Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Part 1 of a 3 part series -- Does “the one true church” have a membership recruitment/convert baptism problem?

(As you read this post, I'd like you to imagine that you're a manager, and you have a team of people who are assigned to work on a specific project. How is your team doing? If they're struggling, why? For how long? Finally, what can be done to straighten out your team (with at least a modest sense of urgency)? I look forward to reading your observations in the comments).

"Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." [1] 

"preach my gospel unto every creature who has not received it" [2] 

If ever there was a charge given to the church, it's to go into the world and take the gospel to every creature. Pres. Oaks said, "To proclaim the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a fundamental principle of the Christian faith." [3]  

It's also a responsibility which squarely rests upon the shoulders of the Twelve:

"I give unto you my servant Brigham Young to be a president over the Twelve traveling council; Which Twelve hold the keys to open up the authority of my kingdom upon the four corners of the earth, and after that to send my word to every creature." [4] 

"The responsibility to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world is explicitly given to those who were called and ordained Apostles of the Lord." [5] 

In implementing this directive, the Lord charged His servants to "seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God." [6] That means whatever pertains to this world - no matter what it is - doesn't hold a candle to building God's kingdom. That's why Pres. Benson said, "Preaching the saving principles of the gospel has ever been a great responsibility of first importance." [7] 

So, how is that "Go ye into all the world," "Preach the gospel to every creature" and baptize directive going?

1990: Apostle Russell M. Nelson prophesied the following at a January 7, 1990 BYU devotional:

"Church membership has just passed the seven million mark. Conservative projections indicate that by the year 2000, the Church will have doubled in size. Its membership will then number at least fourteen million. While we now have 1,730 stakes, by the end of the decade there will be more than 3,600 stakes and many more temples. We will be precisely on course in fulfillment of scriptural prophecy that this work will eventually and literally fill the earth (see D&C 65:2)." [8] 

Reality check: By the end of the year 2000 church membership stood at 11,068,861 -- three million short of Nelson's "prophecy". The number of stakes was 2,581, over 1,000 fewer than Nelson's prediction/prophecy. [9]  

1999: Pres. Gordon B Hinckley laid down an audacious goal for the church in the April 1999 General Conference:

"Last year there were approximately 300,000 convert baptisms throughout the Church. This is tremendously significant. But it is not enough. I am not being unrealistic when I say that with concerted effort, with recognition of the duty which falls upon each of us as members of the Church, and with sincere prayer to the Lord for help, we could double that number." [10] 

Reality check: The 600,000 convert baptisms in a year never happened. In fact, 2020 posted a convert baptism rate of less than half that 300k number, which is also less than a quarter of his 600,000 expectation. [11]  

2015: Prophet-seer-revelator Elder Holland said in an interview that:

"But we're greatly blessed, and they [the full-time missionaries] continue to come. They continue to serve. And those numbers will increase. We're projecting out probably within four years, the baseline number for the missionary force will be something around 100,000." [12]  

Reality check: In 2019, there were 67,021 full-time missionaries - a miss by around 1/3.

2015: Elder Quentin L. Cook (Remember: "Prophets of God always speak the truth.") [13] stated in the April 2015 General Conference that:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has never been stronger. The number of members removing their names from the records of the church has always been very small and is significantly less in recent years than in the past." [14] 

Reality check: In 2015, the 2014 stats were showing a 1.9% membership growth rate. Is that what the Lord expects of his "one true church"? Of those who supposedly hold the priesthood of God? Of the pre-existence's "chosen" and "valiant" ones? Of prophets/seers/revelators?

