by Michael Barker
The Big Missionary Announcement: A Summary
My brothers, as well as our friend Jerilyn, all watched the live-stream Church broadcast this Sunday afternoon. And I, for one, was underwhelmed.
All the flurry of excitement seemed to follow the same narrative we have seen since the change in missionary-age came. It is the narrative that many of the on-line Mormon community have noticed and critiqued: What are we going to do with all of these missionaries? “Because there are now a ton-load of them. Oh, crap, we better think of something and fast.”
The first problem that came was where to house all of the missionaries in the MTC. At first the Church attempted to build tall buildings in the area where the MTC now resides. This was in direct contradiction to what the Church had promised the surrounding neighborhood in the past. The Church attempted to strong-arm its plans, but the plans ultimately failed.
Our Church then forced BYU students out of some of the surrounding apartments so our missionaries could be housed. In Mexico, our Church closed down one of its schools to accommodate the influx of missionaries. Now many, many Mexican children will not get the high-quality education they once had.
Today’s broadcast had the same feeling – hurrying to figure out what to do with all the missionaries. The thought process seemed to be:
- Allow the missionaries more access to on-line networking and use that as a proselyting tool. Oh ya, we will also start giving some of them personal electronic devices. This will fill up some of their hours.
- Hmm….They still have too much time on their hands so we will shift the responsibility to the Ward Councils to figure out what to do with the rest of the missionary’s time. This will include a consorted effort of re-activiation since the new-convert retention is so horrible.
- Make a big hoopla about the two above announcements.
This problem seems like it could have been avoided by doing the following:
- Being very explicit and reiterating again and again that the new missionary age is not the expectation but on option. It was predicted by many that the new-missionary age would become the expectation instead of being an option. This is concerning to me and many others. Earlier this year I listened to an interview of an LDS-employed psychologist who has helped develop some of the programs to lessen the mental stresses on the mission. He explicitly stated that there is good data to show that missionaries who have been away from home for a year (as in college) prior to their missions fair much better than those who don’t. He expressed the same concern that many of the on-line LDS community have – that the stresses of missionary life won’t be handled well by the younger male missoinaries. Can we expect an out-of-proportion
increase in male missionaries coming home early due to anxiety? I think we will.
- The big lacuna in the broadcast seemed to be that there was no mention of increasing service-missions. Boy, that was a swing and a miss.
Over all, seeing the Marriott Center packed with faithful members just shows how hungry we are as faithful LDS members for new revelation. A friend of mine told me this: “White shirts and ties, replacing door-to-door and pamphlets with social media and iPads. Ever modeling the business of marketing… I wish we were more interested in exemplifying the gospel than selling it.”
I think it is too bad that you felt that way. I was in attendance at the broadcast and got a completely different message. The broadcast was a call to action, it is time for members to recommit themselves to living the gospel and being member missionaries. It is the members job to find and the missionaries job to teach. This is the same principle that it has been. With the great influx of missionaries it is even more important now that we step up and introduce our friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to the gospel. When that friendship is developed we need to introduce them to the missionaries. That’s what I got out of the broadcast. The fact that 11 members of the Twelve were present shows just how important our leaders feel it was as well.
Well, let’s hope that this time around this call for the members to be missionaries works better than when President Hinckley issued the *exact same call* in 1999: that wards should work on assisting missionaries and that members should be the finders and missionaries the teachers.
I think that’s part of why I was so very underwhelmed. It took two hours for them to basically ask us to recommit to do what we should have done in the hopes that this time we’ll actually do it. Oh, and Facebook.
The thing to remember is that missions aren’t about recruiting, they are about RETAINING current young people in the church. It’s an indoctrination process that serves to further entrench youth in the church before they have a chance to get out and see the world outside of the borders of their parents’ house.
I do not live in Utah, in fact I have lived in three countries and multiple states and nowhere do the mormon missionaries have a good reputation. Why? I conjecture it has to do with the simple saying, no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Start more real humanitarian missions and stop this constant proselytizing.
Agreed. Let’s refocus our efforts on humanitarian relief and reactivation to see results in more conversions.
I guess you never picked up on the signals, Ben, but in the non-Marriott Center part of the world, it’s offensive when Mormons try to “introduce the gospel” and actively project “Everybody look! Look how happy I am!” How can you not understand what a trespass it is when all that I stand for and have sacrificed for is ignored by you and other missionary-minded Mormons? Can’t you see how arrogant it is to reject out-of-hand whatever it may be that I believe in before you even approach me?
