Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2012, May 2

“LDS/ Mormons: Problems with ‘Real Growth’ in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” by grego

LDS/ Mormons: Problems with “Real Growth” in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

grego
(c)2012

One of our area goals, set by our area presidency (70′s), for this year is “real growth”.

Finally, someone was starting to see it!! I have no idea where this is coming from, but in general conference Brother Edgley spoke on “The Rescue for Real Growth”, and I realized maybe it was higher than just our area presidency.

A few weeks ago in a meeting with the high councilor we were looking at numbers, and he mentioned that numbers are going down all across the stake, and had been for a little while. (For example, ward temple attendance has spiraled from 40/ month to less than 10.) Then he asked for input as to why. I rose my hand. “This is the culminating fruit of at least 15 years of numbers games instead of real growth…” and continued to speak for a few minutes.

It seems that for years the leaders have been worrying about and measuring good things, while not worrying about or measuring much better things.

Things being measured:
-Sacrament meeting attendance
-Home teaching
-Temple attendance

Ok, but… Things that SHOULD be measured more than most others:
-Book of Mormon reading
-Prayer
-Family Home Evening

I’ve always wondered why so much prophetic and leadership counsel gets “forgotten” in the process, like this:
Often we spend great effort in trying to increase the activity levels in our stakes.
We work diligently to raise the percentages of those attending sacrament meetings.
We labor to get a higher percentage of our young men on missions.
We strive to improve the numbers of those marrying in the temple.
All of these are commendable efforts and important to the growth of the kingdom.
But when individual members and families immerse themselves in the scriptures regularly and consistently, these other areas of activity will automatically come (The Power of the Word, Ezra Taft Benson, President of the Church, April 4, 1986).

But it’s not just the members, it’s also the missionaries. In fact, it starts with and is largely pushed by the missionaries.

For the past 15 years (at least), “real growth” has had no meaning to the missionary work here. It’s all been about numbers, numbers, numbers. That pressure comes from the mission presidents and from the missionary leaders (assistants to the president, zone leaders, district leaders) who have also ignored church leaders’ teachings and about all the scriptures when it comes to missionary work and goals. Just a few years ago (three?), Elder Nelson gave a talk and asked the missionaries to measure their personal efforts, not other goals they had no control over. How many mission presidents are doing that? But is it their fault, or their leaders they report to (and what numbers are being reported)? (I’ve gone into numbers and goals before in other missionary posts.).

I find it a little ironic that you have this in “Preach My Gospel”:
“A Successful Missionary
Your success as a missionary is measured primarily by your commitment to find, teach, baptize, and confirm people and to help them become faithful members of the Church who enjoy the presence of the Holy Ghost.
Avoid comparing yourself to other missionaries and measuring the outward results of your efforts against theirs. Remember that people have agency to choose whether to accept your message. Your responsibility is to teach clearly and powerfully so they can make a correct choice (p. 10).”
but then there’s also a section on number goals (“Use Time Wisely” chapter). Is this sending a mixed message to missionaries?

I gave rides to the missionaries recently, and as the missionaries read their district goals (another big problem! But I didn’t discuss that with them.) in the car, I had a few comments … “Our goals are to have 50 people come to church, 100 teachings with members, and 10 baptisms. Cool! That’s a little low, though.” They were all excited and talked for a minute about them. Then I chimed in.
“These are all ‘result’ goals, not ‘effort’ goals. What if you do nothing, and a member brings 50 people to church? What if you do everything you can, and no one shows up to church?” Silence. “I suggest you concentrate on goals that you can control, see your results, and use the results to make your methods better. For example, instead of having a goal that 50 people come to church, why not a goal to invite everyone you meet that week to come to church? Instead of having a goal of 100 teachings with members, why not have a goal to visit 10 members, and invite them to help you teach an investigator that month? Instead of having a goal that 10 people get baptized, why not a goal to invite everyone you teach, unless otherwise noted, to get baptized?” Silence. Then the leader spoke up–”Hey, I really like that!” I continued. “Then, if you’re putting forth the effort, but your numbers aren’t good, you know you need to work on that item.”
“Also, while goals that test limits are great, you’re looking for sustainable goals more than anything. Maybe those numbers are low when that’s all you’re concentrating on, but are those goals sustainable–can you reach them for the rest of your missions?” Silence.
They asked me about the possibility of being able to speak in a school, about which three seemed to be really excited; I said I had nothing against it, but… “at least make it high school!” Why? Almost every non-adult that has gotten baptized has the extra burden and complication of fighting with their parents over church attendance vs. studies, and it’s bad enough when long-time families have this same problem and studies often win. The same missionary agreed, adding they should probably concentrate on family baptisms and not teenagers.
I then asked, “In the church we often speak about the leadership skill of delegation; what missionary activity should missionaries delegate?” Silence. Then a few answers. I reminded them that my nephews were going to be baptized in May or most likely June. I suggested that missionaries should delegate the task of finding to members. “How would you like to have 10 members helping you find people to teach?” “That would be great!! But… Brother grego, how do we do that?” Right, because the new missionary handbook says, oh, about NOTHING about working with members (2.5 pages, about which 2 pages is about it, and .5 pages how), and NO mission leaders have stressed or even really mentioned it for the past YEARS in this area. I asked if they had ever heard of the “How Great Shall Be Your Joy”? “No.” So I told them to ask their mission president, and then dropped it, as we were getting close to our destination, anyway.

