Jun 15, 2010
John Larsen, Tom & George are joined by resident conference statistician Alf O’Mega to discuss the annual numbers provided by the Church at the spring conference.
Podcast: Play in new window
By John Larsen
Tags: Baptism, Conference, Converts, family, Growth, home teachers, Internet, Lost, membership, Missionaries, Missions, Priesthood Session, Raising the Bar, Ward Clerk
The Return of George!!!
Correction: Nyal HAS sent in his letter and has officially resigned. He’s been an exmo for over a year now.
I knew that the wacky outtake feature would re-emerge with my episode! I also knew exactly which clip it would be.
Yeah, that was great! I haven’t heard that in any previous podcasts, but it was very funny this time around. I hope it resurfaces in future episodes.
That is because generally, I don’t edit anything out. Thus I don’t have any outtakes.
Just finished listening. It was an entertaining podcast. I loved having George back, but wish he had said a little more this time. Tom is always great, and had some funny comments. I really enjoyed Alf O’Mega. It made me really wonder how many “active” members there are who really don’t believe – at all – and yet attend week after week, hold callings, and appear healthy (in the faith) Mormons.
I’m kind of with Nyal in that I wish the church would crash and burn, but I feel that way about nearly all organized religion.
I scratch my head often about why John & Zilpha choose to remain members. (I assume they both still are.) In my opinion, that stance only helps promote the church.
It is my greatest wish that everybody who disbelieved in Mormonism’s claims, would remove their names from the record. (Why support something you don’t believe in?) I would love to see the actual numbers truly reflect something – real life – rather than leave us all wondering how many “true” Mormons there are. In that sense, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are much more honest because they immediately remove names from their records if a person falls out of activity. And only the fully committed, adult, after months (often years) of study with them, are allowed to official join, by baptism. I wish the LDS church had such an honest approach.
That said, I can understand why *some* disbelievers remain on the record, if only to support their believing spouse. I’m not claiming there are no valid reasons for remaining on the lists, but I think the vast majority just don’t think about it. The church *does* use these numbers to support their claim that the faith is a valid, real world religion. So the fewer members the better in my opinion.
Imagine what would happen if one year the numbers actually showed a decrease in membership? Especially by several hundred thousand! That would be a beautiful day under the sun. I think I would invite Nyal over and throw the biggest party since my teenage years!
What makes you think they stop counting you once you resign?
I would hope that even the LDS church could have the integrity to count only for-real members, but I guess you kind of leave me dumbfounded with that question. Why should I trust them to be honest and truthful? Darn it.
There are probably people in my ward who assume that I am a fully believing member, but not anybody who knows me very well. I do not try to hide my disbelief, but I also try not to be disruptive. Whatever else I feel about the institution, I love these people, my neighbors and fellow travelers, and I have a stronger, healthier, and happier life for living peacefully with them. That’s more important to me than making the Church’s database acknowledge my loss of faith. People are complicated, communities even more so.
Why do you care what numbers say? Don’t give it that kind of power over you, brutha. They could say that all the members are pink unicorns, and what would it matter?
Well, I guess I want the church to wake up from its denial-stupor and smell the roses of the real world. It seems like so many members use these numbers to validate their belief that the church is Christ’s true church, and it is growing. As Joseph Smith prophesied that would one day fill the Earth, so many have interpreted that to mean it would grow to large numbers. If it doesn’t do that – especially if it were to decrease in numbers – I would think some might begin to question why.
I see what you’re saying — I just think it’s ironic that you “want” the church to be anything — especially something that you know it will never be. The Vinegar Tasters — Taoism — taste it baby.
I think letting go of the desire to make others think or feel a certain way has been one of the most liberating aspects of my journey out of life as a TBM. I no longer feel any pressure to “toe the company line” when talking to family, friends, or the average guy on the street. Instead, I give people my honest insight and opinions, and get theirs back when they care to give it. When they disagree (as most of my TBM family and friends usually do), we can usually find a way to be civil about it. If I were to proselyte them as actively and relentlessly as some of them have tried to proselyte me, our relationship would quickly deteriorate (and make both of us mad, sad, or both).
Also, I do not think the church is fundamentally responsible for all the nastiness that comes from trying to cram human life into an artificial cubicle created by businessmen out to make a profit. While they fit this model (and it is a really crappy model for life), there are other organizations that are often just as bad (governments, money corporations, schools, etc.). I cannot just sever all ties from these institutions (yet: maybe one day). I have to learn to accommodate them and their sometimes stupid outlook on the world if I am to live well myself. I find I deal with them best when I focus on individual people: I may not be able to change the company, but I can change my relationship with the guy sitting in the desk across from mine. So, I remain a Mormon, even though you will not catch me spouting the company slogans (unless I have some ulterior point to make).
How is it ironic that I want the church to be anything? I don’t follow you. My wife, kids and other family members and friends are active in the church. How is it not natural that I would “want” (or “hope” for) something out of the organization?
