A newspaper story from Australia came across my desk this week. It seems that some students and staff at Melbourne’s Deakin University are being annoyed by LDS missionaries:
MORMON missionaries are “creepily” spruiking for new members in an underpass near Deakin University, an academic says.
Two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints are regularly found at an underpass that leads from Deakin University to the number 75 tram on Burwood Highway.
Deakin staff member Colleen Murrell said the pair had harassed students.
“It is just creepy to have two young men hanging around in an underpass all the time,” Ms Murrell said.
MS. Murrell later (in the comments section) relates that she has seen these missionaries follow a female student:
“He followed her right the way up the stairs and cornered her in the tram stop. I asked the woman if they were harrassing her and she said yes.”
I believe one man’s (or woman’s) harassment may merely be another’s attempt at friendliness (or proselytizing), so I don’t find fault with the LDS missionaries here; nor do the Mormons who left comments on the article’s web site. But some folks don’t like it, and I think it’s interesting that the Mormons seem unable to understand that.
I think back to the ’70s when “Hare Krishnas” were actively approaching people on street corners, in shopping malls, and (most notoriously) in airports. Selling flowers, literature, or ideology, though they were soft-spoken they succeeded in annoying Americans coast-to-coast.
I think of my own missionary activities. Are people happy to see me at LDS events with literature in hand? Do they enjoy being required to accept or decline the literature I offer as they walk by? I don’t think so. I am neatly dressed, friendly, and sensitive (I believe) in my approach, yet I am unwelcome by many. I get that.
And that’s what I find so interesting about a similar scenario with Mormons. They don’t get that. In the newspaper article about the Deakin University Underpass Missionaries, the local mission president, Corey Lindley, could not believe that the missionaries would harass anyone. Therefore, referring to the complaints that had been lodged against them, Mr. Lindley suggested, “Maybe it is people from another religion who are unhappy about us being there.” Is that it? Is persecution always the Mormon answer?
Personally, I don’t think people are necessarily upset with the Mormon aspect of these missionary encounters; they are merely annoyed at being interrupted and accosted — perhaps day after day — with something that doesn’t interest them. This classic scene from Airplane is a great illustration:
There is a difference between rejection and persecution. In the case of the Deakin University Underpass Missionaries, it appears that people just don’t want to be bothered. Is that so hard to understand?
This, of course, is neither here nor there when approaching the question of whether Mormonism is true. Again, I find no fault with the Deakin University Underpass Missionaries, or anyone else who publically approaches people with respect. The missionaries should keep doing their jobs, even if some are offended. I write about this merely as a curiosity–an interesting facet of Mormon culture.
Comments within the parameters of 1 Peter 3:15 are invited.