Covenanting with the Lord

There is a pseudo-doctrine that has been floating around the Church for several decades now. Every time the General Authorities of Church find out about it, they make some semantic changes, but typically allow the activities to persist. What is the doctrine, you ask? Covenanting Committing with the Lord.

My first exposure to this practice was during the mission. Some Elders got a copy of a copy of an account of a missionary who single handedly increased mission baptisms by 1,253% by employing the techniques. The Mission President reviewed it and made a Mission Program out of it.

Several years later a stake president instituted a similar program to enhance personal righteousness. This time you got a little card that you signed to boot. In both cases, the GAs changed the name of the programs as soon as they heard about it but the substance remained the same.

Basically, the thought is that if you are being righteous, you can go to the Lord in prayer and layout a plan. This plan will typically have a goal (baptisms or whatever) and a reasonable set of activities that will bring about the goal. In prayer, you propose the plan and ask for confirmation. You covenant with the Lord to do your part. Then you wait for the confirmation that the Lord accepts the covenant and will deliver if you do your part. This is often accompanied with recitations of “I the Lord am bound…” If you don’t get the goal, you repent for breaking the covenant and start over.

The GAs don’t like us using the term covenanting like that. Covenants are only mediated by the priesthood. So, the Covenanting Cards and the Covenanting Program become Commitment Cards and the Commitment Program.

Typically, such programs get thoroughly abused. I find their implementation manipulative and destructive. There have been a couple of posts in the ‘nacle that have outlined some antipathy. I’ve chimed in as an antagonist; that said, I think when done out of personal volition it does work. I had a great experience on my mission, grew a lot because of it and had some choice experiences.

I tend look at it through the lens of Peter. Peter is on the boat and sees Jesus on the water. Peter says, “How about you ask me to come walk on water too?” Jesus responds and Peter walks for a while, then gets scared and starts to sink.

Now, what would have happened if Peter really didn’t have the wherewithal to try to walk on water, but the other apostles manipulated him into asking Jesus to do it anyway? He asks, this time without faith. Jesus responds. Peter does the backstroke. An important thing here is that Peter hasn’t sinned and doesn’t need to repent.

I really do believe that the Lord is willing to have a conversation with us in prayer. I believe that he will let us know that we are on the right path. The most important aspect of the "commitment" doctrine (that also doesn’t ever get taught) is that Lord will say “Sure, why don’t you come walk on the water,” when he knows full well that we only have faith to swim. Why? Because walking on water is sweet.


  1. My mission trainer tried to get me to go in for this. I instantly recognized it as trash. We don’t get to force the Lord to do anything we want. We can only “bind” him when he tells us he will do something if we do something first. Nowhere do the scriptures ever suggest that we get to invent covenants to our own liking and attempt to bind the Lord by them. Covenants, if they be bilateral, need both parties to agree for it to have any effect whatsoever. When we make covenants willy-nilly we are leaving out God’s part in the matter. Even God didn’t invent the covenants he proposes for us. Instead, they were worked out by God, gods, angels, men, women and everybody else in the preexistence. Like William Clayton said:

    “It has been a doctrine taught by this church that we were in the Grand Council amongst the Gods when the organization of this world was contemplated and that the laws of government were all made and sanctioned by all present and all the ordinances and ceremonies decreed upon.”

  2. I remember one such program that disgusted me just with the name: “Bind the Lord”

    Like the Lord was my personal slave or something…

    “Bind the Lord…” Oh Lord. ;p

  3. Steve (FSF) says:

    Ah, the old big lie of A+B+C = lots of baptisms (a la Drawing on the Powers of Heaven) that so many I served w/ tragically apostatized over. When they realized the book was utter rubbish doctrinally and, contrary to the book, usually the most relaxed missionaries make the best proselytors, they just couldn’t handle being lead astray by the GA’s that pushed that crap.