2015: A 2015 Deseret News article quoted Seventy Joseph W. Sitati as saying, "The rate of growth [in Africa] has been close to exponential." [15]  

Reality check: Matt Martinich (founder of the LDS Church Growth blog Cumorah.com, which tracks Mormon growth and retention internationally) said, "LDS growth in Sub-Saharan Africa continues to be extremely limited. Overall growth trends have appeared much more modest than the 'exponential' growth claims in the recent LDS news release." [16] 

2016: Elder Holland (who also always speaks the truth) told folks at a Young Single Adult Conference in Dallas, TX that:

"We're in the midst of incredible growth, staggering growth in the church. It's the single biggest problem we have. It's the best problem we have, but it's the biggest. We are reeling under the implications of the growth we have in this church. Last Thursday, I've been out here this Thursday, I've been with Elder and Sister Holland and I've been with Elder and Sister Robbins, this week, so I missed the temple meeting this Thursday, but a week ago Thursday we created 15 stakes, and we are doing that más o menos every week, more or less. It might not be 15, but its… the week before it was 12, sometimes it's 8 or whatever and it'll be a little uneven, but the point is, I mean, we are talking double digit stakes every week. Every week of our lives." [17]  

Reality check: That year, the church created 92 new stakes - not even two a week. In 2020, it was exactly one every two weeks. So much for "double digit stakes every week. Every week of our lives." How is the number of missions in 2020 and 2013 being the same considered "staggering growth"? How is a 0.6% growth rate "staggering growth"? How is going from 85,147 to 51,819 (a 39% decrease) in full-time missionaries "staggering growth"?

(By the way, since the apostles are responsible (per scripture) for the church's missionary efforts, I would be interested in reading how many people each of them directly bring into the church each year. You know, some of that "accountability / return and report / lead by example" stuff we're fond of drilling into the heads of the church's local leaders).

Here's what can't be distorted: The church's own reported statistics (the sources are hyperlinked in the year):

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

Stakes

3,005

3,050

3,114

3,174

3,266

3,341

3,383

3,437

3,463

     Stakes count change

 

+45

+64

+60

+92

+75

+42

+54

+26

     % change

 

1.4%

2.0%

1.9%

2.8%

2.2%

1.2%

1.5%

0.7%

Missions

347

405

406

418

421

421

413

399

405

Districts

591

571

561

558

556

553

547

542

537

Wards/Branches

29,014

29,253

29,621

30,016

30,304

30,506

30,536

30,940

31,136

     Wards count change

 

+239

+368

+395

+288

+202

+30

+404

+196

Total Mems

14,782,473

15,082,028

15,372,337

15,634,199

15,882,417

16,118,169

16,313,735

16,565,036

16,663,663

    Membership change

 

+299,555

+290,309

+261,862

+248,218

+235,752

+195,566

+251,301

+98,627

    % change

 

2.0%

1.9%

1.7%

1.58%

1.4%

1.21%

1.54%

0.6%

New Children of Record

122,273

115,486

116,409

114,550

109,246

106,771

102,102

94,266

65,440

    New CoR change

 

-6,787

+923

-1,859

-5,304

-2,475

-4,669

7,836

-28,826

    Percent growth

 

-5.5%

0.7%

-1.5%

-4.6%

-2.2%

-4.3%

-7.6%

-30%

Convert baptisms

272,330

282,945

296,803

257,402

240,131

233,729

234,332

248,835

125,930

    Convert baptisms change

 

10,615

13,858

-39,401

-17,271

-6,402

+603

+14,503

-122,905

    Percent growth

 

3.8%

1.92%

1.70%

1.59%

1.47%

0.2%

6.19%

-49.3%

Full-Time Missionaries

58,990

83,035

85,147

74,079

70,946

67,049

65,137

67,021

51,819

    Percent growth

 

40.7%

2.5%

-12.9%

-4.2%

-5.4%

-2.8%

2.8%

-22.6%

Temples in Operation

140

141

144

149

155

159

161

167

168

    New temples change

 

+1

+3

+5

+6

+4

+2

+6

+1

The facts - as published by the church - paint a much different picture than what the Brethren are publicly saying. 

Back in 2018, Martinich called the multiple downward trajectories of church growth "pretty significant." [18]  He also said that U.S. growth has not been this low "in approximately 100 years or longer" (and that was before the even steeper declines within the last four years).

