Friday, August 9, 2013

Seminary Enrollment and Missionary Service

At the end of my previous post (“Recession and Missionary Service”), I set an agenda for developing a supply function for missionaries.  I say supply function, but a supply function for labor involves a wage.  The earthly wage is negative, and the eternal wage is…difficult to quantify.  One point of the agenda was to find a demographic variable that would track “potential” missionaries.  I would have preferred the number of 19 year-olds by year, but I ended up with seminary enrollment.   It seems to do the job.  As I have done in previous posts, I report the data in two graphs which divide the time period spanning 1928 and 2010.  The number of missionaries set apart by year is shown as a blue and red line, the blue representing periods of peace, and the red, war.  The green line represents the number of students enrolled in seminary divided by 10.  I made the mathematical adjustment to highlight how the two lines moved together.  Between 1928 and 1960, when the minimum missionary age was set at 21 for young men and 23 for young women, the seminary variable was lagged two years.  When the age requirement was reduced in 1960, the lag was changed to one year.  That produced an extra year of seminary students and that year was divided between 1960, 1961 and 1962.  Recessions are shown as gray rectangles.   


The first graph, “Missionaries Set Apart, War, Recession and Demographics: 1929-1961,” visible shows the correlation between the number of missionaries set apart and the number of seminary students the population from which many missionaries come.  The impact of the Great Depression (1929-1933) is clearly visible as the number of seminary students rise but the number of missionaries fall as is the impact of both WWII and the Korean War.  The dramatic increase in missionary numbers from 1953 to 1954 was due to the institution of a quota system that allowed one missionary per ward to serve a mission prior, postponing eligibility for the draft.  The last notable event was the policy change announced on July 21, 1960 that reduced the age of missionary service.  This new policy significantly increased the number of missionary serving by increasing the number of young men and women available.


Even more than the first graph, the second, “Missionaries Set Apart, War, Recession and Demographics: 1962-2010,” shows the visible relationship between the number of seminary students, now lagged one year rather than two, and the missionaries set apart.  A comparison with past versions of this graph reflect small changes from 1990 forward.  This is due to a correction in my database.  The Vietnam War seems to have slowed the growth in missionaries as did the Gulf War and the Iraq War.  Raising worthiness standards coincided with the Iraq War and may also have lowered missionary numbers.


Two new graphs highlight the relationship between the number of missionaries set apart, the enrollment in seminary and other events.  The blue and red segmented line now represents the number of students enrolled in seminary divided by the number of missionaries set apart.  As the line increases, fewer available youth are serving missions, and as it decrease, more are serving.  Recessions and policy events are pictured as before.  The impact of the Great Depression, WWII and the Korean War appear starkly, other events, less so. 


All three wars depicted in the second graph seemed to impact the ratio of seminary students to missionaries set apart.  In all three instances, the ratio increased, but of the three, the Vietnam War had the greatest impact.  The impact of recession is unclear.  Only one policy change, raising the bar, appears to have influences young men and young women but the change coincided with the start of the War in Iraq. 

While contemplating my new graphic creation, I realized another previously unidentified event may have influenced young men making a decision on missionary service.  In April 1974, Priesthood Session Conference talk said,

The question has been often asked, Is the mission program one of compulsion? And the answer, of course, is no. Everyone is given his free agency. The question is asked: Should every young man fill a mission? And the answer of the Church is yes, and the answer of the Lord is yes. Enlarging this answer we say: Certainly every male member of the Church should fill a mission, like he should pay his tithing, like he should attend his meetings, like he should keep his life clean and free from the ugliness of the world and plan a celestial marriage in the temple of the Lord.

As a young man I considered this statement by the man who was then serving as God’s prophet on earth.  I initially did not want to serve, but the ringing call of the prophet stirred my soul.  I prayed over his words and my desire to serve rose.  My decision the best that I had made to that date and one of the best I have made in my life. 

A more sophisticated econometric analysis is needed to both quantify and place statistical significance to events.  As a glimpse into future research, I ran some regressions.  Seminary enrollment had a great deal of explanatory power.  War had some.  I tried GDP as a proxy for recessions figuring that if bad times caused a reduction in missionary numbers, good times should increase missionary service.  The variable was not economically significant.  I am still hoping to find an adequate recession variable. 

Major Announcements on Missionary Service

19 January 1937 – Length of service: Elders in English-speaking missions serve for two years; Elders in foreign-speaking lands for two and a half years; Sisters for eighteen to twenty-two months

21 September 1948 – Age limits: temporary exception for the age of lady missionaries is to be twenty-one years (the preferred age was twenty-three years).

27 September 1950 – Age limits: men should be twenty years of age unless they have two years of college or military service, in which event the age required is waived.

15 June 1960 – Moral worthiness stressed

28 June 1960 – Age limits: young men may be nineteen if he has completed two years of college or one year of college with six months military service. Lady missionaries may be twenty-one years of age (for office duty). Length of service: older couples may stay as long as two years; however, they are called initially for only six months.

21 July and 26 August 1960 – Age limits: young men may be nineteen even though they do not meet previous educational and military qualifications.

13 November 1973 – Age limits: recommendations may be made for local young men in foreign countries to serve at the age of eighteen.

April 1974 – President Spencer W, Kimball declares that every worthy young man should serve a mission.

27 April 1982 – Length of service: young men will serve for eighteen months.

26 November 1984 – Length of service: young men will serve for twenty-four months.

20 November 1990 – Equalize cost for missionaries called from US or Canada to be effective 1 January 1991.

8 February 1991 – Equalize cost for missionaries called from areas outside the US and Canada to be effective 1 March 1991.

6 October 2002 – Worthiness standards for missionaries raised.

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