  4. I encountered such a program on my mission. Not by official endorsement, just one of those things that circulated. I believe there are some true principles behind it, but the application distorts them. One of the most destructive things, I think, is that when you screw up you destory your faith. “Well, I over-slept. How can I expect the Lord to bless my work? I guess today is a loss–I’ll have to try harder tomorrow.”

    I was glad to see that the Preach My Gospel manual makes statements that indirectly repudiate such programs.

    For some reason, our church likes to invent programs. I’m rather hesitant to believe that the latest program is the secret key to missionary work, or whatever. “If only we had known about this program years ago! We would have been so much more successful!”

  5. quinn mccoy says:

    i was label a rouge disobedient missionary when i didnt want to make convenents with the lord about the number of baptisms. it was kinda silly. i always hated the commitment thingy and this covenent thing. it really takes the spirit out of teaching.

    the problem on the mission is that there are so many missionaries ignorant to the doctrine of the church that flashy evangelical techniques are very inviting. if missionaries would really prepare for the mission, and i am not talking about seminary, especially in the west(utah and whatnot). i would like to see real scripture study from premissionaries. if that were to happy silly “doctrines” lack making outrageous covenents with the lord would be less frequent.

    just a side note, one month the district all decided to make covenents. my comp and i said that we didnt like the program….and well be baptized more than everyone…so much for a rouge.

  6. John Mansfield says:

    Posts like this one have caused me to reflect more than once on how good I had it in my mission. So many items of missionary culture were absent because we were spread across the Patagonia and the Pampa and lacked the clusters of frequent contact to breed these things. Having few programs handed down to us, the compansionships had room to work out plans for themselves. That process of figuring out how to work provided significant spiritual experience as missionaries and companionships tried to understand what God wanted of them. I suppose this is the way things mostly worked in other places as well, but it sounds like many missions had more distractions from this.

  7. quinn mccoy says:

    john mansfield, you make a good point. my wife was in a part of brazil that is also very spread out, and as such the meetings were rare. she says that she had never really heard of covenenting, among other things. as a result she states that her mission was one of the most spiritual times of her life, absent of many missionary culture items. plus i think that alot has to do with the mission pres. since i had 3, for weird reasons. the one that i like most really limited the time that the APs spent teaching about how to teach and he spent a lot of time on true doctrine, which help combat the silly convestation and plans of attack that 19 year missionaries come up with.

  8. a random John says:

    I agree that the time during which I was geographically isolated from the larger mission was probably the best time of my mission. I am glad that I was able to serve in an area where I was able to teach a relatively large number of people. However I hesistate to attribute that to personal righteousness. You wouldn’t believe how productive some of the bad missionaries were and good missionaries could go through long dry spells.

    I think that in some ways this gets back to what I said in my comments in Aaron’s post about his talk. This concept of demanding blessings is odd. One’s personal righteousness should not be based on expecting miracles in the short term, or some other concept of reward.

    Yes, I know about D&C 82:10. But that is a one way street. You don’t get to dictate to the Lord what the results of your righteousness will be.

  9. Steve (FSF) says:

    A good part of the problem w/ these programs is the same problem so many have w/ in accepting Jesus’ gift of redemption. When an individual thinks he/she is in charge, the HG can’t work w/ or through that person. It takes a relaxed, open state of mind to feel the promptings of the Spirit. Hence why rouge, rule breaking, go-with-the-flow, but hard working missionaries often find/baptize the most.

    My biggest beef with all this is most of the people I served w/ aren’t LDS any more because of this crap. In my mission it was pushed by a guy who’s an apostle now, and to the typical GA groupie missionaries, the deleterious impact on testimony is probably beyond repair. Post-Christian Europe is a tough mission field. I was fortunate to have baptized a lot there, which I openly attributed to having a very relaxed attitude about my missionary service. My opinion: by going with the flow so to speak and being free to ignore silly rules, work late into the night in the Summer, etc, the HG could more easily work through me, prompt me where to go, what to do, etc. Our most effective proselyting was on the golf course and other out-of-uniform (still wore name tag) activities. In short, I worked hard and played hard, and my stats, unfortunately meant the typical “diligent” missionaries didn’t baptize, for which they were unfairly condemned. The real kicker was two Elders, one American and one European, who lead the mission stats and were off the LofC wagon.

