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MISSIONARIES - SECTION 3
Topics concerning Mormon Missionaries - from young to old.
| In a separate thread entitled, “The Infamous England East Mission,” I asked if anyone on the board knew anything about the England East Mission under Presidents Belnap and Smith during the first half of the 1970s. Stay Mutt and ExmoPastafarian believed I was building suspense by not “spilling the beans.” Actually, I was merely interested if others here knew anything. I learned that at least one person did--Hotwaterblue. However, since the issue of stolen cars arose in the other thread, I will tell what I know about “The England East Mission, Stolen Cars, and Tangier North Africa.”
Of course, this story is only the tip of the iceberg, and, no doubt, I will be accused once again of holding back in order to milk my knowledge of the England East Mission for as many posts as is humanly possible!
As I think back on my mission experience, I wonder why it never occurred to me that it was odd the England East Mission had a “mission mechanic.” I now know that missions of the LDS Church don’t generally have a position called “mission mechanic,” but I was more naive back then--a lot more naive.
The dubious title of “Mission Mechanic” was held by a rather shady missionary affectionately known as “Grease Monkey Nelson.” While strict mission decorum and rules require that all missionaries be referred by the appellation, “Elder,” no one in the England East Mission seems to have ever referred to Elder Nelson as other than “Grease Monkey Nelson”--at least not in my recollection. Anyway, Elder Nelson’s sole assignment on the mission home staff was to maintain and repair the fleet of broken-down mission vehicles. In this capacity, Grease Monkey Nelson never seemed to have been assigned a companion.
At this point in my story, there will be those out there who will sense serious inconsistencies in my narrative. Firstly, mission cars are purchased new and traded out when only a couple of years old. Consequently, there would never have been the need for a “Mission Mechanic.” Secondly, and, more importantly, every missionary always has a companion. It’s one of those unalterable rules of the universe like entropy or Newtonian mechanics. But this was the England East Mission under President Dean Belnap, and the ordinary rules applicable to missions of the church simply did not apply–just as Newton’s laws don’t apply in the face of quantum mechanics.
Like many mission presidents, President Belnap viewed himself as General Authority material and was resolute that his tenure as Mission President would secure for himself the brass ring. To that end, Belnap gained a reputation with Church Headquarters for never sending a missionary home early. I believe this explains, in part, Elder Nelson’s calling as Mission Mechanic. As shocking as it may seem, Elder Nelson was one of that small class of missionaries who didn’t seem to enjoy tracking 12 hours a day. Apparently, Elder Nelson’s calling as Mission Mechanic was designed to keep him in the mission field while employing his God given talent for fixing cars.
Of course, a reputation for keeping missionaries in the mission field is not sufficient alone to secure to a mission president a calling as a General Authority. Only baptismal numbers will do that–and ultimately only record baptismal numbers. To that end, President Belnap fostered an environment where “rules” were to be ignored if they hindered the “work” (translation: record baptismal numbers and elevation to that rarified pantheon occupied only by General Authorities). For example, I personally remember going on a split with a sister missionary at President Belnap’s request, and the last time I check, I was of the male persuasion. But I digress.
Because missionary work is more effective when missionaries have the use of cars, Belnap sought to supplement the mission automobile fleet with additional vehicles (undoubtedly without the knowledge of the higher ups in Salt Lake). To this end, he sought the assistance of Grease Monkey Nelson who used his network of dubious connections in the Greater London area to secure cheap broken-down vehicles. Elder Nelson would then apply his exceptional mechanical skills and get these vehicles running–all for the “work.”
As a district leader, I personally recall driving a large cumbersome van that had been retired from the British Royal Mail Service. It is an understatement to say the electrical wiring in this vehicle had something to be desired. On at least two occasions, I was stopped late at night by the police when the running lights to the van inexplicably cut out. On another occasion, I recall pulling up in front of our flat in Royale Tunbridge Wells as the wiring above the front windshield burst into flames! You simply can’t make this stuff up. Life truly is stranger than fiction.
Anyway, some of the vehicles acquired by Grease Monkey Nelson apparently were of questionable provenance which should come as no surprise given Belnap’s general operating style that rules didn’t apply if they interfered with the “work.” Ultimately, the London police dropped by the Mission Home on Exhibition Road in London to investigate the acquisition of “hot” cars by Grease Monkey Nelson. At this point, President Belnap felt inspired to transfer Elder Nelson to the Rock of Gibraltar for the remaining six months of his mission–yes the honest-to-goodness Rock of Gibraltar in the Mediterranean Sea!
Less my story become even more unbelievable, I should explain that the Rock of Gilbraltar, a short distance off the coast of Spain, is a British holding and has been since August 4, 1705 when the British seized the island from Spain during the War of Spanish Succession. Despite the passage of time, the Spanish are still a little steamed about losing the Rock and wouldn’t permit the passage of individuals between the Rock of Gibraltar and mainland Spain. Consequently, the Rock of Gibraltar was assigned to be part of the British Mission, and later, the England East Mission. Accordingly, it was entirely fitting for President Belnap to receive “inspiration” calling Elder Nelson to the Rock of Gibraltar even as the London police were calling on President Belnap. Of course, by the time the London Police could question President Belnap, Elder Nelson was on his way to sunnier climes and Belnap was able to report that the individual sought had left England–which wasn’t entirely a lie now, was it?
President Belnap concluded his tenure as Mission President several months later even as Grease Money Nelson continued to serve on the Rock of Gibraltar. Of course, this doesn’t conclude our story–not by a long shot.
During the summer of 1972, Elder Nelson finished servicing his entire two-year mission sentence and was ready to return home. The mission staff in London mailed Elder Nelson the necessary plane tickets from the Rock of Gibraltar to London from wince (don’t you just love these archaic English words?) he would continue his journey home to Utah but, unfortunately, the British Royal Mail Service was out on strike. Elder Nelson’s ticket home was held in limbo somewhere between London and the Rock.
After waiting several days for the arrival of his plane tickets, Elder Nelson grew impatient and took matters into his own hands. He purchased a car for the equivalent of $20 and rigged it up with an extra gas tank so he wouldn’t have to purchase the expensive petrol available on the European mainland. He and his companion (yes, by this point in his mission, Elder Nelson had been assigned a companion) ferried the car into Tangier, North Africa in order to tank up the car on the inexpensive petrol available there at that time. [Pull out your world map, if you must; it’s not that far.]
The new mission President, Milan Smith, knew nothing of Elder Nelson’s self help measures until several days after Elder Nelson and his companion entered North Africa. Over lunch, one of the Assistance to the President (and none too bright at that) mentioned to President Smith that he had received a strange call two or three day’s previous. The police in Tangier, North Africa had called to inform the mission home that they had arrested a couple of missionaries on the suspicion of drug smuggling. The AP politely informed the Tangier Police that they must be mistaken as the England East Mission had no missionaries in North Africa. President Smith, whose knowledge of geography was a little better developed than this AP, went off like a bottle rocket. “They’ve arrested Elder Nelson and his companion!”
By the time President Smith was able to contact the Tangier police department, the Tangier police had already discovered that the suspicious looking second gas tank was just that–a second gas tank and not a repository for drugs. They released Elder Nelson and his companion after cooling their heels for a night in jail. Our two travelers then commence their journey by car through Spain and France to the English Channel, although it was rumored that they took a detour into Switzerland thus accounting for the full week it took to reach the Channel. At the English Channel, Grease Monkey Nelson sold his car for the equivalent of $1.25 in francs, crossed the Channel by ferry, and returned to London by train.
Thus concludes our saga of the England East Mission, Stolen Cars, and Tangier North Africa. The moral of this story is either: (1) in his infinite wisdom, the Lord uses each person’s God given talents, or (2) crime does pay. You be the judge. I’m a LifeExamined, this is my story, and I’m sticking to it.
P.S. If I hear any more whining from the likes of Stray Mutt or ExmoPastafarian, I might be persuaded to post some more long-winded England East Mission stories. (:>)
| The email which is reproduced below appeared a year ago on the Yahoo Discussion Group, "EnglandEast," a site devoted to organizing a reunion for missionaries who served in the England East Mission during the early 1970s. The author was a missionary in the England East Mission--someone with whom I am well acquainted. I have reproduced a copy of this post below because some of you have asked for more information on the Infamous England East Mission as a result of my recent post on this site entitled, "The England East Mission, Stolen Cars, and Tangier North Africa." Perhaps you will see some of your own mission in this post.
The post is long but worth the read. Enjoy.
[the reproduced email follows]
"The Elephant in the Room
"Please permit me to introduce myself for those who don't know me. As my screen name implies, I am Jim Clark and I was a missionary in the England East Mission from the fall of 1971 to the fall of 1973. Unlike many of you on this site [i.e., Yahoo Discussion Group, "EnglandEast"), my experience with England was not limited to the missionary experience. Upon returning from the mission, I finished a degree at BYU and then returned to England to study law at Oxford University. Since that time, I have returned to England periodically for work and infrequent vacations.
"At the moment, I am now in the enviable position of being retired. I currently fill my time with real estate investing and playing folk music which I do publicly (no, I was never in the Traveling Family Home Evening) [a missionary singing group used in the proselytizing effort].
“It's almost impossible to spend two years in any pursuit without establishing rich friendships and memories. This certainly was the case for me. Nevertheless, as I reflect back on my mission, there is much that I find just plain wrong. I make this observation as a missionary who truly was committed to the cause. In my opinion, the central problem with the England East Mission was Dean Belnap's principal motivation as Mission President – he was bucking to be a General Authority. As I understand it, he almost made it.
“Unfortunately, the chaos he left in his wake as Mission President caught up with him and resulted in his disfellowshipment shortly after his return from the mission. The fact of this disfellowshipment is an undisputable fact. Those of you who wish to glorify the England East Mission under President Belnap must do so with this elephant in the room.
