More on the mormon missionary numbers game (long)

  • user warning: Table './exmo_08072012/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: SELECT data, created, headers, expire, serialized FROM cache_filter WHERE cid = '2:f600e055f7bd8e844a30ad8074d7fe63' in /home/exmormon/public_html/d6/drupal/includes/cache.inc on line 27.
  • user warning: Table './exmo_08072012/cache_filter' is marked as crashed and should be repaired query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p>runtu may 2012</p>\n<p>From my blog:</p>\n<p>A friend of mine recently read my book and wrote to me wondering why I hadn’t spent much time writing about the message we missionaries brought and why that message resonated with the people we baptized. I didn’t have a good answer, but after I thought about it, I realized that the message was not really an important part of being a Mormon missionary. Missions were about obedience to our leaders and increasing the number of church members.</p>\n<p>I wrote a while back about the pressure among Mormon missionaries to produce numbers of baptisms, which in our mission led to some shocking abuses.</p>\n<p>I know enough about other missions to understand that the emphasis on numbers has disastrous effects on church members, wards, and stakes. For example, the LDS church grew at a phenomenal rate in Chile until 2002–at least on paper. That year, in an unusual move, the church sent apostle Jeffrey Holland to Chile to train leaders, but mostly to reorganize the church there. Before Holland arrived, there were 951 congregations (wards and branches) and 116 stakes in Chile; by 2005, there were 607 congregations and 74 stakes, meaning that 344 congregations and 42 stakes had been closed. Years of focusing on baptisms at all costs led to abysmal retention and activity rates, though the church kept creating these phantom congregations and stakes based on the number of people in the church’s records. The discrepancy between the membership numbers the church reports and those who self-identified as Latter-day Saints in the 2002 Chilean census is telling: That year, the LDS church reported 527,972 members in Chile. In the census, only 103,735 people self-identified as LDS. (For details, see cumorah.com) I should also note that apostle Dallin Oaks was sent on a similar mission to the Philippines at the same time, resulting in the closing of six stakes.</p>\n<p>Most of us are familiar with missionary techniques for increasing numbers: quick teaching and baptism of children and teens and going after those “in transition,” such as people who have experienced a death in the family, loss of job, or other instability. In his excellent article, “I-Thou vs. I-It Conversions: The Mormon “Baseball Baptism” Era,” Michael Quinn explains how pressure for numbers drove these tactics, reaching their nadir in the era of the “Baseball Baptisms” in Britain in the 1960s.</p>\n<p>At least I thought that was the nadir until I read about “The Groberg Era” in the Tokyo South Mission in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1978 the new mission president, Delbert H. Groberg (brother of general authority and author John Groberg) arrived in Japan and met with Yoshihiko Kikuchi, who had recently been called as the first Japanese general authority. Groberg wrote in his journal:</p>\n<p>\"Elder Kikuchi came out to our home and we talked from 3:30pm until 7:00pm. He really has high expectations of me. I had thought that 10 times as many baptisms as they are getting now would be a good goal to shoot for (about 10,000). Before telling him, I asked him what he felt I should do. He mapped out the progress as he expected and it turned out to be 25 times as much as what is currently happening minimum! (And he stressed minimum!) That seems like a lot, but I believe we can make it.\"</p>\n<p>To achieve these goals, Kikuchi and Groberg implemented what they called the “Investigator Extraction” method. A former missionary who served at that time explains how it worked (note that his choice of words reflects his cynicism and disdain for the “method”):</p>\n<p>\"Missionary apartments were relocated to areas near major pedestrian shopping and transportation traffic centers.<br />\nIn Tokyo, existing chapels were used as teaching centers, and when distance from a chapel rendered that option unfeasible, offices were rented with the intent to use them for the same purpose and as branch meetinghouses. In outlying areas, missionary apartments were to be used as teaching centers as well as branch meeting-houses.</p>\n<p>Missionaries were no longer to waste their time tracting [going door to door]. They were instead instructed to use the major traffic centers as a resource pool, and make street contacts through a variety of cheap tricks, the most popular being to offer English lessons and tutoring (imagine a 19-year-old farm boy tutoring someone in English…).</p>\n<p>Missionaries were to target teens, young adults, and needy types in their street contacting. These were “easy marks.” They were to take advantage of a certain Japanese reluctance to directly disagree or contradict in face-to-face interaction, and were given techniques on how to establish an easy rapport and how to get the “mark” to constantly agree with the missionary. A pattern was developed so that the missionary could steer the conversation and control it. Then the missionary would get the “mark” to agree (easy by that time) to go with him/her and talk briefly about Something Very Important.</p>\n<p>The missionaries were to MAKE CONTACT AND NOT LOSE IT. They were to bring the “mark” to whatever teaching center had been designated and begin indoctrination immediately.</p>\n<p>The six missionary discussions were rewritten and condensed into six five- to ten-minute presentations. It was dramatized and made very charismatic. Missionaries were advised that they could “teach” all six discussions at once “if so directed by the spirit.”</p>\n<p>Following the mini-discussion presentation, missionaries were instructed to challenge the “mark” to baptism, immediately.<br />\nIf the “mark” accepted, missionaries were to contact their zone leaders and schedule a baptismal interview. Zone leaders were never more than ten or fifteen minutes away by train.</p>\n<p>Apartments/teaching centers/meeting-houses were all equipped with makeshift “baptismal fonts.” If the “mark” accepted and passed the “interview” (who would not? almost nobody failed it!), the “mark’ was loaned a white jumsuit or shift, and baptism immediately followed the six lessons and interview, witnessed by the Zone Leaders. Confirmation followed, again witnessed by the Zone Leaders.</p>\n<p>The entire process (contact to confirmation) was timed and refined until it was streamlined down to approximately 1.5 HOURS. It could be–and most frequently was–all done at the same time.</p>\n<p>The missionary was to exchange contact information (address and phone #) with the “new member,” give them a Book of Mormon, and give them a small map showing them where church services were held, times, etc.</p>\n<p>The contact was “allowed” to depart.</p>\n<p>New baptism statistics were posted weekly in the mission newsletter, to increase the level of competition among the missionaries.</p>\n<p>Missionaries were required to meet regularly for “mutual encouragement” meetings (rah-rah sessions). Zone or All-Mission Conferences were scheduled to raise the excitement level even further and sustain it at fever pitch.</p>\n<p>Never let up on the pressure to perform.\"</p>\n<p>Another man who served in the same mission writes:</p>\n<p>\"These are deep wounds, and I am touched and saddened to see how vivid the memories are for some of us.</p>\n<p>A few additional details. Regarding the Groberg/Kikuchi model, the basic premise was a relentless focus on sheer numbers. If one in 100 (?) who hear the lessons are baptised and one in three (?) converts remain active, then teaching 300 lessons produces one active members. It follows that teaching 30,000 lessons must result in 100 active members. This quantitative logic is all that matters, since no individual human is valuable enough as a mere child of God to warrant personal attention. The rule, effectively, was to dump Japanese in the waters of baptism and then let the Lord sort them out.</p>\n<p>Manipulative techniques. I should add … that not all of these practices came directly from Groberg and Kikuchi; a lot were innovations by missionaries who functioned under intense pressure. The leaders retrospectively claim that they did not know some of these things were happening–and that may be true, though I think there was, and still is, a lot of intentional ignorance.</p>\n<p>With that caveat, we were taught to teach only young people, ideally men between 18 and 22, because they baptized the fastest. We were explicitly ordered not to teach families because they took too much time; and I know of one instance in which a companionship was punished for insisting on teaching a family. The entire lesson plan was condensed into one hour, and during that hour each missionary was to shake hands with the investigator at least ten times. This worked because Japanese don’t normally shake hands and the sudden, repetitive physical contact tended to facilitate persuasion. During that hour we were also to speak frequently in broken English, saying things like “berry, berry goodo” because that made the investigator feel like he was engaged in an English language conversation. Finally, once the baptism was done we were ordered to see each convert a maximum of one time, since it was now the members’ responsibility to develop and maintain a human connection. Friendships between missionaries and Japanese converts were virtually proscribed.</p>\n<p>Of course, the missionaries were manipulated with equal cynicism and zeal. Status and approval were based on the number of baptisms a person could perform. This gave an advantage to the charismatic, strong personalities at the expense of quieter, often more sensitive and spiritual missionaries. The former rose fast through the hierarchy, becoming zone leaders and APs while the less forceful characters were continually condemned as inadequate, a disappointment to God, because they did not produce enough. Nor did personal “worthiness” matter. Missionaries turned to their old vices to let off steam; and if the leadership found out about their chemical or other indiscretions, the consequence was a demotion followed–assuming that the requisite number of baptisms was achieved–by immediate promotion back into the ranks of the godly. There was thus very little connection between the moral and ethical codes of our childhood congregations and the definition of success in the mission field.