    One of the saddest things for me today is how it’s been a generation since I’ve served and the GA’s still haven’t ditched the dorky uniform our poor missionaries have to wear.

  10. D. Fletcher says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard about this (but I didn’t go on a mission). How repellent! I’m so happy it doesn’t turn out to be… official.

  11. Homer Simpson: “Oh Lord, if thou wantest me to eat this, give me absolutely no sign whatsoever.” (two second pause) “Thy will be done.” chomp chomp chomp

  12. It’s not up to us to come up with the conditions on which we will be blessed. It reminds me of my mission when people (South American Catholic) would make deals with the Saints for blessings. They would walk on their knees for a few miles, or promise to name their child after a Saint, for returned heavenly blessings.

    The church is full of over zealous members who bring a lot of this into the church. I’ve heard wild promises and benefits if we all do our home teaching to great blessings to be had if all the kids make it to scout camp.

    We have something we can use to show our dedication and sacrifice when asking for blessings or heavenly intervention. It’s called fasting. The combination of a proper fast with our personal dedication to a project is the only “deal” we can make.

  13. It is easy to see how this gets going. The scriptures are replete with individuals righteously making specialized commitments or covenants with the Lord. The Anti-Nephi-Lehites did it. Captain Moroni’s title of liberty was one. Obviously it is not binding on the Lord unless one has, as Nephi and Peter did, the “binding” or “sealing” power of the priesthood wherein God agrees to always honor your priesthood use. But I think the doctrine is a an important part of the Gospel.

    And it is no surprise that we make mistakes in trying to apply it in the wrong way sometimes.

  14. This was spread in our mission. One or two enterprising ZL’s tried to implement it into our zone. It got pretty wide spread. The mission president had a special Zone Conference just on this topic, condemning the program. It was an one of the foundational experiences of my mission, and really helped me to better mature in my understanding of the gospel.

    I always considered myself a liberal mormon, but was sure enthusiastic about the mission. And the covenanting/bind the lord program seemed to be right in line, work hard, set goals and have faith. But They don’t quite line up like that. We can’t force the Lord to give us the things we want. We can only bind him to the promises he has allready made.

  15. Aaron Brown says:

    I must confess I never ran into this program in my mission. Or, if I did, I don’t remember it.

    Steve (FSF) — I never have read any of Grant Von Harrison’s stuff. Maybe I should, so I can finally know for myself what everybody is always complaining about. Also, what is “LofC” wagon?

    Jared said:
    “I’m rather hesitant to believe that the latest program is the secret key to missionary work, or whatever. “If only we had known about this program years ago! We would have been so much more successful!”

    I actually have a post forming in my mind on this very issue. Maybe some day I’ll put it down on paper (er, keyboard…)

    John Mansfield — When did you serve in Patagonia and La Pampa? I was in the Mision Trelew (now it’s Mision Neuquen) in late ’91/early ’92, and in the Mision Bahia Blanca in early ’92 thru late ’93.

    Quinn said:
    “i was label a rouge disobedient missionary when i didnt want to make convenents with the lord about the number of baptisms. it was kinda silly. i always hated the commitment thingy and this covenent thing. it really takes the spirit out of teaching.”

    Quinn, check out an old post of mine on this topic at:

    Aaron B

  16. Steve (FSF) says:

    To answer your question, a nickname for the American Elder was “Elder Fornicator”. When I was a too young DL in my first senior comp assignment in the same apartment, he was pretty discreet about it, but we all sort of knew where he spent many nights. He was a good hardworking effective believing missionary w/ a serious weakness for which I didn’t judge him. His success did drive “arrow” missionaries crazy, but they only focused on the rumors and ignored his dedication and the rapport and love he had for the people and their culture. Some must have ratted him out because I got ratted out for much lesser stuff, but the MP probably didn’t want to deal with something so serious. I never asked him what he did after he was transferred, didn’t want to know.