“Without making this into some full-blown essay, let me mention a few problems to which we were all privy:
“• Lying for the Lord: I experienced this the first day upon arriving in England. I was ushered into a training session and taught door approaches in which no mention was made of the fact that we were Mormon missionaries. We were introducing the Family Home Evening Program, or we were even representatives of UNISCO (United Nations), but we were instructed to avoid mentioning up front that we were Mormon missionaries. My initial reaction was to recoil. I thought I had been called as a witness for Christ but I learned I was a door to door salesman. Like others, I obeyed and bought into the system.
“• The end justifies the means: Clearly there was an operating philosophy under Belnap that the end (baptisms) justified the means. Mission rules were to be broken if they interfered with the sole goal of baptismal numbers. I say "numbers" because the quality of the baptisms were largely immaterial. As President Belnap stated to me after expressing concern about the marginal status of many baptisms and the fact that many fell away almost immediately after baptism– "Don't worry about it Elder; baptism is a necessary ordinance and the fact the some fall away is not important." As a law student at Oxford University just a few years after my mission, I witnessed first hand the crushing workload hundreds of inactive members can impose on a struggling branch.
“• A spirit of unrighteous dominion: The practice was even institutionalized with its own name – "the hurt." Elders were systematically berating for not reaching baptismal goals in the most un-Christ-like fashion and in a manner not characteristic of most other missions ("but you made a solemn commitment to the Lord, Elder"). This operational style began with President Belnap himself and the pattern was repeated at all levels of leadership in the mission. Perhaps it is only a slight exaggeration to say that Belnap ran the mission like the devil runs hell.
“• Undue emphasis on the so-called "mysteries": Again, the England East Mission even had its own name for the deep doctrines -- "doggy doctrines." Belnap used his doctrinal seminars as a reward for the missionaries that could produce and for his own self aggrandizement. After a lifetime of studying Mormon history and theology, I am in a better position to understand the mess Belnap created in this regard.
“Some of you will dismiss what I have to say by concluding that I was brainwashed by Milan Smith, my second mission president. I can assure you that my criticism of President Smith is equally vitriolic. I cannot imagine an individual more unqualified to deal with the mess left by Belnap. President Smith had been a Stake President yet he knew virtually nothing about Mormon doctrine. To him the phrase "calling and election made sure" was a poetic turn-of-words used in the scriptures; he had no inkling of the existence of a second endowment. Smith's more fundamental problem, however, was that his heart was not set upon doing missionary work. He was more interested in speculating in the gold market (which was going gang busters at the time) than the work of the mission as far as I could tell.
“My disappointment in both mission presidents is best illustrated by a story. About 1½ years into my mission, Boyd K. Packard visited the England East Mission as part of the parade of General Authorities needed to deal with the problems left in Belnap's wake. My companion at the time was Elder Pisota, a French-German convert with a highly tuned spirituality. Pisota was at the end of his mission and was truly troubled by the question as to whether he should attend BYU or return to Germany to "build up Zion." During a mission conference conducted by President Smith, I walked alone from the Hyde Park Chapel to the mission home (2 blocks away) and knocked on the door of the mission home knowing Boyd K. Packard would be there alone.
“After inviting me in, I explained to President Packard the dilemma with which my companion was struggling and asked if he would meet with Elder Pisota knowing that Elder Pisota would never make this request for himself. Elder Packard responded by saying, "Elder, given what has gone on in this mission, it would be inappropriate of me to interview any missionary in this mission without first consulting with your mission president." Having made this disclaimer, he essentially started to interview me by asking, "Elder Clark, how do you feel about what has transpired in this mission?" I responded with brutal honestly. I said, "I've been out on my mission 1½ years and I have figured out how to do missionary work." "I have learned how to sense when the spirit is in a discussion, and I really don't need the services of a mission president to do my job." I then added that I was frankly disgusted with the conduct of both mission presidents.
“The barrage of rebuke that I expected to hear from Packard was not forthcoming. He merely stated, "If all the missionaries had been like you, we would not have the problems we have in this mission." With that response, I realized that President Packard was as disgusted with
Belnap and Smith as I was.
“I finished my mission as a senior companion in Dover having been demoted from zone leader, a position I held for the majority of my mission.”
| Soon after I hit the mission field, I figured out that we missionaries were basically lab rats for whatever new and inspired "program" someone had cooked up to increase numbers. I don't mean basic stuff like tracting; I mean "miracle" programs that were supposed to bring huge numbers of people into the corporation. One of those was the "Book of Mormon-Key to Conversion" program. I don't know if this was church-wide in the early 80's, or just some local form of idiocy, but here's how it worked--or DIDN'T work:
Somebody took Moroni's promise a little too seriously and a little too literally. We were to get our investigators to read the BOM and pray about it. They'd get a spiritual witness that it was "true". It the BOM was true, this logically meant that Joseph Smith was a prophet. This, in turn, meant that the CHURCH was true. If the church was true, all the little annoyances like polygamy, blacks-priesthood, etc., faded into insignifacance.
This program failed because our investigators wouldn't read the BOM. Hell, most MEMBERS don't read the BOM. We took to using highligters to mark what we thought were the more important scriptures, but they wouldn't read those, either. And if we did get a sincere investigator who asked a sincere question, they would get annoyed at not receiving a concise answer. We were supposed to tell them to read the BOM, and they'd find their answer in it. So instead of a 30-second answer to a 30-second question, they'd be told to read a 500+ page book, which usually didn't have the answer anyway. It made them think we were ducking their question, which made them suspicious.
Anyway, the program failed and was replaced with something else. Moroni's promise may work on BIC members, because they surely aren't going to admit that they read the BOM, prayed about it, and felt nothing. That would meant their TBM parents, church leaders, etc., were wrong, and we can't have that. Such members tell themselves that if they feel nothing, it's their fault, or they need to repent of something, or try harder, or be patient and the big bang will come eventually. Non-members don't labor under the same delusions. Even if they do read the BOM or the highlighted passages, it comes across as bloody and boring.
So the BOM program failed and we were blamed.
| So they have decided to re-institute the dinner program for the Elders. They can come and eat at you home with your family though only between 4 and 5. They must leave at 5 because those are prime missionary hours.
So basically all you can do is drop food off to them because
Most people don't even get off of work until 5, get home a half hour to an hour later, making it 6. I get off at 330, and not home until 430 to 5. So they could come over and eat with my wife at 4 I guess, however, they can't be alone with a woman without a third male(?) So for it to even work with me, I would have take an hour off from work, so the missionaries can actually eat with my family during that time.
Oh and get this. Someone asked, "Well what if we have a nonmember there at 5, can you come then and eat at 5?" No, we have to actually be teaching them, not EATING at the table with them after 5.
But they are also trying to get the missionaries into each members home at 845 in the EVENING! My kids have been in bed for an hour by then. If I am trying to get my kids interested in missionary work in the future (not that I am) but I am not going to get them back out of bed or keep them up on a school night for a special visit at 845. They can do that earlier between the logical hours of 5 and 6.
I must say that the new mission president is even less inspired than the old president who took away the dinner appointments all together!
| I was surprised yesterday when someone pulled up a statement of mine and was offended because I said that missionaries do lie.
Yes, I said it because I think it's a true fact. I also think that it's fair to warn unsuspecting possible converts of what they're up against.
We all heard Gordon lie on national TV. He expects support and appreciation from the saints for his quick-witted twisting of facts. His mormon followers must honor and obey him if they want to attend their kids' weddings in the church's temples.
And mormons are expected to follow the examples of their leaders, particularly their prophet(eer,) the guy they saw telling whoppers on TV.
Hink had to twist the facts because deft spinning to suit the audience is more likely to garner converts and respect for him and his organization than spilling the absolute unvarnished truth.
Mishies must also spin facts to rack up numbers or they might lose status and favors in their mission field hierarchy.
Milk before meat has long been church practice and policy. Missionaries are expected to sell the milk, while members are expected to add the meat after converts are acclimated and committed to church participation and social peer pressure.
Nightingale said that she bought enough new panties for the number of days she would be gone, doing her temple work for the first time. No one had mentioned garments to her. That happened at the temple where she was told never to wear normal panties again.
I call that lying and I suspect Nightingale would too.
It's common practice for mishies to deceive those they teach. Like Gordon, they wouldn't be likely to keep people interested if they told the whole real truth about whatever people ask or about whatever the mishies sense they'd like to know before joining.
The policy precludes anything close to the full disclosure policies practiced in other churches before conversion. Seems to me that Switz studied for many months before she was allowed to convert to the Catholic Church. I met a couple who converted to Judaism. They also attended sessions with a rabbi for a very long time to be certain they knew all about it before joining.
Some might not consider what mishies do as lying. I do. And I think it's a valid point of view. Sounds like what the mishies do rushing baptisms is deception to me, which is the definition of a lie.
To those who are offended because they don't feel like they and their loved ones lied when they followed the milk before meat policy, I'll say this. You have a right to think what you will about it. But I have the same right, along with 1000s of "investigators" being taken in by this systematic practice of deceit/lying.
Those who know that they as mishies and their mishie loved ones went out of their way to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth are most likely a small or close to non-existent minority.
Claiming that mishies do not lie has to be a lie in itself. I don't think I've ever yet met a human who claims to have not lied in their life and mishies have MUCH more reason to lie than average people in their tract homes, tending to their jobs, battling the crab grass, and caring for their families.
Claiming I don't hold that opinion would be a lie.
| Why is it so important to ship these grandparents so far away that they lose the connection to their grandchildren? Especially when the seniors are from Utah, where there are plenty of temples and mormon sites there to man. They try guilting these folks into serving. If that doesn't work, they bribe them with the promise of special "blessings," including things that just aren't gonna happen like turning a gay child straight or bringing an apostate child back to the church. And now it appears that if those two aren't working they are trying to make it into an excuse to spend money on traveling somewhere exotic (or not so exotic) and have a "good personal experience" without feeling guilty about spending their hard-earned money on themselves. How about going on one of the many humanitarian trips that are available to do some real good? Of, heaven forbid, how about just going on a cruise because you worked hard all your life and now you want to do a few fun things during retirement?