A few weeks ago I had given the missionaries a printout of 2 Timothy 1:7-8 (slightly modified), which reads:
“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, nor of [his servants].”
As I handed it to them, they asked, “What’s this?” and I said it was a section that President Hinckley suggested in a general conference talk that we read every morning. “Really??” I can’t think of members who need this help more than the missionaries, but I wonder how many mission presidents have remembered this counsel and followed it? Which goes back to an idea I’d really like to see implemented: a handbook of ideas for mission presidents. I think it’s unbelievable that mission presidents receive nothing (except what might be left over in the mission office) to help with their callings. Would it be possible to give each mission president at least a “book of ideas”?

Due to recent happenings, more (in addition to previous posts) about rushed baptisms… I wonder if the mission president and missionaries remember a few things:
1. “There is a difference between a convert who is built on the rock of Christ through the Book of Mormon and stays hold of that iron rod, and one who is not” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1975, p. 65).
How many converts build on the rock of Christ through the Book of Mormon? I don’t want to guess…

2. D&C 20:37 Qualifications for Baptism
• Humble themselves before God.
• Desire to be baptized.
• Come for th with broken hear ts and contrite spirits.
• Repent of all their sins.
• Are willing to take upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ.
• Have a determination to serve Christ to the end.
• Manifest by their works that they have received the Spirit of Christ unto the remission
of their sins.
After worthy converts are baptized…
I’d like to particularly note the “manifest by their works…” part–how is that being manifest? By quitting smoking two days before the baptism? By showing up for church once? I wonder how much emphasis is being placed on “worthy converts” being baptized?

3.”Establishing the Church
When people have been baptized and confirmed members of the Church, continue to work with ward leaders and members to help these new converts adjust to their new life and continue their spiritual growth. The Church is established as people who have testimonies are baptized and confirmed, keep their covenants, prepare actively to go to the temple, and help strengthen the ward or branch.
Missionaries, ward leaders, and Church members should not turn away from their responsibility to nourish and strengthen new members.”

Perhaps that’s why we have less than a 20% retention rate? (Talked more about that in other missionary posts.)

I like to ask missionaries , “When can you stop working with investigators?” I get all kinds of answers. Then I ask them to open “Preach My Gospel” to page 210:
“After the Baptism and Confirmation
Under the direction of the bishop, missionaries may continue to fellowship new members. Continue to teach them and review what they have been taught. Encourage and support them, read the Book of Mormon with them, and help them share the gospel with family members and friends. As appropriate, continue throughout your life to communicate with those whom you have taught and to encourage and support them.
After the confirmation, continue using the Teaching Record to record your progress in teaching lessons 1-4 again and in teaching lesson 5. Work closely with the ward mission leader and ward leadership to help the new convert stay active and receive all the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
Then I ask them again, and a few will say, “after they receive all the blessings of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” Great, when is that? After some thought, some will say, “After they have been to the temple.” Right, for baptisms or…? “When they are sealed (or endowed for singles).” YES, YES, YES!! Ok, that’s the answer I hope they understand, because so much of the problem with real growth in our ward/ stake/ country rests on this one point. And frankly, unfortunately, that is when the members here will begin receive the converts as true members with testimonies (–the effect of years of non-”real growth”).
See, it’s been more than once that I’ve seen missionaries looking for people to baptize while many of the people they themselves baptized in the same ward are already inactive!! Whenever missionaries ask me, “What can we do?” I almost always say, “GO GET THEM AND BRING THEM BACK”.

“Those who exercise faith in Christ, repent of their sins, and are baptized in Christ’s name can be sanctified by the Holy Ghost. If they endure to the end, they will stand spotless before Christ at the last day and will enter into the rest of the Lord. Christ will hold them guiltless before the Father. He will be their Mediator and Advocate. Those who do not endure in faithfulness to the end will be “cast into the fire . . . because of the justice of the Father.” (See 3 Nephi 27:13–22; compare 2 Nephi 31:10–21; 3 Nephi 11:31–41; D&C 76:40–42, 50–53.)”
By baptizing but not following up and helping converts convert and endure to the end, are we just damning people we should be trying to save?

