Did We Raise the Bar too Far?

April 24, 2005 | 176 comments
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The number of missionaries is down about 15,000 from its peak. The number of convert baptisms is down about 20% per missionary. Retention rates are also down. There are numbers of young men who would be willing to serve missions who are not allowed to because of sins that would not have barred them from missionary service previously. Is there a link here?

It is difficult to argue with the simple fact that results don’t lie. No one wants a bunch of hypocrites teaching the gospel. Yet if we bar all sinners from teaching the gospel then no one is available to teach the gospel. It seems to me that the decision to “raise the bar” has been counterproductive and destructive. I am not suggesting that we look the other way when there is serious sin. I am not suggeting that it is OK to send abusers, pedophiles or predators into the mission field. But the largest number of those affected by “raising the bar” don’t fit any of these sins — they are just run of the mill sinners like all of us.

Many who would go and have at least one convert are not being converted. The long term effect of the number of those who would be converted and remain active is staggering. The issue isn’t numbers but the effect and impact on the lives of those who are barred and those they may have touched. I suggest that we return to a view that leaves the decision to the spirit and the local bishop without strict guidelines from Salt Lake. Wouldn’t it be better to let repentance take however long it takes instead of some written guideline that applies to all? Wouldn’t it be better to let the local priesthood leaders who know the young man (or woman) assess the trustworthiness of that individual rather than relying on a set rule about how long it takes to wait per type of sin committed?

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176 Responses to Did We Raise the Bar too Far?

  1. Gordon Smith on April 24, 2005 at 2:19 pm

    Blake: “The number of missionaries is down about 15,000 from its peak. The number of convert baptisms is down about 20% per missionary.”

    These are two very different phenomena. Reducing the number of missionaries is not intuitively correlated with reducing the number of convert baptisms per missionary. Indeed, I would have suspected that reducing the number of missionaries would increase the baptisms per missionary. This makes me wonder if the number of baptisms isn’t being affected by another variable, such as stricter standards for baptism. We may be seeing the front-end results of President Hinckley’s emphasis on back-end retention.

  2. Jed on April 24, 2005 at 2:30 pm

    Blake: “But the largest number of those affected by “raising the bar” don’t fit any of these sins – they are just run of the mill sinners like all of us.”

    How do we know this? The options given run to two extremes: pedophilia or “run of the mill.” It seems to me that these extremes leave out the so-called serious sins, like fornication, pornography, and drug and alcohol abuse. I am a sinner, but these sins do not resemble mine.

  3. J. Stapley on April 24, 2005 at 2:33 pm

    While I knew of a few missionaries who probably shouldn’t have been on a mission, there were also a couple of “Alma the Youngers”. They would, today, in all likelyhood, have been barred from service. I mourn for them.

  4. Kevin Barney on April 24, 2005 at 2:33 pm

    I suspect there are a number of variables involved. Part of it may be demographics, a declining number of missionary-age young men. (Query: will this lead to loosening the reins on encouraging young wemen to serve? So far, it hasn’t.)

    Anecdotally, in my local area, I haven’t seen any young men who have wanted to serve who have been turned down by a bishop under the “raising the bar” mantra and rhetoric. Rather, I see a smallish number of young men of the appropriate age, most of whom have no interest or intention of serving. They don’t care about the Church, they don’t go, they don’t have testimonies and they don’t have interest. (My own 18-year old son falls into this category.) It appears to me that it is less a matter of young men being turned away and more a matter of young men not even knocking on the door in the first place.

    Part of the problem I see locally is unbelievably lame youth activities, caused mostly by just not having a sufficient critical mass of youth to attend them (the kids don’t care that the leaders are good and motivated people if there are only a few bodies to come to the activities), and unbelievably boring church lessons, which is more of an endemic problem in the church’s lowest common denominator approach to spiritual education.

  5. annegb on April 24, 2005 at 2:43 pm

    A friend told me today about a great scout leader her boys had, took them on long hikes, followed up and set high standards, loving them and keeping on top of them. Their ward was split and he went with the other ward. Her boys are totally inactive alcoholics today.

    While I believe those boys (hell, they’re almost as old as I am) bear the responsibility for their choices, we do affect each other.

    I forgot where I was going with this. LOL. There’s something profound and on topic somewhere. You smart kids go with it.

  6. Jed on April 24, 2005 at 2:52 pm

    J. Stapley makes a good point. I noticed the “Alma the Younger” phenomenon on my mission as well. Some of the hardest working missionaries had a deeply speckled past. They seemed far more driven, even obsessive (in the best sense), than the average missionary. The relationship puzzled me until I became companions with one of these workers, a young man who had fathered a child out of wedlock a few years earlier. He said he was trying to repay God for all the pain he had caused–just like the sons of Mosiah. (The story becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy for some people.) He had to work so hard to get out there, the mission was bound to mean more to him. He was an outstanding missionary, blessed a lot of lives, and was far and away my favorite companion. It saddens me to think of people like him not going on missions, but still I conclude that in the end the raising of the bar will help our teenagers in the end.

  7. Geoff Johnston on April 24, 2005 at 2:57 pm

    I’m with Gordon. When I served a mission there were something like 40,000 full-time missionaries worldwide and around 300,000 convert baptisms per year. More recently there have been in excess of 60,000 full-time missionaries worldwide and fewer than 300,000 convert baptisms per year. And back when I served (’89-91) it was in the pre-raised-bar days and there were way too many “Lenny’s” in the field still (the term we used in our mission for slacker/disobedient missionaries).

    Obviously correlation is not causation in this case. It seems to me that prior to the 90s there was a direct correlation between the number of missionaries serving and the number of convert baptisms. During the 90s that correlation stopped and for some reason we have seen diminishing returns since then. We have seen a 50% increase in missionaries and basically 0% growth in convert baptisms. I assume the brethren decided that since results were not improving it might be a good time to reduce the number of Lenny’s out there. Going on a mission therefore is becoming more of a privilege than a right in the church now. I think the positives of the new policy outweigh any negatives.

  8. Gordon Smith on April 24, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    Jed, I felt that way about my mission, but my conversion preceded my mission (indeed, my baptism). That can still happen and may happen more with higher standards for missionary service. I think higher standards in this context are a good thing.

  9. Greg on April 24, 2005 at 3:13 pm

    I struggle with the raising the bar approach–I was one who benefited from a much lower bar in a far earlier age; however, we’re missing some of the reasons why they aren’t being allowed to go as we talk about the extremes of why some young men are not allowed to serve.

    I spoke with a recently returned missionary a few months ago. He had prepared his entire life for his mission. Saved. Studied. Actually prepared. When he arrived in his mission area in Central America, he was assigned companions who’d drag him along to three-day long “Risk” (the game) parties with their district or zone. He had companions who would ditch him to attend Shakira concerts. He had one companion who received a call from a former companion, asking him to take a week-long road trip with him before the former comp left the country. My friend’s comp turned to him and said “whether or not you come, I’m going. See you in a week.” He belonged to a district where they stole cable and spent the night watching R-rated movies–the racey type. In short, these guys had no idea who they were serving or why they were on missions. Was he glad they raised the bar, I asked him. Without hesitation, “you bet.”

    At this point, I’m willing to sit back and wait for the new approach to bear fruits. I think it will, even as my heart aches for those who want to but can’t serve because of bad choices. There, but for the grace of time, go I.

    In the meantime, I’m going to do my part to make sure there are no more boring Sunday School lessons and more enjoyable scout activities. And I’m going to do what I can to let the young men and women in my ward and stake know that they are loved and needed.

  10. John H on April 24, 2005 at 3:50 pm

    What troubles me about the raised bar is the number of people who, if these rules had been in place for the last thirty years, would not have been able to go on a mission and may therefore not contributing today as active members.

    There’s too many stories out there of people who got mission calls and as a result, cleaned up their act when they otherwise wouldn’t have. I worry that raising the bar just makes the Church more elitist – it makes it easier for those already struggling to fall along the wayside, while those already pre-disposed to obedience will gain even more kudos for making it as missionaries.

  11. lyle stamps on April 24, 2005 at 3:53 pm

    Blake: Nice point. However, I’ll take the Prophet’s decision over Monday Morning quater-backing. If the Lord decides to be ‘forgiving’ re: ‘his’ raised bar…it will happen.

  12. Kevin Barney on April 24, 2005 at 4:25 pm

    I hope that we’re lessening our reliance on the mere baptism statistic as a measure of meaningful growth. When I was a missionary 25 years ago, baptism were all that mattered; it was how we as individual missionaries were judged, and it was how our mission was judged. This was an egregioiusly short-sighted approach to things. For it created incentives to baptize quickly, at all costs, the needs of the investigators, of the wards or of the church itself be damned.

    So we baptized a lot of people and got to wear a Bozo button, with lots of brownie points in the Book of Life. Big deal. What was the long-term impact on the Church? Just look at Chile, where they’re collapsing stakes left and right. Baptizing a lot of people quickly who aren’t committed to the Gospel does not strengthen the Church. It gives us a statistic to crow about at press conferences, but that’s about it. In the long run, when these people don’t even show up to church the Sunday after they’re baptized, much less become active, contributing members, they become a net drain on precious ward resources. Just ask the elders who are supposed to home teach six families, five of whom don’t consider themselves LDS and don’t want anything to do with the Church.

    GBH has made great strides in correcting this situation and focusing on a more holistic approach that includes actual conversion and retention, not just mere baptisms. But quite frankly, in my judgment, we’ve got a long ways to go in this regard.

  13. mabeline on April 24, 2005 at 4:40 pm

    Maybe they are trying to condense the missionary force. Maybe their intent is to have fewer missionaris. LDS families are growing smaller and smaller. Out of those, there will be fewer able and willing to serve missions, especially considering convert numbers are also decreasing.

  14. NFlanders on April 24, 2005 at 4:41 pm

    I’ve heard mention of the church “raising the bar” before, but I never understood what it means in practice. Are bishops and Stake Presidents now given different set of questions to ask? Are there specific sins that now automatically preclude a mission call?
    I would also like to disagree with the notion that previous sins predict mission rule breaking. I knew a lot of Elders of both persuasions and I never noted a connection.

  15. Rusty on April 24, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    NFlanders,
    Exaclty. I don’t think there was a connection between previous sins and rule breaking. There are a lot of really squeaky-clean lazy guys out there as well as hard working guys that have had a lot of sex.

    My brother was one that missed the bar. Depression, not worthiness was the issue. Being rejected from going on a mission (especially when you are perfectly worthy) doesn’t bode well for the depression. Not that I would have been begging the prez to be his companion, but he would have done a good job.

    It’s a difficult thing. I’m still not sure how I feel.

  16. Rosalynde Welch on April 24, 2005 at 5:34 pm

    I’m in favor of the policy change. I absolutely think there’s a connection between previous dispositions and habits and mission behavior–and I’m quite sure that the missionary committee has ascertained this connection, too. I had a companion who suffered from severe mental illness and unresolved previous sin, and although I love her and value my experience with her, I think she would have been much better off having served a “mini-mission” or doing part-time splits with full-time missionaries than attempting a full-time mission (which terminated early after severe trauma). We do need to find a way for those unable to serve full time missions to render a significant and socially-valued substitute service, however: perhaps mini-missions or splits can serve some of this purpose.

    The problem, I think, is when over-zealous local leaders inappropriately “magnify” the general counsel, and in an effort to be super-compliant throw the baby out with the bathwater (a common side effect of the strong emphasis on “following the brethren.”) This happened a few years back when leaders were cautioned not to pressure young women to serve missions: some local leaders took this way too far and actively discouraged–or even prevented–willing young women from serving. I think this most recent GC moved to moderate local over-zealousness in both the “raising the bar” and “sister missionary” policy changes–asking local leaders to prepare one more missionary per unit, and to use inspiration and flexibility in counseling young women.

  17. Russell Arben Fox on April 24, 2005 at 5:38 pm

    For what it’s worth, a couple of weeks ago the permabloggers had an extensive e-mail discussion about a proposed post and the whole “raising the bar” phenomenon. (Kiami, Ben, Wilfried and others were major participants; perhaps they’ll put their two cents in here.) There is a lot which remains to be said about what it would mean to truly embrace a smaller missionary force, fewer convert baptisms, and the attendant decline in missionary work as a rite of passage for young men in the church. I, for one, strongly believe that losing that “rite”–if it in fact comes to that, which I think is yet far from clear–is a small price to pay for a missionary culture which is less easily dominated by an all-baptism-all-the-time mentality, and consequently less corruptible which the falseness of that mentality is exposed; in general, less top-heavy, less all-or-nothing, less central to the lives of so many terribly immature young men, of which I was one.

  18. Jonathan Stone on April 24, 2005 at 5:50 pm

    Blake,

    You are focusing on the short-term at the expense of the long-term. I am confident that President Hinckley didn’t want to reduce the number of missionaries serving in the future; he wanted the missionaries of the future to be more prepared. Holding young men to a higher standard will unfortunately cause some to fall short, but it will also cause others to rise to the occasion. While I wouldn’t say the attitude was rampant, there have been many, many young men who indulge in sins thinking, “I can have a little fun now, then repent and go on my mission and put it all behind me.” Young men will now better learn that their actions have permanent consequences. The Lord needs better missionaries than ever, especially with the new format of preaching the gospel.

    Also, your emphasis on “leaving the decision to the spirit” ignores the fact that President Hinkley himself authorized the raising of the bar, almost certainly after much consideration, prayer, and influence from the Spirit.

    Changes in institutional policy can unfortunately seem unfair to some. The few that are harmed can be seen and felt sorry for. However, it is much harder to observe the positive effects of the institutional change, much harder to see and count those who raise their lives to meet the higher standard. But just because you can see those who are hurt and can’t see those who benefit doesn’t mean the policy is wrong. It is a decision that can only be made by the prophet, guided by the Spirit. I think, over the long term, the raising of the bar will improve both the missionary work, and the lives of those who prepare for and serve missions.

  19. Jonathan Green on April 24, 2005 at 6:07 pm

    When I first heard about raising the bar, I didn’t like it; it seemed like one more way that missionaries could be made scapegoats for the number of baptisms not being high enough. But if the bar has been raised, and the numbers haven’t gone up, perhaps we can put to rest the notion that baptisms are predicated on a missionary’s obedience. One less unhealthy and unproductive guilt trip would be a good thing, I think. Obedience is an excellent thing, of course, as are baptisms. But in my experience there was no correlation–perhaps even negative correlation–between level of obedience and numbers of baptism. But every time and place has its own dynamic; whatever their other faults, none of the missionaries I met were serving for the wrong reasons.

  20. Jonathan Neville on April 24, 2005 at 6:59 pm

    Blake’s point is worth discussing for at least two reasons. First, the “raising the bar” program appears to be an experiment similar to the 18 month missions, which were dropped after a few years. If “raising the bar” is a similar failure, then why not drop it? Isn’t it a healthy thing to discuss the parameters of what “raising the bar” means and its impact on all of our lives? I think they’re raising the wrong bar. The bar to raise isn’t the prospective missionary’s past mistakes (Paul himself wouldn’t have hurdled that bar), but instead the prospective missionary’s present commitment and determination to serve. That might be more difficult to assess, but there are ways to measure this and certainly to evaluate it during the mission.
    Second, the more important issue Blake raises is what is behind the decline in baptisms. The number of missionaries is probably not as important as (1) the failure of apologetics and (2) the softening of the “cause.” Apologetics is discussed frequently on this and other blogs, but the “cause of Zion” is not as often discussed.
    Young people in particular are idealistic and want to change the world, right the wrongs, help the poor and sick, etc. Joseph Smith was in his early and mid-20s when he received revelations about the equality of man, the responsibility of every person to seek the interest of his or her neighbor, etc. Those are ideals that, if emphasized, I think would give young missionaries more of a sense of purpose than simply getting baptisms.

  21. Rusty on April 24, 2005 at 7:17 pm

    Maybe NFlanders’ question needs to be answered. What exactly are the new rules. From my understanding (this is all rumor and heresay) if you’ve had regular sex, you’re not going. If you’ve had sex once you can go if you completely repent. If you’ve attempted suicide you’re not going. If you’ve got any mental issues whatsoever your chances are slim. What else is there that wasn’t a part of the rule before?

    Rosalynde,
    I agree with you that part of the problem is the overzealousness of local leaders (that was in fact the case with my brother) but I still hesitate to agree that is a solid connection between previous sin and mission behavior. And your claim that “I’m quite sure that the missionary committee has ascertained this connection, too” seems a bit overzealous itself. I’m not saying that I disagree with you, but can you really be so sure? I would imagine that if someone truly repented of their sins (“truly” being the key word here) that they would be just as effective of a missionary as someone that didn’t commit that sin. Isn’t that what Christ teaches us? Therefore, couldn’t we say that the local leaders should be more vigilant in determining “true repentance”?