My parents went on a senior mission. I must admit this was hard for me because I fought bitterly with my parents growing up and then we turned out friends and I enjoy and appreciate having them around, I think, even more because I see that we wasted soooooo much precious time fighting over stupid things, including religion. I realize it should be *their* decision and that I shouldn't feel entitled to have input, but I almost feel like they were bullied, bribed, and rationalized into it (by church leaders and the organization) when maybe it wasn't the best decision that could have been made.
Shortly after submitting papers, one of my parents found signs suspicious for cancer. When asked to please follow up on it because it could be serious, they dismissed it because "I can't; I'm going on a mission." And I suspect in their minds this statement also included, "Besides, if I go on a mission it won't be cancer because I'll cash in on some of those "special blessings" I was promised for serving." Then while there, the other parent sustained life-threatening injuries in an accident. While waiting for word of any change in their condition and thinking I was probably losing someone I dearly loved and wishing again that they had never gone, I was distraught to say the least. In a well-meaning effort to comfort me, other members of my TBM family offered the reassurance that even if this parent died, there was no better place for that to happen as they died serving the Lord and that would give them automatic entry into heaven. I know they felt that was comforting in their own way, but it made me feel as ifI had just stumbled onto a stage in a play or something where everyone was reciting lines and pretending that this did not hurt like hell. Besides, this wonderful person does not need any special circumstance to be "worthy" of heaven; they have a heart of gold. (Not to mention that the God I believe in doesn't put us into a hamster wheel and count how many times we make it go around before he wants anything to do with us.)
I don't care why they are still here; whether it's blessings because they are on a mission (as is claimed by the TBMs who love them) or whether it's by God's nonmormon grace, or just luck, but amazingly up to this point they're both still plugging along. I don't see how it couldn't have been very rough for them and I know it has been hard for me to watch.
When they were accessible, my parents really were the world's greatest grandparents, in my opinion, and my kids thought the idea of spending time with Grandpa or with Grandma was some kind of special reward or something. My youngest especially would burst into tears out of the blue and moan something about "I guess they're never coming back" for quite a while after they left. Gradually, I think the little one has pretty much given up that Grandma and Grandpa will actually ever come back and be able to spend time. they used to talk all the time about Grandma and Grandpa and now I think they're starting to forget a little bit. I worry that the strong bond that was there has been weakened; I hope it's only temporary and that, if one mission can suffice, they can regain the closeness because they really are wonderful people who I feel have a very good influence on my kids.
I wish the "family church" could just let us enjoy each other guilt-free for the short time that we have left together (parents are getting older and have already been through a lot physically). At the very least, they could tell couples who have already served one mission that they should concentrate on their grandkids after that, but it will never happen. It will really suck if this is only the first of mission after mission until they are too old and sick to go anymore.
| As a Mormon missionary traipsing through the streets of Germany, we were encouraged to share a video which would inspire, enlighten and encourage family wholesomeness and eternal togetherness, that's right, Together Forever or "Fur Immer Vereint" was our propaganda piece of choice.
At the time the Morg was doing an all out media blitz with this bomb, running ads in "Der Stern" (A large Weekly German Magazine) as well as a sundry of other print publications. The add carried a clever tag-line, "Sometimes you need a little "tape" to hold your family together." Blech!
For those of you who have not seen this propaganda gem, it is filled with emotional manipulation and warm fuzzy music to inspire and bring that certain tear to the eye, all in the hope of teaching through emotion that Mormonism was the answer. It also features paid actors who attempt to act genuine as they discuss their "troubles" and the answers they found by following the Mormon plan of salvation. It is contrived, fake and manipulative, but what else would you expect from the Mormon church?
As far as we knew, the media blitz was a dud. (Strange that the Germans seem to be a little more "propaganda" savvy, I wonder why that is? ;p ) On one occasion we decided to show the film to one of our investigators. Following the showing, he turned to us and stated in a matter of fact tone, "That was nothing more than emotional heart rending propaganda backed with bad music!" I was embarrassed, he was right and we had wasted his time with this drivel.
Fast forward to November of 2006. The ExMormon Foundation is now in the process of completing a new documentary which features several exMormons and their experiences with the Mormon church. You can watch a preview of the documentary here: http://www.messermedia.com/ExmoTrail...
What has impressed me with this type of production is that there are no paid actors, sappy and manipulative music and contrived experiences. All of the experiences and stories are real, genuine and require no emotional stand-ins to achieve the desired effect of the honest expression of reality and truth.
I have come a long way from those days in Germany peddling the Mormon gospel. I'm glad to be out on the other side where truth, reality and the genuine expressions of emotion are welcomed not hidden and excused away to the tune of "We can be together forever someday"....
| The changing world of LDS statistics.
Perusing the 2007 Church Almanac, updating my stats model regarding the slowing growth trends of the Church; as expected, outside of Church births which decreased by 5,720 last year, (so someone isn’t giving these poor spirits an LDS tabernacle) the convert baptismal figure is much the same again, at a net 243,108 compared to 241,239 last year (reporting 2005 and 2004 respectively), up only 1,869 possibly resulting in the harsh approach of some GA’s towards new mishys during 2006 as reported in an earlier thread by someone. This will be because in real terms the figures continue to represent a per capita decrease in return. That is, fewer members are joining as a percentage of the existing membership.
However, what did surprise me was when I went to update my figures on missionaries called, to get the correlation, I discovered that the entire listings of proselyting missionaries called has been changed from the figures given in the 2006 to 2007 edition of the Almanac. Considering that the Church really should know how many missionaries were called each year, especially up to seventeen years ago, it is incredulous that whilst earlier years figures remain the same, EVERY figure for the fifteen years from 1990 through 2004 inclusive has been altered retrospectively without reason or explanation. Whilst three of the years show an increase in numbers called, the rest show less than officially previously stated each year. These are the figures from page 655 of 2006 compared to the sama data on page 637 of the 2007 edition.
Missionaries listed as called, according to the LDS Church Almanac has changed from the 2006 to the 2007 edition, for all the years from 1990 though 2004 inclusive:
YEAR - 2006 - 2007 - DIFFERENCE
1990 25,350 26,255 +905
1991 25,751 24,861 -890
1992 30,088 28,716 -1,372
1993 28,784 28,774 -10
1994 28,783 27,912 -871
1995 29,871 29,015 -856
1996 32,699 31,227 -1,472
1997 33,964 33,726 -238
1998 33,825 33,229 -596
1999 35,096 33,915 -1,181
2000 35,390 34,503 -887
2001 36,273 34,684 -1,589
2002 36,042 36,196 +154
2003 29,246 30,467 +1,221
2004 30,250 29,548 -702
TOTAL: 471,412. 463,028. = - 8,384 (-1.8%)
I have no idea why they would previously need to lie about the figures as there is no logical reason. However, retrospectively changing previously published figures without explanation is dishonest and misleading. I am assuming that it was either a previous (or present) typographical error but it is a nuisance because it messes up my programme model and I have to redo fifteen years of stats. You would think they would know exmo’s are sad enough to do this sort of thing and be more careful, it really is inconvenient! How thoughtless.
I just got used to the lying for the Lord in everything from the “First (toad in the box) Vision” and “Nephi always appearing to Joseph until after Joseph died when someone decided Moroni was a better choice” through to Hinckley’s “I don’t know that we teach that” regarding one of the most fundamental of teachings everyone knows about, and now this! It is too much, and numbers I am good at! Now it’s lying for the sake of lying – it’s not even for the Lord! Well, that was fun. I expect it was some error somewhere. I will ask them when I have finished asking about other stuff which is more important.
Still, they are well on track to slip into the negative overall convert membership position in a few years time. I think the internet and web sites like this are becoming more and more a source of REAL information for so many who are now leaving the Church. Let’s be sure we do as admin and other posters said recently and try (in addition to the healthy debates on deeper issues) to keep good basic but devastating truths regularly to the fore even if repeated. After all, we were all new here once and for me it was only four months ago that I cried when I found this site and realised I was not alone.
| This is one of my true MTC experiences, and looking back, was when I learned what "keeping and feeling the spirit" was really all about.
I was in the MTC during the start of the Gulf War in early 1991. Before the war, the MTC had an open-door policy for families and relatives hand-delivering gifts to missionaries in the MTC. But then the church decided to use the start of the war as a pretext to set a ban on accepting any hand-delivered care packages from families to MTC missionaries.
I was an AP in an MTC Branch at the time the new rule took affect.
(As a sidenote, I learned later that someone started a business just down the street from the MTC, that would take family care packages and for a fee, "deliver" them to the MTC. For security reasons, said the MTC rule, the MTC would only accept packages from couriers but not from family members.)
There had been a long tradition for years that every Easter Sunday, a certain member family that lived directly behind the MTC, would make tons of cinnamon rolls and hand them over the fence to missionaries. My MTC Branch roomed in one of the buildings at the back of the MTC, closest to this member family's yard, which shared a fence with the MTC.
My Branch President pulled me in the Sunday before Easter Sunday and told me that under no circumstances should anyone accept cinnamon rolls from the family. He told me that the tradition violated the new rule against hand-delivered packages and he would hold me PERSONALLY accountable if anyone in the Branch broke the rule and got a cinnamon roll. He called on me to get up in Sacrament Meeting and talk on obedience and warn everyone not to take a cinnamon roll "lest we lose the spirit."
The Branch President also insisted that I remind each missionary individually about the rule and admonish them not to go near the MTC fence on Easter Sunday. At the time, I was a TBM and took the whole thing to heart, obeying the Branch President's every word in order to "keep the spirit."
