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MISSIONARIES - SECTION 6
Topics concerning Mormon Missionaries - from young to old.
| For some background I was called to serve in the Tacloban Philippines mission. Its the poorest mission in the Philippines which is already a 3rd world country. I leared to speak Cebuano, Waray-waray, and Tagalog on my mission.
This experience I would like to share happened in my first area Catbalogan. I was still super culture shocked and mostly just followed my companion around like a zombie all day. It didn't help that I could barely communicate with the people because of the multi-lingual barrier.
One hot and sweaty day (every day) we were going to teach a new investigator who lived under a tarp on the side of the filth strewn street. While teaching we would just squat in the road because it was too dirty to sit anywhere. The investigator was a man in his mid 40s who was as skinny as the people you see in the concentration camp pictures after being starved to death. He wore several grocery bags wrapped around his waist for a loincloth.
He admitted to us that because he was to weak to do anything but beg from under the tarp he wasn't getting food or money to feed himself. He was slowly starving to death. He would kill cockroaches and eat them if they came to close to his tarp and that was all he had for sustenance.
After our lesson my companion and I were riding a motorcycle back to our apartment and I asked him if I could buy some food for the investigator. My companion said that he didn't think we were allowed to help the locals because of the mission's rules but I could call the Mission President to ask him.
That night I called our Mission President to ask if I could use my personal funds to feed the poor dying man. I really felt good about this like even though I couldn't speak the langauge I could bring some happiness into this man's life. My Mission President told me in no uncertain terms that I could not assist this man in any temporal way. He urged me to let this man feast from the words of Christ.
A week passed and we went back to teach this investigator. He didn't answer us as we approached his tarp so we flipped up the front flap of the tarp and found him curled in a ball dead. The stench was unbelievable. For a few minutes I just stared at the body of one of my first investigators.
It was the first dead person I had ever seen and I could have done something to save him. My lack of action killed this man. That was the first time I felt geniune anger at the church I had served since I was born. Because of my Mission President's lack of concern with this man's temporal well being he died.
The anger and shame of this experience is still with me today and was a focal point to me investigating the validity of the church.
| I served in an Asian country that didn't have many baptisms. That didn't stop the mission president (much like the SP in this story) from making goals for the missionaries, with no regard for the actual circumstances in the missionaries' area (usually at least 2 baptisms per month, even though 1 a month was rare, sometimes as many as 5 in a month when he was pushing for a big month mission-wide)... If you had a non-baptizing month, you were expected to baptize even more the next, and heaven forbid you went 2-3+ months straight without a baptism (even though that was actually the norm)... So there was plenty of guilt-induced stress, a lot of the mission president and AP's calling missionaries to repentance, etc. And most of the missionaries bought into it and began to believe that their personal worthiness/self-worth was tied to the number of baptisms they had... Some good missionaries would just eventually buy-in to the mission president narrative and believe they were worthless and just completely give up (some even eventually went off the deep end, but not until they were shoved off the edge first)... most just spent most of their mission stressed out about baptisms...
Fortunately, I was a very NOM-ish missionary and I couldn't have cared less about the baptism goals and was able to act as a filter/buffer between the mission president/AP's and the missionaries in my zone (knowing that the truth was the number of baptisms a missionary companionship had in a given month had very little to do with their personal worthiness or how hard they did/didn't work). I hope the bishops in this stake can do the same (obviously this particular bishop isn't), as all it does is create unnecessary pressure/guilt and drive good people to do unethical things (manipulating the members, dunking anyone they can get their hands on before the person is ready, etc.)...
I must say, the focus on quantitative goals for something like personal conversion (baptisms), where everyone gets to exercise their agency in choosing if/when to get baptized, has always really bugged me. It is one of the aspects of what I see as corporatized church culture that I think really needs to be changed...
| When my son entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo two weeks ago, he had one large piece of luggage with wheels and various smaller bags. What he needed was a second large bag to make things easier. I told him not to worry about it; I would get a large bag for him and bring it over for him to consolidate.
And so on Thursday I went shopping. I found the right bag and headed over to the MTC to drop it off. Knowing that I was about to approach a hardened security zone, I thought it wise to call my neighbor who knew the intricacies of the place.
No problem, I was informed. This is a necessity. When you're dropping off a necessity they'll let you in, and you can leave it at the front desk.
Wow, this was going to be easy. So I pulled into the MTC driveway and headed for the guard booth.
"I've got this bag I need to drop off for my son," I told the guard. "It's a necessity." The guard seemed to understand but wanted to make sure.
"What is it again, sir?"
"A bag. A piece of luggage."
"What's your name, sir?" I gave him my name. "One moment, please."
He picked up the phone and dialed the front desk. "Are you expecting a Randy Wright to drop off a bag for his son?" Of course they weren't; this was impromptu. The guard seemed to be talking for a long time, and so I thought it was a good idea to remind him: "It's a NECESSITY."
Eventually, he hung up and turned back to me. "You say you have a bag?" "Yes." "What's in the bag?" "Uh, well, nothing. It's just an empty bag. A piece of luggage that my son needs." "You say it's empty?" "YES, IT'S EMPTY."
"I see. OK. Sorry. It's just that we have people who try to sneak treats in to their missionaries. You can proceed to the awning and take it inside."
The barricade arm rose, and into the high-security compound I went. I took the bag inside, where a woman at the front desk looked askance at me. "May I help you?"
"Yes. You see I have this bag for my son. It's a NECESSITY."
"Uh huh," she replied. "Just a bag?"
"Yes, it's just a bag. A piece of luggage."
Drilling me with a cold stare, she asked: "What's in the bag?"
"Nothing. It's just an EMPTY BAG. See?" I said, holding it up for her to examine.
"Yes, it's empty!"
"I see," she said, softening a little. "Sorry. It's just that we have people who try to sneak treats in to their missionaries."
I handed her the bag and thanked her, and then I got out of there as fast as I could, before a full body search could be undertaken to discover treats on my person. I'm pretty sure somebody went through all the pockets of the new bag looking for contraband.
As I departed, I couldn't help but wonder what had happened to the good old days when people were expected to sneak treats in to their missionaries. What happened to throwing pizza over the MTC fence? Somehow it was more fun back then.
Nowadays, you can send your missionary a treat via the U.S. Mail or one of those same-day MTC delivery outfits. That way you will not break any rules.
| A TBM friend once bore testimony about the massive challenge of his mother passing away whilst he was on his mission nearly twenty years ago. What really disturbed me was that his mission pres actively encouraged him to not attend the funeral - to the degree that leaving the mission wasn't really given as an honorable option.
Now I'm not certain what the general policy is and whether this was just a mission pres exerting his undue influence, but my friend chose to heed this counsel and 'felt good about it' in the sense that he was doing what he thought God wanted.
I felt really sad to hear this. Sure, missionaries can opt not to watch TV or listen to popular music as a means to stay focused on their endeavours, but missing the funeral of a parent? God would really sanction this?
I fear that he might yet live to really regret this decision should he eventually find out the truth.
| In the 1970s Japanese were overawed by the United States and sought to learn from it. So when Mormon missionaries showed up, they were taken very seriously. Then SLC bestowed Groberg and Kikuchi on the poor country, and they turned the missionary force into an extremely rude, manipulative, and myopic force that alienated the Japanese people. When they returned to the States, the new mission presidents tried to rebuild the more modest system that existed before.
But this never worked. By the mid- to late 1980s Japan was becoming an economic superpower and the people had lost their adoration for all things American. So missionaries converted few, and activity rates fell off as all those baseball-baptized people wandered off. By the early 2000s Stake and Mission presidents were still spending huge amounts of time trying to track down people who had been baptized in 1978-1981 to see if they knew they were Mormons or had any interest in being such. In short, the church basically grew until the early 1980s and then began a shrinkage that has not stopped. AT one point SLC sent a high General Authority to find out what had gone wrong, but he naturally refrained from asking any of us who had actual experience. All truth, after all, comes from bishops, stake presidents, mission presidents and area authorities who have a compelling interest in telling SLC what it wants to hear.
