Monday, February 25, 2013

Fifty Eight New Missions


On Saturday February 23, 2013, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the creation of 58 new missions increasing the number of missions by 16.7% and bringing the total number of missions to 405.  Elder David F. Evans of the Seventy, executive director of the Missionary Department, said that the new missions are sustainable after the current wave of missionaries subsides.  This suggests that missionary numbers will be at least match the increase in the percentage of missions.  Using 57,000 missionaries as the base number prior to the announcement, a 16.7% increase in missionaries implies a sustainable missionary force of more than 66,500 missionaries.  A 100% increase in the number of Sisters and a 2% increase in Elders would result in a sustainable missionary force of 65,500.  Estimates of new missionaries will become more accurate as eighteen year-old graduating seniors submit their applications.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Impact of WWII and the Korean War on Missionary Work

Missionaries Serving in War and Peace: 1960-2011War and Missionaries

In “War and the Missionary Force,” I suggested that war in Iraq and Afghanistan affected the number of missionaries serving as well as the more frequently identified events such as raising worthiness standards for missionaries and demographic trends of falling birth rates and secularization.  I used the graph “Missionaries Serving in War and Peace: 1960-2011” as evidence.  The horizontal axis measures time beginning in 1960 and continuing until 2011, and the vertical axes, the number of missionaries serving at year end.  The blue segments of the line are years of peace and the red segments, years of war in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  The graph is suggests that these wars may have drawn young men from missionary service into the military service, but in the case of the War in Iraq, the timing of the war coincides almost perfectly with raising the worthiness standards.  Did the war cause missionary numbers to fall or was it the increase in standards or both? 

Missionaries Serving in War and Peace: 1938-1960WWIIKOREA

Examining periods of war without concurrent changes in missionary standards helps separate the impact of the two events.  The second graph covers the period surrounding World War II and the Korean War when worthiness standards were constant.  The horizontal axis measures time beginning in 1938 and continuing through 1960 and the vertical axis, the number of missionaries set apart, a slightly different variable than the number serving used in the first graph.  Clearly, the number of missionaries set apart declined in response to World War II and the Korean War.  The student manual, “Church History in the Fulness of Times,” describes how these wars impacted missionary and members in Europe beginning with the Nazi’s political triumph in 1933, the evacuation of missionaries from Europe starting in 1938, to the drafting potential missionaries.  The impact of WWII is summarized in the following paragraph

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Pioneer Heritage

For many members of the Church, these words (the faith of our fathers) bring to mind valiant pioneers who abandoned the comfort of their homes and traveled by wagon and on foot until they reached the valley of the Great Salt Lake. I love and honor the faith and courage of those early pioneers of the Church. My own ancestors were living an ocean away at the time. None were among those who lived in Nauvoo or Winter Quarters, and none made the journey across the plains. But as a member of the Church, I claim with gratitude and pride this pioneer legacy as my own.  (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, April Conference, 2008)

My last missionary companion was man of great faith, serving a mission only a year after his conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  As we walked or biked along the dusty, rocky streets of Rawson, Argentina we occasionally discussed whether the pioneer history of the Church as presented in hymns and lessons was a heritage of members in our branch.

He believed that being separated by time, space and culture the pioneer experience was little understood.  I thought that learning of the faith and commitment to the gospel of the pioneers would would create a natural bond, a legacy. 

In “The LDS Church in Mongolia,” Briana Stewart gives a brief and interesting account of the Church in Mongolia.  Within the article is a picture of Mongolian youth on a Pioneer Trek.  The Pioneer Trek has greater intensity than the traditional lessons that I believed would create a legacy.  In Mongolia, Argentina, and everywhere in between, treks will transport our youth to a different time, bridging the distance between their lands and the plains and mountains of the American West, letting them glimpse at the faith and character needed to gather in Zion, strengthening their testimonies by bonding them to our common legacy.  They will understand that their personal journey as Saints is the same as that of the pioneers.