Zelophehad’s Daughters

Missions, Numbers, and Lying

Posted by Eve

On a thread last year at BCC entitled Coming Clean, Mark Brown daringly confessed to the entire Bloggernacle that he invented his mission numbers reports. His bold revelation transported me straight back to a dark, sweltering night in the dark, sweltering center of my mission. I had recently become senior companion, and while my first couple of ZLs had accepted our numbers as representative of our best efforts and delivered encouragement rather than condemnation, our new ZL, who had just ascended from junior companion with a death grip on his own personal scepter of self-righteousness, was subjecting us to the first real numbers pressure I’d ever experienced. The Sunday-night ritual of calling numbers in was becoming distinctly unpleasant; the ZL was constantly critical of the weekly results we had to report, unwittingly heaping discouragement on me during what was already, for me, a very difficult time, one of the lowest of my mission.

After I got off the phone from one particularly disagreeable conversation, my companion told me that when she had been in the MTC a returned-missionary gym teacher had confessed, in a private conversation, to finally having given up and having started filling out false number reports. In the second-hand account I got of the gym teacher’s decision process, she had said something like this: Maybe it was dishonest, but it got mission leadership off of our backs and allowed us to get on with the work.

I was certainly then in a position to understand the blessed relief that might accompany telling people exactly what they wanted to hear. But I can’t remember that my companion and I discussed it much further. We never falsified our reports, and to judge from the  censure our ZL continued to deliver, our numbers remained unacceptable. But in missions as in life all things pass.

I never heard of anyone falsifying reports in my mission (which doesn’t mean anything; I’ve never been very good at tapping organizational grapevines), but I’ve been surprised at how many such accounts I’ve heard since. Those of you who served missions, what was your experience in this regard? Did you ever falsify reports? If so, did you feel guilty about it? Did you see others falsify them? What was your view of it then? What’s your view of it now?

75 Responses to “Missions, Numbers, and Lying”

  1. 1.

    My mission president was very into numbers. As a ZL myself, when I would call to give the zone’s numbers I would get major pressure from the APs to increase numbers, and once the Prez himself got on the phone to yell at me after a week of zone-wide sickness. Falsifying numbers was fairly widespread, and I falsified my own numbers for several weeks in an area where discussions were hard to come by toward the end of the mission. Several years before I got there it was not uncommon for companionships to visit graveyards to collect names to submit on baptism forms. The mission president at the time was released when it came out. We spent a lot of time cleaning up branch membership records removing ‘graveyard baptisms’. This was northeastern Brazil, 2002-2004.

  2. 2.

    I always made a good faith effort at accuracy, but after many exaggerations by one companion, I did find it necessary to quote Mosiah 14:1–

    Yea, even doth not Isaiah say: Who hath believed our report…?

  3. 3.

    We had serious number pressure in my mission, and in one area in particular my companion and I would count any conversation where we could work in a reference to Joseph Smith or the first vision as a first discussion. Number inflation, yes, but it kept mission leadership from hounding us.

  4. 4.

    When I was in the mission office as secretary, my mission president lied on his numbers in order to help get a stake created. It is important to remember that psychological pressures to seem successful exist at other levels too, specifically in Western Europe in 1989-90. I was honest, but have felt guilty for not measuring up for the last 20 years.

  5. 5.

    I never directly falsified numbers, but I might have been slightly generous in what I considered a first discussion.

    Frankly, I didn’t feel any direct pressure to worry about numbers. The number that they cared about most in most of my areas was the sacrament meeting attendance, particularly when I was serving as a branch president.

  6. 6.

    I served in Europe. I embellished numbers at times but not to a great extent. I mostly didn’t care if they thought I sucked as a missionary, I just didn’t want them to think I completely sucked and wasn’t trying. In my mission, without high numbers you could not climb the leadership ranks. I don’t think anyone in the mission legitimately had high numbers; if you didn’t want to inflate numbers with out and out lies, you could teach as many meaningless discussions as you wanted. One ZL decided he was going to go legit and only teach real discussions to people with some actual, sincere interest. His numbers plummeted and he was demoted and replaced the next transfer.

