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Kevin Graham

Church Growth Trends

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I joined the Church in 1989 when the Church was booming in membership. The membership was extremely enthusiastic about its growth and they loved to talk about the projections of 280 million within the next 70 years. Ever since then, it seems, the upward trend in growth has either leveled off or dropped. I thought the Church would have about 30 million by now. So what happened? I have my own theories on this, and I'd like to throw them out on the table to see what you guys think.

People are generally open to discuss things with strangers, until they have a reason not to. I think LDS missionary efforts were hamstringed by a number of business endeavors that used similar techniques. For example, telemarketing. Total strangers entering into your private home via your telephone. This was such a successful enterprise until some years ago when the word was getting out about just how bad of a rip off it was. Now people are hanging up in their faces - without feeling guilty - or having their number blocked.

Likewise, time-shares were a booming enterprise until the truth was getting out about how much a rip-off they were. Now you see more people trying to sell them as opposed to buying them. Also, the number-one method for conversion in the Church is to have members talk to their friends and set up dinner appointments at their home with the missionaries. Today there are friends and family inviting you over for a "party" or "get together" that seems innocent enough, until you get there all dressed up and realize it is an Herbal Life or Amway scam.

There is a growing awareness about these techniques, and peple are more inclined to shut themselves off from society and the introduction of new ideas, because they feel they have been taken advantage of for having been open-minded and cordial in the past.

Plus, people are more inclined to stay home and look stuff up on the internet if they want to "know" something about a religion or whatever subject piques their curiosity. The newspaper business is taking a nose-dive ever since the internet has taken over American homes as the number one source for entertainment. People generally feel that they can find out virtually anything they want to know from their own monitor and keyboard, so why risk the awkwardness of going to meetings and discussing issues with real life people, face to face? I know my family in Atlanta has turned into a bunch of hermits over the past few years, having become addicted to the wealth of information on the internet.

Also, I remember some LDS authority making the statement that if it were not for missionary work, the Church would wither and die. I heard this on my mission numerous times.

This is not true at all, and it makes little sense. The Church would still grow through breeding. Look at Islam. Everyone likes to point out that it is the "fastest growing religion" but where are their missionaries? It grows not from missionary efforts, but through breeding new members. Polygamy does't hurt either.

The fact is the birth rate in Muslim countries is typically three times that of the United States, and Christian Europe has the lowest birth rates in the world (14 births per 1000 in USA, 10 in Europe and 25-40 in Muslim countries). The vast majority of American Muslims are not converts. They are, for the most part of Middle-Eastern heritage (How many blue-eyed blonde haired Muslims do you know?) Islam simply shifts its population to different areas.

Anyway, the Church will grow no matter what. I see no chance of it "dying" unless people started to apostasize at an incredible rate.

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I'd like to think more on this before responding. I did want to add a link to a website with all kinds of information about church growth. Go here and then on the left see the articles under "The Law of the Harvest."

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I also think the Western culture has made the LDS church rather lazy and content. The persecutions of the 1800s simply don't exist to refine and challenge the membership. This is not meant to disparage LDS; I am critical of the same trends in mainstream Christianity in the West.

As something of an aside, this is why I still don't get why the LDS church does not send missionaries to areas that are more hostile than not toward Christianity. If you want fields white for harvest, try mainland China (not Hong Kong) or India, for example. It is in areas like these that mainstream Christianity is growing explosively, in spite of (dare I say because of) persecution. The faith of these besieged believers is absolutely astonishing, from what I've experienced.

I guess what I'm say is this: no pain, no gain. The LDS church is not taking risks for the gospel they profess, so little is coming from the more "play it safe" mentality.

Personally (and I have little to back up this rather unformed thought at the moment), I also think the culture of the LDS church has to do with its slowing growth and low retention rate. I don't see the church adapting to the multiple cultures of its membership. It is, at its core, a white American Protestant-style capitalist middle-class religion. I think the culture and the leadership reflects that, which automatically turns many people away before ever hearing the LDS gospel. But that is, of course, simply my opinion based on observations, here and overseas.

