How to create a fake investigator

In my mission, they were called investifakers; I preferred inventigators, but the name is immaterial. At certain times, companions and I deemed it necessary to report that we were teaching an investigator who did not exist. I built up considerable talent in this creative endeavor, and now I would pass my experience and knowledge on to any who might find it useful.

Before I begin, I need to acknowledge those who gave me so much. Of my four companions who were ‘older’ than me, three described having created investigators. (My trainer, a steadfast fellow who went on to become AP, never mentioned having done so: he was merely willing to round any segment of an hour up to the full hour and was generously inclusive in the definition of street contacting [including playing chess in the park and video games in an open arcade]). Truly I stood on the shoulders of giants.

Should I create a fake investigator?

In most cases, probably not. Here are the conditions that will necessitate a fake investigator:

  • Do you serve in a place where it is difficult to find people to teach? Fake investigators temporarily fill empty teaching pool rather than making full teaching pools overflow. If there are real investigators to teach, you don’t need fake ones.
  • Does your mission leadership make your life miserable when you have nobody to teach? I don’t just mean a bit of tut-tutting or a thoughtful letter: I mean accusations of unworthiness, threats to send you to the outer reaches of the mission, a steady rotation of improving splits by leadership, shouting, calls to explain your shortcomings publicly in zone conferences, etc.

Even when these conditions exist — and I hope they are a rare combination as the bar has been raised for mission presidents as well, right? — fake investigators will not be possible if you are in the same city as another set of missionaries or are close enough to the mission home to risk surprise splits by office elders or APs. Only loners and Egyptians (as they were called in my day) should do the inventing.

And even so, fake investigators are a last resort. Having an empty teaching pool with otherwise strong statistics (hours outside, contact hours, hours tracting, hours street contacting, Books placed, etc. etc.) will keep you safe for several weeks if not a full month. If things get desperate, there is always the option of once again going back to the buildings where all of the immigrants and refugees live and picking up a few lonely souls willing to talk to anybody, but it’s an old trick and may fail to impress a jaded AP. No, save the fake investigators for dire situations, like the cranky GA’s tour of the mission or the possibility of a punitive transfer.

What kind of investigator should I create?

Keep in mind that you will not have this investigator for very long — two or three weeks tops. After all, according to my mission’s instructions, they should be baptized in three weeks, and the questions about the investigator’s lack of progress will attract all kinds of unwanted attention.

Here are some issues to consider when creating your investigator:

  • A single man is the best option for elders. A family is far too rare and exotic, and the mission president has gotten so worked up about families in the past that he has driven for hours to meet them. A female will raise questions about provisions for teaching her. A companion of mine advocated for an unmarried couple as it provides the exit strategy.
  • The details can be sketchy as missionaries rarely remember anything more about an investigator than his first name. However, a few particulars will be necessary, like his age and his job. Non-descriptness will be key. I always liked unemployed guys in their late twenties since it fit most of our investigators anyway.
  • You will need to explain how you met. Do not make up an inspirational story: you do not want to end up being asked to bear your testimony about your interactions with a fake investigator. Basic midday tracting or chatting at the bus stop will probably do the trick.
  • You will need a reason for him to discontinue the lessons, but these are incredibly easy to come up with as it happens so often in real life: the tithing or Word of Wisdom scare, a pamphlet from a neighbor, disapproval of a girlfriend or parent, boredom, etc. Again, nothing too dramatic, but it does need to be final: you don’t want an enterprising ZL wanting to go out and change his mind.

What do I need to watch out for?

  • The ward mission leader.  If it is possible to invent an investigator only for the leadership and not for the WML, by all means do so, but it may require having two sets of records and that is a chore. If needed, give your fake an address away from all active members and say as little about him as possible. Investigators coming to church is so rare that nobody will expect it anyway.
  • Splits. This is the biggest threat. Have an emergency ready for your investigator if unexpected splits occur, like needing to help his sister move out of town.
  • The area book. The fake needs to be in the area book for some time, but it must be removed before transfers. Future missionaries will not appreciate trying to chase down fake people.

Isn’t it wrong to invent a fake investigator?

Missionary work is hard work. It demands attention and a self-confidence. There are circumstances in which a certain style of leadership in a particularly unproductive mission area undermines that level of attention and destroys the self-confidence of the missionaries. In those circumstances, the continuation of the missionary work — however frustrating and fruitless — and the missionaries’ faith and even sanity may require some pragmatic ethics. Take that as you will.

Comments

  1. I can’t believe I never thought of this.

  2. If this is satire, you’re a genius. If not, you’re probably a sociopath. : )

  3. Wow,

    I have never heard of a fake ‘gator. What you really need to do if faced with an impossible situation is find a few eternigators or part member familes where the non-member spouse is friendly and have them around just in case the Apes or MP is unreasonable. My MP was not into numbers at all so I missed out on all the pressure.

  4. “Egyptians”?

    This is pretty far out of my experience. I had some slacker comps (was myself for a while, in all honesty), but we never rigged our stats. Of course, we never received “accusations of unworthiness, threats to send you to the outer reaches of the mission, a steady rotation of improving splits by leadership, shouting, calls to explain your shortcomings publicly in zone conferences” either, so perhaps that explains it.

  5. Steve Evans says:

    Amazingly helpful advice. Sage words, Norbert. I never faked an investigator myself, preferring instead to just let the stats go to hell, but my MPs weren’t very fire-and-brimstoney about it, so all was well. There were plenty of other fakigators out there to worry about.