    All of this was without a great deal of overt pressure for numbers. Things had been much, much worse under a mission president who left before I arrived. Horror stories had been passed along; I had room to doubt until I came across old baptismal records and found evidence of the rumored bribery baptisms– bribing kids with candy and so forth. Record books full of child baptisms, some of them under the age of accountability, five and six year old kids.

    I really enjoyed my mission but I know many who didn’t. The focus on obedience, outward appearances over actual substance and growth seems to have gotten worse. The missionary program has become kind of joke, really. It’s one of those gross things that I laugh about because I don’t know how else to respond.

  7. 7.

    I spent my entire mission as a junior companion for precisely this reason. For some of my mission, DLs called to get reports three times a week. For the rest of the time, they did it every day. The one time I tried being senior, it was a report every day period, and I had a DL who berated me every night for not having better numbers. After a week or two, I quit and asked my mission president to never make me do that again.

    I really enjoyed parts of my mission, but the whole stat-mongering numbers-for-their-own-sake part was truly horrible. And if I ever meet this district leader again, I will do well to not spit in his face. With my luck, he’ll end up being my bishop sometime.

  8. 8.

    i had my ZL once tell me that i better have better numbers next week because the AP’s were going to yell at him. i could have cared less. my companion at the time was having some health issues, and i spent about 3 weeks only working about 20 hours a week. if we were lucky. i never lied, and it never occurred to me to lie. i also had a ZL that wouldn’t take our stats from me because i was the jr companion. i had the paper in my hand.

    i am not surprised that some lied. my mission (europe) did not have high levels of teaching pools or of baptisms. it was such a joke to read the missionary guide and hear how many we should have in our teaching pool……

  9. 9.

    My roommate just mentioned that in his mission (stateside) they used tricks to stay within their mile limits for cars. Apparently if you turn off the car and leave it in neutral, the odometer doesn’t increase as you drive. Of course, this often means you need to speed before turning off the car so you can coast for a while. My roommate said his best was driving downhill for 14 miles with the car off; but there were switchbacks and he was driving without power breaks and power steering. Oh the lengths people go to get those numbers.

  10. 10.

    I served in Eastern Europe in the early 90’s and there was very little pressure for numbers. I never faked numbers, nor did it come up with any of my companions. No one ever berated us or told us we needed to have better numbers. (Well, there might have been one time from a DL, but that was pretty easy for me to ignore :-) )

  11. 11.

    Oh, dear. Is it too late to salvage what is left of my reputation?

    I can only say that my exaggerated numbers were an unsuccessful attempt to inject some humor into the process of reporting, and also an attempt to battle the boredom.

    In my mission we had few discussions and fewer baptisms. I remember holding district fasts more than once, and praying that somebody in our district would teach a discussion that week. We were required to report 1)number of discussions taught, 2)number of copies of the BoM handed out, and 3)number of new investigators. For 90% of my mission those numbers werre 0,0,0. So I thought that being completely over the top and reporting more sucess than the rest of the mission combined would give somebody a chuckle and they would be grateful. Alas, it is impossible to underestimate how serious and unfunny a 20 y.o. ZL can be when he is determined to advance in the mission hierarchy.

    I did a similar thing once at church a few years ago. It was the Sunday when the ask for contributions to the boy scouts, and I thought they did a little too much arm-twisting. They laid the guilt on with a heavy hand, so after the meeting I went up and handed the scoutmaster a check made out to BSA in the amount of 50 million dollars.

  12. 12.

    Eve, by the way, the practice of inflating numbers goes beyond the mission field. I’ve been in priesthood quorums which reported outstanding home teaching statistics month after month, but nobody even knew who their hometeachers were.

  13. 13.

    I don’t recall any pressure at all for stats as far as work went, in my early ’80s European mission — as long as you were working the hours, there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between a “1” and a “3” which was about as high as any teaching number ever went anywhere in the mission.

    Where the pressure came in was with finances. In those days before standardized costs, we were told long before we went into the MTC what amount we would need to depend on in that particular mission. The figure was based on however many previous years of missionaries reporting on their weekly expenses.

