I was strolling outside the coffee shop to take a phone call from a friend of mine when I ran across four guys talking. Two were pretty obviously young Mormon missionary guys and the other two probably Pioneer type Dubs. As I passed them, I made it a point to sit as close by as I could to eavesdrop. What could be more fun, right?
I quickly told my caller what was going on and that I’d call him back. He understood, being an Ex-JW himself. I have to say the Mormon kids were polite, cheerful and exemplary. They listened. They actually listened rather than just waiting to jump in. The Dubs were–let’s be fair–smartasses. That’s as kind as I can be. I know I’m prejudiced. You can allow for that. But Friends, they were smartasses, trust me on that one!
The Mormons were more interested in being kind than in winning a debate. The Dubs were trolling by jabbing at one provocative topic and then another. The one subject which seemed to finally generate a real conversation was an unfortunate choice for our Pioneer duo.
I’ll try as best I can to reconstruct the conversation, but I’m probably taking a few small liberties here and there because I didn’t record any of it verbatim. I was taking notes on my iPhone, instead as I was listening.
JW: “How come only the young men do the preaching work out in the neighborhoods? All of Jehovah’s people do it all the time. Don’t you think you’d be more successful if all Mormons participated?” (Big grin on the J-Dub’s face.)
Mormon: “We just read the PEW research poll and it said Jehovah’s Witnesses have the lowest rate of retention of its members of any other Christian denomination. I think the number was 63%. 63% of Americans who were raised Jehovah’s Witness say they aren’t Jehovah’s Witness anymore. Don’t you think that might be because you’re overburdening your members with too much pressure to preach instead of leaving it with the youngest and strongest to get it done?”
JW: “Wha-a-a-t? That’s baloney!”
Mormon: (Reaching into his backpack and pulling out a laminated chart)
“Here it is right here. It was a research poll of all the Christian denominations.”
JW: (His face looked pale)
“I don’t believe any of that research nonsense. That’s just people who don’t like witnesses lying about us, more than likely.”
“Okay. I can understand. People lie about the Latter Day Saints, too.”
“We baptize about 30,000 new converts a year! That’s how effective our preaching work is. Jehovah’s Organization has been greatly blessed.”
“I guess when you subtract the 63% you’re left with . . . hmmmm. . . about 11,000 or less.”
“According to the PEW research poll, I mean.”
“That’s just . . . oh-it’s totally bogus!”
“Uh. . . oh, I don’t know. Probably. I guess.”
“We got a 50-year head start. I guess that might account for our membership. Last year the church sent out almost 60,000 missionaries to 120 countries, where they won 306,000 converts. I don’t remember–how many missionaries do the Witnesses have?”
“Uh-h-h-h-h. . .”
“I’m going to guess less than 12,000.”
“Sounds about right.”
“Uh-h-h-h. . .”
“How many members do you have worldwide?”
“Unlikely. We have 100 temples internationally serving 11 Million Latter Day Saints in America..”
“Hey–nice talking to ya–we need to be someplace. Stop in a local Kingdom Hall sometime and we can set up a Bible study with you guys.”
“We’ve 11 studies a week and two of them are with former Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’s given us plenty of information already. Good luck.”
“We don’t believe in Luck!”
“It couldn’t hurt.”
At this juncture, I wanted to jump in and say something to the two JW’s but they spotted two others of their group who had just arrived and I didn’t want to face four of them at the same time.
I had wanted to ask them where they got their nice silver Bibles as a pretext to start a conversation–but–now I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t think they were in a good mood:)
About the Writer
Terry Edwin Walstrom is the author of two books:
- I Wept by the Rivers of Babylon:
A Prisoner of Conscience in a Time of War (2013)
- The Monorails of Mars:
A Story of Mind-Control, of Religious Obsession and the Destruction of Two Worlds (2014)