Converts to the Church: Quality versus Quantity

Jeff Spector missionary, Mormon, mormon, Mormons 35 Comments

In 2006, there were more than 272,800 convert baptisms in the Church. A year later, I wonder how many are still active? As President Hinckley has said,

“…it will do no good for you to baptize someone and have that individual fall away from the Church shortly thereafter. What have you accomplished? You may have labored long and hard, you may have fasted and prayed as you taught a particular individual the gospel. But if he does not remain active in the Church, all of your labor has been in vain. The whole process counts for nothing. Any investigator worthy of baptism becomes a convert worthy of saving.” Gordon B. Hinckley, “Find the Lambs, Feed the Sheep,” Ensign, May 1999, 104

But is there a rush to baptism? Are numbers and statistics overriding common sense when it comes to making sure that new converts understand what membership in the Church means? Do we seek quantity over quality of the converts coming into the church?

About 1 ½ years after I was baptized into the Church, I was called to be a Seventies President and Ward Mission Leader. I was ordained to the office of Seventy and was the leader for missionary work in my ward. That subsequently changed under President Benson and Ward Mission Leaders were no longer made Seventies but remained Elders (or they might be already be High Priests). That office of the Priesthood was discontinued as was Stake Seventies Quorums.

As a relatively new convert, I was enthusiastic about the challenge of missionary work, but I was very naïve about the whole process of leading the missionary work as well as a quorum of priesthood holders and, participating in ward and stake leadership meetings.

I had my eyes opened to the fact that sometimes the Church seems to preach quantity of new converts over the quality of new converts. Together with the full-time missionaries, we set goals for numbers of baptism with less thought to the retention of those converts.We’ve heard the stories of the “baseball baptisms” of England as well as John Dehlin’s story of his mission. I experienced some of that on a very much smaller scale.

Our ward boundaries consisted of the downtown area of our city. Missionaries tended to have an easier time finding people to talk to and teach in the lower income areas of downtown. But the question always entered my mind, “would this person fully embrace the gospel and be an asset to the ward or just ultimately be a liability or burden? “ Now, it is important to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and hope that they will accept the message of the gospel, feel the spirit and be converted.

But, you know as well as I, this isn’t always the case. The Missionaries, in their zeal to convert and bring people unto Christ are also expected to meet certain goals set for them by their Mission President. Number of discussions per week, number of contacts, and number of baptisms are just the tip of the goal-oriented environment. The other big challenge was getting people to attend church enough times so that members could meet with them, get to know them and fellowship them. Investigators were only required to attend church one or two times before being baptized. In some cases, they would attend church in the morning and be baptized that evening. How much fellowshipping could go on in under those circumstances? It is my experience that ward members love to meet and work with new converts if given the chance.

Here is one example of what happens when the rush to baptism occurs.

We had one lady from downtown tracted out by two of the Seventies/Stake Missionaries in my group. She seemed very interested and took the lessons in a very short time. She attended Church and was declared ready for baptism. My informal talks with her led me to believe otherwise. She did not have a very good grasp of the gospel, the restoration or what was expected of her as a member. Thus, when it came time for an interview for baptism (at that time I ,as a Ward Mission Leader, would interview for baptism), I told the full time elders and my seventies that I thought the Mission President should interview her because she had “issues.” I was sure she would not pass the interview.

Well, to my surprise, she did and we baptized her. The following week, the same two brothers who found her and taught her were assigned as Home Teachers. They went to her place to give the first of the transition lessons. As she came to the door, she opened it a crack and showing them a long knife, said “If you ever come back here, I’ll kill you!” So, we never saw her again after that. But she remained on the rolls of the church.

I have been in discussions with investigators that won’t read the scriptures, won’t pray, and won’t come to church. Yet we continue to go after them. On the other hand, I have been involved with investigators who are “golden.” That is, they participate fully in the discussions, ask good questions, come to church every Sunday, read the scriptures, and pray during the lesson and in private. They integrate well into the ward and after baptism, go on to have a very successful, rewarding experience. Sometimes, they take much longer to join, thus giving them more time to get to know what is expected of them as a member and allowing the ward members to know them and assist them in the transition.

