29 years ago, the new neighbors down the hall told me and my roommate that they were mormons. It seemed like the missionaries pratically lived at their apartment because we were always being invited over for dinner or to watch a video (I guess VHS back then).
I was 19.
I cannot count the number of times I turned down their invitations. I worked a lot and that was a good excuse not to be rude. My roommate, a very religious catholic, became great friends with them.
Once again, I had been invited and told them I had to work (true). I unexpectedly got off work early and when I began to walk down the hall to my apartment, I could hear my roommate and neighbors and other voices coming from their apartment. Out of guilt and hunger (I knew they would have food!), I knocked on their door.
I was introduced to 2 young men, my same age, that appeared to shine. Was I that exhausted from my 3 jobs? Why did these "guys" in their suits and ties have a glow around them? Must have been time to change my disposable contact lenses...I was starting to see that (Doris Day halo-effect).
That first meeting they did a great job of 'building relationships of trust' -- not that I knew they were doing that. And, there was a lot of 'flirt-to-convert' going on...boy, was I both hilarious and interesting...everything joke I made was funny and I was the most facinating person they had ever met! Yeah, I was buying it! People who are half-broken usually do.
It was the second time we met. Every question the missionaries asked me had only one answer.
"Do you think God would choose to have so many different churchs teaching so many different things?"
"Do you beleive that God chose prophets in the early days, like Moses & Abraham?" [This one was easy, I'm a Jew and they knew it...they learned loads of info about me that first night--and they used it.] IMO, missionaries were much more well-trained back then --then they are today.
And on it went...questions with only one answer possible.
"Why do you feel Joseph Smith was a prophet of God?" instead of "Do you feel Joseph Smith was a prophet of God." Most questions can be twisted this way.
At a sales presenta.... er, I mean a district meeting I attended, this type of questioning was being taught to us. I disagreed with the district leader, saying that we weren't finding the true feelings of our investigators, but rather tricking them into saying what we want them to say. As you can imagine, I was subsequently labeled a defiant troublemaker.
Yes, that is what we are taught in the MTC. To build relationships of trust and use what we learned to adapt the lesson so investigators could "feel the spirit." Also, to ask questions that moved the lesson along to the conclusion we wanted. If someone came up with a good answer that we didn't have a prepared comeback for, we were always flustered. We'd even share the comments that flustered us at district meeting with the other missionaries, brainstorming comebacks for one another in case we were ever faced with that answer again.
Nowadays, if someone asked me "Do you think God would choose to have so many different churches teaching so many different things?" I'd answer, "it doesn't make sense that he wouldn't. If I were God, I'd talk to people in the language and culture that made sense to them and helped promote their spirituality. To say that there is only ONE correct religion is like God expecting everyone to learn English before they are allowed to pray to him."
FYI - the missionary program has changed since you took the discussions.
Missionaries are not taught to ask open ended questions that are designed to illicit an emotional response. The idea now is to attempt to get the investigator to feel emotional, identify that emotion as the spirit, and declare that as proof that the church is true.
It's just as manipulative or even more manipulative than the only one answer approach used previously.
... I was an exmo, having resigned ten years earlier, and I knew that the two young men were from the CoJCoLDS. I was curious about their approach so I invited them in. I decided to be truthful to the best of my ability, but I wouldn't mention any subject unless they brought it up first.
When they started into their spiel, the first time they used the word "god" I interrupted and said "For your information I am an atheist -- I don't believe in god." That was a true statement.
That stopped them dead in their tracks. Their entire approach was based on the investigator believing in god. The did not have any canned approach to convince an atheist that god exists. So we exchanged a few cultural pleasantries and they left.
If you have missionaries come calling, then tell them you are an atheist. That will be the end of the discussion.