Anyway, those are my ideas. As far as the missionary=salesman thing, it could be true to some extent, but most people I know still have a distinction between "missionary" and "salesman" in their minds. I think the above reasons are closer to the core of the problem. Perhaps if the LDS church could branch out more, have some more diversity in their outreach, instead of young men and women in suits and skirts and tags. Get some LDS people who dress like punks, then send them to the punks, etc.! As Paul said, become all things to all men so that by all means you might win some. Mainstream Christianity has learned that lesson quite well, I think. We have our suited missionaries, and then we have our skateboarding missionaries, and our hippie missionaries, and our Goth missionaries, etc.

Just my thinking. Take care, everyone :P

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We need to look for a trend. A five year slow down is not a trend. This is not to say that growth is slowing, but that we need more time.

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I think the internet has something to do with it. People are able to discover some of the church's idiosincracies before they gain a testimony for themselves. Type in "mormonism" into Google and the top two links are not church sponsored.

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Correct me if I'm wrong, but the growth rates of the past 20 years have been slowing down from their mid-1900s peak. It's a longer trend than five years, although the last five years have been slower.

And Elphaba has posted a great link, I've looked over that site many times. Very interesting information, especially the country-by-country section. Maybe a bit out of date, but still quite interesting. Take care, everyone :P

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It isn't, I don't think, just a slow down period that is common in all trends. Why? Because the number of missionaries have doubled since I was serving my mission, and the number of average baptisms have dropped. There has to be some outside factors that are at play here.

There was a time when people used to love company, whether it was a neighbor a salesperson or the milkman. Maybe that is why the older folk were the ones we could always count on when we needed a break from the door slams.

Nowadays it seems everyone is pretty much locked into their own little world they call their home. They get defensive if they you glance in their windows, let alone their private and personal world where the issues of faith dwell. Talk with the older folk sometime. They'll tell you that peple have changed. Maybe not so much in Utah, but everywhere else.

As for sending missionaries to non-Christian lands.... Don't even think about it. Sure there are Evangelicals in China, and they're getting killed. Some places it si against teh law, and/or too dangerous. Especially the Middle-East where in most countries it will always be forbidden to publicly preach anything other than Islam.

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So what happened?

Kevin, if you ever figure out the answer, I'm sure there are 15 guys in Salt Lake City who would love to speak with you.

I think it's a combination of several things:

-Overinflated "growth" based on poor standards for baptism

-Declining birthrate

-Greater access to information (especially the internet).

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Get some LDS people who dress like punks, then send them to the punks, etc.! As Paul said, become all things to all men so that by all means you might win some. Mainstream Christianity has learned that lesson quite well, I think. We have our suited missionaries, and then we have our skateboarding missionaries, and our hippie missionaries, and our Goth missionaries, etc.

You don't have nudist colony or red light district missionaries, you you? Actually you have a good point. This is one reason each member is encouraged to be a missionary. Maybe the importance of this needs to be emphasized more within the LDS church. So tell me, have the Evangelicals already tapped into the nerd market? I think I can find some taped up glasses and a pocket protector somewhere.

:P

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As for sending missionaries to non-Christian lands.... Don't even think about it. Sure there are Evangelicals in China, and they're getting killed. Some places it si against teh law, and/or too dangerous. Especially the Middle-East where in most countries it will always be forbidden to publicly preach anything other than Islam.

I would argue that it is these lands that are most in need of the gospel. Sure, there will be persecution, but what's more important: Comfort and safety, or preaching the gospel and being willing to sacrifice everything to do so, as all the apostles (and millions of Christians throughout history) have.

I'll try not to start a big ol' tangent here, so I'll relate it back to church growth in two ways: First, as I said before, in countries like these church growth is expanding incredibly despite persecution. If the LDS church wants faithful members seasoned by trial, that's where the church will find them, if it is willing to take the risk.