</p>\n<p>So what happened as a result of all of this? Baptisms skyrocketed for a couple of years, until Groberg was replaced and some of his senior missionaries excommunicated for things that he had not wanted to see. The Church then tried to turn back the clock, but the prominent comedian Takeshi Beat made “accept baptism!” routines a staple of late night television and Japanese people, for various reasons, lost much of their interest in American culture and religion. As the rate of new baptisms fell through the 1980s and 1990s, one or two mission presidents tried to resurrect parts of the Groberg system but, frankly, the moment had passed and there was no Kikuchi to provide support.</p>\n<p>Meanwhile, the missionaries returned to their home communities having been through hell. These were the years of Spencer Kimball, when “every young man must go on a mission and he will like it,” so our families and friends could not comprehend the stories we had to tell. We were shunned, avoided by members who were uncomfortable with us and in many instances condemned by local leaders who thought that we must surely be to blame for our pain. After all, the Lord’s Church could not possibly have done what we described. Some missionaries and their families complained to apostles–I am aware of two such conversations by friends’ parents–so it is pretty clear that SLC knew the depth and breadth of the problem. But rather than reaching out to help the missionaries or, at the very least, warning bishops and other leaders of the difficulties the RMs were bringing home, the brothren in SLC swept the whole thing under the rug, leaving the isolated and traumatized missionaries to work through the social ostracization, self-condemnation, and disillusionment in solitude.</p>\n<p>Even today we cannot share these stories with Mormon friends. The truth is that the one thing the religion can never forgive–other than diety’s intransident decision, contrary to the urging of his prophets, to create a certain percentage of his children gay–is the arrogance of those who dare to have been harmed by the Church. It would be inconvenient and embarrassing, after all, to ask leaders to admit mistakes…</p>\n<p>Let the Lord sort it out.\"</p>\n<p>Another missionary describes how President Groberg “bullied, forced, coerced, threatened and at times, even blackmailed missionaries to perform ‘miracles.’” I used to say that it’s impossible to be too cynical about the LDS church, but this shocked even a hardened cynic like me. The words of another survivor of that mission sum things up for me: “I came home feeling robbed of spiritual nature of the experience, having been reduced to nothing more than a salesman with daily and weekly quotas that I couldn’t possibly live up to.”</p>\n<p>I’d like to think that such practices are behind the church, but I suspect they aren’t. Similar methods were used in the England Manchester Mission in the 1990s. It’s a fair bet that it’s still going on, most likely in areas where the church has recently begun missionary work, such as Eastern Europe and Africa.</p>\n<hr />\n<p>runtu<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nI\'ve had a couple of interesting responses to my post:</p>\n<p>--</p>\n<p>I served a mission in the early 80′s in Brazil and this post resonated with me too. As soon as we arrived in Brazil almost everything we’d learned in the MTC was thrown out… and we were instructed in the “more effective” local methods.</p>\n<p>Since “the field was white,” meaning there was a greater interest in our message at the time we didn’t have to undertake the same deceptive means to get investigators that you did. There were a lot of people who would talk to us. We just had to become more aggressive at baptizing those with whom we met. We were told to challenge to baptism in the first discussion and drop them if they wouldn’t. We were made to feel guilty and unproductive if we met with someone for a 2nd discussion who hadn’t already committed to baptism.</p>\n<p>From there we sped through a week or two of the six discussions during which they were supposed to attend church at least once, but that was more often than not just going to church on the day of their baptism.</p>\n<p>And then we as missionaries were supposed to move on to baptize the next group… the relationships we’d built in such a short period of time became irrelevant as we were just baptizing machines. Monthly baptismal numbers were posted in the monthly mission newsletter. It was like what you’d see on a sales board. The majority of the monthly numbers were in the low teens with a handful in single digits and another handful with 20+ baptisms for the month.</p>\n<p>It was all a very “the ends justify the means” sort of environment. People who thrive is such a culture tend to be real $^&amp;holes.</p>\n<p>---</p>\n<hr />\nRuntu,\n<p>The same high speed baptismal practice was the norm under Pres. Bruno Scmeil in the Brazil Campinas Mission for most of his tenure. Campinas was the highest baptizing mission in the world at the time.</p>\n<p>It didn’t matter what you did as a missionary as long as you baptized. The “good” missionaries and those destined for leadership were those who baptized. An average day consisted of playing video games at the mall until the evening when the traffic in front of the chapel was highest. Then baptizing 8-10 a night. People whose only contact with the church was that self same 45 minute discussion mish mash.</p>\n<p>Made for some serious cog-dis when combined with the letter we received in the MTC telling us that the 1st presidency requires all members to have received the 6 discussions, have attended church at least once, and to be introduced to the bishop.</p>\n<p>But we were told that we had a special dispensation to do it differently.</p>\n<hr />\ncl2<br />\nI always enjoy your posts<br />\nand this is very eye-opening. Some of my favorite posts on this board are about missionaries. I waited for one in 1977 and that was \"interesting\" to say the least. We broke up about 9 months in (I talked him into going).\n<p>But what I hated at that age is we were basically taught to worship RMs as young women and they expected it. I guess they still do according to my TBM daughter. She doesn\'t want an RM now. To hear what it was really like is very therapeutic to me actually.</p>\n<p>Oh, by the way, is your book in print yet--or still just electronic download?</p>\n<hr />\nkissitALLgoodbye<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nThis made me cry.<br />\nMy days of trying to see both sides of the issue are over.<br />\nI am utterly ashamed I was ever associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.<br />\nI will *never* defend them on *anything* again.<br />\nIn my eyes, they no longer have *any* redeeming value.<br />\nThis blows it.<br />\nGame over.\n<hr />\nmrtranquility<br />\nQuick-dipping to run up baptismal numbers has been going on for decades.<br />\nYou can add to your list the \"Baseball Baptisms\" in England in the 50s or 60s (I believe part of D. Michael Quinn\'s mission involved trying to find the boys that were baptized during that episode) and the CA-San Diego Mission under Hartman Rector, Jr. in late 70s and/or early 80s.\n<p>A lot of these shenanigans went on during John Dehlin\'s mission in Guatemala which he found disturbing and even communicated with a GA about it. He has an interesting interview with Ted Lyon, former Mission President in Chile who cites some actual numbers.</p>\n<p>I was in San Diego in 81-83 after the Rector years and plenty of rumors were still abuzz about went on during those years. I participated in some midnight quick-dip baptisms early in my mission so that a Zone could make its goal for the month.</p>\n<p>I found the whole thing very disturbing. It made a mockery of the true conversion experience that we were supposedly striving for, and it was also a symptom of institutional self-deception and dysfunction. How could any institution be inspired with that sort of thing going on? Why wasn\'t someone else up the chain of command putting a stop to it? How could this go on for decades some where in the world unchecked? Couldn\'t they identify the phenomenon and institute something to keep it from reoccurring?</p>\n<p>This could make an interesting book topic. It would be so interesting to track some of these people that instigated it and ask them some questions. What is the psychological basis that allows institutional corruption to go on? It wasn\'t like it was an endorsed program planned and instituted at the COB.</p>\n<hr />\nruntu<br />\nRe: I always enjoy your posts<br />\nIt\'s in print now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble\'s web sites.\n<hr />\nquebec<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nIn my mission in the early 90\'s in central Cal, I was told that if the \'investigator/s\' took too much time to accept baptism, you dropped him/her/them, although that was told to me by a senior comp when I just arrived and the mission prez she had served under left two weeks after I had arrived. Some mishies followed that, others didn\'t. But we were often \"put in our place\" when the numbers weren\'t high enough.\n<hr />\nkookoo4kokaubeam<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nI couldn\'t comprehend (and still don\'t) the practice of dumping (or \"packing in\" as we called it) an investigator(s) if they didn\'t accept a baptismal challenge in that first discussion. Nothing screams cult more than a high pressure attempt to have you join them the first time you meet with that group. I even realized that as a TBM missionary and it made me very uncomfortable.