So where is Japan today? Well, the church reopened a second mission in Tokyo--I think they resurrected the cursed Tokyo South in which Groberg created his evil; I think our beloved FlattopSF served there. But while Japan remains a wonderful place to be a foreigner and a civil and interesting country to study and work in, it does not yield many baptisms. My guess is that rather than baptising 20-40 people in two years, the rate is now in the low single digits. Better than Europe, certainly, because it is such a comfortable country, but not a source of much growth.
If there ever was a Mormon Moment in Japan, it was roughly 1976-1985. But arrogant multi-level-marketers ruined that chance. As Elder Haight, then head of the overall missionary program later noted (without taking any responsibility), "things really went too far" in Japan.
| I Guess I Was On The Cusp Of The Missionary So-Called "Golden Age": Japan West/fukuoka 1973-75. Believe Me, It Wasn't Golden |
Monday, Mar 18, 2013, at 07:08 AM
Original Author(s): Steve Benson
Topic: MISSIONARIES - SECTION 6 -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| --Pitchin' Mormon Business to Japanese Patriarchs
As missionaries looking for any way to hook converts, we were encouraged by mission leadership to do what was called "kaisha dendo," or business contacting.
It involved going to work places--i.e., commercial business settings such as company headquarters--and asking to speak with the male owner. We would introduce ourselves with business cards (which are very important contacting tools in Japanese society), complete with our names in kanji and the name of our organization (the Mormon Church), in both English and Japanese, Our "business" cards closely mimicked the style, typesetting and look of actual Japanese business cards and were designed to impress and gain us access.
Once in the door of the targeted business, we'd ask the front desk receptionist if we could speak to the head of the company. If the company head was not available, we'd ask for an appointment for a return visit, If granted access then and there, we'd be ushered into the company head's office where, more often than not, we'd promptly be offered tea as a social grace (which, of course, we promptly turned down--not exactly a good way to start the sales pitch, I must say).
We'd then slickly slide into our sales approach, trying to surreptitiously sell the company/corporation owner on the idea of holding, in his home, a Mormon Family Home Evening (without, at that point, getting too deep into the religion thing--you know, tithing, giving up tea and dedicating all your time, talents and resources to a church headquartered in Salt Lake City, America. That would all come later. First things first: Concentrate on the soft sell).
We attempted to hook the head of the company's interest by comparing his family to his company. (Japan is a male-dominated society and it was figured that this approach would go over well with, you know, the guys). The business contacting angle was designed to play to the head of the firm's ego by emphasizing to him that his business was successful because it featured a clear chain of command--one that was structured, goal-oriented and male leader-directed.
The president (so the script went) was the head of the firm who was responsible for making the big, important and final decisions for his present and future business needs, based upon a laid-out model or plan.
In approaching this task, the president has a vice-president with whom he consults, a senior officer of the company from whom the president receives input for effectively and efficiently running the company. The vice-president is often a person who has direct, face-to-face contact with the firm's employees on a regular basis, who is intimately aware of the day-to-day needs of the employees and who keeps tabs on the state of company employee morale, sales and success.
Having laid that groundwork, now came time to pitch the parallels between the guy's business and the guy's family.
The theme for snagging the business owner into further contact with the missionaries was to lure him into attention by convincing him that he could similarly structure his family like his business and in that way keep his family happy, productive and functional.
To accomplish this required a power pyramid, modeled after his own business's, one that went like this:
Your family, sir, is like your company.
You are the husband and father--the CEO, if you will--of your family. You are the head of this organization you call your family--just like you are the head of your business.
Just as you do at work, you, sir, are responsible for making the ultimate decisions that you determine are in the best interest of your family.
Your wife is the equivalent of your vice president. She can give you--the president/husband/father--her advice and observations, as they come from her vantage point from inside the family where she operates closer to the front lines, if you will, and where she works intimately and on a daily basis with your children.
Speaking of which . . .
Your children are your employees.
They are part and parcel of your family plan, like your workers are essential in operating your business plan. It is your job and responsibility as president/husband/father of your home to make sure that your children are productive, well-behaved and follow the rules that you establish (in consultation with your vice-president/wife/mother). You, sir, make the final decisions after seeking out assistance from your vice-presidential assistant/consultant.
The Mormon Family Home Evening program is the business plan for your family. It is organized around the president/husband/father's goals for his family, arrived at after touching base with his vice-president wife and. in the end, signed off by the male head of the house.
A successful Family Home Evening program works like a successful business plan.
To boost employee/children productivity and understanding of the goals of your family, the Family Home Evening program features lessons that teach the employees/children what is important and right for the family.
The lesson, or plan, opens and closes with prayer, asking for God's help that your family will understand this plan as being best for them--just like you, as president of your company, certainly would want heavens's help in running your business successfully.
As with your company employees, it is vital for you, as president of your home, to attend to the personal needs and desires of your children, as well as to the needs and desires of your vice-president wife. The Mormon Family Home Evening program provides opportunities for lessons, games, singing and other together-time activities designed for relaxing and enjoying fun things together with your vice-president wife and employee children. It is important that your vice-president/ wife and your children/employees be actively engaged in planning these fun times and are given responsibilities in carrying them out--all under your supervision and with your approval, of course. This will strengthen the bonds between you, as president/husband/father with your vice-president/wife/mother, as well as with your employees/children.
(Are you with me, dear readers?)
This whole male-centric promo (which, again, we as missionaries would make to the corporation/business head in his office at his work site) was accompanied by flip-charts, illustrations and diagrams to drive the point home--much like the official missionary discussions.
The idea was to get the Japanese man to agree to let the Mormon male missionaries come to his home and, together with his wife and children, actually conduct a Family Home Evening, under the missionaries' guidance, suggestions and outlining.
It was designed as a foot in the door.
But, alas, it didn't work very well.
Once the demonstration Family Home Evening was over and the missionaries asked for a follow-up meeting with the guy and his family to talk about a wonderful book that would bring their family forever-happiness and eternal life with God, eyebrows would more often than not lift and we'd politely be shown the door.
It was a disingenuous, manipulative, sneaky and sexist gimmick.
I hated it.
It represented the essential element of Mormon missionary work that bothered me the most: operating under false and misleading pretenses in order to gain converts.
In other words, the Utah Mormon business model.
Some more thoughts about my time there . . .
--Proselytyzing in the Heart of Nuclear Horror
As noted in the subject line, I was in the Japan West/Fukuoka mission back in the mid-'70s, first under Kan Watanabe and then Arthur Nishimoto. Watanabe was more outgoing amd personable while Nishimoto, having served in the U.S. military as a full-bird colonel, was more regimented.
I was assigned to Naha and Oroku, Okinawa; Miyazaki; Sasebo; and Hiroshima (the latter three up on the island of Kyushu).
In Hiroshima, I regularly visited (and, sadly, proselytized in) the epicenter of the A-bomb, known as "Heiwa Koen" or "Peace Park." The "Atomic Dome"--the remnants of Hiroshima's governmental industrial arts building--stood as a stark reminder of the horror of nuclear holocaust. I remember seeing survivors of the A-bomb walking through the park, their faces melted and bloated, their bodies disfigured and crippled. I visited grass-covered mass graves and brutally-showcased war museums--where my views on war waged at the expense of civilian populations were forever changed. Further south in Okinawa (where I began my mission), I visited World War II battlefields, where last-gasp hand-to-hand fighting, cave-clearing flame-throwing and group-forced suicide by soldiers and civilians alike were recalled in profoundly sobering and disturbing displays.
But back to "the Lord's work."