Easter Sunday came and went and I thought we had made it through the day without incident. Looking out my window, the family stood at the fence with plates of cinnamon roles and nobody dared go near them.
Three days later, the First Counselor in the Branch Presidency pulled me out of my language class for a "Personal Priesthood Interview." He escorted me to the Presidency's office, where the other counselor and the President were waiting. They were all furious. Apparently one of the missionaries in our Branch was caught eating a cinnamon roll in his room the afternoon of Easter Sunday. He got caught because someone else had snitched on him in the mandatory weekly letter confessional to the Branch President.
The hard thing was, the presidency was furious with me, not the missionary who had eaten the cinnamon roll. They ripped me up one side and down the other - for not being a true leader, disappointing my family and losing their trust. I felt like a piece of sh*t, seriously. They quoted scriptures on obedience, priesthood authority and losing the spirit.
Worst of all, I felt like I had committed a terrible sin. I had repented for some things before my mission, but the guilt I felt for this incident was almost unbearable - worse than the guilt I had felt for other more serious "transgressions" prior to my mission. This guilt over the cinnamon rolls was the most horrible, incredible guilt I have ever felt in my life! I really feared that I had lost "the spirit" for good.
At the time, my only defense was that I didn't understand how accepting a cinnamon roll from a member family violated Christ's spirit of love. But the First Counselor cut me off, saying in a raised voice, "Elder, I don't think you can even feel the spirit anymore!"
They immediately released me as AP and gave the calling to my companion - a fate I felt was close to death. As part of my repentance, they had me write a one-page paper on why I had failed as a mission leader, which was given to my Mission President when I entered the mission field. In my written confessional-of-sorts I wrote that I had disobeyed one of the Lord's Commandments and therefore, had lost his spirit and "amen to my authority as a leader."
That was the low point of my mission, for once I left the MTC I felt like I had "the spirit" again. I went on to prove my obedience and priesthood worthiness in the mission field, baptizing in all of my areas and serving in several leadership positions.
It wasn't until after my mission, going through my papers that I stumbled across that confessional paper I had written in the MTC. I was so angry reading it again, realizing for the first time that they had manipulated my faith and desire to be righteous. All that guilty torment self-loathing over a cinnamon roll that I didn't even eat...
And then it hit me, the whole Mormon thing was a guilt trip! They could make me feel guilty for anything they wanted. Those pangs of guilt weren't coming from God, they were coming from my religious conditioning. I had let church leaders program my conscience!
If my faith in the Mormon gospel meant the leaders could make me feel guilty about cinnamon rolls, then it meant they could make me feel guilty for anything. They used my faith to pull at my guilt strings, and they were doing the same thing with things like tithing too! The whole evil control process of the church unraveled for me.
That day I decided I would never let anyone play the guilt trip game on me again. I would decide for myself, based on true ethics (not external obedience or "keeping the spirit"), what of my own behaviors were wrong or right. I would never again turn that guilt control over to someone else - especially an institution as manipulative as the church.
It would take several more years before I would eventually leave the church, but that decision helped me through all the other guilt headgames my family tried to play on me for "falling away." I hadn't fallen away, I had freed myself from their guilt control.
I see petty rules come from the prophet against earrings, tattoos and beards and wonder how many people out there are suffering the "cinnamon roll guilt-trip" as my wife now humorously calls it.
| I have so many mission memories. How could one forget the best two years of their life? Yes indeed, I would not want to forget a single minute of the joy I had as a missionary.
I recall being terribly depressed, and honestly wishing a taxi would hit me, and give me the "million dollar injury" that would send me home---but let me avoid all negative reactions. How many others wished for such an injury?
I recall not getting up in my first testimony meeting----I was homesick, depressed, and thousands of miles from home. I did not feel like putting on a show. I quickly realized I had made a huge mistake. I heard about it for months after. I was a black sheep, and I did "not have a testimony." Neither, of course, did the others. They just pretended they did.
I recall having the Mission President berate me for having typhoid, and being in the hospital. I "did not need to be there." I needed to "get back to work."
Later, he softened a little, but I will never forget the way he made me feel. I was dangerously ill.
I also recall having him make a surprise appearance on Sunday night, and having him belittle and insult my companion and me. We were struggling, and I was "either too cheerful or too despondent." True----I kept trying to be upbeat, but could not maintain it. I really did need to hear from the idiot Mission President. He loved to pull surprises, and go for the jugular. If he showed up, it was never out of kindness.
I recall interviewing a mentally retarded guy who wanted to be baptized. I showed him the slip of paper about "morality." We asked him if he had any sins, and he put his head down, and, in terror, admitted he masturbated.
My God, what on earth were we doing to the poor guy? He masturbated. The whole "Celestial Kingdom" was on hold until he quit. It made me ill then, and it makes me even more ill 35 years later. What nonsense. What on earth were we doing to him? He could not have been more harmless, and we were--- by policy---prying into his personal life, and tormenting him about something of no significance at all. Shame on all of us.
I remember having Spencer Kimball visit, and having the Mission President surprise my companion and me by ordering us to bear our testimonies to him. We did. But I always resented the Pearl Harbor attitude my Mission President adopted. He loved to spring surprises on people----in front of others----and put people on the spot. Kimball, by the way, was pretty decent. I came away liking him a hell of a lot more than the Mission President.
I could never forget the "zone meetings." where we were ordered to come fasting. We would show up, sit for hours of talks, and sales pitches. Then, we would have to endure the endless testimony meeting, where lies were told, and impressions were made. It was a stage performance, and those with an interest in the upward climb had to perform.
After, we would return home, weak, tired, and sick. At least they let us gobble a quick meal before we went tracting again that night.
I will never be able to remember all the new programs they shoved down our throats. One new thing after another. None of them did any good. It was all the same really. We bothered people who did not need us, benefit from us, or wish to see us. And we ran from house to house, vainly searching for converts.
| I've said before that like Tal Bachman, there was a time in my mission where I would have been a suicide bomber if ordered by my mission president.
I was that much of a true believer - at least for a time - during my mission.
And isn't this total faith what every Mormon longs for, especially in the mission field? Zero doubt was my goal and for a time I think I achieved it. I was so far away from home, so isolated from "worldly distractions" (music, TV, newspapers, non-mormon ideas, girls) that I was nearly pure TBM.
In some ways getting into that "Mormon singularity" was the most peaceful time of my life. Everything was so clear. There was no doubt. I KNEW it was all true and I knew exactly what my purpose in life was.
But my "Mormon high" also included thoughts of leaving this life to return to God.
One member family's experience reflected my own missionary mentality. The wife had always been active in the church but her husband had just converted. He gave up smoking and alcohol to join and stayed straight for a year in preparation to be sealed to his wife in the temple.
The wife bore her testimony that she was praying the whole time on the way back from the temple that her, her husband and her children would get in a car crash and die. In her mind, if they all died at that time, they would be together forever in the Celestial Kingdom.
I think some missionaries are so depressed and so out of tune with their own emotions and situation that they have these fantasies about dying and going straight to the CK. After all, missionaries that die in the mission field "in the line of duty" are heroes, aren't they?
| It's a hoot. I finally got a copy of it this past Sunday. It's been around for several years, but I never wanted or needed a copy until now, as my ward has incorporated it into this year's curriculum. It's supposed to be the latest miracle-programme for missionary work. You know--that programme where all Mormons get all non-Mormons to BECOME Mormons so the non-Mormons can be as deliriously happy as all Mormons are. Like WE used to be, before we sinned and felt too guilty to go back to church, so we all sit around feelilng miserable and sharing our misery on this board.
Anyway, I read the first lesson last night. It started with the Introduction from the First Presidency, which starts with the greeting "Dear Fellow Missionary". See, they're in this thing with us rank-and-file members, although, to be honest, I haven't seen any of the FP tracting in my area lately. Then the lesson teaches these important principles:
We members must introduce non-members to The Gospel so they can be happy like us.
Non-members are miserable, although they may not KNOW they are miserable.
They are miserable because they feel guilty, although they may not KNOW they feel guilty.
They feel guilty because they sin, although they may not KNOW they are sinning.
Therefore, it is up to the members of the church to enlighten these non-Mormoms so they will KNOW that they are miserable, that they feel guilty, and that they are sinners, and that the only way they can get rid of these newly-discovered problems, that they previously didn't know they had, is by--how else?--becoming Mormons.
So you have to convince perfectly happy people that they are miserable because trivial things they do on a daily basis, like drinking tea or coffee, are sins. Then they can join LDS-ism, be forgiven of those sins, and be happy like Mormons are famous for being.
The member has to create a need--the need for relief from feelings of guilt caused by ignorantly sinning--that can be satisfied only by joining the church. A need that the average non-member has no idea he has until his loving LDS neighbor enlightens him.
Somehow I don't think this manual is going to do anything to improve the miserable conversion and retention rates currently enjoyed by the church, but then, I'm not inspired, so what do I know.
So excuse me while I go find some ignorant tea-drinking non-member and convince him he's miserable and should feel guilty because he's a sinner.
Damn, that ice tea looks good.
| That's what we were told, when I was working in the Wiener Neustadt district of the Austria Vienna Mission. That area had a lot of "refugee hotels"--former resort areas where the lodging had been converted to cramped quarters housing all the refugees from the Eastern Block (this was before the Berlin wall came down) who were taking advantage of Austria's liberal open-door policy toward such asylum-seekers.
Austrians are comfortable, educated, with a thick net of social services and are not, generally, the type who seek out God, or religion, or fun afternoons discussing all of this with earnest-faced American kids.
Refugees, on the other hand, are *ripe* for the picking--we had Hungarians, Romanians, Polish, Czech, you name it, all living within our district--and the summer I worked in that area we concentrated solely on those people, and our baptism numbers were the best in the mission--by a lot--three and four times the number of baptisms in other districts.