The church has become that annoying cheerleader; not getting enough response to the hype? Hype LOUDER!!!
Well, let’s make it @ least two feel that way. Perhaps worse…
I couldn’t agree more with your summary. I kept waiting for the “historic” announcement to be made. I agree that much of the excitement surrounding this meeting as well as the policy change regarding missionary ages demonstrates a fervent desire on the part of faithful members of the church for a demonstration of proactive leadership and action by the core church leadership (Quorum of 12 & 1st Presidency). The rank & file of the church membership has been taught for the last 50+ years that we are in the very last days of a thoroughly evil and increasingly depraved world. The signs are all around us (and pointed out constantly in General Conference and at the local level) and the church will conduct its missionary work humbly while otherwise hunkering down and nervously waiting for the end.
When all that comes out of General Conference and church magazines is more of the same year after year, even faithful members of the church begin to become accustomed to the repetitive message. So, when a new announcement that changes things in any way shakes things up and then there is an unexpected meeting that all church members are invited/encouraged to attend (even to the degree of rescheduling regular Sunday services to accommodate) it is hardly surprising that the disruption of the long-followed pattern garners significant attention and interest.
For this meeting I kept one ear on the meeting (streaming online at home!) and one eye on the blogs & twitter just in case things really were really shaken up, but I was not expecting anything super monumental and thus I was not surprised (though still somewhat disappointed) by the outcome. I suppose that the most historic element of this meeting is that some regular Sunday schedules were altered and many rank and file members attended what amounted to an off-cycle General Conference session.
I *am* going to be interested to watch the church statistics over the next few years. I predict that the increase in numbers of convert baptisms will not be up to the scale of the increase in full-time missionaries. When it comes right down to it, the established method of full-time missionary work is not an efficient way of getting people to join the church and especially to become committed to active involvement in it. That isn’t to say that missionary service does not produce results but the ratio of time, energy, and money invested to meaningful convert growth is not very high and I don’t expect that doubling the missionary force will produce a commensurate growth in meaningful membership numbers.
Perhaps embracing technology, using the meetinghouse for tours & teaching, and increased coordination between full-time missionaries and the local Ward councils will have a positive effect on the work. But for a drastic change in the outcome a drastic change in the approach is likely needed.
What I very much miss in all this talk of reactivation and conversion–both in the broadcast and elsewhere–is respect for the autonomy and agency of the people one hopes to reach. The attitude seems to be, We know what is best for them even though we’ve never met them, and all that remains is to tell them what they need. I think it’s okay to offer, to reach out, but to be effective, it must be on their terms, not one’s own. Perhaps they know what they themselves need better than a stranger.
That said, there were some very good moments where they stressed love over procedure. Then they’d veer off back into numbers again, but I think they were trying. The attraction of numbers is really strong.
Loved the meme!!! Hilarious!!!!
So pretty much the missionaries were admonished to use the Internet as a tool for conversion and not to be derisive…oh like you are.
I don’t think there will be a great increase in convert baptisms. Sure, there is a bubble of many missionaries now, but once those who were already out (at 19 & 21) are home, I foresee that there will be about the same # of missionaries as there were before last year’s announcement. That being said, the best missionary work we can do will be how we live within our communities. So the meeting was a reminder of what we all need to know and do. My mission was an incredible experience, and I had many spiritual experiences that have kept me active in the church. Still, the key to missionary work is how members live.
This is nothing more than a childish rant from a pseudo intellectual. His “LDS ‘ psych friend would probably say that he has been passed over for any leadership callings and therefore must strike at any perceived authority. The arrogant assumption that the Brethren went into this blindly, and are now saying “oh crap” about anything is the height of ignorance. In the news conference immediately after the announcement, they spoke of the logistic concerns and the plans in place. I happen to know that the idea of turning the high school in Mexico City into an MTC was discussed long before the announcement was made. “Now many, many Mexican children will not get the high-quality education they once had.” Another uninformed childish rant. “Now, instead of hundreds being educated at Benemerito, thousands will be educated here at the MTC. Many of them will come from other nations.” Elder Nelson.