Please don’t misread what I am saying here. I know that converts are the life blood of the Church. President Spencer W. Kimball stated, “If there were no converts, the Church would shrivel and die on the vine.” (Spencer W. Kimball, “‘When the World Will Be Converted’,” Ensign, Oct 1974, 3) It is exciting for a ward to have new converts come into its midst and embrace the gospel. It is a great experience to fellowship them, answer their questions and watch them grow. But it is very frustrating and disappointing that, in spite of our best efforts, they fall away. Now, they have their agency to make that choice, but it is a tragedy for those involved.

On the other hand, there are those who come into the church, having associated only with the missionaries and once the missionaries are transferred, the new member feels abandoned and does not have a reason to continue to attend.

President Hinckley is his address on missionary work stated this:

“I have said before, and I repeat it, that every new convert needs three things:

  1. A friend in the Church to whom he can constantly turn, who will walk beside him, who will answer his questions, who will understand his problems.
  2. An assignment. Activity is the genius of this Church. It is the process by which we grow. Faith and love for the Lord are like the muscle of my arm. If I use them, they grow stronger. If I put them in a sling, they become weaker. Every convert deserves a responsibility. The bishop may feel that he is not qualified for responsibility. Take a chance on him. Think of the risk the Lord took when He called you.Of course the new convert will not know everything. He likely will make some mistakes. So what? We all make mistakes. The important thing is the growth that will come of activity.
  3. Every convert must be “nourished by the good word of God” (Moro. 6:4). It is imperative that he or she become affiliated with a priesthood quorum or the Relief Society, the Young Women, the Young Men, the Sunday School, or the Primary. He or she must be encouraged to come to sacrament meeting to partake of the sacrament, to renew the covenants made at the time of baptism. “(Ensign, May 1999, 104)

So, what am I saying?

I think we need to ensure that new converts are more integrated into the ward, with a friend or friends to guide them and a better understanding of the Gospel and what is expected of them. There is so much to absorb and learn in a short period of time. Just the lingo itself is daunting. What if we required them to attend church for one month, two months or maybe even three months prior to baptism?

I know that some will say there is a risk that we may lose some if we require them to attend church too many times before baptism and confirmation. But, how much better would our retention rate be, if these new members were more integrated and better prepared? It is not a question of keeping people out of the church, but of doing a better job keeping them in.

Comments

comments

Comments 35

  1. Jeff: I think you’re absolutely right. Your strategy is key to long-term success. Filling out the rolls (quantity) is a meaningless exercise; adding fully participating members (quality) is the key.

  2. Very cool, Jeff.

    My mission president would say that we hurry them to baptism so that they’ll get the gift of the holy ghost, which should help them remain faithful. I don’t suspect that’s correct.

    I think some people are ready to join the church and stay active after a very short period of time. Most are not. I don’t think any of the former will be discouraged by a lengthened (but still relatively short) investigative period like you recommend.

  3. I think the interpretations of prophesies about the Church being the stone cut out of the mountain without hands to “fill the earth” give Church leaders and understandable sense of duty to help the Church achieve high numbers of baptisms. After all, nearly 13 million Mormons out of 5 billion people is a drop in the bucket. So I understand the push for numbers; they have confidence in prophesies, and believe our labor is needed to make those prophesies come to pass.

    My personal two cents is that we’re not failing to achieve high numbers of baptisms due to a lack of sufficient missionary efforts; our missionary program is coveted by so many members of other faiths that I know. Rather, I believe we will “fill the earth” after we’ve sufficiently improved the “product” we’re offering. In my opinion, we have not yet “grown into” our doctrine and fulfilled its marvelous potentials, and non-doctrinal aspects of our Church culture drive people away. When we fill the measure of our creation as a Church and eliminate the aspects of our culture that drive people away, we won’t have to go hunting for converts; they will flock to our cities on a hill.

  4. As a follow up to my comment above, I think the fact that so many new converts leave after they’ve gotten to know us better (as opposed to becoming more “sold” on the Church than ever) demonstrates that we have some serious potential improvements to make in the “product” we’re offering.

