Changes to Missionary Program? Best Guesses?

(Video clip from Habitat for Humanity,

For the last couple of weeks, our ward has been announcing a worldwide leadership training meeting that will be held on the afternoon of Sunday, June 23, 2013 in BYU’s Marriott Center. The meeting is being billed as a very big deal. Church leaders have requested local units to even modify their meeting times if they conflict with the 4:00 pm meeting time (which will be the case for us). If I understand correctly, the meeting is technically part of the mission presidents training but, unusually, all members of ward and stake councils and their spouses and all other members of the Church who are interested are invited to attend. My understanding is that all members of the First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles will be in attendance. The upshot is that they have an important message to deliver, presumably about missionary work.

With such fanfare, it is worth wondering whether Church leaders are planning a big announcement as part of this training meeting, hence extending the broad invitation.

Best Guess

My best guess* about the content of the announcement corresponds to what I think would be the most effective way to adjust the missionary program to accommodate the greater number of missionaries, both enriching the experience for them and providing greater benefit to the communities where they are assigned (and, I firmly believe, resulting in a greater number of baptisms of committed converts worldwide).

I hope that Church leaders will announce that the missionary program will be modified to more directly account for the Church’s relatively recently announced “Fourth Mission of the Church” — caring for the poor and needy. Missionaries would spend daytime hours primarily involved in full time service in activities and venues that provide permanent, reliable succor to the poor and needy worldwide. Companionships will be directed to join locally strong and established charities as volunteer workers, some working on Habitat for Humanity crews, others with the Salvation Army in homeless shelters, others with Red Cross or Red Crescent, OxFam, or other disaster relief organizations. Some will be nested in national or supra-national organizations around the world focused on providing clean water, vaccinations, clean-up, or other charitable services. Some will work as volunteer support staff for Doctors without Borders, Operation Smile, or such services. Some will support the work of microlending organizations aggregated through and represented by such services as Kiva, Five Talents, or other similar organizations.

This will be their work on business days from approx. 9am to 5pm (normal working hours). Their focus will be to serve in these capacities as directed by mission leaders without ulterior motive of winning converts but rather service for the sake of the service itself based on the inherent dignity of those receiving the service. For this full time charitable service, missionaries (both men and women) will wear a uniform consisting of a clean and tidy polo shirt with Church logo on it and khaki shorts or trousers, possibly tidy jeans, context permitting.

At the end of this hopefully fulfilling and exhausting workday, missionaries will make full use of the traditional “prime proselyting time” to find and teach investigators. Ideally, the missionaries’ efforts during this time will focus on the teaching part of proselytizing, provided that through their behavior and Christian living they have been able to build a relationship of trust with local ward members so that those members trust the missionaries enough to help them find people to teach during their allotted teaching time each day. Missionaries might be required to put on the “traditional” missionary uniform of white shirt, tie, and dress slacks for men and “Sunday clothes” for women at the discretion of the local mission president during this prime proselyting time. Either way, traditional name tags will still be worn during the tracting hours from 5 pm to 10 pm (yes, I would extend prime proselyting time to 10 pm as part of this change).

P-Day will be a week day so that missionaries can spend the full day Saturday finding and teaching people about the Gospel. Sunday will be devoted to Church and having a real day of rest, teaching occasionally if “the ox is in the mire” and an investigator has not been able to schedule a different time, but in the main NOT proselytizing.

This means that missionaries, in an ideal situation, will gain the experience of working a full time job for various charities during their two years or 18 months in full time missionary service (though the job will only be four days a week instead of five because one of the weekdays is P-Day). They will also probably teach just as much as missionaries have traditionally done, though without the innumerable “blank” hours of ineffective tracting.

Because this will be systematized on a mission by mission basis, the missionaries will form a corp of reliable charitable volunteer workers in the charities in which they are embedded. (Meaning that the charities will be able to rely on obtaining volunteer workers from the Church, enabling them to expand and serve more of the poor and needy.) The missionaries will bring Christian values and LDS resourcefulness, work-ethic, and even standards into those organizations merely by virtue of their presence there. And the communities will benefit greatly. Zion will begin to form in innumerable places around the globe. And I predict that missionary success will be far greater, and missions will be far more fulfilling for the missionaries as well.

Next Most Likely Guess

Perhaps Church leaders are not anticipating this kind of large-scale reformulation of the content of missionary work for full-time missionaries.

The next most realistic guess that I would put forward is to speculate that Church leaders will announce that all missionaries in North America will be issued iPads and required to work a certain number of hours per day as part of the “internet mission” effort.

Alternative Guess

Alternatively, I think there is a real possibility that despite the relative fanfare and importance of this meeting signaled by having such a gathering with all of the Twelve in attendance, the announcement will be an appeal for more donations to fund the greater number of missionaries now preparing to serve and a relatively standard renewal of the long-standing invitation/mandate to provide missionaries with referrals of people whom they can teach.

Any other guesses of what the announcement might entail?

* My guesses here are not based on any kind of insider knowledge — pure speculation. My “best guess” is, as mentioned, simply giving effect to my own thoughts/desires about how the missionary program could be changed to be more effective and fulfilling.


  1. David T says:

    This presentation offers some substantial and not-so-subtle hints:

  2. My source inside the COB mentioned that there were tens of millions in un-budgeted costs that came about as a result of the mission age announcement. Some of these costs have already been offset by restructuring some things (some employees were laid off, etc.), but my guess is on something to do with the financing of missions.

    How would your proposed announcement work for missionaries in more well-off areas – Europe, the Anglosphere, NE Asia?

  3. DavidT,

    Can you summarize the content for those who aren’t able to listen to the 55-minute audio? Thanks.

  4. With the accompanying website being entitled “Hastening the Work of Salvation” (, I’d guess something along the lines of adjusting the setup of the ward mission to align with the growth in full-time missionaries

  5. Michael G says:

    I really, really wish your first guess would happen. That would require quite the institutional change and really refocus our efforts as a church. Could you imagine half of our missionary efforts as a faith community dedicated to community service. Holy smokes. My guess: upping the ante on general membership proselytizing.

  6. My prophecy. The news will leave me with a big “meh.”

    I wish your first proposition were correct. It would fill my heart with joy and make me really want to encourage my children to go. But let’s face reality. That 4th mission of the Church was a PR campaign meant to retain the younger generations concerned with progressive social change and found itself only in a passing reference in the middle of a single paragraph in the Handbook that it was supposed to be featured on, and it has made little to no impact in general culture of the Church.

    This will be something about asking members to donate more money, or announcing some grand member-missionary partnership that will find itself forgotten in a few years.

  7. There is no lack of need for a corp of reliable, permanent charitable volunteers in myriad worthy charities in all societies of the developed world.

  8. I really wish it was your #1, but I’d wager money it is a combination of #2 and #3.

  9. David T says:


    After quoting Elder Nelson saying this will be “The Meeting of the Century”, and noting that “If you want to know if the heavens are opened, Show Up” and that “it will change missionary work for the rest of the dispensation” and that there will “be some announcements,” he goes into different aspects of the history of missionary work, noting how it’s well understood that tracting is ineffective. Other points noted that I recall off the top of my head:

    * Missionary work historically started out – and works best – through what can be called social networks’ – modern wide-reaching equivalent: Facebook, etc. Currently small number of off-campus Online Missionary Centers in Provo.
    * The development and advancement (and shrinking and portability) of Proselytizing material being carried around
    * Visual resources used by misisonaries – like the 1996 pamphlets – so one can emulate the Angel who showed Nephi something, and then asked the teachee what they saw.
    * Ideal investigators are those who, online, have devoured all the lessons, started keeping the commitments, and now simply need to find a chapel to get baptized in,

  10. (That comment was for DCL.)

  11. You can see an overview of the program here:

    Everyone together now: “meh….”

  12. HopingAndPraying says:

    I would so love it to be option #1. That would go a long way toward restoring my faith in our church leadership as truly divinely inspired. If it’s #2 or 3 (which I consider more likely), well, that will be yet another push toward the door for me.

  13. My sources say that TSM won’t be there, but has a pre-recorded message to be played. Also, I can confirm the iPad thing (from a different source). I bet it’s going to be a lot of “step up and find people for them to teach” and a few announcements we will all have seen coming. Apparently TSM’s remarks are very unsecret.

  14. Arming each missionary with costly technology. That’s about the same thing as increasing charitable service.

    The Church should look to the success of Michael Bay films. What the missionaries really need are more explosions, cheesy one-liners, and Megan Fox’s midriff.

  15. Thanks, David.

    John F., I understand your point generally, but my experience in Japan and the US is that it would difficult to incorporate missionaries into charitable work in rural and suburban areas for various reasons (one, for instance, is that a huge percentage of “charitable” work in the US has little to do with helping the poor, etc.).