    I soon found out how much importance mission presidents put on our weekly financial reports. If you spent more than he thought you should, you and your district were scolded — you must be shopping for souvenirs! You must be shopping other than on P-Day! Get your carnal mind off creature comforts and back on the Lord’s work! I can always tell by looking at financial reports whether a missionary is a good one or not!

    Trouble is, there was absolutely no way to survive on what we had been told to expect. My transportation costs exceeded all other expenses combined, and I hadn’t been warned to expect to do more than buy my ticket to the mission field and buy a bicycle; all other transportation expenses were lumped casually in with “incidental expenses” — not the $100 or more every month that it in fact cost when you were transferred as often as I was and when I always had to buy a bus/metro pass that could not be sold to the sister replacing me mid-month when I was transferred, and which was no good in the new city. Not when I had to buy train tickets for transfer cities eight hours away.

    Between rent (which was standaridzed and paid to the mission office) and transportation, I had already overspent the amount I was told to expect to spend, without buying the first bagette or postage stamp.

    I honestly don’t remember how I handled it — like so much else about my mission, I’ve blocked this out of memory. Did I consciously lie when reporting expenses? Tell the truth, with the inevitable scoldings just blending to gether into that long year of terrible abuse by a wicked mission president? “Estimate” expenses which were closer to his demands? I just don’t remember.

    But thanks for the reminder. I just checked the Social Security Death Index without finding my mission president’s name, so I guess I can’t go dance on his grave yet.

  14. 14.

    Never faked the numbers, but never got in trouble for them either. Worked like hell and burned out like hell. Wildly fluctuating numbers all the way.

    Missions are indeed like life.

  15. 15.

    The only number we reported for most of my mission was number of baptisms, which you can’t really fake. My mission president felt all other numbers where crap, and didn’t matter.

    At the end of my mission, Angel Abrea asked us to start reporting number of discussion taught as well, but my Mission President came out hard that this number was not to be used as a score card.

    I loved my mission, but it was all because of my mission president.

  16. 16.

    I didn’t ever fake numbers on weekly reporting and never felt pressured to do so. I did feel extreme guilt over not having any baptisms in the first 13 months of my mission. I remember relaying my disappointment to the mission president, and noting how the APs and ZLs were training that if we weren’t getting baptisms it was due to our own lack of faith or righteousness. The president assured me that he did not know they were teaching this and that it was incorrect. We then spent the rest of our interview making fun of various DLs and ZLs that were overly zealous.

  17. 17.

    Thanks for this post, Eve. I didn’t fake numbers, but I remember getting tremendous pressure to produce more. Also to set higher goals. If we didn’t set high enough goals (in all our number categories) we were chastized for lacking faith. Matt W., your mission president sounds like a gem. Also DonY, it must have been great to find your president wasn’t the source of the nastiness. My impression was that my mission president was very much the source of the numbers focus that was so prevalent in my mission.

    Ardis, wow, I guess I should be grateful for what I missed! I never even considered that type of numbers pressure. Also, regarding still-in-college’s comment, I heard of this happening in my mission but I don’t recall seeing it. They called it “coasting” and in hilly and less populated areas, I think, they could really get a lot more out of their miles. After a little while it started to burn the starters out on the car (or something) and the mission president got mad about it. I can certainly see his point–it was likely dangerous and perhaps borders on faking the car’s odometer numbers. On the other hand, at least in some areas I knew of, it seemed like a pretty creative solution to an impossible problem. Companionships would have to cover huge areas with several little towns and no transportation between them. Sure, they could bike, but that would mean they would spend half of their day or more just in transporting themselves around. With the mile allotments they were given, though, it just wasn’t possible to proselyte in more than the town they lived in.

  18. 18.

    I didn’t falsify or lie about anything, but I took liberties with my visiting teaching reports. Like, if there was a lady on my records who didn’t actually live in our ward anymore, but it still counted against us if we said we didn’t visit her, I counted her as visited. I figured if it was possible, we would have.

    I came to this conclusion after I realized it didn’t really matter all that much.

