The challenge to be baptized

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Gerald
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The challenge to be baptized

Post by Gerald » 31 Jul 2019, 06:10

I generally try to steer away from criticism of our Church leaders. I don't personally find it productive but I understand the frustration that others on this board describe from time to time. I must say I did feel a bit of that frustration upon reading this:
https://www.thechurchnews.com/leaders-a ... inar-50222

Specifically, this part (text bolded by me):
Some missionaries have felt pressure to invite people to be baptized during the first lesson or even the first contact. “These missionaries have felt that inviting people to be baptized the very first time they meet them demonstrated the missionaries’ faith and supports their thinking that inviting people to be baptized early is what is expected,” he said. “Other missionaries have felt that an invitation to be baptized early allowed them to promptly separate the wheat from the tares. In this case, some see the baptismal invitation as a sifting tool.”

Church leaders don’t know where these practices began, but “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,” said President Ballard. “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.”
When I was on my mission back in the late 80's, the discussions we used instructed us to challenge the investigator to baptism on the second discussion. In fact, we were supposed to try and set a baptismal date at that point (this was laid out very specifically in the discussion). Now, to be fair, it didn't happen in the first discussion but it happened very early on and I was always very uncomfortable pushing our investigators towards baptism so early in the process. So it doesn't surprise me that some missionaries (in their misplaced zeal) would challenge investigators even earlier than that. I recognize that the missionary discussions have changed a great deal since my time but it does seem just a trifle disingenuous of Elder Ballard to say "Church leaders don't know where these practices began..." when they only have to look at the discussions themselves to answer the question.

Okay....mini rant over.
So through the dusk of dead, blank-legended And unremunerative years we search to get where life begins, and still we groan because we do not find the living spark where no spark ever was; and thus we die, still searching, like poor old astronomers who totter off to bed and go to sleep, to dream of untriangulated stars.
---Edwin Arlington Robinson---

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nibbler
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Re: The challenge to be baptized

Post by nibbler » 31 Jul 2019, 07:52

The very first discussion talked about, "The Holy Ghost: A Witness of the Truth" in principle 6. The following appears in that section:
You Can Be Baptized
As the Lord answers your prayers and you feel that this message is true, we hope you will want to follow Christ by being baptized.

Invite: As prompted by the Spirit, you could now invite the investigators to be baptized. (See the "Invitation to Be Baptized" in the instruction booklet.)
It's worth pointing out that both Elder Ballard and the discussion give the qualifier that the invitation should come at the prompting from the HG.

Where I take issue is that Ballard focuses mostly on the missionaries and what he feels they've been doing incorrectly but of church leaders he says, "Church leaders don't know where these practices began...", which implies an absolution of responsibility, "Look, we didn't start this." The issue is that many missionaries (dare I say an overwhelming majority) were trained by leaders to do exactly that. Pressure was placed on missionaries from leaders to hit numbers and meet goals.

What does it mean to be a leader? In my opinion it means taking responsibility, even in cases where you may feel it's unfair.

Elder Ballard could have said, "In the past we've pressured our missionaries to invite people to be baptized during the first lesson or even the first contact. We all need to be more diligent in training our missionaries so they do not feel pressure or any obligation to do this." Or maybe an even more passive, "In the past missionaries have felt pressure to invite people to be baptized during the first lesson or even the first contact. We all need to be more diligent in training our missionaries so they do not feel pressure or any obligation to do this." But instead we get a few statements about what missionaries are doing wrong and another statement that distances leaders from the wrong practices.

Own it. We did this. Let's get better.

Benefit of the doubt, maybe Elder Ballard is doing exactly that. It could be a simple "This is what's going on. We don't know where this started but this isn't what we want. Let's do different." but the juxtaposition with the other statements is perhaps conveying an unintended message.

Benefit of the doubt... there must be a way to change course without throwing anyone under a bus - leaders or missionaries.
If one dream dies, dream another dream. If you get knocked down, get back up and go again.
― Joel Osteen

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nibbler
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Re: The challenge to be baptized

Post by nibbler » 31 Jul 2019, 08:12

A different take:
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 wholeheartedly agree but I don't think the pressure missionaries apply to people to get baptized is limited to when an invitation is first extended. Sometimes the pressure really ramps up late into the missionary discussions.