Second, early LDS history is full of stories of sacrifice, persecution, and martyrdom. LDS faithful are inspired, moved, and encouraged by these examples; these early Mormons are today's "testimony builders". The problem today is, the LDS church doesn't have those kinds of examples to inspire the faithful. Much as some LDS say otherwise, there really isn't much persecution at all directed towards LDS, at least of a serious nature. When I hear LDS speaking of persecution and sacrifice, rarely if ever do I hear an example from the past fifty years.

Today's LDS rely on the past. This is a symptom of the comfort and complacency mentality I was referring to earlier. If you want to truly inspire people, get members to truly sacrifice for the gospel. Let the membership know that there are heroes of the faith today, instead of simply relying on those of the past to carry the church on. I'm not saying everyone should go to Iran and start knocking on doors, but there needs to be a shakeup, just to snap LDS out of the American Dream-world they're living in.

Look at the history of mainstream Christianity. I think you and I could possibly agree that the worst corruption of the church occurred when persecution officially ceased under Constantine. The Church had been growing and maturing for centuries before that, through persecution. The example of the Christians who sacrificed all for Christ was a powerful witness that swayed many people to Christ.

I can testify to the power of such sacrifice, as men and women who have sacrificed have become inspirations to so many Christians. I am going overseas for an indefinite period of time, inspired by people like Jim Elliot and Nathan Saint, and many others, including a friend of mine from college who was killed in Palestine two years ago, there to share his faith. God rewards such sacrifice, and when one is truly in Christ, there are worse things even than death.

Just my thoughts. Take care, everyone :P

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So tell me, have the Evangelicals already tapped into the nerd market? I think I can find some taped up glasses and a pocket protector somewhere.

What do you mean? I am a missionary in the nerd market!

*pushes glasses further up nose as he types furiously...*

:P

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And there are missionaries in the red-light district, they just don't participate in the, um, activities. They are there to share their faith with those who are lost, and what better place to go! I actually spent the night in Amsterdam three years ago with some people from my college who ran a Christian youth hostel three blocks from the red light district. Crazy stuff.

And as far as Christians in China, yes they are getting killed and tortured and whatnot, but the Christian church in China, by secular conservative estimates, is upwards of thirty to forty million people. That's just one country, and they already dwarf the entire worldwide LDS church. Could it be that they are on to something?

Take care, everyone :P

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I would like to first correct some of your assumptions about islam. they do NOT practice polygamy. There may be some polygamists who are muslim, but it is not naturaly part of their religious culture. I beleive there is actually Quranic script that goes against poligamy. second, only a portion of islam is in the middle east. there are large groups of muslims in africa, asia, europe, and and increasing number in the americas. lastly, many people DO convert to islam. although overall you are correct that through breeding they are the fastest growing.

Also, I remember some LDS authority making the statement that if it were not for missionary work, the Church would wither and die. I heard this on my mission numerous times.

I believe this statement was meant to be taken in a differnt light. I think most people will agree that new converts are the most excited about the gospel. Through them i have seen many life-long members re-energized about the gospel. We know the church will never wither and die, since it has been revealed to us that this is the last dispensation.

All the marketing/missionary techniques that you discussed are viable points. It is important to remember that missionary work is not about "selling" the gospel. Although missionaries might ask a member family to have an investigator over for dinner, that act will not be what converts a person. when someone who has been prepared by the Lord sits down with the missionaries, he will not see another salesman. he will see a young, dedicated individual, trying to share a gift, not sell a product. Regardless of the best "sales"-like techniques a missionary could use, a person who is not ready for the gospel will not recieve it. As goes to say that a person who is prepared for the gospel will not need such techniques in order to "sell" the gospel to them. If you want to refer to statistics of growth of teh church, i remeber one stating that it usually takes 3 encounters with the church before someone will be baptized. i like to think that these missionary tools are ways to introduce, or familiarize people with the church.

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I don't think that Internet has anything to do with declining growth rates. If that was so, Pentecostals, SDA and JW will have suffered evenly. Indeed I have much more opportunity to share the gospel with non-members in the Internet era than I had before in all my life outside the Missionary field.