  16. In the US it could be as simple as embedding them in Habitat for Humanity work crews or in Salvation Army homeless shelters, that kind of thing. I really don’t think that finding charitable organizations in which to embed the missionaries for purposes of doing the grunt work on the ground would be that difficult. I would anticipate the primary difficulty being in working with the other religious organizations that often run these nitty gritty charities. I could envision them initially rejecting the Church’s offer to provide permanent, reliable volunteer staff workers based on religious/doctrinal objections or differences. But those could be smoothed over with a showing of real good faith that the service is going to be provided for the sake of the service itself.

  17. I think your #1 is just wishful thinking. Do you remember President Hinckley standing up in 2002 and saying this in GC Priesthood meeting:

    “But we know that the administrative load is very heavy on our bishops and stake presidents, as well as some others. An awareness of that fact has led the Presidency and the Twelve to hold a number of meetings, some of them long and interesting, in which in effect we have taken the Church apart and then put it together again.”

    He instantly had my attention. What great and momentous changes were going to happen after the FP and 12 had held many long meetings where they took the church apart and reassembled it?

    Extending temple recommends from 1 year to 2 years…I’m not holding my breath for next Sunday.

  18. I expect something a lot closer go 2 or 3 than 1, if for no other reason than that anything like 1 would require gearing up slowly, a few missions or parts of missions at a time, seeing what worked and what didn’t, deciding whether there were really enough suitable charitable situations for big city, inner city, suburbs, small towns, rural, and other settings. I think that such a sudden huge influx of charitable labor would overwhelm most organizations, and that it would be a nightmare for missions to vet various projects and keep track of everything without a gradual development of relationships. The missionaries’ time would either be wasted by dumping them all out there overnight to stand around while some agency figures out what to do with them, or else they’d become a vast unpaid labor force to paint fences and pick up garbage on roadsides — good works, maybe, but probably not the experience you envision or that parents would finance their kids in doing. As a practical matter, even if they were to announce anything like 1, they’d have to phase it in more gradually than the scenario you propose, and a grand announcement in this leadership session would create expectations that would only be disappointed through the necessary ramping-up time.

    What I do predict is that unless 1 as you envision it is announced in all its glory this Sunday, then the blogging discussions that follow will be filled with charges of “squandered opportunity” and “why do the Brethren hate the poor and the sick?”

  19. John Taber says:

    I think one thing that may well happen is raising the monthly allowance (perhaps gradually) from $400 for North America, to $500 or even $600. It was $350 US/$400 Canadian when it started in 1991 – that would be $605 now. I think, though, that as part of that, more of a mechanism should be in place for future missionaries to save for missions, maybe even have accounts with the Church that would be there when they’re ready to go. Even at $400 x 18 months + initial expenses my aunt and uncle are scrambling to cover the costs for my cousin who just turned 20, and wasn’t really planning on going until the big announcement was made.

    I would like to see missionaries off bikes, at least in urban/suburban areas. They really aren’t any faster than walking (supplemented by some public transit) and they can be expensive (and messy) to maintain. Not to mention that they don’t exactly look professional. (I would not replace them with more cars.)

    I have mixed feelings about tracting – I’ll leave it at that.

    Does anyone know if this broadcast will be available online?

  20. KLC, yes, I guess we as a people do have that tendency to be a bit melodramatic about these things? A little bit of oversell, perhaps?

  21. That’s too bad, Ardis, and certainly not the intention of this post!

  22. it's a series of tubes says:

    What I do predict is that unless 1 as you envision it is announced in all its glory this Sunday, then the blogging discussions that follow will be filled with charges of “squandered opportunity” and “why do the Brethren hate the poor and the sick?”

    In the immortal words of James Hetfield – “Sad, but true.”

  23. grimgrinner says:

    The Narrator:

    Thank you for your contribution. Your condescension has been noted.

  24. grimgrinner says:

    The broadcast will be available on

  25. it's a series of tubes says:

    A moderator is more than welcome to delete my double post – sorry. The original appeared to have been eaten by my browser.

  26. Not your intention, surely, john, but clearly foreshadowed by the Loyd’s sneers and the remark from whoever it was that anything short of 1 would be another reason to leave.

  27. You might be right. Nevertheless, I’m not in control of them or their perceptions. A guy can dream! But I’m guessing it will be an interesting and fulfilling meeting regardless of what this anticipated announcement is. And, I agree, my #1 though full of hope, might not be very realistic as a practical matter. But how amazing would missions be if that were the program?! I loved my mission of all day proselytizing but confess that I often felt that many of those “blank” hours of knocking doors would have been better spent working reliably every day as a volunteer in the “home of the handicapped” where we donated 3 hours of charitable service once a week.

  28. It isn’t going to be anything as huge as #1 (too bad!) because an announcement of that magnitude would be made in General Conference. It can’t be a combination of 2 and 3 because if they can ask for more donations, and issue widespread iPads with a straight face then I will eat my own hat.

  29. I really like the idea of replacing tracting with volunteer work, but I agree that even if we are lucky enough to see that happen, it will start gradually and probably experimentally.

    Bikes aren’t all that expensive to purchase and maintain, and although not professional, they’re extremely useful, especially if the missionaries have a full schedule of teaching and don’t have unlimited time to wait around for public transportation and/or walk. Even in a city with good public transportation, when a companionship has a city of 100,000 people all to themselves, chances are the missionaries will need a bike to take them from one end of the city to the other at times.

  30. The thing is, I think that this charitable service focus has been piloted in at least a couple of missions in the last couple of years. Has anyone else heard that rumor?

  31. I think its been over 20 years ago now that the Ammon Project was piloted in several missions – it gave missionaries a lot more time to do service rather than tracting.

  32. No, I’m referring to a more recent pilot program. But I have no inside information — just thought I had heard something.

    In any event, it wouldn’t be that hard to implement #1, would it? It could be done without substantially changing the current structure of the missionary program itself at all. The change simply relates to the minute to minute activities that the missionaries are engaged in.

    For example, let’s say I’m the mission president of Berlin. That means all of northern Germany is in my mission and I have companionships scattered in cities, town, and villages all across that area. I simply gather information about 2 to 5 charities that are active in each town or city where I have a missionary companionship stationed. This could be soup kitchens, homeless shelters, youth centers, handicapped homes, or mental hospitals. Then I approach them to explain that I can provide at least two volunteers to cover a full shift four days a week. Then I make sure they go to work each day and behave themselves so that they don’t bring shame to themselves or disrepute to the Church.

    After 5 pm and on weekends, they are doing the same thing that missionaries have always done.

    When I served as a missionary in Berlin, the mission leadership was involved in something similar — finding and/or vetting charities found by local missionary companionships for compassionate service opportunities. The missionaries were instructed to spend something like 3 to 5 hours a week in charitable service. Invariably it was at a youth center or handicapped home or senior center. Something like that. This would be no different except that the charities could rely on the missionaries for covering a full shift four days a week.

  33. This is a really awkward and sensitive topic for me. The stuff I wrote about on my own blog related to “social gospel” reflects my view on # 1. It’s awkward saying too much because then it could sound like I’m unaware of how much is already done toward service, or like I’m trashing the Church, or being sarcastic, none of which would be my intention. The long-time regulars here are people I’m coming to respect though we’re strangers and this blog is one I’m coming to appreciate. I don’t want to sound like that. But to say this issue isn’t important to me and in some ways painful to me beyond what I have expressed would not be accurate.

  34. The Other Clark says:

    I’m interested in seeing how this progresses. My hunch is:
    a) appeal for financial donations
    b) appeal for closer member-missionary relations
    c) Shift responsibility for keeping the missionaries busy onto the local leadership (bishops/ward mission leaders, etc.)
    d) Give stake presidents more authority on how FT missionaries in their stake spend their time.

    I doubt iPads. When I served in the 1990s, the rumor was to issue all missionaries Franklin planners. This is just a recycled version of that. I will, however, go back and re-read Elder Nelson’s talk from April for more clues.

  35. Also, it’s not accurate to restate idea #1 as “replacing tracting with charitable service.” In truth, it’s just lengthening the time each week that missionaries are already supposed to be devoting to charitable service, making sure they understand that they are doing the service for the sake of the service itself (thereby honoring the human dignity of those served), and then finding (i.e. tracting) and teaching as usual during “prime proselyting time” after 5pm, i.e. the time that was always the most effective for setting up teaching appointments and the like.

    It’s actually a small change from an institutional perspective but a huge change from a focus or vision perspective.

  36. Dave K. says:

    I can only hope the Ammon Project extends to my ward. We have a lot of horse farms that could use help. Not so many sheep though.

    According to Brother Donaldson (see comment #1), the speakers will be Monson, Packer, Perry, Nelson and one othe apostle. Interestingly enough, those are the four most senior apostles. Perhaps that suggests something momentous will be announced. Or perhaps its just coincedence.

    I’ll go out on a limb and predict that mission president’s wives will be called as “co-presidents” alongside their husbands (quoting Elder Perry from GC a few years back). All sisters will report up to the Sister Mission President. All elders will report up to the Brother Mission President.