    Egyptians = living in BFE, correct? Good one.

  6. Mark Brown says:

    Related to this is the trick I learned from a master. He figured tracting was a waste of time, so since we had to waste our time not finding investigators, why not waste it not finding investigators in a more enjoyable way?

    He would examine a map of our area and find the towns and villages he wanted to visit. Then he would notify a friend back home in the states to send in an investigator card to SLC with a phony name and address in that town — Mr. Smith, 428 Elm Street, Picturesquedorf, Germany.

    In a couple of weeks our ZLs would notify us that we had a golden contact in Picturesquedorf, and we would spend the day peddling our bicycles through the countryside.

    In spite of this bit of laziness, this companion really was a good and effective missionary.

  7. Peter LLC says:

    As a service to temple square visitors, how about some pointers on how to create fake referrals?

  8. Peter LLC says:

    Not bad, Mark Brown!

  9. This is something I have never heard of before.
    In my French mission we had two other kinds of faking:
    1) fake church attendance, i.e. the mission president turned in inflated attendance figures to get a stake created. As office staff, we also
    2) created a fake missionary. We told the south side of the mission that he was in the north and the north side that he was in the south. Every day his accomplishments grew more and more remarkable, culminating in the baptism of two families during his first month in the field for a total of 15-20 baptisms during his first month. Eat your hearts out, you unworthy field elders!

  10. Mark, when I was in southwest Belgium we had a similar dodge. Their was a phone number on the radio PSAs for the church, and we would have a friend call up outside of office hours and leave an address in Ostend or some of the villages between Kortrijk and Bruges, and we would have a lovely day on the bikes.

  11. Mark Brown says:

    I bow to you, sensei.

  12. Pretty much genius here. I never thought of it, though our mission leadership occasionally fit the very annoying profile.

    “I hope they are a rare combination as the bar has been raised for mission presidents as well, right?” You sure?

  13. This is very close to training that was done in a mission I served in during the ’90s.

  14. Some things must have gotten more efficient since my day. We delivered a referral card as a souvenir to a member whose entire family had joined the Church in the four years it had been since she had visited Temple Square and filled out a referral card. And I love the fake invitation Picturesquedorf, but it never would have worked for sisters — investigators were so rare that the DLs kept for themselves any leads that came in from anywhere.

    I never faked stats (except for expenses, because *that’s* where our MP gave us hell in the days before equalized expenses when generations of missionaries had so badly underreported expenses that there was no way anyone could live on what we had been told to budget), but I totally understand the impetus.

  15. This post has stirred the warm mission feelings in the cockles of my heart. Oft we hear the WML reminding us that our missionary duties did not end with a release. Members stand in Sunday School to bare witness of FHE’s with non-member friends who really seemed to feel the spirit of flannel board Jesus or love hearing about the three hour block whilst chatting beside the water cooler. Until now, I have felt left out and less worthy.

    You’ve inspired me, Brother Norbert. This Sunday I am going to create my own fake non-member friend, complete with a somewhat meaningless exchange which I will chalk up to interest in the gospel. This Sunday I will stand with the mighty and strong and humbly broadcast my righteousness to the less faithful.

    Truly an inspired post. Thank you.

  16. Kevin Barney says:

    Wow, that’s brilliant. And I love the fake referral ideas.

    I don’t think we had any investigator creation on my mission, but I went to Colorado so it really wasn’t necessary. Lots of stat inflation, and then the guys with integrity who refused to inflate their stats, with the result that said stats were constantly in the toilet.

    I did know a guy who kept two journals: the real one, which he kept well hidden, and a fake one, which he kept in plain sight on his desk for nosey ZLs to page through when he was out of the room.

  17. Yet another example that makes me think I must have served a mission in another galaxy.

  18. Many thanks for an inspiring post, highlighting an important part of preparing future EQPs and Bishops to falsify home teaching and Sacrament Meeting attendance statistics.

  19. At certain times, companions and I deemed it necessary to report that we were teaching an investigator who did not exist.

    I never did this and had no idea that others were. We just sucked it up and reported zero investigators if that was the case!

  20. Wow, John F., way to bring down the entire mission’s numbers so you could feel good about your choice. Sometimes you have to be a bigger person and think of everybody involved.

  21. Awesome.

    Went to Argentina, so while I didn’t have the baptisms of my Brazil-going friends, I didn’t have any need to create “invent-igators”. Had I gone to Europe, this would have been golden advice indeed.

  22. Obviously, I hadn’t ever reflected on how selfish I was being, Sunny!

  23. You were young, John. And probably distracted by the sister missionaries.

  24. i pretty much live my life this way. i fake everything. currently my parents are getting on me for not having children, so ive told them we’re sterile. im basically george costanza.

  25. Possibly. It’s all a hazy memory at this point.

  26. MikeInWeHo says:

    As a friend, I would like to volunteer my services as a fake investigator as needed. I also serve well as a fake boyfriend or fake fiance, helpful for family gatherings. Fake husband, however, is a step too far (for obvious reasons).

  27. Jim Donaldson says:

    Slightly related: When my wife was serving a stake mission (in those days), she received a temple square referral with the name “Horace Voice,” which she was almost certain was a fake.

    She and her companion dutifully checked it out.