What I can agree is that the traditional door-to-door approach is no longer more efficient as was before. As was already mentioned, people are more and more closed to their own home, if you visit South America you're going to find a lot of closed condominiums, you should announce your presence to a security guard, the guard will contact your acquaintance by the phone and you could only entry in that neighborhood if your friend that already lives there allow you to come in. These are the new homes for middle-class in South America. Our Church always has its appeal to the middle class, who would like to strength their family and raise their children within good standards. The lower classes desires religions that promote magical changes, which could offer an alternative to their difficult life, in this case the Pentecostals have much more appeal over them.

Pentecostal Churches really grows at high rates, the only problem is that they're are always breaking them apart and created new and new versions of themselves. Only in Brazil, I can count at least 8 different types of Assemblies of God. And In one single street near my home, I can count 10 distinct garage evangelical churches. They pop out and dye like mushrooms.

In Jehovah Witness churches, all the members are really missionaries. All the church resources are focused on missionary work. They don't spend much on church buildings or temples, but on material to their proselyting mission. Certainly we could learn a lot from them, but I never considered the Jeovah Witness a successful religion. It's hard to have a preeminent JW in the community, and in Brazil (and most of South America), where military enlistment is an obligation, they are always facing problems.

Seven-Day-Adventists: They are to me the best case that we can benchmark. The funny thing is that they appeared in the US at the same time that LDS Church, but LDS membership in US reached almost 10 to 9 times their local membership.

Why SDA are not so successful in the US but are very, very successful in South America, and Africa? Answer: Junior and High Schools!

In US everyone has the opportunity to have a decent public education. In Latin America (and I believe is the same for all underdeveloped world), every family that has a little bit more of money will put their children in private schools. These private schools are not so expensive like the private schools in US and England. Some are very small and usually attend the demand of a small neighborhood. Almost 1/3 of all SDA churches in South America are connected to one School. There is a lot of conversion based upon families that see as an advantage of putting their children in a private school and notice that they can save from the family budget a good discount if they baptize Adventist. Besides that, most of their young men and women will be raised in a school with most of their friends partaking the same beliefs and standards. We (LDS) lose a lot of our young men and woman in Brazil during their teenager years. A lot of them were baptized alone, their parents don't baptize with them but they let their children attend the church. They have LDS friends only on Sundays, but during the rest of the week most of their friends are non-LDS. When the mission time arrives, they see their school friends going to the University or start gaining money, and they decide to get out of the church. Mission receives no support from their non-LDS parents and it is totally weird to his school friends. Getting inactive, they will not marry within the Church, their children are not going to be raised on Church. The Church hurts its internal growth rate.

IMHO, I think that the Church should invest more in private Junior&High Schools outside the US. The only country in South America that has one LDS School, Chile, is the country with the largest percentage of membership in relation to the total population, with % similar to that of US.

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== I would like to first correct some of your assumptions about islam. they do NOT practice polygamy.

All of them? Certainly not. But it is a normal part of Arab culture which is, for the most part, strictly Islamic.

== There may be some polygamists who are muslim, but it is not naturaly part of their religious culture.

Yes it is. The harem system is not just a myth, it exists. Polygamy is as integral to the religion of Islam as is slavery. Of course most governments do not permit slavery, so it cannot be practiced for that reason. But as the world's authority on Islam has stated: "From a traditional Muslim point of view, to abolish slavery would hardly have been possible. To forbid what God permits is almost as great an offense as to permit was God forbids. Slavery was authorized and its regulation formed part of the sharia."(Bernard Lewis) Muhammed was a polygamist, and Muslims typically view him as the perfect example to follow.

== I beleive there is actually Quranic script that goes against poligamy.

No, there are none which prohibit it. You're simply wrong about this. This is what the Quran says:

"If you fear that you will not be able to deal justily with the orphans, marry the women of your choice, two or three or four. But if you fear that you may not be able to deal justily with them, then only one" (Surah 4:3)

Does that sound like a prohibition to you?