  37. I’d better not comment. This topic is too painful because it would mean so much to see the church out there as a transformative agent in low-income communities. I’ve worked with other churches in that capacity (mostly Black Baptist and AME). It actually does hurt because with the church’s resources, an awful lot can be done beyond what is already done. Any further comments I make might be misunderstood. Take care.

  38. symphonyofdissent says:

    I really felt the spirit strongly when President Monson announced the change to missionary age in October. I just got back from a mission a year ago, and it was an incredible experience. I am ,however, excited to see what changes will be made in order to allow missionaries to more effectively preach the gospel. I am guessing the use of social media will have something to do with it.

  39. Dave K., wouldn’t it be wonderful if that change occurred in conjunction with idea #1 from the original post?

    You know, I would think that something similar to guess #1 from the post could already be implemented in the discretion of a local mission president. I would think the only thing stopping them from doing so is a perception that they should not lessen tracting time; perhaps they feel implicitly that they would not be authorized to do so. But why couldn’t they simply say to their missionaries, “You know, why don’t you ask the place where you are currently providing your required hours of charitable service if you can come two days a week for 3 hours each time instead of just one.” And then, in six months, say, why don’t you see if they need you to stay a full shift each of those days instead of just three hours. And then a couple of months later, say, can we come four days a week for a full shift instead of two?

    See, easy!

  40. Gender! With so many more sister missionaries, and new sister missionary leaders, the infrastructure has got to change at least a little, maybe a lot.

  41. tristin says:

    Why, John F.? It is just cruel to say something like this and get my hopes up. How dare you?

  42. And you’ve already made it to the Salt Lake Tribune (top of first page, left side, on the online version):

  43. I wish that in addition to quoting that bit about the charitable service during normal business hours, Peggy had included the concept that “prime proselyting time” would be spent the same way it always has been — by finding and teaching people about the Gospel. My hope would not be to replace preaching the Gospel with charitable service but rather to do both more effectively!

  44. On, announcing the event, it says,
    “A new website titled “Hastening the Work of Salvation: A Unified Effort in Conversion, Retention, and Activation” will accompany the broadcast. The site provides information and helps for priesthood leaders, for ward councils and ward mission leaders, and for members and missionaries. It also helps youth know how they can best prepare for and participate in the work of salvation as they serve in the priesthood, receive temple ordinances, and accept calls as full-time missionaries.”

    From this I conclude that the subject matter will be “more of the same” (not a new direction/program, but simply a re-working of an old one). Remember that “Rescue” is one of Pres. Monson’s themes, and Retention has long been a here-today-gone-tomorrow emphasis of missionary work: putting the onus on the local ward to fellowship (remember “friendshipping?”) and retain converts. The line, “The site provides information and helps for priesthood leaders, for ward councils and ward mission leaders, and for members and missionaries” is, in my opinion, very clear church-speak for this onus.

    The “Retention” theme comes along every so often. And, most of us have likely read more than one post (here and elsewhere) about the rapidly growing retention problem we have. Even so, this is not a new issue. My mission was ’68-’69 and we beat both the drum of retention and the one of “finding is the members’ job…teaching is the missionaries’ job.” Our mission president specifically required that a Stake Missionary attend at least one discussion with each new investigator so they would know at least one person in their ward prior to baptism…(the problem was that back then a calling to be a Seventy seemed to be reserved for only the most weird of the “not yet old enough nor of sufficient leadership quality” to be a High Priest men).

    I would participate in a betting pool on this being the outcome–if that weren’t such a sin ;-)

  45. john f., more later, but my daughter is serving in the Berlin mission and absolutely loves it.

  46. sethsweblog says:

    Charitable service is difficult to find, I remember that from my own mission, but if part of the responsibility is put with the ward, it wouldn’t be that difficult. I had one branch president on the mission that found us service in a community center, and it was the best service we ever had, not to mention we never would have found it on our own. Members can arrange scheduled service opportunities for missionaries a lot more easily than missionaries can. I like the idea, maybe it will be raised to 8 hours of service instead of four? That’s as optimistic as I’ll be. Plus I’d expect some major changes in mission structure with the increase in numbers.

  47. “But let’s face reality. That 4th mission of the Church was a PR campaign.”

    Pres. Monson has been preaching that mission his entire time as an apostle (multiple decades), and you dismiss it as a PR campaign? We really do see what we believe.

  48. The Church is piloting a service-oriented program that heavily involves full-time missionaries called JustServe. The website is Apparently it’s being piloted in California, Colorado and (it appears from the map) Texas. There’s not a lot of information out there, but one missionary blog mentioned that each zone was asked to do 140 hours of volunteer work each week. I’d love to see something like this spread across all missions.

  49. Consider that at the end of 2012 there were 29,014 wards and branches around the world, and there were 58,990 full-time proselyting missionaries. The number of full-time proselyting missionaries is expected to grow to nearly 100,000 during the next year. That will be more than three missionaries per ward or branch. With that many missionaries, there is an opportunity for more frequent contact between full-time missionaries and ward members.

    As others have mentioned on this thread, the general authorieis are aware that the effectiveness of knocking on doors to find investigators is now almost nil in many parts of the world. More than ever, full-time missionaries are discouraged from knocking on doors except when the Spirit prompts them to do so.

    The greatest opportunity for growth in the Church right now is among less active members, not non-members. There are millions of people who have drifted away from the Church and who might respond positively if they can find friends and spiritual influences in the Church again. We have a tremendous responsibility to help these people if we can.

    These facts suggest to me that this Sunday’s meeting will probably focus on increasing the ties between full-time missionaries and ward members. Members of stake and ward councils have been specifically invited to the meeting, probably because stake and ward councils will have enhanced responsibility for missionary work. Ward councils will be asked to discuss more often and more regularly how to identify both non-members and less active members who could benefit from contact with missionaries. Ward mission leaders and ward missionaries will have a higher profile. The work of home and visiting teachers will be linked with what the missionaries are doing. Bishops will be asked to make this effort one of their regular, fundamental responsibilities.

    There has long been a deep organizational divide between full-time missionaries and ward members. The full-time missionaries report to the mission president, and the mission president has no contact with the bishop. That division has generally led to a hands-off approach by ward members; they let the full-time missionaries do their thing and they occasionally feed dinner to the missionaries or tag along for an evening. The coordinated resources of the ward council are seldom brought to bear on missionary work. My guess is that the general authorities would like to see that change.

    By the way, there has already been a change in the service activities of full-time missionaries. Where once it was forbidden for proselyting missionaries to engage in non-proselyting service work, it is now expected that they will do so when they find appropriate opportunities that do not reduce their time spent teaching. Like many of the profound changes in the Church, this change has happened quietly and gradually.

  50. To say the church isn’t deeply involved in service and taking service quite seriously would be highly inaccurate. I do have my own reasons for feeling sad and discouraged.

  51. But I take heart in the dialogue I see here, in thinking of the value Ray’s daughter likely places on service, in the JustServe program that I admit to not knowing much at all about, and so forth. I just am very sad when this topic comes up.

  52. My heart has been broken on this topic, without needing further detail. Just completely broken. The one value I find in posting that admission isn’t to slam, but to highlight the importance of the issue. The most important way for me to find healing is also in programs like this.

  53. jenheadjen says:

    Idea #1 I love. It almost sounds like sheer inspiration.

    My guess would be to let us all know that sisters are now recommended to wear pants. After all that “wear pants on Sunday” hubbub and all…

  54. writerteacher11, you gotta take some time to consolidate your comments together instead of lots of little comments. Don’t be sad! Things will be OK.

  55. This will be my last comment on the board because I know that when I say what I’m about to say I won’t be able to comment further. You deserve honesty and I respect the people commenting as well as the site.

    For a variety of reasons (many of which I’ve already opened up about in other threads) I’ve been frustrated. But the fact that when I want to try to build up a troubled inner city community through improved educational opportunities I wind up working with AME, Black Baptist, etc., is a big thing that has been building up over the years too, because I’d also like to work with LDS in those efforts. Please don’t take that as a generalization saying the church never does those things, I’m relaying my own experiences only without intended generalizations about what some wards may do around the country or the world. I’ve just wished that in working with, say, AME I could also be working just as strong with LDS. I’ve discussed this with, well people (not wanting to say specifics about which so as to avoid pointing fingers) and the level of disconnect was such that I made the painful choice to resign my membership. I’ve been commenting while dealing with the pain of leaving a church I do love and that my family has been part of since the mid-nineteenth century. But community service is very, very important to me, it’s my career and the bulk of my life. If I can’t have the LDS church supporting me I know the Methodist church will. I know many people will be angry. I’m not intending to insult the church. But the seriousness of the need for that “Fourth Mission of the Church” is it seems to me something that is vital for missionaries and wards. When I go to other churches (Methodist and others) I’m met with partners. When I talked in the past with LDS I’m met with disinterest at best (It’s clear that many on this board likely would have jumped at the chance to partner, please don’t take it as anything other than sadness and years of frustration). The church needs that Fourth Mission in a most vital way. I needed it. Inner cities I’ve worked in need it.