  17. I read “Drawing on the Powers of Heaven” in the MTC and was on fire to use it! Fortunately, I have a general antipathy to goals so I never actually put it to the test.

    There was one month where our MP challenged every companionship to have five baptisms. We got our five baptisms, but I remember guiltily thinking that three of them were going to be inactive shortly. I brought one arrogant elitist, and two slightly odd people to the waters of baptism simply to meet a goal. I still feel badly about that.

  18. Clarification – arrogant elitists and slightly odd people are eligible for baptism. I don’t mean to exclude anyone from the Church. But they weren’t really ready. We should have taken more time with all three of them, but we pushed them to meet the deadline for our goal.

  19. a random John says:

    Aaron, in case it wasn’t totally clear, I believe S(FSF) means Law of Chastity.

  20. John Mansfield says:

    Brother Aaron, that was mid 1985 to mid 1987, before the Trelew Mission was created. Three of my transfers were by plane, and two involved 18 hour bus rides. Those were great times to enjoy a bit of solitude.

  21. As Jared and Frank mentioned above, there are some true principles that can be drawn from scriptures that are related to making “deals” with the Lord. The whole purpose of “dialogic” prayer is to have open communication. However, this is far from the practice of these programs.

  22. Nice post, JS. Personally, I think that no power or influence ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood except persuasion, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned. If someone would just canonize that concept and put it in our LDS scriptures somewhere, maybe all of this manipulation and guilt-mongering would go away.

  23. I read Drawing on the Powers of Heaven near the end of my mission and thought it was fantastic. In fact, I wondered why we didn’t get this “good stuff” in the MTC! I was tired of only teaching and baptizing individuals and wanted to teach and baptize a complete family. I set my goals, made my “covenant” as the book suggested and two weeks later knocked the door of a fantastic family we later baptized. The book may be bunk but you certainly couldn’t have convinced me of that after my experience. When I returned home I bought several copies and passed them around.

  24. Steve (FSF) says:

    I’ll bet my bottom dollar the effect of that book is a tragic net loss of souls. Most, yes most, I served w/ are no longer in the church because of that book and the GA AH that pushed it (I‘d say it anyway, but he wasn’t an apostle then.). Granted, a couple of those guys are gay (told me years after the mission) and probably would have left anyway, but that book and the way it was pushed crushed the faith of many. We lost sisters too. In general, the more arrow the missionary, the quicker the post mission departure.

  25. Steve,
    I wasn’t trying to say the doctrine in the book is accurate; only telling a personal story about it. Even as a missionary in all my enthusiasm the way the gospel was boiled down to a simple formula made me uncomfortable and I wouldn’t recommend the book now. Still, it seems kind of extreme to suggest that that one book was responsible for crushing the faith of so many missionaries. I just find that a bit hard to believe. In my own experience, most of the arrow missionaries I knew are still active and most of the “on edge” missionaries are now inactive, but not because of any particular book.

  26. Steve (FSF) says:

    Bear in mind, it was a typical European mission, averaging one baptism per missionary per mission. In actuality a handful of missionaries were “big” finders/baptizers and most went home with zero. Sort of like the 80/20 rule. The key to success I found was to work hard but ignore rules that didn’t fit the people and their culture. So in the Summer, we’d get up late, put on polo shirts w/ our name tags and go play golf, etc and ask people if they knew anything about the church, etc. Then we’d be out teaching to ~1 a.m. or so. Arrow missionaries couldn’t improvise like that and finding/baptizing came much harder for them. Under that GA, zeros (typically diligent arrows) were unfairly condemned.