The Big Reality Check

In Russell M. Nelson's aforementioned 1990 BYU devotional, he said that by the year 2000, 

"We will be precisely on course in fulfillment of scriptural prophecy that this work will eventually and literally fill the earth (see D&C 65:2)."

Perhaps we are precisely on course for something all right: a setting in order of the house of God, [19]  because it's so diametrically out of order.

As we read near the top of this post, we are to "seek not the things of this world but seek ye first to build up the kingdom of God."

How is the church doing in seeking not the things of this world? With all its real estate purchases, land and agricultural holdings, stocks/other funds as well as befriending/partnering with organizations which espouse man-made, not god-centered world initiatives, I think it could be said without too much argumentation that the church is awash in the things of this world.

Contrast this with how the church is doing relative to taking the gospel to the world - an almost non-existent membership growth rate, double-digit decreases in new children of record, convert baptisms and full-time missionaries as well as an insignificant amount of humanitarian aid - and it's easy to see that "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." [20] 

We are told, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." [21] 

What kinds of fruits do they have to show for their labors? If the fruit - that is, the above statistics - are bad, what does the savior say of the tree? That the apostles have primary responsibility over missionary work is indisputable. 

It's also indisputable that the Lord would never give the church an unrealistic goal (like filling the whole earth with the gospel). 

I say it's high time the apostles do what they expect us to do at the local level: Return and Report. Show some accountability. Show some new results.

That should be pretty easy to do for 15 men who are prophets, seers and revelators.

Then again, maybe not...

The November Surprise

With everything we know at the top of the post about the Lord's passion for taking his gospel to the world and baptizing people, it's shocking that Pres. Nelson said in November 2019,


"I don't think the Lord's interested really in how many members of the church we have. What he's interested in is how many of my children choose to come back and enjoy eternal life in his holy presence." [22] 

If that's the case, then:

  • Why was God so hot on people being baptized (and therefore, joining the church), but now he's not?
  • If the Lord doesn't care, why keep count?
  • How does this quote further motivate the full-time missionary force?
  • Why have a missionary program at all? 
  • Shouldn't the number of members and the number who choose to come back and enjoy eternal life be the same?
  • How can people "come back and enjoy eternal life in his holy presence" without baptism? 
  • Or is there a new way to "come back and enjoy eternal life in his holy presence" without joining the church?

The longer we stay in this situation, the crazier it gets.

"by their works ye shall know them,
for if their works be good, then
they are good also." (Moroni 7:5)

(OK, manager: How's your team doing? Are they struggling? For how long? Finally, what can be done to straighten out your team (with at least a modest sense of urgency?) I look forward to reading your observations in the comments).


Covid Updates
"Available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective."
"We can win this war if everyone will follow the wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders"
"We know that protection from the diseases they cause can only be achieved by immunizing a very high percentage of the population."
(First Presidency message of Thursday, August 12, 2021)
"by their works ye shall know them, for if their works be good, then they are good also." (Moroni 7:5)
"That which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually." (Moroni 7:13)
"Whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him,
and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil." (Moroni 7:17)


Sources

 1.   Mark 16:14-16; Matthew 28:19
 2.   D&C 112:28
 3.   "Sharing the Gospel," October 2001 General Conference.
 4.   D&C 124:127-128
 5.   Pres. David O. McKay, "Present Responsibility of the Church in Missionary Work," April 1954 General Conference.
 6.   JST Matthew 6:38.
 7.   "A World Message," April 1970 General Conference.
12.   Jeffrey R Holland interview with Hugh Hewitt, February 27, 2015; https://www.hughhewitt.com/a-conversation-with-lds-elder-jeffrey-holland
17.   Jeffrey R. Holland, Young Single Adult Conference, Dallas, TX, April 24, 2016; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrYpRzi6xtY&feature=youtu.be&t=53m35s 
19.   D&C 85:7.
20.   Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34; 3 Nephi 13:21.
21.   Matthew 7:20

Monday, January 31, 2022

How King Noah's Administration and today's church Brethren are reading off the same exact script

In May 2016, a blogger named "James" wrote a fascinating, well-written post. Entitled "kingnoahsnewsroom.org," this fictional/satire piece is a mock translation of a recently discovered Nephite metalwork containing the non-scriptural, yet officially sanctioned, writings of a spokesman for King Noah's court named Grima, carbon-dated to ~150 BC. I've tried reaching James to see if I can re-post this here, but there's no way to reach him, and the blog has lain dormant for almost two years. 

