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MISSIONARIES - SECTION 4
Topics concerning Mormon Missionaries - from young to old.
| It was Jan./84, and after the initial orientation at the mission home, I was sent in a taxi to a shantytown on the north side of Lima, Peru. Although the skies were clear when I arrived, much to my astonishment, there was black 'snow' as the taxi pulled into my first area. (The locals piled up their garbage in the street and periodically someone would throw kerosene on the large piles and set them on fire. The 'snow' was millions of bits of burned garbage floating down.).
During my first interview with the Mission Pres. (before I got shipped out to my first area), he asked me what my parents did for a living. I told him that my father was an electrical engineer and my mother was a nurse.
As a 'greenie', I worked hard, but because of the filthy conditions and poor-quality food in the shantytown, I got diarrhea within a couple of days, and became weakened. On my second Sunday, I developed a raging fever (105 deg. F), almost passed out, and could barely move.
My companion (a Peruvian) called the mission home, and the AP's told him to bring me in so that the health missionaries (two sisters - one American, the other Peruvian) could look at me. After I arrived, they dumped me in the bottom bunk in the house that was rented for them (a couple of doors away from the mission home/office).
The MP was away in the Peruvian jungle at a zone conference; elders were sent to the airport to wait for him. Finally, the health missionaries arrived, and the American, a 28-year old who had worked as a nurse in the U.S., took my temp. and asked me how I felt. I could barely move or respond. After she looked at the thermometer, she told the AP's to get me in the mission vehicle (a Toyota LandCruiser) and take me to a local clinic (a mini-hospital) pronto.
Two missionaries carried me in. I didn't know it at the time, but I was mere hours away from death. The emergency doctor spoke little English, so the sister nurse had to communicate with him about my condition. He ordered a spinal tap. By that time, the MP had arrived.
Unbeknownst to me at the time (I was not told, and was too naive and trusting of the mission office staff to ask the doctor directly), the lab test on my spinal fluid revealed that I had spinal menangitis, which typically kills in 24-48 hours.
The MP lied to me that night, telling me that I had a far less serious disease. Years later, I figured out why he'd withheld critical health info. from me: He knew that my mother was a nurse and was afraid that if she found out that I had spinal menangitis and conferred with a doctor in Canada, he'd tell her to have me sent home to properly recuperate, a process that typically took 6-12 months.
The MP unilaterally decided that I would stay in Peru and finish my mission. After one week after I entered the clinic, I was sent back to the shantytown, where I became sick with diarrhea and shigella (a bacteria), typhoid fever (later) and parasites (worms, flukes, etc.). I lost one-fifth of my body weight (165 lb down to 130 lb) and returned home after completing my 'time' in terrible shape, and very stressed out by the experience.
In my third area (a shantytown on the edge of the Peruvian desert), my comp. and I were attacked, and I was nearly murdered (by a knife-wielding gang member). Of course, the MP had sent me there too.
During my final interview with the mission president, on the day before I was to fly out, he told me matter-of-factly that, in truth, I'd had spinal menangitis at the beginning of my mission. I was too 'brainwashed' by Mormonism and numbed from what I'd endured (I was suffering from PTSD) to tell him that he had no right to lie to me and be the cause of so much suffering (and almost losing my life).
Quite understandably, I felt a lot of anger about the Mormon patriarchal abuse that I'd experienced after I 'woke up' (in my latter 20's) to how dysfunctional, deceitful, and abusive the LDS Church really was.
| The mishies visited last night. They get $110/mo. for food, and the average baptismal rate is four 'converts' per missionary (over two years). If 50% go 'inactive' within the first couple of years, and the third drops out of the church, say, within five years, that leaves one ‘faithful’ convert per missionary. No wonder the church’s ‘growth’ in North America has flat-lined!
Here's what happened: I was visiting my Mormon mother and stepfather last night when the doorbell sounded. I opened the door and beheld two, male missionaries standing in the cold (with no gloves or scarves). I invited them in, and after they took off their coats and shoes, I sent them upstairs to visit with my mother and stepfather. They ended up staying for a couple of hours (tracting in the winter cold is no fun!).
At one point, I asked the mishies how much money they receive each month for food and personal care items (e.g., toothpaste, soap, shampoo, laundry detergent). They told me $120. Take off $10 per month for such items and they’re left with approx. $110 to cover about 90 meals per month (if they receive no meal invitations from members). The very wealthy LDS Church is spending $2 billion on its Salt Lake City commercial real estate venture, and gives its 'soldiers in the army of God'/missionaries just $1.22 per meal!
My mother irritated me during the Elders' visit with her stinginess. I suggested to her that if the Elders hadn’t eaten, they might like some dinner (I figured it'd be a welcome change for them). She said that she’d get them ‘dinner’, and proceeded to make them a peanut butter sandwich, and poured them each a glass of water! When she left the kitchen, I looked in the cupboards, found some beef stew and rice, made that up, and also prepared a box of macaroni in case they were hungry and wanted/needed more food.
I then poured them each a glass of ginger ale and took it to them in the livingroom (neither my mother or stepfather had offered the Elders anything to drink). I also set out a plate of chocolate chip cookies for them for after dinner. When their hot food was ready, I came into the livingroom and said, “Gentlemen - dinner is served.” They laughed.
While cooking, I made up my mind that if my mother whined to me later about ‘all’ the food that I’d prepared for the Elders, I’d give her a $20 bill and say, “Now you don’t have any reason to complain, do you!”
My mother had gone out of her way at the start of the visit to mention that I had been a missionary in Peru, so they asked me about my experience there. I was frank and told them that there were pros and cons.
One pro was a really nice, 'humble' family in one of the wards in Lima who invited my companion and I over for cebiche, the Peruvian national dish. After knocking on their door, we were invited into the front room (the house was made of adobe brick walls and the room had a dirt floor). In the front room there was a table with two place settings: one for me, the other for my companion. The father invited us to take our seats while his wife and children served us. The food and drink were delicious!
The family did not have enough money to buy food to feed us, themselves, and their four children (the father and mother made beautiful alpaca rugs, which he took to embassies, consulates, the mission office, and other places, trying to sell them). The meal of cebiche was a significant sacrifice and great act of kindness on the family's part.
As I prepared the food for the missionaries, I reflected on that family, and the fact that some people can have money and possessions that would hundreds of millions of people would not acquire in even 10 lifetimes and still they're stuck in scarcity thinking and lack a truly generous spirit. And then there are people who have little who are extraordinarily generous.
| Missionary parents are once again being given a hard time about HOW they may communicate with their missionary son/daughter in the field. Six years ago the brethren imposed an email ban with restrictions.
"It was announced January 12 by President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve, that missionaries may communicate with their families by e-mail under certain guidelines:
Now the brethren have changed their policy on the Pouch System. This is used by most parents to send letters to foreign countries with an unreliable postal system. The pouch system allows the parent to mail a letter to Salt Lake City. The Church then puts all mail destined for a particular mission into a pouch mail bag at Church cost.
"Under the direction of Area Presidencies, mission presidents will establish guidelines to include the following: Missionaries may use e-mail only on preparation day. Missionaries may use computers in public facilities such as libraries or appropriate commercial outlets. Companions should always be together while using a computer. They should not impose on Church members who may have computers. Any cost for using e-mail is to be paid by the missionary."
In recent years, letters to missionaries occasionally included cash and other sensitive material such as medications, and often printed pictures. But now under the new policy:
"Instructions issued in September call on families and friends of missionaries to simplify their correspondence by mailing a single 8 1/2-inch x 11-inch sheet of 20-pound paper, or equivalent to paper used in copiers. Envelopes may not be used.
The church claims "The Church must comply with these regulations or face fines or possible cessation of the service."
The sheet is to be folded into three parts, as is commonly done to insert into a business envelope. The top edge of the sheet should be fastened with tape on the top edge only, no closer than one inch to either side.
Single sheet letters and post cards are the only correspondence the pouch mail service will accept."
IMHO I think it's another cost saving measure to divert more funds to other more worthy priorities, like building a mall. It also imposes on the privacy between parent and missionary. If I were a parent, I'd be slamming my fist on the table and demanding an immediate return of my child.
| A few months ago the mission president came out with a new, inspired-of-course, programme: the missionaries could eat with members only if a non-member was present. If the missionaries had a discussion appointment that night, they were to bring their "investigator(s)" with them. If the missionaries didn't have an investigator to bring, and the members didn't have a non-member present to legalize the proceedings, the missionaries were to give the members a discussion after the meal.
This immediately ended the dinner appointments in the ward. The members didn't want to take the chance that the missionaries would bring some weirdo, or several weirdos, into their homes. Also, the members didn't like the idea that, in addition to the weirdness factor, they wouldn't know how much food to prepare. They might theoretically sign up to feed the elders, and end up with half-a-dozen "guests". They also didn't like the idea of dinner potentially turning into an all-evening affair with them having to sit through a discussion, with or without the "investigator(s)".
So they simply stopped feeding the missionaries. Totally. Now they have a box at church for people to drop food into. My wife feels sorry for them and wants to bake them a ham (she won't leave it in the box, of course). I told her fine, no problem. But I'm not having some local psycho or psychos in my home. Period. I have kids. And no amount of guilt-tripping, pleading, etc., will change that fact. It's MY house. Like the old song says: I bought this house, that makes me the boss.
The interesting aspect of this situation is that the mission president, I'm sure, hasn't missed a meal, and I'm sure he isn't going to admit that he made a blatant mistake. His theory seems to have been that this programme would more-or-less force the members to have investigators in their homes--which, of course, is supposed to be the sure ticket to conversion. And I'm equally sure the members will be blamed for the failure of this inspired programme. After all, the MP can't be wrong, so there's no other explanation. And the missionaries are the ones who suffer.
The mission's baptism statistics are in the toilet. We were berated at stake conference because of the drop in the numbers. Of course, this wasn't attributed to the new programme.
So there you have it. With this type of "inspiration" the church doesn't need any external enemies. Its own "leaders" will bring it down. Or at least slow its growth.
So excuse me--I think I'll go buy the local elders a ham now. And take it to their apartment.
| The GA's have to take their frustrations caused by the poor product quality of the TSCC. The members and full-time mishies are basically their only targets.
Some mission presidents, such as mine in Mexico in the early 80's, have tweeked the message and presentation to achieve baptismal numbers that the GA's seemed happy with.
In Mexico, our mission president had us use the apostacy that happened with the original christian church after JC and the original 12 died off. We used biblical scriptures to build our case with investigators and talked briefly about JC's fictional visit to their ancestors in the Americas. Many investigators were baptized within minutes of hearing the message and challenged with following JC's baptismal example.
We baptized over 1000 people a month for over a year and sometimes over 1500 people. This was done with about 75-80 missionaries in the mission. I recall several zone and mission conferences where Richard G. Scott attended and was very happy with our performance. While the numbers were impressive, the growth that had staying power was non-existent. The converts would attend for a few weeks and then disappear.
When a new mission president arrived, he was apalled at the practices in place and immediately stopped the "baseball baptims". Although our baptismal numbers were respectable, we never had totals over 500 baptisms per month again and we never saw another GA or area president again in the last year that I was there.