    Take care I’ve said too much. Like I said I have a broken heart.

  56. You wouldn’t need to stop reading and commenting here even if you have resigned your membership. But if you haven’t already resigned your membership, perhaps it would be enough for you to know that there are indeed many, many Mormons who share that priority with you. Although it sounds like you might have had a bad experience with some local leadership who did not see things the way you do, you can rest assured that there are many other Mormons who do share your views and values about community service and perhaps on other issues as well.

    Your decision to leave or stay in the Church is your own and I would respect your decision and being what is best for you. But hopefully knowing that you are not alone in valuing this type of community service can be a strength to you. Perhaps it’s not necessary to leave the Church over this and face the complications with family and friends that might follow?

    In any event, as a fully active, faithful Mormon, I have no problem at all with visiting other churches, enjoying their services and their spirit, and their beliefs, and working together with their members in any number of valuable projects.

    Good luck!

  57. You don’t need to be Mormon to comment here, and your comments have been insightful and valuable to the discourse. Regardless of your decision re: your membership, I hope you don’t stop commenting here.

  58. John, Ilke your idea a lot. I think if any First Presidency was predisposed to move in this direction, it would be our current FP. I believe there are many Church high level leaders who would favor such an approach. My own predisposition goes back to my teenage years in struggling with how to share the gospel with my friends. I am not, and was not much of a member missionary, but the thought crossed my mind then that if the Church institutionally became more oriented toward service to all, perhaps like the Salvation Army or the like, I would personally feel very enthusiastic toward inviting friends to participate in such activities and I think my friends would have been more open towards doing so. In those days,40 years ago, it was relatively rare for youth service activities to be for the community at large–usually it seemed to involved helping needy members or providing service to the Church welfare program (which was then focused on providing for members), Church building or cleaning projects, Church genealogy/family history projects, or Church missionary projects. Since then the Humanitarian Fund was established and other humanitiarian projects have become a more integral part of Church service and activity. Something I welcome. If the focus of daytime missionary work became providing charitable humanitarian work without the expectation of hope of conversion (but with the hope that others would also become involved in charitable humanitarian work), I think there would be an enormous increase in youth and older members desiring and becoming more enthusiastic about serving. And I think there would be an enormous increases of interest by people to learn more about our church and desire to rub shoulders with us in unitedly as full partners following the advice of Jesus in Matthew 25. I personally think that President Monson has played a vital and strong role in emphasising Matthew 25 service in the institutional work of the Church. I think there are others who just as strongly support that and hope for more. I am hoping that the same Spirit of the Lord that moved on the Cardinals to select a man as Pontiff who appears to be serious about service to all (particularly the poor and needy) continues to move upon the members and leaders of our Church. (In their views and personal ministries, I see Pope Francis and President Monson as ecclesiastical cousins and I rejoice in that).

  59. Having spent the last year and a half as a ward mission leader, and called two weeks ago to be the bishop, I have no idea what is coming, but I’m excited. As far as the service idea goes, I’ve been working with my missionaries to set up 2 hours of service every day from 11am-1pm (due to the increased study time they are required to do, missionaries don’t really leave their apartment before lunch time anymore). The ideal day for the missionaries in my ward would start with daily service, and end with a regularly scheduled cottage meeting for teaching investigators and fellowshipping less-active members. In between the service and the cottage meeting, the missionaries could do some teaching, but mostly work on their own or with members to invite people to the cottage meetings.

    But maybe that will all get blown away on Sunday :-)

  60. A couple of years ago I attended a leadership meeting (all ward council members and their spouses in our large city were invited) with an area authority. The area authority had done significant work with a charity (I believe Habitat for Humanity) while serving as a stake president, and a big part of his message was that we as members need to become involved, in big ways, with service organizations in our communities. He also told us that sometimes we might need to put some pressure on those in leadership positions above us (such as bishops) to get the ward involved in that kind of service.

    I lived in a singles ward where once a week, members of the ward tutored kids in the community at the ward building. I worked evening shifts and so didn’t participate regularly, but I did end up substituting a couple of times when I had work off, and the turn out was phenomenal. A ton of kids came in to be tutored, and a ton of ward members showed up–every week–to do the tutoring. I’m fairly certain most of the kids were not LDS, and many did not speak English as their first language. Whoever started this program (very likely just a regular member of the ward who managed to convince the bishop to allow this to go forward) has done an immense good for that community.

    My experience with service in inner cities is that the wards actually in those inner cities have their hands full with active members, less-active members, and investigators who are struggling with poverty, and the wards in the wealthier suburbs outside of the inner cities tend to be so well insulated from real poverty, and are so focused on their own middle class lives, that it’s hard to get them involved in inner city service. Convincing them to get involved in that kind of serious service may be possible, but it usually won’t be an easy process. I respect anyone making that push. Meanwhile, one of the best ways to lead is by example. Many service organizations are looking for volunteers to do grunt work or to serve on their local boards.

  61. hmm.. interesting… like many others, I’ll bet it will be a pivot toward a greater volunteer service role for full-time missionaries, loosening of the ipad restriction rule which dovetails nicely given all the focus on multi-media content but I don’t think they’ll supply them to missionaries, appeal for contributions, and an appeal for members to live Christlike lives and invite their friends into their Christian lives – and invite the missionaries over too.

    although it is being hyped, many things seem to be and they so often fall short of the expectation and I suspect this may be too.

  62. whizzbang says:

    Well, in this Canadian Mission where I am the Ward Mission leader, missionaries getting sent home is almost epidemic (on average a missionary gets sent home from this mission every transfer since at least spring 2012, 3 were sent home in the last two weeks with 8 more wanting to leave or in the process of getting sent home) and baptisms are WAY WAY down, they have had maybe 30 this year so far, with 1 in May. Both are deplorable, so any change I welcome!

  63. John, you may have read about a pilot program of service instead of tracting from a comment I made within the past week where I mentioned that. I have no idea about whether it is true or not, but one of the missionaries assigned to our ward told me that they were indeed doing this in the California San Diego mission. I don’t know his source, or if he is just repeating a rumor going around, so take it for what it is. I would like to believe it, however…….

  64. Coffinberry says:

    Angela beat me to it. That non-LDS oriented service-emphasis program is in testing here. That plus the Perry focus 15 program. I expect something along those lines. I think that #1 is the likeliest outcome. That and an emphasis on empowering the individual missionaries and members to get inspiration on how to recognize individual learning needs. At least that’s the feeling I’ve been getting from missionaries in the field. So maybe not so meh. Oh and costs are gonna go up.

  65. Here is the longshot prediction: Due to the anticipated huge costs from the influx of new missionaries, they will be sent out like in times of old without purse or scrip. But they will still get iPads.

  66. Angela C says:

    I think it will be about iPads and social media as part of the missionary effort and less door-knocking. Personally, I don’t think that’s some big earth-shattering news so much as it is absolutely necessary in this day and age. Inspired? Sure. All the more noteworthy given the age of the Q15? I grant you (although at Pres. Packer’s insistence, they all carry iPads when they travel).

    I also believe there will be a plea for more money to cover rising costs, so get ready to eat that hat, EOR. Frankly, $400 per month is a song in many locations. I was paying $450-$700 per month in 1989 in Europe. I realize that places like Cambodia and South America are much cheaper and that it is an average (which it wasn’t back then).

    I am doubtful that missions will greatly pivot toward volunteer work although I think it would be great character building for our missionaries. Sometimes missionaries can be very arrogant about the importance of their role yet lacking in empathy. Even in North America, people face hardships and service can be rendered. Providing service is of great benefit to the one serving. It would also break up the monotony of the proselyting work with time for mental reflection while doing physical work. I suspect this will remain under the direction of mission presidents and local leaders and up to their discretion. But I do hope / wish more of this were an integral part of missions, as a mother who will send her first out in the next year.

    I would love to see something done to provide a more integrated infrastructure with all the sisters being added, including more sisters in leadership roles, and working side by side in districts and zones with the elders.

  67. Wow, wouldn’t option #1 be great? I served in Japan, where we could tract for days on end and never even see a face during those daytime hours. It was very discouraging…it would have been wonderful to have been volunteering for a charitable organization instead.

  68. I think the “internet mission” will be part of the announcement but we will be provided with new content that will be very exciting to share (like a message to the world, revelation). Then there will be literally thousands of Samuel Smith moments the world over as members integrate new social media with a renewed excitement for the message we have to share.

  69. Mark Brown says:

    I am not expecting much, simply because everybody is always looking for a silver bullet with missionary work and there just isn’t one. Missionary work will always be difficult work, with progress measured in small increments. There is no such thing as a brand new special program or initiative which will change that.