== second, only a portion of islam is in the middle east.

Of course. But the Middle-East is the heart of Islam and its history. The Middle-East countries are to Islam what Palmyra and Utah are to Mormonism. Muhammed sanctioned polygamy. Muslim scholars have never questioned it (except, maybe, for some reform-minded fringies). Interestingly, about half of Islam lives within three, maybe four countries (Pakistan, Indonesia, India and Bangladesh). Converts to Islam are encouraged to learn Arabic, which is the language many Muslims feel best express the real meaning of the Quran. Less than 1/2 of one percent of Islam is in America, so I'd be careful about using them as a standard to judge what is and what isn't acceptable in Islam.

== there are large groups of muslims in africa, asia, europe, and and increasing number in the americas. lastly, many people DO convert to islam. although overall you are correct that through breeding they are the fastest growing.

Of the dozens upon dozens of Muslims I've met, only two were converts. Sure, some people convert to Islam like in any other religion, but I think the figures are relatively low compared to other proselytizing religions. I also think Muslims tend to exagerrate their numbers for political reasons. There are about 2-3 million in America, but Muslim groups like CAIR will insist it is closer to eight million. Why? Well if you can get the politicians to believe that the Muslims represent a larger portion of their constintuency than they really do, then you can get them to vote their way. There are twice as many Mormons in America than Muslims, but you'd never know it listening to the news.

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My opinion: We all pretty much knew what we were going to do while we were in the pre-mortal existence. I am sure that the idea that we leave here with the same spirit applied there, too. When we came to earth, we were not going to change a lot. So, those who were going to follow Christ were probably "hanging out" together there.

So it is my opinion that we are only trying to find to those who were already going to want to join. The Savior said (John 10: 27) "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:"

I think the missionaries speak with the Shepherd's voice, and His sheep hear and follow. When all the sheep of the flock have been gathered, the day of the Gentiles will be over. There's bound to be a diminishing as this time approaches.

Just my opinion.

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== I would argue that it is these lands that are most in need of the gospel.

The Church thinks in terms of individuals, not "lands." And how can one person be in more need of salvation than the next person? Who gets to determine that one? Can you make that judgement?

== Sure, there will be persecution, but what's more important: Comfort and safety

Yes, safety. And if you think the Church doesn't recognize this fact then you need to come back down to earth. There is a real reason why the Church doesn't send their 19 year old boys into China and Afghanistan. If you're willing to serve a mission in Iran, then let me know when. I'll pay for your flight.

== or preaching the gospel and being willing to sacrifice everything to do so, as all the apostles (and millions of Christians throughout history) have.

Excuse me? I don't recall any of our apostles sacrificing their lives to knock doors. We can play it smart and live another day to teach more people, or we can play it stupid and prepare our kids for some kind of righteously indignant kamikazee mission. Are you willing to send your kids into Sudan or Algeria or Egypt or China, where they are sure to be killed before their first district meeting? Before rushing to an answer, reflect on what you just said about the secondary importance of safety.

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If you're willing to serve a mission in Iran, then let me know when. I'll pay for your flight.

Are you willing to send your kids into Sudan or Algeria or Egypt or China, where they are sure to be killed before their first district meeting?

I know of EV missionaires who have gone or are currently in every single one of these countries. And some in countries you didn't mention.

They are not there to die but they do think subverting the government's laws in the name of the Gospel is worth the risk. If done correctly and with wisdom, their safety is generally not at risk.

Christianity can be and is taught underground. It's also practiced underground. Are you saying that Mormonism could not be? Public door knocking is not the only method of evangelism available to followers of Christ.

I'm so thankful that the Early Church didn't put safety over worshipping and serving Christ.

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Dando, the Church does much better by working with governments and staying within the law, as we profess that standard. When the time comes for the Gospel to go into those countries, the Lord will tell the Prophet, and they will be there.