I was a WML for a few years post FC. One thing I will say is that 95% of the missionaries that came through our ward were absolutely amazing. We did have a few come through that would apply lots of pressure on investigators to be baptized.

I remember one investigator in particular. It was pretty clear that they weren't interested in being baptized but the missionary applied lots of pressure and over time the investigator relented and got baptized. A week or two after the baptism the person stopped coming to church and they never came to church again, despite lots and lots of effort on the part of the members.

I could see the writing on the wall, but I also knew if I raised a flag I'd be the evil WML that's getting in the way of someone's salvation. My only option was to let nature take its course.

I don't blame the missionary. We believe that people's salvation hangs in the balance. We're desperate for people to join the church. That desperation sometimes makes us pull out all the stops, by hook or by crook.

I don't think that kind of pressure will go away until missionaries and leaders at all levels alike have the attitude that it's okay if people don't get baptized. I also think that pressure won't go away until we take some of the pressure off our missionaries to hit metrics and meet baptismal goals. I remember my mission. I remember my time as a ward missionary. Mission goals are often "out there" and unreasonable. That generates pressure, pressure that gets passed down the line.
If one dream dies, dream another dream. If you get knocked down, get back up and go again.
― Joel Osteen

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DarkJedi
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Re: The challenge to be baptized

Post by DarkJedi » 31 Jul 2019, 09:42

I caught that statement as well. My experience was very similar to yours Gerald. The challenge to be baptized was part of the script in the second discussion. We also had additional scripts ("baptismal challenges") for the more reluctant or those we had been teaching for a long time.

Anyway, I was also bothered by the statement
"Church leaders don’t know where these practices began, but “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,”


In my era I did know guys who served in some other areas where "doorstep baptism challenges" were given and people were baptized almost immediately without even attending church. In some ways I really like Elder Ballard, I think he gets the atonement and what that's all about. But in things like this he can bug the heck out of me - how could he have not known this? The truth is I think he did/does know and is trying to deny it it, sort of in the same vein as "the information about Joseph Smith was always freely available, you just had to look." Yeah, you just had to look in the locked vault or happen to have seen the one Ensign article about it published in 30 years. Interestingly I was just having a conversation about people in my ward who were baptized simply to increase mission numbers and who have never been active. Church leaders know just as much about how this began as everybody else who has half a brain knows - it came from them and not very long ago. As was stated, they need to just own up and say "OK, looking back we recognize this was the wrong approach and now we're going to do it better" and move on. [end of rant]
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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Roy
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Re: The challenge to be baptized

Post by Roy » 31 Jul 2019, 11:26

The Jehovah's Witnesses have a much more involved process to become a member. I think they ask you to study for a year. There are advantages and disadvantages to a much longer conversion process. Given our set up of how we do missions and transfers, if we followed the year guideline then missionaries would almost never baptize those they "find".

I generally observe that LDS leaders at high levels are reluctant to admit to making mistakes of consequence because the faith of some is built upon the assertion that LDS leaders at high levels do not make mistakes of consequence. "Follow the prophet, He knows the way" for some people never develops into anything more nuanced.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Cadence
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Re: The challenge to be baptized

Post by Cadence » 31 Jul 2019, 20:04

Really they don’t know where the idea came from. That I find hard to believe.


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Heber13
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Re: The challenge to be baptized

Post by Heber13 » 03 Aug 2019, 21:50

If missionaries have no goals, they might get lazy and do nothing.

If missionaries focus too much on goals instead of people, they will pressure others and push too much and miss the mark.

It hasn't always been done right.

But I am guessing God doesn't care too much.

I probably pressured some people too much as a missionary and probably blessed some people by inviting them from the first discussion on. I did a lot of that. I baptized more than average on my mission because of it. I was an AP and tried to do all I could to help other missionaries make the most of their 2 years, but always focus on love for people...even if it was ignorant love at the time. It was the best I knew how to do.

There is no one way, or perfect way. Mistakes are made as we muddle through it and gain experience from it.

Those who were pressured will be ok.
Those who were not pressured and didn't get baptized will be ok.

God will make all things ok in the end. Despite the imperfect efforts of mortals to do the best they can.

Missionary work is a labor of love. Missionaries mean well. Even if ignorant.
Luke: "Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father."
Obi-Wan: "Your father... was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view."
Luke: "A certain point of view?"
Obi-Wan: "Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to...depend greatly on our point of view."