I disagree that a decrease in numbers will never happen. Why do you doubt it? I am certain the church will have to either change dramatically (a la RLDS) or disappear within the next couple hundred years.
Thanks for the link, Glenn. I liked the article and posted it on my facebook wall.
I agree we can all benefit from taking a step back and chilling out a bit, seeing the world for its beauty, and appreciating things *As they are* once in a while, but if we all did that all the time, there wouldn’t be much progress in the world. And since I personally believe religion (and Mormonism specifically) is a poison that is doing more harm than good in this world, I am happy and hopeful to help it to change, in any way I can.
Great episode and graphs. I know how I would answer the question of what statistic I would like access to: The number of temple recommend holders. I think that is the gauge of the true strength of the church. And even that number wouldn’t be a perfect proxy for the strength of the church as I personally know a more than a few who are not completely orthodox believers who have recommends. However, it would give a pretty good sense of how strong (or not) the church is.
As for the total church members, especially convert baptisms, all you have to do is serve a mission or listen to the stories of baseball/soccer/basketball/English-lesson/swimming-pool/Whatever baptisms to know that the numbers are enormously inflated.
Totally enjoyed this episode. Personally, statistics and numbers is not the way I geek out — I geek out with pop-culture referenes and snarkiness. But despite the topic, each one of you is an interesting person. Alf was great — very articulate and spot on to all the conversational ebbs and flows. Tom, George, and John were all on top of your games. In fact, it feels a little “old school” ME — just need some Jim and Nyal to complete it.
Highlights: Sears catalogue and stats on Hot sister missionaries. Nice.
Yeah, that Hot Sister Missionaries segment was freaking hilarious!
It’s so great to have George back. I miss Nyal too.
RE: Hot missionaries. When I was in the MTC we would bet whether a sister was a Temple Square hottie or not. Then one of us would go ask. About 9 out of 10 times Temple Square mishies were very easy on the eyes.
I wonder if it’s always been that way. For some reason, we could spot the Temple Square missionaries a mile away.
I’m pretty comfortable with what Gary Lawrence lays out here:
Oh, one more point: I notice that the number of converts per missionary peaked during my mission years.
Yep, you’re welcome, Mormon Church.
Great podcast. My only disappointment was that you did not discuss the highly inconsistent and non-sensical “Deaths, Defections, and Adjustments” numbers – always my favorite derivation from the conference report. If their accounting is this bad with members, I can only imagine what happens with money.
I think the only reason why prospective missionaries have to attach a picture to their papers is so that the boys in SLC can send the hot sisters to temple square. I even had a non-member friend (and avowed atheist) who returned from a recent trip to SLC comment on how all of the missionaries there were very attractive. She said her dad got suckered in by a gorgeous blonde with a british accent – ended up getting a tour and handing over contact information for their whole family. I have never seen an ugly girl get sent to Temple Square.
Hot sisters are like the City Creek of missionaries, you only want beautiful things around the temple so as to preserve the, um, Spirit. Plus sisters can’t be in mission leadership, baptize people, or run the small branches all over the world, so we might as well send all the pretty ones to walk around Temple Square right? Mormon sexism at its finest.
If I could have any number reported every year it would be the net $ increase – the amount total money generated (tithing, businesses, etc) minus all expenses (with a break-down of charity given by the church). GA salaries would be a good one as well. Total temple recommends is a close third.
Although you briefly discussed it, I would have also liked a deeper comparison of children of record compared to missionary service. Assuming 50% of children of record are males, and the majority of male missionaries leave when they are 19, how many children of record never make it to a mission? Is there enough data to make any assumptions here?
Remember, these “hotties” are usually from outside the Salt Lake Valley. Not one of my very attractive friends who served missions who grew up in or around Salt Lake got called to Temple Square. One was called to Winter Quarters, though. Several (including me, not saying I’m hottie, though, you’d have to judge for yourself ) ended up in Europe.
This just confirms that definetly our sisters in my mission where not Temple Square material
I think they go for both beauty and location when selecting sisters for temple square. They try to get a fair amount of foreign (especially European) missionaries to (falsely) represent the church as a big presence in other countries.
HA! I never thought of it that way! We had a couple of attractive ones, but it’s so true!
John we can’t have pictures – if we do NO LdS male will EVER qualify for the Mission Field again!
They’ll be dropping like flies just by coming on the Mormon Expression website! Who needs the Victoria’s Secret and/or the Sears catalog when you’ve got Temple Square LdS hotties parading around wearing their name tags right here in cyberspace?
To paraphrase Jerry’s anguished cry from the famous Seinfeld episode:
“I can’t take it anymore! She’s driving me crazy! I can’t sleep, I can’t leave the house, and I’m here, I’m climbin’ the walls.
Meanwhile, I’m dating a virgin, I’m in this contest [to qualify as an LdS Missionary] – something’s gotta give!”