The pressure to be something extraordinary in the TSCC is palpable. You see it in the youth programs and the way people raise thier children. You see it in the missionary program. You see it in most male members and thier career ambitions. You see it in mothers "who know". The only ones who don't seem to produce results are the GAs. The GAs just take credit for everyone else's hard work.
| The Missionaries Are The Lowest Level, So They Are Saddled With The Blame For The Failure Of A GA's "Stewardship." |
Thursday, May 28, 2009, at 09:04 AM
Original Author(s): Substrate
Topic: MISSIONARIES - SECTION 4 -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| The missionaries are the lowest level, so they are saddled with the blame for the failure of a GA's "stewardship." Say that an Area President has to report low numbers to Salt Lake. He's not going to point to himself and say, "Yeah, I'm really struggling." So he's going to browbeat the mission president, and when the mission president says it's not his fault, who's left? Yep, the lowly missionaries. It will always be their fault.
Here's an excerpt of my mission memoir that describes an encounter with a GA:
"One of the leaders of the church, Elder F. Burton Howard, was coming to speak to us. I was excited, as I had not seen a high church leader since leaving the MTC. His office in São Paulo had been calling my office every day for a few weeks, asking if there were any possibility of a general strike in the country. Because there was essentially only one labor union in Bolivia, the Central Obrera Boliviana (COB), when the union declared a strike, the whole country shut down. Every day I assured Elder Howard’s secretary that there were no signs of a strike. A few days before Elder Howard’s arrival, I heard from one of my contacts at the airline that there could possibly be a short-term strike, so when Brazil called, I had to tell them it was a slight possibility. Up to that point, Elder Howard had planned to tour all of Bolivia and hold meetings with the missionaries in every large town. With that one phone call, Elder Howard’s office canceled all meetings except for a meeting with church members in Cochabamba. Iworked assiduously to cancel airline tickets and hotel reservations.
"The day after the church meeting we had a missionary conference with Elder Howard. All the missionaries in and around Cochabamba were there, perhaps eighty of us. I was so excited to hear his words of wisdom, but what we got was a nearly hour-long harangue during which this tall, lanky American with a comb-over and a scarred left eye yelled at us in Spanish for our lack of commitment to missionary work. We were, he said, lazy and disobedient to the rules and to the commandments. At one point, he leaned out over the podium, glaring, and said, in English, “I don’t make the rules. That’s just the way it is.” He also told us we shouldn’t be discouraged or depressed (I was a little of both) because we were where the Lord wanted us to be.
"My companion and I went home that night feeling devastated. We had been working so hard. We both had been sick and had some days forced ourselves to get out of bed and do the Lord’s work. But it was clear that what we had given wasn’t enough. The Lord expected more from us. In our bedroom we sat, nearly in tears, talking about what we had heard. It didn’t take too long for us to decide that Elder Howard was right: we weren’t working hard enough, and we needed to be more committed. By the time I wrote in my journal that night, I had decided that this conference had been 'Awesome!'”
| Angel Abrea came to our mission when I was serving in Mexico and without exception he chewed out every zone. In our zone, two elders arrived late. They left their area at a completely reasonable hour, but the bus they were on broke down and they were stranded for two hours. Abrea interrupted the mission president and asked them why they were late. The gringo senior companion did his best to explain, but his nervousness and poor command of Spanish made it go on forever. He just kept emphasizing, "¡Dos horas!" It would have been funny had it not been so abusive. They had left early enough that a two hour delay only made them about 10 minutes late for the meeting, so clearly their due diligence had been done. Abrea mercilessly chewed them out in front of all of us for more than five minutes. Finally, the mission president interrupted him and said, "Elder Abrea, these are good missionaries." His voiced dripped with sarcasm when he coldly replied to our MP, "I know president. I want them to be better missionaries." I always admired my MP for standing up to him. It's probably why he has never risen in the ranks. Abrea went on to give what might have been a good talk, but we were all put off by what we'd just seen. It was awful.
To contrast, later on Elder Ted Brewerton came and he was the exact opposite. He was kind, empathetic and friendly. There had been a fairly rabid anti-Catholic pamphlet that had been passed around among some of the missionaries. In it, it was claimed that Brewerton had baptized a former monk and that the monk had let him in on all the evil Catholic secrets and how they studied the Book of Mormon in order to figure out how to thwart it. One of the missionaries in our group was dumb enough to ask him a question about it during the break. Brewerton called us all back together and without identifying or humiliating the missionary, pointed out that he had been asked about the pamphlet. He went on to explain to us that the only true statement he saw in the pamphlet was that he had in fact baptized a former monk. The rest, he explained, was garbage and that we should not believe the anti-Catholic propaganda contained therein. He was kind and classy. I can only imagine what Abrea would have done had something similarhappened.
| My hypothesis assumes that most LDS General Authorities dislike missionaries. I have come to this conclusion based on my personal experiences and those of my returned missionary friends.
I had very little experience dealing with General Authorities during my mission to the Argentina Córdoba Mission during 1985-87. My two experiences demonstrate a contempt for missionaries by the church's leaders.
While I was in Argentina the temple in Buenos Aires was completed and it became customary for returning missionaries to visit the temple situated near the international airport. At the temple, Angel Abrea, a General Authority from Argentina, was acting as the temple's president. Months earlier Abrea had visited the mission home in Córdoba and had reprimanded Pres. Fernandez for the lack of baptisms. The visit greatly distressed Fernandez, the mission president. At the time I was a traveling assistant to Fernandez and had briefly met Abrea during the visit.
As my group of missionaries arrived in Buenos Aires, I was glad to see my twin brother who was finishing his mission in Bahia Blanca. After joining our group we headed to the temple. Abrea was at the entry desk checking recommends. He quickly scanned each recommend inviting the missionaries to the temple. When he reached mine, he asked me who had signed my recommend. My recommend was signed by Fernandez just days earlier. In front of the other missionaries, including my twin brother, Abrea announced the recommend a forgery and told me I would have to wait in the lobby while the group attended the temple session without me. At first I thought he was joking, but the humor was lost when the group of eighteen missionaries disappeared into the temple without me. I asked Abrea to call Pres. Fernandez to verify the signature. He refused. Five minutes later he changed his mind and told me to hurry and dress for the temple session.
When I arrived in Colorado Springs, my brother and I arranged an appointment later in the evening to meet with the stake president to be released as full-time missionaries. When we arrived with my father, we were early and waited outside the stake president's office. As we waited, the Denver Mission president (at the time Colorado Springs was part of the Denver Mission) and another man, a general authority, approached us as they exited a meeting from the high council room. My brother and I arose and greeted the two church leaders. The Denver mission president shook our hands and greeted us, the general authority completely ignored us, turning his head away from us. As he passed, he turned to the Denver mission president and said: "I hope all of your missionaries don't look as bad as those two." As a naïve missionary, I felt bad for the mission president. We weren't his missionaries and we indeed looked horrible. I was dressed in a dingy white shirt, worn dress pants and shoes falling apart from walking on dirt roads. My necktie wasn't silk and I was severely underweight. I had left my suits in Argentina to help local young men wanting to serve a mission. I was tired and sick. Months of bus travel, illness and poor eating had taken a toll on me. I stopped the general authority and "helped" the Denver mission president by explaining that my brother and I had just returned home from Argentina and the clothes we were wearing were our best. I didn't want the General Authority to criticize the mission president for our appearance. However, he didn't say anything and just kept walking.
Earlier in my mission, while in Jujuy, Argentina, I suffered from appendicitis and had an emergency appendectomy there. I had managed to call the mission home. Days later, I traveled to Cordoba with the president to recover. I wondered why my parents had never called about my health. A couple of days later, my mother called and was worried about me. During the conversation I learned that she had never been informed about my surgery. I learned that while she was at church that Sunday, the stake president casually asked her how I was recovering. She had no idea what he was talking about. Apparently the missionary department had called the stake president, informed him that they would be notifying my parents, but never did.
(Note to trolls, I did not leave the LDS church because of these experiences. If you would like to know the reason I left, I would be happy to e-mail you the issues which caused me to disbelieve the extraordinary claims of Joseph Smith and veracity of the church he began.)
In speaking to friends, I have noticed that much anticipated visits during their missions by LDS church General Authorities were disappointments. Instead of encouraging the young and often tired missionaries, the General Authorities typically lambasted the missionaries for lack of baptisms blaming the low numbers on missionary disobedience and lack of zeal.
Past LDS prophet and president, Gordon Hinckley has quipped, as he did in his famous 60 Minutes interview about missionaries: "You all look alike, white shirts, some a little wrinkled; ties. I look at you, I look at your faces and think of your age and I'm inclined to say; 'Well, you're not much to look at, but you're all the Lord has.'"
Hinckley, like other Mormon General Authorities, never praises nor exhibits any gratitude for the church's young and mostly zealous volunteers.
Over the years I have wondered why otherwise good leaders would exhibit such poor behavior and anger at young people who are sacrificing two years of their lives at their own expense. Any other organization would covet and envy the Mormon church for the level of commitment shown by its young missionaries.
The theory I have reached is that the General Authorities, acutely aware of the lack of growth in the Mormon church (despite the attempts to portray the church as growing to the media) hold the missionaries solely responsible for the stagnation.
The General Authorities are no different than a business owner lambasting the sales force for low production numbers. Yet, one difference exists in the comparison. Company owners can do quality surveys and build a better product after it becomes apparent that the product isn't selling because it is defective or inferior to other similar products.
LDS Church leaders cannot accept that their product is defective. Often the purchasers of the products (investigators) know more about the product and its origins than do the young, dedicated missionaries or even the General Authorities. Because the product cannot be changed or improved, the General Authorities take out their frustration on the sales force. I wonder if the disdain for missionaries by church leaders has become institutionalized, and not capable of adjustment?
There are some things that just can't be polished.
| It was a slow day at work yesterday, and so I decided to check out what was going on in Mo-land. I happened upon the postings about how serving a mission helped missionaries leave the church, and was so touched I felt compelled to share my story too.
I thought I was the only ex-mo whose mission experience opened his eyes. Nice to know that I’m not the only one. My mission truly was the “best” 2 years of my life precisely because it gave me the experiences I needed to get out of the church before I was committed inextricably to it – i.e., married and living in Ida-tah.
I served in the Seoul Korea Mission in the late 1980s. In addition to serving with some really open-minded, “cool” sisters and elders, people who I feel privileged to know, the Seoul Mission had a great library, with the complete sets of the Journals of Discourses and, History of Church by BH Roberts, with a lot of minor religious and history books as well. I devoured these books thinking that they would strengthen my testimony. Was I wrong.
Reading 1 or 2 books a week, I read everything I could lay my hands on, growing ever more disturbed. At about 6 months into my mission, I was transferred from Seoul out to the countryside near the North Korean border. I and my companion were the first missionaries ever in this area. We had been promised (like so many others) that if we worked hard and kept the rules we would be blessed with converts.
For 3 months we worked that town hard. The JWs had been there long before us and had seemingly talked to everybody in town. No one was interested. In my last 2 districts, I and my companion had been some of the top baptizers in the mission. Not here. In those 3 months, not only did we not convert anyone, we didn’t even land a discussion. All we had to show for our success was getting an old woman who worked in the market to accept a Book of Mormon. 3 days later, there was a knock on our apartment door. It was the woman from the market, handing us back the BoM. (Being the only white guys in town, it wouldn’t have been too hard for her to find us). She told us her pastor told her not to read it. That was the only success that I had in the five months I served there.