--Struggling to Baptize, Then Hold on To, Far-Eastern Asians Who Weren't in to American-Western Handcarts
As missionaries, we typically worked in small branches (Naha, Okinawa's capital, was the exception, which had a ward). Membership retention was an ongoing problem. Older men (priesthood bait needed to run the local congregations) were hard to snare, meaning that the missionaries frequently ran the branch meetings and supplementally staffed the auxilliary sub-groups. The general meetings were largely attended by women (old and young). The youth members showed up primarily for the social activities, not because they were drawn to Mormonism's frontier-America doctrine. Baptisms were hard to come by; I saw 11 during my mission and I seriously doubt that many of those converts are active today.
We employed a lot of deceptive bait-'n-switch tactics that were taught, approved and encouraged by mission leaders in our door approaches, in our business contacting, in our street and train-station crowd-working and in our free English classes--all designed to lure the Japanese into letting us into their houses. I hated it.
--Being Hosted by Subservient Females
When I was there, Japan was quite the patriarchal society (hence, we played to that unforunate reality with the all-hail-to-the-Mormon-prophet-male approach). Japanese women would typically serve meals when we were visiting in investigators' (as well as members') homes, often retreating quietly to the kitchen while the conversation went on with the guests in the other room. (I remember later meeting, quite by chance, one of the female Japanese members whom I had first met on my mission. She was at Temple Square during General Conference, no doubt looking for an eternal American mate).
--God Loses Out to Gambling
"Pachinko" parlors (the Japanese version of pinpall machines) were all over the place, crammed full of young boys and men who would mindlessly play the games for hours on end.
--The Male Degradation of Japanese Women
The public signage for Japan's version of X-rated moves was prominent and explicit, with females being overtly objectified on large billboards that were frequently featured along busy city streets.
The "manga," or cartoons, were typically and horrifically violent, featuring gory scenes of stabbings and shootings that were over-the-top graphic and bloody, yet regularly watched by very young children.
--Allegiance to the Group, not to the "Gaijin" (Meaning "Foreigner")
The mentality of the Japanese nation was one which placed a premium on group compliance, with strong emphasis on sacrificing for the good of the company and nation at the expense of individualism, all the while avoiding shaming those in authority. That meant not embarrassing one's family by, for instance, joining an American religious cult.
--Free English, in Exchange for a Lifetime of Mormonism
As missionaries, we used to advertise and teach free English classes as a ploy designed to lure Japanese businessmen and students into taking the lesson-plan discussions (The Japanese liked to learn conversational English directly from native speakers, preferring it over the regimented English classes taught in Japanese public schools that were long on structure and short on the actual development of free-flowing conversational skills)
--Angling for the Kids
Japanese youth were enthralled with Western fashion and music. They would wear American-style jeans and t-shirts--the latter often decorated with English-language slogans (even though the wording was often grammatically broken and just as often unwittingly hilarious). Japanese boys would sport what we called "aircraft-carrier" haircuts--protruding out long in the front, waxed along the sides and ducktailed in the back--all while clogging around in their traditonal Japanese shoes, or "getas."
The Osmonds were very popular when I was there (particularly Jimmy), so we used to regularly trot out pictues of the Osmond family smiling and holding up Japanese copies of the Book of Mormon. (That gimmick was especially effective in catching the attention of Japanese schoolgirls).
--My Personal Distaste for the Fakeness of It All
It was such a disingenuous way to approach the people and I never really liked it nor was comfortable doing it. I felt like I was play-acting my way through a distasteful charade, despite what I was outwardly saying or showing. I eventually came to inwardly disdain it, given that it was so phony and deceptive. I actually enjoyed becoming a mission leader, as the assignment allowed me to spend less time hitting people up on the street in ways that bugged both them and me.
--On the Brighter Side
Despite all the Mormon-generated unpleasantness, the upside to my mission was that Japan is a beautiful country full of wonderful, fascinating people with a rich cultural tradition uniquely their own. Their holidays were festive and colorful, with both men and women dressed in striking historical costuming. Their Shinto and Buddhist temples were open and elegant. Their traditional gardens--complete with bonsai trees, arched bridges and meticulously sculpted grounds--were simple and stunning. Their natural landscapes, from the rice paddies to the mountains (and including, because of a lack of space, rice paddies on the sides of mountains), were serene and majestic.
I wish I had spent my stint there as an out-of-the-nest 19- to 21-year-old focusing on absorbing Japanese culture, learning the naton's history and appreciating its amazing singularity instead of wasting such opportunties by peddling silly Mormon propaganda to a nation that really doesn't want it, really doesn't need it and really doesn't relate to it.
--Ode to My "Dodes" (Short for "Dorio," Meaning "Companion")
In the years since, I haven't kept in meaningful contact with my former companions, nor they with me. I wouldn't be surprised if, for many of them, their missions were an early phase of life they went through as obedient, youthful soldiers for Zion but who now are far less involved, devout or even faithful at all.
--Big-City Memories and Small-Zoo Atrocities
For what it's worth, my most memorable recollection of big-city Fukuoka was not of any Mormon temple (there wasn't one back then, anyway). It was of an angry, captive chimpanzee spitting through his cage bars on human gawkers at the city zoo.
I warned a fellow missionary to be careful but he was bound and determined to get a good shot of the displeased and ornery chimp who was sitting,hunched over, at the back of his cage glaring at his unwanted visitors.
The chimp slowly filled his cheeks with water sucked up through his pursed lips from his drinking trough then, without warning, dashed down toward the front of his chain-linked cage, leapt to the top of his enclosure and unleashed the contents of his cheeks, drenching the Mormon elder with a great shot of his own--one that spit-split the missionary right down the middle, drenching his suitcoat and gooping up his nice, long-lens, pricey Nikon camera.
Talk about a missionary door approach gone wrong.
Another equally distressing scene (at least from the perspective of abused animals) was when, early in my mission, I went to a so-called "zoo" in Okinawa, where a mongoose and a cobra were thrown into the same cage to fight it out in front of a bunch of hollering homo sapiens.
The mongoose, by instinct, was focused on attacking the snake, while the snake was likewise focused on fighting for its life.
The animals eyed each other warily, each threatening the other. The cobra eventually struck out at the aggressive mongoose, whereupon one of its fangs became lodged in the tongue of it tormentor. The mongoose proceeded to drag the snake around inside the glass enclosure of this cage-fight, tongue painfully extended from its mouth, unable to shake itself loose from the cobra.
The human handler finally stepped in and pulled the snake out of the mongoose.
It was awful.
Japan was a conflicted mix for me--an experience of good and bad. I learned a lot there. I learned what an amazing place the country was, with gracious, hard-working and devoted people.
I remember, especially and early on, doubting the depth of my testimony. I was in my first area. Despite my earnest study, I had nagging doubts about the veracity of the Book of Mormon, so late one night I climbed up to the roof of our apartment in Okinawa, seeking answers.
I remember the moon was out, dramatiucally reflecting off the clouds in what we called "typhoon alley." I paced back and forth for hours, praying for God to tell me that the Book of Mormon was true.
Finally, after a long futile effort, I "heard" a voice inside me ordering me to go to bed because I had work to do in the morning--missionary work. I stuffed my doubts down deep and plowed ahead, finishing my mission as a zone leader and returning, ostensibly faithful, to the fold.
I told that apartment-rooftop story to a young-adult fireside audience upon returning from my mission--after which my mom reprimanded me, telling me that I was not to repeat that story again since, she declared, I had always had a testimony.
But Mormonism--as I was to eventually find out through my own stubborn thinking, digging and asking--wasn't true and, hence, wasn't for me.
Too bad it took me so long to arrive at that conclusion.
I would have much more enjoyed Japan as a Gentile.
| I served in Sendai. It was a bitch. I was a language superfreak and picked it up right away--I was also anxiously engaged and one of those elders I am sure the rest of the mission loved to hate in some respects (I was sincere and that's what got me--I climbed right on up the ladder without even trying). The meme posted by Br. Galileo is at least partly accurate.
In any case, the Japanese haven't "caught onto" Mormonism so much as consistently and reliably ignored it.