What's interesting is that it brings a modern-day perspective into the story of Amulek and Alma. 

One of our weaknesses as a species is that we frequently fail to learn from the lessons of the past. Here's a story which will help you learn those lessons, and more importantly, help you spot their repetition in our day...

(I have kept James' original text -- found here -- intact without change, except that I have broken up his paragraphs to make them a bit more readable):

------------------------


"Brothers and sisters, we live in a day of confusion and tribulation. There are wolves in sheep's clothing among us, even false prophets, who have caused doubts to spread among the flock concerning the favored status of our kingdom and the righteousness of our leaders, including our beloved King Noah. 

Look around you. Tell me you cannot witness God's providence and blessings upon us. For He has empowered us to prevail over our enemies the Lamanites! Yea, He has caused our vast vineyards to flourish abundantly and to excess! And lo, He has advanced our expansive and luxurious Zarahemla Creek redevelopment project! Indeed, He has poured out the riches of the earth upon us without measure! 

How blessed are we to live under the reign of such a righteous and wonderful king! A king that loves life and has taught us to do the same, who has protected our freedoms so that we may do as we wish with our free agency, who serves as our example, and whose words guide us in our daily lives! King Noah is the living embodiment of the legacy established by his great predecessor, even King Benjamin, for King Noah is a righteous leader of both the spiritual and the political affairs of our magnificent kingdom. 

How wonderful it is to have a king selected for us through the divine and simple process of birthright leadership! Rest assured, "the Lord will never permit...any...man who stands as [king] of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God...the Lord would remove...any...man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty." [1] Trust in this, our leaders are the inheritors of an unbroken priesthood line of authority stretching back to father Lehi. All is well!

Now, most recently, this Abinadi fellow, and our former brother in the faith, Alma, have disrupted the peace in our kingdom and the church. For we have been taught that "we can accept nothing as authoritative but that which comes directly through the appointed channel, the constituted organizations of the Priesthood" [2]. 

And remember, "the moment that individuals look to any other source, that moment they throw themselves open to the seductive influences of Satan, and render themselves liable to become servants of the devil;...and are on dangerous ground." [2] Oh yes! "whenever you see a man rise up claiming to have received direct revelation from the Lord to the Church, independent of the order and channel of the Priesthood, you may set him down as an imposter!" [2] 

And never forget, "salvation comes through the Church. It does not come through any separate organization or splinter group nor to any private party as an individual. It comes only through the Church itself as the Lord established it!" [3] 

On the contrary, this man Abinadi came out of nowhere, judging the church leaders, preaching that they had fallen into sin and error, pleading with them to repent, and speaking as if he knew how to better conduct the affairs of the church and direct its course. We know our leaders are righteous men who follow the revelations of God while this Abinadi was nothing more than an imposter, an interloper!...claiming that God had spoken to him, yet he possessed no authority to do any such thing in the Church.

Abinadi came among us preaching a different Gospel of Christ. His message was filled with anger, criticism, negativity, and hate. We know that true prophets only speak positive, kind words, and bring peace. True prophets do not say things that will hurt people's feelings, or cause them to question their course or traditions. And they certainly do not criticize the current, righteous leaders of our kingdom or church for that is the very definition of apostasy! 