The foundation of my world had been cracked by my reading; now that I had none of success that had been promised by my MP, the foundation of my faith was starting to crumble. It was a straight forward formula. We all knew it: you worked hard, kept the rules, and God blessed you with converts. It didn’t happen – even though the MP had looked in my eyes and told me so, and then later sealed the deal with a special blessing before I and my companion left to open this town to the Lord’s work. Nothing seemed to work.
But my MP had a plan, and sent in the reinforcements: 2 very successful missionaries. Elder Lee was a charismatic, good-looking Korean who had had amazing success in another town (I didn’t find out until later that his success had been mostly with the 12 – 16 year old student set). Our town became its own district and Elder Lee became the DL. I felt relieved to have Elder Lee in charge.
I just knew that Elder Lee would have success, and that I could learn from him. How wrong I was. He and his companion soon showed us how I and my companion should be: they were out the door even before we even got up. They fasted. They prayed. They studied scriptures. They tracted until 10. Not only was I depressed, now I felt guilty. I thought I was working hard, but not enough. Not only was I a doubter, but a slacker too.
I and my companion redoubled our efforts. We adopted Elder Lee’s tactics. But despite his leadership, our hard work, fasting and praying for success, we had none. None of us did.
So here I was in the middle of nowhere, seriously doubting my faith because of all the reading I had done, but still working hard and fasting with nothing to show for it. My doubt turned to skepticism that perhaps our leaders (particularly my MP) weren’t actually inspired by God.
What else could shake my shaky faith?
* * *
I soon found out. The amazing Elder Lee – the former Branch President and AP who got up at 5:30 to read the scriptures, who stayed up late praying, who inspired us to fast for converts – crawled over into my mattress one night, and climbed in next to me. Without saying a word, he just crawled into bed, put his arm under my neck and laid his head on my chest, and slept curled up around me. I was so surprised I just lay there on my back in my garments with him curled up on me. It was a sleepless night for me.
As anyone who’s served a mission knows, this was against all mission rules. Sleeping with your companion was the sort of thing that got you sent home, even if it was completely non-sexual. But in Korean culture, male-male physical, non-sexual affection is the norm between friends. During my first month in Korea, a Korean companion reached over to hold your hand as we were walking down the street in broad daylight. I freaked out. That’s the sort of thing that would get you beat up in Idaho. But then, after seeing just about every other Korean man holding his best friend’s hand while walking, you relax. After living in Korea a year, I like most Americans elders, learned to “chill-out” about this cultural difference, and many of us, actually really came to appreciate this part of Korean culture.
But sleeping in the same bed was a different matter – and I felt guilty every time he crawled on my mattress with me (all four of us slept in the same room on the floor on thin mattresses). He must have at some level also felt guilty about it because it was only after our companions went to sleep that he would crawl into my bed, and curl up next to me with his head on my chest. This happened nearly every night for the whole summer.
Nothing even remotely sexual ever happened.
At the time I was freaked out by our rule-breaking, and was sure we would be getting a call from our MP any day (since he was inspired and all). Now I treasure this experience. With the benefit of hindsight, I think I understand a little of the pain Elder Lee must have been feeling, but I didn’t suspect to what extent his faith was crumbling too.
I realize now that he and I were two very bruised people, feeling very betrayed by the failure of the “work hard, get blessed” formula. Each of us was descending into our own separate depression. We were alone, and caught in an organization where our failure could only be interpreted as proof of our own spiritual inadequacy.
Now I think that Elder Lee’s crawling into bed with shows just how desperately he needed a real human connection – some reassurance that he, I and everything would be OK. I know I certainly felt that way. He and I never once spoke of our sharing a bed.
I’ll never know if Elder Lee committed suicide or was accidentally hit by a car 6 months after his mission ended. All of us who knew him well certainly suspected suicide. We all knew of his black depression. He finished his 2 years in that small town near the North Korean border believing he was a failure, and he left a broken man. Like me, he did not baptize a single person in his 6 months there. Like me, he had been promised extraordinary success if he only followed the rules and worked hard. I’m honored that Elder Lee trusted and loved me enough to let me help him get through the night, and I feel sorry that I wasn’t aware enough to be able to help him more. He was a gifted man, lifted up and then crushed by the cogs of the church machine.
* * *
During that pivotal summer, we were shut in our apartment for a whole week while a typhoon blew through. Elder Lee lay on his bed consumed by his dark mood. Our juniors were in the back room talking. I sat on the apartment veranda watching the storm blow outside, and it just hit me full force: “the Church is not true, and there is no God.” In that moment, what was left of my teetering faith crumbled and shattered. I knew that I was a failure as a missionary, and that I should go home. But I knew also the shame that leaving my mission would bring to me and my family, (not to mention what it would do to my scholarship to BYU) so I decided to tough it out. I had one more year left of my mission. I could do it.
At end of month five in that small little town, I got a call from the Mission President. Even with my epiphany, I still thought he must know that I had been breaking the rules, had lost my faith in the Church and did not believe in God (old habits die hard). I was sure I would be demoted back to junior companion and called back to Seoul where they could keep an eye on me; after all, I was a failure.
Of course it didn’t happen that way. I was transferred back to Seoul, and got a major promotion – I was now a ZL! Having never served as DL, being made a ZL was definitely a surprise – it got the rest of the mission talking too – but that call (“Elder, I feel inspired....”) only confirmed what I already knew: Church leaders were not inspired and didn’t have a clue what was actually going on.
* * *
Getting back to Seoul (and all its gossip), I had no idea how clueless the MP actually was. Seoul was a non-stop party. Turns out we had a couple of companionships who went on splits regularly: the straight pair went partying in Itaewon (hookers, bars and gambling near the American base), while the gay pair (who’d been in the same MTC group) went home and got it on. (I think most of us in the know were secretly amused by how funny, flaming and outrageous they were.) All four elders finished their missions and were released honorably. Perhaps we were unconsciously rooting for them. I don’t know.
In my 3 months as a Seoul ZL, we had 2 missionaries (not the same ones above) get sent home for patronizing the pam-nabis (literally translated as “night butterflies” – I’m sure you can figure it out) working behind Chongnangyi Train Station. One elder was so brazen (or desperate to go home?) that he actually took pictures of himself in the act. (I’m sure that was hard to explain to the folks back in Kanab.) By this time, I was getting more comfortable in my disbelief and realized it was all just a show, something to be endured. Quickly the other missionaries in my Zone realized I was not a “hard-ass” ZL (like the one I replaced), and came in for confession/spilling their guts/reality check.
One of my elders had a pack-a-day smoking problem. My advice: Don’t let the members see you smoking and make sure you use breath mints. Another confessed his drinking up on the base in Wuijong-bu. (He got the same advice.) Another confessed to masturbation – You’re 19. Try to keep it to twice a day, and don’t let your companion catch you. Everybody, including myself, does it. Perhaps not the advice I would give today, but for a 20 year old with zero experience, not bad. I have a picture in my photo album of me lighting a cigarette for an old Korean grandpa. We were out “storyboarding” on the sidewalk with the district who had the smoking elder. I got the match to light grandpa’s cigarette from him. He and I are laughing in the picture.
Who knew that a mission could be so fun?
* * *
I had 3 months of down time in Seoul, and then the MP got inspired again. This time he made me a branch president, and sent me back to the country, to the same town that Elder Lee had been branch president.
By this time, I had absolutely no belief in the Church, yet they kept kicking me up the ladder – I think in part because I looked and played the part the show/charade demanded. I now had proof positive that these people were not inspired.
I served the last 9 months as a branch president in a typical Korean branch – approximately 500 people on the rolls (many baptized by Elder Lee), and on a good day, perhaps 40 people showed up. Even as I served as Senior ZL/Branch President, and heard all these missionaries and members talk about how I and the rest of the Church leaders were inspired, I knew it was all just BS. I was on stage playing a role, and had come to believe that most were too, even if they didn’t know it.
I counted down the days until I could go home. Achingly depressed (though I didn’t know what that was at the time), I stopped eating. I just wasn’t hungry any more, and dropped 45 pounds that last year. I also started sleeping during the day. Masturbation was no longer problem. (I’ve since learned that if you lose enough weight, you lose your sex drive even if you’re 21 years old). That last month in Korea I was down to 128 pounds, and sleeping nearly 18 hours a day. I went to the branch office, turned on the heater, (I remember being so cold) and slept. I went home and ate a little, crawled into bed and slept until morning. A textbook case of depression.
That last month in Korea, there was an all-mission meeting in Seoul with Gordon B. Hinckley and Dallin Oaks. Word had made it to Salt Lake City about how out of control the Seoul mission was (2 months before, a DL had gotten his Korean girlfriend pregnant). Gordy and Dallin each spoke to us. As I remember it, Gordy was great – no judgment – just told us to love the Lord and follow the rules, blah blah blah.
Dallin on the other hand ripped us all new ones from the pulpit. During his harangue, I looked over all the missionaries whose secrets I knew (the gay elders, the smoker, the drinkers, the masturbators). I thought to myself, “not only does this guy not have a clue what’s really going on, but he’s just a big bully. He’s a control freak who’s lost control, and now is just trying to bully us back into doing what he wants.” From my conversations with my friends afterwards, I know that many of them came to the same conclusion after watching Dallin in action. I wonder how many missionaries Dallin helped to leave the church that day.
* * *
I returned home, the conquering hero in my family’s eyes, (me looking like a Holocaust survivor only confirmed to them how hard I had supposedly worked) and re-enrolled at BYU, where I was immediately called into the EQP. I didn’t have the cajones to turn them down flat, but I just drifted away. I’m probably one of the few counselors in an EQP that went inactive on the job. I just couldn’t do it any more. That was the last year I went to church. On the drive back home that spring, I told my dad I didn’t believe any of it, and that I wouldn’t be going to church again. To this day, I treasure his honest and unexpected response.
“Son. I married your mother when I was 21 and now have you 8 kids. I respect your decision, and if you just take all the money you would pay in tithing and invest it, you’ll die a wealthy man. I’m too far in it now. I hope it’s true, but can’t say that I know it is.”
I’m still shocked by his response. It was so not was I was expecting. We drove in silence until we had to stop and fill up for gas.
* * *
Though I’m not wealthy, dad’s response has turned out to be best advice he ever gave me, and so I pass it on to you. Take the money you would pay in tithing and invest it. Thank you dad for that great advice!
And thank you Mo-Church for sending me to Korea, where my mission adventures opened my eyes, and gave me the knowledge to escape my dad’s life: he married too young to a woman he barely knew; he over-committed to an organization which had its hand deep in his wallet; he was so busy with church callings he didn’t get to spend the time with his children that he wanted to; and he finally voiced in his late 50s that perhaps that it was all for nothing – a show, or charade; that he was going through the motions for mom, kids, and grandkids, clinging to a hope that maybe – just maybe – it might be all true.