\n<p>I encountered people who had been victims of baseball baptisms and they were still bitter 20+ years later because of how they felt they had been manipulated as young boys. One mother told me of how her son had come home devastated because the mormon missionaries wouldn\'t let him play baseball with them anymore because he wouldn\'t get baptized. I wondered, as a TBM missionary, how many actual active functional members of the church actually existed from that program vs the number of enemies it had created.</p>\n<p>I\'ve said this before here at RfM on other related posts but i\'ll repeat it again.... the warm fuzzy Jesus Loves Me church I grew up in immediately evaporated and exposed itself as a cold numbers crunching machine the moment I walked into the MTC.</p>\n<hr />\n<p>elcid<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nIt really happened. Kikuchi, Tokyo South, the Thailand baseball baptisms,etc. It\' real. No one is exaggerating here.</p>\n<p>I\'m sorry.</p>\n<hr />\ndominikki<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nBook? Runtu, can you e-mail the the information on your book. <a href=\"mailto:dstromberg@slco.org\">dstromberg@slco.org</a>.\n<p>Thanks</p>\n<hr />\nruntu<br />\nSure<br />\nIf anyone\'s interested in my book, send me an email at <a href=\"mailto:runnertx@hotmail.com\">runnertx@hotmail.com</a>. I\'m not advertising my book here, but I figure it\'s OK to let interested people know.\n<hr />\ndeconverted2010<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nkissitALLgoodbye, I just want to tell you that I know how you feel. I like how you express it, short and accurate. Many of us have gone through moments like that.\n<p>When I first read stories like this my heart broke for the pain of what young missionaries are put through and also for believing in an institution that was acting the opposite of what it taught in regular church classes.</p>\n<p>The missionary stories and the stories of those who have dealt with tough bishops and leaders in general left me disillusioned from the church. Add to that all the facts I found and top it up with the financials of the church and before long there was no testimony left and no desire to even want to defend the church as good.</p>\n<p>Good luck,</p>\n<hr />\n<p>resipsaloquitur<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nI sold Moronism door to door in Ireland in the mid 90\'s. For most of my mission, I worked like a mad-man. Then I discovered that I got the same results from not working at all. I made up numbers to report, and no one knew the difference. It was great that no one actually expected us to have results. We were there to prove ourselves to the cult, not to actually bring anyone salvation.</p>\n<p>Incidentally, we had a saying in our mission that for every 1,000 doors that were slammed in our face (or the person inside totally ignored us), someone in South America was baptised. Not sure why that made us feel better.</p>\n<hr />\ndeconverted2010<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nYour last paragraph makes me laugh, I\'m sorry, it is sad that you had to endure 1000 rejections for someone in South America to get baptised or at leat make yourself believe it to feel better, but at the same it is funny the things mormons make up to not let that testimony weaken. =)\n<hr />\njpt<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nAhhh... numbers.\n<p>My comp and I had been chastized by the zone leaders for having low numbers...so I suppose in a bit of rebellion we decided to correct it. We spent the week in a \"less developed\" part of town; we placed a bunch of BofMs and had a bunch of discussions. The numbers weren\'t made up, but, many of those contacts were barely literate and/or just looking for somebody to talk to.</p>\n<p>I was subsequently feeling guilty and worried about getting in trouble for the obvious charade and mockery of the Lord\'s work and numbers.</p>\n<p>Instead, we got calls from the ZLs and from the mission office congratulating us, and we were the \"Companionship of the Week\" in the weekly mission newsletter.</p>\n<p>It was definitely an eye-rolling, WTF experience.</p>\n<hr />\n<p>resipsaloquitur<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nYa, that belief operated alongside the one about our future wives\' attractiveness being directly proportional to how hard we worked. In a way, it wasn\'t even about preserving our testimonies. It was about making it all make sense. There had to be SOME purpose to the misery and boredom and rejection and humiliation we suffered daily. It was intolerable to imagine that there wasn\'t really any existential purpose and meaning to it. We had to be doing some greater good, even if we couldn\'t see it--and we DEFINITELY couldn\'t see it. No one ever got baptised for Entropy\'s sake. We knew that the promised blessings weren\'t materializing, so we fantasized about how our labors would be recognized and rewarded somehow, someday, somewhere. It never dawned on me until after I left the cult that the sole purpose to all of it was to entangle me more deeply into the cult, to make it more painful to leave because of how much we had already given. No one likes to admit, even to themselves, when they\'ve been had.</p>\n<hr />\ncl2<br />\nGood! Thanks.\n<hr />\n<p>pp<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nIt does my heart and mind good to read all of this; i was in japan tokyo south 77-79; i remember the ass-chewing some of us would get from groberg because of lack of baptisms; and i remember when i was demoted from district leader after i refused to okay a baptism for a college student who flat out said he did not want his name on the church records or to become a member; he just wanted to have his sins washed away in baptism; the two elders teaching this guy were furious and contacted groberg immediately; i was busted and rode out the few remaining months of my mission with a basket-case who didn\'t want to be there and didn\'t even try; to punish everyone, he also quit washing or wearing deodorant. Groberg insisted that if i had been more worthy things would have worked out. his push for numbers was insane; i left japan feeling like a failure since we were always told we would never be more successful in life than we were on our missions, right?</p>\n<hr />\nbc<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nMy early 90s mission wasn\'t this extreme, but...\n<p>Every month we were expected to set an unrealistic goal. If not we didn\'t have faith. Then we were told to expect it to happen every month. Let\'s say we said 6 baptisms that month and the month is halfway over and we have 1 person committed to baptism and no one else even close.</p>\n<p>We were still expected to believe whole-heartedly in our goal. If we didn\'t believe that we were going to get those other 5 baptisms by the end of the month there was something wrong with our faith.</p>\n<p>Arg!</p>\n<p>It definitely struck a chord when L Tom Perry started going around giving Stake Presidents all over Utah a bunch of impossible goals.</p>\n<hr />\n<p>xyz<br />\nRuntu you may not have known this, but the whole Groberg episode was basically to prove a theory.<br />\nHe used all the statistics collected during his tenure as MP later to write up a PhD thesis-dissertation in the Department of Curriculum and Instructional Science. You can read it if you have access to the Harold B. Lee Library:<br />\n<a href=\"http://www.worldcat.org/title/toward-a-synoptic-model-of-instructional-productivity/oclc/77904606\" title=\"http://www.worldcat.org/title/toward-a-synoptic-model-of-instructional-productivity/oclc/77904606\">http://www.worldcat.org/title/toward-a-synoptic-model-of-instructional-p...</a></p>\n<p>So basically Groberg was manipulating missionaries just so he could collect data to aggrandize himself in this world. The Groberg-Kikuchi combination was toxic in the extreme.</p>\n<hr />\n<p>smoteheadofshiz<br />\nInteresting...<br />\nMy mission president was an AP in Japan during this era and met with Elder Kikuchi several times. He told us an \"inspirational\" story about how Elder Kikuchi once challenged him to get ten baptisms by the end of the month. I\'m fuzzy about all of the details, but basically, after several \"miracles,\" it was the last day of the month and he had one more to go. He then related to us how he literally found and dragged a former investigator down to the church who wanted nothing to do with mormonism, re-taught him the first lesson, and baptized him that day.</p>\n<p>Interesting to hear about the training he recieved. Apparently, my mission president had around 97 baptisms when he was in Japan.</p>\n<hr />\nfallible<br />\nIt wasn\'t just in the 1990\'s for the England Manchester mission.<br />\nI was there in the late \'70\'s and the accelerated method of teaching one discussion and then \'challenging for baptism\' was in place under MP Alder.\n<p>He is the one that came up with the MTC concept and implemented it in England. It was called the RAM (Recently Arrived Missionary) House. This was the forerunner of the MTC in Provo. Prior to this time it was just the old mission home in SLC.</p>\n<p>Very, VERY numbers oriented. So many BOM placements leads to so many discussion which leads to so many baptisms which leads to so many members which leads to so many active memebers. No personalization, just the numbers.</p>\n<p>Great numbers lead to rapid promotion through the ranks. It was every missionaries dream to be a ZL or AP; the only ones that got a car. A car meant status and freedom.</p>\n<hr />\nSUUAlum<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nI served my entire mission under Groberg in the Tokyo South Mission. The first few months weren\'t so bad but then the pressure really started up. Moving all the apartments close to busy train stations, area\'s that had a University, or busy shopping centers. Numbers became the name of the game. We received instruction from the \"top\" baptizing Elders at regular zone conferences. Some of the tactics were so despicable. If you think that people at the airport-or anywhere for that matter are annoying- bothering you for money and such, these Elders took it to a new level. Jump in front of people, act like idiots, act like you didn\'t understand Japanese, harrass them til they would agree to talk, etc. The people of Tokyo started to avoid the young boys in white shirts if they seen em. People would start crossing the street and taking detours to avoid having to pass by. Some Elders would notice people avoiding them and cross the street just to bother them. It sure wasn\'t behaving like an \"Ambassador of the Lord\" that I thought I signed on for. MP definitely knew what was going on and encouraged the insanity as long as the numbers looked good and you were contacting many people. 