    Now, this of course ignores the whole issue of expectation. Kids knowing that if they slip once they’re not going on the mission might alter their behavior to not slip, rather that previously where they might have thought they could repent (which they still can repent, just not go on a mission).

  22. norm on April 24, 2005 at 7:36 pm

    just a question: have the number and sinlessness (however calculated) of missionaries been the only two variables that have changed?

    easy answer, no. the whole teaching program has been changed (got rid of missionary guide and the old six standard discussions).

    but there are many other changes that have taken place within the church, and outside of it. (economic conditions, anti-american sentiment, the Hacking case, a couple of pedophile Stake Presidents and a missionary, and other bad press for the church.) i think mostly, we have become more insular and demanding, while the world has become more secular, anti-religious, and less ‘demanding’ religiously at least.

    also, the number of missionaries dropped more from a demographic lull–the leadership saw this coming miles ahead, simply fewer 19-21 year-olds now than four years or 10 years ago in the Church.

    on the whole though, based on my mission experiences… the most eager, serious AND effective missionaries were most often those who had had serious transgressions AND repented. they were simply most effective. period. I’m not a bishop, I don’t know exactly what the ‘raised bar’ is or whom it keeps of missions, but I’m not sure it helps the missionary numbers. in fact, I’m positive it doesn’t. however, maybe there are more important things?

  23. gary on April 24, 2005 at 7:49 pm

    I, like Kevin Barney, am skeptical that the reduction in the number of missionaries is primarily the result of raising the bar. In fact, I am not convinced that the bar has been raised very much at all. Of course my personal experience is limited to my own stake, so I have to be careful about drawing any conclusions from my own experience, but I am not aware of the new policy having made any difference at all in the number or the quality of missionaries called from our stake. I think it probable has made it easier for Bishops to disqualify those with mental or emotional problems which make them unable to perform missionary work, but I really doubt that this explains very much of the decrease. I think that there are other forces at play here.

  24. a random John on April 24, 2005 at 8:50 pm

    The bar was raised in 1992 or 1993 as well, wasn’t it? I remember hearing a lot about that as I was getting ready to go and remember many people having to wait or not being able to go. I am sure that it has been raised many times.

    In any case there were plenty of missionaries that probably “shouldn’t” have been there on my mission. All sorts of crazy stuff happened, and it wasn’t always the people that shouldn’t have been there that were the ringleaders. That said, even the worst of the missionaries did some good work. I am sure there are members who have a great deal of gratitude for those screw-up missionaries that brought them the gospel. I know of a few screw ups that did more harm than good, but I know that one of those in particular probably baptized 150 people, at least some of whom stayed active.

    If there was one thing that I learned on my mission it was this: The way the ward interacts with new members has more influence over retention than anything else. There were wards that would welcome new members with open arms and immediately make them feel at home. You could bring anybody to church and they would feel loved. There were other wards that seemed to put new members on probation until they had proved themselves somehow. You can imagine how that became a self-reinforcing attitude.

    During my mission I was often upset by the number of screw-ups that were out there. I felt that many of them shouldn’t be there for one reason or another. I was very judgemental. At one point my mission president told me, “Elder, if this were my mission, I’d send a lot of these missionaries home right now. But it isn’t my mission, it is the Lord’s mission, and He wants them here, so I keep them here even though it would be easier for me if I was rid of them.” I suppose that with the “new” policy that the Lord still wants them there, but wants them prepared beforehand and it putting more responsibility on the missionaries.

  25. Quoter on April 24, 2005 at 9:08 pm

    President Gordon B. Hinckley – Priesthood Session, Oct Conf 2002, & First Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Jan. 2003:

    “The time has come when we must raise the standards of those who are called to serve as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world.
    We simply cannot permit those who have not qualified themselves as to worthiness to go into the world to speak the glad tidings of the gospel.
    We must raise the bar on the worthiness and qualifications of those who go into the world as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    ——————————————————————————–

    Elder Daryl H. Garn – Priesthood Session, April Conf 2003

    There are two aspects of raising the standard for missionary service that we would do well to consider. The first is the early preparation of young men and women. In their letter introducing some modifications to the Young Men and Young Women programs, the First Presidency said, “As youth work on these goals, they will develop skills and attributes that will lead them to the temple and prepare them for a lifetime of service to their families and the Lord” (First Presidency letter, 28 Sept. 2001). Listen carefully to their words: “develop skills and attributes.” As parents and leaders of youth, we need to help our young people identify these skills and attributes.

    The second aspect revolves around personal worthiness, which comes through keeping the commandments of God. Some young men have had the notion that they can break the commandments, confess to their bishops one year before they plan to go on a mission, and then be worthy to serve. The repentance process is far more than planned confession followed by a waiting period. We often hear this question of one who has transgressed: “How long will I have to wait before I can go on my mission?” Keep in mind that repentance is not simply a waiting game. The Savior said: “And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost” (3 Nephi 9:20).

    The bar for missionary service has been raised. “Those individuals not able to meet the physical, mental, and emotional demands of full-time missionary work are honorably excused. . . . They may be called to serve in other rewarding capacities” (“Statement on Missionary Work from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” 11 Dec. 2002). We believe by following the guidelines outlined by the First Presidency, there will be an increase in the number of full-time missionaries who are worthy and prepared to serve.”

    Soon after this, directives came to local leaderships that elders/sisters who had been involved in certain sexual situations prior to applying for missions were NOT and would NEVER BE eligible for traditional full-time missions. Ditto for missionaries on meds, etc.

    Meridian Magazine did a series on this, and there were several letters from disheartened and disgruntled parents who felt this was a punishment for their sons and daughters.

  26. norm on April 24, 2005 at 9:39 pm

    let me propose two different experiments:

    1) first, et everyone on missions that is temple worthy at a minimum (don’t worry about having a bar at all, except the temple recommend). send them all to native-language speaking places (a weird, but i think generally interesting experiment–sure weeds out some bad seed). have bishops rely on what they normally do (inspiration, the standard questions, and ultimately trust).

    after 6 months, have a performance review from the mission presidency.
    at the review, decide:

    1. if the elder/sister wants to do more missionary work
    2. if the elder/sister wants to serve in a foreign mission or remain (for most) english-speaking
    3. beyond expressed desire, if the elder/sister has been obedient, focused, effective, etc.–
    in short whether it’s worth the missionary, his/her family’s, and the church’s resources to keep him/her around. at that point: extend the call. (desire to serve –> call!)
    4. then, send home anyone serving out of mere duty, anyone who has been too lazy/disobedient/ineffective all with pats on their back and congratulations, because they tried.
    5. keep the all-stars, no matter how they measured up to ‘bar’ requirements.
    6. on top of this: send the missionaries who prove committed to a single ward/branch for the balance of their mission unless of extremely extenuating circumstances.

    maybe review every 6 months after that. or one year after. give a maximum of 4 or 5 years– for people who are really, really, really into the work. people will all burn out or feel the need to get married, get moving on a career, etc. at different times. and there will be no more stigma in serving 18 months than 5 years. both presumably would have shown a serious commitment to missionary work, and serious results.

    and for those that only serve 6 months, and stop for depression, disobedience, lack of interest, etc. no hard feeling, less stigma than ‘being sent home currently’ since fewer would make the cut—they could all be considered honorably released, just not all-star missionaries. like being released as stake pres. and going to the nursery rather than 70/MissionPres etc.
    My guess is, this would weed out lots of people who are worthy, have family responsibilities, need to work, etc, need surgery, are depressed etc., along with the semi-active lifers that end up being productive, accepted, but maybe not completely active members of wards and don’t have to worry about always feeling like lesser citizens in the kingdom.

    (i know, i know, some lazy missionaries ‘catch fire’ after piddling away most of their missions… but if we’re talking experiments, let’s think about this.)

    then again, there’s my favorite experiment: 2) the honeymoon mission.
    what if every LDS married couple spent the first X months of marriage somewhere in the third world (or in the field at least) doing missionary work? it would help prepare them to be integrated into family wards–a huge transition for many who’ve spent years in singles wards. everyone would want to have the cute newly-weds over for dinner. and I bet the world think of newlywed Mormon two-by-twos as even cuter than two boys on bikes. who better to share the gospel of ‘together forever’ and the virtues of waiting to be married in the temple,etc. than two people who’ve just done it. on top of that, new couples would be more apt at targeting families (rather than buddies/peers) like my mission pres always wanted.

    as for financing the two operations: in lieu of toasters and waffle irons, mission contributions. or, 6-month missionaries should be required to post a whole year’s when they apply. incentive to at least try to be serious. and if they don’t make it, they can feel good about a contribution to the work that they were too inept, depressed, lazy, disinterested too carry out. they’re building up the kingdom by trying and then getting out of the way. (i think this would decrease stigma as well–”i gave an effort and paid”.)

  27. Jordan Fowles on April 24, 2005 at 9:43 pm

    Norm- I like your idea. Why not make the newlyweds serve their six month missions BEFORE they get to be sealed in the temple, so that they still have a chance to call the whole thing off after each sees how the other completely falls apart in the “service of the Lord”? That would also be an efficient way to weed out the people who just got married for sex. They would realize quickly how little they can actually stand each other, and be able to get out before they were sealed for eternity. And all while doing missionary work. Hallelujah!

  28. Quoter on April 24, 2005 at 10:02 pm

    No Kissing for six months?????

  29. The Mirth on April 24, 2005 at 10:38 pm

    Raising the Bar might I think might just be a tool of preventing sin, but that depends on How many people planned to go on missions but knew they could get away with bachannalia beforehand. The price of a pre-missionary sinning has increased because now sinning doesn’t just carry the price of guilt and repentance but also forfeiture of the opportunity to serve and the resulting social and spiritual consequences. To what degree this will help prevent people from greater sin in the long run is an important question and all we’ve been able to see so far is the short run. Granted there’s no way to accurately analyze this…

    Otoh–

    My greeny was easily one of my best companions, and I trained him for 5 1/2 months, but then 6 months later he confessed to some things and was sent home. It caught me completely off guard because we were 100% obedient and he was an amazing worker. Still, how hypocritical can it be to teach the law of chastity when you yourself have not repented of chastitial sins? On that same line of reasoning, how hypocritical is it to teach someone obedience when you planned to be disobedient at the right time so you could still repent and go on a mission?

    on the third hand, we should never let a little hypocrisy keep us from giving a good sermon because we’re all hypocrites to some degree. Maybe i’ll change my screen name to “the waffle.”

  30. norm on April 24, 2005 at 11:50 pm

    the waffle–

    just a technical note:

    i don’t think it is hypocrisy at all to teach a principle you do not, have not always, or even aren’t currently following–as long as you teaching the way we ought to teach gospel principles. (of course, the tone of your post stands: something like, we don’t want sinful missionaries skipping past an assumed standards review and posing as if they were and had been faithful… i guess)

    I imagine that the way we should teach is something to effect of:
    1. The Lord’s standard is _____ (e.g., a full tithe, observance of the Sabbath, celibacy prior to marriage and complete fidelity afterward, abstention from tea…).
    AND maybe additionally we desire teachers and missionaries to add testimony like:
    2. I belive this is a true principle of good living,
    Or, I believe that blessings flow from obedience to the _____.
    Or, in my life, I have been blessed when I’ve obeyed ____
    but we certainly do not expect or require teaching like:
    3. I follow, and have always followed this commandment, so you should too; just look what a great example I am.

    It may be dishonest for missionaries to hide transgressions or not fully repent. But actually teaching the commandment they have not followed is not itself rightly called hypocrisy. Of course–as you note–we’re all hypocrites in some sense, gone out of the way. But, am I a hypcrite to teach that we should be perfect, that the Lord commanded us to love one another, etc…? No. I may teach those things while simultaneously recognizing my imperfection or my falling short of the the mark.

  31. Katie on April 24, 2005 at 11:54 pm

    I think the raising of the bar idea is hard for me to accept because it sends such a schizophrenic message about repentance. On the one hand we say that if you sin and then you sincerely repent, you are washed clean, it is like the sin never happened. The Lord forgets it. But then we say that for some particular sins, you may have repented, but you are not worthy enough to work full-time for the Lord. So are you washed clean or not? If the sin is not there anymore, how can you be declared unworthy?

    It reminds me of discussions about sin and sex I had at BYU. Some people would use the analogy for sin that it is like hammering nails into a piece of wood; you can pull the nails out, but the holes are still there. But some would say, no, when you repent the holes are not there anymore-you are not damaged goods. I tend to favor the latter analogy, and yet the bar raising policy seems to send the “you will always have holes,” message.

  32. The Mirth on April 25, 2005 at 12:15 am

    Norm,

    Good point.

    Katie,

    I think on the eternal scheme, there is no hole. At the same time, Consider a man who had been excommunicated when a bishop for pilfering tithing, now repented and rebaptized–do you think it would be wise to reinstate him as a bishop? Somewhere on the temporal scheme, there has to be a cautious pragmatism to avoid further losses in the church. Therefore, while the LORD “will remember them no more” at the time of judgement, the church keeps records of who does what.

  33. The Mirth on April 25, 2005 at 12:19 am

    THere’s still the first part of my original post–that raising the bar could be an effective tool in preventing pre-missionaries from serious sins by increasing the price–someone else here already mentioned the “rampant” notion that you could commit some pretty serious sins–”have fun” and you would be fine as long as you didn’t commit them within a year of your availability date.

  34. norm on April 25, 2005 at 12:55 am

    Mirth–
    i was merely being hypertechnical. Although I don’t think that everyone commits the Biggie sins and then repents fall under the category of maliciously planning to have as much fun, and then just clear it up later, i think you are right: many people feel like it’s a high school contest to consume as much, or get away with as much, or have as much of evil… and then magically wipe it all away (i think in Katie’s analogy those people have only nominally repented and still bear the holes). But I agree with you Mirth, people who do have that ‘rampant’ predatiorial or as I like to think superconsumer attitude toward sin… fall under the heading of pulling sin along with a cartrope.
    Of course I have had many sins and struggles with sin: and i don’t think any were the pre-meditated get as much as the next guy or as possible type. they are legitimate internal struggles that have eaten me up. And I’m forced to cut others slack and hope that their intentions and their succumbing to temptation were truly the way the present them to priesthood leaders (and more importantly to God) when they attempt to show/experience contrition and repentance.
    But I recognize paint things in the best (or unrealistically better) light before the bishop–while secretly loving their sins, even in memory. And I think those often end up being the real problem cases.
    One Elder in my first apartment had lied through his teeth to get out (about having a testimony), had gone through the repentence steps (making amends, even confessing things to police and accepting punishment–crazy stories), but had never had his heart in it. It’s possible to ‘do’ all the things on the list and get out, but the Lord looks on the heart, even if it’s impossible for Bishop to.
    That missionary, however, was not one of the disobedient who baptized a whole lot. He was terrible. AND terribly ineffective as a missionary.

  35. Dave on April 25, 2005 at 2:47 am

    There is an alternative interpretation of the data. Declining marginal productivity of the missionary corps suggests there may simply be too many missionaries. Even if the average quality of missionaries is unchanged, there could be benefits from reducing their total number. If, in addition, average quality (i.e., preparation, dedication, motivation) increases, it seems like a positive development. But the “raising the bar” terminology predisposes Church members to think that any young man who doesn’t serve has “fallen short of the bar,” which seems unfortunate.

  36. Soyde River on April 25, 2005 at 3:41 am

    First of all, demographics are at work here. It is the echo of the “baby bust” of the 1970′s and 80′s, and the number of young people in North America who are members of the Church (in each age cohort) have been in decline for 3 or 4 years, and will not turn around until those who are currently 14 or so.

    Second, there is always the terrible dilemma of loving the sinner and not the sin. At what point in time does acceptance of the most grievous sin (because of loving the sinner) undermine the first and great commandment? To paraphrase Luke 15, and that great example of a changed heart: “Father I have sinned against heaven and against thee, and am no more worthy to go on a mission.” We may kill the fatted calf, but that does not mean he is worthy to go on a mission.

    I believe the Brethren felt that the acceptance of sin had gone beyond what the Lord intended, no matter how much we love the sinner. I am willing to trust them on this.

  37. a random John on April 25, 2005 at 8:32 am

    Dave,

    Could you explain to me how all other things being equal, reducing the number of missionaries can be beneficial? Who would be benefitted? What would the benefit be? I don’t see it as a benefit to the missionaires that suddenly don’t get to go. Remember in this hypothetical they are worthy. I don’t see how it could increase the total number of baptisms. The only thing that I could see happening is increasing the baptisms per companionship ratio, which is pretty meaningless. What am I missing?

