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HappyJackWagon

Ballard- Baptismal Challenge

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13 minutes ago, Rain said:

Because once in awhile you teach Robert. Robert who had learned about the church 20 years ago and gave up smoking then. Then 5 years later he talked with members of the church and gave up alcohol. Then 3 years later....and so on. Till one day the missionaries knocked on his door and he tells them the timing was right - he had just given up coffee last week so it made sense that the missionaries were knocking on his door.

So we invited him to be baptized.

He was the only one I ever invited on our first lesson and it was because he was clearly ready (in ways more than just the Word of Wisdom). 

It was not his 1st discussion, but it was our first one with him and his only one in recent years. His actions and the Spirit prompted us to invite him. 

Of course. That’s why my only two baptisms are active today, they had experience with the church and with church members and doctrine for years. Our first lesson with one resulted in her asking to be baptized. 

However in a majority of cases this is the exception, not the rule.

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1 hour ago, Raskolnikov said:

Not where I served they weren't, Storm Rider. It was incredibly rare for me to find someone who had attended church or had a basic understanding of the gospel. Go back and look what was in the first discussion before the first prompt to invite them to be baptized. Look at the second discussion where there was instruction to have them pick a date, and then read through the balance of the lessons to see what was to be taught after they had committed. 

Elder Ballard is saying that "it was never our intention to invite people to be baptized before they had learned something about the gospel, felt the Holy Ghost, and had been properly prepared to accept a lifelong commitment to follow Jesus Christ." The question is whether this statement is accurate given where in the teaching process missionaries have been and are instructed to invite people to be baptized. 

 

I think that is plenty as long as they have been through the discussions.

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2 hours ago, rockpond said:

The documents in this case are the published missionary discussions. 

Yes, the first discussion suggests that it should be felt by the spirit.  But if it was not their intention it invite early, it shouldn’t be in the first discussion, even with the qualifier. 

Or they meant what they said and they should listen to the Spirit. It is hard to be more clear then outright saying you should do so if the prompts. I understand why people do it without the prompt (cultural pressure, spiritual bravado, thinking it is the pathway to spirituality) but I have a hard time with how they can complain that they did not understand that the prompting is needed.

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3 hours ago, SettingDogStar said:

Through the material. It wasn’t direct but it was in the material given to missionaries that highly encouraged you invite on the first or second lessons. It’s been quoted above. It had little to no mention of making sure your investigator had a spiritual experience but simply told you to invite them boldly to be baptized when you taught the lesson.

I’m not saying that it’s wrong to do that, I’m just pointing out that it was from the material that Salt Lake gave the missionaries that caused the culture to start forming.

Yes, but I'm looking for direct pressure on the missionaries -- MTC instruction, Church-published materials, etc. that encourage a departure from the way Elder Ballard describes the way things should be done. Interpretations, ancillary instructions and materials prepared by mission presidents, independent authors, etc. don't count. To paraphrase, "who knows where that came from?"

One out of four mission presidents I had (long story!) instructed us to invite (not commit or set a date) the people to be baptized after the first lesson, but this was a particular, time-limited initiative (e.g. "for the next three months"). How we expressed this invitation differed from individual to individual and after having some confidence that the Spirit had been present prior to that invitation being extended.  In hindsight I believe it was due to adverse conditions looming in that country, and the approach we took was extremely effective in getting the word out to a lot people in a short time.

I believe that pressure tactics are more a reflection of and filtering through the world's culture than the content or spirit of the materials the Church leaders give the mission presidents, missionaries and members.

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4 minutes ago, CV75 said:

I believe that pressure tactics are more a reflection of and filtering through the world's culture than the content or spirit of the materials the Church leaders give the mission presidents, missionaries and members.

This is important. I cannot tell you how often some seemed convinced we were being unfair when we tried to find people receptive. One person looked at me with disgust when I mentioned we would go knock the street where we knew someone there had just recently lost a family member. I am not doing it because they are vulnerable. I am doing it to try to help them. They need Christ's healing balm and hope now more then ever.

There is a conceit that we have to be absolutely fair and cannot talk to anyone who is in distress or suffering because that is preying on the vulnerable. First, I am not a predator nor is the gospel. It is medicine. It is wise to go to the sick. Obviously we should not do anything dishonorable or manipulative. Plus it seems odd to see these concerns from our critics and even our own members when the devil is not playing by those rules and preys on us at our "most vulnerable" and he is a predator.