1 day baptisms were not unheard of. Of course most of the people didn\'t have a clue what they were agreeing to and just trying to get the annoying American to leave them alone.\n<p>Of course a mission is like the temple experience. Nobody talks about the crappy parts. I just took it as that\'s the way a mission is. I was so uncomfortable and hated the numbers game. I just did enough to not get called into the \"punishment\" conferences that Groberg held for the \"non performers\" every month. Though I think I did attend 1 or 2.<br />\nFor those that want read more about the Tokyo South Mission, here is an old thread</p>\n<p><a href=\"http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon555.htm\" title=\"http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon555.htm\">http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon555.htm</a></p>\n<p>About 20 years later I was traveling to Tokyo one October. On the plane I was talking to another passenger. The inevitable came up. \"How did you learn Japanese?\" I always try to avoid the correct answer and just say that I lived there when I was college age. I asked what they were doing in the US and if they had a nice trip. Come to find out they were Mormon and came over for GC and were on the way home. When I then told them I was RM from Tokyo, their first question of me was, \"aren\'t you embarrassed that you was a missionary then?\" This was the first time that I got a clue about the mess that was created during my mission. Then they clued me into all the housekeeping and cleaning that they had to do after Groberg left. Trying to find people that they had records for but had never seen or knew. People that didn\'t even know that they had become members, excommunications, etc.</p>\n<p>I enjoyed Japan and have been back several times, but I sure don\'t have many fond memories of my mission experience.</p>\n<hr />\n<p>That Guy<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nI am the guy who left the comments about the Campinas Mission at Runtu\'s site.</p>\n<p>During Bruno\'s tenure the missionaries baptized thousands of people who didn\'t even know afterwards what church they were just baptized in. The good majority of the information on the records were wrong, and we never saw 90% of these people again.</p>\n<p>The local core members resented the missionaries, as a: they saw them goofing off all day. b: They were creating scads of work in the form on newly minted less actives and people that could not be found. c: They divided several stakes down there only to have them collapse... from two to five and back to two.</p>\n<p>The missionaries specialized in baptizing young women and kids. I remember a few wards and branches with huge primary and young women\'s organizations, and only two or three active priesthood holders. This also created \"challenges\". But to their credit some of the kids and girls actually stayed with the church.</p>\n<p>After Bruno left and we had Pres. Lemos. During this time I got in a fight with a ZL who wanted to baptize three 10 year olds without parental permission. This was the same ZL who was ZL, albeit in a different area, under whom the baptism them all and let god sort them out stuff occurred. I stood my ground, they were not baptized, and next thing I knew I was a junior comp. again.</p>\n<p>The emphasis was on numbers and numbers alone. My exposure to this caused serious dissonance both during the mission and after. During, as I thought this can not be the god wants his work done. Pondering upon how things were occurring, well I almost came home a couple of times out of disgust.</p>\n<p>After, on reflecting what we did. The huge mess that running the missionary work in that manner created for the locals. I remember about a year after Bruno left, while having lunch at a local leaders home, listening to the leader\'s lengthy complaint about the way the work had been done under President Bruno.</p>\n<hr />\nmushinja<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nI was in the Tokyo South Mission from 78-80. I remember one interview I conducted as a DL: The \"golden\" college-aged young man had no intentions of giving up his cigarettes or alcohol, nor did he know he was expected to. He laughed when I asked about the law of chastity. He didn\'t have a clue who Joseph Smith or SWK were, and wasn\'t real big on the whole God thing. When I asked him why he had agreed to be baptized, he said it was because the missionaries really seemed to want him to, and since they were teaching him English for free (he had met them five days earlier) he thought it was the least he could do.\n<p>When I suggested we postpone the baptism one week so that he could have a couple more lessons, he readily agreed, and when I went to get the missionaries who had \"taught\" him, he slipped out a side door, never to be seen again.</p>\n<p>Needless to say, they were not pleased, and the next day I received a call from Groberg who let me have it with both barrels for costing the mission a baptism. When I related the interview, he said that didn\'t matter - I had robbed the young man of an opportunity to receive the gift of the holy ghost, and that even if he never back, he would have been better off being baptized.</p>\n<hr />\nHorrid memory<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nI went on a mission to a large city where there were a good number of \"lost\" people. These people had no real families, no real friends, and when the missionaries pretended to be their buddies these people were easy to baptize.\n<p>More than one missionary didn\'t feel good about the process, but the pressure was on all of us.</p>\n<p>When one of these converts later committed suicide ...</p>\n<p>(Sorry)</p>\n<hr />\n<p>sherlock<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nAs I read these recollections and reflect on my own experience, I recognise that we were so pushy and manipulative as missionaries. We befriended the friendless and encouraged and pushed until we got the commitment we were looking for.</p>\n<p>I was always pretty good at sales and so did well (thought I was being blessed for obedience). I adapted quickly to the continual sales training and the awards, recognition and \'promotions\' that came with hitting the numbers. And I don\'t mention \'numbers\' lightly - my first mission pres was ONLY interested in reporting good numbers to his higher-ups. He was open to us about this and like little puppy dogs, we aimed to please.</p>\n<p>I looked down on \'waster\' missionaries who were less than 100% obedient or who went home for lunch rather than stay out working.</p>\n<p>We felt we were on God\'s errand and didn\'t hold back in laying on the guilt to those who didn\'t meet our ideal, quick to be baptized plan.</p>\n<p>Shame on me......</p>\n<p>v<br />\nDave the Atheist<br />\nThese were “easy marks\"<br />\nAt least the terminology is correct</p>\n<hr />\nWinksWinks<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nCan anyone tell me what Chile, Santiago are specifically, was like in 75-77?\n<p>That\'s when my dad was in, and I wish that he wasn\'t subjected to some of this pressure.</p>\n<p>He didn\'t talk about it much, his stories were about getting all four complicated wisdom teeth out with no anesthetic, holding a bowl to catch the blood, and living with poor people in houses with tin roofs, listening to the racket avocados made falling onto the tin.</p>\n<p>He fell into a deep depression after me and my sister were born, and once I found this community, I have wondered if his mission contributed. The whole mormon lifestyle plus a manipulative mormon wife was probably more at fault. Never good enough...</p>\n<hr />\nxyz<br />\nWhat was his name? \n<hr />\n<p>AltaRica<br />\nRe: Quick-dipping to run up baptismal numbers has been going on for decades.<br />\nDid you ever serve in the Imperial Valley (Calexico, El Centro, etc.)? When I was there just a few short years ago, there were still rumors that large numbers of transients and migrant workers in makeshift camps were baptized during Hartman Rector\'s reign.</p>\n<hr />\n<p>Ted_sanchez<br />\nRe: More on the missionary numbers game<br />\nKikuchi came through my eastern Canadian mission in 94 I think... He was telling us to do all kinds of crap. But it sounds like we got the watered down version of what Japan went through....</p>\n<p>One thing he told us was that if we taight 5 discussions a week for 5 weeks we would have a baptism. Not that harmful I guess, but that did crazy stuff to the missionaries like develop the 20 second first discussion... I\'m serious. Mish leadership encouraged this honing of the message down to a door step approach. Also, kikuchi encouraged us to contact in creative ways and this led to some funny mocking of this technique and sad to say I tried it seriously but it also helped with the numbers game we were forced to play.... He told us to look up random phone numbers of people in our are and call them on the phone and say things like, \"hello is this whoever? This is SOS and so missionaries for the church, and we\'ve been watching you. We saw your family.....\" talk about creepy. The rational companions I had had fun with that inspired instruction. In fact sometimes when I call a former comp, when he answers the phone I\'ll say, \"herro, is dis erdell so and so, dis is erdell Sanchez and I\'ve been watching you .....\". We then have a good laugh.</p>\n<p>Talk about a dark time for the rebellion!</p>\n<p>\"Recovery from Mormonism - www.exmormon.org\"</p>\n', created = 1493018648, expire = 1493105048, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:f600e055f7bd8e844a30ad8074d7fe63' in /home/exmormon/public_html/d6/drupal/includes/cache.inc on line 112.