Elder Kikuchi is the star of the LDS show in Japan. I leave it to the reader to judge his utility in any significant capacity vis-a-vis proselytizing etc. I met him once and like any good missionary worshipped him, even as I observed a very minor Elder and Sister peccadillo happen right underneath his nose during a zone conference over which he presided. He was never the wiser.
The Church is widely considered a nuisance there, mostly because the missionaries spend their time harassing the good people of Japan who have no desire to be harassed into heaven. Go figure.
Baptismal rates were very low--I didn't have a single one. I also saw overall missionary numbers from from 112 to 86 while I was there (between seven and nine years ago).
Five hundred people were on the rolls in one of my wards--less than one hundred were at Church. Less than a dozen Melchizedek priesthood holders in that ward. Tokyo is a black hole for investigators, converts, and ward members alike. Wards shrink and never recover.
The ward members dislike the missionaries just as much as nonmembers in Japan. We were always at odds with them (although I did encounter a few friends).
Long hours, few to no results. Like I said, a bitch. Hot and humid in the summer, bone chillingly cold in the winter (at least in Sendai). MP's didn't have a clue. (First was American and second was Japanese). About anything.
Lots of eternal investigators and stupid English classes with stupid people (who were too cheap to pay for legitimate instruction and strange enough to hang around after they learned that they were taking classes form cult pushers). Weird.
Did I mention the porn? Everywhere--not helpful for young missionaries. I didn't have a problem with it, but there were those who did. And when you are that young and that horny, even mugi starts to look very good (actually, some mugi are very attractive, but the point is--who the hell thought it was a good idea to send sexually repressed young adults to one of the sexiest countries? Stupid!). Like we always said, "Remember the oats!"
Ugh. I hated every moment of my experience. It didn't help that I was dealing with intense inner turmoil that perpetuated itself throughout the whole 2 years, day in and day out, that left me broken and empty. I'm still dealing with that trauma. Thanks, First Presidency and your stupid computer that sent me to Japan (not that Japan was so bad, per se, but there would have been better places for me where I would not have been so isolated etc.). Dicks.
| Being Sent To Impoverished And Terrorism-Plagued Peru In The Mid-1980s At 19 Was Difficult Enough |
Thursday, Apr 11, 2013, at 12:53 PM
Original Author(s): The 1st Freeatlast
Topic: MISSIONARIES - SECTION 6 -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| Factoring in the parasites I picked up while in-country, chronic malnutrition in the slums I was put in, lingering effects of spinal meningitis (contracted in my first area, a filthy shantytown on the north side of Lima, the capital), and almost being murdered (in another ghetto where I was assigned to live and proselytize), it took me about a decade and a half post-mission to fully recover from my stint marketing the 'message' of the 'one, true' corp. of Je$u$ Christ (a.k.a. TSCC).
In my stake, a guy in another ward who was roughly my age was sent to Haiti to 'preach the Go$pel' during some of its more violent years. There, he witnessed a man being 'necklaced' (a gasoline-covered tire put over his torso and arms and set alight). The trauma of seeing that extreme violence in conjunction with the grinding poverty deeply psychologically wounded him. TSCC didn't care, really. There were missionary discussion (lesson) and baptism quotas to be met.
Of course, Mormon 'Profits' running the show at LD$ Inc. from their comfortable, air-conditioned offices at church HQ in SLC were arrogantly convinced - and still are - that even poverty-afflicted Latter-day Saints in Third World nations like Peru and Haiti should pay tithing in order to be 'worthy' of Mormon-imagined 'blessings'.
LD$ Inc. has never given members who struggle to survive on the local currency equivalent of a few dollars per day (or considerably less, in many cases) a break on tithing. But it's been quite willing to take their meager funds and spend billions of $$$ on a shopping-mall-and-condos project in SLC, for starters. The thinking inside the Morg is obscene, really, but LD$ 'Profits' don't care, not when more multi-million-dollar McTemples are being built or their construction planned.
As we've learned during the past decade or so thanks to govt. requirements for registered charities in certain countries, LD$ Inc. has reserves of hundreds of millions of dollars in its accounts in the UK and New Zealand alone. But it won't give even 2% of its multi-billion-dollar annual income to help the poor and others in need of humanitarian assistance, according to its filed reports.
I feel sorry for the 18-year-old. The sooner he gets out of the dishonest, cultic, and money-obsessed LD$ Church, the better.
| First of all, the missionary is a volunteer. He is working on his own time and expense. (I will exclude female missionaries because they do not face the same expectations as male missionaries, although I am sure they have their own missionary struggles.) The church conveniently forgets that missionaries are giving up lots of time and money to serve the church. Instead, they treat it like the missionary owes God and the church is doing him a big favor going on one.
Young men are guilted into going on a mission. A mother tells her young boy that she expects him to serve a mission. Missionaries assigned to their ward and missionaries leaving and returning to their ward are held up as examples: Look at the handsome young man serving God. You'd better do that, too.
When you get on the mission, starting in the MTC, everything is done from guilt. God is disappointed if you fart in class. Sleeping in is a sin. Making a joke is a sin. Anything that detracts from your mission, any moment where you act like a teenager is treated as a violation of God's laws. You are made to feel like a failure if you let your hair down for 5 minutes.
Your MP and your peers will guilt you all the time. Elder, the Lord is disappointed in you. Elder, you are wasting the Lord's time. Elder, you missed an opportunity to save that man's soul. How could you not talk to that woman on the street? She needs your word to go to Heaven!
The biggest threat to a missionary is being sent home early. It is the missionary death penalty. To go home to your ward and family early is the LDS Scarlet Letter. Unless you can show some illness, in which you are just a disappointment, you are treated like Hester Prynne. "What did he do wrong" everyone will whisper.
One of my friends came home early, and my mom asked me that. I refused to tell her, because I didn't want to pry into his life. For years, he was known as the guy who came home early. You are better off not going than going home early.
If you do not go, then everyone points at you as the 20 year old not on his mission. You either sinned and are unworthy, or you are too weak or not valiant enough to serve. Girls are taught only to date RMs, so you become the dented can aisle.
Getting that RM label for young men is critical. The rest of your LDS life, you will be asked where you served. It's like having a college degree in the business world. You can make it without one, but it's a lot tougher and some doors will always be closed to you.
Without guilt or shame, the LDS missionary program would simply shut down. Why put yourself through such hell and pretend you like it unless LDS society demands it?
| I didn't leave because I couldn't "hack it" or because I was offended, or wanted to sin. I was a good missionary and doing well in the MTC. My issues were with the MTC Prez over confidentiality and trust. Such to the point that my disgust led to a loss of any desire to serve. When I told the MTC Prez and a visiting G.A. that I was leaving, they begged me to stay. I had a few choice words for them instead as I walked out.
When I returned home I discovered that apparently I was serving a mission not for myself or for the people I would be teaching, but instead for the members of my family. My father met me at the airport. No hug, just a handshake. He told me "You look good. I can't say I am glad to see you." He then proceeded to scream at me the entire 30 minute drive home. I didn't see my mother. She couldn't face me for another four days. My sister, in tears, asked me how I could shame the family like that. I was shunned by the people that, unfortunately, I was dependent on at that time. They were more concerned with THEIR church status and how they would be perceived in the Ward than with my well being. When I sought them for help and aid, they were more intent on breaking me. Perhaps a "wilderness residential treatment center" would have helped. SHEESH!!
What I needed (and craved) was a father who would have sat down with me and said something like "O.K., if you are not going to do the mission you need to start planning your life out. Let's get you some direction, set some goals of getting you back into school, getting a job, some form of transportation, and what your mother and I can do to help you achieve those goals." That conversation never occurred. If it wasn't for some great friends and others OUTSIDE of my family willing to help...I never would have made it. To them I will always be grateful.
| Saw this on Sunday...
After reviewing the missionary funds along the Wasatch Front, the COB has decided that stakes need to take the following action:
Each Bishop is to review the missionaries account balances. The ward is allowed to have 3 months ($1,200) of surplus for each missionary. Any monies beyond this surplus will need to be sent to the stake, which then cuts a check to the COB.
