By RILEY DOHERTY
Mackenzie Hard, a senior and American studies major, was on her way to Madison Hall from Qdoba when she ran into a familiar group of religious missionaries.
“I saw that there were Mormon [missionaries] practically lining both sides of Campus Walk in front of Trinkle Hall,” Hard said.
As Hard made her way down Campus Walk, she tried to avoid drawing attention to herself to prevent an awkward exchange, but one of the missionaries engaged in conversation after a case of accidental eye contact.
“He instantly jumped into a conversation with me about my Red Sox sweatshirt,” she said. “I didn’t give him a huge answer and I kept walking. He then asked me what was on my backpack, which are clearly buttons and ribbons.”
Other students reported feeling uncomfortable being stopped by missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“I was walking to class when they stopped me to talk,” said sophomore English creative writing major Molly Avery. “I told them I was going to class and couldn’t talk right now, but that did not stop them. When I tried to go around them, they blocked my path and continued to talk to me.”
According to Avery, the conversation continued for another five minutes.
“They wouldn’t move out of the way until I took a Bible and gave them my information,” she said. “The whole situation was ridiculous and made me late for class.”
Parker Siebenschuh, a sophomore history and historic preservation major has had multiple run-ins with missionaries on campus.
“They try to stop you when going to class and will try to talk to you even if you don’t want them to, even if you are clearly showing them that,” Siebenschuh said. “They get really pushy in their discussion with you.”
Students have reported seeing an uptick in missionaries on campus, particularly from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“It has also gotten to the point that they are not just walking up and down Campus Walk, but now they are setting up a table outside of Trinkle and are sitting on both sides of Campus Walk,” Hard said. “I think that them being on campus is totally fine, but I think it has gotten a little out of control since we’re starting to see them all over campus and with them sending us friend requests and messages on Facebook.”
Other students have reported the missionaries following them to dorms and interacting with students late at night.
Elder Yen and Elder Lacey are two members of the Church who have been seen around campus. They explained their reasons for proselytizing.
“I think the scripture in Matthew says it really well,” said Lacey. “It’s Matthew 28 verses 19 and 20: ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost’… And I think it says it very specifically in the first few words it says ‘go ye therefore,’ so going and doing.”
Yen emphasized the importance of his personal faith.
“I’ve been able to find a cure for pretty much everything – any sadness, any hardship,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you want to go out and put yourself out there to help others find that?”
Yen apologized for any discomfort students feel in interacting with missionaries.
“Our main goal is not to make anyone feel uncomfortable at all,” he said. “But if that does happen we’re sorry. We’re just trying to introduce people to the gospel and follow the spirit.”
Chief Michael Hall said he had no knowledge of any reports or calls involving missionaries on campus.
“It’s a free country, just because someone’s uncomfortable it’s not illegal,” Hall said. “Now going to a residence hall we get a little more latitude there, we can take some more actions there.”
In addition to residence halls, the UC is an area where administration can take more action. “If there was a case where ABC individuals went into the University Center to eat lunch, then they started handing out material or engaging in conversation about it then they would be in violation of that policy up into having them removed from campus.” Chief Hall said this would only happen if groups started handing out material, because the University Center is a public space, so any individual is allowed to eat there.
Chief Hall talked about the importance of calling when an event happens “If they call when it’s taking place then we can address it with the hard facts, versus he said she said, anytime we get any concerns from our students.” he said. “Sometimes quite frankly, it’s just ‘I’m sorry you feel uncomfortable but it’s a public place.’”