    Having said that, option # 1 is where we are going to be sooner or later, simply because we won’t have a choice. In North America, and probably in other places, tracting is not longer a viable option. People simply don’t answer their doors anymore. So the question of whether there would be some wasted time in ramping a more service-oriented approach doesn’t bother me at all. We are already wasting an unbelievable amount of time on pointless busy work, door-knocking and filling out meaningless reports. We could hardly do any worse.

    Also, re: service to the poor. I don’t think this needs to be a choice of missionary work OR service to the poor. We Mormons are very capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. I do wish we had a greater sense of urgency about relieving the suffering of the poor.

  70. Nora Ray says:

    I hope EOR records a video of his hat-eating. Our Stake Prez made missionary work the center of our Branch Conf earlier this month. He specifically directed the Branch Council to read and ponder Section 5:18 of Handbook 2. I expect that the missionaries are going to become more involved at the unit level, perhaps with reactivation the priority more than conversion.

  71. Nunya Bizness says:

    when Elder Perry was here for a leadership meeting two weeks ago, he said that the church was planning on placing missionaries in chapels and the chapels would be open during the week. He also said that the missionaries would be given cell phones and iPads and would field calls while waiting for the flood of visitors to come banging on the church house doors

  72. Left Field says:

    This is the first I’ve heard of this meeting, though I’ve been at scout camp and out of town in Kansas City the last two Sundays. I assume they’ll mention it at stake conference tomorrow.

    If they announce a gathering to Jackson County, you don’t want to miss church that Sunday. Of course, I was IN Jackson County last Sunday, and word of the meeting still didn’t reach me, even in Zion.

  73. David T says:

    Like female Temple workers who by virtue of their calling and delegation perform priesthood ordinances, Sister missionaries will now be permitted to perform all priesthood ordinances an Elder can while set apart as a missionary. #someday #precedent

  74. John Taber says:

    Getting back to costs for a minute, after some more thought: I could see them saying that every six months it will go up $50 a month (or $75-100 a month each year) until it’s at a better equilibrium – and while they don’t know what that will be yet, they anticipate $600 or $650. (I did the math yesterday, $350 in January 1991 when equalization started would be $605 now.) The equivalent amount in Canadian dollars, British pounds, Euros, etc. would be set when the American amount changed or something like that. When I was branch president’s companion in Italy in 1994 (and read all the correspondence) the Italian equivalent to $350/month was set in January each year.

    I can think of two benefits to tracting and other direct finding: It gives missionaries a chance to bear testimony at every door; it gives them an opportunity to plant seeds at a rate that the members could not possibly do themselves. The hard part is following up on that – and giving missionaries the chance to use email, texting and Facebook to follow up with contacts (which has already been announced) will help.

    If missionaries have time to tract members’ homes for referrals as they sometimes do, they have time to tract the houses in between. And if someone’s not home, they can leave a pass-along card or a pamphlet with their phone number on it. Right now the missionaries in our ward have a map of the ward in their wall, and whenever they need something to do, they pray about which grid-square needs them that day. That might not be every day, though.

    Yes, members by definition always need to be more involved. But I got our mission president here (when he came to stake conference) to acknowledge that yes, there are some people missionaries can find that members can’t.

  75. I have read all the “wishful thinking” comments. I agree with many regarding how it would be good if FTMs and we members were more involved in community and personal (not mandated by the Stake) service.

    However, as I read the post it is primarily about predicting/guessing what the upcoming special meeting is about. And, I stand by my earlier prediction: It will “simply” be a reiteration, reinforcement, and a “new” (as in a standard, periodic, resurrection) program/emphasis on Retention and Activation, along with more every-member-is-a-missionary rhetoric. Because without door-knocking how will the thousands of new missionaries stay busy? The FTMs will be required to be more involved and coordinated with members in the Activation efforts and Ward Mission leaders will have more responsibilities to harangue (or, for those with more tender sensibilities: motivate) the members about making more non-member friends, bringing them to church, referring them to the FTMs, etc.

    That this effort can (with some bluntness) be called the same old, same old, does not (necessarily) reflect on its value. However, as one long experienced in (the past) pushing such agendas and “new” programs, I also predict that attention to it will wane within 12-24 months–as has been observed over many, many years, regarding nearly all such “new” programs.

  76. marginalizedmormon says:

    the thick of thin things–

    I believe missions and missionaries matter to the Lord; I really do. But as for all the administrative things–

    thick of thin things–

    what each young man/woman or even senior couple experiences as a result of sharing a testimony (however large or small) and doing everything he/she can to serve really is a valuable thing–

    and blessings will come–

    but all the ‘stuff’ is just ‘stuff’; it’s always been there, too–

    there was a unique word that the elders in my mission used for all the red tape, etc. I won’t use it here–but it hasn’t changed.

  77. I used to live in Southeast VA and was told that years before the mission there was a service only mission.
    It was great, but also quickly became abused. As in the people in the area wanted free labor and nothing else.

  78. reaneypark says:

    I believe the best way to make significant change in how we are perceived and welcomed in the world would be No. 1. If I had to do my mission all over again, I would never knock on a door without being invited and I would spend all of my “finding” time serving others. What’s more effective, bothering people who or actually making positive contacts and communications with people who really need it? And, yes, I did baptize people by knocking on doors, including one absolutely from Heaven Above conversion story, but I’m convinced I would have been much more effective as a missionary if I hadn’t wasted at least a quarter of my mission pointlessly knocking on doors and bothering shoppers with street questionnaires.

  79. I think they are going to be more integrated into the overall work of the ward. Things have already been going this way the last few months.

  80. I appreciate that the ideas in the poast don’t eliminate tracting completely. I know how inefficient it is, and I would love to see it minimized and have the instruction be to seek inspiration whenever it is done, but there are some people who won’t be found in any other way. I don’t want to write them off in the name of ultimate efficiency.

    I also hope there is a strong emphasis on lessening traditional social activities in the wards and doing pure service as congregations, instead. Again, I don’t want all internal, formal sociality to cease, but we tend to want the missionaries to be involved more without talking as much about our own responsibility to be involved more. I want the missionaries serving more, but I believe if the membership served relentlessly, without expectation of any kind, simply for the good of the service itself in the lives of others and themselves, we would move toward Zion in a way that would attract people naturally – instead of the unnatural, programmatic way we approach missionary work currently.

  81. sethsweblog says:

    writerteacher11: Whatever you choose, there are people in the church who will benefit from your perspective, they may not be your leaders today, but perhaps someday. As someone mentioned in another comment, service and love is preached in nearly every time president Monson is at the pulpit. I wonder why a prophet is teaching that, rather than prophesying, but then I remember 1 corinthians, 13 “And though I have the gift of aprophecy, and understand all bmysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” Best of luck to you, and may the spirit guide you in your decision.

  82. In a related note, I have often thought that where large wards with underutilized congregations exist, leaders could start calling extra all of those extra bodies as ward missionaries with the primary responsibility to go get “anxiously engaged” by finding volunteer opportunities in the community. I think this would help us from getting as bored or as insular as sometimes happens in our congregations.

  83. Angela I’ve ordered fry sauce over the internet to pour over my hat to make it a properly Utahn event.

    Recently, the missionaries in my ward have been paying a great deal of attention to me, even coming over my house twice in one week. While I am willing to attribute it to my great good looks I have a feeling it has more to do with the fact that my parents are non-members. It could also possibly be due to the fact that I haven’t been to Church myself since the week before Mother’s Day due to a combination of factors.

    It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow. Just please not iPads or Facebook. I can handle anything else.

  84. As a former missionary, I wonder if you served a mission – having served one myself, I can only say that a lot of your ideas would be pretty ineffective. If missionaries want to spend 18 months to 2 years without active proselytizing most of the time, they can do that from home. We had times on the mission where we were teaching almost all day every day (and I was in Europe, not South America), and that is the number one responsibility of a full-time missionary. And extending the proselytizing hours until 10 pm would rarely be effective – we got yelled at for knocking on people’s doors by 8 pm, let alone 10. Missionaries are called to preach the gospel to all nations, and yes, the service and charity work you are talking about is an important part of that, but it should not be the main focus, because that is not what God calls them to do.

  85. Josh, extrapolating your mission experience on all other missions yields distorted results.

    I appreciate your service, but it didn’t match my own – and the suggestions in this post wou;d have been wonderful in mine.

    Btw, I loved my mission, so my comment is not a criticism of missions in any way.

  86. As long as we are dreaming of things that are not going to happen…I’d like to see us actually preach the Gospel and convert people to Christ instead of just baptizing them just for the numbers. My son is currently serving a mission in Nicaragua and the mission president is pounding on the missionaries for numbers…numbers…numbers. The President is leaving soon and wants to leave the mission baptism numbers at their highest level ever. This leads to finding a person on Tuesday and baptizing them on Saturday…never mind teaching them the Gospel. Never mind having them come to Church…just get them in the water. After that….who cares? On to the next one. I am not exaggerating or making this up. If I knew this was going on…I would never have let him go.