    It can sometimes seem we are behaving like a company that responds to its lack of sales by increasing its advertising, or changing its advertising message, without bothering to examine the product we’re selling and figure out how to improve it and make it more beneficial.

  5. Andrew:

    I’d love to hear what kind of non-doctrinal aspects of the culture you think drive investigators away. Would that be a threadjack? Also, it 6.6Billion world population right now, and 13Million members of the church is a very liberal estimate.

  6. Chris W.,

    At the risk of initiating a threadjack, let me just say that Elder Ballard’s General Conference talk entitled “Doctrine of Inclusion” specifically identifies several aspects of Mormon culture that are way out of step with our doctrine. That’s a good place to start to understand what I’m referring to; that answer will also keep me out of any trouble. 🙂

  7. In 1989, I was in the highest baptizing mission in Europe. One month we had 218 convert baptisms in our mission. Retention was a major problem for several reasons: 1) several converts were transitory and did not live locally, so they were baptized there but didn’t fellowship there, 2) when the church is very small in an area, it can be culturally incestuous–when there’s a disagreement between individuals (divorce, excommunication, etc.) it gets personal really quickly and people become disaffected, and 3) the remaining faithful don’t necessarily reach out to those who have fallen away because they feel superior for not having fallen away (vicious circle). Anyway, that’s my observation on a very specific area of the world that I happen to know and love. In the case I know, the disaffected still believe, take the church magazines, etc., but they just don’t attend. Some are biding their time until a bishop changes or someone moves.

    That’s to say nothing of the weakness of missionaries at times. They too can succumb to the pressures of pride and wanting to look good in the eyes of others, including their president. We did a skit (to illustrate this pitfall) about how some missionaries were prone to behave like used car salesmen, talking investigators down from “celestial law” teaching to “telestial law with free baptism included” if they couldn’t commit to live the commandments.

    My homecoming talk was about how the message of the gospel may be perfect, but the envelope it comes in (the members & missionaries) is only as good as we are. How do we deliver that message to others? Like mass marketing junk mail or a hand written invitation? Does the envelope look clean or like it’s been dropped on the ground and stepped on? Does the envelope make you want to open it and read more or throw it in the trash? It occasionally even looks “too good to be true” and turns people off who don’t believe it’s possible they could win. Anyway, after my talk, a man came up and said he was a new member and that I had really reached him with this analogy, that he struggled sometimes with the envelope even after accepting the message, and this helped him to see past it.

  8. Missionaries role is to teach and baptize new members. The hand off to the members can be less than satisfactory however. The overall retention rate has not changed dramatically since 1961 when Marion G. Romney gave the rate at 18% retention whether baptized or a lifelong member. Dave Stewart on his Cumorah.com website has published a book on ways of increasing retention. Many of his examples are rather vague and generalized however he has made an effort. I don’t disagree that missionaries can be involved in better preparation of new members but that is where you as a ward mission leader could have made the transition better. It is a problem that will exist since I don’t see us slowing down any time soon the time frame for missionaries baptizing. Just my two cents worth. Nice thought provoking post.

  9. I was one of those golden converts. I went looking for the missionaries, read all of the BOM in a month before my baptism, and went to all of my meetings and had a calling and friends.

    I transferred to BYU not knowing that garments existed, not knowing there was a ban at one time on the priesthood for blacks, not realizing fully what my place in the church as a woman would be, and not having a full understanding of the implications of the temple. I went on to be a member for years, and marry in the temple, but ultimately my family and I left.

    I had the three things that Jeff listed here, but what I didn’t have was anyone willing to take the time before my baptism to really let me know what I was getting into. I was on the six week discussion schedule and my (kind, sincere, wonderful) sister missionaries stuck to it.

    If someone had explained to me in an upfront way why garments exist, or about some of the more sticky areas of church history before I was baptized, would I still be a member? Would I have chosen baptism at all?