  38. Frank McIntyre on April 25, 2005 at 9:32 am

    I just put up a supplemental post on the statistics of missionary work here.

  39. Nate Oman on April 25, 2005 at 9:36 am

    Frank: Thanks for the numbers. Even under the lower, current baptisms per missionary (btw, I assume that this is per annum rather than over the course of a mission) I am once again reminded that I was a substandard missionary ;->

  40. Frank McIntyre on April 25, 2005 at 9:41 am

    Nate,

    Yeah, I just divided one series by the other, so these are per annum. Of course, since a companionship is doing the baptising, you would need to double these numbers per annum to get something to compare to your personal experience.

    Your comment brings out a rather important source of variation in these series, different countries have different baptismal rates. Thus your Korean mission was, presumably, low in baptisms, as is most of Europe, while Latin America has been much higher. As each country moves through a standard “life-cycle” in terms of missionary work increasing and slowing and so forth, the global series is going to bounce around because of that.

  41. Chris Estep on April 25, 2005 at 9:56 am

    I think mission worthiness is even MORE of a problem, not less.

    Take Pekin for example. Jared Chavez, while wearing his tag, shot, tortured and videotaped a rabbit that he killed with a dart gun in the apartment parking lot. Children were crying. A woman complained to him about it and he told her to “shut the **** up”. She called the police and the whole apartment complex got to see a missionary handcuffed and stuffed into a patrol car. I use his name because his name was also used in an opinion piece in the Peoria Journal Star. Makes us look good, huh?

    It gets better…

    His AP was sent by our very good mission president (Brent L. Top) to go door to door apologizing on behalf of the church. He did. Sort of. As he apologized he said that Chavez was being persecuted like Joseph Smith.

    There are more “standards” stories that I know, but the point is made. I think worthiness to serve a mission is of high importance and I think MAINTAINING those standards while on the mission (and sending home those who don’t) is important too. I’d rather have fewer baptisms if it meant there was less chance of being “represented” by elders such as I’ve mentioned.

  42. a random John on April 25, 2005 at 9:59 am

    Another factor that could change the baptisms per missionary number is the recent consolidation of many european missions. By focusing the effort on more fruitful areas that statistic can be more easily maintained.

  43. a random John on April 25, 2005 at 10:00 am

    Blake,

    Can I ask where you are getting your retention rate numbers? You seem to indicate that you have some.

  44. OK on April 25, 2005 at 10:03 am

    It seems to me that this is not very christian. In reading The Miracle of Forgiveness once we have repented, we are as clean as before. To take this away from young men and women is to deny the true repentance process

    I question these new standards.

    Some of the best missionaries in my mission had to repent prior to the mission,and some even early in the mission. They turned it around and were some of the best missionaries, still active and married in the temple.

    Most of these sins are natural desires, to punish the youth to this extent will keep out some of the best. I actually question those who claim to be as clean as the church wants, most young men are not, if they are, one needs to consider the percent that may be homosexual.

    That is all.

  45. Frank McIntyre on April 25, 2005 at 10:11 am

    In 1994, President Hinckley gave a wonderful talk entitled, “Don’t drop the ball“, in which he made the point that “The Lord is forgiving, but sometimes life is not forgiving.”

  46. OK on April 25, 2005 at 10:22 am

    “The Lord is forgiving, but sometimes life is not forgiving.”

    Life may not be, like academics and the workplace, but if this is truly the lords church the leaders need to strive to be as close to the lord in policy as well as their own personal lives.

  47. OK on April 25, 2005 at 10:33 am

    I fear that we, the members, are so focused on policy and procedure that we are not considering the spirit of the law.

    could you imagine, a reformed sinner approaching Jesus Christ, begging to serve him, longing to serve him, craving to please the lord, to proclaim to the world of his goodness, and Jesus Christ turns him down, says no?

  48. Frank McIntyre on April 25, 2005 at 10:33 am

    The example President Hinckley gave was Thomas Marsh, who lost his blessings in mortality because he dropped the ball. Thus I don’t think President Hinckley is saying that the Church is too mean, just that in mortality some blessings may not be realized because of our actions, even though we repent. Repentance can clean up eternity, but will not always clean up mortality. And I think that is how the Lord would have it.

    Your attitude seems to be that you think the Church should be more forgiving in mortality because you think the Lord wants it. I am not inclined to believe that you know what the Lord wants better than President Hinckley.

  49. OK on April 25, 2005 at 10:33 am

    “Apparently it wasn?t”

    In that post.

    Don’t be tedious.

  50. Frank McIntyre on April 25, 2005 at 10:40 am

    1. The First Presidency can overrule the general policy on a case by case basis. Thus your hypothetical missionary might be allowed to serve if God so desired.

    2. Being a full time missionary is neither the only nor the most important way one can serve the Lord. Your fully repentant sinner could serve a ward mission, or just go on lots of splits, or do any number of other activities instead of serving full time mission. Thus Christ can say “yes, you can serve me, and you will do so in the following way”.

  51. OK on April 25, 2005 at 10:44 am

    “Your attitude seems to be that you think the Church should be more forgiving in mortality because you think the Lord wants it. I am not inclined to believe that you know what the Lord wants better than President Hinckley”

    I see your point, but I just can’t come to terms with this.

    When young men make mistakes they don’t understand the consequences, no matter how well they are raised. I don’t think you truly understand the consequences of sin until you mature and experience life and have a mature testimony. To penalize young men and women to this extent seems so heavy handed. I just have a hard time with believing this type of punishment (which is what it is) would be dished out by the lord.

    It is also punishing those who may not have had the best upbringing.

    My experience, was raised LDS but the family wasn’t strong, alcoholism, abuse, you name it. So I rebeled. I cleaned up my act and was incredibly grateful for the chance to go on a mission. It gave me the chance to serve the Lord and one of the biggest blessings I received is it gave me discipline and started me on a path to be a productive citizen and productive member.

    I guarantee there is no way I would have been able to serve if they had the same policies. So based on my understanding of forgiveness and how the Lord works, it doesn’t make sense.

  52. OK on April 25, 2005 at 10:47 am

    “2. Being a full time missionary is neither the only nor the most important way one can serve the Lord. Your fully repentant sinner could serve a ward mission, or just go on lots of splits, or do any number of other activities instead of serving full time mission. Thus Christ can say ?yes, you can serve me, and you will do so in the following way””

    I see your point but IMO there is no substitute, if you are able, for a full time mission.

  53. Buy Cialis online!!! on April 25, 2005 at 10:55 am

    Don’t be tedious? Surely you jest. I was poking fun at overblown rhetoric.

    Being forgiven of our sins doesn’t mean that history is erased. The Lord remembers them no more, but time is not reversed upon itself. Serving a mission is a specialized opportunity with a narrow window, and once that window is missed it should not be reopened except in exceptional circumstances. It’s prideful to suggest some sort of entitlement to serve in any calling in the Church.

    And buy Cialis now!!

  54. Frank McIntyre on April 25, 2005 at 10:56 am

    “I see your point but IMO there is no substitute, if you are able, for a full time mission.”
    __

    I disagree. A full time mission is just one of many ways to consecrate oneself. I am glad it worked out so well for you, but Christ would have reached out to save you even if you had been barred from serving. Repentance and the atonement are the saving eternal principles here, full time missions for young adults and elderly couples are only current Church policy.

  55. Anonymom on April 25, 2005 at 11:00 am

    My husband is one of those dedicated missionaries who had a serious sexual sin to clear up before he went–but he was called of the Lord to DO just that. A voice came to him telling him to repent and prepare for his mission. I don’t know that he was anyone’s *favorite* companion (he wouldn’t let them get away with anything) but he did good work and tried to never slack off.

    When they raised the bar again, he said “good.” He knows he probably would not have made that cut, but he still supports it.

  56. a random John on April 25, 2005 at 11:00 am

    OK,

    I can certainly see your point, but I think it is important to keep in mind that the purpose of a mission isn’t to give the missionaries an experience that they might need. That is a side effect.

    I also don’t know that being forgiven for a sin means that you suddenly have all the opportunities that someone that didn’t sin has. It simply means that you were forgiven, not that you catch up. It is certainly easy to imagine situtations in which a person can no longer go on a mission, even though they are worthy. A woman who was a member in my mission wanted very much to go on a mission. The only problem was that she had a three year old child. The grandmother was basically raising the child, so this woman felt that she should be able to go on a mission since she was forgiven. In another case a missionary approached the mission president after a few weeks in the field and complained that his monthly allowance wasn’t enough to support his children, and he needed more money to be able to send back to them. You can guess how quickly he was on a bus ride home.

  57. OK on April 25, 2005 at 11:02 am

    Good points Frank and Cialis.

    I will go buy Cialis.

  58. Cordeiro on April 25, 2005 at 11:12 am

    I like to think I have a unique point of view on this issue.

    My mission experience was not exactly unique. I did server well before the ‘bar was raised.’ I did my fair share of ‘baby-sitting’ elders who were on a mission simply to fufill the requirement of serving. Somehow we still managed to teach and baptize, though I’m sure the work could’ve been done more effectively.

    Upon my return, I was privilidged to work as an MTC teacher for about 2.5 years. During this time I taught some 15 MTC districts from start to finish – an eight week ordeal with which may missionaries are familiar. During the training of all but one district, I received a call on the all powerful “speaker on the wall” asking for a specific elder (and one sister) to report (without their companion) to room A-104. Of all the missionaries I sent to that room, not one returned. I do not know the reasons why they were sent home, but it doesn’t take too much of an imagination to figure out why.

    That said, I’m glad the bar was raised by a Prophet of the Lord. Yes, there will be kinks in the process because the implementation will be carried out by imperfect men trying to work a perfect system.

    Bottom line from where I sit – it needed to be done.

  59. Stephen Hardy on April 25, 2005 at 11:13 am

    At a recent stake conference, a general authority told us that the lower number of missionaries was not actually related to “raising the bar.” He claimed that the rate of missionary work, that is, the percentage of elegible men and women serving has been constant. He suggested that the lower missionary numbers reflect smaller LDS famlies, and he suggested that the number of missionaries serving will continue to decline for the foreseeable future.

  60. OK on April 25, 2005 at 11:15 am

    I understand that serving a mission isn’t a right, and it isn’t the only way to serve the Lord. But the moment a child enters primary, up through Young Mens, you name it, they are constantly being taught that the goal is to serve a mission. There is clearly a sense of obligation, of duty, being instilled in every young man. I was raised to believe that you could repent and still serve. I hope that since they raised the bar they are also changing the lessons, teaching the young men that it is a privilege, that it is something to aspire to, but not for everyone.

    If they are still teaching lessons based on the ideal, there will be many who have sinned who will fall away.

    For me, I would have been knocked out of consideration from the age of fifteen on.

  61. claire on April 25, 2005 at 12:21 pm

    In repsonse to Frank’s graph, and some comments about collapsing stakes in Chile, I wanted to point out that similar things have happened here in the US. When urban areas in the SE United States were opened to missionaries in the late ’80s and early 90′s, there were very high baptism rates, but no leadership or ward structure to help with retention (similar to areas in South and Central America). It takes time to build up “local” leadership so Bishops, etc. don’t have to be imported from suburbia. In our stake, 15 years later, we are just now seeming to get to that point. A big headache for the ward has been trying to keep up with the records of hundreds of converts that no one remembers or has ever seen, and each time the EQ or RS presidencies change (it’s a fairly transient ward), trying to go out and find all these people, deal with miserable VT and HT with 10 families on their lists that no one knows, etc.. Thank goodness for a great ward clerk who took months of his life ‘cleaning up’ our records a few years ago and about halved the number of members on our ward list. However, all those converts are now “homeless:” with out forwarding addresses, I think their records go to some big filing cabinet in the sky until they show up again somewhere.

  62. Zerin Hood on April 25, 2005 at 12:30 pm

    Really liked your post #59, Cordiero.
    The thing that amazes me most about this site is the way so many are so willing to suggest that the church leadership is mistaken on this particular (or some other policy). Maybe it is the need to be controversial to draw traffic to the site, or maybe it is genuine murmuring. (Sanctimonious aren’t I).

    Is raising the bar like putting straighter arrows in the quiver? Sure the Lord can use a crooked arrow to hit a particular target, but those that are straight and true (or just not so crooked) are more effective at more targets.

  63. Gordon Smith on April 25, 2005 at 12:41 pm

    Stephen Hardy (#59): “the percentage of elegible men and women serving has been constant.”

    Does that imply that the higher bar has had no effect on weeding out prospective missionaries? So maybe the bar isn’t really higher?

  64. Stephen Hardy on April 25, 2005 at 12:58 pm

    Gordon:

    That is exactly the point that the visiting general authority made. He didn’t believe that “raising the bar” had resulted in any substantial loss of missionaries, but generally in better prepared missionaries. I spoke with our Stake President at an activity the next week. He couldn’t think of a single prospective missionary in our stake who had failed to serve a mission because of a higher standard. In fact, he told me that the higher standard was not explicitly stated anywhere. He simply understood that we shouldn’t send troubled, immature, unrepentant, faithless youth out on missions. He may spend more time with a troubled propsective missionary… making sure that she/he prepares and repents, but he still gets that missionary out. The raising of the bar, in this stake, seems to mean that a certain number of commited youths ended up delaying their missions while they proved that they were able and ready to be trusted. Presumably they were also building testimony.

    How about the rest of you? Do you know of YM or YW in your wards or stakes who would have served a mission 5 or 10 years ago, but were turned away because of the higher standard? I have been an active member in ward and stake leadership positions for more than a decade. I have worked closely with our Young Mens program and Seminary, etc. You know how it is. We know each and every Deacon, Teacher, and Priest well. I can’t think of a single case of a repentant, previously immature youth being told that he or she can’t serve.

    Let me state that I am not mocking the “higher standard” It exists, but it has been used to prepare our youth better, NOT to weed them out.

  65. Rosalynde Welch on April 25, 2005 at 1:18 pm

    Stephen, in answer to your question, yes, I do know personally three prospective missionaries who were not allowed to serve because of previous transgressions. With all due respect to the GA in question, it strains credibility to believe that the sharp downturn in missionaries that Frank’s graph traces could be due entirely to demographics: in 1983 did parents suddenly discover family planning en masse?

  66. Frank McIntyre on April 25, 2005 at 1:22 pm

    Stephen, Since 2002, when the “raising the bar” language began the number of missionaries has gone from a steady 60,000 to 50,000. You can see that in the post I put up. Demographic shifts, such as changes in the number of eligible youth are not likely to cause that quick of a shift.

    Thus I am very doubtful of the idea that raising the bar had no impact. Furthermore, Elder Ballard’s talk about bringing in one more missionary each year definitely had the tone that the “raising the bar” had decreased the number of missionaries. Possibly there had been some misunderstanding that caused the visiting GA to make that statement. Clearly though, the number of missionaries has fallen precipitously in the last two years.

  67. Stephen Hardy on April 25, 2005 at 1:25 pm

    Rosalynde: I am sure that there are a number of factors involved in the substantial drop of missionaries serving. I understand that the pool of prospective Great-Basin based missionaries is dropping. The rate of these young men (sorry I don’t know the young women statistics) serving missions has stayed between 60 and 65% since about 1970. (It was somewhat lower before) In the US outside of the Great Basin, the number has been around 45% and hasn’t budged much either.

    The three prospective missionaries you mention may have been able to serve in other stakes. This leads to the topic of un-even applications of church rules which could be an interesting topic by itself.

  68. Seth Rogers on April 25, 2005 at 1:36 pm

    The problem with the hypotheticals people are presenting here is that they keep portraying a young man who made some mistakes, but really desires to serve the Lord nonetheless.

    I think this view is entirely too complimentary of a good portion of such young men. Just from the conversations I’ve had with a some singles ward bishops, I get the impression that many (I won’t say all or even most) of the sinners in the church are stuck-up, arrogant, prima-donnas who aren’t one bit sorry, try to manipulate or intimidate their bishops, and believe they’re entitled to a temple recommend just for breathing.

    Sorry. I had to say it. We’ve been getting a really one-sided view of the general “temple-unworthy” population in this thread.

  69. Visorstuff on April 25, 2005 at 1:47 pm

    I had an almost identical experince to that of Cordeiro. It is not that the Lord or the Church doesn’t forgive, but that when you commit sin there are certain natural consequenses that you cannot give restitution for. One may repent or finally make it over the bar (using Elder Ballard’s high jump analogy) and go on a mission as a senior adult. But we need to have missionaries now who have set a goal to go on a mission and have sacrificed (yes, it requires sacrifice to be a member of the Lord’s Kingdom) and properly prepared themself to serve.