    So yeah…how about the brethren coming out and saying…Forget about numbers…let’s try actually converting people to Christ. What a concept.

  87. Bruce, “the brethren” are saying that – constantly and officially, and it is stated clearly in Preach My Gospel. Individual Mission Presidents might not internalize and practice it, but it’s being said regularly.

  88. Oh, and my daughter’s Mission President is preaching and implementing it, so my response it not merely academic.

  89. Amen Bruce!

    It’s hard, I think, everyone wants to baptize.

    When they were getting ready to announce Preach My Gospel, I was wishing that there would be something more like “Gospel Principles” taught to the investigators. Even when Presidents and Missionaries don’t get over anxious, I just don’t think enough is taught.

    Come to church twice, and many times just sacrament meeting. I don’t think many converts have any idea what a big deal and how many expectations are on a member of the church. As in, attend all the time, contribute, really keep (try) the commandments.

    And I have talked to so many missionaries who ‘reteach’ the same principles if the investigator isn’t ready in 2 weeks. I think they should teach church history and so much more of the basic gospel.

    Investigators should be reading the scriptures, etc. This is supposed to be the True Church, not the Church of last resort

  90. No Ray…the brethren are not saying that constantly, officially or regularly. Please supply evidence of said talks. I’d love to see them. I’ll send them down to my son and he can pass them on to his mission president. I’m not being sarcastic. If you have the talks…I could use them. Seriously.

  91. I would be thrilled if missionary work meant more service. If this happens, but doesn’t necessitate that the Bishop’s Storehouse open to non-members without the Bishop’s notation or approval… that will leave a very bad taste in my mouth indeed.

  92. Bruce, first a few things from Preach My Gospel – the official manual for missionary work:

    The focus throughout the entire book is Jesus. There is no disputing that.

    “Avoid comparing yourself to other missionaries and measuring the outward results of your efforts against theirs . . . You are successful when you are obedient, live righteously, and do your best in helping others live the gospel . . . The ultimate measure of success is not in achieving goals alone but in the service you render and the progress of others. Goals are a means of helping you bring about much good among Heavenly Father’s children. They are not to be used to receive recognition . . . Focus on people. Although you will use numbers, be able to support your numbers with the names of people where possible . . . Over time your mission president may establish standards of excellence or mission goals intended to raise your vision and increase your faith. They are not to be used as quotas that impose specific goals on you and your companion.”

    There is more, but I really don’t want to turn this into a novel.

  93. My favorite recent statement is from Pres. Uchtdorf, in a Worldwide Training Session:

    “In some areas of the Church we have dramatic growth in new members, yet active membership remains stagnant or grows only a little. We have some measurable ways to indicate activity in the Church, such as sacrament meeting attendance, ordination to the priesthood at the right age, missionary service, and possession of a current temple recommend. Perhaps the more accurate indicators of real growth in the gospel of Jesus Christ are those that we can’t measure as easily, such as daily prayer, scripture study, family home evening, love at home and for our neighbor, and personal experiences with Christ’s Atonement. These are recorded not by a clerk in Church records but in our hearts and in heaven.

    Our missionary efforts are compromised if we baptize God’s children but do not maintain love and friendship with these precious new members who are excited to find fellowship with the Saints and a place of belonging in the household of God.”

  94. Bruce, I don’t like quote-bombing in blog threads, so if you want more, go to my personal blog and send me an email at the address at the bottom of the page.

  95. JennyP1969 says:

    I hope, hope, hope it’s your #1, sans proselytizing till 10 pm.

    I predict tracting is done! The time spent per convert gained is a total waste. I predict they will have the members supply investigators, and the missionaries spend their days, and non-teaching evenings doing service. This creates good will among people. This opens hearts and doors. This is doing the Savior’s favorite thing!

    I couldn’t read all comments, so I apologize if others have already offered these predictions. I support them if they did.

    And I love the polo shirt/ khaki shorts or slacks idea! Women can wear these clothes too.the church’s logo in the upper left — like IZOD — simple, there, but not blaring — modest, if you will. A good work boot, low socks. We’d look sharp and ready to work. Our respect and admiration quotient would skyrocket as we live what we believe before their eyes. They’d see how we walk the talk. All good……

  96. JennyP1969 says:

    Oh my goodness! I feel enthusiasm for my church!! I must be healing better than I realized, and if so, I am very grateful. Thank you for writing this post and helping me feel this. It’s been a long time, and it’s been scary and sad. Really, thank you from my heart to yours, John F.

  97. I want to thank each of you for being so kind, and I especially appreciate the kind and thoughtful words of Ray and Seth.

    And I’m very much glad and hoping that you, Jenny, do find your “second-wind” in the church and find yourself re-energized.

    The topic is one where I was feeling quite of bit of pain and angst for the reasons I described earlier. I may continue to read this blog because the dialogue on here is the type of dialogue that I’ve been wishing to see (and wishing I could participate in) for many years before finding this place. I also feel awkward because even if some people don’t feel awkward about my participation/motives, others might, and I need to respect that. Maybe I’ll leave a comment from time to time only if it’s at a time that is as respectful as possible. I will say something else. If anyone who is a current or future church leader wants dialogue about my ideas and experiences, or for that matter as a “data point” about “why I left” that sort of thing may be inappropriate on here but I do have a blog of my own (available by clicking my name) and possible email. My time is short as I need to wrap up and defend a dissertation soon, so my responses may be sporadic, but the goal would be to help you, assist you, as you strengthen your ward, in small ways that I might be able to. The “social gospel” approach I talk of on my blog is an approach I’m quite passionate about and I do see it in line potentially with LDS theology (see the Semon on the Mount, see also Alma 34:29; 1 John 4:20; 3 Nephi 12: 23-24; 3 Nephi 14:12; 3 Nephi 14: 21-23; and Nephi 27:27).

    There are lines given the choice I’ve made that I hope you can tell by my dialogue on here that I’d know I simply don’t want to cross. I really have no patience for people who disrespect others or disrespect a site like this one, and wouldn’t want to do that myself. This is the church of my parents, and of my family since the mid-nineteenth century, and the idea of you men/women being lights within each of your wards is important and enlivening. After the journey I’ve been through I recognize just how important the dialogue on this blog is not only for you as individuals but for the church I think too. You each have my warmest regards.

  98. Sermon on the Mount. Sorry for the typos.

  99. Jenny – You once asked aloud which is more difficult, staying or leaving. Given everything you’ve expressed on the board I suggest that you don’t want to find out. Stay. Be enlivened and re-energized. Find joy.

  100. Ron Madson says:

    writerteacher,11…I identify with your socials justice/gospel lens through which you operate. My experience is that the real value/truth of our LDS faith community lies in the goodness of the members at the grass root level. Our members give, sacrifice, love, and serve—that is the best of our culture. As a young bishop I had our ward form an alliance with a catholic homeless shelter for years…our members, youth, etc. provided consistent help as the OP suggested. However, when I was later on our metropolitan area committee for the homeless– while also serving as a counselor to the full time mission president that I learned another lesson. Our city wanted to build a first rate homeless facility and many members in our city were really behind it. Being on a committee I saw other churches/Salvation Army, etc. push a lot of their chips/$ into the pot to make it happen. I was asked to approach our church about putting some $ into the fund. Being naive as to how it worked I wrote up proposal and sent it to those near the top. I was told privately to “never, ever put ‘them’ (who “them” is I still do not know??) in that position to feel compelled to give money. Our church ‘humanitarian” did allot ten thousand but wanted me to make sure that there was a special PR campaign to show how much we gave (hold a dinner, have press there, etc,— I was actually embarrassed by all the press, the presenting of the check because small, less wealthy churches have given more then ten times that amount without any PR whatsoever). A big PR campaign with letters sent to all the wards about how much our church gives to homeless etc was sent out, etc. All good, but then again I was told to never, ever put “them” in that position again—“they” would tell me/us when to fund or not fund such things. Fine.
    Here is my point. Stay LDS, work with the members, wards, and even stakes to form alliances. The members are awesome and very conditioned to serving. Forget about the money/corporate church—it has its own rules/policies/agendas and my experience is that it will only hamper at times your efforts and then when it does help “they” often want to trumpet what it does. Let it go. I do not even know who “they” are that hold the purse strings in the church offices?? There is zero financial transparency. I want to believe that the leaders as the highest level are just like my good, virtuous LDS neighbors and they also want to serve, give, and form alliances. But somehow, someway, those holding the purse and those in PR have their own way of building the kingdom which is more of a corporate than a “fish and loaves” model that you and I and others see in the churches that have social justice as their primary objective/crusade.
    Mark Brown I believe is prescient. The time will come when we will join the ranks of those faith that have already arrived at making social justice/charity priority number one—and when we do we will become a light on the hill/zion. We have the people, the resources—someday when we decide to abandon the corporate model and adopt the fish and loaves model.