Seem the Hastening of the Work(R) is getting expensive.
It's all one big pot. Essentially, ever since the early 90's, parents and well wishers both "donate" to the same pot. It's expected that a ward provide around $400 per active missionary in the ward. Usually, that's either from funds that the missionary saved up and the parents, but often other ward members will also "donate" to the same fund to also help out.
The parents money does not go directly to the missionary, it hasn't for a long time. The story is that it all goes into a large pot that gets spent as needed, some missions are more expensive, others are less, this was an attempt to equalize everything...
But, with everything the church does, there are hidden benefits that profit the church:
1. The church can now earn interest on that money as it's not sent directly to their offspring, they can put it in a savings account and let it earn all kinds of interest.
2. A parent may fully fund their child, some other member of the ward may wish to help anonymously, thinking that some family isn't pulling their weight... Who gets that extra money, I'll give you one guess (hint, the OP tells you quite plainly.)
3. A tithing slip, which is is how a family "donates" the money for their offspring, now has the wonderful disclaimer that the church can and will do whatever they want with the money, so while you may think you're providing funds for your child, you're really helping to build a mall.
4. The missionary's funds are now fully controlled by the church (sending money directly is not only discouraged, in some missions its forbiden). This does two things, first it builds up a mental dependence on the church for a persons needs and livelihood. Secondly, if the church is say, building a mall, and they need some extra funds for it, a missionary may find out that their monthly budget is being cut because the mission is try it out to see if they can do OK on less money... Oh, and they'll be moved into a members home where they will have to pay little to no rent... So, they will more than likely be living on much less than the average $400 requirement.
If you can't tell, I don't like the missionary program, I don't like how it's run, I don't like how it's funded... Everything about it is designed to benefit the church and mess with the heads of future tithe payers.
| It was the last 5 months of my mission (Around May 1996 as I recall), and I was assigned to an area called Sasayama with a Japanese companion (elder S.). It was a new area that had just opened up some months before as I understood it, and I believe I was the third missionary to be stationed there. Well, as it turned out, the new area boundaries intersected an area that I was stationed in about a year earlier and as such, some of our investigator contacts from the previous area now fell into the boundaries of this new area.
One of the investigators (Ms. A.) attended english class (eikaiwa) in my previous area, but was not interested in the lessons, and so we did not push her. In an effort to bolster our english class attendance, I contacted her and told her that we were starting a class in sasayama which was one or two train stops from her house. She was excited and started coming.
A few weeks later, my companion told me we were going to do splits with the missionaries in Miki (my previous area), I was to go with an American elder (who was in my MTC group) and he was going to go with a Japanese guy who was ending his mission the following month. I of course was excited to see elder M. and visit Miki again, and on the day of the split, we headed to Miki.
My day with elder M. went well as I recall, we met up with some people who I hadn't seen for a few months, toured Miki, ate at Osho's probably, and met our counterparts that afternoon. On the way home, I discovered that elder S. had been teaching a lesson to none other than Ms. A. I recall this was on a Thursday or Friday.
I said "Oh? how did it go?"
"Great!" he said "We taught her all the lessons, and she has agreed to be baptized on Tuesday!"
"WTF" I though, but said "Wow, that is amazing! I thought she did not want to hear the lessons!"
"I guess the Miki missionaries were working with her" he replied.
This was odd, because I would expect that in Japan, and investigator willing to hear the lessons would have been a topic of conversation for Elder M. and myself, but I do not recall hearing of it until the belated conversation with elder S.
And it came to pass that the following Tuesday (note, she did not attend church on Sunday). We convened along with a number of members from surrounding areas at a ward house in a different city (I don't recall which one, but I don't think it was Miki). I did not recognize most of the members. There, they performed the baptism on the now sister A. The really odd thing about it was that all the members brought wrapped presents. I don't know that I have ever seen this, and instead of a testimony meeting type thing after, she opened presents ... WTF???
So, she was baptized, and became a member. The following Sunday, she did not show up for church. Knowing my companion had been the one making calls to her, I inquired as to why. He said she had to work at her parent's restaurant on Sunday, and that they were going to have a special meeting for her after the normal church. So that afternoon, we all convened (myself, elder S., the BP, counselors, and several others.) She showed up, and they broke bread, blessed it, and served it. Everybody in attendance partook of a second sacrament that day, except me and Ms. S. very odd indeed.
When the sacrament was presented to her, she looked at me and said "so, I eat this?"
I said "yes, do you understand what it means?"
She said "No"
I said, "Ok we should probably talk about it."
At this point, I was cutoff by the BP, and told that the remaining time should be spent introducing everyone to her. Which we did.
She left that afternoon, and to my knowledge has never set foot in a Mormon church again.
The following week, and given that Ms. A was the ONLY baptism the area had seen in probably 2 years, I was ready for fellowshipping. Wednesday was the day that we were to visit her part of our area, and I was ready to go talk to her again and clear up all the issues that she had. We rode the train to the next town with the plan of visiting her. Somehow though, we kept getting side tracked, and never made it. My comp wanted to stop and try a little sushi restaurant. Wanted to do a little housing, left the actual address at home, all kinds of excuses. In short, we never made it to her house that day.
The following Sunday, she was a no show at church, and when I asked elder S (he had taken over all communication with her) his response was basically "don't worry about her, she's fine"
This whole thing caused me a pretty fair amount of stress, and by the following Wednesday, I was determined to make the appropriate fellowshipping visit. So, we got on the train and headed to her town. Again, he started trying to distract us from our goal, but I was determined and kept pushing toward where I thought her parent's restaurant was (Addressed in Japan can be tricky, especially in older towns). we were in the vicinity of where I thought it was, when as if by the power of the holy ghost, she pulled up to the red light where we were standing! I told her we were coming to visit her, and she said "great! our restaurant is just right up there, follow me!" She then pulled into a small strip mall type area about a half block away.
As we approached the restaurant that her family owned, elder S. stopped me and said "you need to take of your nametag" (now lest you think me a great missionary, I had no problem removing my tag on P-Day to go play video games, sing karaoke, etc. but I had never done so while on the job.) I asked why, and was told that the Mission President had told him that we were not to visit her or her family, because her family was "anti" and if we did visit them, we were to represent ourselves as volunteers who taught English, and not as missionaries. I was of course taken aback by this, but went along with it, because that's what the MP had said. I found that nothing could have been further from the truth, I even told her mother that we were volunteers from the LDS church, and asked if she had ever heard of our organization. She said "No". In fact upon finding out that we were volunteers, she made us free konomiyaki, and sent us on our way with a 10 lb. bag of their konomi mix, and sauce so we could make our own at home!
The following Wednesday (and bear in mind that the stress of all of this was really building, and my relationship with elder S. was not a healthy one. We probably said no more that 5 words to each other on a given day.) we lit out for Ms. A's town again, things finally reached a boiling point, and it ended with me ditching elder S., and riding my bike up into the mountains. I didn't really think it through, and ended up a fair ways away, as night was falling. I cooled down, turned around and started heading home. I was still really pissed, and as I approached our apartment (maybe 1/4 mile away) a car slowed down behind me. I pulled off the road, and the headlights followed me. I started riding again, and the headlights again accelerated and followed me. I pulled off, threw my bike down, and got ready to tie ass with whoever was in the car...It was the Mission President, and both the APs. Now, mind you that this area was about 2 hour drive from the mission home with tolls. They followed me home, I was too pissed off at this point to worry about why they were there, or what sort of punishment would be levied upon me. Oddly enough, I don't recall the MP saying anything to me, he took elder S. and the Japanese AP into one room. I and elder G. the other AP went into another.
I told elder G. everything that had happened up to that point, and how confused I was as to the orders from the MP, or whether the orders really did come from the MP. He confirmed that they had, and that there was a perfectly valid reason for what was happening.