    There are some sins you can repent of – repentance is never easy – but you cannot make up for the lost time, “the hole” may not be there in an eternal perpective, but you’ve lost time and other things you can never make up for. The Lord forgets. The Church may even forget and you may even be trusted with the same responsibilities later. But you’ve missed an opportunity by committing the sin, and that particular opportunity is now passed.

    You cannot restore losing your virginity. You cannot make up for not meeting someone on a mission because your companion and you decided not to go out proselytizing for the day. You cannot make up for not calling your home teaching family for an entire month. The opportunities have past.

    The brethren are now saying, you can go on a mission if you do bad things, but you must fully repent. You must make the required sacrifice. In some cases you may not ever get to go. While one is off sinning, someone else is preparing themselves. If you knew better, you shouldn’t have done it (or that which was given will be taken away). You can still have the same blessings, as if you had gone, but you will not get that experience for now. Perhaps later in life. You can repent, but you cannot make up for lost opportunity because of your sin.

    I’m not sure I was properly prepared to be a missionary, or even my current calling. I do know I lost weeks if not months of time on my mission because of two companions. One, I took forty miles a couple times a week to go to counselling for depression and to get his medications, and the other who never fully repented of sexual transgressions and it did affect his missionary work – and he ended up going home. Even a couple of friends/companions I knew who had fully repented had discussed with me how they felt previous sins had affected their missionary service. Not that they weren’t clean (In fact, they were much stronger in testifying of the Atonement), but that it did have an unseen affect on their work.

    The other issue is that church members think that missionary service is a “right.” It is not. It is a calling. Should I or my parents be just a dissapointed if I am never called to be a High Councilor or a Bishop? Missionary service as a missionary is a privilege. It is a responsibility that is given to those who are capable and able to perform the service. Teenagers and parents (myself included) need to take accountibilty for our actions rather than blaming it on “well he was young and made a mistake of youth.”

    I know another young man who has been working on repenting since Elder Ballard’s original talk. He was told he’d never go. He persisted. He worked hard. He financially supported other missionaries. He served as a stake missionary. I do not know if he will ever get a call or not as a now 25 year old young man, but he will be blessed for his efforts and has affected many people by his dedication, and has helped bring souls to Christ. It is not where you serve but how.

    Being a true Latter-day Saint and qualifying oneself for service means moving beyond being an Institutional Saint or Cultural Mormon. I know I have a long way to go in raising my own bar. Thank Heavens for the Atonement of Christ in my spiritual journey.

  70. Patrick on April 25, 2005 at 1:51 pm

    Quoter: “Soon after this, directives came to local leaderships that elders/sisters who had been involved in certain sexual situations prior to applying for missions were NOT and would NEVER BE eligible for traditional full-time missions.”

    I don’t have the letter anymore, but as I recall the direction from the FP on this was pretty specific. Any one whose sexual transgression results in the conception of a child is barred from service, as are those who are involved in an abortion or have been engaged in homesexual relationships. These seem to be pretty sensible restrictions: they involve experiences and complications that would be very foreign to most missionaries who have maintained their worthiness throughout their years of preparation, and also avoid placing repentant members is situations they might find extremely difficult.

    I have to wonder about example cited of the missionary who served after fathering a child: how did he fulfil his obligation to the child and its mother while serving a full-time mission?

  71. a random John on April 25, 2005 at 1:52 pm

    Frank,

    I’ll bring this up again since it was ignored the first time I mentioned it:

    This isn’t the first time that the bar has been raised. Much of the exact same language was used in 1992-1993. I remember that it was taken very seriously at the time. Several friends had to wait to go on a mission after minor transgressions and others didn’t get to go at all. One missionary in my mission had initially been denied the privledge of serving a mission and appealed to the area presidency, eventually getting to go. The fact that this push has occurred before might have some effect on the statistics, especially if you are trying to account for a swing in the graph by taking one rasing of the bar into account and not another.

    I don’t doubt that in another 10 years we’ll hear this again. Similarly, every few years there is a big push to call the church by its full name and not use the word Mormon. It’s like bell-bottoms – it’ll always be back.

  72. a random John on April 25, 2005 at 1:59 pm

    Patrick,

    The sister I mentioned didn’t get to go on a mission as far as I know. The missionary who made it out as a father was sent home the same day the situation came to light. He was in the field for a few weeks.

  73. Frank McIntyre on April 25, 2005 at 2:02 pm

    ARJ,

    The 92-93 letter was actually rather different in its implementation. I knew young men who waited and then went on a mission, but now the language is stronger. Regardless, the 92-93 letter does show up as a slight dropoff/plateau in the number of missionaries. It is nowhere close to the strong dropoff one sees in the data after 2002. In fact, we have not seen a comparable dropoff in missionaries anytime in the last 20 years.

    So in the graph we have 2 “raising the bar” events, separated by ten years. Both of them show up in the data, though the more recent one was apparently much more serious. Explaining the 2002 dropoff with demographics would be incredibly difficult. Not impossible, but not very likely at all. Now, it is perfectly plausible that some of the drop is demographically driven. But I seriously doubt it was the most important factor.

  74. Bryan Robert on April 25, 2005 at 2:10 pm

    A few things to think about.

    The world is changing fast. Standards as a whole are dropping. It is getting easier and eaiser to get caught up in porn,sexual sin etc etc. Raising the bar, needs to be done. Youth that think they can do what the want, and then repent, should not be allowed to serve on a mission. If you mess up, and sincerely repent, that is one thing. If you however know something is wrong, and continuely do it then you should not be allowed to have the privilage to serve a mission.

    Sex is so common now, and accepted, that this needs to be done, to let people know the seriousness of the sin. Pre-martial sex, is next to murder. In he eyes of the lord, only killing is a worse sin. Yes it can be forgiven, but there is no room for just experminting, or having a little fun. I think the Church is saing, that this is not a joke, this is not a game. If you continuely have been committing these major sins, that are “abomintions” , you will not be able to recieve the blessings of going on a mission.

    OK, yes we have natural urges. Obviously. To say that young men that do not act upon them might be gay, is the dumbest thing ive read on the internet in my life. Its called following the commandments, and controling your natural body. Millions of people are abstanent until marrage, and not just members of our church. People make a choice to have pre-martial sex, period. I am not a saint, and have committed more sin than most. Ive never rationalized it by saying, its so hard, I have these urges, bla bla bla. Ummm that is the whole point of comming to this earth is to control those urges. I did what I did, knowing full well that it was wrong, and it has takin me a loong time to repent for it.

    For anyone saying what about so and so…he was the best missionary, but he was bad before, now he cant go. Im sorry but this is not even an argument. If anyone, wants to go that bad, sincerely repented. Trys, petitions, etc etc, they have said that they can be looked at on a case by case basis. If you believe in this church, then you know that the spirit will direct those who really should go to go. This is more to keep those kids that dont see any long term harm in having a little fun, and repenting, from doing that.

    Last IMO, we are too dependent on missionairies. We have a thousands of missionaries, but millions of members. If every member did missionairy work, we would baptize far more people then the missionaries ever could. People are SEARCHING, right now. Your friends, family, people you meet. There are so many new churches, T.V Preachers, Non-demonational churches, etc, popping up everywhere. Movies, TV series, everyone is talking about religion, and the end of the world. Take the time to talk to your friends, even the ones that know about the church. Talk to your non member friends, even the ones that youve talked to before. People are searching, most of the work that missionaries are doing anyway is planting seeds. We as members need to help harvest them.

  75. OK on April 25, 2005 at 2:38 pm

    “OK, yes we have natural urges. Obviously. To say that young men that do not act upon them might be gay, is the dumbest thing ive read on the internet in my life. Its called following the commandments, and controling your natural body. Millions of people are abstanent until marrage, and not just members of our church. People make a choice to have pre-martial sex, period. I am not a saint, and have committed more sin than most. Ive never rationalized it by saying, its so hard, I have these urges, bla bla bla. Ummm that is the whole point of comming to this earth is to control those urges. I did what I did, knowing full well that it was wrong, and it has takin me a loong time to repent for it.”

    You are not dealing with reality. Most young men within the church dabble in sex to some degree, from petting to intercourse. Very few of them within the church are 100% when it comes to obeying the law of chastity, just talk to any….ANY bishop over a college ward. The ideal is for the youth to follow the commandments, but that is rare. Most of the young men I knew growing up who everyone believed were saints were liars. Most of the young men in my University ward were dabbling. It is almost uncontrollable.

    Hey, what percent of the young men, returned missionaries, end up homosexuals? Don’t you think a devout young man who had no sexual interest in women would have an easier time being chaste?

    I am not giving it the wink, just saying that in reality it happens.

  76. Concerned on April 25, 2005 at 2:46 pm

    Here is link at news net. It disturbs me how the issues are glossed over and spin is applied. I would call this a disaster.
    49,000 baptisms, 1,000 still active. A 2 percent retention rate. It makes me wonder what 12 million church members really means.

    http://newsnet.byu.edu/story.cfm/45396

  77. Bryan Robert on April 25, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    OK, Im sorry, but I still say it is the dubmbest comment ive ever read in my life. Petting to inercorse is a pretty broad range. In fact it is a huge range. No one here has said that a guy that was petting was not alloowed to go on their mission, if they sincerely repent. We are talking about repeated fornication. Dont try to mince words now. Someone that repeately had sex, was not dabbling, and was not going on their natural urges. Someone that let it go too far one night with their GF, knew he made a mistake, knew he committed a sin, that is different. Otherwise he is conciously making a choice, and his natural urges have nothing to do with it.

    I seriously doubt that the percentage of return missionaries that end up homosexual, is higher than whatever national average of non members from the same demographic. If you say it is, please provide some hard evidence, and not just your Univeristy Ward experience. Everyone has an interest in sex, wheather you are hetro/homosexual, the struggle is the same for everyone.

    My brother was a return missionary, and waited to have sex till he was married. So did my sisters husband. Its called being faithful, and TRUELY believing in the gospel. Just because your University buddies couldnt do it does not mean that other people cant or should not. Bottom line is that it come to how much belief you have. What do you think happens to the church member that was messing around with his GF, then gets in a wreck and dies on the way home. Where do you think he is going? I dont think the members that are constantly doing that really believe in what happens to them if they suddenly die.

    Yes people have urges and mistakes are made. For that there is repentance. Constantly doing it is not a mistake. It is the worst sin that you can possible commit, next to murder, and it is a choice. The Church is trying to say, that this is not a joke, and that you should take it seriously.

    You want to talk about REALITY? REALITY is that just because everyone does it does not mean that we should suddenly condone it or look more lightly at it. REALITY is that the world is corrupt, and Satan has a hold on it, and many of the church members. REALITY is that just because you are a member of the Church you do not have a free pass into heaven. In fact it is harder for you, and you will be judged harder. REALITY is that when Christ comes back, he said the first place he is cleaning out is his own house. The prophet said that when the savior comes back many members are going to be shocked that they dont make it to the Celestial Kingdom, that is reality.

  78. ADMIN on April 25, 2005 at 3:16 pm

    Please remember our comment policies — commenter names that are off color descriptions of body parts are not appropriate. Thank you.

  79. Kim on April 25, 2005 at 3:19 pm

    When I was on my mission in England 1999-2001, I specifically remember there being talk about a coming decline in the number of missionaries because of demographic issues. This was before there had been any talk whatsoever about “raising the bar”, so certainly a significant part of the drop is due to demographics. I don’t think the whole issue would have been mentioned otherwise.

  80. Ben S. on April 25, 2005 at 3:33 pm

    “When I was on my mission in England 1999-2001, I specifically remember there being talk about a coming decline in the number of missionaries because of demographic issues.”

    We also had discussion of this with my mission president and Elder Holland at the end of my mission in ’98, France. The Church knew it was coming.

  81. Jonathan Green on April 25, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    A lot of the comments have expressed the view that stricter standards will act as a deterrent to misbehavior among the youth. I’m skeptical; a lot of the people I grew up with weren’t terribly rational actors at that age. Again, standards and obedience are all good, but I’m skeptical about the actual deterrent effect.

    Also, it seems like there can only be a deterrent effect if the specific standards are well known. Are they? I don’t mean the standards readily available in the “Strength of Youth” pamphlet and other places (=don’t have sex, don’t do drugs), but the specific, do-this-and-no-mission standards (=, per #70 above, don’t get a girl pregnant, with whatever outcome). I seem to remember some parts of the new standard that haven’t been mentioned here (felony record=no mission?), while others have brought up pornography, which I don’t remember hearing before in this context. Are the new standards spelled out in detail to the youth?

  82. Frank McIntyre on April 25, 2005 at 3:53 pm

    Kim and Ben, look at the graph I posted and tell me if you think that is just demographics. If so, are you suggesting that census numbers show a sharp decline of 20% in Utah young men? Were Utah schools suddenly faced with massive closures in the late 90′s because all the high school classes were suddenly 20% smaller? There is no doubt that there are demographic issues at work over the long term, but here are the numbers from the 2000 Census of Utah using a 5% random sample:

    year missionary in Utah
    ————+———–
    1990 | 834
    1991 | 826
    1992 | 822
    1993 | 828
    1994 | 939
    1995 | 1,001
    1996 | 1,084
    1997 | 1,046
    1998 | 983
    1999 | 856
    2000 | 971
    2001 | 1,146
    2002 | 1,252
    2003 | 1,108
    2004 | 1,108
    2005 | 1,067
    2006 | 1,060
    ————+————
    Total | 16,931

    I have put in the table the year each male cohort turns 19 as the missionary year. As you can see, there are a lot of 19 year olds in 2002 (which is probably somewhat due to sampling variation), but the 2003 and 2004 numbers are pretty much the same as 2001 . Thus there is no evidence of a sharp demographic decline starting among 2003 19 year olds. If you are worried that just looking at Utah masks important variation, here is the national set of numbers:

    Nationally
    ————+—————–
    1990 | 9,779
    1991 | 9,234
    1992 | 8,768
    1993 | 8,341
    1994 | 8,603
    1995 | 8,331
    1996 | 8,752
    1997 | 8,630
    1998 | 8,886
    1999 | 9,976
    2000 | 10,088
    2001 | 10,296
    2002 | 10,486
    2003 | 10,313
    2004 | 10,390
    2005 | 10,709
    2006 | 10,482
    ————+——————
    Total | 162,064

    Where the larger sample size dampens random sampling noise. Once again, there is no sharp drop in youth around 2003, either nationally or in Utah.

  83. Stephanie on April 25, 2005 at 4:49 pm

    Rosalynde #65 raises a very interesting question. I wonder if any of the “demographic” changes resulting in fewer potential missionaries born can be traced back to the shift in Church’s birth control policies. Before the late 1970s and early 1980′s, Church leaders condemned couples who used birth control to limit the number of children they brought into their families.

    I’m not sure exactly when the change happened, but now couples are encouraged to counsel with the Lord to determine how many children to have. It seems that the Lord is counseling women to have fewer children, thus the reduction in the number of potential missionaries.

    Do you think stricter standards are an attempt to mask this change in demographics?

  84. Seth Rogers on April 25, 2005 at 4:50 pm

    I don’t care if being able to go on a mission acts as an incentive to be good for LDS young men or not. I think guys who have a lot of lingering moral baggage shouldn’t be on missions. If they haven’t put it behind them, they shouldn’t be serving in that capacity.

    Saying this, I’m not really concerned with the well being of the young men who have to stay home (at least, not in this discussion). The missionary program is not a reform school. There’s a lot of work to be done out there and we don’t need missionaries who are going to be more of a liability than an asset.

    If that leads to lower numbers, so be it. I don’t agree with compromising Church integrity to get higher baptism rates.

    Besides, this Church needs retention more than it needs higher baptism numbers anyway. So I don’t see that a decrease in the missionary force is that problematic.

  85. Elisabeth on April 25, 2005 at 5:07 pm

    I agree with Seth. On a related note, it’s very unfortunate that boys face such a negative social stigma for not serving a mission. I would venture a guess that fewer “borderline” missionaries would be out in the field if it wasn’t for the reality that the Mormon dating pool shrinks considerably for non-RM’s (not to mention it’s very difficult to withstand the pressure from family and friends to go on a mission).

    That said, I think it’s a good thing to encourage boys to go on missions, so I guess it’s just all about finding the right balance between encouraging boys to go and “forcing” them to go because of familial and social expectations.