Our Branch President was a wealthy, well-connected man who very much enjoyed the special attention his branch was getting, due to all the missionary activity. Things I know he did, to "keep them coming back:" every new investigator we brought to church, got a new Swatch--kind of a tacky gesture, I thought, but one which the investigators responded to. I didn't realize until after several months of this, that behind closed doors, (i.e. "I just want to interview your new investigators for a few minutes, Elders, can you wait outside?") he was also giving these people money--1,000 Schillings each (just over $100, at the time) for each time they came to church. For people living six people to a bedroom and surviving on the meager stipend they received each month, this was a comparative gold mine for them. Regardless of what we taught them, obviously, they were just gonna "bow their heads and say yes," and come back next week for their 1,000 tax-free Schillings.
Not to mention that these people were all actively seeking asylum somewhere further "west" than Austria--it didn't matter, the US, Canada, Australia--they all wanted out. Nobody ever told us to string our investigators along, pretending we could do something about their Visa situation, but they didn't tell us not to, either. And, every time we visited the refugee areas, we were followed like the Pied Piper, new investigators being led by the current ones, who no doubt told them all about the gifts, cash, and vague promise of help getting work and residence visas in America.
The Austrian members in that branch expressed concern that all these "numbers" on the monthly reports weren't really helping the branch--the new members we were bringing them didn't speak the language (in most cases) and couldn't really contribute to the branch in a meaningful way; and it was obvious to everyone that these members weren't in it for the "gospel," and within a few weeks after baptism, after the cash payments stopped and it became clear the church was not about to help them emigrate, in any way, they disappeared.
We had *huge* "success" in Wiener Neustadt the summer I worked there--and without consulting any records I'd still feel comfortable betting $1,000 that not one of our "converts" from that summer even thinks about the church anymore.
I'll never forget the evening we had taken our newest "family" to meet the branch president and I could see, through the door which had been left ajar, the branch president handing out those crisp, 1,000 oS bills, in effect doubling these desperate people's weekly income. I went from, "Is that allowed?" to "Is that even ethical?" to "OMG, what a *scam* this is!" in about 30 seconds; that memory stands as one of the most obvious early WTF moments, signposts along my road out of the church.
| I was a "culture" missionary. To help my mind, and keep me from complete insanity, I became a student of culture on my mission. It kept me from sinking into the total horrors of the experience-----meetings, knocking on doors, being a salesman, and being abused by my boss, the LDS church. Time spent with culture saved my sanity. Time spent being a Mormon religious fanatic harmed it.
I developed a fascination with Buddhism, and started to go to the Buddhist temples whenever I could. I talked with the monks and nuns, took photographs, and learned as much as I could.
This led to the most spiritual night of my life.
It was Buddha's birthday, a huge event for Buddhists. My companion and I went to the local temple, and asked if we could watch. It was a sight to see, in truth, with hundreds of candles, paper lanterns, and the smell of incense. There was an otherworldly quality about it that was totally enchanting.
The Buddhists not only allowed us in, they stopped the ceremony, and asked if we wanted to take pictures. We did, and we got into every part of the temple. I was, in many ways, deeply touched by all of it. It was a lovely thing to see. The kindness of the Buddhists was remarkable. And our interest was most sincere. Hell, I thought it was splendid.
They finally asked us if we were finished, and we left. A lovely little girl asked me to take her picture. I still see her beautiful face, and the smile she gave us.
After 36 years, I still recall it happily. It was not only the best event of my mission, it was one of the best memories of my life.
So, I did have a spiritual experience on my mission. I can look back on it with feelings of joy, happiness, and wonder. My temple experience-- my Buddhist temple experience---was divine.
| I was called to France as a zealot convert in 1977.
I remember pulling the letter from the mail box at the little one room post office in Kattskill Bay, NY.
I remember reading the words FRANCE-PARIS MISSION.
Most important, I remember being AWE STRUCK that a Prophet of God would schedule time to personally sign a mission calling to a pimple-faced teenage convert.
I remember his perfect Palmer Method penmanship.
I remember the blue ball point ink pressed into the bond paper.
I remember the shock almost a year later when I figured out the signature was a fake ...er... facsimile.
We were sitting around the apartment in Paris one evening (there were 6 to an apartment back then) when the latest greenie checked in, Elder Phillips. For some long forgotten reason, we decided to compare our calling letters. I remember noticing that the signature on his letter (signed almost a year after mine) looked almost identical.
I remember overlaying his calling letter over mine and holding them up to the window:
“Fetch! Flip! Gee whiz! How can the Prophet sign his name exactly the same way every time!?!”
The rationalizations began around the living room. “Look at that meticulous penmanship. He’s just extra careful when he sign callings.”
I remember challenging the Elders.
“OK, guys. Each of you take out 2 sheets of (translucent) airmail paper. Fold, score and tear each sheet into four pieces. Now, on each of the 8 sheets of paper, do your best to sign your name EXACTLY the same way eight times. I don’t think ANY of you can even come close. I don’t even think you can get 2 out of eight to be nearly identical.”
I was right.
It’s not possible.
We compared our letters with other elders around the zone. All the signatures were identical.
Because my mother worked in a law office, I knew that she regularly signed for the attorney and then put her initials next to the signature. That’s the proper way to indicate that you were signing on behalf of your superior / supervisor.
Why had the missionary office gone to great lengths to FOOL the missionary force? Why not use a rubber stamp? Why the contrasting blue ink to the black type on the letter to make the signature APPEAR to be affixed by hand?
I then did some arithmetic, and figured out the prophet would have to spend 2-3 hours every day just signing missionary callings. It just didn’t make sense. That didn’t bother me at all. After all, if the bishop called you to serve as EQP, that inspiration came from God, right? Couldn’t the missionary committee be inspired too? What’s wrong with a letter from Brother Blowhard from the missionary committee?
Why the deception?
I remember this TOTALLY screwing with our DL’s head for the rest of the time I was in Paris before I was transferred. He refused to leave the apartment, except to go shopping or go play. It was HIS “magic moment” when the shelf came crashing down.
I wish it hadn’t taken 23 more years for MY magic moment to come!
Oh well! At least it came!
| Identity formation has four stages, according to James Marcia, an widely accepted psychologist.
Identity Diffusion - the status in which the adolescent does no have a sense of having choices; he or she has not yet made (nor is attempting/willing to make) a commitment
EXAMPLE: an eight year old who bares their testimony. Child does not understand any difference between her views and her parents views. Does not explore any other options or hear any other opinions.)
Identity Foreclosure - the status in which the adolescent seems willing to commit to some relevant roles, values, or goals for the future. Adolescents in this stage have not experienced an identity crisis. They tend to conform to the expectations of others regarding their future (e. g. allowing a parent to determine a career direction) As such, these individuals have not explored a range of options.
EXAMPLE: Many of Mormon children agree to attend BYU without exploring any other options. These children tend to ride on the coat strings of their parents opinions. They are sure that they are making the right choice regardless of whether or not there have been other options presented to them.
Identity Moratorium - the status in which the adolescent is currently in a crisis, exploring various commitments and is ready to make choices, but has not made a commitment to these choices yet.
EXAMPLE: Most missionaries go through this stage. Most missionaries have a "quarter life crisis" (a new crisis currently being studied by a large range of psychologists) or a period of time in which the choices they have either committed to verbally or have actually began to act upon begin to feel strange and weird. Missionaries during this time seek help through only one venue; the church.
Identity Achievement - the status in which adolescent has gone through a identity crisis and has made a commitment to a sense of identity (i.e. certain role or value) that he or she has chosen
EXAMPLE: A large number of ex-Mormons have found that on their mission they discovered that they didn't really believe in the church.
Now for my opinion. Missionaries never truly achieve Identity Achievement. The reason is that they have never explored other options. In order to truly achieve identity formation, exploration is NECESSARY. (That isn't my opinion, that's James Marica's research) The problem with most RMs is that they don't ever seek help from outside the church when they go through Identity Moratorium. The only accepted venue of information for them during that time is from church leaders. They are not to read anything that isn't approved, they can't listen to "worldly" music, they can't see movies, they can't read the newspaper, they can't do a lot. Instead all they do is receive the same information they have received all of their lives.
So most missionaries end up (in terms of religion only) with a permanent Identity Foreclosure because of the lack of exploration of other options.
| I served as a Spanish-speaking missionary in Montreal, Canada from January 2000 through December 2001. We were charged with finding, teaching, and baptizing Hispanic immigrants to augment the numbers of the two Spanish wards on the Island.
In an area of Canada were the majority of people speak French, we were poorly suited to finding these immigrants through traditional means such as ‘tracting’ (knocking doors). Since we were focused on learning Spanish, our French was abysmal. As a Canadian, I had taken some rudimentary French classes in high-school, but I spoke it little better than anyone else, and could barely manage answering the phone. You can imagine what it was like trying to teach people first discussions through their doorways.
As such, we developed ulterior methods for targeting Hispanics.
We used to go to areas we knew had a higher concentration of immigrants, usually apartment buildings or town-houses, and look for signs of people who spoke Spanish. One of the best indicators was to look for satellite dishes. Dish Network is the only real carrier for Spanish language channels in Eastern Canada, as opposed to Bell or Star Choice. If we could find Dish Network satellite dishes in these neighborhoods, chances where high they spoke Spanish. We would often walk up and down streets and back alleys looking for these. Once spotted, we would count the number of floors up and windows over they were, estimate their apartment number and then ‘accidentally’ tract into them.
We tried hard not to make our targeting too obvious, so after they answered the door, we would pretend like we were actually tracting in French or English, and then quickly ask if they spoke Spanish once it was apparent they were Hispanic, and then make the transition.
Other methods we used were more intrusive. Since many of the apartment buildings had locked front doors, we would sometimes randomly buzz numbers until someone let us in without asking us who we were. Other times, we would wait for someone to open it and then jar the door when they weren’t watching. Some of these locks were easy to pick, others simply didn’t work. I remember some of the kids in my district had fashioned simple lock picks out of coat-hangers and carried them around on their key chains for this purpose.
