Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Last Time The Age Requirement Was Lowered


Set Apart


1956 2572 6.55
1957 2518 -2.10
1958 2778 10.33
1959 2847 2.48
1960 4706 65.30
1961 5793 23.10
1962 5630 -2.81
1963 5781 2.68
1964 5886 1.82

As we contemplate how the October 6, 2012 announcement lowering the age of missionary service to 18 for men and 19 for women will affect missionary numbers, we should keep in mind that this event has a precedent.  Between June and August 1960, the church lowered the age women could serve from 23 to 21 and  the age men could serve from 20 to 19.  The table shows the number of missionaries set apart and the growth rate for the years surrounding the change.  In 1960, the number of missionaries set apart increased 65.3% to 4,706.  The following year, the number of missionaries set apart increased another 23.1%.  It was not until 1962 that the number of missionaries set apart declined a modest 2.81%.  The increase in missionaries set apart was not simply an anomaly of having an additional year of men and two years of women applying to serve missions.  The numbers remained high even after the initial surge. The change made service easier, increasing the percentage of eligible men and women who served.  

If history does repeat itself, applying the percentage changes from 1960-62 to a back of the envelope estimation of missionaries set apart in the year ending October 6, 2012 at 31,500, missionaries set apart the next year would rise to 52,070, and 64,100 the following year before falling slightly to 62,300 in the year ending October 2015.  The total number of missionaries serving would top 100,000 and remain above that level.

Past performance does not guarantee of future results and I am assuming that an 18 year-old man or 19 year-old woman would respond exactly the same as a 19 year old man and 21 year-old woman responded 23 years ago.  We might find that serving a year earlier at 18 for men or two years earlier for women is less or more valuable now resulting in a smaller or larger increase in missionaries set apart but the change should induce a higher percentage of both men and women to serve.  I had originally anticipated a sharp drop in the number of missionaries serving beginning 18 months after the October 6, 2012 announcement.  I don’t any longer. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Silver Thread

As I first began to post on the impact of war on missionary work, I saw only the bad.  Most obviously, war brings death and destruction.  I was interested in its impact on the number of missionaries set apart, and war does reduce those numbers.  I did not consider positive impacts of war until I read “A Latter-day Saint Servicemen’s Response to Their Church Leaders’ Counsel During the Vietnam War.” by Mary Jane Woodger and “The Church’s Years in Vietnam,” by R. Lanier Britsch and Richard C. Holloman, Jr.  They both quote President Gordon B. Hinckley who describes the good arising out of bad as

the finger of the Lord plucking some good from the evil designs of the adversary (Hinckley, G. B., “A Silver Thread in the Dark Tapestry of War,” The Improvement Era, June 1968.)

He continued

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Missionary Assignment by Region: Sisters versus Elders

Sisters vs Elders

I developed the graph, “Mission Assignment by Region: Sisters versus Elders from a sample of 653 YouTube videos of young women and young men receiving their missionary calls, 316 were to young women, and 337 to young men.  The regions across the horizontal axis are the regions the Church uses with one exception.  I divided the North America region into two: the United States, and North America excluding the United States.  The vertical axis shows the percentage of missionaries going to each region.  There doesn’t appear to be much difference between were Sisters and Elders serve.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Second Negative Effect of the Vietnam War on Missionary Work

Moses 1:39.  For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. 

In, “Many Were Drafted but Few Were Called: Missionary Service During the Vietnam War,” I described how the military’s manpower needs during the Vietnam War lead to the quota system negotiated between Gordon B. Hinckley and General Lewis Hershey.  Each ward or branch was allowed one deferment to call one missionary every six months and an unused deferment could be allocated to another ward or branch within the same stake or district.  The quota system allowed the Church to maintain its missionary program but restrained growth in missionary numbers.  The war had a second negative impact on missionary work: some young men submitting missionary applications were more interested in the deferment than preaching the gospel.  Their missionary effort was in some cases less than optimal.   

What follows are suppositions based on my interpretation of Moses 1: 39, that the Lord attempts to maximize the number people gaining eternal life and that bishops and branch presidents considered this objective when allocating the deferment to young men seeking missionary service.  A bishop or branch president’s thought process on deciding who would serve missions depended on the nature of his unit.  In units with few draft eligible men, the quota was non-binding, it did not limit missionary service, nor did it necessarily weed out young men applying to serve missions only to avoid being drafted.  What would a Vietnam era bishop or branch president do if he realized that a young man was asking to serve a mission under false pretenses?  Saving him from military service would force another young man, probably not LDS to serve in his place.  Would he recommend the young man for missionary service hoping that he would gain a testimony, suggest a student deferment, or say that there was nothing I could do?  I would certainly seek inspiration through prayer. 

Other wards would have many draft eligible young men and the quota would force bishops and an occasional branch president to decide which young men most deserved the deferment.  Mark Brown brilliantly described the difficulty of choosing between worthy young me in “You Make the Call: Missionary Draft Deferrals.”  The decision might be even more difficult.  Might the Spirit whisper to allow a less worthy young man serve a mission because it would be his only chance of salvation?  Would a worthy young man withstand the physical, emotional and spiritual deprivations of war better than a young man only concerned with avoiding military service?  Might worthy soldiers perform a great missionary work?  I would not have considered these questions before reading “A Latter-day Saint Servicemen’s Response to Their Church Leaders’ Counsel During the Vietnam War.” by Mary Jane Woodger and “The Church’s Years in Vietnam,” by R. Lanier  Britsch and Richard C. Holloman, Jr. 

Church units ranged between those with excess allotment and those with insufficient for worthy young men. As I argued in “Many Were Drafted but Few Were Called: Missionary Service During the Vietnam War,” the war induced missionary quota was binding.  As noted in my posted cited above, missionary numbers grew faster prior to and following the Vietnam War when there was no need for a deferment. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Update from YouTube Data on Missionary Applications Including March 2013

2013 March YouTube Callings

This post updates my initial findings on missionary calls using to track changes in the size and composition of the missionary force caused by President Monson’s October 2012 announcement that the Church was changing the age requirements for missionary service. Church announcements on the response to the age change provide a check on my data, which, with a couple of exceptions, performs well. On October 22, 2012, the Church announced that missionary applications had increased 471% and that half the calls were to women. On January 7, 2013, the Church reported that missionary applications were running at about twice the normal rate of 700 per week and that approximately half the applications were from men and the other half from women. More recently, on March 27, the Church announced that applications were still running at about twice the previous rate since January 1, and that 57% of the calls were to men, 35% to women, and 7% to couples. My data does not include couples. They do not post videos of calls as readily as young men and women.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Many Were Drafted but Few Were Called: Missionary Service During the Vietnam War

In a previous post (here), I looked at the number of missionaries called during WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam War to build evidence for my hypothesis that the Iraq War was a factor contributing to the decline in missionaries called from 2003 to 2008,   The decline in the numbers of missionaries called during WWII and the Korean War as well as statements from church leaders provide some support for the hypothesis but the cause is direct, the draft reduced the number of men available for missions.  The evidence provided by the Vietnam War is not as conclusive as that provided by the earlier wars (See graph.  Periods of peace are shown in blue, and war, in red).  The number of missionaries set apart jumped at the outset of the war in 1965 but grew slowly until the draft ended in 1973.  The explanation for the difference between the impact of the draft on missionary numbers between the Korean and Vietnam Wars lies in the implementation of a quota system that allowed missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to take advantage of IV-D deferment for ministers and divinity students.