As a new member of a bishopric in a ward with all-new boundaries, I now get to attend all sorts of stake training meetings which I’d never been expected to get out to before. This is, to be clear, not exactly my favorite part of my new calling. But I have to admit that I learned something at a stake training meeting last night–or at least had a thought planted in my head which is probably worth some discussion.
At the outset of the meeting, the claim was made that the strongest indicator of the spiritual health of any local church unit–ward or branch–is the level of activity of the Melchizedek priesthood. By this, what was apparently meant was attendance at meetings and the acceptance of callings. Moreover, as the instruction continued, it became clear (to me, at least) that the focus of the claim was primarily the elders quorum. Now that initially struck me as a somewhat self-serving definition of the “health” of a ward or branch, given that this was a meeting for Melchizedek priesthood leaders; what about, oh, hours of humanitarian service, or the level of fast offering donations, or the rate of home and visit teaching? (To say nothing of other, probably even more obvious measurements which get used in the church: number of temple recommend holders, sacrament meeting attendance, baptisms, etc.) But as I thought about it throughout the meeting, I realized that I could read this claim in a more charitable light: if one is just trying to identify relevant and measurable variables which are indicative of “spiritual health,” however defined, then Melchizedek priesthood activity (and particularly elders quorum activity) is probably more reliable than most. After all, given how poorly most 18-40-year-old white American males score on measurements of religious interest and participation, especially in comparison to every other relevant demographic, it actually does seem reasonable to conclude that if you have an elders quorum with large numbers of people consistently showing up to meetings and accepting callings, you probably have a pretty awesome ward or branch there.
Thoughts? (I can see this variable losing its indicative value in areas with a large number of Mormons, as peer pressure/social expectations would likely be primary motivators there, thus eliminating the likelihood of such attendance and participation pointing towards spiritual health, however defined.)