Imagine seeing this advertisement in your local classified ads: “You know what you can get for $10,000? The best sales training money can buy! That’s right folks: just a few blocks north of BYU you and all your 19 to 26 year-old friends can sign up for the most glorious and profitable experience of your life – a mission for the LDS Church. Best of all you can triple your investment in only one summer by signing up to sell for ACME security systems as soon as you get back!”
No doubt you are surprised by this ad – after all, a mission is supposed to be first and foremost a religious experience. But according to many businesses both local and national, especially businesses that rely on door-to-door selling, the mission is some of the best sales training you can get. You learn to talk to people, how to get your foot in the door, and how to speak for your cause – or your product – with genuine conviction. All of these skills can lead to higher sales if used correctly. Home security companies run locally like Apex and Pinnacle rely heavily on returned missionaries.
But the benefits aren’t just for the sellers or their employers. In a recent article by The Daily Universe (July 7, 2009 – “Tracting helps RMs in summer sales jobs”), the connection between proselytizing and selling was cursorily explored. This article explained that some who sell take LDS pass-along cards with them to sales, and are not afraid to talk about religion with those who they sell to. After all, that’s what their “sales” training taught them to do the best.
Isn’t there something strange about all this? Perhaps there used to be some natural distinction between proselytizing and selling. Now we are ready, it seems, to casually accept that our capitalist commitment to the pursuit of the almighty dollar and our religious commitment to the almighty Lord should coincide in this perverse symbiosis. “Free conversion with every install!”
Perhaps it is too late to untangle these two. I don’t think Pinnacle will ever stop recruiting returned missionaries, and relying on their religious skills. But at minimum, we can reflect on the loss of importance and the disrespect that selling your religious background to employers, and buyers, does to the missionary experience. In the back of every missionary’s head could lurk the thought of the money they stand to gain as a result of their mission; somehow I don’t think that helps their spiritual goals.