  19. 19.

    Every week we phoned in our weekly statistics to the district leader who compiled them and sent them up the line. But there was no uniformity in how the numbers were to be counted. For example, we were supposed to report the number of investigators, broken down by families and individuals. Seems simple enough. But consider if you were teaching a family of three as well as one single person. Some would count that as one family and one individual. Others would count one family and three individuals, or one family and four individuals, or two families and one individual, or two families and four individuals. Every time I got a new companion or a new district leader, I was told that I was counting wrong and that his way was straight from the mission president. One person even told me that a single parent with children or a couple without children didn’t count as a family. Missionaries differed about whether you were supposed to count children under 8. No doubt the mission office was making wise decisions based on these numbers, but the numbers obviously had no value whatever. I finally gave up worrying about it and reported it how I was told until someone told me to do it differently.

    Then there was the question of “scheduled baptism.” To me, the absolute minimum to call a baptism “scheduled” would be that the person has at least agreed to be baptized. However, missionaries routinely reported a scheduled baptism if they had challenged a person to be baptized on a particular date and did not get an absolute firm refusal. I was always assured by missionaries that this was the standard criterion, but the mission president always wondered why so many “scheduled baptisms” were falling through.

    This doesn’t really have anything to do with statistics, but it did come to mind. In my mission, each pair of missionaries was responsible for buying scriptures to distribute to investigators. A Book of Mormon was $1 paperback and $1.25 hardcover. I think a Doctrine and Covenants/Pearl of Great Price was $1.25. It was possible that one might get transferred immediately after buying books, and then go to an apartment that needed to be restocked. However, nobody much worried about it because it was equally likely that you would get transferred from an apartment that was nearly depleted to one that had just been restocked with scriptures.

    A few months before I went home, my companion was transferred. He insisted that I needed to buy out his half-share of the books in the apartment, and that he would pay half for the books in his new apartment, and I would charge my new companion for half of the books we had. He seemed incredulous that i had never heard of this and insisted that it was SOP. I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle and just gave him the money. I couldn’t bring myself to ask my new companion for any money, however.

  20. 20.

    Great idea for a post, Eve.

    I learned how to lie on my mission.

    My trainer blatantly falsified numbers and acted like it was no big deal, everyone did it.

    My second companion had a moral streak and refused to falsify, leading to lower than allowed numbers. It was instructive to see all the crap we had to put up with because of that practice. And I got the distinct impression, from the MP on down, that they were gently trying to get that elder to get with the program and just go ahead and falsify his numbers like everyone else. I didn’t detect much concern for the reality of the numbers, but solely for their magnitude. No one really cared if he pulled them out of his butt.

    So I figured out that my trainer had trained me well, and my second companion was a chump.

    Of course, I was a junior my whole mission until my last area, so I wasn’t responsible for actually turning in the numbers. But I readily went along with the fabricated versions my seniors would turn in.

    We used to have a saying that “you need to sear your conscience as with a hot iron.” Doing that was how I survived my mission.

    I hate numbers and statistics in the church context to this very day.

  21. 21.

    I don’t remember ever giving fake numbers, and I’m not aware of anybody else in my mission doing so either (although I don’t have any idea how I would know–so at least nobody ever told me they were faking their numbers).

    I also don’t ever remember being berated, either personally, in a district, or in a zone, for low numbers. There certainly was some emphasis on numbers, but at its most insidious, I believe it was more like, Look at this zone/district/companionship. They’re doing great, and they’re doing it like this:

    “Like this” was almost always some program that may or may not have been effective, but at least it was positive, not negative.

  22. 22.

    I closest I got to falsifying numbers was that early in my mission some of us would count every individual investigator who attended a discussion as one discussion taught, so if, say, 10 people were in and out of the room, we would count 10 discussions, even if only one or two people were really participating. The president cracked down on this practice, and clarified one discussion session is one discussion, no matter how many people listen in.

    Though I know of no blatant falsification of numbers, there always was more pressure to baptize than I was comfortable with. Pretty riduculous sometimes. Once I had a baptism scheduled for July 26th, and it got delayed for some reason. I was chastised for not baptising at all that month. The same person was baptised on August 1st, and I was praised for baptising someone already that month.