  27. Steve(FSF)–I was willing to go with you for the proposition that Pharasaical missionaries are not effective missionaries, but rather those with a more “relaxed approach” are more effective. Until I figured out that by “relaxed” you meant “having sex with locals.” I suppose it was a manifestation of his “love … for the people and their culture.”

  28. Steve (FSF) says:

    Please don’t get me wrong, “Elder Fornicator” was an aberration and not what I meant by “relaxed”. BTW, I counseled him as his DL that while I appreciated his discreteness, it was kind of obvious what was up and that he should just go home if he wasn’t willing to confess and marry the girl beforehand. He didn’t take my advice and I never ratted him out, although I’m sure other’s did (to no avail).

    I may be a pre and post mission FSF, but I’m not crazy.

  29. I don’t know what FSF means.

    I suppose that when Alma rebuked his son for the same behavior he should have rather taken a note from you and just thanked him for keeping his fornication on the down-low.

  30. Steve (FSF) says:

    The FSF in my handle means former serial fornicator. It’s a scarlet letter I gave myself after T&S kicked me off. But I’m thinking of changing my handle to Steve EM (evangelical mormon) to move on from my past.

  31. I appreciate the warning.

  32. Oh, not about the FSF, about the commitment thing. :)

  33. Seth Rogers says:

    Isn’t the “more relaxed approach” what the members are supposed to be doing?

    If you want to talk about reforming the missionary approach, devote your efforts to where they are most effective: the members.

  34. Seth Rogers says:

    As for a more progressive view of missionary work. I actually lived through it.

    It’s kind of a mixed bag.

    I arrived in southern Japan in the early 90s. At the time, my mission was in the middle of a big progressive experiment called the “Ammon Project.” It was essentially an attempt to bridge the heretofore seemingly unbridgeable gap between the LDS proselyting approach and Japanese culture.

    This wasn’t just my mission president experimenting on his own either. He’d spent years in Salt Lake studying the dynamics of the Gospel in Asia at church headquarters and was sent out to implement the Church’s findings. Elder Neal A. Maxwell took a particular interest in the project and even made a personal visit while I was there. My president had been at it over 2 years when I arrived.

    The basic philosophy was to reverse the old paradigm of missionaries making nothing but demands of their investigators, church members, and other missionaries. We were supposed to model our proselyting off of Ammon. Basically, provide Christlike service to others with no expectation of getting a baptism or commitment out of it.

    We had our own mission handbook. By express church authorization, we were to use this handbook instead of the traditional Missionary Guide we got in the MTC (which most missionaries in my mission agreed was pretty worthless in Japan).

    Door-to-door work was discouraged. The idea was that if you couldn’t find anything else to do, it was an option, but otherwise …

    Instead, we were encouraged to be on the look out for proselyting opportunities “anytime, anywhere, anyone.”

    Street contacting naturally became a big deal but that wasn’t were the real interesting stuff was.

    We also were REQUIRED to teach 2 free English classes at the church: once on Wednesday, and once on Saturday. We were forbidden to discuss religion during these classes or link the actual English classes to religion in any way.

    After each English class, we were instructed to hold an activity (along the lines of what a typical ward activities committee might come up with). These activities could be gospel oriented, and often were (proselyting was allowed during the activities). Or it might just be going bowling. Members were encouraged to attend. We also encouraged everyone we met to come to these activities. English classes became a prime source of convert baptisms which, incidentally, tripled after a year of the Ammon Project.

    Missionaries were encouraged to think outside the box, and look at things from a means-end perspective. If you could get a bunch of college age guys to show up for English classes, or pizza and a church video at the church by playing a pick-up game of basketball with them, so much the better. We played a lot of basketball.

    If our investigators wanted to take us out on a picnic in the mountains, fine, but it was a means to an end. You’d have all afternoon to have a good deep conversation with the patriarch of the family (who you usually couldn’t meet with due to insane Japanese working hours).