Thankfully, that has not been my life. My mission experiences taught me the reality of the church, and allowed me to escape my dad’s fate. For that I’m very grateful to the church. With this knowledge I live a normal life – living in the burbs (outside of Idaho-Utah), with great friends, 14 years married with kids, who I get to spend nearly every night and all weekend with – no church calling competes with them – and I make sure I invest my 10%.
I do have much to be grateful for: thank you Mo-Church / Seoul Mission for showing me how not to live life. Life’s great! – just like we used to say in Korea – but this time I mean it!
| Two weeks ago a young local kid entered the MTC. Our daughter, his HS classmate, said he's not the elder type, but his mom is RS pres, so it's predestined.
After 3 days, he hiked across town to I-15 and called his folks, asking for them to come get him. The parents are shocked, shamed and disappointed.
He said the thing that choked him off was the constant preaching of obedience all day long. Don't ask questions. Don't think for yourself. The leaders know what is true, just obey.
So now he's back at work at his pre-mission job, greatly relieved, while his folks work through the question of What Now.
| So this weekend we had to do another hospital stay with our daughter because she had a slight elevated fever and her counts were low....nothing wrong just precautionary with leukemia. ANYWAY Friday night was my shift (hubby and I take turns spending the nights and days up there when she has to stay so she is not alone)
They have a family lounge in the cancer wing that has fridge ,microwave , coffee. etc. I went in to pop her some popcorn and I kid you not there are 2 missionaries and a spanish speaking woman and they are giving her in very broken spanglish an explanation of how they the LDS inc. have the power of God . Okay now I know this mom . Her son who is 3 has a rare form of brain cancer only 8 documented cases in the world and she and her son (father was deported) have been there for 5 months straight . He is having radiation and it has not worked ...all of us parents know who she is and we hug her every time we see her . All of us cancer parents have the same look . FEAR !!!
These elders are explaining that she needs to read her BOM and pray about it and you can tell she has been .....
I joke not when I tell you that right there as her child is waiting to die they were trying to commit her to baptism and making all sorts of promises of what god will do for her ....She was hesitant and unsure .
I did not move I felt frozen I couldn't leave her there thinking that penishood magic would save her son!! I just couldn't . Then the one kid tells her that he KNOWS as he crys that god will perform a miracle and if she has enough faith god can perform miracles! Well guys that is when I snapped. I interupted the conversation right then.
I said elders what the hell are you doing ??? I let them know I understood that they were just kids and totally duped into thinking all they have been taught . Told them I was a return missionary and could not believe that they were trying to commit her in the middle of her crisis!!!! I explained that even though they might not realize it because of their youth and indoctrination that that mom ....she is a mom first only heard one thing they said !! She heard the word "CURE" I told them that it was wrong to tell her such a thing and that as parents on that floor we would do anything and I mean ANYTHING to cure our children!
They got mad at me can you believe that ?? They actually had the nerve to tell me that they have been called of God and I should of all people understand that! OH PLEASE! but I let it slide as I was a 21 year old missionary once who believed everything SLC said . I refused to leave the room ....they got uncomfortable when the nurse came in and heard them because she said she did not think that was the time or place to do that and that they should go down to the chapel for that talk!
When they left I hugged that mom and she asked me what she should do ??? As a cancer parent I knew exactly what she should do ...the only thing cancer parents can do . HOPE THE MEDICINE WORKS and hope we have the strength to see when it isn't and say goodbye! That is all we can do especially her when her son's cancer is incurable . Another mom came in and said "I will tell you what to do honey . CRY!!!!" and we sat there with her while she cried! She obviously believes in god and christianity and since I am allergic to religion;) we called the chaplin who only tells parents to pray for strength to handle things not healing!!!
Sorry I rambled but I am still so upset at what they said ..I'm more angry that SLC still spews the crap they do !!!! She asked me what to do with the BOM ....the chaplin knows us and that we are exmo's and so he and I said THROW THE DAME THING OUT! I told her I used to be a mormon and that is was HORRIBLE and nothing but lies.
I will see her again next week for our mandatory instay chemo . Anyway thanks for letting me share ...I feel better!
| The mishie has been in my community since January and expects to be here for at least another month. He mentioned that it's not uncommon now for mishies to be left in an area for as long as 9 months, more than 1/3 of their mission time. I imagine that it's the same in other missions. When I was a mishie in 1984/5, elders and sisters were typically transferred to a new area every 3-6 months.
It was two years ago this month that a mother of a missionary posted the following on this board:
"When I first discovered the board three weeks ago, I read the archives for days. I found a post about the BILLION dollar mall [now at 2 BILLION] and all the other stuff the church spends its money on. I was angry and immediately told my husband what I'd been reading. He kept trying to come up with a good reason for the mall, but finally gave up because there is NO WAY to spin it or wrap your brain around any reason good enough for doing this...if it's truly Christ's church and not a corporation.
Well, lo and behold the next day...we get an email from our missionary son in North Carolina. He informs us that his personal budget for food and essentials is being cut by the "church". (WHO in the HECK IS the CHURCH anyway???) His budget of $145 is being cut to $130 permanently. He mentioned that is it "pretty hard to eat good" on $130 and that when he was in his first area, his budget had been $130 and that the members were not feeding them at all. He and his comp got the "award" for least fed in the zone - three meals in a quarter.
When I'd found out about the award I'd sent him some money because I didn't want him to starve. I didn't know at that time he was living on $130 a month. We were sending $400 a month for my son to have the privilege of serving and giving 100% of himself and they only give him $130.
My husband and I discussed the situation when he got home from work. We were so upset, especially in light of the BILLION dollar mall. This was a chink in the armor of the church in my husband's eyes. He made the point that groceries never go down in price, only up. Why would the "church" cut their budget, and not expand it? To the MP's credit, my son said he was trying to convince the church not to cut their funds.
I have to say, this was the last email my son wrote home to us. We were there in North Carolina the next Sunday BRINGING HIM HOME. When I went to his apartment in was a disgusting mess. It smelled horrible and the kitchen was the worst thing I'd seen in a long time. As I cleaned up I noticed that the basic essentials of a household were not to be found. No napkins, no paper towels, no dish towels, limited cleaning supplies. And why? Because what are you going to buy with a $130 a month? Food or paper products? I'm so glad my boy is home!"
I wrote in Aug./07 that the church had cut the mishies' food and basic personal care budgets by more than 10% while increasing its budget for its SLC shopping-mall-and-condos project by 300% ($500M to $2B between '03 and '06). Transportation and commodities costs have forced up prices for food, personal hygiene items, household cleaning supplies, etc. in the past few years.
According to a Honolulu Star Bulletin news report in Mar./08, one of the TSCC's companies, Hawaii Reserves Inc., had purchased 890 acres in Malaekahana between Laie and Kahuku and was "moving forward with a project to replace the 48-room Laie Inn with a 220-room hotel, which is expected to be operated by Marriott International Inc. The hotel, estimated to cost between $30 million and $35 million, is expected to break ground by mid 2009 and open in 2010, said Eric Beaver, Hawaii Reserves president and chief executive officer."
So, there's less money for missionary transfers and little money for cleaning meetinghouses and temples (members do it), but plenty of $ for church commercial real estate developments. I asked two years ago on LDS message boards what Jesus would do with $2 billion, and the same question applies to "between $30 million and $35 million." Relieve suffering or invest the $ in a hotel?
| I wonder if I am the only one who feels deeply sorry for what he did on his mission.
At a young age, I figured out that if you use the right blend of emotion and reason, you can manipulate some people into doing almost anything. This was my greatest asset as a missionary, and is now a major source of shame in my life.
I served a mission among a people that were poor and uneducated, and upon seeing how sincere I was and how worked up I would become (and how educated I was), they were moved, and two dozen of them were baptized (many if not most of them left soon after becuase the more established members of the church were mean to them).
There was one occassion when I told a family who was wavering on their baptismal date that they needed to decide right away, that we knew it was right for them to get baptized, but we would go outside and wait for them to pray about it themselves. Implicit in my words was the idea that "if you aren't serious about baptism, you won't see us anymore."
That family deeply loved us. It pained them to think that they were hurting us. Uneducated and easily influenced, they came out ten minutes later to tell us they had chosen to join the church. I immediately felt dirty, but the praise I recieved from the leadership was such that I just put away those feelings and counted it as a happy memory.
Damn. When I think of the way I manipulated people with "the commitment pattern" I feel like such a tool.
But I know who the bigger tools are.
While in the MTC, they played us a tape of E. Holland, who had spoken in 2001. He told us that if we went back to check on a family, and they had not read the BOM, we should get emotional, weep, jump up and down, make it clear that it hurt us to have them back out on commitment.
Deep in my heart I knew that was manipulation, and though I never did exactly as Holland told me to, I am ashamed to say that I employed my emotions and talents to force people to do what I wanted.
| 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 small peninsula jutting off the coast of Spain, is a British holding and has been since August 4, 1705 when the British seized the peninsula 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 serving 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 whence (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.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first began proselytizing in Japan when Heber Jeddy Grant, who was then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, was called as the country's first mission president in 1901. Grant, accompanied by Alma Owen Taylor, Louis A. Kelsch, and Horace S. Ensign, arrived at the port of Yokohama at 10:00am on August 12th that year. Over a century has passed since that time, and both the church and the country itself have changed and grown immensely. However, there are many events within the history of the church in Japan that the general membership is unaware of. This article will take an in-depth look at the missionary methods implemented by the church in Japan in order to provide readers with a clearer picture of Mormonism's real relationship with the Japanese populace.
Leaders of the church have remarked that the Japanese "are a wonderful people"1 since the turn of the century when Grant was residing in the country. However, these are generalizing remarks that church leaders frequently make about groups of individuals, and should not be taken at face value. Similar remarks were made by Francis Xavier - a Roman Catholic who lived during the 16th century and was the original propagator of Christianity to Japan. However, Xavier also wrote in a letter to the headquarters of his Jesuit order in Europe that the Japanese language was invented by Satan in order to prevent the gospel from taking root in the country. As a result, Japanese is often misunderstood as "the Devil's language."
Unfortunately, these misconceptions were shared by those in Grant's party, who believed in the "gift of tongues" and the "interpretation of tongues."2 Indeed, much like Xavier, the first Mormon missionaries to Japan also felt that Japanese was a "dreadful language."3 Grant, who was known for his unyielding persistence,4 was unable to learn the language despite his best efforts (and faith in the gift of tongues). For someone who claimed to have thought of the Japanese as a "wonderful people," Grant was so desperate to leave their country that - like Joseph Smith - he went alone into a nearby forest and began pouring out his heart to the lord, saying, "I would be joyous and thankful if thou wouldst call me home so that I may preside over a mission in Europe as soon as I end my work here in Japan, where I am not accomplishing anything."5 Official notification calling Grant home came a few days following this prayer, and he departed the country on September 11, 1903 without witnessing any notable success.
Even after Grant's departure, the church in Japan continued to grow slowly - so slowly that the mission was closed in 1924 largely because of "almost negligible results of missionary efforts."6 To be more precise, during the two some decades that missionaries had been in Japan, a mere 166 individuals converted to Mormonism.7 It wasn't until March of 1948 that the LDS church began proselytizing in Japan again. Over half a century later, the total Japanese membership is presently hovering at about 121,000 members.8 Since the birth of the Internet, a broader history of the church has become easily accessible to all members, causing growth in developed countries to greatly decrease - Japan being no exception. But it is more than just the tainted past of Mormonism's founding fathers that has left a bad taste in the mouth of many Japanese; in more recent times, blatant disrespect shown towards the natives of the country by church leaders has been a major factor that has damaged the organization's image and led to stagnant activity rates.
