Saturday, June 26, 2021

Love, Share, Invite Missionary Broadcast: Analysis and Opinion

This morning, I watched the Church's Love, Share, Invite broadcast. The broadcast can be found here. I found this broadcast to be one of the most fascinating and unusual broadcasts I have ever seen in the Church. Here are reasons why I think this:

  • The entire broadcast was on member-missionary work, and it was not about referring others to the full-time missionaries, preparing members for full-time missionary service, or how full-time missionaries should do missionary work
  • The focus was on children, youth, and young single adults doing missionary work, not older adults, families, or full-time missionaries doing missionary work
  • Addressing rejection of member invitations in missionary work
  • The need to continue to share the Gospel even if previous efforts seem unsuccessful
  • Avoiding pressuring others or using methods that are not natural to share the Gospel
  • No talks given as part of the broadcast by Church leaders - just commentary and testimonies
  • A brief interview with the parents of a convert who disagreed with their child's decision to join the Church and who have not since joined the Church, but who later noted a positive change in their son's life
  • The implicit message that we, as a Church, need to change our culture to be more effective missionaries in regards to how we interact with those who are not members of the Church

Elder Bednar provided many quotes that hit right on the mark of the problems the Church has had with its lack of worldwide effectiveness and progress with its missionary program, namely that the culture in the Church has been such that missionary work has been seen as something just full-time missionaries do for 18 months or two years rather than it being a part of lifelong discipleship. This attitude neutralizes missionary efforts for almost the entire duration of the average member's life. First, Elder Bednar stated, "Love, Share, and Invite should not be seen as the Church's new program for sharing the Gospel," and rather he emphasized that the purpose of the broadcast was "fundamental Gospel principles that we are reemphasizing." He emphasized that missionary work should "become a natural expression of genuine love." The need to totally reshape member attitudes about missionary was highlighted when he said we should "not talk about missionary work as a discrete and separate activity that some of do some of the time," and instead it should become an "integral permanent part of our daily lives." Ultimately, Elder Bednar emphasized "Church leaders will no longer have to ask members to add sharing the Gospel to their already lengthy list of things to do" once Church culture to conform to these standards. Elder Uchtdorf also highlighted this need by stating missionary work must use "normal and in natural ways" in order to "invite people to come and see, come and help, and come and belong." Another implicit message from the broadcast was that these changes need to happen with the Church's leaders around the world first if there is any hope that change is to happen to the main body of active membership in the Church. In other words, the leaders need to lead by example and not just occupy some type of managerial role in supervising and cheering on those under their stewardship.

I was also pleased to see that this broadcast directly addressed some of the points mentioned in my blog post from February 25th, 2019 entitled The Urgent Need to Reform the Missionary Program. It is quite concerning that the culture about member-missionary work in the Church has been such that it seems most members do not know how to to do it. I believe this has arisen due to a combination of factors which I have seen through the data I have collected as well as my own personal experiences. First, the high-pressured tactics and quota-driven approaches to missionary work, which began to be implemented in the early 1960s in the United Kingdom, eventually spread to most areas of the Church, and this has resulted in members usually only referring people to the missionaries if they are confident that these individuals are ready to join the Church or are able to be comfortable with such pressure. Thus, the negative relationship between members and full-time missionaries often appears to be the result of concerns whether full-time missionary efforts are motivated by secondary gain (i.e., reaching a goal to have X many baptisms) or genuine concern for the well-being of the individuals involved in their missionary efforts. Second, active Latter-day Saints in many areas of the world develop their own sub-culture in the area and tend to spend much of their socialization with fellow active members. This results in fewer opportunities to associate with "non-members" and can also result in greater anxiety about interacting with those "outside the Church" due to differences in culture, practices, and beliefs. Third, many members of the Church are afraid of rejection or offending others. These members may lack sufficient member-missionary skills and/or had negative or unsuccessful past experiences sharing the Gospel. Fourth, missionary work has long since been something done by full-time missionaries for a discrete period of time rather than something expected to occur on an everyday basis (a point I mentioned earlier). One of the main points driven in the broadcast was for members of the Church to invite others to activities they are already doing - whether they were official Church activities or social gatherings or activities. Although the broadcast is a major step in the right direction, it will probably take many years, or perhaps decades, for there to be an effective shift in culture in the Church in most areas to try to effectively adopt these principles. Efforts to deliberately change culture are not easy, and sometimes these efforts can even backfire. However, the research I have conducted, and the messages shared in the broadcast today, make it clear that a change is warranted nonetheless for there to be any type of measurable improvement in missionary efforts, and these measurable improvements will ultimately be reflected at some point by the statistical data published by the Church.

Finally, I am interested in your thoughts, comments, opinions, and observations. Please provide your comments on what you noticed about the broadcast and its potential impact with the Church's missionary efforts.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Second Stake in Benin Created Today and Corrections to Updated Benin Reaching the Nations Article

Today, the Church organized its second stake in the West African nation of Benin. The new stake, the Cococodji Benin Stake, was organized from the Cococodji Benin District. The Cococodji Benin District was organized from a division of the Cotonou Benin Stake in late 2018. It is unclear whether any units from the Cotonou Benin Stake were reassigned to the new stake. A video of the conference can be found here. Likely thousands of members appear to be attending the conference in the video. For those French speakers, please try to find where the information is presented on the new stake organization and let me know which units were assigned to the new stake and which branches became wards.

I have received information from local members and leaders in Benin that estimates for member activity rates in Benin contained in the updated Reaching the Nations article are significantly less than what they actually are. Recent numbers indicate as much as 85% of recent converts continue to regularly attend church services. The Cotonou Benin Stake reported more than 80% of members regularly attend church services during early 2021, and there were approximately 100 converts baptized in the stake in 2020. These activity and retention rates stand in stark contrast to reports I had received from returned missionaries 2-4 years ago who reported the emergence of member inactivity and leadership development problems. I apologize for the inaccurate data, and I am very grateful for the updated information which appears likely to be very accurate. As with any updates I provide on this blog, or updates to the Reaching the Nations articles or other resources on, if you ever find inaccurate data please contact me so that way we can do our best to present accurate information. I will be amending the Benin country profile report sometime in the next week to reflect the new data we received.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

A Late May 2021 Newsleter and Update

I apologize for the tardiness on the May 2021 Newsletter - there were a lot of significant developments related to Church growth that month. Click here to access the newsletter. Also, the website has been restored after we suffered another malicious attack.