Once we gained access into an apartment building, however, things were easy. We would often put our ears to each door and listen to see if we could hear people or their television sets speaking Spanish, and then knock on those specific doors. Other times there were other indicators like the number and type of shoes at the door step, or things they had in their windows or on their doors. We would even take note of how many and what kind of things they stored on their balcony.
Since many of the people we were targeting were recent immigrants to Canada, they often did not live in the same place for long. We also seemed to have the best luck with those that were newest to the country. Hence, we would mark off the areas on maps in our apartment where we found high concentrations of Spanish-speakers so we could revisit these locations later.
If we did accidentally tract into a French-speaker instead, I knew enough French to ask if they were interested (they never were) and then to ask if they knew any one in the neighborhood who spoke Spanish. Usually, they would give me a puzzled look, say “non” and shut the door.
The methods described above weren’t even our most effective way of finding these people. We had other ways of “first time contacting” Hispanics.
We would spend hours aimlessly riding the public transportation system back and forth racially profiling people on the bus or metro. In the more metropolitan areas of Montreal, I figured the percentage of Spanish-speakers was somewhere around 3-5 %, meaning, in certain areas, one out of twenty people spoke Spanish. Our chances were boosted, since recent immigrants are more likely to be riding the public system, and these were the ones we were looking for.
After a few months of this, and a little training, the missionaries would eventually get pretty good at spotting Hispanics, but the system was not perfect. There are a wide range of ethnic and mixed racial groups emanating from Latin America, blending with the wide range of cultural groups and immigrants from world-wide in urban Montreal.
Once we profiled some one as a potential Spanish-speaker, we had al sorts of innocent-sounding ways to initiate contact. We would ask for directions, for the name of the next stop, or any number of disingenuous excuses. After which, we would ask if they spoke Spanish, make the transition, and then initiate small-talk. An easy way to do this was to ask them which country they were from, as people always seem willing to talk about their country of origin. Inevitably, they would ask how I had learned Spanish, which was an easy way to launch into “GQ” (golden question) mode and begin the standard missionary approach about the Church. If they didn’t ask, we would simply tell them. Our ultimate goal was contact information, like a phone number. Typically, we only had 5-10 minutes to acquire this, but amazingly it seemed to work maybe once in every 10 attempts. If it didn’t we would give them a pamphlet or ‘pass-along-card’ with our number on it. Needless to say, no one ever phoned us, so it was imperative to get their number first.
They would quickly regret giving us their contact information though. Once their number or address was on our contact list, they could expect a phone call or pass-by from us at least once a week. Until they gave us a definitive “no”, we would continue our attempts to schedule discussions.
We spent so much time contacting people on the buses and metros, that if you were a conspicuous Spanish-speaker that lived in Montreal and rode the bus regularly for more than a year or two, chances were, we’d tried to approach you at some point.
In fact, we exhausted this technique to the point that some Hispanic people would actively avoid us, either by ducking off the bus as soon as we got on, by hiding, or by pretending to fall a sleep.
But, it doesn’t stop there.
We also instituted free English classes as part of our weekly service. We had basic English classes for Spanish-speakers which the Spanish-speaking missionaries taught, and advanced classes for everyone, which we taught along with the French-speaking missionaries.
It was a perfect plan B. If our standard religious approach failed, we would tell them that we also offered free English classes, and then try to get them to come. Once they were in a different setting were we had more time, we could try the religious approach second time.
If things got really slow, as they often did, our last resort, and least effective method was to search the phone book. We would literally go through the millions names looking for any that were obviously of Spanish origin, group them into specific geographic areas, and then ‘accidentally’ tract into them. As I said, this technique usually didn’t work well, as the book was outdated within a year’s time, and it typically didn’t give us the newest immigrants to Montreal, but it did sometimes lead us to areas of the city we did not investigate closely before.
Mid-way through 2001, the mission president had a ‘revelation’ designed to boost our dismal baptism numbers. Every companionship was to spend at least 20 hours a week ‘first time contacting’. It was impossible for us, as we rarely spent more than 5 hours a week. As I said before, we couldn’t tract since we didn’t speak the language, and spending any more time contacting people on the metro would have been a waste of time.
I voiced my concerns, but no one wanted to hear it, implying that I didn’t have enough faith. At this point, I was a district lead, and pressure was coming down hard from the zone leader and president to get our contacting numbers up. So we all started sending in bogus numbers each week, except for one companionship that insisted on being honest. They sent in 3 hours with their stats once, and I soon got at call from the zone leader telling me to reprimand them for their failure. I refused, so he went over my head, and reprimanded them himself. From then on, they sent in bogus numbers like the rest of us.
We all thought it was stupid. “Why should I cancel appointments so I can go knock on doors” one missionary asked me. I just told him to send in the stats they wanted. It didn’t seem like they cared about what was happening in reality, as long as the numbers looked good anyways.
My next companion was stricter on the rules and insisted we spend more time tracting. We had nothing better to do, and ended up spending up to 7 hours a week knocking doors, which was unheard of for the Spanish-speaking missionaries.
Our efforts were counter-productive however. Since we didn’t have anything more than rudimentary skills in French, we ended up just pissing a lot of people off.
Looking back, I wonder how I could have been so intrusive and insensitive to the privacy of others. Deep down, I knew what I was doing wasn’t right, but I continually rationalized it by telling myself this was the job God had called me to do. I was in a constant state of cognitive dissonance.
I hated what I was doing, and I hated myself for doing it……but I had been conditioned to equate such feelings as inadequacy or sin on my part, instead of viewing it as a problem with the Church, or worse yet, as a problem with the revelation that church-leaders were receiving. If only I could be a better missionary and follow the rules better, I thought, then maybe I would start to love doing this, like everyone else apparently loved their mission experience.
I constantly worried about what I would say after returning home and being asked if I loved my mission experience. I knew I would not be able to honestly say I did.
From my new perspective however, the methods I was using were clearly inappropriate, like the tactics of a cheap sales-man. It is no wonder the Church’s growth is slowing; people can see right through this stuff, even if it isn’t apparent at first.
| Last night I could not go to sleep. I found myself fully engrossed in the Mormon missionary adventures of John or “runtu” as he is known on certain post-Mormon message boards. His experiences can be read here: http://runtu.wordpress.com/
By two in the morning, I had finished reading his most recent account, and it left me feeling empty inside as I recounted my own missionary experiences. His experiences were by far more dramatic than my own; having served as a missionary in a relatively safe and modern nation as Germany, yet there was a common thread which I feel is experienced by all Mormon missionaries regardless of their destination.
With the hyper-sensitive and image conscience Mormon religion, being open and honest about the missionary experience is not something that is sought after nor celebrated in the Mormon community. If the experiences do not validate and reinforce the Mormon Church, then it is best left unsaid and placed in the vault of inner denial. This leaves a false impression upon the general Mormon membership and future missionary alike, and leaves the former missionary to suffer in silence and to willfully deny the reality about their true experiences.
My time spent as a Mormon missionary was a long, laborious, boring and depressing experience. I tried to seek out mental diversions and ways to enjoy my European experience, but the constant guilt, shame and sheer drudgery of the experience left me anxious and filled with further doubt and uneasiness. The plus was that I was able to experience a marvelous culture and history, learn a fabulous language and in some small ways experience the beauty and charm of European life. Those were the positives for me. Friends made, experiences which left me with happy moments among the drudgery and depression are what I look back upon with fondness, which leave me with some small attempt at salvaging any meaning for being there in the first place.
Like most things in the Mormon experience, true honesty is not something one finds easily. In an experience which requires a certain image be presented, only those which proffer faith, encouragement and hope in Mormonism are sought after, even if that means reality is skewed and ignored in the process. My mission taught me to be dishonest, or shall I say it honed an already present capacity within me. We were deceptive to those we taught by not fully disclosing everything we should have regarding our beliefs and doctrines, part of which was deliberate on our part, and the other in the deception by our church leaders. But most important, we learned to lie to ourselves and betray our minds in the process.
I returned from Germany as an emotional wreck. I felt that my testimony of the Mormon Church had been severely weakened instead of strengthened as I had been promised countless times by Mormon leadership. I felt severely disconnected with reality, and in some ways I felt that parts of me, my inner self, had died or become severely atrophied in the process. It was a long road back to some semblance of “me” again, but the self deception continued, as it must have if I was to have survived as a Mormon.
The mission experience is filled with so many contradictory experiences, which when left to be examined in an open and unbiased way show the clear, man-made religion that is Mormonism. However, it is as if the missionary has taken a silent oath to never reveal the true realities of the mission experience for fear of not fitting in, being labeled as unrighteous and unacceptable to the Mormon god or his earthly kingdom, and worst of all, a failure.
The pressure of the Mormon mission is intense; to this day I have never experienced anything like it. It is an impossible situation in which the Mormon missionary finds himself. We were often told the following: “The Lord has prepared these people to hear this message. It is your duty which you have sworn to fulfill through sacred temple covenants, that you will find those whom the Lord has prepared and bring them into the church. If you do not find these whom the Lord has prepared, then you will be held responsible for their salvation in the world to come.” In most cases we tried to do our best, to find those “sheep” that the Mormon god had prepared, and in the end we found guilt and self loathing instead.
I often thought, “If God has prepared these people, then why am I going to be held responsible if they don’t get the message, this is the “Lord’s” work after all? What if we miss them when we come to their home? What if they are sick that day and don’t want to invite us in? Why would he not just send them to our door to be taught instead of forcing us to go door to door bothering all of the other folks who were not prepared? It would seem that perhaps God is not all that capable of bringing the message of hope and happiness to his children, without employing the tactics of guilt, shame and fear on naïve nineteen year old kids.” But these thoughts were quickly dismissed and ignored and chalked up to the influence of Satan on my mind.