    We also did a lot of community service, participated in local festivals (I got to march in a local parade dressed as a samurai escorting a Japanese princess), we became upstanding citizens in a sense.

    There was a huge focus on member involvement. We were urged to stop considering time spent with members “wasted time.” We were also admonished not to overburden the Japanese members (the typical Japanese Melkezedic Priesthood holder had 15 households to Home Teach).

    Our Mission President was ruthless in crushing any missionary contempt of Japanese culture. He really turned some heads when he showed up at Zone Conference and instructed all the missionaries to go to a Buddhist temple and ask the local priest to explain the Buddhist religion to them. I learned quite a bit about Japanese culture in those two years …

    It was incredibly exciting. There was a tremendous sense of espirit de corps among the missionaries. We really felt like the elite missionaries on the cutting edge of God’s work in opening the Asian continent.

    Then the other shoe dropped.

    Unfortunately, our open-ended, easy going, flexible style of proselyting caught up with us. Many of the missionaries started justifying there behavior with the more open-minded mission mottos. The mission slogan “means and ends” became a slogan for “doing whatever I want and labeling it as proselyting later.”

    Missionaries started trying to get investigator families who would take them to local tourist attractions. Token efforts were made at proselyting, but we all knew we were really there for the basketball. Street contacting morphed into a sort of macho exhibitionism where missionaries tried to prove to their peers that they were real “hard core” missionaries. Numbers became all-consuming.

    Missionaries started showing up in places they had no business being. Some were sighted by members’ kids at heavy metal concerts occasionally handing out flyers but mostly leading the crowd in “slam dancing.” At one point our new mission president (I served under 2) had to confiscate video rental cards from the missionaries (and just about all of us had them). It was kind of a fad in my mission to use popular movies as teaching tools to illustrate Gospel principles. But the teaching value of the movies was questionable and it gave us a reason to frequent the rental joints which, in Japan, tend to be dominated by porn films.

    The focus of the missionaries crashed and burned almost mission-wide.

    By the time I left Japan, door-to-door was back and much of the Ammon Project had been gutted and reintegrated into more traditional proselyting forms.

    Sigh …

    I suppose, in the final analysis, we just weren’t ready for it. I think people on the Bloggernacle just don’t take human frailty into account enough. These are 19 year old boys. You turn them loose and things WILL get wildly out of control. Missionaries in my mission started vandalizing houses, insulting the townsfolk and generally acting like arrogant you-know-whats.

    This Gospel must accomodate “the weakest of those who can be called saints.” I realize that some of the posters here would like to move straight to the Law of Consecration (metaphorically speaking). But we haven’t even got a handle on tithing yet.

    I’m very wary of any suggestions of allowing our missionaries a more “relaxed approach” because I’ve seen it go pear-shaped before.

  35. Maybe it is the former Catholic in me, but I do not see anything wrong with making “commitments” with the Lord. If covenants are two-deals—you agree to do this and I agree to do that—then why would only one party be coming up with the agreements? It makes more sense that either party may come up with a covenant at anytime. Jeffrey wrote:

    Instead, they were worked out by God, gods, angels, men, women and everybody else in the preexistence. Like William Clayton said:

    “It has been a doctrine taught by this church that we were in the Grand Council amongst the Gods when the organization of this world was contemplated and that the laws of government were all made and sanctioned by all present and all the ordinances and ceremonies decreed upon.”

    If we used to have a role in coming up with covenants, why would we lose this ability when we came to earth?

  36. A. Gant says:

    If we used to have a role in coming up with covenants, why would we lose this ability when we came to earth?

    – Because we sustained the plan of salvation in the pre-existence. We didn’t all come up with it in some big brainstorming meeting. The conditions upon which we will be blessed have been set. It’s not up to us to change them now. I can imagine the testimony in Sacrament meeting. “I told the Lord that if I pay all my tithing and come to church every week for a year that he should bless me with a new car. . and look! I just got my new Lexus. .the church is true. .in the name of . . ”

    I honestly feel that coming up with our own conditions upon which we should be blessed shows a real lack of humility.