We cannot escape the conclusion that because of performance in our pre-existence some of us are born as Chinese, some as Japanese, some as Latter-day Saints. A Chinese born in China with a dark skin, and with all the handicaps of that race seems to have little opportunity. But think of the mercy of God to Chinese people who are willing to accept the gospel. In spite of whatever they might have done in pre-existence to justify being born over there as Chinamen, if they now, in this life accept the gospel and live it the rest of their lives they can have the Priesthood, go to the temple and receive endowments and sealings, and that means they can have exaltation. Isn't the mercy of God marvelous?9The above is an excerpt from an address given by the late Mark E. Petersen, who was an apostle of the LDS church at the time he gave this speech. This attitude of racial superiority is common amongst Caucasian Mormons born in America, for they have been taught that they are the lord's "chosen people" who were born in the "promised land" spoken of in the Book of Mormon - in other words, America. Perhaps it was this mindset that allowed Delbert H. Groberg, who served as the president of the Tokyo South Mission from July of 1978 through June of 1981, to employ dishonest and experimental methods of converting the Japanese - the results of which he used as the basis of his doctoral thesis in 1986. The "Groberg Era," as it is sometimes referred to by those who served during the time he was a mission president, is one of the biggest blemishes in the church's postwar history. It is also the focal point of this article. Without further ado, let us dive into the part of history untold by the church and take an in-depth look at the Groberg Era.
On October 1, 1977, Yoshihiko Kikuchi was called as the first Japanese general authority of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Kikuchi had studied business psychology in college and was a sales manager of the Japanese branch of Rena Ware, a multi-level marketing company.10 He used his manipulative business skills to pressure members not only into buying his products, but also into paying for various church expenses. For example, although the church often says that tithing is used to pay for its temples, many of such structures have been constructed through the use of separate "temple funds," which are collected in addition to the tithe members must pay if they wish to hold a temple recommend (which without, they cannot enter the temple further than the lobby). The Tokyo Temple was one of such temples, and it was Kikuchi who "was able to lead the dedicated Saints of Japan to gather 124% of the temple funds within a year and a half."11 Sadly, this was just one of many incidents in which the church financially took advantage of the Japanese people.
On July 1, 1978 - less than a year after Kikuchi had been called as a Seventy - the Japan Tokyo South Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was formed through the division of the Japan Tokyo Mission into the Japan Tokyo North and Japan Tokyo South missions. Delbert H. Groberg was called to open this new mission and preside as its first president; he would serve under Kikuchi, who was then the Executive Administrator for Japan and Korea. On the second day after his arrival in Japan, Groberg met with Kikuchi and was told of his vision. That night, Groberg wrote the following in his journal:
Elder Kikuchi came out to our home and we talked from 3:30pm until 7:00pm. He really has high expectations of me. I had thought that 10 times as many baptisms as they are getting now would be a good goal to shoot for (about 10,000). Before telling him, I asked him what he felt I should do. He mapped out the progress as he expected and it turned out to be 25 times as much as what is currently happening minimum! (And he stressed minimum!) That seems like a lot, but I believe we can make it.12As can be seen here, although Groberg was the one directly pressuring the Tokyo South missionaries to drastically increase conversion rates, he was in turn being pressured for better results by those above him - namely Kikuchi. He even admits in his journal that Kikuchi was the source of the success that the mission saw during his time as its president; on July 8, 1980, Groberg wrote, "Elder Kikuchi is behind the growth 100%."13 The scheme that Kikuchi devised that brought about tremendous growth in the Tokyo South mission was called the "investigator extraction method," which Kikuchi mentioned as follows:
In order to 'turn today's ward into tomorrow's stake' like Elder J. Thomas Fyans - the president of the First Quorum of the Seventy - spoke of, we need more spiritual and organized missionary activities that are well-planned by the members and missionaries. Such a proselytizing technique is the 'investigator extraction method.' Please ask your bishop or branch president about this method immediately. It is a simple way of proselytizing that any member can do. Through this method you will begin to see an amazing increase in the number of converts, which will grow exponentially. I hope that you are all are able participate in this 'investigator extraction method' and share the Lord's blessings with many others.14Kikuchi shared his absurd vision in the church's official magazine in 1979, where he stated that "each missionary needs to have about 300 investigators, meaning that a companionship will teach 600 investigators."15 However, even Kikuchi was simply basing his goals off of what his superiors expected of him. Spencer W. Kimball, the prophet and president of the church at that time, declared, "I want things to get to the point where every missionary is performing thousands of baptisms during their missions."16 Kimball also said, "Wouldn't it be great if we sent 1,000 Japanese missionaries, which would eventually grow to become over 10,000 Japanese missionaries, to Mongolia and China?"17 Kimball was not the only leader of the church applying pressure to Kikuchi. Gordon B. Hinckley, who was the apostle overseeing Asia at that time, was also pushing the Japanese for better statistics. Hinckley stated the following in a talk given in Japan on October 31, 1980:
I would like to extend a challenge unto all of you who have gathered here this day. When I came to this land 5 years ago, I asked you put forth efforts so that there would be 50,000 members in Japan by the time the temple would be built. However, we barely fell short of this goal. I am told that there are currently 48,627 members. (Pauses.) Actually, Elder Kikuchi told me that we reached the goal of 50,000 just this month. (Laughs.) Splendid! Brothers and sisters, this is truly wonderful. Now, let us think of what things will be like 5 years from now. There will probably be 100,000 members in Japan by that time. In order for this to happen, we will need to grow by 10,000 members each year. It is my belief that you all can do better than that. I know without a doubt that you can and will do better than that.18The extortion that took place in the Japan Tokyo South Mission was thus the workings of the entire upper echelon of the church, and not just Groberg and Kikuchi. The Mormon prophet and his apostles were not only aware of the uncanny growth that suddenly occurred within the church in Japan, but they were the ultimate source of it. Their church's membership was soaring, so they apparently didn't feel the need to stop the manipulation of missionaries and members alike. Just to demonstrate how great of a change occurred under Groberg, let us look at some of the statistics of his time.19
(July - December)
(January - December)
(January - December)
(January - June)
|Number of Missionaries||123||161||196||191||171|
|Baptisms per Missionary||3.2||10.2||27.7||49.4||70.1|
|Male||87 (42%)||1099 (67%)||4317 (79%)||3656 (77%)||9159 (76%)|
|Female||122 (58%)||530 (33%)||1116 (21%)||1062 (23%)||2830 (24%)|
|Child||7 (3%)||16 (1%)||259 (5%)||397 (9%)||679 (6%)|
|Youth||74 (36%)||685 (42%)||2175 (40%)||1950 (41%)||4884 (40%)|
|Adult||128 (61%)||928 (57%)||2999 (55%)||2371 (50%)||6426 (54%)|
|Method of Contact|
|Street||2 (1%)||896 (55%)||4195 (74%)||3587 (76%)||8680 (72%)|
|English Class||85 (41%)||375 (23%)||355 (7%)||150 (3%)||965 (8%)|
|New Member Referral||53 (25%)||293 (18%)||607 (12%)||626 (13%)||1579 (13%)|
|Old Member Referral||12 (6%)||65 (4%)||86 (2%)||191 (4%)||354 (3%)|
|Other||57 (27%)||0 (0%)||190 (3%)||164 (4%)||441 (4%)|
|Length of Time from Contact to Baptism|
|2 Weeks or Less||62 (30%)||864 (53%)||4267 (78%)||3929 (83%)||9122 (76%)|
|2-4 Weeks||54 (26%)||407 (25%)||690 (13%)||428 (9%)||1579 (13%)|
|4-8 Weeks||49 (23%)||114 (7%)||170 (3%)||170 (4%)||503 (4%)|
|Over 2 Months||44 (21%)||244 (15%)||306 (6%)||191 (4%)||785 (7%)|
|Approximate Average||5.3 weeks||3.9 weeks||2.5 weeks||2.3 weeks||2.7 weeks|
|Proselytizing Statistics: Average Per Companion Set Per Week|
|Books of Mormon Placed||1.2||3.0||4.4||5.5||3.5|
|Number of Introductions||3.0||7.3||19.6||23.1||13.1|
|Number of Lessons||7.1||8.8||13.7||25.2||11.6|
|Total Introductions and Lessons||10.1||16.1||33.3||48.3||24.7|
|Total Teaching Hours||9.1||13.1||20.8||26.0||17.3|
It is also worth taking a look at how the statistics of Groberg's mission compared with those of other missions in the region. Below are the number of baptisms for other nearby missions during the 6-month period of January through June of 1981.20
|Total Baptisms||Average Baptisms|
|Japan Tokyo South||4718||24.1|
|Korea Seoul West||1055||8.4|
|Japan Tokyo North||437||2.5|
Several interesting points can be observed from this data. First of all, the number of baptisms in the Japan Tokyo South mission increased by more than twenty-fold over the short span of three years, going from 209 to 4718. However, as the data indicates, there was not an increase in the number of missionaries proselytizing in the mission to substantiate such growth (117 to 183, a 56% increase in the number of missionaries). Secondly, Groberg's mission had more than 4 times the number of baptisms as the second-highest-baptizing mission in the area under Kikuchi's supervision, and almost 10 times the number of baptisms of the second-highest-baptizing mission in the country. This brings us to the big question: What were the manipulative techniques implemented by Groberg that resulted in such astronomical growth?
As mentioned previously, members of the LDS faith like to praise those they are trying to appeal to as "wonderful people." This is one of the techniques used by Groberg, who instructed his missionaries to use "Open-Heart Teaching"21 to draw closer to potential investigators. This method involved missionaries teaching a 10- to 15-minute introductory lesson before they moved into the 6 actual lessons that taught about the church. During this introductory lesson, missionaries would "1) Develop a genuinely warm, friendly relationship with the investigator. 2) Introduce himself (where from, what he used to do, family, interests, etc.) and give some personal goals. 3) Find out a little about the investigator, including a few of his personal goals (be an accountant, be a good father, etc.) and confirm his general goals (grow and progress, be happy, etc.); also get his schedule so he would know when he had time to meet next."22 After having this cookie-cutter conversation, missionaries would then press the investigator for a commitment to listen. Groberg provides us with an example of how such a conversation should follow in his thesis; missionaries were to say, "Now that we're friends, would you like to hear a little about why we are here (in Japan)? (Explain) Even though I'm spending my own time and money I'm very happy to be a missionary among the great (Japanese) people. You teach me a lot, and I hope I can teach you some things too."23 The missionaries would then begin teaching about the church and its gospel. Notice that in the phrase "the great (Japanese) people," the parenthetical group could be replaced by just about anything and still have the same effect anticipated by the church. It is also worth pointing out that the missionaries were to find out potential investigators' schedules before telling them about the church; this would make it harder for an individual to make up an excuse of why he couldn't meet on a certain day after learning the missionaries' true intentions. This is especially the case of the Japanese, who are usually unable to say "no" in the first place, which was only made more difficult because many Japanese were (and still are) intimidated by foreigners.