    I was a DL for nearly half my mission, and I don’t think I ever pressured my people, but it was no surprise (and a great relief) I was never made a ZL.

  23. 23.

    I never personally falsified numbers, but I was aware of it happening in my mission. The biggest was on the mileage reports. People would borrow miles from other companionships (which wasn’t too bad, I suppose), or from other months, like if they were short one month, they would just borrow it from the next month. My trainer just made up numbers to put on the mileage report. (She got sent home, but to my knowledge, the falsified mileage reports had nothing to do with that.)

    The weekly stats were pretty useless because there was no standardized definition of what counted as a discussion, etc. A few months before I went home, we switched from the colored discussion pamphlets to Preach My Gospel, and the reporting system changed. We were still getting conflicting information on what counted as what. I remember getting into an argument with my district leader about stats once, but I don’t remember what the argument was about.

  24. 24.

    Some missionaries made up their numbers. When MPs, ZLs, and DLs apply constant pressure on statistics, some missionaries cope by lying. A music tape passed around my mission made by a former missionary included a song he wrote entitled “Smokin’ on the Stat Sheet” (fabricating statistics) (sung to the tune of “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”).

  25. 25.

    I wanted to add one more thought. In Indiana, where I joined the church, I distinctly remember the missionaries who taught me (Zone Leaders) talking to me about who they didn’t like doing numbers and how I was not a number to them. At the time, it didn’t mean much to me, but now it does.

  26. 26.

    Kevin Barney said:
    “I learned how to lie on my mission.”

    Haha – yeah I basically learned how to lie on my mission too. I never really felt guilty about it – I figured if its statistics and obedience they so desperately want – they can have them – on paper.

    I guess we figured what the mission president doesn’t know is good for his health – lol. Then again, my mission was in Colorado where two missionaries were accused of vandalizing a catholic shrine (they didn’t vandalize it, just took disrespectful pictures) a year or two ago. I knew the missionaries involved – they were in my district at one point (really cool guys) – so maybe this just says something about my mission.

  27. 27.

    Matt W., oh for the days when I was in a position to believe that baptismal numbers couldn’t be faked. No, sir; they’re faked, particularly in high-baptism missions. In places where each companionship is expected to have at least a few baptisms a month, fakes happen. During my mission, we went through a process of cleaning the church roles, and lots (hundreds) of fake members were discovered. My personal favorites were “la familia Chivo,” the goat family, which turned out to be actual goats. But a baptismal record existed.

    Friends who served in Chile during the go-go baptism period there, and in a few other relatively high-numbers missions, have confirmed that this happened pretty often in those areas as well. If there are lots of baptisms, then nobody — not the mission hierarchy, not the local leadership — is really going to notice a few inexplicable records. All it takes is collusion between the missionaries and their district leader…

  28. 28.

    Some lies just don’t matter.

  29. 29.

    I asked my husband about his mission. He said he didn’t notice, or remember being under lots of pressure for high numbers of baptisms, or anyone falsifying numbers. That said he is incredibly good at just ignoring and then forgetting things that are a load of rubbish- so someone pressuring him to provide things that are, assuming free agency, out of his control would just roll off his back.

    He did share rumors he had heard about some elders that went swimming with investigators and called that a baptism.

  30. 30.

    We only reported numbers to district and zone leaders weekly for a few months on my mission, and the emphasis was mainly on getting 25 new contacts daily, which was not a problem on most days, but if you ever had a day full of teaching was very difficult. I lied several times about that number, though the pressure wasn’t too great, so I really had no need to and shouldn’t have done it. Alas

  31. 31.