It turns out that Japan is a very difficult mission, and many missionaries go home without having a baptism. This is typically fine for American missionaries, but for Japanese missionaries there is a fairly large stigma attached with not having baptized anyone upon completion of the mission. Because of this the MP decided that when a missionary was ending his mission without a baptism, he would have the missionary submit several investigators who had been to eikaiwa a fair amount of time. He would then call the investigator directly, and representing himself as the President of the Mission that was providing the eikaiwa service (titles hold a lot of weight in japan, especially to 18 year old girls). He would apparently make some sort of commitment with them that they needed to go through an initiation process if they wanted to continue to attend eikaiwa, and that they basically owed it to us because of all the engrish they had learned. Of course, in most cases the victim would agree. They were also told thatthey should not tell their families because as an 18 year old adult, they had no responsibility to do so. The following week, two Japanese missionaries would skim through the lessons, the baptism date would be set, the victim would be baptized, and bada bing, a successful mission!
I recall being in tears upon hearing this, and being a party to it. Especially the lying to family hit me really hard. I don't think I left that room, and I didn't talk to the MP, or other AP that night. The rest of my time in Sasayama is a blur, the next transfer maybe a couple days, or a week later saw me transferred to the mission home where my companion had -just days before- broken his arm. When transferring out, Ms. A's mother came by the apartment, and gave me a care basket that had food, some t-shirts, and other items (hardly the raging anti's I was led to believe they were, and incidentally, when they found out about the baptism, apparently they involved the police, and lawyers. Luckily I was gone by then. I probably couldn't have handled that very well.)
My new companion's cast precluded him from riding a bike, and as anyone knows a transfer to the mission home without an office job is basically to be baby sat. While there however, I was determined to be useful -oh brainwashed idiot I was-, I wrote a program on the office PC to help the finance guy with his job. I had a bunk in a room with 5 other elders who were all Japanese, but I couldn't stand being around them because they all acted like elder S. so I setup a futon on the floor in the American's room (weird segregation going on there). After a few weeks in the mission home, and after a lot of soul searching on my part, I came to the realization that I was not a good missionary, and that I was just going to finish out my time, and go home. I recall I told another missionary about this.
Enter the MP worthiness interview. I was called one afternoon into a personal interview with the MP. By this time, I think I had worked up a fair amount of animosity toward him, but of course my brain washing really precluded me from having any conscious malice toward him. I think I turned it all on myself. I remember very clearly the feelings of worthlessness I had walking into the meeting. He had a huge desk, and a nice office. He was sitting across from me and had his hands clasped with his fingers intertwined and elbows resting on the desktop. I sat down, and the first thing he said was "So, I understand that you don't want to be a missionary anymore". He was native Japanese, but he spoke English to me, as he was a translator for the LDS church, and I think that because I had stopped speaking to Japanese missionaries rumor spread that I could not speak the language.
I said "No",
He said "Well we can't have missionaries who don't want to be here, I'll fill out this form, and we will discharge you" (or something like that) I looked at him, and he had a twinkle in his eye. He didn't seem sad at all, and that really hurt. I think I started to tear up at that point too.
He placed a form on his desk, and started filling it out, all the while humming a tune to himself, and smiling. I was thinking about how disappointed my parents, and friends would be that I could not complete an honorable mission. How embarrassing it was going to be to face the ward, etc. I kept my mouth shut as he spent the next 5 or 10 minutes filling out various parts of the form (I never saw the form myself, so I don't know if he had to write an essay about why he was sending me home, or if he was just filling out biographical info, but it took an excruciating amount of time for me). I was determined to keep my mouth shut, get through this, and head home. Suddenly, he stopped, looked up at me and said "there is a part here where it requires a description from you as to the nature of your leaving. What would you like me to put?" he said this last bit with a smirk, a sneer, maybe a chuckle, I don't know what it was, but in an instant in my mind he went from a respectable leader to a deceitful scumbag, and my temper flared up with such a heat that I was surprised with what started spewing out of my mouth.
"Write because my mission president is god damn liar! Tell them that I want to leave because I came on a mission thinking that I was going to do some good in the world, and instead I allowed myself to be turned into a liar. I may not be the best missionary, and I may break the rules but I certainly never lied about who I was or why I was here until you told me to. And now I am as big a liar as you, and I am not going to do it any more!" I think I was switching between English and Japanese, and I had a spattering of swear words in there too. (In Japan, no one can understand colloquialisms -or so missionaries believed-, so many missionaries develop a salty dialect to camouflage conversations in public).
His face turned a shade paler when he heard this, the smirk was now gone, he opened his top drawer, deposited the form inside, and said "Maybe we should call your parents, and talk to them about this before you make any rash decisions."
I said "ok" and a few seconds later I was talking to my dad, which anyone who has served a foreign mission knows is incredible, he just used his phone on his desk! we had to buy phone cards, find a pay phone that allowed international calling, and wait for mothers day, or xmas!
I told my dad the story of what was going on, and how I didn't want to be a part of it, I recall blubbering a lot, and he said "Well, we already paid ahead for your mission, you still have 4 months left. I don't care if you don't want to do any work, but you may as well stay there."
We talked for about 5 minutes, and I calmed down and regained my composure, all the while the MP sat silently at his desk. My dad asked me to hand the phone back to the MP, and I heard one site of the conversation. It went something like this: "No, yes, yes, yes sir, yes sir, yes sir. Thank you, good bye" he hung up the phone.
I said "I want to be transferred to xxxxx with elder xxx as my companion" got up and left.
The next week, I was in xxxxx with elder xxx as my companion. He ended his time 2 months later, and I got saddled with a green bean for my last month. I don't know what the inspiration there was, I told the greenie that we were not going to be doing any work, but that I would do my best to "train" him so he didn't blame me for his failed mission. I think we taught one discussion, toured the mission, and I left a month later. I didn't have an exit interview with the MP, the SP at home got notice that I had served an honorable mission, and I went home never hearing anything else about it. I told a fair amount of this story in Japanese in sacrament meeting at my home coming, and was told by several people who "spoke Japanese" how although they didn't understand much of what I said, they totally felt the spirit...sheesh!
This event pretty much convinced me to the fraud of the church, and although I went to church a few times, some members from Japan visited and I went to church with them. I was pretty much out. It took a few more years and the internet to completely destroy any misconceptions I may have had regarding the truthfulness of the church, and the impending birth of my first child for me to finally resign in 2005.
That's my story, since then, my career path has been in software development, and I now live in Utah. I have ironically done a fair amount of work for the LDS church as a contractor and everything I have seen in regards to the organization is consistent with it being untrue to it's outward claims. I think I heard the MP died a few years later, I haven't kept up with anybody from Japan -probably from embarrassment- I keep in touch with one of my companions, but that's about it.
| A Word Of Advice To All New Female Missionaries preparing to enter the MTC.
As you are just heading out on your mission, I entered the MTC almost the same day back in 1990. I'm now about to turn 44.
I don't think it is possible to understand how Patriarchy hurts women until you actually enter the mission field and you see how the church is run and you see just how little power you really have. You work and work and then have to turn your investigators over to a boy 3 years younger than you to baptize and your investigator is looking at you like you are a weak, weak woman who can't literally work for god on her own. Wait, you'll see.
Then, you'll go to numerous zone meetings where the boys will get up and preside and lead and you will sit quietly with your companion and say nothing.
You will work at least 80 hours a week and still jump when the DL calls and wants you teach one of their female investigators even though you are exhausted, your laundry needs done, you've eaten nothing but pasta all week,...you'll go...because the boys come first and you have to be "selfless". And, when your companion or yourself becomes suicidal because of the lack of any control you have over your life out there...you'll be blamed, not the church, not the program, not the regime.
So, here's my advice and I hope you can here me. Remember this...you are doing all of this for FREE. Either you, or your friends and family are paying for you to be a saleswoman for the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. For the next 18 months, you will attempt to convert people who will pay 10% to the church for a lifetime. You are literally filling the back accounts of the church, while yours is emptying. And when you come back, there is nothing for you. No tuition assistance, no lump sum payment...nothing. But the church could have already made thousands because of your work and hard hard labor.
