not wrong in itself?

    “Mormons just dont seem to understand that telling people that their religion is wrong is offensive and not really welcome.”

    Um, you do realize that by making that statement you are telling Mormons that their religion (a religion with a deep history and belief that proselytising is commanded of them by God, and that to be Christian is to be like Christ himself, who, by the way, spent his ministry proselytising and telling others their religion was wrong) is wrong, right? Isn’t that offensive and not really welcome?

  6. “Um, what if my belief happens to be…”
    Then your belief infringes on my right to ride a bus without being bothered. JJL9, rights trump beliefs. Ergo, practice your own beliefs in your own home.

    “Um, you do realize that by making that statement…”
    Again, your belief that you can bother and pester people does not give you the right to do so. If it was my belief that I could knock on people’s doors and shout profanity at them when they opened the door wouldn’t make it okay to do it.

    With both of these comments you are basically trying to justify Mormons’ right to annoy people. Why would you want to justify that? Why not just realize that it is annoying and stop doing it? As I noted, it’s not that hard for people to learn about Mormonism. So, put missionaries on reserve and wait for people to call them. Problem solved. Why didn’t you mention that as a possibility? Why are you defending the invasion of people’s privacy and personal space?

  7. Um, what if my belief happens to be that it is right to perform human sacrifices using people who share their beliefs with others on a bus as my victims? So now its ok for you to tell me that by beliefs are misguided or plain wrong because you dont agree with my belief? But you telling me my beliefs are misguided and wrong is not wrong in itself?

  8. The right to one’s beliefs is protected under the Constitution. The right to one’s practices, however, is not. The Church learned this during the Supreme Court case over polygamy in 1878. One could make a case that an instance of proselytizing on a bus is harassment (due to failure to be able to escape, etc), which is illegal in most transit codes of conduct, but it’d probably have to be a case-by-case basis. Proselytizing generally is considered more “conversation” than “commercial” (though plenty of other countries are rethinking this).

  9. I think in America, bus proselytizing is probably protected speech because transit buses are public accommodations. I seem to remember a Supreme Court ruling around 20 years ago that permitted panhandling on the New York subway system. Proselytizing would likely fall under that and get bonus points for freedom of religion as well.

    Of course, that’s not relevant to the UK case, though. America tends to have broader freedom of speech/religion protections than even most other democracies, so things might go quite differently there.

  10. I just noticed that the gentleman, Mr Seymour, who was interviewed for the story had his address disclosed in the article. Now the Mormons will be able to find him at home as well as on the bus to Morecambe…

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