Let’s NOT do this to any poor, unsuspecting 18-year old LdS young men shall we?
A clarification about the discussion of general membership numbers and the U.S. Census. The Census Bureau does not ask about religious affiliation and, in fact, is prohibited by law from doing so. (I guess John didn’t fill out his Census questionnaire. )
However, there is excellent demographic information available in last year’s Pew report, “A Portrait of the Mormons”:
We actually discussed the Pew Forum report back in episode 10: http://mormonexpression.com/?p=185
Ah, yes, how could I forget?
Good episode, guys. I really think that Alf does a great service to everyone in not just compiling and analyzing the data, but putting graphs to it as well (I’m a visual learner).
What’s the one stat that I would want disclosed? I agree with the temple-recommend holders. Then again, I’d also like to see temple attendance on a per-temple basis to see if the temples in Utah are really needed, or if they could be spread out other places where there’s less availability to the temples.
I have one interesting statistic to add. When I was in a high council just before leaving the church in the summer of 2007, the stake president reported that a GA had told him and other North West stake presidents that 80% of Young Adults in Canada and the US were inactive. Their reactivation was to be a big focus for the leadership at that time.
Given that at least 50% of members are inactive, it was still surprising to me at the time that an additional 30% of Young Adults would be inactive.
Have you seen or heard of any numbers similar to this Alf?
It was pleased to hear from George again. Also, if anyone was listening to the podcast until the very end (after the closing music), you will have the pleasure of about two seconds of bonus material. Alf O’Mega makes a funny comment that I’m guessing he thought was off the air. But I won’t give away what he said. You’ll have to listen for yourself.
Dr. James Dobson in his book “Preparing for Adolescence” famously claimed that his research demonstrates that 90% of men will admit that they’ve masturbated at least once – and the other 10% are lying.
So after hearing that no male who acknowledges that they have ever masturbated can be an LdS Missionary I couldn’t help but wonder why the LdS Church has released an army of liars out into the mission field!
For what it’s worth I found the following in the 1999 edition of the “Church Handbook of Instructions, Book 1: Stake Presidencies and Bishoprics”
Repentance of Serious Transgressions
A prospective missionary who has been guilty of adultery, fornication, heavy petting, homosexual activity, other sexual perversions, drug misuse, serious violation of civil law, or other serious transgressions must repent before he or she may be recommended for missionary service. The member must also be worthy to enter the temple before he or she may be recommended.
The bishop and stake president confirm that the member is free of transgression for sufficient time to manifest genuine repentance and prepare spiritually for a mission call. This period could be as long as three years for multiple serious transgressions and should not be less than one year from the most recent serious transgression. Mere confession does not constitute repentance.
There must also be evidence of a broken heart and contrite spirit and of a lasting change of behavior.
Bishops and stake presidents teach prospective missionaries that to qualify for the needed guidance of the Spirit, they must resolve transgressions before entering the mission field. Unless there are unusual extenuating circumstances, missionaries who are found to have entered the mission field without resolving serious transgressions with the bishop will be released early and returned home (see page 86).”
“Chastity and Fidelity
The Lord’s law of moral conduct is abstinence from sexual relations outside of lawful marriage and fidelity within marriage. Sexual relations are proper only between husband and wife, expressed within the bonds of marriage. Adultery, fornication, homosexual or lesbian relations, and every other unholy, unnatural, or impure practice are sinful. Members who violate the Lord’s law of moral conduct or who influence others to do so are subject to Church discipline (see First Presidency letter, 14 Nov. 1991).”
And for the record this edition of the “Handbook” doe NOT mention masturbation at all – anywhere.
Stop the presses!
I found a copy of the 2006 edition and here’s what IT says:
“Guidelines for Youth Worthiness Interviews
(from the 2006 LdS Church Handbook of Instructions)
Another matter for discussion should be the importance of obeying the commandments, particularly:
2. Being modest in dress and action, refraining from any kind of sexual activity and refraining from listening to, or viewing pornographic material.
While interviewing young men, the bishopric member gives special attention to their preparation for a full-time mission. He discusses being worthy, studying the gospel, building a testimony, and preparing financially, emotionally, physically,and spiritually….
When interviewing a young woman, the bishopric member emphasizes the importance of incorporating the Youth Women values and standard in “For the Strength of Youth” in her daily living (see pages 211-12 in Book 2)….
When discussing moral cleanliness, the bishop adapts the discussion to the understanding of the youth. He also ensures that the discussion does not arouse curiosity or experimentation.”
So I can understanding how and why this verbiage could be interpreted as “Ever masturbated? Yes? You’re NOT going buddy! Fuhgetta ’bout it!”
Having listened to the pod cast & the way general conference is structured, it reminds me of my work for a sales and marketing company. You use the statistics to tell your audience what you want them to hear i.e. that you are the best. Then you tell them the, feel good, stories to make them comfortable with their choice. Welcome the LDS cooperation!
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