Book of Mormon Notes– How deep can you dig?

2010, June 2

“Another LDS/ Mormon Missionary Fable” by grego

Another LDS/ Mormon Missionary Fable

(c) 2010

(Hey, my problem, quality probably gets lower and lower on these fables as my patience and caring gets lower and lower… Still, to give another idea…)

Welcome to The Club!

To get in, you need to pay a steep membership fee. For higher privileges, you need to pay even more.

The favorite area of the club members is: the Sandbox.

The Sandbox is lots of fun, really. And it’s open to all members.

Of course, there are, on a few occasions, a few things that happen, like:
—it’s far away, and no public transportation passes by there;
—they rush everyone in the door, but then the directions are really hard to follow, and the service people aren’t easy to find sometimes;
—the wind blows and someone gets a little sand in the eyes;
—someone throws a little sand, and it gets on someone;
—someone throws a little sand, and it gets in someone’s eyes;
—cats crap in it;
—the kids get sandy;
—the sun gets unbearable as it beats down directly on you;
—you play by yourself.

So, many club members leave.

Let’s say that in some areas 80 out of 100 people who walk through the door, walk back out *minutes* later, never to come back.

The manager thinks, “Dang, the boss said he wants as many people as can in the sandbox; I guess I need to spend more money to do some more advertising and recruiting.”

So he hires better trained sales staff, and they bring in better members, but still…

What would *you* tell the manager?

Would you suggest anything like:
—more and better-trained staff? better orientation?
—put nets around so cats don’t get in?
—put up a little “wash-up” center?
—put up a white cloth, etc. over part(s) of the sandbox so there’s some shade?
—parties and group activities?
—people to call and invite them back?

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is spending US$15,600,000 **MONTHLY** just to support missionaries in the field (52,000 missionaries x US$300). That cost does not include much overhead, leaders, leadership training, etc. Maybe $3,466,667 for plane tickets each month? Total cost: twenty million dollars ($20,000,000)/ month? Two-hundred-and-forty million dollars ($240,000,000)/ year?

If 280,106 new members (from the 2009 Statistical Report)/ year join, that means it costs $856.82/ new member.

If the Church were to have a 20% retention rate, that would mean one-hundred-and-ninety-two million dollars ($192,000,000) is being wasted every year, because people don’t stay once they get in… :-( When you add up lost opportunity costs, lost resource costs, etc., it’s much higher.

If you were the boss…??

If you were the manager…??

Is it really too hard to try a few well-thought-out missionary pilot programs?
Is it possible to make the sandbox a more pleasant place to join and stay around?
Would it be more worthwhile to take some of that budget money, and rearrange/ balance priorities?

But you aren’t the boss/ manager/ etc., and neither am I, nor anyone else. So the question is, what will *I* do to make the Sandbox a funner place to be?

Folks, these aren’t “club members in a sandbox”; they’re souls of Heavenly Father’s children!

2010, April 26

“LDS Mission Presidents Are Human” by grego

“LDS Mission Presidents Are Human”

(c) 2010

Hey, I love them. They sacrifice a lot, and for what? To watch over 19-28 year olds guys and gals (which means everything from babies to very mature people, and it doesn’t depend on the age)!

However, I want to relate something I heard about.

“This past weekend, we went through another losing missionary program at stake conference priesthood leadership meeting, again… (We’ve been having those for the past 15 years or so—not the meetings, the losing missionary programs.) You know, the type where after hours and hours of studying, they come up with something pretty simple, ordinary, and still as full of problems as the last program.

We are still at about the same lousy retention rate, but luckily with fewer people getting baptized recently (I’ll likely never forget 84 new member interviews with the bishop (luckily not me) in one year), as two missions have been combined and our ward has dropped from eight to six to four and pretty soon down to two missionaries. Were everything working well, you could imagine how disappointed we would be to lose all those missionaries… Unfortunately, it seemed like many leaders, not just me, were very happy to hear the news of fewer missionaries when it was announced a few months ago; and unfortunately (fortunately?), the foreign American mission president didn’t know anything about that.

No, the missionary work problems and new member retention are not all the new members’ fault, nor missionaries’ nor the mission president’s fault; a lot is ours, the local leadership, and the auxiliary leaders and the members.

My latest episode with our mission president wasn’t such a good one.

After he gave me a handout of his missionary program in English (thank you, that really was very considerate :) ), I asked about the “How Great Shall Be Your Joy” program. I was a little surprised when he answered he didn’t really have a clue.

(I wonder: if the Brethren would give mission presidents a packet of all the general conference talks and Ensign articles on missionary work, plus past missionary programs and their evaluations (successes, failures, reasons for both, etc.)—would it be helpful? I can’t help but think that it would be *very* helpful.)