    He gave up his cigars, joined the church, and was an active participant the rest of his life.

  28. I’ve gotta ask, whats the going rate for a fake boyfriend/fiance these days?

  29. preferring instead to just let the stats go to hell…

    This was practically a mission slogan in Seoul West, circa 1988-1990. It’s comforting to realize that absolutely everybody is absolutely failing to teach absolutely everywhere in the mission, except in that one district where the DLs are signing off on baptisms of 8-year-old girls, those jerks.

    Awesome as always, Norbert!

  30. And since you offered Mike, I’ll just be upfront and let you know I’ll probably take you up on your first offer the next time the missionaries/WML ask me to pray for help finding an investigator. Expect a BoM in the mail, and possibly missionaries at the door.

    I might jot down some excerpts from Henry David Thoreau in lieu of a testimony in the front, just as an added touch.

  31. I struggle to understand the need for any of this, Norbert. Even in Finland, where the investigators are few (as you know), there are always scores of Eternigators in the Area Book. This resource should not be neglected!

    Whenever you lose all of your “real” investigators, market forces will magically cause an increase in the interest level and commitment-keeping of Eternigators, necessitating a corresponding increase in visits. This naturally, yet artificially, inflates statistics to acceptable levels until the recession ends and real investigators return to the pool.

  32. Don’t underestimate eternal investigators. We baptized a few of them. . . .

  33. john f.,

    I’m not talking about *those* eternals–I also baptized from that crowd. I’m talking about the other sort…you know, the keraaaazzzy ones.

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    We can’t let all of this valuable information just pass away into cyberspace. Someone needs to complie it into an official report for the Missionary Committee on statistical lying, so that they can correlate their efforts to pump up the statistics throughout all of the missions throughout the entire world.

  35. As someone who never did anything of the kind (also never went on a mission), I hereby call you all to repentance!!

  36. Serving a mission in the Philippines, all I can say is this is extremely foreign to me. Especially because of my MP being the one going toe to toe with the Area Authorities when things like stats came up. He’s the one who told us to only baptize families (just to be clear, single people are families, children and just the wife or just the husband are not) and he didn’t care if we were the lowest baptizing mission in the Philippines (which we were, with 100-200 Baptisms a Month).

  37. Latter-day Guy says:

    This is marvelous! Never had to do it myself — my MP was a decent, sane human being — but (in order to satisfy one slimy SOB of a DL) as the week waned, our standards regarding what we could count as a “lesson” would fall accordingly.

    In a more general vein, it would be great to compile these kinds of… er… more complicated/less cosmetically appealing mission reminiscences into a book. Call it Nametags Off: Behind the Baptisms or something like that.

  38. Last Lemming says:

    I had several companions whose favorite scripture seemed to be Mosiah 14:1–

    Yea, even doth not Isaiah say: Who hath believed our report…?

    But even they just fudged hours. No invented investigators (although carrying investigators long after any realistic hope of baptism had passed was very common).

  39. #36 – I served in Japan shortly after the infamous baseball baptism period. No need to inflate numbers, since high numbers were scrutinized carefully and had to be explained to be accepted.

    I hated what the elders and MP’s before me did to create that situation, but maybe, in the spirit of this post, I should be even more indignant that I never learned this type of creativity.

    Nah. I’d rather have had the realistic expectations.

  40. my MP was a decent, sane human being

    You can’t overstate the importance of this as a factor contributing to whether someone’s mission is a good experience or a bad/regrettable experience.

    Unfortunately, some mission presidents have been so bad/not decent human beings that they have literally left carnage in their wake in terms of missionaries leaving the church or mission areas devastated by the results of micro-managed obsession with statistics and/or flirting with priestcraft by treating the mission and statistics as a way to further one’s “church career” in hoping the certain numbers will make one a candidate for callings higher up in the hierarchy.

  41. My MP was also sane. He actually reined in numbers and concentrated on doing the right thing long term.

  42. Scott, we had a complex set of rules to restrict our contact with Eternigators. The three weeks to baptism model was taken fairly seriously. We had a very nice investigator who went through all of the discussions and then wanted to go through them again. Knowing the ZLs would tell us to cut him loose, we stopped calling him Jan and started referring to him as Mr. Brandt (or whatever his name was).

    You can’t overstate the importance of this as a factor contributing to whether someone’s mission is a good experience or a bad/regrettable experience.

    Word.

  43. I mean accusations of unworthiness, threats to send you to the outer reaches of the mission, a steady rotation of improving splits by leadership, shouting, calls to explain your shortcomings publicly in zone conferences, etc.

    With people like this, it is a wonder anyone goes on a mission at all. If I had anything to do with it, I would see that a mission president like that was released immediately, and some mild mannered AP put in charge for the rest of his term if necessary.

  44. “Egyptians = living in BFE, correct?”

    Um. I don’t know what BFE is either…

  45. Egyptians and loners were real terms in my mission. So were villagers: those who served in small cities. I was all three for my whole mission. But I was no village idiot: a missionary who tries to apply the techniques suitable in bigger cities in the smaller ones.

  46. Pretty easy, Ben. In deciphering something like that, assume that any word starting with F is vulgar. And the E should be Egypt, to match the Egyptians. If that’s the case, the F-word in the middle will be modifying Egypt, which means it’s a gerund.

    (Drop the terminal g, though, or you’ll sound ridiculous.)

