A while back, a comment was left by a reader who was wondering if her LDS's friend desire to invite her to her church's function was sincerely just wanting to "include her in the fun" or could there be an "ulterior motive" to her invites?
First of all, I do not claim to be able to discern the motives and intents of an individuals heart. I simply can not make that call. Only the Lord Himself can make that judgement call. With that said, I can share with you what my personal experience was when I was a LDS.
If any of you have spent any time with LDS, you know for the most part they are a social people. They enjoy getting together . They host "ward dinners" ... that is another word for a "potluck" or "fellowship meals". They host big Halloween parties, Christmas' Dinners & celebrate the Mormon pioneers who travelled to Utah by handcart and wagon. ( Pioneer Day Celebrations)
LDS are not only encouraged to bring their families, they are also encouraged to bring their "less active" friends, that is Mormons who are not actively participating in the LDS programs or attending Church regularly. The hope or "desire" is to "activate" them or "bring them back into the fold sort of speak". Active Mormons ( those who attend church regularly) are encouraged to also invite their friends or family who are *not* LDS. Their hope or motive is to "share the LDS gospel" with them.
When I was trained at the Mission training center in Provo, Utah prior to leaving for my 18 mos LDS proselytizing mission to Argentina, I was taught the "commitment pattern". The commitment pattern is a multi step program geared at activation and converting non members to the LDS gospel. It is a very simple program involving that the active Mormon do the following:
1. Build a relationship of trust with the non member, or less active Mormon
This should be done subtly, thru showing concern , empathy and interest toward the potential convert. For example, as a missionary we were taught when door knocking, we should not just tell a person strait out " hi, we are here to share the restored gospel, and to invite you to become a member of our church!" No, that wouldn't work too well! Instead we were trained to come up with methods to build a relationship with the person *first*. We might ask or inquire about the person's work, family, home, interests, etc. The goal was to "build trust" with that person.
2. Share/ Invite the Spirit was the second step involved in the commitment pattern. Missionaries were taught that after inquiring about a person's interests, showing concern, etc. we were then trained to share something "spiritual" with them. For example, if an Elder or LDS missionary approaches the home of a family with children, he/she may first ask about each child. Their name, age, interests etc. They then would state that they know families are special and that God has a plan for families to be forever together. The missionary may then ask the potential convert if they believe or would wish to be with their family forever?
3. Testify: The next step of the commitment pattern would be to "testify" to the potential convert. An Elder or Sister may say something like " I know God has a plan for families to be together forever. He wants us to enjoy our families for not just this life but the next".
4. The final step would be to invite or challenge the potential convert : " We would like to invite you and your family to hear a message about how families can be together forever. We would like to return on such and such a day to share that message. " That is the final step of the commitment pattern. Committing the potential convert to some kind of commitment, whether it be to attend LDS church services, or listen to the missionary discussions or to be baptized into the Mormon faith.
The above steps are taught to the LDS missionaries prior to being sent off on their mission.
The LDS church teaches and believes that *every* Mormon should be a missionary.
Missionaries work with the members in the wards to help them in their missionary efforts.
I remember well many times the Elders would come over and we would write a list of non member friends and family. We were told to pray over that list and listen to the "spirit" tell us which one of those names listed we would invite to hear the Mormon missionary discussions. We were encouraged to fast and pray that God would help us to "share" the gospel with these people.
We would plan a "family home evening" ( Monday night family activity) and invite our non member friends or family. We might even have the Mormon Elders there to "share" or present a "gospel" message. The goal was to help the non member convert to Mormonism.
Members are encouraged by missionaries and their Bishops to invite their non Mormon friends to Ward dinners, and activities. A stake or ward may even go as far as to host an "open house" or activity especially geared at teaching the non member about the Mormon faith.
I want to state here, that as a missionary I was taught to set goals and determine a certain number of converts I wished to see baptized each month. I was told to set goals for how many book of Mormons I gave out each week, and how many discussions I taught to potential converts.
Mormon Stakes & Wards have "stake missionaries" or "ward missionaries" that is a lay member of their Ward is called by their bishop to serve as a missionary within their particular ward boundaries. ( they do not leave their families or area they live in)
So as you can see, the LDS church is a Church that places great emphasis on converting non Mormons to their Church. They also try hard to "re-activate" those LDS who have drifted away from the Mormon Church.