Elder Dallin H. Oaks had some “real growth” in the Philippines when he was presiding there–*extremely* high retention rates… I’ve wondered why, in the ensuing five(?) years since, nothing has come of what he did. I’ve asked leaders (ward, stake) on numerous occasions if they can get the program, but it was usually met with the same answer: “No (or, on one occasion, “Maybe”)–if our leaders want us to have it, they will give it to us”.

Please, LDS church leaders, can we get it?

I wonder if the talk about “real growth” will ever include down-to-earth discussions and changes in a broken system instead of always seeming to putting a new cover on a worn-out book, or rewriting old information. Actually, no, I don’t. I know that one day, it will. It’s just a matter of when that day will be, and who will make it happen.

I just got some stuff off my back, now I’m sure I’ll get chastized for it, but even that will help me feel better, I guess! I’ve just been watching this whole thing go in a big spiral downward that keeps getting bigger and faster for years, and it seems like no one’s listening… I do hope that someone out there will read this and it will help the work to go forward! Good luck, God bless.

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3 Comments »

  1. […] is the original post: “LDS/ Mormons: Problems with 'Real Growth' in The Church of Jesus … Posted in Church Tags: area, church, growth, jesus, jesus-christ, latter-day, lds, our-area, […]

    Pingback by “LDS/ Mormons: Problems with 'Real Growth' in The Church of Jesus … | Church — 2012, May 2 @ 4:29 am

  2. Great post! What you’ve said really resonates within me. I’m not involved in ward missionary work (other than, like all other members, being a missionary), but during the past years, and during my own mission, I’ve seen exactly what you’ve pointed out. Almost all of those I’ve helped teach and who have joined the church are now less active. In many cases it feels like the “convert” wasn’t anywhere near of being converted for real. None of these people of whom I talk have requested baptism – instead the missionaries have stressed the matter so hard that the investigator most surely didn’t have the guts not to comply.

    My take on the matter is that no one should be eligible for baptism if they don’t request it at the missionaries’ hands. One way of manifesting by ones works that baptism is suitable most definitely would be to ask for it. And oftentimes, the missionaries should say “no, you’re not ready yet!” Just to let the future member now that baptism isn’t something to take lightly.

    One example. This man, or, there’s two of them, investigated the church. They were fellowshipped by members, and the reports of great teaching moments were presented to i.e. the priesthood holders. All were excited. Both men had jobs that made them work most, if not all, sundays. I can’t judge their situation, nor their hearts, but to me it feels “wrong” when they, months and months after baptism and confirmation still doesn’t come to church. In my world, requesting God’s help to find a new church-attendence-friendly job would be a top priority. (Maybe it’s been, but the Lord is testing them…)

    People do get baptized to easily. And the ones who are active needs constant reminder on what that really means. The same old stuff (reading scriptures, temple attendance, prayers and so forth) need to be stressed over and over, and placed in the context of accessing the Atonement. Until we get the small and simple things down, big things won’t happen.

    Comment by Christian Hägglund — 2012, May 2 @ 7:41 pm

  3. Christian,

    None of these people of whom I talk have requested baptism – instead the missionaries have stressed the matter so hard that the investigator most surely didn’t have the guts not to comply.
    My take on the matter is that no one should be eligible for baptism if they don’t request it at the missionaries’ hands. One way of manifesting by ones works that baptism is suitable most definitely would be to ask for it.

    Right, or at the least, desiring/ accepting it when offered, and not having to push people—lambs are led, not driven with goads.

    And oftentimes, the missionaries should say “no, you’re not ready yet!” Just to let the future member now that baptism isn’t something to take lightly.

    One of our high councilors, a great young guy, had that experience—not because the missionaries told him, but because his friend told him. When he heard that, it shocked him, and he changed so that he was really putting forth an effort to be converted and prepared—he says it made all the difference in his church membership.
    We just had a baptism called off by an investigator’s relative because while the missionaries were pushing it, the investigator wasn’t ready with repentance.

    I like your point about requesting baptism so much, I’m going to do a Book of Mormon post on that!

    People do get baptized to easily.

    They raised the bar on missionaries; why not investigators wanting to get baptized?

    And the ones who are active needs constant reminder on what that really means. The same old stuff (reading scriptures, temple attendance, prayers and so forth) need to be stressed over and over, and placed in the context of accessing the Atonement. Until we get the small and simple things down, big things won’t happen.

    I guess it’s hard enough to be converted when things start well, why the added burden of trying to convert when things don’t start well? I’m sure if the members were already strong and converted themselves, it wouldn’t be as bad a situation—but that’s what makes it so hard here—the members—even many long-time members—aren’t.

    Comment by grego — 2012, May 2 @ 10:53 pm


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