    And then the B–well, since we’re dealing with adolescents, it won’t be anything profound. How about “big”?

  47. “The fake needs to be in the area book for some time, but it must be removed before transfers. Future missionaries will not appreciate trying to chase down fake people.”

    We also did not appreciate tracking down people who never returned to church after being baptized while living together but not married, children who were baptized before the age of eight, or people who lived in psychiatric institutions & had been declared mentally incompetent. In all reality, I would have preferred fake investigators. At least then the ward leadership would have stopped bugging us to find out what was going on with “that nice family that got baptized a couple of years ago & never came back.”

    And this all happened in Brazil, where I was apparently the only missionary ever to have 6 consecutive months without a baptism, so my mission president was sure that I was involved in some major disobedience, like running a drug cartel or a brothel. Why else would I have such crappy stats when everyone else was doing so well?

    The amazing thing is, I still have a testimony.

  48. With people like this, it is a wonder anyone goes on a mission at all. If I had anything to do with it, I would see that a mission president like that was released immediately, and some mild mannered AP put in charge for the rest of his term if necessary.

    Nobody who hasn’t served a mission can quite conceive of the effect a MP, good or bad, has on the daily life and mental/emotional/spiritual health of a missionary. And with all the “best two years of my life” reports, nobody would believe, or wants to hear, before he or his son goes out, what the possibilities are.

    As for “anything to do with it,” of course, you mean someone in the hierarchy well above the level of MP. Because the missionaries, the ones who have MOST “to do with it,” have nothing to say about it and no one on earth to turn to for help.

  49. Peter LLC says:

    To my knowledge, “B” stands for “beyond.”

  50. I second Ardis. We both have reason to testify to this first-hand.

    And some people have a hard time realizing that not all great men make great mission presidents.

    But it seems really sad to fake mission numbers. Seriously, why?

  51. oddly entertaining post.. i side with those who choose to take this as satire, though deep down i know that this touches too much on real possibilities in the altered experience that we all know and love as the best 2 years. definately reaffirms my belief that the mission experience is the best kept secret in the church.

  52. To my knowledge, “B” stands for “beyond.”

    I was always told it was “butt”. Not that this tangent needs to be pursued even as far as its gone.

    Ben, urbandictionary.com – Problem solved.

  53. Latter-day Guy says:

    Seriously, why?

    As per the OP:

    …accusations of unworthiness, threats to send you to the outer reaches of the mission, a steady rotation of improving splits by leadership, shouting, calls to explain your shortcomings publicly in zone conferences, etc.

    Sometimes, submitting “optimistic” reports allows you to spend less time (energy, sanity) dealing with the bureaucratic bullsh*t, and more time helping people. It wasn’t frequently necessary in my experience, but I think I was pretty lucky that way. There are more than enough horror stories out there to justify an attitude of some flexibility here.

  54. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    I’m tempted to do this to get out of the usual awkward feeling of when we sign up to feed the missionaries and they feel obliged to put the pressure on us to ‘make something happen’ with our non-member friends. I’ll just make up a contact and say that I’m offering them a Book of Mormon and a chance to meet with the missionaries this week, then the next time I see the missionaries, I will inform them that I was turned down.

  55. I always understood BFE = Bum F***, Egypt. But then I’m one of those crusty baby boomers.

  56. I figured it was mission-specific LDS slang that just hadn’t been in our mission. So, threadjack ended.

  57. Stats for my whole mission were always in the toilet, so we had an extra stat to report. I don’t remember what it was called, but we were supposed to ask everybody we met if they knew anybody that might have an interest in hearing a message. I spent most of my days street contacting, so any time I got at least one word out to somebody I counted it. Usually it was no more than ‘Guten Tag’ , before they walked away in disgust. I might have stretched some of the 1st Discussion stats to include any time I spoke about Joseph Smith in any context, but to stretch any of the other discussion stats would only have invited unwanted attention.

    For the most part I was left alone. I did have a couple of DLs that came right out and told me I was lazy (which was more or less true, depending on who they were comparing me against) but luckily never got anything but love from my MPs.

  58. Yeah, we had that stat to report too.

  59. We never had to invent investigators in SoCal, and it would have been perilous to do so anyway since leadership splits were a constant, as the entire mission was 20 miles x 40 miles. But boy did stats get inflated and eternal investigators get lovingly carried along for months/years and passed down from companionship to companionship. Some of those did eventually get baptized, but they were so long in the process that they probably just should have been dropped and left for the stakies.

    My first mission president was a fine human being but a stat monster. Every other month there was a new box on the report that you had to find creative ways to fill. Even the best missionaries couldn’t truthfully fill out those reports.

    Then we got a new MP and all of that went out the window. The only stat he wanted to hear about was baptisms. God bless him.

  60. Every other month there was a new box on the report that you had to find creative ways to fill. Even the best missionaries couldn’t truthfully fill out those reports.

    Another LDS ecclesiastical leader drawn from the sales/management world and treating his ministry like a business and his parishioners/missionaries like employees?

  61. Left Field says:

    I wasn’t aware of much deliberate fakery in my mission, but pretty much all the stats we phoned in every week were useless. Everybody in the mission had a different understanding of how to calculate the numbers.

    For example, we were supposed to report each week the number of individuals and the number of families we were teaching. It sounds like it ought to be straightforward. But no. Suppose you are teaching a family of four and one single person. Does that count as:

    One family and one individual?
    One family and four individuals?
    One family and five individuals?
    Two families and one individual?
    Two families and five individuals?