I happen to have relatives who serve,in the Mexico area and there has been overwhelming support for this change. We currently have a missionary serving in our ward who went to school there and shared the excitement in the area when the announcement was made. But lets feign some ignorant concern for the Mexican schoolchildren whom the Church has abandoned because of their bumbling “oh crap” handling of all of this. And then the SUPREME arrogance of telling the Brethren how they SHOULD have handled this with a couple bullet points that show a personal bias to a perceived importance. The only “swing and a miss” here is that this guy is (purportedly) serving as a young mens pres. A calling that has specific stewardship to prepare young men as missionaries. The Bishop should take a long look at someone in that position who finds such joy in mocking and belittling decisions made by church leaders. The bar ha been raised for missionaries, we need to raise it for leaders also.
Jared, Anyone who knows Michael will tell you he is and was one of the best leaders that the ym have ever seen in that ward bar none. There is a notion in the church that you cannot criticize the leaders of the church for anything they say or do (that myth was started by leaders of the church and is perpetuated today). For a meeting dubbed as an historic meeting and then to come out with what they did is nothing short of a dud. The steps that were taken with regards to electronic missionary work is simply the church playing corporate games and changing their marketing strategy…the problem is that it will fail. The problem is that the church has a product that is intangible…it is an idea. Most of the conversions that happen occur because of an emotional element….when you take the emotion out of it and try to sell this intangible product via internet interaction you take away one of your biggest selling points. You mock Michael for his comments and yet you do not know him, how much he studies, how he dedicates himself to making the church a better place, etc. Your words ring hollow at best.
“The problem is that the church has a product that is intangible…it is an idea.”
I see you are “firm in the faith”. As such you would herald such a “leader”.
I refuse to believe that you are incapable of deciphering the difference between providing a high school education for residents of local area and spending a few weeks teaching young adults how to proselytize. One education is not equivalent to the other. Billions of dollars for a mall but we couldn’t afford to build a training school in Mexico without closing down a high school? Really?
And most of the ones being taught would be from the USA.
It would appear that Pauls comment was both biased and uninformed. Most of theses look missionaries look like the come from outsidthe US.http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mexico-mtc-opens-train-hundreds-missionaries?fb_action_ids=10201793163576172&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%7B%2210201793163576172%22%3A177710982405540%7D&action_type_map=%7B%2210201793163576172%22%3A%22og.likes%22%7D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D
Jared, I find it interesting that you cite overwhelming support in Mexico for the closure of the Bennemerito. I served my mission in Mexico and I am friends with many graduates from there. My mission president was an assistant director and returned to that position until the school was closed.While the members are supporting the church leaders (what choice do they have)the announcement was met with great sadness, and in many cases anger. For many members growing up in Mexico it was their life long dream to attend “El Beni” and leave for their missions. I remember watching the unity that existed between classmates from the school as the served together as missionaries, it was far more unity than will ever be created at any MTC. I fear that in the long term the closure of the school will have far more of a detrimental effect on the young Mexican members than the new CCM will create. I truly feel there would have been a better way t make adjustments and keep a great educational institution in tact. Just my 2 cents.
Maybe purchasing a hotel and converting that?
You have quite the talent for ad hominem attacks. Must have picked that up on your mission or something. Cult of personality much, starstruck fan of the Qof12? Hopefully, you would have spotted the irony of your post about criticizing leaders. Especially one who, in very deed, is in a position to actually understand what young men need. The leaders here were clearly “speaking as men” and not for God. Forest for the trees.
Fromn what I gathered, many members had left the church in droves – or at least came out as no longer believing. This means a great loss of tithing income for the LDS Church, which leads to financial difficulties in distant future — unless some “Historic” changes are made, and quickly!
It seems to me that the age change for young missionaries has not been properly thought out. Almost every 18 year old has not spent any time away from home, and being thrust out into the mean cruel world – often overseas in foreign lands will doom them to failure and disbelief. Mass conversions will almost always lead to inactivity, and reactivation rarely happens.
I think it’s time to put away the myths of the Book of Mormon, and return to a hard core teaching of the BIBLE. This alone will solve many member related problems.
I disagree quite completely with the notion that a young age will preclude missionaries from being effective. All that is needed to be a good missionary is humility and a belief. They don’t need to have world experience or life skills to be good missionaries. So dropping the age from 19 years old to 18 is not going to doom these young men and women to failure and disbelief. If this were true, then Joseph F. Smith would have surely failed when he was sent to Hawaii to be a missionary at the age of 14.
Randal, I disagree quite completely with the notion that a young age will preclude missionaries from being effective. All that is needed to be a good missionary is humility and a belief. They don’t need to have world experience or life skills to be good missionaries. So dropping the age from 19 years old to 18 is not going to doom these young men and women to failure and disbelief. If this were true, then Joseph F. Smith would have surely failed when he was sent to Hawaii to be a missionary at the age of 14.