runtu may 2012

From my blog:

A friend of mine recently read my book and wrote to me wondering why I hadn’t spent much time writing about the message we missionaries brought and why that message resonated with the people we baptized. I didn’t have a good answer, but after I thought about it, I realized that the message was not really an important part of being a Mormon missionary. Missions were about obedience to our leaders and increasing the number of church members.

I wrote a while back about the pressure among Mormon missionaries to produce numbers of baptisms, which in our mission led to some shocking abuses.

I know enough about other missions to understand that the emphasis on numbers has disastrous effects on church members, wards, and stakes. For example, the LDS church grew at a phenomenal rate in Chile until 2002–at least on paper. That year, in an unusual move, the church sent apostle Jeffrey Holland to Chile to train leaders, but mostly to reorganize the church there. Before Holland arrived, there were 951 congregations (wards and branches) and 116 stakes in Chile; by 2005, there were 607 congregations and 74 stakes, meaning that 344 congregations and 42 stakes had been closed. Years of focusing on baptisms at all costs led to abysmal retention and activity rates, though the church kept creating these phantom congregations and stakes based on the number of people in the church’s records. The discrepancy between the membership numbers the church reports and those who self-identified as Latter-day Saints in the 2002 Chilean census is telling: That year, the LDS church reported 527,972 members in Chile. In the census, only 103,735 people self-identified as LDS. (For details, see cumorah.com) I should also note that apostle Dallin Oaks was sent on a similar mission to the Philippines at the same time, resulting in the closing of six stakes.

Most of us are familiar with missionary techniques for increasing numbers: quick teaching and baptism of children and teens and going after those “in transition,” such as people who have experienced a death in the family, loss of job, or other instability. In his excellent article, “I-Thou vs. I-It Conversions: The Mormon “Baseball Baptism” Era,” Michael Quinn explains how pressure for numbers drove these tactics, reaching their nadir in the era of the “Baseball Baptisms” in Britain in the 1960s.

At least I thought that was the nadir until I read about “The Groberg Era” in the Tokyo South Mission in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1978 the new mission president, Delbert H. Groberg (brother of general authority and author John Groberg) arrived in Japan and met with Yoshihiko Kikuchi, who had recently been called as the first Japanese general authority. Groberg wrote in his journal:

"Elder Kikuchi came out to our home and we talked from 3:30pm until 7:00pm. He really has high expectations of me. I had thought that 10 times as many baptisms as they are getting now would be a good goal to shoot for (about 10,000). Before telling him, I asked him what he felt I should do. He mapped out the progress as he expected and it turned out to be 25 times as much as what is currently happening minimum! (And he stressed minimum!) That seems like a lot, but I believe we can make it."

To achieve these goals, Kikuchi and Groberg implemented what they called the “Investigator Extraction” method. A former missionary who served at that time explains how it worked (note that his choice of words reflects his cynicism and disdain for the “method”):

"Missionary apartments were relocated to areas near major pedestrian shopping and transportation traffic centers.
In Tokyo, existing chapels were used as teaching centers, and when distance from a chapel rendered that option unfeasible, offices were rented with the intent to use them for the same purpose and as branch meetinghouses. In outlying areas, missionary apartments were to be used as teaching centers as well as branch meeting-houses.

Missionaries were no longer to waste their time tracting [going door to door]. They were instead instructed to use the major traffic centers as a resource pool, and make street contacts through a variety of cheap tricks, the most popular being to offer English lessons and tutoring (imagine a 19-year-old farm boy tutoring someone in English…).

Missionaries were to target teens, young adults, and needy types in their street contacting. These were “easy marks.” They were to take advantage of a certain Japanese reluctance to directly disagree or contradict in face-to-face interaction, and were given techniques on how to establish an easy rapport and how to get the “mark” to constantly agree with the missionary. A pattern was developed so that the missionary could steer the conversation and control it. Then the missionary would get the “mark” to agree (easy by that time) to go with him/her and talk briefly about Something Very Important.

The missionaries were to MAKE CONTACT AND NOT LOSE IT. They were to bring the “mark” to whatever teaching center had been designated and begin indoctrination immediately.

The six missionary discussions were rewritten and condensed into six five- to ten-minute presentations. It was dramatized and made very charismatic. Missionaries were advised that they could “teach” all six discussions at once “if so directed by the spirit.”

Following the mini-discussion presentation, missionaries were instructed to challenge the “mark” to baptism, immediately.
If the “mark” accepted, missionaries were to contact their zone leaders and schedule a baptismal interview. Zone leaders were never more than ten or fifteen minutes away by train.

Apartments/teaching centers/meeting-houses were all equipped with makeshift “baptismal fonts.” If the “mark” accepted and passed the “interview” (who would not? almost nobody failed it!), the “mark’ was loaned a white jumsuit or shift, and baptism immediately followed the six lessons and interview, witnessed by the Zone Leaders. Confirmation followed, again witnessed by the Zone Leaders.

The entire process (contact to confirmation) was timed and refined until it was streamlined down to approximately 1.5 HOURS. It could be–and most frequently was–all done at the same time.

The missionary was to exchange contact information (address and phone #) with the “new member,” give them a Book of Mormon, and give them a small map showing them where church services were held, times, etc.

The contact was “allowed” to depart.

New baptism statistics were posted weekly in the mission newsletter, to increase the level of competition among the missionaries.

Missionaries were required to meet regularly for “mutual encouragement” meetings (rah-rah sessions). Zone or All-Mission Conferences were scheduled to raise the excitement level even further and sustain it at fever pitch.

Never let up on the pressure to perform."

Another man who served in the same mission writes:

"These are deep wounds, and I am touched and saddened to see how vivid the memories are for some of us.