    Do you count family members not being taught?
    Do you count children under eight?
    What qualifies as a person being taught?
    One companion even claimed it didn’t count as a family unless you had two parents and at least one child.
    etc.

    Every time I got a new companion or a new district leader, I was informed that whatever method we had been using to count was totally wrong. In fact none of them had ever heard of anyone in the mission who didn’t understand that this was the one true way to count investigators. Some suggested that I was trying to inflate my numbers by counting people twice. Others were baffled as to how I could report impossible numbers like two families and one individual.

    So I would roll my eyes and sigh and just start counting like I was told. Until someone else told me to count differently.

    Come to think of it, the total investigator numbers in my mission might have been an effective random number generator.

  62. Several months ago, I had the missionaries come several times, and eventually I told them I hadn’t had a conversion experience and that we should stop our weekly visits. Every now and then they call to ask if I’m available to meet, and I typically say yes. I thought it was so sweet, but now I’m realizing I’m probably just on the “eternigator” list they go to to pump up their stats. Not that I really have a problem with that.

  63. The awesomeness of my MP is demonstrated with the following statistics we were required to report each week:

    1. BoMs handed out
    2. Baptism commitments accepted
    3. Service hours

    That’s it.

  64. Gilgamesh says:

    This is the best argument ever for Utilitarian Ethics.

  65. Well, having served in a mission where I can probably count the discussions past the first that I taught on one hand (Vienna, Austria, anyone?), there was certainly plenty of room for making up stats, but I don’t recall actually fabricating anyone. We did, however, massively stretch the definition of a first discussion, and we came up with some pretty creative things to do in the evenings (after about 7) because we discovered that most people did not look kindly on people knocking their doors that late at night. Lots of time spent cleaning out the area book, and creating a kick a** street display.
    Just Sunday in ward council our wildly optomistic WML suggested we set our goal for baptism this year at 8. Haha. We live in Oregon. Oh me of little faith.

  66. Its funny how these things are pretty uniform for missions. My brother who served in Las Vegas told me that they called missionaries with artificially elevated stats Jedis since they must have been using the force to get those numbers so high.

    I wonder how many of these Jedi Missionaries come home and become Jedi hometeachers.

    Also tying this into the other thread about missionary dress standards, his MP made them wear suit coats all summer. In Vegas! He refused and was demoted from ZL and sent to a small town far away from LV.

  67. I don’t recall ever fudging the numbers in Germany. Which meant that when I helped open an area in a very Catholic city, our numbers for everything but hours spent street contacting and hours spent going door-to-door were very, very low. And when I spent time in a ward with 4 missionary companionships that got 25 baptisms in a year (most of them Europeans–we didn’t go seek out immigrants to teach) my numbers were extremely high (we averaged 14 joint teaches a week, for example). Of course, maybe the fact that I never fudged numbers has something to do with the fact that I never was a ZL…

    Nowadays, with a member of the stake presidency chewing me and the HP Group Leader out for our comparatively low HT stats, I definitely feel the urge to doctor the numbers a bit. It’s silly to expect an inner-city ward to have the same HT stats as a typical suburban ward, just like it’s silly to expect missionaries in difficult City A to have the same stats as missionaries in easy City B. But leaders focused on numbers don’t seem to grasp that fact…

  68. Struwelpeter says:

    Norbert,

    You weren’t, perhaps, companions with Mark Hacking, were you?

  69. I saw a Dilbert cartoon today that seemed appropriate to this discussion. Dogbert says to the sales staff, “Losers close sales to customers, winners negotiate lower sales quotas with management. Everybody say Tcha-Ching!”.

  70. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    I always welcomed “threats to be sent to the outer reaches of the mission.” The Amazon was more interesting that the city burbs.

  71. Kevin Barney says:

    The whole number-grubbing culture in the Church, both the mission side and the HTing side, is patently ridiculous. The numbers are meaningless.

  72. I served in the barren wasteland desert region of SoCal (mostly Victorville), where there were scores of homeless people who expressed interest in the Gospel. Most were actually interested in the fabled LDS welfare services, and never got much more than a pass-along card. (Oh, the irony – people with no homes, no addresses, and no phones were given cards to call for an item to be delivered or mailed…)

    However, we did teach one homeless guy, Richard, who went through all of the lessons and promised to come to church some day. He said he was interested in baptism, but the rule was that he had to attend church at least three times first. The funny part was that we never learned his last name. So we put listed him as “Richard Homeless” in the progress report and listed his address as “Somewhere near Bum Park in Old Town” (the name for what I think was actually Forrest Park). Had a DL once ask about the progress of Bro. Homeless, and we had to explain that his last name was not actually “Homeless” *sigh*

    Never did make up investigators, though. We just told our leadership straight up that we needed activity levels of more than 30% in the ward before we felt comfortable bringing people in to be friendshipped and fellowshipped. Our MP gave us permission to devote our time to reactivation work.

  73. Served mission, had similar experience.
    While the OP lists a remarkably effective and easy, satirical option, I prefer the old fashioned “don’t be retarded” approach to leadership numbers. Or, depending on the situation (RM’s, you all know what I mean), the passive “ok” approach followed by a disengagement of all political fiasco. (personally, I prefer the latter)

  74. This post is very, very wicked. That said, it should be required reading for all MP’s.

  75. Appallingly hilarious. Having served in France myself, I’m curious about the details of which French mission and when, but I think it’s fair to assume such detail would not be forthcoming.