I totally agree with you on the age lowering. I teach 17-18 year old students. I praise them to high heavens for their academic work, but at the end of the day they are all still very much large children. Some are still we behind the ears and are, at their core, ignorant in life skills. Obviously, I’m speaking in generalities here and about Third Culture Children, exposed to travel and dealing with other nationalities. Taking sheltered, insular Mormon children and shoving them out into the world with minimal survival skills in, say New York or LA, and you create a disaster situation just waiting to happen.
Jared, I know the man you’re attempting to disparage with your scurrilous ad hominem comments, and you’re completely in the wrong about him. More importantly, you’re in the wrong for making such unchristian comments at all–about anybody.
I find it interesting that you criticize me for ad hominem attacks on Micheal, but you are fine with his ad hominem attacks on those who some of us sustain as prophets, seers and revelators, not “oh crap what have we done now” charlatans.. That is very informative. Also you attack me as scurrilous and throw in the “unchristian” tag. Surely even you see the hypocrisy in that. I am disappointed that you did not infer I was also racist , homophobic, xenophobic… you know, all the clarion calls of the “illuminati” to anyone who may not worship their same false idols.
Your comments are neither constructive or christian.
Thanks for the “unbiased” assessment. I was shown this post by someone who is struggling with their faith and used it as a justification for their doubt. So guess you would say it is constructive and christian to cast doubt into the minds of those who are adrift. What your brother teaches, and what church doctrine teaches are diametrically opposed. You can not serve two maters. I have made my choice. Just look at randal and garret and becca have to say about the post. “by their fruits ye shall know them”. These are the disciples he is inspiring.
Jared, the person didnt start doubting because of information that they read. The barkers didnt create that doubt. If you want to know where my doubts came from I can give you all the sources…and none of them were from Michael or his brothers. Many of by questions and doubts came from stuff that the church has chosen to cover up and hide. One of the main reasons I have chosen to stay in contact with the church at all is due to people like the Barkers who are trying to create an environment where all are welcome in the church….but you are showing me exactly the culture that is pervasive in the church of shunning those who may believe differently than you. I love your comment about not being able to “serve two ma(s)ters.” The church has done more than a good job of serving God and Mammon. I.E. City Creek Mall, billions of dollars of investments, etc, etc,etc…and all the while telling their members to sacrifice.
Woops, this quickly got away from the intent of the post. Jared, I think some of your critiques of my post are valid and are worth exploring. Specifically I am interested in any insight you have into the history of Benemerito and how the decision was reached to close it. Will you write a post for us please?
I am interested in the democracy of free-ideas and thus strongly advocate an alternative voice to what I have presented here.
Please click on the following link and provide us with some information and a time-line in which you think you can get the post to us.
Thanks again for your critique. I sincerely mean it. No hard feelings from me, Hermano Jared.
Religious institutions and their leaders are not above criticism and discussion. As such respect the other guy’s opinion, state your own, and dispense with ad hominem attacks. I don’t know anything about Illuminati except what I’ve read in Dan Brown novels.
I agree with Jared. This author is completely in the wrong when he thinks that the brethren came into this blind and unprepared. I can promise you that the Bretheren put hours and hours into these announcements. Historic, yes in the fact that 178 mission presidents were there. What were you hoping for, China to be opened? Either way, whatever was to be announced it is evident throughout your postings that you would have belittled it and made fun of it by playing down it’s importance or acted like you already had some inside track on what it was.
*Garret the notion that you can criticize leaders is ridiculous. These are men who are called and aren’t perfect. They didn’t ask for these callings. And your same arguement doesn’t hold water. You rip “Jared” for not knowing the author and how much he studies, reads etc and yet you rip the brethren despite not knowing them and how much time they study and read and make the church better. You can’t have it both ways.
Start your own church guys if every step that is made is criticized and doubted.
Tharp37…please show me the doctrine where leaders cant be criticized. If you are not allowed to debate, criticize, discuss, etc the things that happen in the church then you have turned it into very much a cult mentality. One of the major problems with this church is how people idolize and deify the leaders of the church as if they can do no wrong…part of the problem is that the leaders of the church have not and never will admit they are wrong on anything…how could they be when the Lord is supposedly running the church. If you are a believer in Christ then you believe that he is and was the only perfect being to have ever lived…that means that everyone else falls short of perfection and screws up sometimes. Do the leaders of the church fall short of perfect and screw up…absolutely. One of the problems that you so well have demonstrated is when people in the church feel threatened at all they tell people to just leave the church, go start your own church, leave if you dont like it, etc. If this is your answer to everything then you have failed miserable at understanding how inclusive the church should be. Your train of thought is that if we dont agree on something that I should just leave…well the truth is that thousands of members are leaving the church each year because of stuff like this. You are getting your very wish.