We are warned to be bold but not overbearing but culturally there is a weird idea that any boldness is overbearing. Not sure what to make of that but I am pretty sure it is not positive.

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I guess I’m a little older than most of you. I served in the late sixties and we were given scripted lessons that we were expected to memorize. The scripted invitation to baptism was in the first discussion. 

If the investigator did not accept the conditional invitation we generally terminated the discussion. By conditional, I mean that by the baptismal time the investigator would have accepted that JS was a prophet etc etc. 

So the assertion that Ballard does not know how all this began is disingenuous. 

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, rockpond said:

The documents in this case are the published missionary discussions. 

Yes, the first discussion suggests that it should be felt by the spirit.  But if it was not their intention it invite early, it shouldn’t be in the first discussion, even with the qualifier. 

From Preach My Gospel, 1st lesson's "Invitation to be Baptized" (linked by @SettingDogStar earlier):

"As directed by the Spirit, during this or any other lesson, do not hesitate to invite people to be baptized and confirmed.

"To prepare people for an invitation to be baptized and confirmed, teach the doctrine of baptism and testify often of the importance of all people being baptized by authority, of receiving a remission of sins, and of the wonderful gift of the Holy Ghost. You might say, “As the Lord answers your prayers and you feel that this message is true, will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized?”

"The invitation to be baptized and confirmed should be specific and direct: “Will you follow the example of Jesus Christ by being baptized by someone holding the priesthood authority of God? We will be holding a baptismal service on (date). Will you prepare yourself to be baptized on that date?”

This seems to follow similar statements from the memorized lessons from decades ago, and the experience I shared earlier.

None of this smacks of the negative misapplications, and so they do not come from this source at least. No one has provided any Church-published materials that do. People do bad things with good information, that does not mean they come from the good information, and it can rightfully be said we do not know the root cause of every bad practice. If you don't have the data, you don't know. If you have a suspicion, inkling or educated guess and don't want to give it the status of knowledge, that is probably a wise and humble thing to do.

In general, the saints can "be seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men; for some are of men, and others of devils." (D&C 46:7). I can see why Elder Ballard was not going to go off on that kind of tangent just to satisfy non-audience members in in anticipation of their jumping on him for being disingenuous.

Edited by CV75
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23 hours ago, HappyJackWagon said:

On my mission we were required to report numbers. Lots and lots of numbers: number of discussions, number of golden questions, number of baptismal challenges, number of investigators at church, how many baptisms etc. etc. It was most definitely a highly regimented program full of reporting on behaviors. It's a good way to hold people accountable to doing the things the leadership wants done.

These things all started with the Mission President, and then funneled down through the AP's, Zone leaders, district leaders.  Sometimes we reported weekly, sometimes daily. It was clearly an expectation that by the 2nd discussion every investigator should be invited to be baptized. The thinking at the time was that a challenge from a representative of Christ would help the investigator feel the spirit and choose to join the church. I recall vividly that by the end of the 2nd discussion we would challenge each person to be baptized. We would pray with them. "How do you feel?" They might say something like "Good." or "relaxed" and we would respond with something like "That's the spirit testifying to you that God wants you to be baptized. Will you follow Jesus and be baptized?"  Or they might respond with something like "I don't really feel anything" and we would respond with "Do you think God would tell you if it was wrong? If you don't feel God telling you it is wrong, then it is right. That's the spirit."

It was a bit of a hard push sales approach. No question about it. It was definitely part of my mission culture, but also the mission culture of virtually all of my friends as well. After my mission I've served as ward mission leader, EQP, HPGL, Bishop, YMP, High Council and in all of these positions I had regular interaction with the missionaries. Except for the past 10 years where I've seen an easing away from this hard sales method, I remember many discussions with missionaries privately or in council meetings and they also had the expectation placed on them that they were to challenge for baptism by the end of the 2nd discussion UNLESS the spirit prompted them not to.

So when Elder Ballard says this...

...I have to wonder how honest he is being. He's been a part of the missionary committee. He was involved in the creation of Preach My Gospel. But he doesn't know where these practices began? I'm incredulous.

Can someone please help me understand how he could make a statement like this and millions of members not view it as disingenuous? Yes, there's the caveat about feeling the spirit, but missionaries are trained and directed how to "help investigators recognize the spirit" and "overcome objections" which can become a manipulation of the investigator.