    Never considered creating an investigator myself, because the street contacts were too busy creating fake versions of themselves that would never be found again. The most memorable one was a Monsieur “Noel Cadeau”. Only upon discovery that the home address he had given us was fake did it dawn on me that his name was “Christmas Present”.

  76. Oops, left out a small detail. It was Paul’s mission in France to which I was referring.

  77. Fwiw, if “Preach My Gospel” were understood by MP’s and actually followed, much of this would fade away in missions. I’m very glad that the official mission guide of the Church addresses this head-on, but I know this sort of stuff still happens when MP’s don’t internalize the message.

    /End of rant

  78. I proudly remember the “Baltimore First”, a modified first discussion that could be delivered in three minutes, complete with the placement of a Book of Mormon. We had “Mission Minimums” – minimum stats from a very stat driven mission president. Fall short and you were likely to be sent to a bus or bike area – clearly defined punishments designed to get number inflation. Anybody in the inner cities could cover eight Baltimore Firsts in one day just by going from doorstep to doorstep. Mission Minimum was eight discussions week, so we figured we could get out in the morning, teach eight discussions, and then spend the rest of the day at Johns Hopkins Hospital working as chaplains, since it was air conditioned. The mission president even started assigning point values to different activities – 100 for a baptism, 5 for a discussion, 2 for an hour of tracting, and the top 15 companionships for the month got to attend an Orioles game. The MP would have regular wagers with the president of the New York City mission, and we’d get the brunt of those. It sometimes ended up with missionaries baptizing mentally ill people over the direct objection of the Bishop – people who made credible threats against members of the ward.

    The program was referred to as “Bringing Numbers to Christ” by more than one missionary who thought it was rather offensive. It was pretty common knowledge that the MP was bucking for a General Authority position. It never materialized for him.

  79. When i was a zone leader I was talking to a DL one night and casually asked if they had anything good going on the next day. He said they were meeting with a really great family that they’d been teaching, and they were going after lunch.

    We happened to be in his area around that time the next day helping a Bishop with something and noticing what time it was. I though it would be fun to meet this family. So I called him up at lunch, verified they still had the meeting planned, then told him I’d love to go on splits.

    I have no idea why he didn’t just tell me the truth, but we ended up riding around for a 30 minutes while he pretended to not remember where they lived. He finally broke down and told me and said he didn’t want worse numbers than the rest of the people in his district. Which was weird because we never really kept official number of anything other than # of people committed for baptism and number of baptisms.

    Moral of the story? Keep fudging the numbers, but never make those numbers interesting enough that your ZL wants in on the action.

  80. When I think about my ancestors who labored as missionaries in Europe in the mid 19th Century, I wonder what they’d say if they saw the Church’s full time missionary program as it is now. I take it they didn’t have stat reports or meetings in which they practiced testifying to each other. I doubt they lost the spirit just because they read something in a local newspaper or wrote a letter to someone on a day that wasn’t P-Day. Upon their return to Utah, they probably didn’t tell people that their mission was more for their own growth than for the growing of the Church. I doubt they categorized other young men by their “RM” status.

    I could go on and on, but the point is, I think the full time missionary program in the Church has become too much of an end in and of itself rather than a means to salvation for as many people as possible. Or another way to look at it, as a bureaucratic organization/program it has reached the point where decisions are made based on what’s good for the program, not what’s good for its said purpose.

    When that old single black lady invited me and my companion in to have a discussion with her, we had to stand on her porch and teach her so we wouldn’t be going against the white handbook. Of course she was weirded out that we wouldn’t come in and never met with us again, but we were being obedient! Clearly I was being disobedient when, during a broadcast of general conference, I was sitting with a group of elders in a mostly empty chapel but I wasn’t sitting immediately next to my companion. Being on the row in front of me he could have fallen into sin!

    I’m sorry I sound so bitter, but the day I went into the MTC was the day that common sense and any sense of adulthood I had gained were thrown out the window. By the time I came home from my mission I was pretty jaded from all the bullsh*t I dealt with. I’m glad I’m still an active member of the Church, because sometimes I wonder if I still would be if things had been only slightly worse or different.

  81. My real investigators had little more than a fictitious interest in the gospel, so I didn’t need fictitious investigators.

  82. Mark N.,
    No I’m not saying which mission. But I can vouch for the MP story, since I was the mission secretary. When I pointed out that the numbers weren’t accurate, I was yelled at, and told to complete the paperwork. When I complied, the lie became my lie too.

    But the name of the fake missionary was Elder Ferrier, which is a pun on the word for holiday.

  83. Anna (#62), I was never a missionary but the missionaries I have talked to about their experiences leads me to believe that they are ALWAYS happy to be teaching the gospel. They face much rejection from people completely uninterested in their message. While you may not have converted yet, they are probably very happy to hope that you will be and continue to talk with you about the gospel if you are at all interested in it.

  84. Mark N.,
    You are right that street contacts usually created fake versions of themselves too. Wasting other people’s time in a non-confrontational way is an endearing French trait. Now that I live here for real it makes perfect sense.