A few additional details. Regarding the Groberg/Kikuchi model, the basic premise was a relentless focus on sheer numbers. If one in 100 (?) who hear the lessons are baptised and one in three (?) converts remain active, then teaching 300 lessons produces one active members. It follows that teaching 30,000 lessons must result in 100 active members. This quantitative logic is all that matters, since no individual human is valuable enough as a mere child of God to warrant personal attention. The rule, effectively, was to dump Japanese in the waters of baptism and then let the Lord sort them out.

Manipulative techniques. I should add … that not all of these practices came directly from Groberg and Kikuchi; a lot were innovations by missionaries who functioned under intense pressure. The leaders retrospectively claim that they did not know some of these things were happening–and that may be true, though I think there was, and still is, a lot of intentional ignorance.

With that caveat, we were taught to teach only young people, ideally men between 18 and 22, because they baptized the fastest. We were explicitly ordered not to teach families because they took too much time; and I know of one instance in which a companionship was punished for insisting on teaching a family. The entire lesson plan was condensed into one hour, and during that hour each missionary was to shake hands with the investigator at least ten times. This worked because Japanese don’t normally shake hands and the sudden, repetitive physical contact tended to facilitate persuasion. During that hour we were also to speak frequently in broken English, saying things like “berry, berry goodo” because that made the investigator feel like he was engaged in an English language conversation. Finally, once the baptism was done we were ordered to see each convert a maximum of one time, since it was now the members’ responsibility to develop and maintain a human connection. Friendships between missionaries and Japanese converts were virtually proscribed.

Of course, the missionaries were manipulated with equal cynicism and zeal. Status and approval were based on the number of baptisms a person could perform. This gave an advantage to the charismatic, strong personalities at the expense of quieter, often more sensitive and spiritual missionaries. The former rose fast through the hierarchy, becoming zone leaders and APs while the less forceful characters were continually condemned as inadequate, a disappointment to God, because they did not produce enough. Nor did personal “worthiness” matter. Missionaries turned to their old vices to let off steam; and if the leadership found out about their chemical or other indiscretions, the consequence was a demotion followed–assuming that the requisite number of baptisms was achieved–by immediate promotion back into the ranks of the godly. There was thus very little connection between the moral and ethical codes of our childhood congregations and the definition of success in the mission field.

So what happened as a result of all of this? Baptisms skyrocketed for a couple of years, until Groberg was replaced and some of his senior missionaries excommunicated for things that he had not wanted to see. The Church then tried to turn back the clock, but the prominent comedian Takeshi Beat made “accept baptism!” routines a staple of late night television and Japanese people, for various reasons, lost much of their interest in American culture and religion. As the rate of new baptisms fell through the 1980s and 1990s, one or two mission presidents tried to resurrect parts of the Groberg system but, frankly, the moment had passed and there was no Kikuchi to provide support.

Meanwhile, the missionaries returned to their home communities having been through hell. These were the years of Spencer Kimball, when “every young man must go on a mission and he will like it,” so our families and friends could not comprehend the stories we had to tell. We were shunned, avoided by members who were uncomfortable with us and in many instances condemned by local leaders who thought that we must surely be to blame for our pain. After all, the Lord’s Church could not possibly have done what we described. Some missionaries and their families complained to apostles–I am aware of two such conversations by friends’ parents–so it is pretty clear that SLC knew the depth and breadth of the problem. But rather than reaching out to help the missionaries or, at the very least, warning bishops and other leaders of the difficulties the RMs were bringing home, the brothren in SLC swept the whole thing under the rug, leaving the isolated and traumatized missionaries to work through the social ostracization, self-condemnation, and disillusionment in solitude.

Even today we cannot share these stories with Mormon friends. The truth is that the one thing the religion can never forgive–other than diety’s intransident decision, contrary to the urging of his prophets, to create a certain percentage of his children gay–is the arrogance of those who dare to have been harmed by the Church. It would be inconvenient and embarrassing, after all, to ask leaders to admit mistakes…

Let the Lord sort it out."

Another missionary describes how President Groberg “bullied, forced, coerced, threatened and at times, even blackmailed missionaries to perform ‘miracles.’” I used to say that it’s impossible to be too cynical about the LDS church, but this shocked even a hardened cynic like me. The words of another survivor of that mission sum things up for me: “I came home feeling robbed of spiritual nature of the experience, having been reduced to nothing more than a salesman with daily and weekly quotas that I couldn’t possibly live up to.”

I’d like to think that such practices are behind the church, but I suspect they aren’t. Similar methods were used in the England Manchester Mission in the 1990s. It’s a fair bet that it’s still going on, most likely in areas where the church has recently begun missionary work, such as Eastern Europe and Africa.


runtu
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
I've had a couple of interesting responses to my post:

--

I served a mission in the early 80′s in Brazil and this post resonated with me too. As soon as we arrived in Brazil almost everything we’d learned in the MTC was thrown out… and we were instructed in the “more effective” local methods.

Since “the field was white,” meaning there was a greater interest in our message at the time we didn’t have to undertake the same deceptive means to get investigators that you did. There were a lot of people who would talk to us. We just had to become more aggressive at baptizing those with whom we met. We were told to challenge to baptism in the first discussion and drop them if they wouldn’t. We were made to feel guilty and unproductive if we met with someone for a 2nd discussion who hadn’t already committed to baptism.

From there we sped through a week or two of the six discussions during which they were supposed to attend church at least once, but that was more often than not just going to church on the day of their baptism.

And then we as missionaries were supposed to move on to baptize the next group… the relationships we’d built in such a short period of time became irrelevant as we were just baptizing machines. Monthly baptismal numbers were posted in the monthly mission newsletter. It was like what you’d see on a sales board. The majority of the monthly numbers were in the low teens with a handful in single digits and another handful with 20+ baptisms for the month.

It was all a very “the ends justify the means” sort of environment. People who thrive is such a culture tend to be real $^&holes.

---


Runtu,

The same high speed baptismal practice was the norm under Pres. Bruno Scmeil in the Brazil Campinas Mission for most of his tenure. Campinas was the highest baptizing mission in the world at the time.

It didn’t matter what you did as a missionary as long as you baptized. The “good” missionaries and those destined for leadership were those who baptized. An average day consisted of playing video games at the mall until the evening when the traffic in front of the chapel was highest. Then baptizing 8-10 a night. People whose only contact with the church was that self same 45 minute discussion mish mash.

Made for some serious cog-dis when combined with the letter we received in the MTC telling us that the 1st presidency requires all members to have received the 6 discussions, have attended church at least once, and to be introduced to the bishop.

But we were told that we had a special dispensation to do it differently.


cl2
I always enjoy your posts
and this is very eye-opening. Some of my favorite posts on this board are about missionaries. I waited for one in 1977 and that was "interesting" to say the least. We broke up about 9 months in (I talked him into going).

But what I hated at that age is we were basically taught to worship RMs as young women and they expected it. I guess they still do according to my TBM daughter. She doesn't want an RM now. To hear what it was really like is very therapeutic to me actually.

Oh, by the way, is your book in print yet--or still just electronic download?


kissitALLgoodbye
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
This made me cry.
My days of trying to see both sides of the issue are over.
I am utterly ashamed I was ever associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
I will *never* defend them on *anything* again.
In my eyes, they no longer have *any* redeeming value.
This blows it.
Game over.
mrtranquility
Quick-dipping to run up baptismal numbers has been going on for decades.
You can add to your list the "Baseball Baptisms" in England in the 50s or 60s (I believe part of D. Michael Quinn's mission involved trying to find the boys that were baptized during that episode) and the CA-San Diego Mission under Hartman Rector, Jr. in late 70s and/or early 80s.

A lot of these shenanigans went on during John Dehlin's mission in Guatemala which he found disturbing and even communicated with a GA about it. He has an interesting interview with Ted Lyon, former Mission President in Chile who cites some actual numbers.

I was in San Diego in 81-83 after the Rector years and plenty of rumors were still abuzz about went on during those years. I participated in some midnight quick-dip baptisms early in my mission so that a Zone could make its goal for the month.