IF they really want to dramatically increase retention rates then there is a lot of work to do. Getting away from an almost blanket requirement of challenging people for baptism by lesson 2 is a very good start. But that good effort is overshadowed by a claim that "church leaders don't know where these practices began". Leaders have got to be better than that IMO.

You mention his having been involved in the creation of “Presch My Gospel.” Can you cite a passage therein that conveys the idea that one should be pressured to be baptized before he is spiritually prepared? 

For that matter, can you cite a talk or teaching by President Ballard stating or implying the above, one that would warrant casting aspersions on his honesty as you have done here? 

Edited by Scott Lloyd

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1 hour ago, mrmarklin said:

I guess I’m a little older than most of you. I served in the late sixties and we were given scripted lessons that we were expected to memorize. The scripted invitation to baptism was in the first discussion. 

If the investigator did not accept the conditional invitation we generally terminated the discussion. By conditional, I mean that by the baptismal time the investigator would have accepted that JS was a prophet etc etc. 

So the assertion that Ballard does not know how all this began is disingenuous. 

Wrong.

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22 hours ago, The Nehor said:

I don’t see a disconnect. I was probably out around when you were and the soft invitation for baptism is in the First Discussion and the stronger one in the Second. I have no idea where it is now. I have seen the effect of the opposite though. I went out with the missionaries once to a long time investigator I had befriended at Church and he seemed to be ready in every way. I asked him what was holding him back from being baptized and his response was no one had asked him yet.

I did not exert a lot of pressure when I was out. I did invite people but only because they were feeling the Spirit. Then again I was a very mediocre missionary. 

I think you misunderstand and that Elder Ballard is wanting to stop The practice of “baseball baptisms” and similar phenomena that proliferated in various missions where people were baptized with no spiritual witness. This also happened through salesmanship, crush on a missionary, attraction to the social aspects of the church, access to church welfare, all kinds of reasons that almost always lead to inactivity.

The quick conversion after a spiritual witness is the norm and has been throughout history. The missionary discussions are slower then how we did it back in the 1800s. I doubt Elder Ballard was concerned about speed and does not even mention that, more concern that they got the gospel basics and requirements and felt the Holy Ghost.

You were a better missionary than I am

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Just now, Avatar4321 said:

You were a better missionary than I am

I am a decent one now. On my mission I was pretty medicre.

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16 minutes ago, The Nehor said:

Wrong.

I was actually a missionary doing this stuff at that time. What were you doing then?

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38 minutes ago, mrmarklin said:

I was actually a missionary doing this stuff at that time. What were you doing then?

I am not disputing your history. I am disputing your conclusion that this proves Elder Ballard was disingenuous. It is kind of weird that you think your practices back in the 60s that seem to have been in accordance with the instructions at the time are somehow the reason people about half a century later are doing something that has not been in accordance with instructions for some time.

I was in Eastern Germany assisting John the Revelator in bringing down the Soviet bloc to allow the gospel in. In 1978 I was reassigned to the committee to inspire President Kimball to remove the Priesthood Ban. Finally when that was done I was allowed to be born in 1979.

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1 hour ago, Scott Lloyd said:

You mention his having been involved in the creation of “Presch My Gospel.” Can you cite a passage therein that conveys the idea that one should be pressured to be baptized before he is spiritually prepared? 

For that matter, can you cite a talk or teaching by President Ballard stating or implying the above, one that would warrant casting aspersions on his honesty as you have done here? 

No. I don't believe he'd say anything like that and I have no desire to search for something like that.

I mentioned his involvement with Preach My Gospel to illustrate that he has substantial experience working with the missionary program, lessons, and training. So to me, it seems very unlikely that he would be unaware of the expectations outlined in the discussions.

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17 hours ago, SettingDogStar said:

Of course. That’s why my only two baptisms are active today, they had experience with the church and with church members and doctrine for years. Our first lesson with one resulted in her asking to be baptized. 

However in a majority of cases this is the exception, not the rule.

Just out of curiosity, I'm wondering what people think about which approach is better.

Approach 1- Teach investigators extensively. Require them to attend church regularly  and have very high standards that may reduce the number of convert baptism but have the convert baptisms be solid, retained converts. IOW- Baptize 2 really good people on a mission and keep those 2 people active for the next 30 years.