In my post Mormon world, I now recognize the missionary experience for what it was, a cult within a cult experience. Mormon missionaries will smile to your face, telling you that they are happy and fulfilled in the “work of the Lord” but there are fine cracks beneath their façade, cracks born of the realities of the Mormon missionary experience.
Thanks John for helping me further process my own missionary experiences.
| I recognized the "teaching skills" and "commitment pattern" as simply sales techniques even then. I have done some reading in persuasion techniques and have summarized some of my reading.
Professor Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University wrote Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion to prevent people from being unknowingly persuaded against their best interests. While the principles of influence Cialdini writes about are important in forming healthy relationships and social networks, unscrupulous salespeople, politicians, and religious leaders can (and do) use them as psychological weapons to manipulate us into making decisions that are against our best interests, sometimes with serious consequences.
In this context, Cialdini describes what he calls the “Weapons of Influence.” I have summarized them and added some brief commentary of my own about their application to Mormonism. Although each influencer is listed separately, they are often used in combination to increase their effectiveness.
Reciprocation works by creating a sense of indebtedness. When someone does us a favor, even an unsolicited favor, we often feel an obligation to do something in return. The favor does not have to be tangible. Repayment is often out proportion to the value of the original favor. Skilled salespeople find some way of giving uninvited favors, tangible or intangible in order to create a sense of indebtedness. This creates a sense of indebtedness to the salesperson that makes it more likely you will buy the product. The principle of reciprocation, paired with liking, underlies Mormon fellowshipping attempts or “love-bombing.”
Commitment and Consistency
Once we take a stand about something or make a commitment, we experience internal and external pressure to maintain those commitments. On the plus side, this principle allows us to create stable relationships and social groups. Our employers like being able to count on us to do our jobs. We like counting on them to get a paycheck. People don’t like people who are unreliable and we don’t like to be thought of as unreliable.
When I was a missionary, and, later, an instructor at the Missionary Training Center, we used a “commitment pattern” to elicit commitments from investigators. It was found that people who committed early in the teaching process were more likely to follow through to baptism. As missionaries we could appeal to their commitment and sense of self-consistency to keep them moving along.
As members, Mormons are progressively committed to giving increasing amounts of time, energy, and money to the church program. Commitments are a central feature of the LDS temple endowment, culminating in The Law of Consecration, which commits the member to give or potentially give *everything* to the LDS Church.
Questioning or withdrawing from the commitments can be very painful for doubting members whose identify is built around the commitments they have made and who find themselves thinking, feeling, and acting in ways inconsistent with their former image of themselves as faithful Mormons.
Social proof means making decisions based on what other people think is correct. Most of the time it works well by saving us the time and effort it would take to work out every decision. It is fortunate, for example, that other drivers just go along with the traffic laws. The principle of social proof helps us to adapt to new situations and environments by encouraging us to observe what others are doing and emulate them.
At times social proof works against our interests. Sometimes the group is wrong. Sometimes social proof prevents us from seeing flaws or better ways of doing things. The Mormon Church relies heavily on social proof. When Gordon B. Hinckley says that the great majority of Mormon women in the church are satisfied with being left out of ecclesiastical decisions, implied those who aren’t happy are mistaken, he is using social proof. Social proof also underlies the publication of the church membership statistics.
In extreme cases, social proof in combination with commitment and consistency contributes to events like Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate.
We like to please people we know and like. We tend to like people who appear to have similar opinions, personality traits, and lifestyles as ourselves. We also like people who like us. The Mormon Church is very conscious about its image and has spent millions of dollars crafting that image and selling it to the public. The explicit dress and behavior codes for missionaries and BYU students and the less explicit, but nonetheless powerful dress and behavior codes for the Mormon membership, are in large part aimed at making Mormons appear likable. This concern about being liked led Gordon B. Hinckley to declare in a 1996 interview with Mike Wallace, “We are not weird.”
We are raised, for the most part, to respect authority and have grown up dealing with authorities, including parents, teachers, employers, law enforcement, etc. The appearance of authority can be enhanced by using symbols, citing other authorities, dressing like other authorities, and making sure others know about their experience and education. The goal of appealing to authority is to persuade your listener that you are in a position to know better than they and that they should follow your advice.
The quintessential statement of Mormon authority comes from a ward teaching lesson from May 1945 and was repeated a month later in an official church publication: “"When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done." Ward Teachers Message, Deseret News, Church Section p. 5, May 26, 1945, Improvement Era, June 1945.
Mormon leaders may find this statement and others like it useful for keeping the recalcitrant in line. However, Mormon apologists who recognize that such statements don’t play well outside of Provo deny the Mormon leadership means what it says. This denial is made in spite of similar statements made in official church settings and in Mormon scripture:
“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.” Doctrine and Covenants, Declaration 1
Fortunately, the religious authority of the Mormon leadership is based on our volunteering our belief. Once we withdraw our belief, their influence on us is significantly eroded.
Scarcity works on the principle that when something is difficult to get, it is perceived to be of more value. The item can be physically scarce or priced so high that it perceived to be of better quality than the same item at a lower cost.
In Mormonism, the scarcity principle applies to obtaining a temple recommend and “going to the temple.” Members who receive the temple ordinances are told they have received special blessings that are not available to every member, much less non-Mormons. The promotion of temple ordinances as sacred and special may leave members who find them silly and bizarre in a state of shock, confusion, and self-doubt.
| I've been thinking today about some of the tactics we used as missionaries and members of the LDS chuch in order to gain converts. One particular method comes to mind as a missionary in Japan: Eikaiwa. (Or English Conversation Class, but we never called it that even when talking in English.)
I've spent hours and hours of my life in front of train stations and other places of large traffic in Japan handing out thousands of chirashi's (pamphlets) telling people about our free English class every Saturday morning at the church. Many a Japanese person wandered into an LDS building for the first time because of it. Of those people, virtually everyone would find out what we were REALLY doing there, and many would wind up hearing our lessons at least once.
I'd like to talk about a couple of things concerning my experience in Japan teachings English.
There were two pamphlets we carried around as missionaries. The first one was a "What's the purpose of life?" type pamphlet. The second was for the free English class. Often we'd fold the two together so it looked like it was all rolled into one. I find it ironic now in retrospect that sometimes I'd get into arguments with my companions about whether or not to pass out BOTH the religious pamphlet AND the English one. In fact, sometimes I'd find MYSELF conflicted between the two. On the one hand, we knew more people would come to the church if we left the church related pamphlet out. (It scares the Japanese people as they're not very fond of Christian preaching over there.) On the other hand, shouldn't THAT pamphlet be the MOST important one you could hand a potential investigator?
It's the old bait and switch... it's like that god damn timeshare presentation in a "free" vacation package. I'm not so sure I find this practice ethical any longer. These Japanese people would come to learn English, and at the end of every lesson, they'd be practically forced into hearing a "spiritual message." We'd also heckle the newcomers and ask them if we could meet with them sometime to talk about why we are in Japan.
More than 50% of our first timers never came back. I recall losing a lot of students in our third area when halfway through the lesson we surprised them all by putting on a video about Jesus Christ because it was Easter. 20 Japanese people had to endure a 45 minute video because all would have been too ashamed, and cared about US as people too much to walk out.
Only the ones that had endured the missionaries long enough for us to stop bothering them became our regulars. I feel bad for ever trying to get them to believe what I believed.
The Japanese people are so nice. I remember in two different areas announcing my soon to be goodbye. One English student bought me a $200 Yukata (It's like a Kimono but for men), as a thank you for teachings her for so long. Another man in a different area bought me a $50 dollar tie. I still have it to this day.
Neither of them ever had any interest in the gospel or Mormonism. I wish I could have, at the time, seen their kind actions the way they saw mine. They let me believe what I wanted to, and wanted to be friends regardless. They saw the good we were doing in teachings them English for free, even if every now and then they had to endure a short message about Jesus. At least the morals themselves were good. Like I said, I feel terrible for every coercive, deceptive teaching method I EVER utilized in order to get more people to listen to what we had to say.
Whether it was you AS a member in the past, or a story you have to tell, anyone else ever have interesting, introspective accounts of the good old bait and switch in Mormonism?
| Well, in fact they were JWs, but they came to my door again yesterday afternoon. I'm pretty sure they are the same couple that came a few months back, and again a few months before that.
And, in fact, I saw them from my window as they were parked outside the entrance to the house, a couple of cars obscured by the tall hedge, one person leaning into another car as they conferred, I imagined, about which houses to call on. Keep in mind that my house is deep in the country, surrounded by fields, about five miles from town. We have at most a hamlet of a three or four houses within a half mile of each other. On the outer reaches of that distance there are three more houses. So it's slim pickings for anyone going door to door.
Seeing the cars from my window, catching a glimpse of the older man in one, I recognised them because, as I've said, they've been here before. I got to thinking of what I would say to them through the half-opened door. I know JWs are required by their cult to knock on doors and spread the word to so many households on a weekly or monthly basis. It's as much part of the cult training as not observing holidays or birthdays is. So I instinctively want to say, "Look, I know you're trying to do good but . . . ."
I considered, while waiting for the doorbell to ring, saying just that, then stopped the mental conversation. JWs, like Morgbots, may tell themselves they are doing good, helping others, or whatever way they cast that, but they are not.
Not only are they being intrusive pests, they are in fact bothering people, interrupting their days, for their own good, not the good of others. They do this because some cult leader told them they have to. They do this as part of working their way to heaven, however the JWs conceive of that destination.
Just as the Morgbots do. They go out on their missions proud of themselves for sacrificing in order to bring enlightenment to those in the dark, but in fact they do because they've been pressured to from childhood. They are working for "The Church", but the payoff is in their own eternal glory or whatever. Those they badger are simply players on their stage, the props that give the sacrifice an air of realism.
