“Mormons make me wish my apartment had a peephole.” That was my Facebook status toward the beginning of this semester.
We’ve all seen them walking around campus before…the men who are dressed way too dapper to be ordinary college students. Two of them, Elder Jones and Elder Ballard, approached me on campus. In talking with them, I realized just how little I knew about Mormonism.
I truly believe that refusing to listen fosters ignorance, so when they asked if we could meet again, I agreed and looked forward to hearing what they had to say. I asked them a series of questions to get a deeper look into the mysterious lives of Mormons on their missions.
Where are you from and how old are you?
Elder Ballard: Riverton, Utah and 19 years old.
Elder Jones: Orem, Utah and I’ll be 21 in December.
What’s your purpose for being on campus?
Elder Ballard: Sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with everybody and sharing the happiness that the book of Mormon brings.
Elder Jones: Missionary work is crucial for what we do. We believe that this is the one way back to heaven. It’s not required that we do this; it’s our choice to do so.
What are some rules you must follow while on your mission?
Elder Ballard: No TV or movies, we don’t date, we listen to only classical and church music, and we email our parents once a week.
Elder Jones: We can call home twice per year, but we don’t use Skype or anything else technology related.
How long do your missions last and how is location decided?
Elder Ballard: Mission is two years for men and 18 months for females.
Elder Jones: We fill out application-type things and make sure we’re healthy, send it into the headquarters of our church which is in Salt Lake, the leaders of our church sit down and view a slideshow of applicants with their faces and information and they choose based off where the spirit of God wants us to go.
What’s the main difference between Christianity and Mormonism?
Elder Jones: A lot of people don’t consider us Christians because we don’t believe in the trinity. We believe they are three separate entities.
Elder Ballard: Christians believe in just the Bible, but we believe in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, which was written in 600 B.C. to 421 A.D. and is a record of the people in the Americas.
How do you enjoy being at Ferris? Are students receptive? About how many students do you teach per week?
Elder Ballard: It’s awesome; we get to talk to people our own age. Some people you can tell don’t want to talk to you.
Elder Jones: There are extremes everywhere you go; some people are really open and nice and then you get the people who are very blunt and tell you to go away. We have teaching sessions with about 20 students per week, but that’s out of about 120 students who we approach.
Why “Elder” on the name tags?
Elder Ballard: It’s a title that means “teacher.”
Elder Jones: Elder just means serving the Lord full time at all times. You get the “Elder” on your first day of mission.
Can you hang out with students you become friends with?
Elder Ballard: We become friends with students through teaching, but we don’t hang out with them.
Do you think it’s hard to share your faith without having a relationship built up?
Elder Jones: We definitely do become friends and we do care about the people we’re teaching, but as far as we’re concerned, we’re here to teach and help the people we teach go to the church that we have here and build friendships.
When do you leave Ferris?
Elder Ballard: We don’t really know. We’re usually in an area from six weeks to six months. Right now I’m at almost four months here.
Is there a Mormon church in Big Rapids?
Elder Ballard: Yes, it’s off of Woodward. It’s called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Elder Jones: All of our churches around the world have the same name and pretty much look the same.
What does a typical church service consist of?
Elder Jones: We’re reverent; we don’t have drums or guitars. We have an organ and we sing hymns. We don’t have paid clergymen, so none of the people in the church get paid.There will be like four people chosen at random from the congregation every week and they’ll go up and give a talk on a certain topic. We do perform a type of communion, and we do collect tithes (10 percent of one’s income). We don’t pass around a bowl like in other churches; ours is much more private. You do it on your own and put it into an envelope and then you give it to the bishop which is then sent to the headquarters in Salt Lake. From there, the headquarters pays for everything.
What are some common misconceptions about your faith?
Elder Jones: Polygamy is one of the biggest. We don’t participate in polygamy. That’s been done and away with since 1885. The TV show “Big Love” is a branch off of our church; they’re called the FLDS – the Fundamental Latter Day Saints. They are something completely away from our church that we don’t correlate with at all.
Elder Ballard: People watch those types of shows and go, “Oh, they’re Mormons,” so that gives us a bad rap.
I’ve talked with Mormons on campus before, but none of them possessed the sincerity of these two young men. It was interesting hearing what they are so passionate about and how Mormonism is different from my own religion. If you are approached on campus by nicely dressed young men with nametags, be polite and keep an open mind.
And a critical mind . . . Great interview though! A great story with some good reporting. I would love to know how effective they are though. Did they talk about making converts of the students? Do they work directly with the local church?