We warned him once, but he returned two years later bearing the same message. He was in clear violation of the holy principles inscribed on leaf 6.7.3. of our sacred handbook of instructions [4]. Apostate! Yes, Abinadi had "repeatedly act[ed] in clear, open, and deliberate public opposition to the Church or[and] its leaders". In very deed, he had "persist[ed] in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after [he had] been corrected by a higher authority" and obviously "continue[d] to follow the teachings of apostate sects after being corrected by a higher authority" to the point that he had obviously "formally join[ed] another church and advocate[d] its teachings." We are fairly sure he was not "in a same-gender marriage", otherwise this would have been a slam dunk case!

Brothers and sisters, our leaders represent some of the best minds in the kingdom. You could not possibly find a more well-informed, in-touch, and educated group of leaders....there are former lawyers, doctors, businessmen, and scholars among their ranks. So imagine, this Abinadi, from completely outside the inner circle of church leadership, with zero ecclesiastical training and certainly no priesthood keys to speak of, had the gall to read to our beloved leaders from scriptures as basic as Isaiah. He went on for hours about concepts as simple as the 10 commandments, the prophecies of the coming Messiah and His atonement, and the nature of God. As if our priests don't know those things already? How insulting and condescending he was towards them! 

Not only that, but when he was in their presence, Abinadi had some sort of power over our leaders, which stopped their speech and caused them to listen to his words, which he claimed was the power of God. We know, however, that his gift in speech, his powers of reasoning and discernment, his mastery of the scriptures and ability to connect them so eloquently, and his abilities in persuasion were only given to him by the adversary, who inspired him in such delusional wickedness. 

Think about it, our leaders don't need some outsider like Abinadi telling them what the scriptures mean for they are prophets, seers, and revelators. In fact, one of our wisest scriptorians asked Abinadi what he thought Isaiah meant by saying that peacemakers would be blessed. Abinadi could not give a simple answer. Instead, he turned the question upside-down and tried to apply it to the leaders! And Alma, we know that he had a weak testimony of the current leadership of the church to begin with. He was easily duped by Abinadi's deceit and then went off repeating only what he heard that false prophet Abinadi say before his demise....Alma is just a copycat Abinadi. 

Look at how few people have believed in these imposters and their supposed "message". Look at their lives, these "Abinadians"! Their lives are in ruins! 

  • Family members have disowned or disavowed them, they have lost friends, they have lost the social support of the church, some have been divorced over these false beliefs, and some have lost their jobs and are now verging on destitution. 
  • They sneak around in these so-called "fellowships", secret meetings in people's homes, performing unsanctioned ordinances, and reading from the scriptures. 
  • They distribute sacred tithing funds to assist the poor and needy among them instead of supporting the ever growing kingdom, even Zion on earth! 
  • They study apostate literature written by Alma, based on the words of Abinadi, which they claim is based on the scriptures, some of which we rejected long ago because those scriptures did not conform to our current belief system. All we need are the writings of current church leaders anyway. 

Are these the fruits? It's chaos...where is the peace? These people are not peacemakers, they are trouble-makers! 

All of these things need not be. If only they would repent of their criticism of the Brethren and return to the fold of God, all would be well. For we are the Lord's people. We are blessed. We are secure. We are happy. You see, God does not support those who criticize the leaders of our kingdom or who believe in these false prophets! 

Did God spare Abinadi when he was tortured and killed for his apostasy? Alma barely made it out of the city alive with only a few hundred of his "followers". 

In any case, these were people that we really did not want among us anyway, for they doubted and disrespected the sacred unwritten order of things and did not unquestioningly follow the counsel of their wise and chosen leaders. Good riddance to them all, for we shall again have peace! 

  • We know that God only works in ways that everyone can clearly see. God is a God of love and fairness and wants to make sure all His children are exalted. He will give them all a fair chance and would never send some obscure old man -- in a costume no less! -- to preach the scriptures and tell us we are off course. 
  • Certainly God would not desire us to believe in the words of some disaffected high priest who is preaching the gospel of Christ outside the boundaries of the church's superstructure and commences to perform baptisms among them as a sign of their commitment to Christ. 
  • Nor would God would require us to take the Holy Spirit as our Guide, which is not tangible and can lead to confusion, when we have church leaders to receive revelation and do the thinking for us. If anything, God would inspire someone on the inside of the church hierarchy, within the priesthood lines of authority, who would help us to lovingly understand that we are off course if that were to be the case. 