Groberg also had missionaries stop focusing on families and instructed them to go out and look for young people, mainly those "from mid-high school to late college." He was aware that "these years coincided with a time of searching for identity, establishing values, and determining their purposes in life,"24 and wanted to convert the Japanese youth so that the church would be the one to determine their identity. Groberg did research on the legal age at which investigators could receive baptism without parental permission, and found out that it was 18 and not 20 as had been assumed. As a result, he got many young college students to convert to Mormonism while completely disregarding how their parents might feel. As Groberg puts it, "Parental permission was no longer required as a condition of receiving baptism. Suddenly a major barrier had been removed."25 It is interesting that a church which claims to be family-oriented would encourage individuals be secretive about their membership.
Something else Groberg did was give a special title to missionaries who were able to get large numbers of baptisms by doing "what hadn't been done before."26 Such individuals were called "Ensign" missionaries, and it was through their "diligent" efforts that the Japan Tokyo South mission was able to break the 1000-baptisms-per-month barrier. However, as many returned missionaries from the Groberg Era have reported, these high-baptizing missionaries would often use illegitimate methods of attaining baptisms, such as going out and getting drunk at parties to make new friends, whom they would immediately baptize thereafter. Groberg eventually constructed "collapsible fonts and supplied one to each unit in which missionaries were working,"27 so even performing on-site baptisms at parties became feasible. Many of these missionaries admitted to using dishonest methods of conversion to Groberg, but he was apparently fine with whatever the means were as long as the missionaries were meeting their quota for baptisms. The exceptional missionaries were invited to a monthly "recognition dinner at the mission president's home,"28 while those who weren't able to meet the quotas were chewed out in personal interviews with Groberg. The mission newsletter was turned into a stats sheet where those who were seeing the most success were praised as exemplary missionaries. The pressure and guilt that Groberg (and those above him) heaped upon the young men and women who were sacrificing 2 years to serve the church in Japan were almost unimaginable.
This truly was an era when only numbers mattered. The church as a whole was trying to sell itself as one of the fastest-growing religions in the world, and they would appeal to this fact as though it verified their beliefs. Within Japan, this fact is blatantly obvious. During the short time of April of 1979 to June of 1982, graphs featuring the church's domestic growth were featured in at least 9 of the 39 monthly issues of the church's magazine.29 Indeed, the Groberg Era was the second time in the church's history in Japan that the country had seen more than 3,000 baptisms in a year. However, the retention rates of members who received baptism under the Groberg administration were dismal. Groberg himself admits that average activity rates were as low as 21% for stakes and 42% for small units during his time there.30 Since the Groberg Era, attendance rates have remained just as stagnant if not worse,31 and the conversion rate has fallen greatly. A look at the number of members in Japan will make this fact more evident.32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39
|Growth of Mormonism in Japan|
|Year||Number of Members||Increase in Membership|
from Previous Year
|1901||0||(No data available)|
|1903||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1904||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1905||17||(No data available)|
|1906||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1907||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1908||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1909||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1910||41||(No data available)|
|1914||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1915||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1916||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1917||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1918||105||(No data available)|
|1919||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1920||127||(No data available)|
|1921||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1922||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1923||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1924||166||(No data available)|
|Japan Mission Closed from 1924 until 1948|
|1949||211||(No data available)|
|1955||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1956||1,315||(No data available)|
|1982||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1983||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1984||70,998||(No data available)|
|1986||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1987||85,000||(No data available)|
|1988||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1989||91,000||(No data available)|
|1992||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1993||103,000||(No data available)|
|1994||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1995||106,000||(No data available)|
|1997||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1998||(No data available)||(No data available)|
|1999||110,987||(No data available)|
|2000||114,000||(No data available)|
As can be seen here, the Mormon church in Japan has seen less than 1000 convert baptisms per year since 2001; this is less than one-fifth of what it was experiencing in the Japan Tokyo South mission alone during the height of the Groberg era. There are several other key factors that have caused such disparaging conversion rates in more recent years. The Japanese awareness of Mormonism was heightened via LDS television celebrities such as Kent Derricott and Kent Gilbert, who became popular because of their ability to speak Japanese proficiently despite the fact that they were Caucasians. Just as these individuals have faded from the spotlight of national attention, Japanese citizens' interest in the United States in general has also faded over the years, along with their desire to listen to the message of young American missionaries. As more and more Japanese cease to look up to America as the "superior" nation that defeated them during the Second World War, an increasingly fewer number of Japanese natives will be willing to accept the LDS belief that America is the "promised land" as talked of in the Book of Mormon. Other events, such as the 1995 Tokyo sarin gas attacks by the Aum Shinrikyo, have opened the eyes of many Japanese to the dangers of cults (and religion in general); this has further damaged the already tarnished image of Mormonism in the country. More recently, one of the most powerful politicians in Japan spoke out against Christianity, condemning it as being "exclusive and self righteous."39 At this rate, it is only a matter of time before the church in Japan begins to collapse as fewer youth convert to the religion, and the elderly begin to pass away. While the church might not disappear anytime soon, one can expect that their Japanese membership will begin to decrease in the very near future - if it hasn't begun already.
(1) Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, Page 83
(2) The Articles of Faith, Article 7
(3) Beyond the Century, Page 86
(4) Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, Page 33
(5) Beyond the Century, Page 62
(6) Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, Page 84
(7) "Kibou no Dendou Saikai," Seito no Michi, October 1981, Page 17
(8) Overview and Information, Newsroom, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(9) "Race Problems - As They Affect the Church," Mark E. Petersen, August 27, 1954
(10) "Nihonjin Hatsu no Kyoukai Kanbu Mesareru," Seito no Michi, November 1977, Page 596
(11) "Shichijuunin Daiichi Teiinnkai Kaiin: Kikuchi Yoshihiko," Seito no Michi, February 1978, Page 152
(12) "Toward a Synoptic Model of Instructional Productivity," Delbert H. Groberg, 1987, Page 51
(13) Ibid, Page 253
(14) "Hitotsu no Kiyoki Tami ni Narite" Seito no Michi, January 1979, Page 61
(15) Ibid, Page 61
(16) Ibid, Page 59-60
(17) Ibid, Page 60
(18) "Kyoukai no Izuru Kuni," Seito no Michi, January 1981, Page 25
(19) "Toward a Synoptic Model of Instructional Productivity," Delbert H. Groberg, 1987, Page 327
(20) Ibid, Page 312-313
(21) Ibid, Page 298
(22) Ibid, Page 302
(23) Ibid, Page 302-303
(24) Ibid, Page 302-303
(25) Ibid, Page 188-189
(26) Ibid, Page 296
(27) Ibid, Page 195
(28) Ibid, Page 308
(29) Seito no Michi, April 1979, Page 47; August 1979, Page 48; January 1980, Page 64; February 1980, Page 45; August 1980, Page 49; September 1980, Page 177; February 1981, Page 61; March 1981, Page 47; June 1982, Page 63
(30) "Toward a Synoptic Model of Instructional Productivity," Delbert H. Groberg, 1987, Page 294
(31) "Ajia Chiiki no Genzai," Liahona, Local Page, August 2005, Page 1
(32) "Nihon no Dendou 81 Nen no Shinten to Kyoukaiin no Zouka" Seito no Michi, June 1982, Page 63
(33) "Nihon ni okeru Kyoukai no Hatten," Seito no Michi, September 1991, Local News, Page 3
(34) "Kyoukai, Rekishiteki na Ippo wo Shirusu," Seito no Michi, May 1996, Local News, Page 1
(35) Beyond the Century, Page 314
(36) Deseret News Church Almanac
(37) Newsroom: Country Profiles - Japan
(38) "Japan: Growing Light in the East," Don L. Searle, Ensign, September 2000, Page 44
(39) "The Blossoming of the Church in Japan," R. Lanier Britsch, Ensign, October 1992, Page 32
(40) "Ozawa lashes out with scathing remarks on Christianity," The Japan Times, November 11, 2009
| There was speculation that it was really a cover for declining numbers, or they really were raising the bar because too many mishies were being sent home. The reasons why are difficult to discern, because LDS Inc is about as opaque as the old Soviet Politburo used to be, but WHAT happened is pretty clear from the numbers give in the original thread.
Number of missionaries serving:
2000 - 60,784
2001 - 60,850
2002 - 61,638
2003 - 56,237
2004 - 51,067
2005 - 52,060
2006 - 53,164
2007 - 52,686
2008 - 52,494
2009 - 51,736
From 2000 to 2002, there were 61,000 missionaries, with about 1% variation
There was a 9% drop in 2002-3, and another 9% drop in 2003-4
From 2004 on, there were 52,000 missionaries, with a 2% variation in 2004-06, and 1% variation since then.
This is not the demographic profile that would happen if LDS Inc was struggling to fill its quota for missionaries. The variations would be larger, and the decline would not be so abrupt, nor would the decline last exactly 2 years.
There is only one way this could happen. Let me illustrate with a simpler example, that even the most math-phobic should be able to do in their head.
Suppose that in 2002, LDS Inc had 60,000 missionaries, and decided to cut future missionary calls to zero, starting immediately. [Nice fantasy, eh? :) ]
After 1 year, half of the existing mishies would have returned home, and there would be 30,000 mishies. After 2 years, there would be 0 mishies, and that would be the steady-state number of missionaries.
That should be exceedingly obvious. A little less obvious, but true, is that the same math holds for changing the number of new callings to any other level (not just 0 new callings), and then locking the number of new calls at that level. It will take exactly 2 years for the total number of missionaries to stabilize at the new level, because it will take that long for the old level of existing mishie calls to expire.
Not only that, but when the number of calls are instantly changed from one level to another, and then locked at that new level, the overall staffing levels will begin to drop abruptly, drop in a straight line (as opposed to a swoopy "s" curve) over the next 2 years, and then stop dropping abruptly after 2 years.
That is exactly what is seen in the table above. There is only one thing that could reasonably give the numeric profile in that table. The Church Missionary Committee made a deliberate decision in early 2002 to cut calls by 18%, to 52,000 missionaries. It took exactly 2 years for that to work through the system.
There was a little tweaking for 2 more years, but essentially, the level of new missionary calls has been about as constant as it is possible to be for 7 years in a row now, starting in early 2002. When you have to "hire" 26,000 new people a year, out of an employee pool of 52,000, holding the employee level within a 1 or even 2% range is, frankly, amazing. HR people everywhere would be amazed beyond words! [Of course, secular HR departments don't have God enforcing their job offers.]
There is no indication at all that they are failing to meet their missionary quotas.
So, they clearly decided to cut staffing to a pre-determined level and lock it there. The next question is why?
Like I said, that is tougher to answer. Perhaps they saw a shortfall coming, and decided to pre-emptively cut so it wouldn't look like they were scrambling to "make their numbers". Sounds reasonable to me.
It could also have been a budgeting decision. Even with families contributing, missions are likely "loss leaders" for the Morg. There could have been a board meeting within LDS Inc to trim mission expenditures. "Raising the Bar" was mostly a cover story, and also a plan to call missionaries who were the most likely to become future tithe payers and generate a positive ROA (return on investment).