  37. I served in Japan post-Ammon. The vast majority of Ammon converts were inactive and did not understand why the new missionaries would not “play” with them. There were numerous former elders in my areas who had developed relationships with Japanese women and they were all inactive, too. We had a lot of extra rules to keep us from any appearance of Ammonesque work. My sister served in your mission, also under your same MPs–she was totally invested in the Ammon project and believed in it and had a hard time with it’s failure (not that she went inactive–totally majime). I would guess that might have happened to lots of you.

  38. Steve (FSF) says:

    It’s too bad that project Ammon was thrown out rather than managed in a continuous improvement fashion. All missions could use such an approach.

    As far as those who fell away, wouldn’t you leave after they pulled the Ammon plug and you found out you hadn’t joined or served a mission for the same church you thought you had?

    My son is on a mission now, and it’s disturbing to me how little the program has changed since I served. I had a wonderful mission, but only because I had the _____ to ignore rules that thwarted the work in Europe. My mission ended on a somewhat sour note because I was somewhat used and abused as a ZL, but overall, it was a positive experienced I’d do again in a heartbeat, even w/ the dorky uniform. But I don’t know how to counsel my son. I want him to have a good mission too, but I don’t want him to think my path is necessarily the right one for him.

  39. A. Gant says:

    The ends don’t justify the means and serving a mission isn’t just about getting converts. Wisdom and blessings come from keeping the rules, whether you agree with them or not. You don’t have to change your personality and conform to the perfect Mormon mold to keep all the rules.

    Rationalization and justification are not what I went on my mission to learn about. I certainly wasn’t the perfect rule keeper, but there are some lines that shouldn’t be crossed as a missionary. There’s a difference between not doing an hour of companionship study and staying out until 1 AM. Maybe now that they’ve (supposedly) cracked down on sending the problem kids out on missions they can relax the rules a little, but I doubt it.

    It’s a faith builder to me that the missionaries haven’t completely destroyed the church in some parts of the world. I re-opened a small town that hadn’t had missionaries in it for 4 years thanks some genius Elder “the rules aren’t for me” DipWad.

    The new teaching program is well thought out. It helps the missionaries focus on the people, not the lesson. It became easy to justify breaking a rule when it lead to a person feeling understood or appreciated more. Hopefully now the missionaries will feel able to convey that feeling within the guidelines of the program that’s been laid out for them.

  40. Steve (FSF) says:

    A. Gant,
    To clarify, I stayed out till 1 a.m. in the Summer because in the country I was in people typically ate dinner ~10 p.m. that time of year. Missionaries who followed the rule book missed fantastic socializing, food and the prime teaching time.

    That said, I think the biggest obstacle to contacting today is the dorky missionary uniform. It’s even more of an anachronism than when I served.

  41. Seth Rogers says:

    A. Gant:

    Just to clarify, an integral part of the “means and ends” idea my mission president was advocating was our central mission motto “Christ is the Reason.”

    If practiced correctly, this would have kept us from using sinful means for supposedly “righteous” ends.

    But perhaps its hard to get immature 19 year-olds to make this distinction with finesse.


    Small world isn’t it. It should probably be pointed out that the majority of PRE-AMMON converts were also inactive.

    Japan is a rough environment to be LDS regardless of how you joined. I’m not sure I’d point to retention rates to judge the soundness of the Ammon Project’s approach. All it really proves is that the Church still hasn’t figured Asia out.

    The Ammon Project was a good idea. But in practice with 19 year old missionaries, it wasn’t a great idea.

    Steve (FSF):

    Changing the missionary uniform would be an absolute disaster in Japan. The Japanese are extremely conscientous of professional appearance. If we sent out missionaries in ordinary street clothes, I guarantee you that most Japanese citizens would not be impressed. You’d lose the majority of what credibility the missionaries have.