Approach 2- Teach investigators quickly. Require some commitments but focus primarily on getting them baptized and connecting them with local members in hopes that they will remain active. The idea being that a missionary has more baptisms (lets say 10) even if only 3 of those remain active.

 

Would it be better to have a 2/2 ratio of convert baptisms and retention or better to have a 3/10 ratio? The percentage on the first is better, but it represents one fewer person. Which is better?

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58 minutes ago, The Nehor said:

I am not disputing your history. I am disputing your conclusion that this proves Elder Ballard was disingenuous. It is kind of weird that you think your practices back in the 60s that seem to have been in accordance with the instructions at the time are somehow the reason people about half a century later are doing something that has not been in accordance with instructions for some time.

I was in Eastern Germany assisting John the Revelator in bringing down the Soviet bloc to allow the gospel in. In 1978 I was reassigned to the committee to inspire President Kimball to remove the Priesthood Ban. Finally when that was done I was allowed to be born in 1979.

I think you are misinterpreting what I am saying.  My thesis is that the Church has always pushed early commitment to baptism.  Of course, this was a conditional commitment based on feeling the spirit, understanding the principles of the Gospel etc.  But it was in the middle of the first lesson that we sought this commitment.  Most people that had heard the JS story made the commitment because it was conditional.  The question was something like this:  Mr Brown, if you come to know that JS was a prophet of God would you be baptized?  A big if.  Of course a lot of people agreed, but never went much farther than one or two discussions.  The Word of Wisdom was an early discussion, and it was generally considered that if the investigator had not been to church, read none of the Book of Mormon, or not praying then it would be almost useless to present the principles of WOW with no solid foundation of belief in the church.

But the reality is that the pushing of statistical measures put a lot of pressure on missionaries to continue discussions and yes, baptisms that IMHO were unwarranted.  Ballard is old enough to know this.  Hence, I think he is being disingenuous.

BTW you about the age of my youngest child.

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Posted (edited)

 

I tend to think it is about commitment

Edited by provoman

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15 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

Just out of curiosity, I'm wondering what people think about which approach is better.

Approach 1- Teach investigators extensively. Require them to attend church regularly  and have very high standards that may reduce the number of convert baptism but have the convert baptisms be solid, retained converts. IOW- Baptize 2 really good people on a mission and keep those 2 people active for the next 30 years.

Approach 2- Teach investigators quickly. Require some commitments but focus primarily on getting them baptized and connecting them with local members in hopes that they will remain active. The idea being that a missionary has more baptisms (lets say 10) even if only 3 of those remain active.

 

Would it be better to have a 2/2 ratio of convert baptisms and retention or better to have a 3/10 ratio? The percentage on the first is better, but it represents one fewer person. Which is better?

We would also need to take into consideration that when a record is created for someone in the church, that record remains, and often allows church members to interact with the member for years, getting to know other extended family members.  This means that sometimes, while the initial convert is less-active, their spouses, children, and grandchild will sometimes be brought into the church due to the church being in regular contact with the member.

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3 hours ago, mrmarklin said:

I think you are misinterpreting what I am saying.  My thesis is that the Church has always pushed early commitment to baptism.  Of course, this was a conditional commitment based on feeling the spirit, understanding the principles of the Gospel etc.  But it was in the middle of the first lesson that we sought this commitment.  Most people that had heard the JS story made the commitment because it was conditional.  The question was something like this:  Mr Brown, if you come to know that JS was a prophet of God would you be baptized?  A big if.  Of course a lot of people agreed, but never went much farther than one or two discussions.  The Word of Wisdom was an early discussion, and it was generally considered that if the investigator had not been to church, read none of the Book of Mormon, or not praying then it would be almost useless to present the principles of WOW with no solid foundation of belief in the church.

But the reality is that the pushing of statistical measures put a lot of pressure on missionaries to continue discussions and yes, baptisms that IMHO were unwarranted.  Ballard is old enough to know this.  Hence, I think he is being disingenuous.

BTW you about the age of my youngest child.

I maintain that Elder Ballard was not sure how this idea of super early commitment being standard crept in during the Preach My Gospel years where it is not required in the lessons and he is not commenting on the discussions you or I used. To be disingenuous Elder Ballard would have to be thinking about all those old discussions while teaching a group of current Mission Presidents and missionaries which is unlikely or assuming the idea had to come from previous eras which would be a guess (i.e. “not sure” as he reportedly said).