I found the whole thing very disturbing. It made a mockery of the true conversion experience that we were supposedly striving for, and it was also a symptom of institutional self-deception and dysfunction. How could any institution be inspired with that sort of thing going on? Why wasn't someone else up the chain of command putting a stop to it? How could this go on for decades some where in the world unchecked? Couldn't they identify the phenomenon and institute something to keep it from reoccurring?

This could make an interesting book topic. It would be so interesting to track some of these people that instigated it and ask them some questions. What is the psychological basis that allows institutional corruption to go on? It wasn't like it was an endorsed program planned and instituted at the COB.


runtu
Re: I always enjoy your posts
It's in print now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble's web sites.
quebec
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
In my mission in the early 90's in central Cal, I was told that if the 'investigator/s' took too much time to accept baptism, you dropped him/her/them, although that was told to me by a senior comp when I just arrived and the mission prez she had served under left two weeks after I had arrived. Some mishies followed that, others didn't. But we were often "put in our place" when the numbers weren't high enough.
kookoo4kokaubeam
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
I couldn't comprehend (and still don't) the practice of dumping (or "packing in" as we called it) an investigator(s) if they didn't accept a baptismal challenge in that first discussion. Nothing screams cult more than a high pressure attempt to have you join them the first time you meet with that group. I even realized that as a TBM missionary and it made me very uncomfortable.

I encountered people who had been victims of baseball baptisms and they were still bitter 20+ years later because of how they felt they had been manipulated as young boys. One mother told me of how her son had come home devastated because the mormon missionaries wouldn't let him play baseball with them anymore because he wouldn't get baptized. I wondered, as a TBM missionary, how many actual active functional members of the church actually existed from that program vs the number of enemies it had created.

I've said this before here at RfM on other related posts but i'll repeat it again.... the warm fuzzy Jesus Loves Me church I grew up in immediately evaporated and exposed itself as a cold numbers crunching machine the moment I walked into the MTC.


elcid
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
It really happened. Kikuchi, Tokyo South, the Thailand baseball baptisms,etc. It' real. No one is exaggerating here.

I'm sorry.


dominikki
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
Book? Runtu, can you e-mail the the information on your book. dstromberg@slco.org.

Thanks


runtu
Sure
If anyone's interested in my book, send me an email at runnertx@hotmail.com. I'm not advertising my book here, but I figure it's OK to let interested people know.
deconverted2010
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
kissitALLgoodbye, I just want to tell you that I know how you feel. I like how you express it, short and accurate. Many of us have gone through moments like that.

When I first read stories like this my heart broke for the pain of what young missionaries are put through and also for believing in an institution that was acting the opposite of what it taught in regular church classes.

The missionary stories and the stories of those who have dealt with tough bishops and leaders in general left me disillusioned from the church. Add to that all the facts I found and top it up with the financials of the church and before long there was no testimony left and no desire to even want to defend the church as good.

Good luck,


resipsaloquitur
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
I sold Moronism door to door in Ireland in the mid 90's. For most of my mission, I worked like a mad-man. Then I discovered that I got the same results from not working at all. I made up numbers to report, and no one knew the difference. It was great that no one actually expected us to have results. We were there to prove ourselves to the cult, not to actually bring anyone salvation.

Incidentally, we had a saying in our mission that for every 1,000 doors that were slammed in our face (or the person inside totally ignored us), someone in South America was baptised. Not sure why that made us feel better.


deconverted2010
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
Your last paragraph makes me laugh, I'm sorry, it is sad that you had to endure 1000 rejections for someone in South America to get baptised or at leat make yourself believe it to feel better, but at the same it is funny the things mormons make up to not let that testimony weaken. =)
jpt
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
Ahhh... numbers.

My comp and I had been chastized by the zone leaders for having low numbers...so I suppose in a bit of rebellion we decided to correct it. We spent the week in a "less developed" part of town; we placed a bunch of BofMs and had a bunch of discussions. The numbers weren't made up, but, many of those contacts were barely literate and/or just looking for somebody to talk to.

I was subsequently feeling guilty and worried about getting in trouble for the obvious charade and mockery of the Lord's work and numbers.

Instead, we got calls from the ZLs and from the mission office congratulating us, and we were the "Companionship of the Week" in the weekly mission newsletter.

It was definitely an eye-rolling, WTF experience.


resipsaloquitur
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
Ya, that belief operated alongside the one about our future wives' attractiveness being directly proportional to how hard we worked. In a way, it wasn't even about preserving our testimonies. It was about making it all make sense. There had to be SOME purpose to the misery and boredom and rejection and humiliation we suffered daily. It was intolerable to imagine that there wasn't really any existential purpose and meaning to it. We had to be doing some greater good, even if we couldn't see it--and we DEFINITELY couldn't see it. No one ever got baptised for Entropy's sake. We knew that the promised blessings weren't materializing, so we fantasized about how our labors would be recognized and rewarded somehow, someday, somewhere. It never dawned on me until after I left the cult that the sole purpose to all of it was to entangle me more deeply into the cult, to make it more painful to leave because of how much we had already given. No one likes to admit, even to themselves, when they've been had.


cl2
Good! Thanks.

pp
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
It does my heart and mind good to read all of this; i was in japan tokyo south 77-79; i remember the ass-chewing some of us would get from groberg because of lack of baptisms; and i remember when i was demoted from district leader after i refused to okay a baptism for a college student who flat out said he did not want his name on the church records or to become a member; he just wanted to have his sins washed away in baptism; the two elders teaching this guy were furious and contacted groberg immediately; i was busted and rode out the few remaining months of my mission with a basket-case who didn't want to be there and didn't even try; to punish everyone, he also quit washing or wearing deodorant. Groberg insisted that if i had been more worthy things would have worked out. his push for numbers was insane; i left japan feeling like a failure since we were always told we would never be more successful in life than we were on our missions, right?


bc
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
My early 90s mission wasn't this extreme, but...

Every month we were expected to set an unrealistic goal. If not we didn't have faith. Then we were told to expect it to happen every month. Let's say we said 6 baptisms that month and the month is halfway over and we have 1 person committed to baptism and no one else even close.

We were still expected to believe whole-heartedly in our goal. If we didn't believe that we were going to get those other 5 baptisms by the end of the month there was something wrong with our faith.

Arg!

It definitely struck a chord when L Tom Perry started going around giving Stake Presidents all over Utah a bunch of impossible goals.


xyz
Runtu you may not have known this, but the whole Groberg episode was basically to prove a theory.
He used all the statistics collected during his tenure as MP later to write up a PhD thesis-dissertation in the Department of Curriculum and Instructional Science. You can read it if you have access to the Harold B. Lee Library:
http://www.worldcat.org/title/toward-a-synoptic-model-of-instructional-p...

So basically Groberg was manipulating missionaries just so he could collect data to aggrandize himself in this world. The Groberg-Kikuchi combination was toxic in the extreme.


smoteheadofshiz
Interesting...
My mission president was an AP in Japan during this era and met with Elder Kikuchi several times. He told us an "inspirational" story about how Elder Kikuchi once challenged him to get ten baptisms by the end of the month. I'm fuzzy about all of the details, but basically, after several "miracles," it was the last day of the month and he had one more to go. He then related to us how he literally found and dragged a former investigator down to the church who wanted nothing to do with mormonism, re-taught him the first lesson, and baptized him that day.

Interesting to hear about the training he recieved. Apparently, my mission president had around 97 baptisms when he was in Japan.


fallible
It wasn't just in the 1990's for the England Manchester mission.
I was there in the late '70's and the accelerated method of teaching one discussion and then 'challenging for baptism' was in place under MP Alder.

He is the one that came up with the MTC concept and implemented it in England. It was called the RAM (Recently Arrived Missionary) House. This was the forerunner of the MTC in Provo. Prior to this time it was just the old mission home in SLC.

Very, VERY numbers oriented. So many BOM placements leads to so many discussion which leads to so many baptisms which leads to so many members which leads to so many active memebers. No personalization, just the numbers.