    In third world countries, the white shirt and slacks actually fits in with the locality better than more stylish American clothes would.

    You’re operating from an America-centric perspective here. The current missionary outfit actually transcends international boundaries much more than the latest American fads.

    Furthermore, even in France and Germany where missionaries get reviled, at least they’re being reviled for being missionaries, and not for being dumb American tourists.

    I would also note that in hotter tropical climates, believe it or not, the white shirt-tie-slacks outfit is actually MORE COMFORTABLE than American street clothing.

    Finally, a personal annectdote:

    On my mission, I served in Sasebo. The town had a US Naval base with a sizeable American enclave. However, the American sailors and marines had a REALLY bad reputation among the locals.
    It was just awful to go out and about wearing my street clothes on our day off. I really didn’t like the icy looks I was getting. In one store, I couldn’t even get serivce.
    After two preparation days of that, I decided to just wear the missionary outfit on my days off. It was more comfortable anyway, and I got a much more friendly reaction from the locals (they all new what the missionaries were about).

    The Church is already having enough problems abroad divorcing itself from America-centrism, we don’t need our missionaries advertising the latest American fads. The missionary program should not be made a tool of American imperialism. The church’s goal is to transcend national boundaries.

    This is best done with the current missionary outfit and I think changing it would be a bad idea.

    Besides, we’d be mistaken for Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  42. Seth Rogers–

    You are correct about retention–Japan is a hard place to be a Christian and an even more difficult place to be Mormon. I do think, though, that many Ammon-era converts did not get a true taste of being a Mormon with all the missionary sponsored activities–Mormons are not all about playing, and that might have been thier impression.

  43. And about the uniform: I think it holds the missionary program together (perhaps a sad comment, but…). First, it is like a brand. Many people know who the Elders are by the way they look (dorky or not) and that kind of recognition can be very helpful (“oh yeah, they live in my neighborhood” or help at the soup kitchen or just plain look professional). Also, in my experience in the field and at the MTC, people made their MOST stupid mistakes when out of missionary dress. The elder I taught who put his fist through the door of his dorm? P-day clothes. That elder in my mission who impregnated an investigator (and was exxed)? Certainly not in missionary dress. The uniform reminds missionaries they are not themselves, but servants of the Lord, and lots of us NEED that reminder.

  44. Steve (FSF) says:

    You make a good point about the uniform in Japan which you would know far more about than I would. But as you allude, in North America and Europe (the West) at least, our missionary uniform is a pathetic anachronism. I know first hand as someone who was willing to ditch the uniform how much easier it is to find people to listen when you look like what you are: a relaxed, interesting, hip, young Mormon American looking to share your faith with them. Look, I know what I’m talking about on this having taught and baptized a lot in what most LDS consider a G-dless mission hell hole.

    Our missionaries aren’t reviled in Europe, but rather viewed more as cultish looking non-human oddities to be avoided/ignored. I don’t see how someone looking weird and not playing on local customs makes them a good representative for Christ. Riding a bike w/ dress shoes, slacks, white shirt and tie (and suit jacket in winter) isn’t just odd, it’s cultish. Also, a short sleeve shirt w/ a tie is a gross fashion faux pas in most western counties, including the USA.

    And the idea of global branding for the church is really a passé concept from corporate America circa 1960-70’s. I guess that’s what we get in a program run by very old men.

    And are you saying the “Elder” who knocked up his investigator didn’t marry the gal? That seems so sad. What happened to his comp? I’m assuming had he married the gal he would have been released rather than ex’d. Given my history, I certainly won’t judge someone, including a missionary, w/ that weakness, but by having unprotected reckless sex he should have been prepared to marry the gal. Otherwise, what choice would his MP have but to ex the poor asshole?

  45. It is a shame that dialogue deteriorates with degredation of devotion.

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