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I joined the Church in 1989 when the Church was booming in membership. The membership was extremely enthusiastic about its growth and they loved to talk about the projections of 280 million within the next 70 years. Ever since then, it seems, the upward trend in growth has either leveled off or dropped. I thought the Church would have about 30 million by now. So what happened? I have my own theories on this, and I'd like to throw them out on the table to see what you guys think.

People are generally open to discuss things with strangers, until they have a reason not to. I think LDS missionary efforts were hamstringed by a number of business endeavors that used similar techniques. For example, telemarketing. Total strangers entering into your private home via your telephone. This was such a successful enterprise until some years ago when the word was getting out about just how bad of a rip off it was. Now people are hanging up in their faces - without feeling guilty - or having their number blocked.

Likewise, time-shares were a booming enterprise until the truth was getting out about how much a rip-off they were. Now you see more people trying to sell them as opposed to buying them. Also, the number-one method for conversion in the Church is to have members talk to their friends and set up dinner appointments at their home with the missionaries. Today there are friends and family inviting you over for a "party" or "get together" that seems innocent enough, until you get there all dressed up and realize it is an Herbal Life or Amway scam.

There is a growing awareness about these techniques, and peple are more inclined to shut themselves off from society and the introduction of new ideas, because they feel they have been taken advantage of for having been open-minded and cordial in the past.

Plus, people are more inclined to stay home and look stuff up on the internet if they want to "know" something about a religion or whatever subject piques their curiosity. The newspaper business is taking a nose-dive ever since the internet has taken over American homes as the number one source for entertainment. People generally feel that they can find out virtually anything they want to know from their own monitor and keyboard, so why risk the awkwardness of going to meetings and discussing issues with real life people, face to face? I know my family in Atlanta has turned into a bunch of hermits over the past few years, having become addicted to the wealth of information on the internet.

Also, I remember some LDS authority making the statement that if it were not for missionary work, the Church would wither and die. I heard this on my mission numerous times.

This is not true at all, and it makes little sense. The Church would still grow through breeding. Look at Islam. Everyone likes to point out that it is the "fastest growing religion" but where are their missionaries? It grows not from missionary efforts, but through breeding new members. Polygamy does't hurt either.

The fact is the birth rate in Muslim countries is typically three times that of the United States, and Christian Europe has the lowest birth rates in the world (14 births per 1000 in USA, 10 in Europe and 25-40 in Muslim countries). The vast majority of American Muslims are not converts. They are, for the most part of Middle-Eastern heritage (How many blue-eyed blonde haired Muslims do you know?) Islam simply shifts its population to different areas.

Anyway, the Church will grow no matter what. I see no chance of it "dying" unless people started to apostasize at an incredible rate.

Kevin,

I have to ask the simple question. What difference does it make? If you have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel etc.....what difference does it make that the church didn't hit some hypothetical membership benchmark?

I live in Independence, Mo. Is my faith shaken because the work here is not booming the way I may have thought it should have been by now? Nope!

All it means is that I as "joe everyday member" need to strive to live the gospel more fully...and open my mouth and share the gospel when the spirit prompts me, if I am married be the best husband I can be...if I have kid's, be the best dad I can be.

I just don't understand why some members get their undies in a bunch over such seemingly insignificant issues. All you can control is how you live the gospel..and what YOU can do to share it. Period...end of story.

This Church is the Lord's. This work is his. If it is slowing down etc...it's our fault, not anyone else's. We simply need to buck up and quit looking for excuses on "why this, and why that". The Lord and his church would be much better served if we were to roll our sleeves up and get with the Lord's program.

Just my thoughts.

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.....what difference does it make that the church didn't hit some hypothetical membership benchmark?

This Church is the Lord's. This work is his. If it is slowing down etc...it's our fault, not anyone else's.

Well you seem to be full of mixed messages.

Size matterith not.......then......if our size is not large then it is our fault.

I enjoy hearing the bishop or the ward mission leader or the stake president lecture the ward or stake about our slothfull missionary efforts.

Really, it is up to the individual who will hear and accept or reject the gospel. Chances are they will never hear the gospel so then they get to accept or reject it in the spirit world.