    I don’t know. But I don’t think that being straightforward is something that the church should fear because of a possible drop in numbers. In the age of the internet members are going to find out sooner or later. I would have rather learned about these hard subjects in a straightforward way in a gospel doctrines class than somewhere else. Having to get the information from a third party makes the church look guilty and defensive, even in cases where their actions might be otherwise justified.

    I hope this doesn’t come off as defensive or argumentative, I just hate to see those who leave lumped into the category of ‘if they had just attended their meetings and fulfilled their callings they would still be active!’. Sometimes it’s a little more complicated than that.

  10. D&C 20:37 gives the principle. We just ignore it.

    I would like to see Bishops conduct baptism interviews instead of a missionary District Leader.

    While we could improve, I feel we beat ourselves up to much over retention. What happened to parable of the seed falling on different types of soil?

    We baptize for anyone we can find in our geneology without knowing at all whether they will accept it or not. So why beat ourselves up so much when missionaries rush converts to baptism and they are not prepared?

  11. I agree with having Bishops conduct the interviews. I also think we should STOP making baptismal goals–and concentrate on contacting goals–in the mission field. We can make a difference as missionaries over contacting, but we really have no control over the agency of another to accept baptism. This is one sad reason why we have 10% retention worldwide, 40% nationwide.

    And as far as what Heather Martin said about issues with garments, black and the priesthood, etc. there is no way missionaries are going to solve everyone’s ocncerns, because you never know what concerns a person will have unless they tell you. I recommend that missionaries ask their potential converts to study out the Church on their own by going online. They could recommend some websites that discuss potential thorny issues without making a mockery. The person can also google on their own and do some searching. The missionaries should then be taught how to lovingly overcome concerns. I used to use the Internet as a missionary to help people solve their own problems, especially when I didn’t know the exact answer to their concerns. This can be like throwing gasoline on the fire, but we have to learn to trust people’s instincts and that the Spirit will guide those that are truly ready.

  12. “And as far as what Heather Martin said about issues with garments, black and the priesthood, etc. there is no way missionaries are going to solve everyone’s ocncerns, because you never know what concerns a person will have unless they tell you.”

    I agree with this to a point. Missionaries should not have to be mind readers.

    However, I do think that there are some ‘big dot’ issues that seem obvious and should be discussed. What kind of underwear you are expected to wear for the rest of your life does seem relevant to discuss with a prospective convert. Maybe not in the first discussion, but perhaps some other time pre-baptism.

    Not discussing these types of topics out of fear that a person might not get baptized seems counterproductive when it comes to long term activity rates. I do not think it would be difficult for the church to come up with a short list of big issues and incorporate them into the investigation process if the church had a desire to do so.

    Or as Jeff suggests in the OP, if investigators were required to attend church for a longer period of time before baptism, maybe these issues would tend to come up on their own, and not be as shocking down the line.

  13. My radical missionary program would be to make all missions primarily service missions. Missionaries would primarily do charity work. Feeding the hungry, teaching some basic skills in reading and writing, teaching English (in foreign countries, and in the southwest), etc. Maybe even have medical missions to developing countries. I think that we would get so much interest based on the example of Christlike love. It might result in less baptisms, but I think it would be a net positive in the amount of truly committed and interested converts.

  14. It can sometimes seem we are behaving like a company that responds to its lack of sales by increasing its advertising, or changing its advertising message, without bothering to examine the product we’re selling and figure out how to improve it and make it more beneficial.

    Actually, I think the LDS church is behaving like a company selling soap, which decides that the way to increase soap sales is to make their soap as much as possible like all the other soap brands on the market. As they’ve succeeded in this, the “consumers” end up seeing very little that the company’s soap has to offer, that isn’t already offered by every other soap, and interest plummets. The “protestantization” of LDS-ism over the past decade and a half or so has been accompanied by a decrease in baptisms, because the church is dead set on not being “weird,” as Hinckley once put it.

  15. Clay – I can’t totally agree with you there. When the Lord said, “Go ye into the world and preach my gospel,” I believe that’s what he meant. Supplementing with a lot of service missions is a great idea, but at the end of the day, proselyting is the charge the Savior gave. Otherwise we run the risk of focusing on changing people’s circumstances vs. changing people so they can change their own circumstances.