  86. Clark on April 25, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    A few brief comments.

    1. I think under Pres. Hinkley the role of missionaries changed. I don’t know the current policy, but the change regarding period of service work significantly cuts into time to be doing formal missionary work. So the efficiency per Elder obviously changes.

    2. I think we err if we think the missionary program is only about baptism. I suspect that the brethren see its primary mission in developing the upcoming adult members. i.e. it is as much about the personal development of the missionaries as anything.

    3. Having said that though, clearly there are a lot of problems in missionary work that appear to have started around ’93. I think they are complex. One problem might be oversaturation and perhaps negative effects due to the strong push for baptisms in the late 80′s – the early 90′s. An other might just be that we need to seriously change how we do our missionary work. I think we’re still very inefficient in how we do it. (And members tend to not do a good job) But frankly society is more irreligious in the sense of adherence to an organized religion. I also suspect that negative press due to all the various stories told on anti-Mormon sites on the internet hurt. Frankly the internet means that “cold finding” of the sort missionaries do is not likely to be as effective. It is more up to the members and we’ve fallen down on the job.

  87. norm on April 25, 2005 at 5:30 pm

    Bryan Robert,
    premarital sex is next to murder?
    a) source? b) what does it mean to be ‘next to murder’? c) what type of premarital sex? (how often, how many partners, intercourse? petting? necking? what about masturbation?)

    I think adultery is a much more serious sin than anything that a 14-year old does–and I think the scriptures say the same.

    Bryan Robert,
    I know you like your brother and sisters, and brother-in-law, but your anecdotal evidence of that small sample is no more convincing than someone else’s college buddies. I don’t see the link you’re getting at in TRUELY believing. I truly believe and still makes mistakes. I also don’t buy your pseudo-psychology of ‘letting things go too far one night’ versus ‘conscious choice’–surely there are degrees, but let’s not judge. leave it to God. After all, we have different urges, and at the end of the day sin is sin.
    Personally, from this distance, I’m gonna go ahead and say that I personally don’t believe that all of your relatives, no matter what they told you, never dabbled, slipped up, etc. If they did, great for them. But, be careful not to create some self-righteous group ego to shroud yourself in.

    Hard evidence: go find the source yourself. But my roommate’s Sociology prof at BYU cited a church study that 4% of RM’s are excommunicated or have their names removed FOR HOMOSEXUALITY reasons within 2 years of completing missions. More drop out before completing. Others hide or control or don’t do anything serious enough to be ex’d. Others commit suicide.

    On the another note, and I haven’t seen stats for this, two of my MTC teachers warned our district that 1 in 4 missionaries would go inactive immediately after coming home. They said it on the same day–so my guess is someone said that in their training meeting. it was sobering–I was suspicious of the statistic, and still am, but felt somehow indicted, accused, suspected. I’m still active–and have been through a lot of spiritual turbulence. But looking back–that stat is probably true for my Utah high school. and i don’t know that it’s true of my mission, but I know lots of cases.

    Frank,
    I don’t know where you’re numbers are coming from and I’m no statistician, but as a missionary (also 1999-2001) I saw the graphs that Elder Holland brough to our mission as well, and there was a big swing downward. I don’t know if Utah is an island compared to the rest of the church (given your numbers, Utah wouldn’t be following national population trends), if youths in Utah are increasingly non-Mormon by percentage, or what. but I think demographics is the single greatest factor, and that was made clear years before.

    Armed with the Church graphs I’d seen, I had understood ‘raising the bar’ to be a gloss (somewhat disingenuous, but i won’t get into that) from Church leaders aimed at members to explain WHY the number of elders would be dropping, in hopes of averting fears that falling a downward swing in the cyclical number of young men and women in the church would portend loss of faith (ex., naive member: “fewer missionaries!? the church must be shrinking! it must not be true”) A lot of evangelicals and anti-Mormon types point to falling baptisms and falling number of elders as cheap evidence that the Church is going under. My guess is, it’s effective on a few who are wavering. If the church glosses falling numbers of elder, then later they can trumpet a rising generation of more and more super-qualified missionaries.

    Looking again at your numbers, in a state with a huge growth rate, a declining proportion of LDS (especially from Mexican immigrants), where
    1999 | 9,976
    2000 | 10,088
    2001 | 10,296
    2002 | 10,486
    2003 | 10,313
    2004 | 10,390
    2005 | 10,709
    seems only to support the Church numbers I saw. numbers peaked in 2001-2002, and will be back up later. one man’s ‘sharp’ is another…. but 2003 and 2004 (the bulk of elders out now are lower, and in Utah less LDS, than 2002). if 2005 and 2006 are higher than before, then the numbers will rebound–consistent with the Church graph i saw. but i’m hesitant to think that Utah is typical for the nation or the church as a whole.

  88. A. Greenwood on April 25, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    “Bryan Robert,
    premarital sex is next to murder?
    a) source?”

    I’m guessing, but Bryan Robert is probably referring to Alma’s talk to his son, in which he says that fornication is next to murder.

  89. ok on April 25, 2005 at 5:49 pm

    Some observations from my mission:

    Some of the most effective missionaries either had past problems with morality or were borderline disobedient.

    Some of the lowest baptising and most offensive missionaries were as pure as the driven snow.

    Some turned their lives around while on the mission and had an amazing last year.

    Some who were pure before their missions had amazing experiences and were instramental in bringing the spirit to many converts.

    Some who were big time sinners before their missions had amazing experiences and were instramental in brining the spirit to many converts.

    Many were right in the middle of the road both in their lives and in the mission.

    This mixed bag was what I loved about the mission experience.

    I fear that some of those who could only touch maybe even one individual may not make it. But then again, that is what the spirit is for so I guess we need to hope and pray that each Bishop is in tune enough to make the right decisions for those who fall outside of the new guidlines.

  90. Frank McIntyre on April 25, 2005 at 5:49 pm

    If a 5 year old memory of s graph you saw in a zone conference once is enough to convince you that you know what is happening, then power to you!

    As for the census numbers supporting what you saw 5 years ago, that is fine but the census numbers do not register anything like a 20% drop in the number of missionary-age men. Nor is is likely that all those young men just happened to go inactive or leave the Church that year for reasons unrelated to “raising the bar”.

  91. Kaimi on April 25, 2005 at 5:56 pm

    Just a quick note to everyone — let’s keep the tone of this thread polite and cordial as always, even if we disagree with another commenter’s comment.

  92. Clint on April 25, 2005 at 6:01 pm

    Post #36 has hit on the head what the general authorities are chalking it up to.

    Regardless of what the demographic data says, the church leaders feel that it’s a demographic, not worthiness (raise the bar), issue that there are less missionaries.

    What is the cause of this demographic slowdown?

    According to President Hinkley it is the women’s liberation movement. I had dinner with a general authority this weekend. I asked him how the church leaders felt about raising the bar and the resulting decline in the number of missionaries. What he said surprised me. He said (I’m paraphrasing): “The reduction in missionries is not due to raising the bar. Last year president Hinckley spoke to all the General Authorities. He said ‘Brethren, we knew the Women’s Liberation Movement would catch up with us at some point, and it now has. 20-25 years ago our women members started marrying later in life and started having less children per woman. That lag has now caught us.’”

    Assuming this GA spoke accurately, then regardless of what the causes may be, President Hinckley believes that the lack of missionaries is not caused by raising the bar.

    In my personal mission experience, the bad missionaries neutralized the good ones. There was so much wasted time fixing mistakes, repairing reputations, etc. While I beleive it’s unfortunate that many repentant young men can’t go, at the same time the missionaries who had problems in my mission were the ones that had problems before their missions.

  93. norm on April 25, 2005 at 6:13 pm

    A. Greenwood (and Bryan Robert)–

    my guess is that Alma 39 is indeed what BR is thinking of. However, Alma says no such thing as ‘fornication is next to murder’. He says, ‘denying the Holy Ghost is most abominable above all other sins except murder’ which you can find elsewhere in scripture

    Read Alma carefully:
    4 Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted.
    5 Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent bblood or denying the Holy Ghost?
    6 For behold, if ye deny the Holy Ghost when it once has had place in you, and ye know that ye deny it, behold, this is a sin which is unpardonable; yea, and whosoever murdereth against the light and knowledge of God, it is not easy for him to obtain forgiveness; yea, I say unto you, my son, that it is not easy for him to obtain a forgiveness.
    7 And now, my son, I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime. I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good.

    There’s no reason to think that fornication is itself denying the Holy Ghost, nor is there any reason to conclude that for Corianton it is the only basis of Alma’s concern. But Alma is clear that he thinks his son is guilty of denying the Holy Ghost–fornication was merely a symptom or one of Corianton’s sins. Alma appears to be saying something like:
    1) you were entrusted: you were called and responded
    2) you had good examples
    3) yet you boasted in your own strength and wisdom
    3) you forsook/left the ministry, with which you were entrusted
    *4) in the stead of the ministry you placed sin.
    5) you denied the Holy Ghost.
    that many people placed sin above all else with this woman is not an excuse for 5. But had Alma and Corianton lived in modern days, and Corianton denied the Holy Ghost, I think Alma would be just as grave if Corianton had denied the Holy Ghost and then proceeded to replace the ministry with
    a) materialism b) drugs c) adultery d) pornography e) [your favorite sin here] rather than fornication.

    Alma’s condemnation of fornication seems mostly to say, you knew it was a sin, and temptation and indulgence will not mask denying the Holy Ghost. No matter how tempting, there is no excuse.

    But very clearly, this passage cannot support ‘fornication is next to murder’

  94. Tom Weber on April 25, 2005 at 6:18 pm

    If we’re concerned about a decline in the number of convert baptisms, then we might consider doing something about it, perhaps by worrying less about the number of full-time missionaries and doing more to share the Gospel ourselves.

  95. OKO on April 25, 2005 at 6:19 pm

    test

  96. OKO on April 25, 2005 at 6:21 pm

    “Just a quick note to everyone – let’s keep the tone of this thread polite and cordial as always, even if we disagree with another commenter’s comment.”

    I agree, I am still smarting from that Bryan Robert lashing, the man is clearly a lunatic.

  97. norm on April 25, 2005 at 6:22 pm

    Thanks Kaimi.

    Frank.
    Let’s be civil. I think there are many causes, and believe the Church leadership saw this coming. That seems to be consistent with the church party line, anyway, and with other reports here. It’s nice that you can mine census data, but if you have that ability, maybe you can compare the growth rates, reported on this week for the state of utah with the number of 19 year-olds. but don’t put down my memories… you make it sound like I’ve fabricated a memory to explain something. that sort of allegation is not merely an academic gambit, it looks like a personal attack.

    If you want to believe I’m the sort of person that makes up a story to agree with lots of others on message board so i can feel included, I guess you can. Or if you think I’m a liar, that’s okay I guess. But ’5 year old’ memory is not revelant since we’ve been witnessing the fall since about a year after I saw and heard. At the point the numbers crested, it was not a 5-year old memory. Whether the numbers’ plunging so deep has to do with other factors is an open question. I already said I have not idea what priesthood leaders use as the new standard, if there is one. I’m not a bishop. But I’m completely confident in that memory. Impugning it won’t convince me otherwise.

  98. OKO on April 25, 2005 at 6:28 pm

    The falling numbers of missionaries insn’t unique to our church. All churches/religions, other than Islam, that has a conservative or restrictive code of conduct are dropping.
    The numbers on catholicism are pretty bad.
    But the ugly truth is the Church has been playing footsy with the numbers for years. Anyone who serves a mission knows for a fact that maybe 1 in 4 converts stay active. And when they announce in conference the total number of members, we all know that that number is not repreentative of those who actually attend. I propose that based on that number, maybe less than half of the total membership, the numbers of young men who go on missions is still pretty impressive.

  99. norm on April 25, 2005 at 6:32 pm

    let me put it this way:
    if the prophet showed me a graph four years ago that said BYU would have a few losing seasons in a row, right when the Cougars were 8-0 and about to be 12-2…

    it wouldn’t make much sense to say that because that was X years ago, it’s suspect. They did in fact start losing, and I can’t list every reason why. But if the prophet told me the reason, and I repeated it here. and several others corroborated the same story, even if you don’t think that reason is the whole story, you shouldn’t dismiss it by saying things like 5-years, 20%, or unrelated (a claim i didn’t make). losing seasons, in the hypo, started within a year, just like the decline in mishies. :)

    but based your stats, you cannot conclusively determine any of the things you said are implausible explanations are in fact implausible… you couldn’t even show they were improbable if the state of Utah accounted for the entire universe of missionaries. You’d need to tell a story about a) church membership b) church activity among that group for starters.

  100. Ivan Wolfe on April 25, 2005 at 7:26 pm

    norm -

    5: Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent bblood or denying the Holy Ghost?

    It seems pretty clear “these things” is the sexual sins comitted by Alma’s son. I’m a bit surprised at your inisistence they aren’t. Grammatically, they are the antecedent.

  101. Bryan Robert on April 25, 2005 at 7:36 pm

    “OKO”

    So let me see if I have this straight. By your logic, because of your college buddies. No mormon boys are following the law of Chastity, and if they are, they are probably homosexual. Mabye a few but the vast majority are not. “Just ask ANY bishop”. And anyone that says they are following the commandments are probably liers. Ok and you called me a lunatic?

    You also have an interesting interpretation of the scriptures. I think you should pick up a copy of The Miricle of Forgiveness, and see how the Prophet interprets them.

    Im sorry but I dont buy into the “everyone is doing it” so it cant be that bad argument. I dont even believe that everyone is, for 1 and even if they are it does not make it right. It does not mean that we lower our standards eaither. I also said continual premartial sex. Not someone that messed up, or did some petting.

    I apoligize if my comments offended you. But your post about questioning the sexuality of members of the Church because they practice the law of Chasity, almost seemed like a troll post to me.

  102. A. Greenwood on April 25, 2005 at 7:53 pm

    I agree with Ivan Wolfe.

    The scripture says:

    4 Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted.
    5 Know ye not, my son, that these things are an abomination in the sight of the Lord; yea, most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood or denying the Holy Ghost?

    Verse 5 tells us that “these things” are an abomination, worse than anything except “the shedding of innocent blood” or “denying the Holy Ghost?” Contra the commenter called norm, I think it’s pretty clear that “these things” is not referring to denying the Holy Ghost. That is identified as a distinct, more abominable, sin. Instead, “these things” must refer to whatever it was that Corianton was up to with Isabel. Since she is identified as a harlot, I think the supposition that fornication is what he was up to is not unreasonable.

  103. Kristine on April 25, 2005 at 8:16 pm

    “The reduction in missionries is not due to raising the bar. Last year president Hinckley spoke to all the General Authorities. He said ‘Brethren, we knew the Women’s Liberation Movement would catch up with us at some point, and it now has. 20-25 years ago our women members started marrying later in life and started having less children per woman. That lag has now caught us.’”

    If this is true, I find it somewhat troubling to lay the blame at the feet of the women. After all, one could also make the case that today’s better-educated Mormon mothers, with more time to devote to each of their (fewer) children, are better able to raise the kind of missionaries who are able to clear the raised bar.

    And one could (should!!) also note the contributions of the vastly increased number of sister missionaries (which contribution is, of course, made possible by later marriage).

  104. Julie in Austin on April 25, 2005 at 8:22 pm

    “Last year president Hinckley spoke to all the General Authorities. He said ‘Brethren, we knew the Women’s Liberation Movement would catch up with us at some point, and it now has. 20-25 years ago our women members started marrying later in life and started having less children per woman. That lag has now caught us.”

    You’d think with all of the lawyers around here we’d have a rule against third-hand information. I find it rather unlikely that President Hinckley would accuse the women of the Church en masse of limiting their family size under the sway of Women’s Liberation instead of assuming that they were following the GHI and making decisions about number and spacing of children in prayerful consultation with their husbands. This just doesn’t sound like anything that President Hinckley has ever said to the women of the Church, and seems a little odd given that our two newest (and boomer-aged) members of the Q12 have 2 and 3 children; hard to imagine their wives buckling under to those evil women’s libbers. ;)

  105. OKO on April 25, 2005 at 8:27 pm

    Brian,
    I do not wish to fight with you.

    We are both on the same side of this, no one wants someone who is unworthy to go on a mission. All I am saying is repentance SHOULD count for something, especially when you consider the age of most missionaries. Most churches would never allow a 19 year old to present their beliefs in any official capacity. Since we are letting them go so young, their immaturity needs to be taken into account when considering thier past sins. If someone has not repented, or their sins include breaking serious laws, or their past behavior has physicially harmed others, or they have financial obligations such as children, then they shouldn’t go.