    Why don’t they work with members who have left the church, due to unrighteous dominion and unequitable treatment. The focus on seeking out new members is primary, but they could address problems in the church if they developed oversight committees, and gave individual members rights to be treated with equality and if they developed a due process system based on best practices, rather than just let whoever was in charge of the ward and the stake, “wing” it and then justify their actions as allowed because “this is not the legal system, this is not the academic system, this is religion.”
    The poor reputation of the church in our area is due to their treatment of their women in the church, and not due to lack of contacts with prospects. Fix what is wrong and the retention of those who are inactive for a reason will increase. Ignore it, and the success of new prospects will decrease. It shoudn’t be a “take it or leave it” response when leaders commit unrighteous dominion to members in their congregation. Members should be able to change wards at will and have their tithing and contributions given to those wards and stakes that are more just and fairer in their treatment of individual members. Tithing should not depend on the geographic address of where the members live.
    Thank you for letting me add to this conversation, as my experience with my local stake has been enlightening on how stake presidents and bishops are allowed to embellish processes in the church, to the point that they are unrecognizable to those members who can compare treatment of individuals with other stakes, and with other organizations.
    It is a sad experience and I will not return until our church addresses its abuse of process and abuse of women in their organization. A good start would be to allow women to pay tithing under their own name. Another good move would be to allow women to schedule an appointment with their bishop or stake president and attend that meeting rather than requiring that their husband schedule the appointment and the husband attend the meeting with them in order to allow the meeting to occur, when unrighteous dominion has occurred.

  32. 32.

    It is a sad experience and I will not return until our church addresses its abuse of process and abuse of women in their organization. A good start would be to allow women to pay tithing under their own name. Another good move would be to allow women to schedule an appointment with their bishop or stake president and attend that meeting rather than requiring that their husband schedule the appointment and the husband attend the meeting with them in order to allow the meeting to occur, when unrighteous dominion has occurred.

    Jo, I’m not sure whether it is my ward or yours which is spinning out of control, but in our ward you can pay your tithing under any name you want (if it is attached to the correct membership number—heck, you can even pay your tithing anonymously or directly to church headquarters, if you want). You can also make an appointment with the bishop confidentially even, without the need of intermediaries or chaperones, husbands or servants. Move on over here, we’d be glad to have you.

  33. 33.

    Dang straight. I pay my own tithing, thank you very much. And if the stake president said he needed to hear from my husband, I’d pitch a fit.

    Although, this is true, in my stake, women aren’t allowed to give the opening prayer in sacrament. They treat women like they’re unclean.

  34. 34.

    Jo,

    Jim is correct. I know that any woman can schedule an appointment with the Bishop for themselves and pay their tithing for themselves. If this is the case in the ward/area where you live, there is definitely some unrighteous dominion going on.

  35. 35.

    Whenever it’s my turn to conduct in Sacrament Meeting, I have a woman give the opening prayer about half the time. I also give husband/wife speakers the option to have the husband go first. I don’t mean any disrespect; it just seems like one of those things that just doesn’t matter that much.

    Serving in Europe from 1998 – 2000, we reported the numbers like they really were. I had two good mission presidents, and the second emphasized focusing on the things that really mattered, taking a break if things got stressful (he suggested listening to Bach), developing real relationships with the members and the community, and keeping us in our areas for at least a year. My mission was still hard, but I think he was on to something.

  36. 36.

    We were also in a mission where numbers were low, period. Falsifying them would have been a waste of energy, because no one really expected high numbers.

    In fact, I remember our wonderful mission president addressing us after he had just returned from a mission presidents seminar in the States. And he literally teared up while expressing his own frustration at how our mission just couldn’t ever live up to the numbers pressure he was feeling. He was a good man, and I thank God that he didn’t pressure us to conflate the numbers.

  37. 37.

    I served as Jr, Sr, DL, and ZL in Argentina 1971-3 and never heard about falsifying numbers. One missionary in our zone submitted “0” in every box every week to protest the collection of numbers.
    .
    ON the other hand, I have asked when I had been home taught following announcements in Priesthood meetings that our quorum/ward had achieved 100%.

  38. 38.

    I served in the Buenos Aires West Mission, 99-01, and I don’t recall anyone falsifying their stats. Could’ve happened, but not that I knew of. Numbers were a means to an end, and were generally treated as such.

    I don’t know if this quote is from President Monson or President Packer (I’ve found sources on the internet for both), but regardless, I’ve found the principle to be true, both in and out of the Church:

    “Where performance is measured, performance improves. Where performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.”