    After getting a name and address, we would often ask a contact if he knew where “Rue Saint Esprit” was, a.k.a. “Holy Ghost Street”. If he gave us directions to the fictional street, we knew the name and address was fake too. A clever way to test a spirit. You could really make a fine absurdist play about mission life in Europe.

    Since comments seem to have died down, I would like to relate one more stat related thing, the “Perfect Week”. Our mission had an award for having a “Perfect Week”. The reward was to ride around in the AP van for a week.. You needed to have a baptism, teach seven discussions, and work 100 hours of proselyting, all in the same week. That is 14.29 hours of proselyting time per day. I saw a picture of one missionary who spent part of his 100 hours wearing a wedding dress. But that is another story.

  85. Anna, without investigators like you my mission would have been very boring. Thanks for being nice enough to continue to allow the missionaries to meet with you.

  86. He refused and was demoted from ZL and sent to a small town far away from LV.

    To be fair, that describes every other town in Nevada besides Vegas.

  87. The OP and several comments made me laugh out loud. Thank you, friends, thank you.

    My trainer was an expert at forcing/fudging first discussions and our number hungry (but completely awesome in so many other ways) MP practically worshipped her. She was held up as an example in many a zone conference, much to the annoyance and frustration of those who had worked closely with her or served after her in an area.

    A few transfers later I was in a new area, first time as senior companion. We were working our tails off, doing the right things for the right reasons, helping the ward and working with less-active members, and not giving the church a bad name by respecting and accepting a “no” when we got one. Our numbers were well below the “Mission Standard,” and I got a talkin’ to from the MP. I let him know I had been trained well how to inflate numbers, that I would not do that, that my numbers reflected my best work and best judgement, and that I didn’t really care whether he thought they were good enough. I never got talked to about numbers again.

    Sorry to everyone out there who had parts or all of their missions soured by bureaucracy, threats, and number monkeys.

    Thanks again for the hilarious suggestions! Maybe I will use them the next time my VT supervisor calls for my numbers. ;)

  88. @66: I was in Vienna 1st about a year ago. When were you there?

  89. My favorite activity was the grape harvest. We could go out and help pick grapes for free and count the whole day as proselyting. Nothing like a crisp fall day in Austria. I think we did this half a dozen times.

    We knew a woman whose father had a small holding out by the Hungarian boarder. We took the train and spent the day, twice.

    We also had a set of perpetual young men investigators who were real. We played basketball with them, we visited castles with them. Another young woman who was a member had a non-member mother who really liked missionaries. We spent many a day with her and her daughter in utter joy on Ausfleuge. Usually with other missionaries.

    I actually enjoyed tracting. It was a rare day when we did not talk to two or three people. I was lucky. We almost always had a book full of people we could call on. There were two missionaries, however, who could have used a fake. They had BAD German, they were both 6’3″ (1.95m) and weighted 230 (105kg) at the door there was no sunlight when it was opened. They spent their 60 hours in fruitless labor. Nice guys, too. They would never have invented anything.

    On of the most enjoyable days was strictly against mission rules. Since we were already in Egypt we could do what we pleased. We started hitchhiking in the morning and spent the entire day until 10pm talking with people on a captive basis. But of course hitchhiking was against mission rules. We also got to see a lot of territory we never would have seen otherwise.

  90. Faking the numbers wasn’t widespread on my mission, or at least I wasn’t aware of it. That is with one exception. We had an Elder who was desparate for mission leadership so he was known to turn in inflated totals every month. The problem was he wasn’t subtle about it at all and would turn in some Wilford Woodruff type numbers every week, leaps and bounds beyond the rest of the mission. My favorite was when he was with this quiet companion who stop signing his weekly letters to the mission home. He wouldn’t say anything until the AP’s finally got him alone wherein he cried out “I will not sign that pack of lies!”
    Anyways he became a mission legend for that one act of bravery.
    And the original Elder never got leadership responsibility, and could never figure out why.

  91. John Mansfield says:

    For a while it has been in the back of my mind that someone needs to take the movie “Mr. Roberts” and turn it into “Elder Roberts.” Or, if you will, “God’s Navy.” The James Cagney captain riding his crew so he can get promoted to full commander maps easily. Henry Fonda’s Mr. Roberts would be a moral, conscientious zone leader or assistant caught between the president and the missionaries, wishing he were out on the front lines in a more exciting mission. Jack Lemmon’s Ensign Pulver would be an expert at all the techniques outlined in this post and the comments above. For William Holden’s Doc, maybe Richard Dutcher could be prevailed upon to come out of Mormon movie retirement for a cameo as the world’s oldest missionary. What would be the captain’s potted palm?

  92. John Mansfield says:

    That should be William Powell in my previous comment, not William Holden.

  93. I remember when my zone leader in the Mekong North Mission rode me incessantly about substantiating my frankly unbelievable body count numbers. You should have seen the look on his face at the zone conference when my Montagnard stake missionaries dumped a sackful of Viet Cong ears at his feet!

  94. Kevin Barney says:

    This numberism stuff is why I won’t be serving a senior mission when I retire. I realize the senior missionaries generally get different treatment than the young ones, but there’s still no guaranty you won’t get a crazy numbers hound for a MP. And I’m no longer a naive boy, I’m a grown man, and if someone tried to ram this ridiculous stuff down me now, it might get ugly. It will be better for both the church and my continued engagement with it for me to opt out of that program.

  95. I won’t serve a senior mission because I fear, not without reason, that I will be sent to work in the Nauvoo brickyard, the Mormon Kolyma.