    Nick – I agree; we should stop selling soap entirely. We are not soap. I would change the analogy to selling oven cleaner, and what we should really be selling is how to convert your existing oven to a self-cleaning oven. Soaps are good; soaps will improve the oven’s cleanliness. But if you could have a self-cleaning oven, why wouldn’t you have that instead?

  16. Post
    Author

    Excellent responses to my post. Thank you all. I appreciate it.

    One other thing that came to me after I posted it was the fact that the more successful converts usually were identified by members versus being tracted out or contacted by the missionaries. In that process, friends can see a lot more about how Mormons live and conduct themselves as well as ask questions of their member friends.

    That is what we are asked to do. Find people for the missionaries to teach. But that can also be a double-edged swoard. Some friends and aquaintances will just say no to the invitation, some will be intersted in hearing about the Church and others will just do it to be polite. Sometimes, those friends doing it to be polite find themselves down a slippery slope toward baptism because they are “too nice” to say “not intersted.” I’ve seen that be a problem and it ending badly for all parties.

  17. Great post! This is something that I thought a lot about during my mission in Japan. Our rule was that they only had to come to sacrament mtg. once before baptism. Even then, I thought it was crazy. I probably interviewed 10-20 investigators for baptism, and on every one, I asked them, very specifically, “Do you REALLY want to get baptized, and join the church?” Quite a few of them actually said things like, “not really” or “I just want to see what it’s like.” Needless to say, I encouraged those people to do some more study before they joined.

  18. I think that “Quality vs. Quantity” is a false dilemma when it comes to missionary work. In my mission, the areas in which we had the most baptisms were also the areas where we had the “best” baptisms and the highest retention rate. It’s because the members were excited and involved, the missionaries were working well together, and the attitude was to have lots of good baptisms. I think the best way to increase the retention rate is to increase the number of baptisms.

  19. Heather — I think you’re spot on. Full disclosure up front is best for all parties involved. Trying to hide things, or to use the excuse “how could we read their minds” is a cop out, in my opinion. There are major issues (like blacks, God as man and man as God, polygamy, Joseph’s use of peep stones, garments, Book of Mormon historicity, Mountain Meadows, etc.) that should be candidly discussed up front.

  20. Post
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    john,

    I am not quite sure about the so-called “full disclosure” rule. ‘Cause I don’t know where it would end.

    Such as:

    1. And then there will be people who dominate Gospel Doctrine class because they think they know it all.
    2. And, if you have a beard, you can’t work in the temple or teach seminary or at BYU.
    3. BTW, on Fast and Testimony some people will: preach at you, tell a travel story, thank everyone in the ward for one thing or another, or just give the talk they were never asked to give.
    4. If you play church sports, wear a cup! and hold your ears.
    5. Sometimes, when members give talks in sacrament, they teach false doctrine. But don’t worry, no one will correct them.
    6. If you are the Ward activity director and you have an activity, some people will say they will help, but then don’t. Or, they sign up to attend, but end up watching Brady Bunch reruns at home leaving you with a ton of leftovers.
    7. Some folks let there kids run in the aisles during sacrament meeting.
    8. Some people talk all the way through church making it hard to hear and or feel the spirit.

    I could go on.

  21. John–I agree that these things that should be discussed upfront. For this to happen effectively, however, the member(s) and the investigator must have a good relationship and plenty of opportunity to discuss these issues in a natural way. I don’t think throwing in peep stones or Mountain Meadows out of the blue is a good idea–i.e. sit down with them and have a “Let’s discuss all the controversial issues with Mormonism” talk. How do you propose this should happen?

  22. I agree with Jeff that full disclosure probably involves too much mass of information to really cover. Plus, to name specific issues means someone aplies their own judgment as to what is important to cover and what is not, which is based on perception and life experience.