Even traditional Christian missionaries do some good for people. Catholic missionaries go out and set up schools or bring medical care. They may have as ulterior motives the idea of teaching Christianity, but at least they do something meant to directly better the lives of those they work with.
Not cults like JW and TSCC, though. They are simply using people, pretending to bring "The Gospel" or the Watchtower as they move robotically, inhaling the stench of self congratulation, all the while what they are really doing is putting in their time because they believe it's the way to glory.
So why should I politely say, "Look, I know you're trying to do good but. . . ."?
In the end, while making no attempt to hide my presence, I did what I did when the JWs came to the house in Califoria. I let the doorbell ring as I stood not 10 metres away in the kitchen. It rang a couple of times; through the frosted glass on each side of the door, I could see the skirt and handbag of a woman and the amorphous dark form of her companion. After a pause, the flap on the letter box clanked, and a brochure slid to the floor.
I'm pretty sure they saw me -- I hope they saw me -- through the window when they drove back in the direction of town some minutes later. Not much joy for missionaries here in Garryroan. I'm sure, however, the illusion of having been good worker bees in the service of the cult was satisfaction enough. One more step up the ladder to heaven.
| Friends were in from KCMO. Took them to the Square. First time for them, two hundred something for us.
I'm just noticing stuff with each visit; something to do to stay awake.
The Adam and Eve statue is right by a long wall of successive paintings of prophets. Adam is clean shaven, proof that Gillette made razors in the beginning. But there not 8 feet away is Noah, fully bearded. So is facial hair good or bad?
The girl guides were from Seattle and the Philippines. The US girl seemed like she would be a fun person in real life, but it was like her personality was muted for the task at hand.
Saw the Joseph Smith movie for the --th time. Revisionist all the way. Missourians did not bathe or care for teeth in the 1800's apparently. Joseph's sister leans over his shoulder and puts her finger on Matthew 7 in his Bible, then misquotes the verse while reading it aloud.
Walked through the new conference center. The guide was a young guy. He led us through an area where the workers were putting up an art display, which was cordoned off with velvet ropes. The old lady tour guides just about tore him up for his trespass.
Is it just me, or do older Mormon men all have a shifty, squinty look to their eyes? They seem creepy, like they're up to something.
You can't walk freely out onto the observation deck on top of the church office building anymore. You must be escorted by at least 2 very old lady tour guides. And I'm thinking, if I were up to no good, it would take 5 seconds to dispatch them and do my no good thing.
I see it more every time. Conformity. Thinking for oneself is forbidden.
Videos of Monson speaking are at least 20 years old.
They painted the pine pews in the Tabernacle and the assembly hall to look like oak. With all their money, why haven't they replaced them with the real stuff?
I'm sad for all the workers there.
That's my testimony. Amen.
| As a missionary, I came to realize I hated what I was doing. Deep down inside, I think I realized it was a huge waste of time. During the moments when I was coming out of sleep, I would feel that I was about to get up, and do something that was an exercise in futility. It did not matte what we did. In the long run, it made no difference, and I knew it.
To deal with this, I became a student of the culture, and read history and literature when I should have been studying. It amazed me to find the ways I could sneak reading time into my mission. I also found ways of visiting places, and expanding my experiences beyond the awful grind of being a door to door salesman.
It dawned on me that many Mormons find ways to make the experience less painful. Many come up with elaborate coping mechanisms to make Mormonism more palatable. If you take it like it is, its hard medicine to swallow.
This is why Bruce McConkie would sputter with anger at the thought of "gospel hobbies." I think he recognized that people found diversions that took them away from the direct obedience and belief people like him found so terribly important. After all, some members would stop listening to him, and start listening to themselves.
Mormons adapt in many ways. Some take to using geneology as a hobby, and find pleasure in learning about their ancestors.
Others get off on church history, or what passes for church history, and try to find answers in the past. This, of course, often leads to real trouble, because the truth of Mormon history is not what people were taught.
I remember Mormons who quoted McKay's statement about meditation, and tried to bring that into their practice of Mormonism. That would lead to studying Hinduism and Buddhism, and adding some interest to the daily grind of being a robot. They found there is value, greater value, in other religions. The meditation led to some serious learning.
George Pace got into trouble, because he injected Christianity into Mormonism, and tried to bring a personal relationship with Jesus into the Mormon experience. It blew up in his face.
What Mormons do between the meetings offers a pretty good clue as to how they cope. They want to be normal, and have normal lives, and the crushing weight of the church makes that very nearly impossible.
I recall the RVs, and the boats, and the motor homes I saw in Mormon driveways. I often felt sorry for the owners, because they really did have limited use of their expensive diversions. Mormons always had to be back Saturday night. Their weekends were short, and their meetings and obligations were long. But they tried very hard to make their lives more enjoyable, even it they went to considerable expense to do it.
In the Mormon experience, the member has two lives. One is spent doing the church things, and the other is spent finding ways to cope, hold on, maintain sanity, and find a more normal form of happiness.
| "I will be a perfect example of exact obedience." - Scribbled in blue ink on the last page of my 'Little White Bible' during my days at the MTC in 1998.
So, I've recently been contemplating my experience as a Mormon and decided to go through a few of my Mormon-ish things.
I found my 'Little White Bible' known formally as the Missionary Handbook.
I flipped through it a moment. Then, an old friendly piece of handwriting poked out on the last page.
It was my own handwriting. In blue ink.
I had scribbled the phrase 'I will be a perfect example of exact obedience.' on the last page at the request of an LDS apostle who came to discourse the new recruits at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.
In his discourse, he asked us to pull out our Missionary Handbooks (that we were always to carry with us, rain, snow, or shine) and write the phrase in the handbook.
He waited while we obeyed.
And we did.
Every last missionary pulled out their Missionary Handbooks. And we scribbled the phrase into our 'Little White Bibles.'
Does anyone else have this phrase scribbled in their Little White Bibles?
I read that phrase now. It's been almost 11 years.
'I will be a perfect example of exact obedience.'
Maybe something for the military. I could see that. During basic training recruits are drilled that they should obey all orders from their superiors.
But, in a religious sense... I can't help but have an aftertaste of CULT in the back of my throat.
I'm going to go brush my teeth now.
Pay Lay What the Hell?
| My first posting here on this website. I read over the accounts of what was posted regarding the everyday dealing of the missionaries in the (now closed) Tokyo South Mission. Of what I read, I must agree that 98% is accurate. I arrived in late 1980, a convert to the church in 1978...so I was green as they come in my own experiences in the Church, as well as being a missionary. It was only a few days after I arrived that I realized that we were not in Kansas anymore, and the Great Oz was more than just a small man behind a curtain.
I hit the streets doing "streeting" in January. It was quite common to be on the streets from 9 am to 9:30 pm, only with breaks if you were lucky enough to get someone to go back with you to listen to a jiko shokai (small personal introduction) and a couple of discussions or 3. By the middle of February, I was personally called into Pres. Groberg's office and was given a fine talking to that, if summed up, went something like this: "Of all the new missionaries in your group, you are doing the least amount of contacts and discussions. If I don't see a definite improvement in your stats within 2 weeks, maybe you shouldn't be here."
I couldn't believe my ears, because I had just left as a hero from my ward...the convert who was going to convert others...but in Japan, in the eyes of Pres. Groberg, I was just not producing...and he did check up with me a month later, like clock work. It was March 1981. I was asked to come to his office, where, once again, he told me that he was not going to play any more games with me, and that I had had my chance. If I didn't have x baptisms by the end of the month I would be sent home. And that is the gospel truth.
In the 3rd week of March, my ZL showed up at our apartment. He came to talk with me, and to "pray with me" so that I would be able to stay in Japan and finish (God, I had just started) my mission. We knelt there together on the tatami mats, and he prayed and I prayed....and I committed to get things done. My companion was worried for me, and he knew of the Stress I was under. I couldn't understand this whole concept that President Groberg had....
Well, as luck would have it, I escaped the wrath of the infamous cold and steely-eyed Groberg in March by pulling off a baptism, which was one of those quicky rent-a-font ceremonies...a font that was basically a wooden rectangle with a blue tarp used as a liner to hold COLD COLD water on the balconey of our apartment.
I won't go into greater detail but will tell you that it is all true...the stories of the baseball baptisms. Jokes of throwing in candy in the font and the kids jumping in after it...and that this would count as a baptism if you said the prayer.....
Luckily, President Groberg and his delightfully naive wife departed Japan half way through my mission and Pres. Inoue was called as President. If it were not for that man, I would have either killed myself right there in Japan, or would have been sent home by one of the most cold-hearted individuals that I have ever met.
Before my mission ended, I found myself as the Mission Recorder, and was responsible for all of the baptism records, and the like. I personally dealt with the transition from Mission-based "churches" where missionaries held meetings in their apartments and called it sacrament meeting,to the formally organized local wards. Hundreds and hundreds of member records were never found, and the baptisms always out paced the real growth. It was humiliating and embarassing to know that so many great young men and women, elders and sisters, were treated so poorly, and misused.
I had personal access to records left by the distinguised Pres. Groberg, and his taunts of other missionaries. I will not discuss them out of respect for privacy....but I will say that no matter what, he bullied, forced, coerced, threatened and at times, even blackmailed missionaries to perform "miracles." And the kikuchi/groberg love affair was a real, palpable thing.
I stayed in the Church for many years, finishing BYU, marrying in the temple and raising a child. I am divorced now, and have left the church. I miss so many things about it. And honestly, the first cracks in my fledgling testimony happened during my mission. What a sad thing to happen.
One last comment....After Pres. Groberg left, the massive clean up that Pres. Inoue had was almost unbearable. Within that first month, 5 or 6 missionaries were sent home and excommunicated for various reasons, mostly sexual with local female church members. And who was among them? The ZL that knelt with me in prayer, so that I would be blessed with a baptism, and get the chance to stay in Japan.
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