Great numbers lead to rapid promotion through the ranks. It was every missionaries dream to be a ZL or AP; the only ones that got a car. A car meant status and freedom.


SUUAlum
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
I served my entire mission under Groberg in the Tokyo South Mission. The first few months weren't so bad but then the pressure really started up. Moving all the apartments close to busy train stations, area's that had a University, or busy shopping centers. Numbers became the name of the game. We received instruction from the "top" baptizing Elders at regular zone conferences. Some of the tactics were so despicable. If you think that people at the airport-or anywhere for that matter are annoying- bothering you for money and such, these Elders took it to a new level. Jump in front of people, act like idiots, act like you didn't understand Japanese, harrass them til they would agree to talk, etc. The people of Tokyo started to avoid the young boys in white shirts if they seen em. People would start crossing the street and taking detours to avoid having to pass by. Some Elders would notice people avoiding them and cross the street just to bother them. It sure wasn't behaving like an "Ambassador of the Lord" that I thought I signed on for. MP definitely knew what was going on and encouraged the insanity as long as the numbers looked good and you were contacting many people. 1 day baptisms were not unheard of. Of course most of the people didn't have a clue what they were agreeing to and just trying to get the annoying American to leave them alone.

Of course a mission is like the temple experience. Nobody talks about the crappy parts. I just took it as that's the way a mission is. I was so uncomfortable and hated the numbers game. I just did enough to not get called into the "punishment" conferences that Groberg held for the "non performers" every month. Though I think I did attend 1 or 2.
For those that want read more about the Tokyo South Mission, here is an old thread

http://www.exmormon.org/mormon/mormon555.htm

About 20 years later I was traveling to Tokyo one October. On the plane I was talking to another passenger. The inevitable came up. "How did you learn Japanese?" I always try to avoid the correct answer and just say that I lived there when I was college age. I asked what they were doing in the US and if they had a nice trip. Come to find out they were Mormon and came over for GC and were on the way home. When I then told them I was RM from Tokyo, their first question of me was, "aren't you embarrassed that you was a missionary then?" This was the first time that I got a clue about the mess that was created during my mission. Then they clued me into all the housekeeping and cleaning that they had to do after Groberg left. Trying to find people that they had records for but had never seen or knew. People that didn't even know that they had become members, excommunications, etc.

I enjoyed Japan and have been back several times, but I sure don't have many fond memories of my mission experience.


That Guy
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
I am the guy who left the comments about the Campinas Mission at Runtu's site.

During Bruno's tenure the missionaries baptized thousands of people who didn't even know afterwards what church they were just baptized in. The good majority of the information on the records were wrong, and we never saw 90% of these people again.

The local core members resented the missionaries, as a: they saw them goofing off all day. b: They were creating scads of work in the form on newly minted less actives and people that could not be found. c: They divided several stakes down there only to have them collapse... from two to five and back to two.

The missionaries specialized in baptizing young women and kids. I remember a few wards and branches with huge primary and young women's organizations, and only two or three active priesthood holders. This also created "challenges". But to their credit some of the kids and girls actually stayed with the church.

After Bruno left and we had Pres. Lemos. During this time I got in a fight with a ZL who wanted to baptize three 10 year olds without parental permission. This was the same ZL who was ZL, albeit in a different area, under whom the baptism them all and let god sort them out stuff occurred. I stood my ground, they were not baptized, and next thing I knew I was a junior comp. again.

The emphasis was on numbers and numbers alone. My exposure to this caused serious dissonance both during the mission and after. During, as I thought this can not be the god wants his work done. Pondering upon how things were occurring, well I almost came home a couple of times out of disgust.

After, on reflecting what we did. The huge mess that running the missionary work in that manner created for the locals. I remember about a year after Bruno left, while having lunch at a local leaders home, listening to the leader's lengthy complaint about the way the work had been done under President Bruno.


mushinja
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
I was in the Tokyo South Mission from 78-80. I remember one interview I conducted as a DL: The "golden" college-aged young man had no intentions of giving up his cigarettes or alcohol, nor did he know he was expected to. He laughed when I asked about the law of chastity. He didn't have a clue who Joseph Smith or SWK were, and wasn't real big on the whole God thing. When I asked him why he had agreed to be baptized, he said it was because the missionaries really seemed to want him to, and since they were teaching him English for free (he had met them five days earlier) he thought it was the least he could do.

When I suggested we postpone the baptism one week so that he could have a couple more lessons, he readily agreed, and when I went to get the missionaries who had "taught" him, he slipped out a side door, never to be seen again.

Needless to say, they were not pleased, and the next day I received a call from Groberg who let me have it with both barrels for costing the mission a baptism. When I related the interview, he said that didn't matter - I had robbed the young man of an opportunity to receive the gift of the holy ghost, and that even if he never back, he would have been better off being baptized.


Horrid memory
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
I went on a mission to a large city where there were a good number of "lost" people. These people had no real families, no real friends, and when the missionaries pretended to be their buddies these people were easy to baptize.

More than one missionary didn't feel good about the process, but the pressure was on all of us.

When one of these converts later committed suicide ...

(Sorry)


sherlock
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
As I read these recollections and reflect on my own experience, I recognise that we were so pushy and manipulative as missionaries. We befriended the friendless and encouraged and pushed until we got the commitment we were looking for.

I was always pretty good at sales and so did well (thought I was being blessed for obedience). I adapted quickly to the continual sales training and the awards, recognition and 'promotions' that came with hitting the numbers. And I don't mention 'numbers' lightly - my first mission pres was ONLY interested in reporting good numbers to his higher-ups. He was open to us about this and like little puppy dogs, we aimed to please.

I looked down on 'waster' missionaries who were less than 100% obedient or who went home for lunch rather than stay out working.

We felt we were on God's errand and didn't hold back in laying on the guilt to those who didn't meet our ideal, quick to be baptized plan.

Shame on me......

v
Dave the Atheist
These were “easy marks"
At least the terminology is correct


WinksWinks
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
Can anyone tell me what Chile, Santiago are specifically, was like in 75-77?

That's when my dad was in, and I wish that he wasn't subjected to some of this pressure.

He didn't talk about it much, his stories were about getting all four complicated wisdom teeth out with no anesthetic, holding a bowl to catch the blood, and living with poor people in houses with tin roofs, listening to the racket avocados made falling onto the tin.

He fell into a deep depression after me and my sister were born, and once I found this community, I have wondered if his mission contributed. The whole mormon lifestyle plus a manipulative mormon wife was probably more at fault. Never good enough...


xyz
What was his name?

AltaRica
Re: Quick-dipping to run up baptismal numbers has been going on for decades.
Did you ever serve in the Imperial Valley (Calexico, El Centro, etc.)? When I was there just a few short years ago, there were still rumors that large numbers of transients and migrant workers in makeshift camps were baptized during Hartman Rector's reign.


Ted_sanchez
Re: More on the missionary numbers game
Kikuchi came through my eastern Canadian mission in 94 I think... He was telling us to do all kinds of crap. But it sounds like we got the watered down version of what Japan went through....

One thing he told us was that if we taight 5 discussions a week for 5 weeks we would have a baptism. Not that harmful I guess, but that did crazy stuff to the missionaries like develop the 20 second first discussion... I'm serious. Mish leadership encouraged this honing of the message down to a door step approach. Also, kikuchi encouraged us to contact in creative ways and this led to some funny mocking of this technique and sad to say I tried it seriously but it also helped with the numbers game we were forced to play.... He told us to look up random phone numbers of people in our are and call them on the phone and say things like, "hello is this whoever? This is SOS and so missionaries for the church, and we've been watching you. We saw your family....." talk about creepy. The rational companions I had had fun with that inspired instruction. In fact sometimes when I call a former comp, when he answers the phone I'll say, "herro, is dis erdell so and so, dis is erdell Sanchez and I've been watching you .....". We then have a good laugh.

Talk about a dark time for the rebellion!

"Recovery from Mormonism - www.exmormon.org"