So, I will tell you what I wish someone would have told me. When you are tired. Don't go out.
When you are sick, go to a doctor, listen to her/him and go back to your flat and don't go out.
If you are mentally exhausted. Stop working and go see the sights and forget the work for the day and just focus on you and re energizing your batteries.
If you are in a flat that is too cold or too hot, or that has mold, or rats, or any infestations...DEMAND to move, immediately. DO NOT JEOPARDIZE your health for this mission.
Remember, if you spent this time in the military, you'd be making serious money, and they would house and feed you well. A mission is opposite, you are being drained and you will feel that in just a few days when your parents drive away and are thinking all is well. It won't be and only you will know that as it's you out there,...not them. Also, if the moment comes where you don't want to be there anymore. If you have given all you can and your soul is on the verge of breaking...don't worry about family, friends or expectations...get home, save yourself and do what you want where you want and pursue your dreams.
Remember, this is voluntary and you are losing money.
I'll tell you the truth, when I got out there...after 2 months I was done. That is a LONG time to give your days and nights for free to any organization. 18 months is extortion...but you'll find that out yourself. Most people stay out because they are afraid of their parents. I was.
Also, when you come home. Move away from your family. Spend time with YOU. Get your own routine back. Do what you love. If you want to be a plumber, go learn to be a plumber. You want to be a cowboy, an electrician...go do that.
If you want to be a parent, don't even think about it until your late 20's. Get your education, get your career stable, get your own place and get some money in the bank and you guard that with your life.
A mission is hard, but coming home with nothing and starting a marriage with nothing and having babies with nothing is harder. Your mother made her choices and you have yours to make. Don't confuse the two.
I mean no disrespect to your mother, but I've been out there pounding the pavement in a foreign country. I know darn good and well what you are up against and no mother who has never experienced that has a right to expect her daughter not to be completely changed by that experience.
Use your instincts. Put yourself first, put your companion second and don't shun her if she just can't go out that day. Help her, comfort her and talk to her and don't guilt her. She's human like you and doing the best she can.
I won't say "good luck" as I know it takes a heck of a lot more than that to survive this.
If you get sick, get checked for worms and parasites. If someplace doesn't feel right...stay away. If you get a companion that you cannot get a long with no matter how hard you try, refuse to work until you get reassigned. Do not suffer out there any more than you need to. Remember, at the end of this 18 months, your bank account is zero, but the bank account of the church could very well be in the thousands that you'll never see and never benefit from. Keep that in mind.
You are going to have to be strong. The MTC is not the real world. Be as ready as you can. And, if you get hurt and your parents don't want to hear it because of how it would "look", stop talking to them and find someone who will listen to you...it just might save your life.
On a personal note...I never married or had kids because I hated the gender roles in the church. When I came home from my mission after my full 18 months, my Bishop father forced me to go a singles ward to get married, he gave me no choice and that was it for me. I had just worked my butt of for nothing for the church and I was not going to come home as a 23 year old woman and be disrespected again. I left the church shortly after this. Why? How could a true believing Mormon woman leave the church after a lifetime of living it? Because as a woman I was no longer willing to be subject to a man when I had just worked as hard or harder than them for nothing...and they got the pleasure of baptizing the people I had worked so hard to convert. No, patriarchy and gender roles are not for me.
But...I would never have known that unless I had entered into the pressure cooker that is called a "mission".
Be smart, and save yourself.
| Maybe it's the younger missionaries or maybe the ones in my ward just don't have their sh*t together. They seem so disorganized and unsure of themselves.
I was bored during the missionary report in Ward Council this morning so I looked in the new "Preach My Gospel" manual to see if TSCC has changed how they teach the commitment pattern. I was surprised that I couldn't find anything on it, at least it's not called that anymore. Is there any history behind this change?
I served close to 20 years ago and, besides the language training, the only thing they taught in the MTC was the commitment pattern. It was basically a program on how to be a sales guy. The process the used car salesman down the street uses is no different than what we used to gain converts. Some of us missionaries joked about it, calling it the "Manipulation Pattern". The missionaries that baptized the most were the ones that knew how the sell the church. I had several converts tell me that I "convinced" them of the truth. Sorry guys.
It's no wonder Utah has so many MLM companies, there's a constant influx of sales people coming home from missions. I have to admit that these skills have definitely helped me in my career, perhaps my mission wasn't a complete waste after all.
| Much of this post is a repeat of my "Taming of the Shrewd" 2012 post. It's very relevant because I have been discussing the grooming of young, unpaid volunteer salespersons to go out and market Mormonism's fraudulent pitch and collect money from new marks. |
At the 2012 semiannual general conference on Oct 6, LDS corporate CEO Thomas Monson announced that effective immediately, young men may begin their full-time Mormon missionary service following their graduation from high school, even if they are only 18 at the time. And young women, who have not been eligible for full-time missionary service until age 21, may now begin their service at age 19.
Understand, these are unpaid volunteers whose families pay for them to work (about $500 a month or $6000 a year "donated" to LDSinc) on the behalf of Monson's corporation for two-years, marketing the history and doctrine of his theocorpocracy.
The result since then, more than a year later, is the self-paying missionary sales force has grown more than a third larger in size. President Newsroom claims they're at around 80,000 strong. That's more employees than Apple has to sell its billions-dollar phone and computer industry. And they're free! Some critics believe this surge is due to both older and then younger missionaries increasing the numbers for about year or two, but will probably taper off sometime in 2014.
Let me explain what I mean by "grooming" the salespersons. To understand what kind of special indoctrination missionaries receive, let's peek inside the LDS Missionary manual, which is found at this LDS.ORG link (pdf) (or this html version).
The manual is definitely chock-a-block filled with typical Ra Ra sales force psychology. Do as your told, follow the recipe we give you, always be committing, don't lose the spirit by not working hard, pray-obey-don't-be-gay. The manual is about taming young (at times wild) men. But beyond the psychological conditioning of the missionaries themselves, the manual is also about training them into shrewd salesmen. Okay, maybe not shrewd, but skilled in certain techniques.
There are instructions on how to manipulate others into joining and, of course, paying tithing. Not just encouragement to teach or help persuade, but technique on emotional manipulation.
In the section titled, "Helping Others Make Commitments: The Door to Faith and Repentance" is this quote:
"Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught: "The first thing you will do when an investigator tells you he or she had not read and prayed about the Book of Mormon is be devastated! . . . Much of the time we are just too casual about all of this. This is eternal life. This is the salvation of the children of God. Eternity hangs in the balance. . . . It is the most important path this investigator will ever walk. But if he or she doesn't know that, at least you do! . . . So take control of this situation. Teach with power and authority, and then be devastated if the first steps toward commandment-keeping and covenant-keeping have not been successfully begun" ("Making and Keeping Covenants," missionary satellite broadcast, Apr. 1997). "
I want to emphasize: "...and then be devastated if the first steps toward commandment-keeping and covenant-keeping have not been successfully begun."
Then in the "Follow Up" section is this quote:
"Make frequent contact, daily if possible, to find out how people are progressing with their commitments... strengthen the spiritual feelings they felt as you taught them...This sustaining influence of the Spirit is vital...remind and encourage them to keep a commitment. Help investigators identify the blessings they have received as they have kept their commitments. Especially help them describe their feelings as the Spirit has testified of the truthfulness of the message. Compliment and encourage people who are succeeding in keeping commitments...Express concern and disappointment when people fail to keep their commitments and thus fail to experience the blessings. "
I emphasize: "Especially help them describe their feelings as the Spirit has testified of the truthfulness of the message."
They're telling these salespeople to manipulate the feelings by describing what one feels as evidence their product has value.