Since maybe 1 in 4000 humans will ever have a chance to hear the gospel by someone they trust, in a situation where they actually read and pray about the BOM, what matterith missionary work at all? Isn't a grand majority of the work of conversion going to take place in the spirit world?

What about just letting this probationary state run its course? In the grand picture we are missing almost everyone entirely....are we not? :P

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We owe it to our brothers and sisters to try to get to as many as we can, because the Gospel is about happiness in this life as well as joy in the life to come.

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I think that the world's progress in terms of logic, science, and reason has been outpacing that of church doctrine. As science and reason begin to demonstrate that conservative doctrines are fundamentally flawed, people are less likely to accept those flawed doctrines. Conservative church leadership is making the church a dinasaur. (take especially, doctrines in the realm of sexuality) This is why it is easier to find converts among poorer, less-educated populations.

There are innumerable other factors, such as people in wealthy countries becoming greedy and less willing to make self sacrifices for the poor, etc.

The church's dogmatic stance in some areas is pushing people, both members and non-members, away from the church. People who discover error in the church's doctrine then begin to question the very foundations of their spirituality and the genuineness of their spiritual experiences. The church could do much more good and would experience much more growth if it re-analyzed its doctrine in light of science, historical information, and plain reason, without feeling compelled to continue preaching the errors preached by former prophets. The inability to admit error is likely the greatest fault of the church today. We preach as a matter of formality that church leaders are imperfect, but in practice, a culture of strict reverence and obedience to their utterances has developed. Those who openly question are immediately branded as being outsiders, rebellious, unfaithful, antichrists, etc. The church's censorship of legitimate debate about church doctrines has seriously harmed the church's credibility.

There has never been an apology concerning blacks and the priesthood or coerced polygamy, or other things. The church's leaders are so afraid that admitting error would shake the faith of strong members, that the leaders have chosen a course of making up doctrinal excuses to cover up past errors (i.e., claiming that polygamy was in fact commanded, but avoiding the controversy by saying that God has commanded us not to practice it today, explaining the denial of the priesthood to blacks by having official declaration 2 talk about "the time has now come", instead of admitting that it was wrong and racist to deny blacks the priesthood, etc.).

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I think that the world's progress in terms of logic, science, and reason has been outpacing that of church doctrine. As science and reason begin to demonstrate that conservative doctrines are fundamentally flawed, people are less likely to accept those flawed doctrines. Conservative church leadership is making the church a dinasaur. (take especially, doctrines in the realm of sexuality) This is why it is easier to find converts among poorer, less-educated populations.

There are innumerable other factors, such as people in wealthy countries becoming greedy and less willing to make self sacrifices for the poor, etc.

The church's dogmatic stance in some areas is pushing people, both members and non-members, away from the church. People who discover error in the church's doctrine then begin to question the very foundations of their spirituality and the genuineness of their spiritual experiences. The church could do much more good and would experience much more growth if it re-analyzed its doctrine in light of science, historical information, and plain reason, without feeling compelled to continue preaching the errors preached by former prophets. The inability to admit error is likely the greatest fault of the church today. We preach as a matter of formality that church leaders are imperfect, but in practice, a culture of strict reverence and obedience to their utterances has developed. Those who openly question are immediately branded as being outsiders, rebellious, unfaithful, antichrists, etc. The church's censorship of legitimate debate about church doctrines has seriously harmed the church's credibility.

There has never been an apology concerning blacks and the priesthood or coerced polygamy, or other things. The church's leaders are so afraid that admitting error would shake the faith of strong members, that the leaders have chosen a course of making up doctrinal excuses to cover up past errors (i.e., claiming that polygamy was in fact commanded, but avoiding the controversy by saying that God has commanded us not to practice it today, explaining the denial of the priesthood to blacks by having official declaration 2 talk about "the time has now come", instead of admitting that it was wrong and racist to deny blacks the priesthood, etc.).

Interesting comments considering your views on adultery. :P

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We should tell Rollo he has a disciple. William James.

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