  96. StillConfused says:

    I got an email from my step son who was excited to have a family get baptised only to learn right before the baptism that they had already been baptised and “forgot”. Maybe they are part of the conspiracy.

  97. Kevin, I don’t know if this helps (and far be it from me to disabuse you of a needed excuse not to serve a senior mission) but I have known several senior missionaries that have gone from my ward who didn’t even serve proselyting missions, but did other things like legal services or humanitarian services, or filled church leadership positions (such as branch president in a developing country).

    Those types of missionaries had no trouble with any numbers madness, and those who did serve proselyting missions mostly have said that the senior missionaries are not even under the usual leadership structure and can essentially do whatever they want. I don’t think you need fear the numbers culture on a senior mish.

    Even as a ward missionary, I have found that, although we are asked to set numerical goals, there is little or no angst invested in whether we reach them or not. I think the high-pressure numbers culture is dying, and none too soon.

  98. I would think that literary tradition would be upheld and someone would name their inventigator as Bunbury, and make him an invalid, then go Bunburying whenever they need a break.

  99. That’s an e[a]rnest way of dealing with it, Tatiana!

  100. Wow! I have never heard of fake investigators. How can I, a lifelong member and former missionary, have missed this? Norbert, I am pretty sure you are going to hell. ;)

  101. I was in Japan in a mission still trying to recover from the stats-centricity of a former MP, and our MP was much more interested in quality than reported quantity.

    We did have a few slackers that never put in a lick of work, but I suspect they didn’t bother sending in reports, either.

    Other than that, the only report-faking I knew of were a few very hard-working guys who routinely knocked 10 hours off their reported work time so as not to look like overachievers.

  102. Tatiana FTW.

  103. I knew of were a few very hard-working guys who routinely knocked 10 hours off their reported work time so as not to look like overachievers.

    That could get you fired at a law firm.

  104. My mission president was sane, so we were never tempted. That said, I think that our stats were probably very loosy-goosy (when it comes to time spent tracting on a particular day).

  105. One question comes screaming at me after reading the OP…

    Given the cultural reliance on numbers and the deference to inspiration, how does one come to terms with inspired leadership assignments made to individuals who repeatedly submit loosy-goosy numbers? Does this strengthen your faith in numbers? Does this strengthen your faith in inspiration? Does this support your edgy and progressive view of church callings as more logic and less inspiration? And finally, does the recipient of such a calling after submitting faux numbers find themselves under greater scrutiny before the judgement bar on the other side?

  106. Mark Brown says:

    me, I’m pretty sure that the scutiny before the bar of justice on the other side will be a cakewalk compared to some of the judgements rendered here.

  107. It was a well worn maxim in my mission that the best missionaries had the worst numbers.

  108. John Mansfield says:

    In my mission, we submitted numbers in our weekly reports, but I seldom heard anything one way or the other from leaders or fellow missionaries about them; no one cared about anyone else’s number of hours worked or number of investigators. An exception was number of baptisms. We had a mission-wide goal and felt a bit low about consecutive months that were far short of it.

  109. #107,

    That is an interesting observation. On my mission there was very little pressure for numbers. Our MP wanted good converts not numbers and would often put the brakes on potential baptisms if the situation was not conducive to retention. You seriously had to justify your baptisms to the Apes, MP, and local leaders before they would go forward. We still reported numbers like all missions but little was said about it.

    My observation was that those elders that reported the most discussions and hours had the most success with baptisms. I think that is because all the numbers were legit cause nobody cared that much about the numbers. All they cared about was doing the work right. I went to a low baptizing mission. We had about 100 baptisms in the 2 years I was there. About 5-7 years after I left the mission baptism numbers had multiplied many times over my low type numbers and there were 2 new stakes. I think there is probably some type of correlation between doing things right and not focusing on numbers and long term success from my exp.

  110. living in zion says:

    I bet Jesus will get the joke and everyone in heaven will laugh themselves silly over the ability to keep earthly conditions in perspective.

  111. #105: You must be joking.

  112. I also did not appreciate having to salvage the kiddie dip & the trip & dip messes from previous missionaries, some decades past, all for THEIR numbers & glory. Yes, we fudged our tracting hours sometimes, but never invented investigators. One of my MP’s was the fire & brimstone, insult you in Zone Conference in front of all there if you didn’t produce, so they exist. Visitor’s Center “referrals” were almost useless in getting new investigators.

    But, some of our contacts did things like say they would be interested in hearing more about the Church, but we found out they moved out of the region on our return trip. Or, a local member gave a set of Elders a referral, that turned out to be a house burned to the ground.

  113. thesnakeguy says:

    I did 102 hours of proselyting one week and got in trouble for neglecting my personal study time.

    The disobedient missionaries also seem to be the most successful. Hard working doesn’t necessarily correspond with being a good salesman.

    I really like my mission president, but we had a GA who wrote a very numbers oriented book which suggested if you weren’t getting good numbers you must not be worthy. I think it was called “the field is white, already to harvest.” I got in trouble for refusing to deliver the line while tracting “Hello, we are missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Will you be baptized?” They were big on the commitment pattern. Also, for refusing to sing a hymn when people open the door while tracting. Listening to me sing was and is not a spiritual experience and telling me about Heber J. Grant wouldn’t change my mind. I was accused of just not having enough faith.

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