How Mormon Missionaries Eat
Mormons: The chaste religion sellers
Elder Stephens and Elder Pärkkä do not have televisions, they do not drink beer, they do not smoke. You have never caressed a woman's breasts before. Elder Stephens and Elder Pärkkä rise with the sun and go to bed late. Every day. It's worth it, they say, because they want to save the world. Elder Stephens and Elder Pärkkä wore a black suit. They call themselves elders, elders. Elder Stephens is 20 and Elder Pärkkä is 21 years old. They say they are missionaries. Saints. The Latter-day Saints. Others say Mormons to them.
You have to start somewhere if you want to save the world. Elder Stephens and Elder Pärkkä begin this morning in Goerzallee in Berlin Lichterfelde. A woman pushes a stroller past. Elder Stephens approaches them and points to his church plaque. He wears it on his lapel. “I want to talk to you about family. I'm sure you are afraid that your child will not have a good future, I'll help you. ”The woman pauses for a moment, looks at the two boys, shakes her head and walks on. She doesn't want to talk to the missionaries about her family problems. It's wet, it's cold, it's not easy to save the world.
Elder Stephens is from Georgia, USA, previously a social worker. Elder Pärkkä just graduated from high school in Vaasa, Finland. They are in Germany for two years. “It is a special honor to proclaim the word,” they say. They don't even get money for it from their church. They live on their own savings and those of their parents. 50,000 Mormon missionaries travel around the world.
Over 500 of them in Germany. Your methods are dubious but successful. 200 new members are added every year in Germany alone. Worldwide, the Mormons are among the fastest growing religious groups. There are 38,000 Mormons in Germany in total. Two new ones are to be advertised today. Elder Stephens and Elder Pärkkä wrote this on their to-do lists. Like ironing shirts and vacuuming the car.
They want to try door-to-door. They mean ringing. Be persistent, engage people in conversation, sit on strange sofas, come back. In Schweinfurth-Strasse in Dahlem it is not easy to sit on strange sofas. The houses have surveillance cameras. Elder Stephens and Elder Pärkkä ring the bell. A woman peeks out from behind the curtain. Elder Stephens and Elder Pärkkä stand stiffly, trying to smile flawlessly. The door stays locked. They keep walking.
Missionaries in front of closed doors
Ten doors. Sometimes they get to the threshold. They never make it over it. “No time,” they say, “no interest”, “I'm an atheist.” But there is a woman on Schweinfurth-Strasse who listens. She says the missionaries can come again. Elder Stephens and Elder Pärkkä write down their name, address, date, and time. Elder Stephens and Elder Pärkkä will be again. Maybe more often than they're welcome.
Elder Stephens and Elder Pärkkä are proud to be “personal representatives of Jesus Christ”. They say that it is only in their church that true faith can be found, as with the early Christians. They say that only Mormons are really happy. It is the old scramble for truth and salvation. In Germany, the Mormons are considered a new religion. They believe in the Book of Mormon. In it, Mormon founder Joseph Smith explains supposedly exclusive divine information about how the world should be saved. Other scriptures are called “Doctrine and Covenants” and “The Pearl of Great Price”. Some things coincide with the Bible, many things are different. For example, that you are not allowed to drink coffee or alcohol and not smoke. That one can be baptized for the deceased relatives. That the members gradually become like God.
Elder Stephens and Elder Pärkkä say their church is “the Church of Jesus Christ”. This is also on their badge. That sounds like Protestant or Catholic, somehow familiar. They don't like the term "Mormons", they say that it used to be a dirty word. And it's probably also a good thing that the people on the street have no idea who they are really dealing with. This helps.
It usually works better for women
With Katharina, for example. She strolls along the shopping street in Steglitz. She is around twenty years old, has long brown hair, and wears a short skirt. Elder Pärkkä approaches them. He wanted to meet her to talk about happiness, about faith, about religion. She hesitates. "I'm in a hurry." He asks for her name, her number and looks like a pushy teenager looking for a friend. She stares at the badge on his lapel, somewhat relieved. "Oh, you are from the church."
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