Roy
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Re: The challenge to be baptized

Post by Roy » 04 Aug 2019, 17:25

Heber13 wrote:
03 Aug 2019, 21:50
There is no one way, or perfect way. Mistakes are made as we muddle through it and gain experience from it.

Those who were pressured will be ok.
Those who were not pressured and didn't get baptized will be ok.

God will make all things ok in the end. Despite the imperfect efforts of mortals to do the best they can.

Missionary work is a labor of love. Missionaries mean well. Even if ignorant.
... also church administration is a labor of love. Church leaders mean well. Even if ignorant (not saying that they are especially ignorant - just that they have blind spots - as do we all).

Sometimes church leaders realize that how things happened in the past is not how they want them to happen going forward. They desire to make changes but do not wish to throw and previous church leaders "under the bus." So then they can make statements that obfuscate the known origins of a particular policy or cultural norm. This can be church leaders trying to avoid passing around blame or pointing fingers. It can be frustrating. At least in this instance the church leaders have seen a better way and are making efforts to move in that direction - even without full transparency and mia culpa.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Gerald
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Re: The challenge to be baptized

Post by Gerald » 05 Aug 2019, 06:04

Sometimes church leaders realize that how things happened in the past is not how they want them to happen going forward. They desire to make changes but do not wish to throw and previous church leaders "under the bus." So then they can make statements that obfuscate the known origins of a particular policy or cultural norm. This can be church leaders trying to avoid passing around blame or pointing fingers. It can be frustrating. At least in this instance the church leaders have seen a better way and are making efforts to move in that direction - even without full transparency and mia culpa.
That's a good point. It's probably best not to get too caught up in "blaming" but rather focus on "changing."
So through the dusk of dead, blank-legended And unremunerative years we search to get where life begins, and still we groan because we do not find the living spark where no spark ever was; and thus we die, still searching, like poor old astronomers who totter off to bed and go to sleep, to dream of untriangulated stars.
---Edwin Arlington Robinson---

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DarkJedi
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Re: The challenge to be baptized

Post by DarkJedi » 05 Aug 2019, 06:27

Roy wrote:
04 Aug 2019, 17:25
Heber13 wrote:
03 Aug 2019, 21:50
There is no one way, or perfect way. Mistakes are made as we muddle through it and gain experience from it.

Those who were pressured will be ok.
Those who were not pressured and didn't get baptized will be ok.

God will make all things ok in the end. Despite the imperfect efforts of mortals to do the best they can.

Missionary work is a labor of love. Missionaries mean well. Even if ignorant.
... also church administration is a labor of love. Church leaders mean well. Even if ignorant (not saying that they are especially ignorant - just that they have blind spots - as do we all).

Sometimes church leaders realize that how things happened in the past is not how they want them to happen going forward. They desire to make changes but do not wish to throw and previous church leaders "under the bus." So then they can make statements that obfuscate the known origins of a particular policy or cultural norm. This can be church leaders trying to avoid passing around blame or pointing fingers. It can be frustrating. At least in this instance the church leaders have seen a better way and are making efforts to move in that direction - even without full transparency and mia culpa.
I just finished my first read through of The Next Mormons, How Millennials are Changing the LDS Church by Jana Riess. One of the things addressed in the survey and book is trust of church leadership. I think most of us here know what that means because a good chunk of us have experienced times when we believe church leaders and members were not completely honest with us, leading to a feeling of betrayal and often being a component of individual faith crisis. Such feelings were part of my own FC. The overall number three reason* for leaving the church was "I do not trust the Church leadership to tell the truth surrounding controversial or historical issues" (see table page 224). But for Millennials, trust was tied for first (along with feeling judged or misunderstood) among reasons they left (see table page 225).

I agree Roy, I don't think the top leadership is generally malicious in hiding the truth or making statements like Ballard's. But when it comes to trust, it is hard to put stock in people you know have lied, are lying, and will lie, even if some see it as doing so for a more noble purpose.

*The top 2 reasons for leaving were "couldn't reconcile personal values and priorities with those of the church" and "stopped believing there was one true church." For baby boomers and the silent generation (basically those born through 1964) the top three were in that order as well as being overall first through third.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

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