  101. azlanja says:

    Bruce, I feel sorry for your son. On my mission (brazil, 05-07) I found myself in a similar position. There can be a large gap between what PMG says and what actually happens. Sadly, it can only be expected when missionaries and their presidents are predominantly recognized and held accountable for superficial numbers that can be easily inflated. The most frustrating thing is wanting to truly share the gospel but not being able to because of mission policy/strategy/goals. I wish your son well in overcoming this. He’ll never regret honestly representing Christ.

  102. Earl Parsons says:

    I would like to see a change where the missionaries report to the local bishops and ward mission leaders for their proselyting efforts and not to district leaders, zone leaders, or mission presidents. Local leaders could direct efforts to serve and share the gospel, and mission leaders could look after the missionaries’ welfare and training.

    I served as a ward mission leader recently, and I was constantly frustrated by missionaries who wouldn’t do what the bishop and I felt was best for the ward because it conflicted with what their zone leaders or mission president dictated. I’m talking about small stuff, not rule-breaking stuff.

    For a while our mission president went on a no-meals-with-members-unless-it’s-actually-a-lesson kick, so the missionaries stopped eating with the members. I tried to explain to them that the members were much more likely to have them over during dinner time than at other times. i.e. no meals with members -> no time visiting with members -> no relationship with members -> no member referrals -> lots and lots of tracting. But to no avail.

    The bishop’s responsible for missionary work in his ward, and the missionaries do the actual work, but they report to the mission president. It reminds me of something someone once said about serving two masters…

  103. Ron – Your work as a bishop is exactly the type of thing that would have drawn me to approach you and your ward. I once worked with another professor to evaluate the effectiveness of a city’s homeless program in regard to serving youth attending a school district, and the challenges are many. The work that you and other members of your ward did is very important and I picture myself wanting to draw on that had I been around there or known of it. If you were to google an approach to education called the “funds of knowledge” approach associated with researchers like Luis Moll and Carol Lee, that is an approach I’m also guided by in education, to draw on and tap into the knowledge/resources in a community as part of planning my own curriculum and school interventions. If there are educators or researchers in a given community who are informed by the “funds of knowledge” approach they will be looking to talk with Bishops, but you can’t expect them to try to talk every church in every community into being active. You’re more likely to be contacted if you’re already very active. That’s how I got involved with Black Baptist and AME and started attending their services, they were already making a significant difference in the community so I approached them for partnership. In some cases they also approached me and people I work with, which goes to activism also, if a church leader is calling professors and educators on the phone to set up meetings it’ll get my interest and we’re likely to become friends. There’s no reason why what can’t happen with an LDS Ward too.

    I agree with you that the heart and soul of the grassroots Mormon is one that is deeply kind and giving and loving. You’re raised that way in the church. Having been raised a very strong Mormon I know it well. My family’s heritage (maternal) in the church is mostly in Idaho so I do know the stories of grassroots Mormonism that get passed down through the generations which speak to exactly what you say. I know you speak the truth here. The irony that my mom sometimes shakes her head about is that the very type of things that have left me disgusted are over issues that she raised me to be sensitive about based on what she views as central LDS type values. My mom is a librarian and my dad (both are Mormon) is a social worker – he often from an early age got me into the community centers so this has always been vital to me. With the social gospel movement, I do think the movement would benefit from a strong LDS voice added which draws on the pioneering, “shoulder to the wheel” spirit.

    The “social gospel” approach of Jane Addams informed by Methodism is different than the “social gospel approach of Martin Luther King informed by the Black Baptist tradition, Gandhi, and the civil rights struggle. Likewise the way an LDS Bishop would approach matters would be different still.

    When I look at the “Fourth Mission of the Church” clearly I see a possible connection, just as in Methodism the “Social Creed” is the connection to what we’re talking of here.

    I do see possible hope.

    And yes I do picture “people hours” being an easier thing for a bishop to encourage than a dollar donation. The challenging thing is planning so that the service is most effective and beneficial. That’s where being strategic about things comes into play, which is the huge thing that separates social gospel from what every church in every religion already does, the planning and strategizing that it takes to be a transformative change agent in a community.

    On a realpolitik type note, here’s also why I see hope. The leadership – the “they” you talk about – do know the rock and a hard place in which they struggle on certain hot button issues. Race is a big thing as was highlighted during the Romney campaign (fairly and sometimes unfairly). Feminism is a big deal. The perceived gap between what the church makes in income and what it gives back to the poor is a big deal. The leadership – the “they” – are intelligent enough to be able to realize that getting visibly out into communities is a way to deal with each of those issues head-on in various ways.

    So yes again I see hope. But mostly I see hope in contact with people like you on this board knowing you’ll be out there making a difference.

  104. John Taber says:

    The last thing full-time missionaries need is for local leaders trying to tell them what to do. In my mission, if we had a branch mission leader (I only served in one ward) it seemed his primary purpose was just that, and it usually involved things that were in direct conflict with what we were supposed to be doing.

  105. Ron Madson says:

    Writerteacher11, there are many LDS groups that have independent charities, such as the Liahona Foundation that was once featured here at By Common Consent, that are involved in direct humanitarian relief. I know that some of these groups that I have been involved with have had the inevitable discussion summed up as: “well, what is being done here is so critical that surely our church could just part with a million here or there and fund all these acute needs..” OR our church could endorse and get on board with what “we” are doing …which then leads into a desire to approach the church/leadership followed by frustration in the church/leadership not getting on board with whatever endeavor you have. It doesn’t work that way. My advice is to NOT get the church involved and not bother church leadership or feel disappointed if “they” do not join in your or my endeavor. Just focus on inviting members and non-members at the grass root level.
    For the “church” is a complex entity and at its core it is in fact just a Corporate Sole (not to be confused with “soul”). It has wonderful, virtuous leaders and sincere people trying to do good, but again it is at its core a Corporate sole with myriads of “for PROFIT” corporations that sustain “it.” It is a marriage between a religion and a highly dynamic and successful business that Harvard Business school would give a triple AAA rating.
    If a ward, stake or even a mission wants to pursue doing service then go for it and do it on the grass roots level and I think that is how “they” would want us to do it. To manage or get involved at the highest levels would be unmanageable and complicated. They can only teach us principles and then we govern ourselves.
    It is my hope and belief in time that the church will be more and more local and the central command diminished—but that might require returning to a full law of tithing (the spending as well as giving part–the later we have down pat, the former we have ignored) as given in the OT where funds remain local and lion share for local needs and charity and only a small fraction for the Levite priests that had a bad habit over time of hoarding money and amassing lands and properties–prompting Malachi and others to tell them to quit robbing—not that there is any parallel to that today.
    But again, “they” must decrease as we increase to the point that whether “they” (church or any one leader) endorses or contributes is irrelevant. I take at heart Pres Uchtdorf’s address in priesthood two conferences ago when he said essentially in regard to welfare—“you are on your own.” Perfect. I couldn’t agree more.

  106. Earl Parsons says:

    John Taber,
    That’s exactly the attitude some of the missionaries had! :)

    I felt the same way as you after my mission in Mexico. I felt that local leaders were only trying to thwart my efforts to achieve my goals and do what I was “supposed to do.”

    Since serving on the ward side, I feel that many times ward leaders have the insight and experience to know what the ward and the local members need. The two masters system we have currently leads to these needless conflicts between what the mission wants and what the local members want. Why can’t the local leaders direct the work? Missionary work is most effective when focused on the needs of individuals and families.

    Of course the experience and quality of local leaders varies tremendously around the world, but I think that letting local leadership direct things will lead to more lasting conversion in general.

  107. Ron – I agree with you that many LDS (individuals and groups) are giving. I also agree that asking the ‘corporate sole’ for money to address X need in Y community might be frustrating. At no time have I asked the Church for money to fund an educational matter. The grants I’ve written have been federal and state grants, and some of my colleagues in past projects have also brought in private grants. Beyond that you touch on quite a few issues I’ve given a lot of thought to, but that would be beyond my purview even as a member.

    Jim actually makes a very good point related to this topic. When we talk missionaries, in some cases we might be talking of older people but largely the first thing that comes to mind are the very dedicated and well-meaning 19-21 year-olds who devote 2 years of their lives. It’s really beyond the capacity of missionaries to address the need for a “transformational impact in a community” that tends to frustrate me. At most, a pair of missionaries can pitch in as time allows given the other goals also involved in being a missionary that can’t (and shouldn’t be) abandoned. My frustration has never been about missionaries, they already do a lot (in some cases at great risk if you look at the tragedy in Guatemala) and when you think of a 19-21 year old giving up two years to serve a church how can you really ask for more than that from the young man or young woman. I’m humbled by the service of missionaries. In no way is what I’m saying even really about missionary work which is ironic given this thread, it’s more about overall transformative service beyond what a pair of hard working, dedicated missionaries can do alone.

    Ultimately I’m talking of a vision of “this is our community” and “here is where we identify X problem(s) based on Y reasons (perhaps study has been done).” Here are our partners. Here’s the strategic planning. Let’s dig in and go to work together. Let’s fix this problem. And I know some wards do do this.