    We are both on the same side but we are just two different kinds of guys. You appear to be a letter of the law kind of guy, I am a spirit of the law kind of guy.

    I was only joking about the lunatic thing, sorry if it offended you.

  106. norm on April 25, 2005 at 8:37 pm

    Ivan… antecedent. read the verses. i copied them above, or link to them.
    perhaps I went too far in my first post… saying that C was indeed guilty of denying the Holy Ghost… he stops short of that accusation saying he would not dwell on it.

    But clearly denying the Holy Ghost is put in the same league as Murder, and ‘whatever C did’ was almost as abominable.
    (So no matter what, Fornication is not ‘next’ to muder like denying the Holy Ghost is. That should be clear;).
    The question is: ‘which part or which combo of what C did does Alma refer to?’

    First let’s look at verse 3:
    And this is not all, my son. Thou didst do that which was grievous unto me; for thou didst forsake the ministry, and did go over into the land of Siron among the borders of the Lamanites, after the harlot Isabel.

    ‘that which is grievous to me’ could refer to:
    either A) forsaking the ministry
    B) forsaking the ministry and going over into the land of Siron, Or
    C) forsaking the ministry, going over, and being after the harlot Isabel.
    It would be a stretch to say that ‘that which is grievous unto me’ is only
    ‘after the harlot’–

    Suppose going ‘after the harlot’ is a part of what was grievous. C may ‘go after’ a girl, without actually committing fornication. And even if C commits fornication, implicit in ‘going over after’ is the ‘forsaking’–i.e. there is a substitution of divine calling to answer a call of temptation–whether or not C eventually fornicates. Of course Alma wouldn’t be happy with fornication if it didn’t involve ‘good examples’ ‘initially responding to a call, then forsaking the field’ but we can’t throw that all out now.

    Now let’s look at Verse 4:
    Yea, she did steal away the hearts of many; but this was no excuse for thee, my son. Thou shouldst have tended to the ministry wherewith thou wast entrusted.

    The fact that she was tempting, that she had seduced many–presumably believers and non-believers is no excuse. Excuse for what? Excuse for his fornication? (I don’t think Alma is saying, ‘fornication is wrong even if she’s pretty or wily’. I think he’s saying, don’t mask your greater sins.) His next comment: You should have tended to the ministry… that’s what C was trying to excuse–that he didn’t continue faithful in his calling, that he had the faith to start, and then left the work.

    You say that ‘grammatically’ these things must refer to fornication. This is impossible–not merely bad grammar. Alma doesn’t even mention ‘fornication’. Nor does he mention sexual sin specifically. He merely uses a word, ‘harlot’, which connotes sexual sin. In her.

    To find the antecedent, let’s look first to the previous clause:
    these things probably refers to 1) making excuses and not fulfilling what was entrusted to him. (that would be consistent with any of the three possibilities about ‘that which is grievious unto me).
    Or, 2) if the antecedent is awkwardly several clauses previously, then it may refer to things in verse 3. specifically A) B) or C) from above–all of which involve other things besides fornication and none of which necessarily involve fornication. Possibly (if we are going back several clauses like we must if we’re looking for ‘harlot’–then boasting of his strength and wisdom, could also be included in the list).

    Grammatically… fornication alone is nowhere to be seen. And fornication is at a least not all that is meant. In fact, it seems not to be the focus. This discussion is juxtaposed with C’s brother’s ‘steadiness’ ‘faithfulness’ and ‘diligence’

    Alma wonders if C is guilty of denying the HG. And he seems to be wondering if all that C has done constitutes it. But I don’t see where he singles out fornication in there at all.
    I’ll stick with: if C had forsaken the work, and pursued avarice (rather than lust), leaving the ministry to which we was entrusted, Alma would find him just as guilty.

    To bring things back into context… do we not think it is a greater crime for a Mission President, a Seventy, or a missionary to be sent home, and excommunicated even if not for fornication than for a 13 year old to dabble? Being called, responding, and then chasing women/drugs/money or just apostatizing and leaving that trust and endowment… has to be a greater crime. Speaking of excommunication: if fornication is closest to murder, where does that put adultery?

    I don’t think you can read that verse in any way to implicate ONLY fornication. But you can read it in many ways to implicate other offenses and not fornication. I believe C probably did achieve his lustful goals with the harlot… but that’s speculation. The Lord chastises Joseph for going after treasure, but that doesn’t mean he found any. What appears to worry Alma is not what sin of the flesh he committed to completion, but rather ‘what he left behind’ to do it. If fornication is meant by ‘these things’ it could only be in combination with the rest of ‘these things’ which aren’t fornication.

    [Interesting thought: was C married? maybe this was adultery. we tend to think of Alma, the sons of Mosiah, etc. as not being married, because we think of missionaries as young unmarried men. I wonder if Brigham Young thought of them as people who had left their families behind, when we was in England away from home?]

    i’m sure we can agree that morality is important. i just don’t think we should wrangle this scripture into a ghost story about how evil teenagers can be. seems to apply to endowed, call-accepting elders in the field that are wasting their time breaking commandments and rules (if not specifically fornicating) more aptly than to high-schoolers who are full of hormones, haven’t accepted calls to anything, nor received endowments, and are at various stages of maturity in their understanding and belief in the precepts of their religion.

    And now, my son, I would to God that ye had not been guilty of so great a crime. I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good.

  107. norm on April 25, 2005 at 8:40 pm

    but the point of the last post, is really the same as the first:
    Alma 39 does not support, ‘fornication is next to murder’.
    It specifically says, ‘denying the Holy Ghost is ‘next’ to murder’.
    [Am I being to Germanic in understanding 'next' to mean 'closest to'?, did BR mean it another way?]

  108. A. Greenwood on April 25, 2005 at 8:58 pm

    Sorry, Norm. I’m unable to follow the thread of your argument.

  109. Dan Richards on April 25, 2005 at 9:10 pm

    Here are the statistics for “children of record baptized,” presumably at age 8:

    1982 67000
    1983 69000
    1984 69000
    1985 70000
    1986 72000
    1987 75000
    1988 73000
    1989 75000
    1990 78000
    1991 75000
    1992 77380
    1993 76312
    1994 72538
    1995 71139
    1996 81017
    1997 75214
    1998 76829
    1999 84118

    Based on these statistics (which I culled from old conference reports on lds.org), I would have expected about a 10 percent drop in full-time missionaries from 2001 to 2005. I don’t know what to make of the sudden change from rounded-off figures to more accurate ones. And of course this doesn’t take couple missionaries or sister missionaries into account. But my guess would be that numbers will increase again in the near future as the cohort of 8-year-olds baptized 1996-1999 reaches age 19. Our current slump could indeed be predicted by these numbers, but perhaps not its extent. Interestingly, beginning with the 2000 statistical report, the number of 8-year-olds baptized is no longer publicized.

  110. norm on April 25, 2005 at 9:19 pm

    Very well.
    let me condense it:
    1) Alma never says anything specifically about fornication in 39:1-7.
    2) he says that Denying the Holy Ghost is next to Murder
    3) in any event, ‘fornication per se is next to murder’ is not to be found in Alma 39.
    4) he is grieved with a) C’s forsaking the ministry entrusted to him (perhaps but not necessarily in conjunction with b) ‘going over’ c) ‘after a harlot’)
    5) HIs words “these things”:
    a) cannot refer to fornication alone.
    b) could refer to things other than, and not including, fornication and
    c) could refer to a combination of sins involving fornication.
    6) we can think of sins that we rightfully consider more grievous than fornication, e.g. rape, sexual child abuse, adultery (a subset of f’n?), torture, etc.
    7) Alma’s grief seems to apply better to a missionary or high-ranking church official engaged in fornication or that list of sins, than to a teenager experimenting with sex.
    8) that’s not to say fornication is okay.

    what words could make fornication the antecedent of ‘these things’?

  111. Annie Edwards on April 25, 2005 at 9:21 pm

    Why don’t they just make a new non-proselyting humanitarian service mission option for 19 and 21 year olds who don’t meet the bar or are just not going to be cajoled into being interested in proselyting?

    This should be done! More people would convert anyway! Letting lights shiine….fruits of labor….temporal salvation….scriptural precedent….teachings of Joseph Smith…. human kindness…. all of these things support this idea.

    The humanitarian missionary efforts of the church should be restructured and revamped, and placed under the direction of the extremely dedicated, capable, and well-organized Relief Society superstructure.

  112. Quoter on April 25, 2005 at 9:25 pm

    This might have been the then-First Presidency’s opinion (though given in General Conference), but in the present Apostles’ youth, this is what what taught.

    “From an official pronouncement in 1942, where the First Presidency promised “the exaltations of eternities” to those who remain chaste, they stated that sexual immorality was a destroyer of individuals and nations. “The doctrine of this Church,” they stated, “is that sexual sin—the illicit sexual relations of men and women—stands, in its enormity, next to murder. The Lord has drawn no essential distinctions between fornication, adultery, and harlotry or prostitution. Each has fallen under His solemn and awful condemnation” (CR 112 [Oct. 1942]:10-12).

  113. norm on April 25, 2005 at 9:30 pm

    ok. i often hear statements. now i have a source, though non-specific among types of sexual sin.

  114. Bryan Robert on April 25, 2005 at 9:35 pm

    Norm

    I suggest that you to read The Miracle of Forgiveness. Spencer W. Kimball says in chapter 5 that fornication is next to Murder. Every Prophet before and after have come to the same conclusion, that I am aware of. Every bishop, every lesson on morality, has said the same thing. I just dont think you are going to trump Kimball, with your logic. Plus I dont really follow it anyway.

    Also he basically says that fornication and adultry are the same thing. They are both nearly unforgivable. Messing up once, and carrying on a sexual relationshop, when you know its wrong is 2 different things. Petting or letting things go too far 1 night is not the same as continually doing something when you know its wrong. Doing this until a year before your mission, because you know you can repent, I think is what the Church is trying to avoid.

  115. Jack on April 25, 2005 at 9:56 pm

    I don’t know norm,

    In verse 6 Alma states that Corianton did that which is “most abominable above all sins save it be the shedding of innocent blood OR denying the Holy Ghost”

    So what ever he did that was so abominable was not the denial of the Holy Ghost. In verse 7 Alma speaks of the denial of the Holy Ghost and murder in a rhetorical way so as to help his son understand just how grave the sin is that he committed. By speaking of the former as being “unpardonable” and the latter as being that for which “it is not easy to obtain forgiveness”, Alma is trying to get his son to understand that the sin which he has committed will require some serious repentence, as it is the third most abominable sin according.

    You’re right to suggest that there’s more going on here for which Alma would be concerned such as the “forsaking of the ministry” and so forth. But, as to whether or not Alma was referring to Corianton’s sin as being the denial of the Holy Ghost–I thought that needed a little clarification.

    Oh, and by the way, these few 7-8 verses seem to be chiastic in form–I know, wrong thread.

  116. Jack on April 25, 2005 at 9:58 pm

    …according to Alma. (that is)

  117. anon on April 25, 2005 at 10:02 pm

    Alas poor T&S. I knew him Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. . .

  118. Blake on April 25, 2005 at 10:56 pm

    I just wanted to follow up. What brought the thought up for this post was my experience with about two dozen of my son’s friends. My son graduated from High School last year. His birthday is very late, the very end of July. So he has had to wait a full year before turning 19. As it turns out, a good many of those who haven’t gone on missions yet congregate at my house. There are about two dozen young men who come to my house from his High School class who have been “held back” from going on missions for various reasons. They often discuss their frusration and disappointment with me. They are hurting. There is a fairly obvious injustice for many of them in that the young ladies they had their “problems” with are not publicly humiliated as they have been. Their repentance has been made very public and noticeable. Indeed, a number of the young ladies who had the same “problem” have been married in the temple while these young men wait to go on missions. At least 5 of them have given up on the idea of going on a mission altogether. I have seen the consequences and they are truly tragic in these cases. This is what “raising the bar” means in concrete terms for me because I see it close up and personal.

    I asked one young man what he had learned from the experience of being made to wait to go on a mission. He stated eloquently: “I have learned that God is a lot more forgiving than his Church.”

  119. A. Greenwood on April 25, 2005 at 10:59 pm

    I’m sorry, Blake, but that last “eloquent statement” evaporated all my sympathy. Serving as an emissary of Christ is not a right or an expectation. It’s an act of grace.

    And anyone who demands forgiveness isn’t ready for it yet.

  120. Blake on April 25, 2005 at 11:09 pm

    A. Greenwood: the young man already knew he was forgiven by God and was waiting to go on a mission. With all due respect (and in this case a bit more than is due) you are not in a position to talk about the grace of God.

  121. Jack on April 25, 2005 at 11:10 pm

    Now that I’ve gone back and read more of the thread I see that my comment is quite redundant. Oh well, perhaps if I were in my grave and mourned over as Hamlet mourned over the old jester, then my words would be held aloft for their rhetorical significance.

  122. Kelly Knight on April 25, 2005 at 11:15 pm

    As a bishop, I think I can speak from both sides of the aisle.

    I know of a young man come home from his mission complaining of severe headaches and depression. When all was said and done, porn was the ultimate culprit. Had he overcome this habit prior to his mission, it is likely he would have served a full two years and had an honorable return. So from the standpoint of a bishop, though I was not the one who actually sent him out, I can see the benefit of overcoming temptation and living a chaste life for a period of time prior to going out.

    On the other hand, I also know of a young man who outwardly fits the profile of the perfect missionary. He has served 3 of 4 years as the seminary class president; he has been doing splits with the elders in our ward for nearly 4 years; he has served as the president of both the deacon and teacher quourums, was 1st Asst to the bishop, currently teaches the fourth Sunday lesson in Elders’ quorum, yada yada. However, he made a mistake just shortly before his interview with the stake presidency to be ordained an elder, and he was set back a full year. (It was not a physical relationship, either, but was related). Unfortunately, the position seems to have been taken now, that everytime he slips, it is another year.

    It may be a terrible circumstance in his life, and that of others, if they cannot overcome the worldly and physical, and go out to serve the Lord. It is frustrating to this young man, and his parents, and could have the end result of him not serving a mission at all.

    Blake, I have to agree with your young friend’s assessment. Sometimes it seems that the church is not as forgiving. On the other hand, I really do want to support my priesthood leadership, and have to trust that the Lord will solve the problems in the long run.

  123. Kelly Knight on April 25, 2005 at 11:16 pm

    As a bishop, I think I can speak from both sides of the aisle.

    I know of a young man come home from his mission complaining of severe headaches and depression. When all was said and done, porn was the ultimate culprit. Had he overcome this habit prior to his mission, it is likely he would have served a full two years and had an honorable return. So from the standpoint of a bishop, though I was not the one who actually sent him out, I can see the benefit of overcoming temptation and living a chaste life for a period of time prior to going out.

    On the other hand, I also know of a young man who outwardly fits the profile of the perfect missionary. He has served 3 of 4 years as the seminary class president; he has been doing splits with the elders in our ward for nearly 4 years; he has served as the president of both the deacon and teacher quourums, was 1st Asst to the bishop, currently teaches the fourth Sunday lesson in Elders’ quorum, yada yada. However, he made a mistake just shortly before his interview with the stake presidency to be ordained an elder, and he was set back a full year. (It was not a physical relationship, either, but was related). Unfortunately, the position seems to have been taken now, that everytime he slips, it is another year.

    It may be a terrible circumstance in his life, and that of others, if they cannot overcome the worldly and physical, and go out to serve the Lord. It is frustrating to this young man, and his parents, and could have the end result of him not serving a mission at all.

    Blake, I have to agree with your young friend’s assessment. Sometimes it seems that the church is not as forgiving. On the other hand, I really do want to support my priesthood leadership, and have to trust that the Lord will solve the problems in the long run.

  124. Jack on April 25, 2005 at 11:18 pm

    Well Blake,

    What do you expect? How in the world is it possible to determine that brethren are WAY WAY off on this in a general sense because there is some consternation in a few specific cases? Maybe Adam’s wrong about the boy, but he certainly wouldn’t be wrong about the many out there who feel ill abused because they’ve been cut off from the church for not living up to what they know to be right.

  125. Ben H on April 25, 2005 at 11:23 pm

    Blake, if there are young women being married in the temple while young men they got into trouble with are having to wait to serve missions, it is understandable that the young men would be very frustrated. This looks like an inconsistency, and though of course I don’t know the particulars, I would be very ready to think it is, and one that should ideally be remedied. However, there are two sides to the inconsistency; who says it is the side to do with missions that should be changed? Plus, likely as not they have different local leaders, and there may be other important differences.

