I'd really like some feedback. Honestly, I'm very interested in hearing some ideas or theories that explain something peculiar that I have observed/discovered. It's something rather depressing. And maybe alarming. However, I have no doubt that Church leaders are aware of this already. They have to be! I'm just not sure if anyone has publicized the issue or offered a solution.
When I joined the Church in 1981 I remember feeling a marvelous sense of pride in the LDS claim that they were the fastest growing (generally recognized) Church (statistically speaking) on the face of the earth. So I'm wondering...is that still true?
There seemed to be a different attitude/spirit/emphasis among Church members back then than there is today. In 1981, when I first joined, the Church statisticial report (which is always, oddly, one of my favorite moments in any April General Conference) stated that there were about 229,000 convert baptisms that year. We were just shy of passing the 5,000,000 mark in overall Church membership. And there were about 29,000 full time missionaries.
Now for the bad news. Or unexpected news. Or sad news. Take it how you want. Last year the Church reported about 265,000 convert baptisms. Yet we have well over 13,000,000 members, and about 52,000 full-time missionaries.
So that's almost twice as many missionaries, THREE times as many members, and only a slight percentage increase in convert baptisms. I'm no mathematician, so I'll leave it someone else to figure out accurate numbers, but just based on a simple eyeball estimate, one might think the Church should have had around 500,000 to 700,000 convert baptisms last year. That is, if trends had continued as they were back in the 70s and 80s. What changed? Is it just that Spencer W. Kimball's "every member a missionary" thing has been forgotten?
Now I have my own instinctive feelings as to why things are different. One idea is this:
Before I joined the Church I must have had 50 people (no joke!) "bear their testimony" to me. Friends in Junior High, students at BYU, my High School seminary teacher, my High School civics teacher, BYU professiors, roommates...even two strangers who were handing out Books of Mormon when I attended the first Sundance Institute in the summer of 1981 when when I was 17 years old.
I don't think that kind of stuff happens anymore. Or at least not nearly as much as it once did. Somebody--whether society, our Church teachers--SOME MYSTERIOUS FACTOR has made us feel much more reluctant to bear testimony outside of safe places like Sacrament Meeting. What made the situation different in the 70s and 80s? Why, as a Church, are we much more inclined to leave missionary work to the full-time missionaries? Basic psychology would tell you that this wouldn't be as effective as testimony bearing by a normal member. See, a missionary is SUPPOSED to be forward and obnoxious. People expect it. Consequently, they "steel" themselves against it. But the testimony of a friend or co-worker or acquaintance--that's powerful stuff! Or at least it was for me.
All I can say is that I'm soooo grateful for those members of the Church who put themselves on the line and bravely faced ridicule and rejection to tell me about the Church way back when. Their words resonated inside me. How could they know their Church was true? They just "believed" it right? Nope, they were adamant. They knewwwwww it. They told me all about Moroni 10:3-5. And this made me want to know. If they could know, why couldn't I? So I found out for myself. And lo and behold, I got an answer. Exactly as the scripture promised.
Well, anyway, if anyone can tell me what's changed, or why it changed, or how (if we want) we can get back to how it was before, I'm very interested hear your ideas and participate in the discussion.
(c) Copyright 2009, Chris Heimerdinger