    I think perhaps a preparation for people to encounter and deal with weird issues could go a long way. By that I mean talking about how we have a personal responsibility to understand and own our own beliefs, and for our choices and actions to be guided by the Spirit’s inspiration to us, not just doing what we are told by others. Of course, for that to happen, the leadership would have to believe that kind of Liahona approach is good for us, and I don’t think they do. I get the impression that they want us to follow the Spirit as long as the Spirit is confirming the direction of leadership as if there is any scriptural basis for the idea that the two are always in sync.

  23. Post
    Author

    One other thing about the full disclosure business. I may have been different, but I discovered those things little by little as an adult convert. I didn’t feel that anyone hid vital information from me. I guess I followed the “line upon line…” approach. As I heard something that seemed a bit off, like the reason to deny Blacks the Priesthood, it gave me the opportunity to study it and come to a conclusion. I have a number of books in my library, for example, that give vile reason why, but my research and prayer told me they were not true.

    The only thing that was a real surprise to me was when we ent through the temple and told about certain symbols that we wear. I didn’t even know they were there until that point. I should have been more prpared than that.

    But again, a surprise, but to me, no big deal.

  24. Jeff – Great list.

    I’m not in favor of the full disclosure in the missionary discussions idea, but I do personally think that people with little familiarity with the church who don’t know any church members, etc., really need the friendship and fellowship of members they can connect with personally to answer & discuss those types of issues, possibly before baptism or at least soon thereafter. Church history (peep stones & mountain meadows) seems largely irrelevant to me in terms of spiritual conversion, but temple concepts (including garments) are pretty central. Yet I don’t think having 19 year old boys telling people of all ages and sexes about underwear is practical or ideal either. The priesthood ban is unseemly IMHO, but it is also not doctrinal. Take it how you will, but I wouldn’t trust anyone over 45 to explain it in terms that are understandable or acceptable to the rest of us. I think it’s worth mentioning to converts, but again with a strong member who can discuss these issues as a fellow member. I also like the bishop interviewing idea vs. the missionaries, although in many new areas of the church this would not be feasible. In several areas of my mission, missionaries had to lead the branches because there were not enough members yet.

  25. Post
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    Hawkgrrl,

    One of the most frustrating things being in Ward leadership was when you saw investigators who were unlikely to suceed at church be baptized by the missionaries and then “dumped” on the Ward. So I think the Bishop should have at least a say in whether to accept a person for baptism. The missionaries move on, notch their belt and give a good talk at their homecoming about who they baptized.

    Now, one another problem which I do think exists at the ward level is when someone is brought to church that is “different” from most ward members. Either race, ethnity, economic level, etc. It is hard for ward members to embrace those people. Some members try really hard and really display Christ-like love for the person. But it can be a problem for them to me the only_________ in the ward.

  26. I was just chatting with my Jewish friend the other day and he said that they will not except a convert unless they are initially rejected 3 times. It is to prove that the person will still stay through difficulty.

    I thought this was rather interesting. Perhaps less emphasis on gaining new converts is less important right now then trying to strengthen the members that are already there?

  27. Post
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    Stephen,

    It depends on the branch of Judaism. Because the idea of converting to Judaism was always viewed as a bit suspious by the leadership, a vetting process has been used to make sure that the convert knows what they are getting themselves into.

    To become an Orthodox Jew requires a complete change of lifestyle for most people, not unlike becoming a Latter-day Saint. The biggest change is in keeping kosher. The home must be thoroughly cleaned, ovens must be purified and a significant change in food preparation and eating must come about. Much more so than observing the word of wisdom.

    The doctrine and laws are one thing, I think the lifestyle change can be more dramatic for a new Orthodox convert.

  28. Perhaps one of the biggest tensions I encountered as a missionary was how I was told to view potential hearers of the Gospel. I use a big G for Gospel because for me that ties it centrally to Jesus Christ, and the small g gospel for me is too stretchy of a concept and could cover membership in the Republican Party in the US, for instance.

    Very occasionally I heard specific counsel to think of everyone I saw as a sinner in need of the good news of Jesus Christ and then the saving ordinances.

    The majority of the time, though, the message I received from local leaders, mission leaders, and visiting authorities was to look for people in our contacting who could be expected to show up to meetings on time, take legible notes, and behave (Elder Maxwell called this “the priesthood style.”)