I then asked about the “Set a Date” program, and he got a little reluctant. I said, it was a great program that was unsuccessful due to a small problem—like a wonderful young lady who can’t get married because of her big nose—one small operation, or a guy with a big nose, and voila! success has arrived.

I asked about the CD I had given him about two years ago that was chock full of missionary stuff (and to which he never responded ;( )—he got very defensive quickly and said he had gotten it, but that “the Brethren are very clear that we are to use the Proclaim My Gospel book; it’s in there, you just have to dig a little.” And that was, well, kind of that.

I was mad, disappointed, and appalled at the audacity of the answer, and seeing his red face and “I won’t talk any more about this” appearance, I figured I’d have better luck teaching the Catholic priest I taught in his church on my mission, than to try to carry the conversation any further.

So I walked back to my seat with the program handout—WAIT!

What the heck?! Why am I holding this piece of paper of HIS program that ISN’T IN the Proclaim My Gospel book?!?!

And yes, I have “[dug] a little” (and more), but still can’t find anything like his program in the manual; while in fact, most of the things on the CD are in it!!

Nor is his plan in the scriptures, or based on anything from the scriptures, which at least most of the things on the CD were.

So why? What was the difference between our plans?

Here’s the key: No one wants to depart from the status quo system and be a failure.

If you fail doing what everyone else does, or a slight variation of it, that’s ok. You’re status quo. It doesn’t matter much if you fail, because then you can blame it on the LDS Church, the system, the authority above you, …

If you do something different and do well, you might still “be in trouble” from on top. Or not.

But here’s the block: you might fail. Your numbers might drop.
And seriously, this is very important to most. Most leaders are worried about reporting “bad” numbers to their leaders. Righteous leaders, trying to do well (the majority are—mission presidents, stake presidents, etc.). I believe there is a gap between what happens in the field, and what the apostles wished were happening, and I think the main problem has to do with the numbers and Seventies (I’ve spoken on this in other missionary articles on this blog).

If you fail doing something some Seventy or someone in a department in Salt Lake City might lay bricks about, *you* are a failure; you failed the Lord, you failed the Church, you failed the missionaries, you failed the members, etc. And not only that, you won’t be called upon next time for mission president, or temple president, or Seventy, or …

Of course, I don’t believe that is the right way, but I believe that most mission presidents do, and I believe that might be their real-life experience.

Once more, a reminder: All LDS Church leaders are human, including mission presidents. (And including me, of course.)

I love them, but like others, I need to tell them some things they can’t tell themselves, and that someone in SLC likely won’t tell them.

I can’t help but imagine that our mission president has misunderstood some things about his calling (and this is about all of us, not personally).
1. He hasn’t been called to reinvent the wheel, when a wheel or something very similar to a wheel is what is needed. (Change the flat tire, no need to throw away the car and buy a new one.)
2. He has retained his brain even after his call for a reason (and it’s not just to memorize instructions from his leaders).
3. He is allowed to listen to and be open to others, even if they don’t have “authority” over him and the work.
4. He is allowed to consider something that is not “in the book” (he already did that with his own plan, just that I think he has limited himself as to what things he’s allowed to consider… But I don’t know what message(s) he is getting from “the Brethren…??). “The book” even says that.
5. If it ain’t working, it’s likely broke. FIX IT.
6. It might be broken a lot, or a little. You’ll find out by trying to fix it. If you don’t try to fix it, you’ll likely never know.
7. About this missionary program and all the others—it’s broke. FIX IT. Please. Pretty please. Pretty, pretty please.
7. If the Brethren can’t tell you how to fix it, go back to #1 and start again… Also, see my article about “By Study and By Faith”.
8. Generally, if you don’t fix it, it will remain broken. No, the Lord will not fix it for you.
9. You decide if you want to be another status quo broken or a status quo breaker (hopefully for the better). You decide if you are serving the Lord, or serving a Seventy.
10. You will also decide if you want the local leaders to remember you as a saint or something much less.

So, if you are a mission president, please, please, *please* remember those things!

UPDATE: Looking at the 2010 new mission president callings, 17 missions have closed/ will be closing due to “mission consolidation”. Ouch. At least to me, to be a status quo mission president and have to have the mission I was presiding over close, would be much more a sign of failure than to try something different and possibly have a dip in numbers and have the mission close anyway, but at least have a chance of turning things for the better. No, there is no need to rebel against the Lord, teach your missionaries to be apostate, etc. It can all be done with a change in ways and the Spirit.

For possible ideas as to how, use the search function to find the missionary ideas/ missionary work posts here (I’ve listed some on this blog).

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