I know I’m late to the party to discuss the latest “historic” Mormon missionary announcements, but I have a son entering the next high school year as an upper class-man and so the realities of impending LDS mission concern me.
Maybe I should start with a reality check of what HASN’T changed since the early 80’s when I served a mission:
- The minutiae of mission objectives, practices, rules, and timelines seem earth-shattering to members (especially those on missions or with family members about to leave). They rarely, if ever, impact potential converts. Probably the one exception that I can think of was President Kimball’s executive order that “every young man should serve a mission.” That greatly increased mission numbers and conversions.
- LDS Missionary numbers don’t really impact retention rates, or congregational growth. Only 30% of LDS converts worldwide become active or participating members of the Church. Only 3-5% of active LDS members in North America are regularly involved in missionary work
- All the hoopla and hype serve to pump up potential missionaries and their families to feel like they are doing something significant.
- For a numbers-focused system like an LDS mission tends to be, there is very little reliance on statistics to make modifications where there would be the greatest success.
- I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard that there is going to be some program change to impact member missionary participation or reactivation efforts. They don’t make a difference to the 70% of inactive Mormons, or to the 95 – 97% of members who don’t participate in member missionary work.
- The truth remains that a mission is to solidify the indoctrination of its participants.
The second main function and purpose of a mission remains proselytizing and conversions (no matter how unsuccessful they are at making it stick). The biggest possible changes with the most impact for humanity at large remains elusive to the Mormon missionary program: Serving their fellow man through humanitarian aid.
Therefore, as is evident, it really doesn’t matter what changes are made or what new policies are revealed, just so long as it appear that the prophets are doing something significant behind the curtain. The Kool-Aid must be stirred. Nobody really cares what color it is.
Back when I was my son’s age the big deal was that a mission would be shortened from 2 years to 18 months. Inspiration from the prophets!
I think that lasted only a handful of years. Then, when I was actually out on my mission, it was revealed to reverse the previous inspiration and they switched back to 2 years. Fortunately, I got to choose. I initially opted to extend 3 months longer to make it a 21 month mission. I wisely shortened that back to 20 months. I could be one of the few former missionaries who served honorably for only 20 months.
Now, younger missionaries and technology enter the stage. What seems obvious to everyone else is still elusive… Putting tens of thousands of these young people to work doing service missions around the world! Can you imagine the impact on themselves and the communities in which they’d serve?
Not part of the plan. As far as I know the White Bible of mission rules still states:
- Do not provide community service that isn’t approved by your mission president.
- Do not provide more than 4 hours a week of community service.
- Do not provide community service during the evening, weekend or holidays—those are peek proselytizing times.
Change THAT Mormons in high places and I’ll back my son on a mission! Until then, it’s just the same old, same old. Try pulling back on the selling and instead just “let your light so shine,” as someone you might want to listen to once said.
Because, people instinctively know that the less you have to sell, the harder you try to sell it.
Imagine if this:
Were instead this:
…on a full-time basis rather than just as a publicity stunt!