  29. Thoug i agree with your balanced view of this topic, i am left wondering how many members which were baptised at 8 years old still remain in the church? I believe your cautious and patient attitude for bringing a new member into the fold is a good point. However, the issue of retention is different issue. Some people wade into the water and some people jump right in……as far as converts i would think that intially you need to get them to the water’s edge……and then keep them swimming.

  30. I am a male convert of just over 3 years. I have read all the reply’s and like all of them!! each reply has a little wisdom from what we could all learn. My first calling in the church was an Aaronic priest and then Melchizedeck priest and followed by a ward missionary, and now home teacher supervisor, unfortunately due to the fact I have recently finnished working nights for 3.5 years, and due to my lack of opportunity in finding day work while I study was very taxing on my health and church membership. So for the past 3 weeks I have been working days, after my union fighting for 2 years. So I guess what I am trying to say as in my experience in missionary work is to just be honnest and open to what is asked of the potential convert I won’t say that I am the best missionary but I know that what I relied on was the guidence of the spirit in telling me what to do I converted a woman and baptised and confirmed her and everyone in the ward was happy. My difficulty I will not say my membership has been perfect attendance or perfect with my callings, but I do feel that we should be tactful but truthful with a new potential convert I would have loved to know alot more, infact the missionaries dub me as a golden potential convert to pre baptism. I asked so many questions all the time challengeing them. It was a wonderful experience being baptised. So many times I have I heard people or members in the church and return missionaries talk about converts as numbers and this to me has always felt uncomfortable, yes the church is organised but I feel in my experience of baptising my first convert was the missionaries where rushing her so much and I guess due to my lack of understanding with them reasurring me that everything was fine in the discussions as I sat in with her and most of them where she, felt she wasn’t ready and she went through with the baptism and it was an excellent one. I do believe pressure to baptise with her could have been less pressure and more fellowship and baptism later date. she has fallen away but is still an excellent member of society and plans to bring her future children up in the church. I don’t see anything wrong with a neat beard well trimmed and groomed seen alot of members with massive long side burns and yes temple worthy. Is it really true you cant marry in the temple with a beard?

  31. A couple of replies that I can relate to is the fact that I am very different from alot of church members and I do feel like the black sheep, because I don’t always blend with the culture but what I will say is I feel you dont have to be a return missionary to be a worthy husband but converts new to baptism can quite often feel this, I have heard it been said that if a man has not served a mission he really isn’t a man, does that mean new converts such as myslef are worthless in some members eyes because we don’t fit the age bracket, of single missionaries I hear it is 26, does this mean we are less worthy to marry because we did go on a mission , isn’t every member a missionary and also don’t be nice to the right people in church be nice to everyone not because they hold this calling or that calling of authority isn’t everyone meant to be equal no respector of persons, I hear brothers talk about different keys different callings in priesthood and sometimes it’s feels awkward to sit thier and listening to the boasting of how we have to reconise that this person has these keys and has this calling are they are not in that calling to learn because thier not perfect and there to learn the responsibilities of that calling because they are imperfect like the rest of us? The face of pride exsist in the church to much every calling is important. Why does the carnal mind so often fail in one heart, this and one last thing that converts really don’t want to see is the evil of gossip and the primary school ground mentality that goes with it. One more remark if I may any leader in church should be respected as a leader and what the lord directs of him, less cross examination of authority and realisation that these men are called of God and directed and are not perfect and can make mistakes or sometimes not use tact, thier human too. Leaders don’t need people to talk them up let them just serve the lord. Remmember brothers women are spritually advanced than men and naturally self sacrificeing that is one reason why we possess the priesthood to serve and not boast. Just had to get this all out from a new convert a little off the topic off baptism

  32. Unfortuantely commintment is not popular these days as with other churches. Aocording to one Christianity Today and Campus Crusade for Christ about 70-95% of new converts to Christian fall away within 5 years of their conversion and baptism. And this is protestant churches. So this is not uncommon. In fact the number of Christians is strinking by 1-2% every year. Within 50 years American should be as godless as Europe. Sad but true.