  126. Blake on April 25, 2005 at 11:27 pm

    Kelly: I feel the same you do. I hate to see young men who sin with the intention of repenting a year before they leave. Those who purposefully flaunt the commandments and play games with God are playing a very evil game indeed. We all have seen missionaries who weren’t ready and who wasted the time of another missionary because they refused to engage (though whether these slackers were more faithful before going is hard to say). So I see the problem being addressed by the Church and support that decision.

    However, I also see the tragedy. I am taken aback by the judgmentalness that pervades my Church and culture. When I experience those who, like A. Greenwood, know nothing about the young man (or woman) and jump to the conclusion that someone is demanding forgiveness (which of course cannot be demanded by any of us) I am saddened. That is why I think the oversight is better left to local leaders who are sensitive to the spirit and who personally know the young man or woman who desires to serve. Let the judge in Israel judge the hearts — and leave hard and fast rules that run over individuals like a bulldozer out of it.

  127. Jack on April 25, 2005 at 11:36 pm

    Another thing,

    Maybe someone already said this (I haven’t read the entire thread), but I’m getting the idea that some folks don’t realize just what a serious problem this has been in the church. I mean SERIOUS! This is no longer about the world tugging on our youth and the necessity of being patient with their weakness (of course that’a still part of it). This is about breaking the back of what has become an expectation–that one can go and freely commit serious sin and then be beat with a few stripes and voila, you’re off on the Lord’s errand. I understand that there are some who are truely sorry and, perhaps, border line as to the seriousness of their behavior. I ache for them. I would feel terrible if such a thing were to happen to my son. But, how long are the brethren to preach chastity and morality before we take them seriously? (speaking collectively)

  128. Gordon Smith on April 25, 2005 at 11:44 pm

    Blake, Your story of the young man being held back from a mission while the young woman is married in the temple raises a question I have never considered before. Sorry if this is old hat (I have been trying to keep up with the threat, but some of the comments are pretty long): is temple worthy the same as mission worthy? All missionaries are expected to be temple worthy, but is that enough?

  129. Soyde River on April 25, 2005 at 11:46 pm

    Maybe we haven’t raised the bar enough. Maybe the next step the Lord will have us take is to raise the bar again.

    “The Lord will raise up to himself a pure people.” (D&C 100)

    “And the Lord said unto Gideon, The people are yet too many; bring them down to the water, and I will try them for thee there: and it shall be, that of whom I say unto thee, This shall go with thee, the same shall go with thee; and of whom I say unto thee, This shall not go with thee, the same shall not go.”

    So of the 10,000 that were there, only 300 lapped as a dog lappeth, while the rest knelt down to drink. The Lord said: “By the three hundred men that lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand.”

    Can you imagine the hurt feelings among the 9,700? Why didn’t anybody tell me I had to lap the water? Can you imagine the blogs which must have swept around the Israelite camp, wanting to know on what kind of a basis was the Lord choosing his warriors? Can you imagine the criticism of Gideon?

  130. Kelly Knight on April 25, 2005 at 11:47 pm

    First, I am sorry for the double post. I got an error the first time, and so sent it again. My apologies.

    Blake, your statement rings true to me. The second young man I spoke of, to my knowledge, has never wontingly flaunted his actions with the idea of “sin now, pray later”. Indeed, it is a struggle he has had from a young age when exposed to pornography while spending the night with a friend. Quite frankly, it breaks my heart to see him still home, with members constantly asking “when is so and so going out on his mission?”. The reply that seems to be working so far is that he has “some things to work out first, and then he will go”.

    I have tried to encourage him by letting him know that even David O McKay did not go out until after his 24th birthday, though not for the same reasons.

    Frankly, I think we need to get away from the tradition of a young man having to go out when he is 19 and putting the pressure on them to be absolutely ready at that point, especially with the raised bar. Let them know that they should be preparing to serve the Lord sometime between their 19th and 24th birthdays, and that they should take the time necessary working with the bishop and stake president, and a well organized mission prep program. When they are ready, they will go.

  131. Jack on April 25, 2005 at 11:47 pm

    “Let the judge in Israel judge the hearts – and leave hard and fast rules that run over individuals like a bulldozer out of it.”

    Blake, then why do you insinuate that this boy is worthy to go on a mission regardless of what the brethren have said? Do you know for a fact that the Lord is pleased with his repentance? I agree that it is not our business to judge these things, but I only say this to point out the fact that you shouldn’t go around beating folks over the head with these specific cases in order to disprove a general pronouncement from the brethren. Again I ask, has the Lord told you that this boy is fit to go on a mission? I don’t see the difference between what you’re doing and what you’re claiming that Adam is doing.

  132. Rosalynde Welch on April 26, 2005 at 12:09 am

    “There is a fairly obvious injustice for many of them in that the young ladies they had their “problems” with are not publicly humiliated as they have been. Their repentance has been made very public and noticeable.”

    Undoubtedly, if it is so, and frustration is understandable. Perhaps we can observe the historical irony that this may be the single time and place across history in which men, because of the mission issue, are as vulnerable to public humiliation and ostracism for fornication as women have always been, because of the pregnancy issue.

  133. Frank McIntyre on April 26, 2005 at 12:14 am

    Dan, thanks for the baptismal numbers. I too am unsure what to make of the series as it seems to be rather volatile in the later years. In any case, Norm, I am not (sigh) saying that you are a liar. I am saying that you cannot be expected to remember the exact numbers displayed on a graph five years ago. Thus, I imagine you saw something showing a rising number of missionaries, followed by a fall in missionaries. That is fine and would be well explained by a demographic shift. But how much of a decline was in the graph? When did the decline occur? Was the decline as large and sudden as what we have seen? These are the specifics you may not remember, but that make all the difference. If you do remember them, I’m happy (and waiting) to hear them.

    I have no trouble believing that there is a decline expected demographically, but to atttribute the 03-04 results entirely to this is strong. Especially when the data do not suggest a nearly large enough change in the number of youth of that age in Utah or the nation or in the convert baptism series. In the series Dan shows, there is a drop of maybe 5,000/75,000 over several years. This would explain maybe 7% decline over several years. It cannot explain a drop of 20% in 03 and 04. . In Utah as a whole, there is no 20% drop, though there appears to be some decline. The hispanic population, by the way, just is not big enough to be a scapegoat.

    But here is a cleaner series. Look at a very Mormon part of the state, Utah county (roughly 80-90% LDS) before young men might plausibly be leaving home. In 1990 when there were even fewer hispanic people. A missionary expected to leave in 2003 would be 6. 2002 leavers would be 7. There were 5420 6 year olds, 5300 5 year olds and 17,300 7-9 year olds. Based on the 100% sample of the 1990 census. If we divide out the 7-9 group evenly we get about 5800 7 year olds and 8 year olds. So using this sample we should get something around a 10% drop in missionaries. But the drop was actually twice that.

    Thus, there does appear to be a demographic drop, and a surprisingly large, though plausible one. But it just is not enough to account for the 20% decline. Raising the bar appears to have caused a noticeable decline in the missionary force. Controlling for demographics, it probably reduced the work force by 10%.

    (Statewide in 1990, the percentage gap is identical to what it is in Utah county. If we prefer those numbers we get about 35,000 03 and 04 leavers and 38,000 02 and 01 leavers, so almost the same 10% decline.)

  134. Frank McIntyre on April 26, 2005 at 12:22 am

    I would expect a missiionary to be more than temple worthy. Naturally, all memebrs represent the Church, but missionaries are very public and official Church representatives and so the risks to the Church are far higher.

    So in principle I see no problem with the same sin resulting in no mission for a young man even if a young man (or woman) is still allowed to be sealed in the temple. Eventually we will all be sealed, but we will not all serve missions.

    And as for the GBH quote on women’s lib, I am no grand supporter of the Cause, but it really does sound like someone was adding a little to President Hinckley’s comments, which may well have been a much tamer discussion of the decline in birth rates.

  135. Matt Evans on April 26, 2005 at 1:18 am

    Hi Kristine (Comment 102),

    Even though parents with many children have less time to dedicate to an individual child for a mission, my guess is that, counterintuitively, a child from a large family is more likely to serve a mission (or graduate from seminary, marry in the temple, etc.) than is a child from a family with only one or two kids. Frankly, I would be surprised if kids from small families outperform their large-family peers on any Mormon metric, but maybe I’m just exhibiting a personal bias from my being raised in a big family.

    If it’s true that President Hinckley bemoaned our dropping birthrate, I agree that it’s wrong and unfair for us to act as though men have nothing to do with it.

  136. JKS on April 26, 2005 at 1:26 am

    Raising the bar will give us better missionaries down the road. It is the young men of the church who will benefit. As a teenager, I saw that many young men figured they’d party hard, but then clean up and go on a mission. How can this be a good thing?
    We want young men to NOT break all the commandments. We want them to decide to go on a mission and prepare for it.
    Yes, we will lose a few who want to repent and go. But how many will decide NOT to sin in the first place. The younger ones are the ones that will benefit from the raised bar. They be stronger for having chosen to follow Christ sooner than the eleventh hour before a mission. I hope my children make a choice about their testimony and whether to try live the gospel years before age 19. How sad that our missionary force probably contained high percentages of young men who had engaged in serious sexual sin, word of wisdom problems and generally had NOT lived up to their baptismal covenants.

  137. norm on April 26, 2005 at 1:41 am

    wow.

    big vs. small family, should be its own thread.

    i’m hesitant about lionizing large families simply because i’ve known enough people with fertility problems that already feel much shame and inadequacy. i can’t imagine how such people who simply can’t have as many kids would feel if we started preaching that bigger is better in lots of other ways.

    anecdotal counter-evidence:
    my dad’s family: 6 kids. 3 in the church solidly. 3 headaches spanning every category of parental headache.
    my mom’s family: 3 kids. all in the church solidly and in what in any way you might measure is the best that any Mormon parent could hope for.
    their 5 children: 4 so far that are sticking with church. and 1 that has decided not to, but may be back at some point. *crosses fingers*

    i have no idea about what large v. small familes are like ‘on average’–but I can think of enough counterexamples in 30 seconds that such statistics alone will not determine for me how many children I have. I think I’ll probably plan and pray while I plan.
    But I think the pressures and expectations are different. And parents should identify the set of problems and stresses they feel equipt to handle, pray about it, and proceed to replenish the earth… with all deliberate speed.

    (reminds me of when my folks were trying to force me into attending a particular college and started telling me how much more likely children are to remain active in church if they go there.)

  138. John Mansfield on April 26, 2005 at 7:31 am

    Even though this post is on Times and Seasons, it may be worth bringing up some of the non-sexual aspects of raising the bar. The two that I am thinking of are the expectation that the prospective missionaries will have studied the gospel and will have experience with the Holy Ghost. My stake president noted to our young men that scriptures are big books that take time to read. His charge to them was to not waste their seminary years.

    Here’s my reason that I hope for a raised bar. Twenty years back, I felt so free as a missionary. For a third of the mission, my companions and I were the only missionaries in the towns we worked in. We went one three month stretch with no contact with the mission beyond letters. Occasionally our work had us up until close to midnight, and a few times past it. The mission president said that was fine as long we were up on schedule the next morning.

    Since then, I hear year after year of one new rule after another for the missionaries. They have to make check-in calls to their leaders every night on schedule. A lot of overhead goes into establishing that missionaries have witnesses and solid alibis for their every move. Looking at Brother Frank’s graph with the steady decline from 7 converts per missionary per year to 4, I think part of this is the fruit of more and more constrained missionary labors.

    I’ll know the bar has actually been raised when missionaries again have the freedom of action I did and when we can scatter the missionaries broadly instead of clustering them in cities. (And to rile up the feminists, this is one reason young men are needed in preference to young women.)

  139. Scott on April 26, 2005 at 8:23 am

    When Elder Ballard came to a regional conference recently (and he actually came, didn’t just send it in from Salt Lake), he touched upon qualifications of missionaries, and expressed the concern that some bishops were going too far in “raising the bar”. He said that they are concerned that the pool is dropping, and that only 37-38% of eligible YM in US/Canada were going on missions due to a variety of reasons. I felt like they are still looking for the proper balance when clearing kids for missions.

  140. Jonathan Green on April 26, 2005 at 8:53 am

    So, we’re up to comment #139 in a discussion of “raising the bar,” and I haven’t seen an authoritative statement of what this phrase means. It might just be pretty much the same as the standards of the early 90′s. Or it might be more rigorous than the qualifications for a temple marriage. What are the actual standards? Is this something everyone else knows, but I’ve missed? How much of the interpretation is at the discretion of the local bishop? This is not an idle question; I’d like to be able to tell my children: if you want to go on a mission, you can’t ever do X vs. if you do Y, you’ll need to repent before going on a mission.

    More importantly for this discussion, which of the standards are actually leading to a decrease in number of missionaries? Is it the parts related to sexual morality, as many of the comments have assumed? Could be, but the MTC seemed like a pretty effective sieve for that kind of thing when I was there in 1990. How many missionaries are not called today for other reasons, like mental and/or physical health?

  141. Ben H on April 26, 2005 at 11:04 am

    Jonathan, it sounds like you want a list of sins and penalties to give your children. Do you really think that will be helpful? Is being Mormon mainly about not doing X, Y, and Z?

  142. Gordon Smith on April 26, 2005 at 11:14 am

    I agree with Ben. Ambiguity is a virtue in this instance because it encourages more aggressive self-policing.

  143. Gordon Smith on April 26, 2005 at 11:22 am

    Actually, I want to amend that last comment, which I posted too quickly. Ambiguity is a virtue if the ambiguity resides in the mind of the 18-year old. It is not a virtue if it lies in the mind of the Bishop or Stake President. I think the standards for exclusion should be relatively clear at that level, with some discretion mechanism for the exceptional cases.

  144. Bill on April 26, 2005 at 11:40 am

    This disparity of information that you suggest, Gordon, rather than having any salutary effect, would seem to me to breed more cynicism, and contribute to a secrecy culture in which even when decisions might not be arbitrary, they appear so. If anyone has to be over-zealous and cocksure, their minds purged of all ambiguity and deciding a priori who deserves forgiveness, I would prefer it to be prospective missionaries, not bishops and stake presidents.

  145. Frank McIntyre on April 26, 2005 at 11:57 am

    Let me second Rosalynde’s comment that there is a sweet beauty in having a system that holds men more accountable for their sexual sins, when many times in history it seemed to be only the (pregnant) women who faced the consequences.

  146. Gordon Smith on April 26, 2005 at 12:00 pm

    Bill, You might be right about the cynicism. Exhibit A is this thread!

    Anyway, I was trying to describe something like speed limits. The sign says, “Speed Limit 65.” Now we all know that people who drive 66 or 67 or 68 or perhaps even 75 mph are not likely to get a ticket, but at what point does the police officer actually begin to enforce speed limits? My understanding is that police departments typically have a policy on that, but the policy is not made public for obvious reasons. In the meantime, drivers are uncertain about the real speed limit and they drive slower than they would if everyone knew (because if everyone knew that tickets would not be issued for people driving 75 mph or below, the average speed would almost certainly exceed 75 mph).

    In the legal literature, the phenomenon described is referred to as “standards of conduct” (“Speed Limit 65″) and “standards of liability” (the real speed limit). In the Church setting, the standard of sexual conduct is chastity, but the “standard of liability” (the point at which someone is disqualified from missionary service) is something less demanding. If everyone knew the line between acceptable and unacceptable sexual conduct, we would expect more people to gravitate toward that line.

    I should note that there is a qualitative difference between speed limits and limits on appropriate sexual conduct. I hope that people feel the value of being chaste regardless of the enforcement probabilities in a way that most people do not feel compelled to drive under the speed limit. Nevertheless, the incentive effects of the enforcement regime probably translate pretty well from speed limits to sexual conduct when the target audience is a large number of teens.

  147. Clint on April 26, 2005 at 12:04 pm

    I have had two different reactions as I read this thread.

    The first is how I feel about this policy in light of the saviors parable about leaving the 99 to seek out the 1 lost sheep. This is care for the individual. How many young men are receiving a blanket treatment for a generalized behavior and being prevented from going on a mission. And I feel like the policy overreaches.

    The second reaction has to do with my own experience as a missionary and the terrible consequences of having unprepared missionaries in the field, and the irreparable harm they caused. When I think of these, and the raising of the bar, the scripture comes to mind “It is better that one man should perish than that a whole generation dwindle in unbelief.”

    On which side should we err, if we do err? Should the bar be a little too high, or a little too low.

  148. OKO on April 26, 2005 at 12:12 pm

    “On which side should we err, if we do err? Should the bar be a little too high, or a little too low”

    I believe we should keep the bar just where it was.