    The system of reporting numbers and percentages isn’t perfect – as this post and its comments have made abundantly clear – but until we can find a better way to measure and report how well we’re doing with missionary work, home teaching, visiting teaching, etc., this is as good as we’ve got.

  39. 39.

    I never falsified numbers on the mission. I did baptize a bunch of people who weren’t ready, but I felt torn up about it, and I was a junior comp at the time.

    I did learn how to play poker on my mission, though. And gin rummy. And we used face cards even. So I guess I’m going to Hell.

    AB

  40. 40.

    My comment may well be deleted but here goes. We were required to post 100% of a very high set level of “numbers” and were required to call them up the chain of command hyper regularly. No-one who reported less than these required levels could ever be appointed to any position of leadership however small, yet no effort was ever made to verify the numbers reported.

    I was brand new and reported to our zone leader that my trainer had simply fabricated his results, which were in actuality zeros. (For the most part, we had just been sitting around at a members house all day long, pretty much every day, day after day after day after day.) The thing was, it was unheard of to report on someone’s fabricating numbers, apparently: a big no no. When there is no mechanism to verify false reports and much to be gained thereby, a culture exists for supporting and maintaining the reporting of false numbers. It was patently obvious that this was what was going on, and I couldn’t believe that the mission president could be so naive as not to recognize it (in fact, my sense was he encouraged this type of lying!)

    In any case, I didn’t know this at my first arrival, so in my first letter to the president I’d sais my trainer wasn’t doing the work and the mission president had immediately called me and had yelled at me at the top of his voice over the phone.

    I had not wanted to want to sign my name below false numbers in my weekly letter to the president so I had simply left the numbers section on the form empty.

    After a couple of months, I started off one Sunday by telling my trainer (who was a district leader) that if we didn’t do a single bit of missionary work that day, that I’d be talking to the zone leaders after he was done giving them our numbers that evening and would be telling them the real numbers. Which I ended up doing.

    I was immediately transferred. At the next zone (or multi-zone or whatever it was) mission conference soon thereafter, the mission president called me in after all the other elder missionaries, sister missionaries, and couple missionaries and began to yell at me at the top of his voice, “I already knew Elder so-and-so wasn’t doing the work but that’s none of your business, Elder [me]!” he screamed at the very-very top of his voice.

    I continued on my mission for another year.

    Finally I was assigned as a “co-equal” companion to a missionary who had been trained by my trainer. He told me this trainer had told him all about me, and that the unspoken missionary guidelines were simply to make up our numbers wholesale. He said he’d talked to the mission president over the phone soon after his arrival in the field and that was told that worrying about any accuracy to the numbers being turned in was “petty.”

    Believing that our trainer had manipulated the situation somehow and that the mission president couldn’t possibly be that overt in sanctioning lying over the phone, I accepted this new companion’s bluff and said, “I don’t believe you. Let’s call the mission president.”

    I dialed the mission home and asked to speak to the president. “President, on my comapanion’s days, since we’re co-equal, he wants to turn in false numbers. Is this OK?”

    The mission president cut me off and asked to speak to my companion. In answer to a quick question of some kind from the president, I overheard my companion answer to the president, “Yes, my companion is being petty, President.” Then he was asked to turn the phone back over to me. The president then forcefully declared, “You’re being petty, Elder [me]!”

    I for the first time began turning in false reports. This was difficult for me because I didn’t believe in doing this but I was in a quandary because the mission president so obviously was requiring it. Suddenly I was a regular missionary and everything was roses as far as reports went.

    But I lost the spirit. I believe this moment was an extremely negative one for me, ethically…(and also, since I’d believed my mission president’s practices were some kind of abberation, when it came about, a couple of years after my return from my mission in 1979, that my former mission president began an assignment with the Second Quorum of the Seventy for a few years, I took this news as a pretty hard hit on my ability to sustain a belief in the divine nature of the the Church’s callings to high office).

  41. 41.