And there may be other contributing factors. Who knows what the Big 15 read in their tea leaves. But as long as the number of missionaries serving just makes straight line changes over two years, or is steady for years on end, you are just seeing the implementation of bureaucratic decisions, not an annual fluctuation of "volunteers" available for mission calls.
And that's probably way more than you ever wanted to hear on the subject! Here's hoping they do start coming up short on mishie numbers!
| I usually don't have anything good to say about LDS inc, but here is something I think is positive. My cousin is a sister missionary and she recently wrote me concerning some dress code changes for sisters.
Its nice the church finally allowed the sister missionaries to live in the 21st century.
- They no longer have to wear nylons or high socks
- They no longer have to wear ankle length dresses. They can now wear dresses below the knee
- They can wear patterned skirts, no more solid colors.
| My son's best friend just returned from a mission in South America, and he helped us load the truck when we were moving last week. We talked pretty much the whole time (I'm kind of a talker, if you hadn't guessed), but I mostly just asked him questions about his mission. From what he said, things have not changed much in the 24 years since I was a missionary.
He spoke of the incessant pressure for "numbers," such that quite a few missionaries faked their statistics, just as people in my mission did. He said that it was often those who lied about their numbers who were "promoted" to leadership positions (again, the same was true in my mission).
Many who didn't fake their numbers bent the rules to get people in the water. He talked about interviewing people for baptism who didn't know the basic concepts of the gospel (they would need "coaching," he said, to correctly answer questions such as "Who was Joseph Smith?"). People were baptized, he said, who had never set foot in an LDS meeting; children were quickly baptized without parental consent (again, both of these were common in my mission).
I asked him about the "Raising the Bar" program. He literally rolled his eyes. He said that, rather than weed out those who shouldn't be on missions, it just encouraged people to lie about their past behavior. Ironically, he said, those who were honest in their interviews and were not allowed to serve would probably have been better missionaries than those who lied and went anyway. From what he said, the quality of missionaries, levels of commitment, and "extracurricular" behavior were pretty much like they were in my mission.
Anyway, I should probably say that this is not some disgruntled exmo but one of the most sincere and good-hearted boys I've known. I'm glad he felt he could be open with me.
| The gospel will roll forth until it consumes the earth.
For me, this is one of the saddest delusions all of us died-in-the-wool former Mormons shared. It caused a lot of depression while I was a missionary trying to teach the amazing, new-and-improved message of the gospel to the German people.
I had no baptisms as a missionary and recently, it has become very clear to me that the reason stems from the fact that, by and large, Germans are pretty smart about reasoning and have learned a lot from the history that their (and my) ancestors experienced related to religion.
Ultimately, the reason why, generally speaking, that we European mishies had so much trouble finding people who would listen past our first comments about the story of a 14 year old boy talking to God, who was visited by angels and could translate a unspoken language like "reformed Egyptian", is because they were too smart.
That's right, folks: most Europeans weren't as ignorant about religion as we BIC Mormon Mishies were.
What we were looking for were those people, in my case "Germans", who were able to separate rational questions about this story from rational experiences in their lives.
That's a little confusing, but what I'm trying to say is that the thinking Mormonism-joiner MUST be able to compartmentalize their brain into a rational, thinking section and an absolutely, irrational portion.
That's what was tough. We were taught that we were looking for the Wheat and that those who rejected the message were the Tares...but that was 180° from the truth. What we were *actually* doing was looking for people who were really not worth very much as human beings wanting to contribute to society's solutions.
The Tares are not smart. The Wheat is, and the Wheat won't take a bullshit story about some backwoods con-man without dissecting it; without digging deeper; without checking facts.
That's called credulity. Tares are credulous beings. They take a story that touches them in some inexplicable way and believe it, buy it and get baptized.
I never ran into one in Germany. Instead, I ran into people who'd look very quizzically at me when I would make my door approach. Some would ask brief questions like, "He was how old? 14?" or "He actually spoke *directly* to god and Jesus that day?"
And that was usually the end. The door closed and a Wheat was separated from the Tares that we were looking for.
The smart ones get away.
| I was at my Mormon mother's and stepfather's home today (they were out) when the door bell rang. Through the etched glass, I recognized the distinctive Mormon 'uniform' for male missionaries. I opened the door, greeted them and introduced myself, and invited them in to the front hall. The senior comp. said they'd stopped by to get some food that my mother and stepfather had told them on Sunday would be available.
I went into the garage, found two bags of groceries, took them into the front hall, and handed them to the mishies. The senior comp. then said - a bit sheepishly - that my stepfather mentioned he'd bought milk for them. I went back into the garage, looked in the fridge, saw two jugs of milk, retrieved them, went back into the house, and gave them to the elders.
As I did so, I asked, "What do you guys get for cash each month to spend on groceries?" The senior elder replied, "$200 - but we have to pay for other stuff as well."
"For each of you, or per person?" was my next question. "For each," he responded.
Doing some math aloud, I said, "So, $200 bucks per month per missionary - that's a bit less than $50 per week. Hmmm. Seems a bit tight to me. Groceries CAN be costly."
As the older comp. started to agree with me, the junior elder said, "We ran out."
"Out of groceries?", I asked.
"Yes," they simultaneously replied.
"But, it's only September 21st," I pointed out. "What were you going to do for food for the next nine days if you hadn't gotten these groceries? Can't you get more money from the mission?"
"No," the senior companion replied. He went on to explain that out of the $200 per month, missionaries have to pay for not only food, but personal care items like shampoo, deodorant, shaving cream, etc., dry-cleaning, and some "car expenses."
Clearly, if missionaries run out of food before the end of the month, they're to go to local members and request - beg, effectively - for groceries.
The 'one, true' religious corporation of Jesus Christ, LD$ Inc., has spent at least $4 billion so far on its City Creek shopping-mall-and-condos project in Salt Lake City as well as several million this year on its new, 220-unit hotel in Hawaii and tens of millions of dollars on commercial real estate acquisitions during the past 12 months alone, according to news reports.
However, the super-wealthy LDS Church, which owns 17 pieces of priceless Rembrandt art plus billions of dollars of other assets, including water and mineral rights and commercial farms and ranches, won't spend a few extra million dollars annually to keep its 'army' of thousands of missionaries from going hungry.
No, along with scrubbing chapel toilets and performing other church building janitorial duties for free, keeping the mishies from experiencing an unwanted weight-loss each month has been 'downloaded' on to Latter-day Saints. Many of them have lost jobs in the Great Recession of the past three years and seen their home equity and retirement savings decrease significantly, thanks to the subprime credit catastrophe in the U.S. that began in early 2007.
As the elders left with the groceries, I wondered how many other local, financially hard-up members (my mother and stepfather are seniors) are going without even as LD$ Inc. spends millions and billions of dollars to increase its already massive wealth.
| Let me say first that I was uber TBM during my mission. Having said that, I always felt not right about some things, namely:
Asking investigators to commit to baptism at the second discussion. I knew that there many many things that they did not yet know about the church. It felt like a trick to ask them to be baptized without knowing what they were getting into. As far as they knew, it was like any other church, believe in Jesus and get baptized. Then end.
It wasn't until later that they would learn about TITHING. We were always nervous to give that discussion. I was so blind and naive, being uber TBM. I should have realized that the trickery of committing people prematurely was a huge red flag with implications for the truthfulness of the church. But I did not open my eyes until many years later.
In retrospect it seems unconscionable that the church brings people in without ANY knowledge of the temple, and that they will someday be committed to wearing GARMENTS!
| Weekly reports. A sign of all great bureaucracies. One filed every week for each missionary companionship. It fell to the senior companion to fill it out. I had been, up to this point, assigned the junior position. I got my first big chance to run the show, in Gary Indiana. Murder capital of the United States.
I had been struggling with the incompatible barren reality of the mission experience I lived, and the rose-colored, baptizing hundreds, candy-land story I'd been told it was supposed to be. To keep a bit of sanity, I started drawing figurative lines in the sand. My line? Honesty. I was sick of all the little lies. I decided to be honest with all that I did. No white lies. No fudging. The truth. This meant I filled out the weekly report with exactly what we did and how many hours we worked. There were blanks for all kinds of statistics.
Our 5.5 hours consisted of a member-dinner we’d eaten (2.5) and the church service we attended (3.0). Staying in the apartment, not getting shot, did not count as work. Abysmal as the numbers might be I honestly reported exactly what we did.
- Book of Mormons placed: 0
- Number of Lessons taught: 0
- Number of baptisms performed: 0
- Hours spent total on all missionary work: 5.5
Expected minimums per week:
85 hours, minimum. Considering that we got one day off per week to do laundry, write letters, and clean the apartment, 85 divides to 14.2 hours per day. Doing the math: 7.5 hours, sleep. 1 hour, shower/prep/breakfast. 1 hour, personal morning study. 14.2 hours, missionary work, leaves 0.3 hours (18 minutes) for lunch. All missionaries were expected to have a dinner appointment lined up with a member-family every night. This counted as work.
- Book of Mormons placed: 12
- Number of Lessons taught: 4
- Number of baptisms performed: 0.5 (one every two weeks)
- Hours spent total on all missionary work: 85
So the only way you could honestly make the minimum was to work your ass off. No slacking. No stopping. Just work, work, work, straight through, every week, for two years.
My companion and I did nothing of the kind. We dragged ass, just like all the other missionary pairs we'd ever known.
Mission Hierarchy of Titles in order:
A bit over two weeks into my honesty streak I get a call from my District Leader (DL) saying that he and the Zone Leader (ZL) were concerned about the numbers I was reporting.
- Mission President (Prez)
- Assistant to the President (AP)
- Zone Leader (ZL)
- District Leader (DL)
After the conversation I realized that I was probably the only missionary in the entire mission that honestly reported his numbers. I knew and worked with a lot of missionaries and not a single one of them worked all day like one would have to to meet the minimum required time.
Well, you know. They’re a little low.
But that’s really what we did.
Yes but it’s causing problems.
Honestly reporting what we did last week causes problems?
Yes. No. Okay listen. The ZL’s getting on me ‘cause the AP’s are on him for the low numbers from our Zone. It’s causing problems for everyone.
By you reporting it that way we' get all kinds of pressure from the Prez.
What way do you want me to report it?
A way that doesn’t cause problems.
You want me to lie.
I’m not saying that. I just don’t want problems. Neither does the ZL. Can’t you help us out?
Maybe we could work a few more hours next week and report that?
No, that’ll still be too low. Come on, help me out or I’ll just have to call you next week.
So either I lie, or you call me?
No I’m not asking you to lie.
So what are you asking?
I’m telling you that what you’re reporting causes problems for everybody. Please, just help us out.
I didn’t change my reports. I honestly put down what we did, low though it might be. I stopped getting calls from my DL.
Weeks later, at the DL’s apartment, I spotted my weekly report in the trash. Apparently, the DL’s solved his problem by forging a report and scrapping mine. I didn’t confront him about it. What was the point?