  108. momofmany says:

    I think the service idea is a beautiful one. I think part time would be a more reasonable option. I was reading the OP perfectly happily until you talked about extending the proselyting day until 10pm. NIX! That would have killed me as a missionary. I’m SO not a night person, therefor this must be wrong.

    In our area the missionaries have been allowed greater freedom to go to family activities of members and nonmembers. One example is attending part of a quinceanera of a daughter of a family. they met a lot of extended family members. There was not proselyting.

    I do love the idea of teaching the gospel through service…if necessary using words.

  109. In my London ward, we frequently had a problem with missionaries who felt constrained to artificially cut teaching discussions with investigators short because of a mission rule that dictated that they had to be back in their apartment by 9:30. That meant leaving their teaching appointment much earlier, sometimes as early as 8:00 pm. If they weren’t in their apartment by 9:30, they had to call in to their ZL to justify it and the ZL understandably applied all kinds of peer pressure, including unrighteous dominion, to get them not to find themselves in the position of possibly getting back to their apartment after 9:30 pm. Our ward was the highest baptizing ward in the UK for several years straight and so the missionaries were teaching tons of discussions. This was a constant point of tension — the fact that members were “keeping” missionaries out past their artificially early “curfew” to teach the Gospel to people in the community.

    That is part of the source for the suggestion that the time be extended to 10 pm — that way missionaries can teach later than 8 or 8:30.

  110. Angela C says:

    We did 10pm in Spain. Hours should reflect local culture.

  111. Responding to some of the comments. There is a huge difference between service and humanitarian aid. The primary objective of humanitarian aid is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity. Service is simply helping others. It is a mistake to conflate the two, humanitarian aid is far more important. The church does a laudable job of taking care of their own and humanitarian disaster relief but when it comes to third world non-members who are facing malnutrition, thirst and easily curable disease the church largely ignores them offering only a token effort even as they die.

    The church is a top down organization, the only thing that efficiently flows bottom up is tithing receipts. Members offer “service” cleaning church buildings to help keep local overhead costs low. Very little of the tithing money is returned to local units, most of the tithing money is used to build buildings. When viewed solely through the lens of a businessman the church appears to be more of a building construction company funded by brokering member’s relationship with God than a means of spiritual salvation for the world’s inhabitants. Their construction bias even extended to keeping their contractors busy during a downturn by building City Creek Mall. Membership growth rates are waning due to declining baptisms per missionary rates and poor retention, this threatens future cash flow which would be alarming to any business and it is a strong indicator that market saturation is beginning to occur. So they have two correction choices; 1) improve their sales and marketing and/or 2) improve their product.

    Any major change to humanitarian aid that involves church funds worsens the construction cash flow and therefore is unlikely to occur anytime soon but members and missionaries labor and time can be reallocated to support the fourth mission of the church and as long as service is confused for humanitarian aid the faithful will be impressed.

  112. I will be delighted if the announcement is that missions will now be primarily about service to those in need. If, as rumors suggest, it’s just about new tools (digital stuff), I will be disappointed.

  113. Margaret – agreed.

    Howard – Please re-read the Sermon on the Mount.

  114. I’m pretty familiar with it writerteacher11, is that meant to be a call to repentance or is there a few verses you’d like to quote relevant to this discussion?

  115. There’s no reason we can’t have two curfews: one for “don’t knock a door or initiate a contact after X:XX” and a separate “don’t be back to your apartment after X:XX.” Rather than a global curfew change, I would rather just see local leaders use some brains in setting reasonable guidelines like this that make sense for the area (and maybe day of the week, or season of the year, etc).

  116. Amen, Cynthia.

    There is no way we would tract, or even leave our apartments in some cases, during the Japanese New Year celebration days – and being in a home at 10:00 was unthinkable. For my sister who served in Spain, a later curfew was critical.

    Those decisions must be made locally if they are to be the best fit locally.

  117. Yes, the Sermon on the Mount speaks to repentance. I’ll limit my response to what’s relevant in relation specifically to service. The Sermon speaks to a way of perform our lives in ways in which we contribute to the betterment of human community and our communities in a spirit of service. I find in the Beatitudes a call to act in a spirit of love:

    “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
    Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
    Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
    Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets”

    The Beatitudes deal with a relationship with God and with relationships with others. The Beatitudes are a call to and portrait of piety and behavior in such relationships which does involve an active call to do good in relationship with others.

    When Jesus says in the Sermon, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” it is a call for us to remember that we too are sinners, and that we too are among the poor, we shouldn’t be judgmental. That too is an aspect of service that can too easily be forgotten. And service should be selfless. On selfless giving to the poor:

    “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

    I find in the Sermon a call to live from the inside-out, a call to listen to our hearts, to the Holy Ghost if you will. That’s a big part of the Golden Rule and I’d say the Golden Rule does speak to the importance of service to others. The nature of love is also important to consider, as follows:

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    Jesus doesn’t just call on us to help people, Jesus calls on us to love people, even our enemies, all people. And love is redemptive, it is a spirit of goodwill. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (Corinthians 13: 4-8)

    I personally see in the Sermon a call to lead a self-reflective life where we see our own poverty and failings, where you embrace the suffering, where we transform our lives in the practice of forgiveness and yes service.

  118. Sharee Hughes says:

    This morning in Sacrament Meeting, our speakers were all ward members who were service missionaries who talked about the importance of service and of the need for service missionaries. I can’t help but wonder if this was just a coincidence, or if this afternoon’s meeting will have a lot to do with more service for our missionaries. John, maybe you were being prophetic.

  119. Thanks, I love the Sermon on the Mount and refer to it often. Your point in asking me to retread it was?

  120. If you got something positive I’m glad and I want to let the dialogue be positive. Thank you. Have a good day.

  121. Writerteacher11, fyi, I’m a sell what you have, give it to the poor and follow him disciple of 10 years now. Introspection and communing with the Spirit occupy much of my day, everyday and I blog with the Spirit, unfortunately a lot more consciousness raising occurs through telling the unvarnished truth than by ignoring it with diversions and small talk.

  122. That’s good. Here’s the bottom line point I’m trying to make. We’re missing something if we view service, a call to serve, or what it means to be a servant, in a limited way as a call to help others, to rake leaves in a messy yard and so forth though those are all meaningful and relevant aspects of service for sure. Ultimately service is about love. Love of God and love of others, and you cannot love God unless you do love others. I see it as vitally important, as an intrinsic aspect of living a Christian life. Anyway, have a good day again.

  123. We agree. Can we also agree that saving lives is an important way to learn to love and to show that love and shouldn’t be ignored?

  124. I’d agree on the importance of saving lives of course.

  125. Saving lives can have multiple implications. One of course there’s the physical and worldly way of looking at it (saving a person from death; or from living in a way that is so terrible that a person might be wishing for death). It can also of course be spiritual. That’s where the missionary work of conversion comes in. Nothing I said was intended to argue against that aspect.

  126. In a mortal sense we are here to gain experience. Somehow we were lucky enough to have missed the miserable experience of malnutrition, daily thirst and lingering affliction or death by easily curable disease. How many of us would trade places with them? Does it please God that we as a church ignore their suffering and early death? Are they not dependent on us? Do we not have an obligation to save their lives?

  127. Yes, I’d agree any of the churches share an obligation to love and aid those in need including those experiencing malnutrition, thirst, early death from curable disease and so forth. I already admitted something earlier in the thread which makes my pointing specifically at LDS awkward. So I’ll say this in a more general way. Any church with the assets available to it to make a meaningful difference in peoples lives (Catholic, LDS, Methodist, Baptist, so on and so forth) ought to be striving to make a difference in peoples’ lives and saving lives as a high priority. Historically for example, one reason that liberation theology (which has roots in social gospel approaches) rose within Catholicism was that the Roman Catholic Church wasn’t doing enough to meet social, personal, and survival needs of people, in the views of proponents of liberation theology. The belief that a religion – and a religious person – has a responsibility to serve others, serve the community, and save lives is a key part of what I’ve been saying throughout this thread.

  128. “Do we not have an obligation to save their lives?”

    Yes. “I was hungry and you fed me not.”

  129. Thank you writerteacher11, we agree!

  130. As with any of the major religions, I can point to specific programs in which the LDS Church does a lot. I can also point to aspects and say “OK more can be done though.” In fairness to the LDS Church, all churches are subject to criticism. A call to increase service doesn’t need to be made by me as an attack.

  131. We do, Howard. If you were to read earlier in the thread you’d see things that might make you sad, I have mixed emotions about feeling so sad myself over this topic that I brought up stuff I did earlier in the thread. Anyway I have work I should do. Take care.

  132. Hey there,

    I love your blog and am very interested in Mormonism.
    Therefore I wanted to ask you: If you had to list 10 rules of Mormon living, what would they be?
    I would be super happy to hear back from you!
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    With kind regards,

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