That would be like someone in 20 years having a misconception about how to do ministering. An apostle comments that it is wrong and they are not sure where it came from and telling leaders to correct the error. Then someone becoming incensed because that is how Home Teaching was done 20 years ago and that is obviously where it came from and the apostle is lying.

It requires mind reading and malice to reach that conclusion.

Edited by The Nehor
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41 minutes ago, HappyJackWagon said:

Just out of curiosity, I'm wondering what people think about which approach is better.

Approach 1- Teach investigators extensively. Require them to attend church regularly  and have very high standards that may reduce the number of convert baptism but have the convert baptisms be solid, retained converts. IOW- Baptize 2 really good people on a mission and keep those 2 people active for the next 30 years.

Approach 2- Teach investigators quickly. Require some commitments but focus primarily on getting them baptized and connecting them with local members in hopes that they will remain active. The idea being that a missionary has more baptisms (lets say 10) even if only 3 of those remain active.

 

Would it be better to have a 2/2 ratio of convert baptisms and retention or better to have a 3/10 ratio? The percentage on the first is better, but it represents one fewer person. Which is better?

Approach 2 is what I would pick but I would make sure the commitments are solid and they have had a spiritual witness. The advantage of Approach 2 is that they get the Gift of the Holy Ghost. I think Approach 1 will see more investigators drift away no matter how solid they are in the beginning.

In terms of ratios I would rather have 3/10 except when ministering assignments are handed out. Then I wish more people would write a letter to get their name removed if they want no contact.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, HappyJackWagon said:

Just out of curiosity, I'm wondering what people think about which approach is better.

Approach 1- Teach investigators extensively. Require them to attend church regularly  and have very high standards that may reduce the number of convert baptism but have the convert baptisms be solid, retained converts. IOW- Baptize 2 really good people on a mission and keep those 2 people active for the next 30 years.

Approach 2- Teach investigators quickly. Require some commitments but focus primarily on getting them baptized and connecting them with local members in hopes that they will remain active. The idea being that a missionary has more baptisms (lets say 10) even if only 3 of those remain active.

 

Would it be better to have a 2/2 ratio of convert baptisms and retention or better to have a 3/10 ratio? The percentage on the first is better, but it represents one fewer person. Which is better?

I pick neither. Teach them the doctrine of Christ from the Book of Mormon then that the authority to baptized has been restored and the ability to receive the Holy Ghost more fully is opened through that Gate then ask them to pray about it. Once they are converted and recieve a witness that these things are true, baptize them.

 

Edited by SettingDogStar
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“Our retention rates will dramatically increase when people desire to be baptized because of the spiritual experiences they are having rather than feeling pressured into being baptized by our missionaries.”

I think this confuses two issues.  Baptism and retention are two different things.  Some of our retention will increase when we start caring more about the members and work with them in their difficulties.  Be a little slower at excommunication and people who are questioning things.  Be more helpful in working them through their struggles.  The church can do a little better in Utah but not being so involved in so many social and political issues that come up.  Yes it can have a voice and opinion and should state that but when it works to advance things, it really is a turn off to many non-members.  If you are a non-member in Utah and you currently like to drink booze, you probably are not too happy about the church on some things.  That hurts missionary work.

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Peru: 1982-1984

We were instructed to conditionally challenge the investigators at the end of the first discussion.

"If you believe that the Book of Mormon is true, will you be baptized?"

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28 minutes ago, carbon dioxide said:

“Our retention rates will dramatically increase when people desire to be baptized because of the spiritual experiences they are having rather than feeling pressured into being baptized by our missionaries.”

I think this confuses two issues.  Baptism and retention are two different things.  Some of our retention will increase when we start caring more about the members and work with them in their difficulties.  Be a little slower at excommunication and people who are questioning things.  Be more helpful in working them through their struggles.  The church can do a little better in Utah but not being so involved in so many social and political issues that come up.  Yes it can have a voice and opinion and should state that but when it works to advance things, it really is a turn off to many non-members.  If you are a non-member in Utah and you currently like to drink booze, you probably are not too happy about the church on some things.  That hurts missionary work.

This narrative of how we are super harsh with members with struggle......I have no idea where it comes from. I have been to disciplinary councils and 95%+ of them are not the social media circuses everyone associates with them.

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9 hours ago, The Nehor said:

I am a decent one now. On my mission I was pretty medicre.

I still suck.

Ive been sharing the gospel with people for years. Only had one person get baptized and that was more the elders

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