  149. Ben H on April 26, 2005 at 12:18 pm

    Bill, we can pretty well plan on there being a disparity of information. The question is, what kind? It seems to me the person who governs his or her own spiritual life by a simplistic list is much more damaged by it than someone else, who is merely affected by that person’s decisions. If a bishop has a simplistic list in his mind, please! don’t pass the disease to the youth!

    Part of the problem, too, is that simplistic lists are so much easier to remember. A simplistic list is easily picked up by a young person, whereas someone with more experience as an adult in the church is (not guaranteed, but) likely to have other knowledge, less easy to pass on, with which to moderate the damaging effects of the simplistic list. There will nearly always be a disparity of information. Let’s not make it worse by giving the young people simplistic lists.

  150. Ben H on April 26, 2005 at 12:19 pm

    Amen, Rosalynde : )

  151. Jonathan Green on April 26, 2005 at 12:34 pm

    Gordon, ambiguity is not good when as a result my two options as a father are to either 1) lie to or 2) mislead my child. I don’t want my child to assume incorrectly at the age of, say, 14, that he or she can never serve a mission, after a lifetime of my teaching him or her to prepare for a mission. That situation is not healthy. Nor do I want him or her to think that they are prepared to serve, only to be surprised. You compare the raised bar to speed limits; that’s fine, but notice that speed limits are posted on the side of the road. What’s the posted speed limit for going on a mission? Saying that the standards are now higher, but that we can’t tell you what they are, is just absurd.

    Fornification is bad, I agree. I think that point gets made adquately in the YM/YW program. But my impression is that the new standards are not limited to sexual behavior, and even in that case I don’t sense unanimity on what’s repentable and what isn’t.

  152. Bill on April 26, 2005 at 1:00 pm

    Ben H.,

    I’m all for not passing along simplistic lists. But then, I’m also all for there not being any simplistic lists, either to conceal or pass along.

  153. Visorstuff on April 26, 2005 at 1:40 pm

    I wonder how many “very public and official Church representatives” of the church at the Stake, Area and General leaders are not called because of past transgressions. Isn’t one of the interview questions for such potential leaders (and even some bishops) whether or not they’ve done anything in their past that could cause embarrasment to the Church?

  154. JKS on April 26, 2005 at 1:56 pm

    Fornication is always repentable. It doesn’t mean there are no consequences. One act of fornication can result in pregnancy. Or AIDS. Who knows.
    Just because you repent of sexual sin before you are married, doesn’t mean that you enter your marriage as untouched as you were before the sexual sin. Once you’ve seen pornography, it can change your attitudes about sex sometimes so subtly that you don’t even realize it.
    Let’s say you marry a man, who has repented of past sexual sin. Maybe one day 10 years down the road you’ll have a 15 year old child show up on your doorstep and claim your husband is his/her father . All the repenting in the world didn’t change the consequences of the long ago sin.
    You can get divorced because you make all sorts of poor choices….then repent and become really a pretty good person. Can you put your marriage back together? Can you give your children a happy home? No. It is too late.
    You can repent of drinking while pregnant, but does it cure your child’s FAS? No.
    The Lord has promised to forgive us. But we can’t expect Harvard to forgive us for not getting the 4.0 in high school and let us in because we promise to study from now on. We can’t expect that repenting puts everything right again.
    If our leaders say that repenting can get you to the temple, but it does not give back the priviledge to go on a mission, I can accept that.
    Some people are lucky. One act of premarital sexual intercourse might not cause a pregnancy. Some people it only takes one time. One of them has a pretty big natural consequence to deal with. Is it fair? No. But is it fair that one of them does get to go on a mission and one doesn’t? No.
    Natural consequences are not always completely fair.
    I’m not all about punishing sin. I am mostly concerned about what I saw as a rampant tradition being taught by older teenagers to younger teenagers. It’s ok to sin and PLAN to repent….meaning you sin with the intention of a quick repentence and avoid any real consequences.
    I plan to tell my kids that sin is not so easy to recover from. My sister has to deal with missing her cigarettes for the rest of her life. She will miss them every day for the rest of her life. Yes, she quit. But I don’t miss smoking, because I never smoked. I don’t miss a beer when I sit down to watch a football game.
    Sin is not so easy to erase from your soul, once it was invited in. It can haunt you. It can hurt others. And not all those who planned to repent and shape up actually do repent and shape up. Some of those kids partied a little too much and are now on drugs, are living with someone, have messed up their lives because they thought they could sin a little and still stay on the path of mission, temple marriage, celestial kingdom.

  155. A. Greenwood on April 26, 2005 at 1:59 pm

    “A. Greenwood: the young man already knew he was forgiven by God and was waiting to go on a mission.”

    Only the truly repentant are wholly forgiven. No one who is angry because their sin has consequences is truly repentant. Yes, this is a categorical rule. So is the rule that fornicators who continue fornicating and boast of it to their friends aren’t truly repentant. Both rules are categorical and true.

  156. Zim on April 26, 2005 at 2:01 pm

    It seems to me that if the church is serious about missionary work beyond simple numbers, then they need to get serious about teaching mormon beliefs instead of the PR-friendly version. Most new converts have no clue about the time commitments and sacrifices involved with being mormon.

    Being baptized should be a priviledge that is earned instead of a half-hearted commitment. Our elders baptized a young man who had been to church one maybe two times. The only way he ever comes to church is if someone brings him. He never comes on his own. He has been a member for six months or so and has been two church maybe three times since his baptism. The missionaries don’t care because they know in a few months, they’ll be gone and won’t be their problem anymore. Now the ward spends correlation after correlation trying to figure out how to activate someone who didn’t know what they were getting into in the first place.

    The much vaunted “Preach My Gospel” manual is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Just as happened in the mid-80s, this will have to be revamped because the missionaries “freedom” with the format will result in false doctrine being taught and other doctrine being left out.

    If the church wants to get serious about missionary work, we need to follow Christ’s example. Jesus was a servant. He didn’t carry a franklin planner and set baptismal goals.

    Let the missionaries spend most of their time doing good work in the community. Be the public face of the church. Over time, people will want to know more about their beliefs and why they are doing this service.

    We need to totally divorce ourselves from the slicky boy sales force attitude and stop pushing numbers.

    Sure, we’ll have less annual baptisms, but our activity rates will soar and that’s all that really matters.

  157. A. Greenwood on April 26, 2005 at 2:03 pm

    On the large family debate:

    My anecdotal sense is that Matt Evans is right. Whether this is causation or correlation, I don’t know. I do note that even in Brother Norm’s counter-examples, the worst large family generated as many faithful Saints as did the best small family.

  158. Costanza on April 26, 2005 at 2:11 pm

    I think it is worthwhile to mention that all too often in the church people, especially young people, equate “repentance” with the act of confession to a priesthood authority and the endurance of whatever penalty the ecclesiastical officer sees fit to impose. That is certainly an element of the repentance process, but it is basically hollow without the deep, internal soul-searching that always must accompany true repentance. When I was a teenager I always heard the old “don’t think that you can sin and then repent and go on mission” line, and then we watched many of our older brothers and friends do just that! As I got older, however, I realized that most of these folks actually didn’t repent–they simply confessed. There is a WORLD of difference. I think too many young people in the church do not understand that there are real conseqeunces to sin–including memories of those sins that may never go away, even after we have been fully forgiven by the Lord. I know that Alma was “pained by the memories of [his] sins” after repenting, but I know plenty of people who have truly repented, but they feel pain for the pain they caused others and the spiritual growth that they have denied themselves. In this sense, I think that the raising the bar issue can provide a way to teach members of the church about the heavy burden that repentance always entails for it to be complete.

  159. Costanza on April 26, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    That should be ” Alma was “pained by the memories of [his] sins NO MORE” after repenting

  160. Ben H on April 26, 2005 at 4:10 pm

    Zim, there are good reasons for your proposal. Service is priceless. Our missionaries have to understand the spirit of service to do their work right. The current program includes some service, presumably partly for that reason, though much less of it than you recommend.

    There are challenges to your strategy, though: what sort of service will you put that many missionaries to?

    It seems to me that one of the great things about missionary service is that missionaries serve particular people, face to face, for long enough to build a relationship. Teaching people is a pretty wonderful service, and I don’t know of many better kinds to teach Christ-like love, outside the sort of close relationships that go on in a family. If the goal is for the missionaries to learn love, are we making them more likely to learn it by taking them away from their families, and delaying their entry into marriage?

    I think the main difficulties with the missionary program right now are due to inadequacies in the way we train our children up. Prospective missionaries should learn serving love in their homes, taking care of siblings, helping out around the house, in youth activities and such. If they have got the basic idea that way, teaching the gospel will be a great way for them to further develop that ability. If they haven’t got the basics there, I don’t think a mission is a very good way to teach it to them.

  161. Rosalynde Welch on April 26, 2005 at 4:21 pm

    Adam and Matt, as you know I’m from a wonderful, super-sized family that I loved growing up in, and I hope to have a lot of children myself. I really believe there are a lot of healthy and great things about big families. But there’s been quite a bit of research on what familial factors influence LDS kids’ long-term relationship to the church, and family size has never (that I’ve seen) been a determining factor. Everything that I’ve seen suggests that parents’ religiosity, family religious practices, and personal religiostiy in adolescence are the most influential factors.

  162. Matt Evans on April 26, 2005 at 4:31 pm

    Rosalynde, I’ve read all the Mormon social research I can get my hands on, such as Rearing Righteous Youth of Zion, and Latter-day Saint Social Life, but don’t remember reading any studies that look at the role of family size or that include family size as a variable. Are you saying there’s a study that determined family size wasn’t a factor in good outcomes, or that you’ve never seen a study that considered family size?

  163. OKO on April 26, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    This is all so interesting, I am glad I stumbled upon this board.

  164. Ben H on April 26, 2005 at 4:35 pm

    Okay, Ros, but perhaps the point is that there are good things that happen in large families and not in small ones, enough to compensate for any reduction in individual attention from the parents that one might expect to result from sheer numbers. Individual attention from parents is a very valuable thing in raising up a child well, but that is apparently not a very good reason in general to limit family size in the interest of raising good kids.

  165. Rosalynde Welch on April 26, 2005 at 5:12 pm

    Matt, you could be right on this one. I don’t remember a study specifically ruling out large family size as a factor–I just don’t remember it ever being suggested as a possible cause of long-term faithfulness.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find a correlation, particularly during the 1970s, when birth control was a moral issue, a mark of “following the prophet”: those parents that didn’t use birth control during that period might also be expected to have followed the prophet by instituting the family religiosity that does seem to be causative. But that would be a correlation, not a causation. (Like I said, absolutely nothing against big families here! I loved mine, and I’m hoping to have one, too.)

    Ben, I agree entirely.

  166. A. Greenwood on April 26, 2005 at 5:12 pm

    Cuss. Here I am all eager to finally score in an argument with R. Welch, only to find that Matt Evans and Ben H. have taken the good points.

  167. Steve Evans on April 26, 2005 at 5:20 pm

    Adam, don’t sweat it — I’ve been waiting for almost a decade to score points in a conversation with Rosalynde. It’s not an easy task, but she has her weaknesses (hint: T.V.).

  168. A. Greenwood on April 26, 2005 at 6:35 pm

    I don’t watch enough TV to even know what to make fun of. Maybe I should surf on over to Kulturblog for a crash course.

  169. Mike Prestwich on April 26, 2005 at 6:45 pm

    My view, there has been no drop in the number of baptisms, but the seeming drop is due to a change in the way baptisms are recorded. About 7 or 10 years ago President Hinckley mandated that all missionary converts be confirmed in Sacrament Meeting. Prior to that missionaries could baptize and confirm new members without that investigator ever attending church. In some extreme cases the bishop did not know the baptism had even occured. Today that can’t happen. People who are baptised today, but fail to follow up with the confirmation in Sacrament Meeting, are never recorded.

  170. Matt Jacobsen on April 26, 2005 at 7:56 pm

    Just wanted to second the request of Jonathan Green to get a definition of the higher bar for missions. I also am not quite so concerned about sex because I think the law of chastity is clear enough. However, I recently found out about a family member who was denied the chance to serve a mission. As far as I know there were no transgressions involved, but she did spend a bit of time talking with her bishop about some counseling she had for depression while in junior high (imagine that!). I don’t think she ever took any medication. Obviously there may be more to the story, but she’s not a close relative so I can’t vouch for any more information. Still, I’m interested to know whether a case like this is par for the bar or out of line. Would the policy affect the way teens and their parents acknowledge and treat mental or behavioral problems?

    Maybe I’ll ask my bishop and get back to you.

  171. Confused on April 28, 2005 at 3:18 pm

    Post 169, Mike,

    Your statement makes No sense at all. The number of baptisms has been droping from a high in 1990. well over a decade not the 7-10 years as you state.

  172. J Larsen on May 2, 2005 at 1:11 am

    I think that some church members, youth in particular, have twisted the “Raise the bar” talk as an excuse for excusing themselves from missionary service rather than shaping up and getting their act together so that they are worthy to serve. I think this has produced an attitude shift in general among some segments of the church population. I would say that it is somewhat more “socially acceptable” not to serve a mission than it has been in the past “every member a missionary” days.

    As a result, some prospective missionaries are opting out of missionary service not because they have committed heinous moral sins, but because the feel missionary service just isn’t for them (perhaps they feel they are not as spiritual as some other stand-out scriptorian in their seminary or institute class).

    As a student at BYU it seems that this is happening more and more to freshman friends of mine. These members still want to be active members of the church and hope to marry in the temple one day, but they don’t really care for interrupting their life for two years in order to serve a mission.

    But who knows, the shortfall of single young elders who decide, for whatever reason, not to serve a mission may be made up for by an increase in elderly couples joining the missionary ranks. Also, it was interesting to note that in the last general conference a clarification was made as to the contribution that potential single sisters missionaries can make to the if they so choose to serve (i.e. sisters don’t have a priesthood obligation to serve a mission, but oh what a contribution they can make! Translation: we need you sisters, get in the field!). In the mean time, let’s get more prospective elders to try and clear the bar rather than not even attempting!

  173. Ryan S. on May 24, 2005 at 8:13 pm

    I can’t believe there is this much debate over all this. To put the point of the whole matter simply, is Gordon B. Hinckley an inspired prophet of God or is he not. Everything hangs on this. Whether or not retention efforts, or the number of missionaries, or converts appears to go down for a while has nothing to do with the matter. Is he a prophet? We sustain him as such. I stick with Pres. Hinckley. In effect I trust the head of this church who’s name it bears. He it is who knows all things. It is his church, and he will do what is best.

  174. annegb on May 24, 2005 at 8:30 pm

    I think President Hinkley would be uncomfortable with people thinking he knows everything.

    …although I agree, for me, when the prophet speaks, the debate is over.

  175. Ryan S. on May 24, 2005 at 9:12 pm

    I’m sorry for this miscommunication there. Of course I did not mean Pres. Hinckley knows everything. He’s just a man. The head of the church I was reffering to was Jesus Christ. He who knows all things.

  176. Justin A. on July 25, 2005 at 2:48 pm

    Simply put, serving a mission does not bring salvation to anyone. I have read many of the earlier arguements or comments on this message board. I appreciate those comments about all the missionaries who apparently can’t go out and serve a mission anymore. I appreciate the recognition that many who have gone before would not be able to go now. This is all true, and the arguements may pull at the heart of man, bringing some desire against the bar being raised. There has been mention made of the “Alma the Younger” type of missionary, who would find his (or her) conversion after recieving a mission call, or while serving a mission. The truth of the matter is, it is not a mission that converts somebody. It is not a mission that should be what makes a young man or young woman want to be good, and an example. There is a possible link to hypocrisy to be found here, although I do not believe it would be present in every case.
    The goal of this life is to return home to our dearest Father in Heaven, and be there with Him, and our Savior and brother, the LORD Jesus Christ. This is to be done through obedience, and the love of God, which should abound in each of our hearts. Thus, considering this great and eternal purpose, those young men and young women who may have made wrong choices to disqualify themselves to serve a mission, have a hope, and a goal, and they have a path. The grace of God is real, and the LORD will forgive and welcome the repentant sinner in all cases. The true key to this, is not church service, although that is a wonderful and great and strengthening and life changing thing, but it is that relationship with God our Father, and His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. It is in the living of the gospel, and recieving of His blessings and grace and love and peace and eternal salvation. That is what is most important.
    The LORD knows each of us, and He knows what He is doing. He alone is in control. It is from Him we must seek our every blessing, and the answers to our humble prayers. In His name, I say these things, for I believe that they are true. Amen.

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