Help them describe their feelings as what you were asking them to test for themselves. Part of the message is that their feelings (through the spirit) will tell them truth according to Moroni 10:4-5. But to test if Moroni 10 is correct, they either trust their feelings (through the spirit), or the missionaries telling them that their feelings will tell them the truth. This becomes the feelings telling you that feelings are true. This is circular.
Then they are told: "Express concern and disappointment when people fail to keep their commitments. . ."
Do you see the pattern?
- "Good feelings always mean we're right."
- "Bad feelings always mean you're wrong."
There's no allowance for alternative explanations about the Mormon product.
This is grooming of teaching salespersons to explain to the marks that whatever positive feeling they have is a witness of what you're selling. If they have a negative feeling about what you're selling, express concern and disappointment and be devastated, and show them that devastation by taking control of the situation in power and authority.
Do you really believe this organization didn't think about this thoroughly? This is intentionally teaching kids how to manipulate. Why would they do that?
Now, according to the manual, once you get them hooked, committed and baptized, some of the new-members will fall away back into old habits. Some go back to drinking coffee, alcohol or even taking drugs. Is that a good time to express disappointment? Nope, they tell the missionary.
In the "A Plan for Overcoming Addictive Behavior" Section the church actually discourages manipulation. Missionaries are told they "should not be shocked or discouraged" by the bad behavior. In fact, missionaries are instructed:
"They should show confidence in the individual and not be judgmental if the person yields to an old craving. They should treat it as a temporary and understandable setback." Because "condemning. . .a new convert is never helpful and will likely lead to discouragement, failure, and inactivity."
See the pattern? Act devastated if the investigator doesn't do what you say before being baptized. After baptism, don't act devastated, be all understanding!
Additionally, missionaries are continually told to seek the spirit, but not to discuss too many specifics. Just seek it generally, point it out whenever the investigator has a positive experience or feeling. But don't share specific spiritual experiences. In the section "A Word of Caution" missionaries are told:
"Revelation and spiritual experiences are sacred. They should be kept private and discussed only in appropriate situations. As a missionary, you may be more aware of spiritual experiences than you have been earlier in your life. Resist the temptation to talk freely about these experiences."
Why would they want missionaries not to talk freely about these experiences when they all but start out discussion One with Joseph Smith's first vision of God? What they're saying is, if you talk about all the religious craziness that happens in your head, people will be less likely to keep their commitments--we only accept a certain level of crazy; follow the prescribed plan.
Would an honest organization with a truthful message need to resort to this level of emotional manipulation of the salespersons and teaching manipulation techniques to the salespersons?
This is grooming of the shrewd by an organization who has honed the skill over a century of "missionary" work.
| Dear Bishop and Counselors,
Given the church's tendency to shoot messengers, I will remain anonymous. However, I feel very strongly about something that happened this past Sunday and I need to make sure that you are aware of it.
First off, I should note that I am not blaming or finding fault with any of you. The fault clearly lies in Salt Lake. Since the church has no actual complaint department, you will have to do.
I have held multiple callings within our stake which provided me with a very detailed look at church finances at the ward level.
I have a fairly good idea of the ward's cash flow -- expenses, tithing, and other contributions. I know how much comes in, and I know how little of it is used for the benefit of those in our immediate vicinity.
Your request for more missionary funds fell on deaf ears in my case. My wife, who is usually more reserved than I am, shook her head in disgust and whispered "The church has plenty of money" after you made your request. Other members are also starting to wonder where all of the money is going.
I am similarly appalled. The church does have plenty of money. I find it unconscionable that the church can simultaneously claim poverty and invest billions of dollars in real estate development projects. May I point out the following (links are available on request):
The money spent in Florida could have paid for 100,000 missionaries for a year. When families are struggling, profligate use of their money for real estate investments is an insult. Investing in people, especially those of our faith, should take precedence over investing in any of the items I listed above.
- Development of City Creek Center in Salt Lake - Several billion dollars invested over the last 8 years.
- Major land purchase in Florida - Over $500 million in 2013 in just one transaction.
- Construction of a 32-story residence in Philadelphia, announced earlier this year.
Please don't tell me that these investments are made with funds that are separate and distinct from tithing. The vast majority of the church's assets originated as tithing, even if they were "washed" through other investments over time.
You and I both know that one week of tithing receipts would be more than sufficient to cover any conceivable shortage in the missionary fund. Why is the church investing in real estate while squeezing more blood from our members?
How many times have we been counseled to save our funds for a rainy day? Why has the church not done the same for missionary funds? At one point, one ward-level missionary fund in our stake had a reserve balance of well over $30,000. This money was apparently confiscated by Salt Lake and used for their own purposes. Hard-earned money donated in good faith by ward members has disappeared and could conceivably be funding the Earthly investments that I listed above.
I also feel compelled to point out that the church's decision to lower the age requirement for missionaries plays a role here. Before this change, prospective missionaries had more time to earn money for their missions.
Someone, somewhere needs to tell Salt Lake that this is unacceptable.
I have paid a lot of tithing over the years. It remains to be seen if I will be doing so in the future when there are so many other opportunities to make truly charitable donations.
I, for one, would like to see more transparency on the church's use of money. Vast amounts of money flow from the "mission field" to Salt Lake, never to return. Once again, people are going to be doing the math and asking questions.
Once again, I know that you are effectively caught in the middle, and I know that you have many other issues to deal with. Please feel free to share this message with those whom you report to in Salt Lake so that they may better understand what's happening out in the mission field.
| "Raising the Bar" was a smokescreen for cutting missionary staffing from roughly 60,000, with a fair amount of variability, to 50,000, with very little variance, less than 5% year to year.
When the bar was raised, the number of missionaries went from about 60,000 in 2002, to 55,000 in 2003, to 51,000 in 2004. This is exactly the pattern you would see if the number of new calls was 50,000 per year. Half of the old cohort of 60,000 missionaries would return home after 1 year, the other half the second year, and the number of missionaries would then stabilize at 50,000.
Those are the facts. That is exactly what happened. Why they made the decision to do that is speculation.
My guess is that they had been taking "what the market would bear", all the missionaries they could get their hands on. That means the tea leaf readers who try to discern what is happening with activity levels in LDS Inc could use the number of missionaries as a barometer of youth activity levels. If the number of missionaries was falling, they could reasonably assume the overall youth activity level was falling.
Dropping the number of missionaries to a fixed figure of 50,000 would stop the tea leaf readers from being able to discern youth activity levels that way. I bet they assumed that even with dropping activity levels, they would always be able to field at least 50,000 missionaries.
The reasoning may also have been partly financial. With a fixed number of missionaries every year, they would have very predictable expenses. Somehow, I really don't think this was about finances. The huge banking/housing collapse was right in the middle of that, which I am sure had a much higher impact on LDS business finances than the costs associated with having the number of missionaries bouncing around by four or five thousand a year.
I think it was almost totally about image. They didn't want people to know the number of missionary candidates was declining.
The number of missionaries stayed very stable until 2012, when the new age limits were announced. It was tending to creep up a little bit over that decade. What is remarkable is that what was a major corporate realignment (have a fixed number of missionaries, that was lower than the total amount that could be recruited) only lasted about a decade, when the program was totally tossed into the dustbin, and the new age limits, and ensuing "missionary surge" was announced.
Apparently brainwashing as many missionaries as possible turned out to be more important than not letting the tea leaf readers have a way to gauge youth activity levels.
Let's see how long this lasts. The "surge missionaries" will start returning home this year, and the surge will begin to deflate. Look for lots of spin about how dropping numbers of missionaries was expected. It IS in fact expected, but I predict it will continue to drop, even after "the Surge" has all returned home.
BTW, large and relatively frequent changes in corporate policy are clear indicators of a corporation in trouble, flailing about for a way to fix things.
Raise the bar. Lower missionary age, more so for women. Fire Danny Peterson. Ambivalent actions toward Dehlin. Go after gays, hammer and tongs. Go silent on the gay issue. Stonewall on church history. Start releasing essays giving at least some critical analysis of church history and theology.
That, sisters and brothers, is flailing.
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