These apostates will probably say in the future, to justify their claims, that the Lord always sends outsiders to bring a message of repentance when the church or its people go astray. 

They will probably even go so far as to say that the promised Messiah Himself will be an outsider, when we know that it is prophesied that He will be a great King, a King of Kings, descended from royalty and will be recognized, well-received, and accepted by everyone! 

We know that He will  bring peace! How will those people in that future day not be able to see His light? How will they not be able to hear the words of truth fall from His lips? How will they not be able to feel His love and witness of the miracles He will perform? How will they not see the fulfillment of prophecy and have a burning testimony within them that He is the very Son of God!?!? It's ludicrous! 

No, the people of Christ's time will accept Him, they will love Him, they will all follow Him and treat Him like the King that He shall be! It will be clear for all to see! So, always remember, my brothers and sisters, that God will never use outside means to do His work...He will only work through His chosen and appointed servants....in them you can trust!

Now it is time to make "an oath-like indication that we recognize" [5] the legitimacy of the reign of King Noah, blessed be his high and holy name, which is "binding upon us." All in favor, please raise your right hand....any opposed by the same sign? 

Thank you. King Noah, the voting has been unanimous in the affirmative. We encourage those who voted to the contrary to please meet with their local high priest to discuss the matter further." 

~ Grima, Church Spokesman under the Most Holy and Righteous Reign of Beloved King Noah, 150 BC."

Abinadi and Alma's stories are multi-millennia old lessons for you and me. These men weren't created by Stan Lee and they weren't Marvel superheroes. They were ordinary guys who covenanted not to some mortal, but to God, that they would devote everything they have been, are and would be to the building up of God's Kingdom. That whatever they would be asked to do, they would do it.

You may not be asked to form a new church, as Alma was. Nor to confront the Brethren directly, like Abinadi. But you're certainly asked to embrace the truth, and to not be silent. For "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." (Martin Luther King Jr.)

I join my voice along with Abinadi's and Alma's in encouraging you to not sit idly by, but to raise your voice in bringing to light these hidden things of darkness, and shouting them from your rooftop. 

You don't need to declare your name; I'm not. I'm completely anonymous. 

You may not be a good writer; that's OK, because Jesus will make up for that deficiency. 

You may not think you have time. Not a problem; God will get you the time. 

You may think that speaking out is something better left to others. But the truth of the matter is, many are thinking this. That's why hardly anyone is doing it. Such is the case today.

I encourage you to create a new, anonymous Google account. Then create a free BlogSpot account under it. Consult YouTube how to develop a BlogSpot blog, then start sharing your testimony. Declare the truth as Abinadi and Alma did. Then leave it to our co-workers on the other side of the veil to whisper to others here in mortality the words which will lead them to your blog.

Don't let Abinadi and Alma's examples go to waste.

"Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor." [6]

Sources

1. "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty." (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.)
2. "We can accept nothing as authoritative but that which comes directly through the appointed channel, the constituted organizations of the Priesthood, which is the channel that God has appointed through which to make known His mind and will to the world. … And the moment that individuals look to any other source, that moment they throw themselves open to the seductive influences of Satan, and render themselves liable to become servants of the devil; they lose sight of the true order through which the blessings of the Priesthood are to be enjoyed; they step outside of the pale of the kingdom of God, and are on dangerous ground. Whenever you see a man rise up claiming to have received direct revelation from the Lord to the Church, independent of the order and channel of the Priesthood, you may set him down as an imposter.” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 41–42).
3. "...salvation comes through the Church. It does not come through any separate organization or splinter group nor to any private party as an individual. It comes only through the Church itself as the Lord established it." (Mark E. Petersen)
4. LDS Church's Handbook of Instructions, Section 6.7.3
5. Elder Russell M. Nelson (Oct. 2014). Sustaining the Prophets.
6. D&C 88:81