I know the Prez glanced at the consolidated final report the AP's presented to him every week, but did he understand the numbers on it were meaningless? The entire thing, a complete lie from top to bottom. Every missionary would pad their numbers so their DLs wouldn’t get on them. The DL’s fudged theirs so the ZLs wouldn’t chaff. The ZLs would scrub theirs so the AP’s wouldn’t get on them. The AP’s would massage the final report so the Prez wouldn’t ask them to do something. Pointless, bureaucratic, busy-work to produce a report with no basis in reality.
Keeping track of the amount of Books of Mormon each missionary pair reported handing out allowed the mission to know how many new ones to order. Every month or so, the Mission Home shipped a case or two to your apartment. One apartment of mine had so many they filled the coat closet and half of the bedroom closet. Because I wanted to actually use the closets, I decided to do something useful with the dozens and dozens of cases of BoMs. I made a couch to seat three, a coffee table, two end tables, and a writing desk with three shelves. I used an old door from the apartment for the writing surface and discarded wood planks for shelving.
We had an entire living room set made from BoMs. It matched the shag carpeting perfectly.
| I was an obedient missionary. I was happy doing it too. I enjoyed knocking on doors. I didn't really enjoy contacting people on the street because it seemed more pushy - at the door all they have to do is shut it to make you shut up. It was rare that a door was open longer than for a person to say, "ikke interesseret". So I learned to talk to strangers at doors, and to get them talking for long times. I felt successful because of that. I had many people who committed to baptisms, although none of them ended up getting baptized. I felt "the spirit" in many different ways at many different times. In fact, my first week there I looked at a map, and whenever I looked at a street on it, I always felt this tingle on my chest. So we biked down there, knocked on a door - no one was home. Knocked on a second door, and a guy opened up, told us he believed everything about Mormonism due to a near death experience, and wanted to get baptized. After a few days he called us up and told us he never wanted to speak with us again, because his wife said she'd leave him if he was baptized. With experiences like that, you'd think I'd still be a TBM.
I had many experiences like that. And yet, despite how grand the experience, despite how amazing the investigator, despite whatever I considered miracles occurred, no one ever got baptized from my efforts on my mission. It confused the hell out of me - why would a loving God, who could create these miracles, not just push these people a little bit further? God was all-powerful, so he could convert everyone if he wanted to. And that's when it hit me - the reason that they weren't being converted is because it was unnecessary. That is, if there was a God and the only way to save people was to convert them, then God wasn't a loving God because he was helping convert them. I worked my ass off. I prayed my ass off. I believed it all. I was as obedient as I possibly could be. And yet, none of it, despite how favorable the conditions were with investigators, resulted in baptisms. I concluded that God could convert world but he doesn't, because it isn't the most important thing.
There was a second thing that occurred on my mission. I was an obedient hard-working missionary. But then things didn't fit together. The mission president said we couldn't knock on doors more than an hour a day, and yet I was in Denmark, a small branch, and had nothing better to do. There was no way I could be obedient to that. I felt a strong thought come to my mind and tell me what area I should go to (and had an amazing experience there), and yet the mission president told me never to go to that area because of its distance. The mission president and area authorities disagreed on other minute rules - which were the world to me as I tried to be obedient. It resulted in my world imploding. The spirit that I felt, the mission president, and the area authority all disagreed with each other. At least one of them had to be wrong.
Being obedient and trying to be thoughtful, I read my scriptures many many times. And so each time I'd notice new errors in it. New things that didn't make sense. I never read the scriptures after my mission because I no longer wanted to think about all that was wrong with it.
It was being too obedient and faithful that caused me to become apostate. Unfortunately, it would still be years before I would take the final mental plunge to lead me out of the church.
| It could be of some interest to know how people in Germany perceived Mormon missionary work in their own country. Of course, I can only speak of my own experiences and feelings but I'm pretty sure that I'm not too special with this.
I truly hope that no one will feel being attacked or made look silly by my remarks. I can assure everybody that I always respected the wholehearted and selfless commitment of the Mormon missionaries.
And please don't measure each of my words too seriously as I never had a chance to learn English appropriately. It's just what is left from my school English.
In my home town Saarbruecken, Mormon missionaries had been quite active for a while in the eighties (or the early nineties? - my memory for time elapsed is quite poor). You could easily identify them from a distance of hundreds of meters by their appearance: white shirts (very often with ties), dark pants, short cut hair. It looked like you were to meet time travellers from the fifties. And they were very young. What possibly should make them look like reputable and respectable adults actually made them look like teenagers in a very strange disguise. Nobody else of their age (maybe of any age with the exception of undertakers) looked like them in Germany. And you couldn't help feeling sorry for them.
That cringe story went on when you couldn't avoid a personal contact. I remember two of them knocking at my door. I lived in an apartment but they had already entered the stairway. When I opened, one of them asked me without any salutations: "Sind Sie auf der Suche nach Gott?" ("Are you searching for God?"). After my quick answer "Nein!", they seemed to be tripped up, were keeping silent for a few seconds and then left the house mumbling something like "Well, then...". What were they expecting, how had they been briefed before coming to Germany? Of my own family including my first grade cousins, I would only call my mother a religious person. And even she (formally a Catholic) would only go to church for funeral masses. Most Germans don't go to church or to any other religious services, not because they have not yet found an appropriate church or belief system but because they are not interested in those things. If you try to bother them with spiritual stuff, they will be very suspicious about you; and that starts with saying "I believe in God" publicly.
To this day, I regret to not have spend some time with these poor guys. It must have been a terrible experience to go from door to door only to have those doors slammed upon your noses metaphorically or even literally.
Some weeks later in a train, I found some small Mormon brochures telling about Joseph Smith, the gold plates etc. To me, that was the weirdest piece of literature since the brothers Grimm. And some people even thought it could be kind of a parody when I showed it to them. What was most strange and embarrassing was the similarity of the iconographic imagery to the Nazi or Communist patterns: people displayed had a complexion that Aryan and where shown in sets that heroic and kitschy that it almost hurt. People would burst into laughter only by looking at those paintings.
I just can't imagine how anybody could believe to be able to have even the slightest success by these means. Not to speak of the special Mormon faith contents that would make look Christian denominations like a paragon of reason and sanity; of course they couldn't help it.
When time went by, I had a feeling that there was a loosing of discipline among the Mormon missionaries. First, they used to be very cautious and stayed together like twins. Some months later, some of them displayed signs of growing frustration
discharging in what I would call a cynical attitude. You could see that from a distance without having to talk to them. I remember seeing one of them sitting on a park bench, drinking beer and whistling at girls.
And they left no traces. Some years ago, I several times tried to visit a local genealogical research center having found the address on one of their web sites. It never was open whenever I tried although I only went there during official opening hours. I tried to make a phone call several times but nobody picked up the phone. I sent an email but never got any response.
What a waste of human labor and, above all, of human lifetime!
| I am an MD in SoCal. Earlier this year, I was asked to see an RM referred to me by a colleague who is active member of his ward. There are no internists in this or adjacent stakes, so for internal medicine needs, members have to consult gentile physicians. (there are nearby LDS dermatologists, and one pediatrician and one Ob-Gyn---who must have LDS patients from a 30 mile radius!). My colleague works in ER and is often asked for referrals by members. I do take it as a compliment that he sees fit to refer member friends to me. He knows I know a lot about LDS culture, but he attributes that more to my having lived in Utah for one semester in college than to extensive involvement in an ExMo bulletin board!! The feedback he has been given by member friends was positive.
The RM was not feeling well and had been in the Far East. He was only a few days home from mission, so I suspected they wanted a check up before his church health coverage ran out. I suggested some blood tests (chemistry panel, thyroid, blood count) and some stool parasite tests.
He never got the tests done because he received an invite to go snowboarding in Utah. While there, he fell and fractured a vertebra and had to be hospitalized at Univ of Utah Med Center. They brought him home, but he couldn't function because he could not get adequate pain control (every time you brethe, it causes severe pain if you have a fractured vertebra and squished disk; if you use a binder, you can get collapsed lungs, which did happen). I put him in the hospital and ran the tests I'd ordered a few months back but which the patient had not done.
I found him to be severely anemic (blood count 1/3 lower than normal). The doctors in Utah had assumed he'd lost blood due to the accident, which was reasonable to assume in the beginning, but the fact that a healthy 21 year old had not raised his blood count two weeks later cast doubt on that assumption. I probed further and discovered that his folate level was the lowest I'd ever seen in a living patient, and the first time in my career that I discovered folate as the cause of someone's anemia (I always order it, always comes back normal). B12, thyroid were normal. Iron was very, very low too.
We got the pain under control and added folate and iron to his diet. Parasite screen was negative, however, he recalled having taken an antiparasitic drug given to ALL missionaries in the field before they returned home. he did not know the name of the drug, but his parasite tests were negative. This led me to believe that parasites were common enough for the mission's medical director to routinely treat all missionaries before leaving the field. The possibility that he has some parasite that caused iron loss cannot be ruled out. What I can't figure out is why they didn't treat the missionaries on a routine, PERIODIC basis? Why only just before returning home? (Write your own answer here).
Asking more questions, I learned that for two years he lived on mostly potatoes and cabbage!! No meat, no green vegetables, which explains the low folate and iron levels. I explained to the parents that in this young man's case, he probably did NOT have some disease of malabsorbtion, but rather than he was in a state of partial malnutrition/vitamin deficiency. THe mother had tried to send vitamins to him but usually they were confiscated by customs in Asia. I was sort of amazed that TSCC didn't provide some sort of vitamins to prevent this. Anyway, his counts returned to normal after several months of therapy and his color is good and he's gained some weight (6'4" and like 160 in the hospital, now closer to 200).
One other thing we learned about the church health plan, which did cover him several months after return, probably because they WISELY sought care within a few days of return, and then the church was on the hook until the problem was resolved. You send the claims to an address ("Missionary Medical Plan") at the COB, but they are processed by a major PPO administrator, which I believe was First Health or PHCS (Private Health Care Systems). His initial office visit to me was covered with a $20 copay, but hospital charges were subject to a deductible of $1000. Because my office submitted charges to SLC before the hospital or the orthopaedist did, my entire bill (under $1000) was not payable by the insurance and was marked "patient responsibility".
This also means that his stay at Univ of Utah Med Center probably wasn't covered, because he was there for a week and surely his bills would have exceeded $1000 rather quickly; the only other explanation would be if the church plan DID cover the accident but Univ of Utah was a month behind in its claim submissions, which I think would be unlikely. The most likely explanation is that the accident that landed him at Univ of Utah was NOT covered by church insurance because it was a post-mission accident, not related to or caused by the mission. However, my notes each day in the hospital made careful mention of "malnutrition/folate deficiency/iron deficiency", which WAS mission-related. Although the family had to pay my bill due to deductible, the hospital's bill (presumably much larger) would have met the deductible by a large margin and most likely was paid out by TSCC. It appears that TSCC is self-insured (you send the bill to "Missionary Medical Plan" c/o some address in SLC) and that the PPO administers theplan for TSCC (and gets negotiated discounts within its PPO network).
We have treated missionaries in the office from time to time and usually Missionary Medical pays the entire bill. We were amazed that a $1000 deductible existed for hospital stays. OK, this kid's stay was part accident and part mission-caused illness, but what about a recent RM with a serious mission-acquired illness with NO accident, where the family cannot afford a $1000 deductible?
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