  33. I’ve read most of the comments posted and enjoyed it. To Daniel: I’m pretty sure you can get married with a beard – I’ve seen plenty of members at sessions with beards and never heard anything like that. If you want to go to BYU or on a mission, THEN you can’t have a beard.

    I think the idea of having bishops conduct investigator baptism interviews is a great one. About what issues missionaries should discuss and what they shouldn’t, it’s a tough call. Ultimately, a new convert’s faithfulness to the Gospel after finding out about difficult doctrines will depend on their own sprouting testimony – something that is difficult to measure. If we really know the Gospel is true by the power of the Holy Ghost, and are willing to follow those feelings, there should be no issue big enough to shake us. Again, it’s a tough call – there are things that would make almost anyone, even the prophet (think of Joseph Smith and polygamy), really take the time to ponder, wonder, and assess the strength of their testimony before obeying.

    I’ve heard of what an apostle called ‘nightmarish numbers’ before in another mission in the country I served in: 5,000 baptisms for the year, and a reduction in church attendance. I feel blessed to have served under a president that never emphasized numbers, or hardly even brought them up in mission conference. It allowed us to work for love, not fear or pride. Our baptisms were a fraction of the number listed above, but church attendance went up each year. I think emphasis on fellowshipping, retention, and cultivating testimony should replace numbers. I also agree that all members are imperfect and, I for one, have plenty of faults. When certain people make it difficult to go to church or to grow our testimonies, sometimes the only One who can help us overcome our challenges is our Father in Heaven.

  34. #9: Heather:
    “I just hate to see those who leave lumped into the category of ‘if they had just attended their meetings and fulfilled their callings they would still be active!’. Sometimes it’s a little more complicated than that.”
    We don’t have a consistent set of rights for members, and each stake can operate with wide discretion on process and procedure. For example, in my stake, married women cannot pay tithing in their own name, and in other stakes, women cannot say the opening prayer. I have been told that I must wait until my less active husband wants to attend the temple, before I can have my temple recommend renewed. He has never asked for a temple recommend. Because members do not have a set of established rights, and there is not an established due process in procedures and there is little training for Bishops and Stake Presidents, our religion is presented in a manner that is charismatic rather than established on principles. Even the idea of confidentiality is according to the untrained clergy’s idea of what that means, whether it is “whoever they think needs to know” or some other less ethical understanding. Skill training for our priesthood leaders would help. Treating all God’s children as having equal promise, dignity and respect would help.
    Equality has a significant degree of consistency and fairness to it. For example, if both male and female are required to pay equal tithes, but the benefits granted to the males are significantly greater, and values are consistently favored to the males by the males in power, then one is not likely to call the system fair, if one is female. Think of the requirement of Rosa Parks, on the 1954 Alabama bus, to sit in the back of the bus, and give up her seat to a white male, if the bus became overcrowded. She and the white male both paid a quarter to ride the bus. Should they receive equal access and treatment on the bus?
    Jesus was a social reformer and a Jewish mystic. Walter Brueggermann, a Hebrew Bible Scholar noted that the social structure that Jesus was born into had the following characteristics:
    1. A policy of oppression. These societies were hierarchical and patriarchal. Ordinary people had little voice in the structuring of their society.
    2. An economics of exploitation.
    3. A religion of legitimation. These societies were commonly legitimated by the claim that the social order reflected the will of God. Kings rules by divine right, and the powers that be were ordained by God.
    Jesus was a social reformer, and engaged in a radical critique of the domination systems of his day which included both Jesrusalem and the temple as a center of the ruling elites.
    So, within that context, what would be both fair and equitable within our religious system?

    Oppression from unrighteous dominion is why we are inactive in our stake. Since there is no oversight committee and our stake is run like a “good ol’ boy’s club” we no longer wish to participate.
    Sexism, like racism, becomes even more disturbing as a society transitions to a more rational and equitable way of treating a group subject to prejudice. Can our LDS Church learn ethics, line upon line.

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