By SOPHIA MALDONADO
Many organizations and groups visit UMW to spread messages to students.
Frequently, UMW students come across missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as LDS or Mormon missionaries. While many students do not want to be approached on their way to class, some students enjoy engaging in the conversation. Sometimes the missionaries feel just as nervous to approach students as the students feel about being approached. Members of the campus community should remember this when passing missionaries on campus. They are kind people and should be treated with the same respect and politeness as any other visitors to campus.
Two missionaries currently visiting campus are Sister Hansen and Sister Smith who come from Rupert, Idaho and Springville, Utah respectively, and shared how they interact with UMW students.
Hansen described that when they come to campus, “discussions aren’t planned. Mostly when [we approach or are] approached [by students], it’s based off of questions like ‘are you religious?’ Then [we] go off of that and see how they became religious.”
“[We] usually guide conversations towards the Book of Mormon and how that can help them in their life, but we don’t start off with that. [We] just get to know them and whether or not they have faith in Jesus Christ or not,” said Smith. “Most of the time, we try to get to know people and try and tell them how this can apply in their life because the Gospel can apply in everyone’s life.”
They do not have a required number of students to speak with, but as Hansen described, their goals are more intrinsic and based off of what they wish to gain from going out and preaching to others. “It’s definitely not about the number, but about the person and getting to know them,” said Hansen.
Amani Guillaume, a sophomore biochemistry major, stopped by one day to talk to the missionaries “out of curiosity.”
She said, “I didn’t realize they were missionaries, at first, because I had never seen them on campus before. They asked me about what my beliefs were, why I believed them, and if I had ever heard of The Book of Mormon. I had heard of it, but knew nothing about it. As I was interested in trying new things, I chose to meet another time.”
Unlike Guillaume, many students often ignore the missionaries as they try to approach them. They “don’t take it to heart,” said Smith, “it’s kind of intimidating walking up to two strangers, and even have them walk up to you. They’re probably not an extrovert, and they might be more like an introvert.”
Hansen related to the feeling and said, “I definitely feel like I’m not an extrovert, but this is something that I really love, and our Heavenly Father’s aware of us and of the people here.”
Her love for this pushes her and other missionaries out of their comfort zone. She explained, “it takes the pressure off my shoulders knowing that I’m not doing this for me or my name, but for Jesus Christ. But it is hard sometimes to be like ‘Hi’ and have people just walk off, but it’s easy to be like they’re on their way to class or maybe their busy. It takes a lot of positivity, but it’s so worth it at the end of the day to talk to people.”
The missionaries also visit downtown Fredericksburg. Both of the sister missionaries have noticed that more people walk by and don’t acknowledge them downtown in comparison to UMW.
“Younger people are so open, and they’re more likely to be themselves than someone older. They’re just polite and they’ll say thanks for the card even if they probably won’t look at it,” said Hansen. “You can tell if they’re being honest and likewise, they can tell if we’re being genuine, so we have to be as genuine as we can.”
“[On campus] the attitude I’ve seen and heard about the missionaries is mostly passive,” said Guillaume. “Most people ignore them or acknowledge them but don’t talk to them more than once. I think [student’s] attitude towards the missionaries is more of a reflection of their attitude towards the religion or misconceptions about it. I think people can have their opinions but shouldn’t mock them or be disrespectful to them. If others put their assumptions aside, they could see that missionaries are very polite, and some are very interesting.”
The students actually speak with the missionaries appear to have had a positive experience unlike what some may believe might have been the case.
“We definitely think it’s good for people to know that we’re not going to force anything on anyone, we want it to be normal. We’re normal people and this is just something we love, and we want to share it with people,” said Hansen.
“My experience with them has been good overall, and as I got to know them, I’ve made some new friends,” said Guillaume.