So it was a historic meeting then. Fine, but there is no way it was a historic announcement. Why didn’t they then have that big of a meeting to announce that missionaries could start using cell phones to help with the work back in the 90’s? The announcement, as has been mentioned, was just a repeat of what the Brethren have said before.
“Start your own church guys if every step that is made is criticized and doubted.” Thank heavens you are not in charge of church membership. I am so grateful that the God I love and serve is a God who has room for all in his church. As several of the brethren have been saying recently, the church tent is large enough for all to enter into and partake. Also, I am so grateful for diversity in thought. But with diversity of thought there is a requisite respect that is needed. A respect for others differing beliefs.
I actually do believe it was historic. Before now missionaries have not been allowed to use technology, only in contacting home. As a pre-service teacher I have focused my studies on the impact of technology on education; its huge. The rising generation are what we call digital natives, they have a different literacy than even I did growing up; and I’m not that old. They can communicate digitally in new ways and across greater streams. From a “spreading the gospel” point of view, you will now have 70,000 new missionaries creating blogs and creating new online discussion that currently isn’t being had. The Mormon Blogernacle is still relatively new. I believe the online presence of the LDS church is going to explode because of this historic announcement.
You bring up some very interesting points. Would you mind turning your comment into a blog-post for us?
I respectfully reject the attitude oozing from Jared’s comments. Perhaps the day may come when Jared begins to do some of his own thinking instead of accepting that “the thinking has already been done”. His brand of arrogance is at least partially why so many people are feeling alone in the church.
Childish rant, my eye!
I found the immediate shift from the positives of embracing the internet & inviting “the young and the old, the adults, the young adults, the youth, and the children everywhere to join with us in this exciting new work by becoming Facebook friends with the missionaries in your area on your own computers and sharing their gospel messages online and by becoming involved in missionary work yourselves” to the threats “Of course, safety is paramount in this new frontier of missionary work…Mission presidents will monitor missionaries’ online work to help them remain safe in all they do.” quite interesting, enlightening and typical. Fear seems to be an inherent part of the Mormon way of doing things.
What besides porn do they feel these missionaries need safety from? I suspect it’s what Quentin L. Cook warned about when he said “Some have immersed themselves in Internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and, in some cases, invent shortcomings of early Church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed”. Their concern that missionaries may stumble across sites that discuss early church history, Joseph Smith, early leaders and their various quotes, early material used by church leaders/members (i.e. Book of Commandments, Journal of Discourses) as well as earlier quotes/passages from books written by apostles/prophets/historians (i.e. Mormon Doctrine) that are no longer suggested as lesson enhancing material since they don’t often fit in with the current perspectives/policies is a valid concern.
It will be very interesting to see how they are going to do this monitoring: filters, reading IP history on users, blocking various sites? I suspect it will be quite an undertaking and quite a headache for the Mission Presidents and I’m not sure how effective it will be since these young adults are quite technologically adept. Since many of the adult members as well as these young men/women are not aware of the fascinating details regarding church history….this may be like opening a can of worms. They will be asked questions, things will be brought up in blogs/posts/comments and they will be often be unprepared to answer. When they try to find these answers they will either be blocked from doing so, sent to apologetic sites for answers or left totally confused if they do get access to the information. It’s going to be very interesting to see how this plays out.
Let me mull it over. I’ll consider it. I’ve never been invited to write a post before. It’s something I’d definitely like to explore.
When I heard this I did a literal LOL. You know the primary problem with all of this? NO SUFFERING! A missionary playing with an iPad Mini is so stupid and non-historic that it’s laughable. Where, oh where, will that missionary build character? How will he pray to God after a long day of being rejected in extremely cold or hot weather? What about his shoes when he comes home at the end? They’ll still look brand new!
“So, Elder, where did you serve?”
“Provo, Utah, iPad speaking.”
“Oh, wow… that’s amazing…” :cough:
Just when you think it can’t get any sillier, it puts on a clown nose. Nice job, LDS church. You should be proud.