The question posed by my reader, about her LDS friend then can be addressed in light of the information shared on this post. Her friend may most likely be inviting her to these events with the hopes of converting her friend, or she may be feeling pressured by LDS missionaries that are working with her family to invite non LDS friends to her Church's events and activities.
Please take note, that the LDS do this with sincerity of heart for the most part. They truly believe they are being obedient to their leaders wishes, and please take note that they believe that their Church is the ONLY TRUE church on the earth today. They believe that it is only thru the LDS church that one can receive all the necessary teachings and ordinances ( baptism, confirmation, temple endowment, sealing, etc) for a person to live with God forever.
So the next time your LDS friend invites you to a ward dinner or over to dinner ~ be aware that there may very well be an ulterior motive to their invitation. For Christians reading this post, you may wonder "what should I do, if that is the case?" I would strongly recommend that you tell your LDS friend that you are aware of their church's focus on converting people to their Church. Be sure to tell you friend you are aware, and understand their motives for doing so. Be sincere & kind. This will unguard them sort of speak --- once they "know" you "Know" what is going on, they may feel more free to just be themselves. The pressure will be "off" and they can let their true colors show. Many LDS will feel a sense of relief that they don't need to work at converting you! :) You may then just enjoy one an other's company without any strings attached. Be aware though, that not all LDS may wish to continue the friendship once they know you "know" what is the motive. They may have just become a friend with the intention of converting you. That is not always the case, but it happens enough to warrant my sharing this here. To give you an example, my older sis moved to Utah in the 1990's. Never been a Mormon, she knew little about the LDS culture. She moved to very Mormon Sandy, Utah. They purchased a home in a predominately LDS neighborhood. She was amazed at how friendly everyone was! Cookies, brownies and bread came from all over the place! Wow, she was impressed. Everyone welcomed them to the neighborhood. After a bit , the invites came to attend the local ward and to have the missionaries come over. My sister, being a devout member of another faith, politely declined their offers. What happened next is so sad. Basically these people were only friendly for the possible conversion of my sister and her family. After being told they had no interest in becoming Mormon, they basically ignored her & her family.
Now, I know not all LDS are going to respond that way. I most certainly did not when I was LDS. If a friend or some one else said "sorry, not interested", I did not just drop them and move on. I saw this happen enough though to know this does indeed happen. I hope my LDS readers realize that I know that not all LDS respond like in this way.
Bottom line, the LDS do have an agenda. The agenda is to convert you to Mormonism.
They may invite you to their local ward activities, or over to dinner or share an LDS movie production with the hopes of converting you.
All you need to do is be honest with them and politely tell them you know "what's up" and "no thanks". They may ask you "why not" and that may open the door for you to share about Jesus with them.
I also want to say, I realize that Christians as well have an "agenda" . As a born again believer, my hope my great desire is to see souls sold out for Christ Jesus!!! I want to see as many people as possible come to the saving knowledge that Christ Saves! I long to see my LDS friends released from the bondage of a religion and into a relationship with the King of Kings!
Yeah, I have an agenda too.
The difference is, for the most part the Christian evangelist is open, transparent about their motives. They will come out and say I want to see you saved, friend. There is no commitment pattern. No building a relationship of trust. To be honest friends, there may be not be enough time for such things, because the world is on fire, and we are called to grab our houses and start crying out : JESUS SAVES, run!
I think that is the greatest difference I see in the evangelization efforts of the LDS vs. Christianity.
Our goal as Christian is not to fill up our Churches -- but to fill up Heaven!!!!
Our goal is not to convert to our particular denominational choice, but to see souls converted to the King of Kings!
... And hopefully if our friends and neighbors and loved ones reject the good news... we will keep loving them....... we are called to do so, friends. We just don't drop them off, and say "move on". No, we keep loving on them, knowing that the God who saves is able in His time to open eyes and ears to the truth in Christ!
So the next time your LDS friend or neighbor invites you over for dinner with the Elders, you'll hopefully be equipped to perhaps unguard them , and also with God's help and grace to share the fantastic news that what Jesus did is sufficient for all men!