    SLP, can I propose a slight, and I think more accurate, revision:

    “Where performance is measured, the measures improve. Where performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement in the measures accelerates. When material incentives are linked to improvements in the measures, the rate of improvement in the rate of improvement in the measures accelerates. When measures are not verified, all of this improvement can take place without any actual change in performance.”

  42. 42.

    (If anyone wonders: I had little philosophical problem with my numerous companions who slightly overrreported; my peeve was with companions who wanted to completely make up perfect numbers but do zero of everything! And a point I forgot was that the elder who had me call the mission president didn’t only want to make up numbers on “his” day but also on “my” day.

    (You see, I’d made up this ideosyncratic system where I’d only hold myself accountable for reporting true reports on my “own” day, within the co-equal companionship I was starting to be assigned to after about a year out. So, I’d decided that every other day I was in charge and we’d only report what we did, whether it was close to what we were supposed to or reached it. But he’d insisted we do nothing on both “his” days and “my” days. And after our calling the mission president, I had no other means that I could think of of resisting his insistance on this, other than my simply deciding to ignore the mission president. Or my simply deciding to go home. Needless to say, I was sooo confused by this.)

    )

  43. 43.

    I can’t remember any pressure to report high numbers in my mission at all (England late 80’s). If my mission president cared he didn’t show it at all.

    We did have one Elder in the mission who blatantly falsified his reports though. When cornered he would express his desire to be AP. My favorite moment came when the office called his companion and asked him why he never signed their number reports. This guy was very quiet but he became legend when he clearly stated “he would not sign that pack of lies!”

    Given my mission presidents general attitude, that missionary never reached his goal.

    I learned how to drink caffeinated Coke without guilt on my mission. And besides cards we were Pass the Pig addicts.

  44. 44.

    J-

    I’m not sure what you mean by “the measures” improve. Do you mean that the method of measuring improves, or that the measurements made improve? Are you saying that the measurements increase, as opposed to truly improving? (If we were talking face-to-face, you would see that I’m asking sincerely and not to criticize – since we’re not, I want to make it clear that I’m asking in good faith, and not at all to be contentious).

    Perhaps it’s only when performance is measured – and reported – accurately, i.e. truthfully, that a person’s performance improves. Verity in measuring and reporting would be essential to any performance improving (in an absolute sense), I’m convinced.

    I think it’s a good thing, overall, to have posts like this – it helps us identify not only what practices really ought to be stamped out (e.g. falsification in the reporting of stats, whatever the motivation), as well as why. These comments have shown the damage people can suffer when dishonesty is tolerated, and worse, when it’s encouraged.

  45. 45.

    What an interesting thread.
    Makes me glad I didn’t serve a mission. :(

  46. 46.

    No one that I knew of ever falsified discussion numbers or baptism numbers in the two missions I served in. The hours numbers were universally meaningless though. Nobody ever complained.

    We were under pressure from time to time to set ambitious goals, but nothing oppressive by any stretch of the imagination. The only serious problem I ever had on my mission was a couple of companions who flat out did not want to do any meaningful work at all – not even walk around and see if we could run into somebody – not for an hour, not for five minutes. Missionaries like that shouldn’t be allowed to stay on a mission.

    I do think something is seriously wrong with a system that (in the past at least) has let mission presidents have so much discretion that a change of presidents could often be more dramatic than a change of country.

    If the Church was ever serious about the mission statistics business, they would need to audit them of course. I can’t see how anyone attached to a ward could ever get away with faking a baptism – not now not ever.

  47. 47.

    I don’t recall numbers outright being faked being a pervasive problem. Sure, there were some who did it, but even among those mostly there was some creative effort put into it. Went to the store to buy a cd, and the gym to work out? Yeah – that’s “street contacting”. And that part member family you went to – and you talked about basketball for an hour and the story of Nephi for 5 minutes – yep that’s a “discussion”.

    It was pretty common to fudge a little – 50 minutes= an hour. or to count an initial street contact as a discussion if you could teach three principles and get a return visit.

    As for miles and expenses – I was told that the church would use these for allocating future allotments. So be frugal – but report accurately. This really only ended up burning me – as two of the 4 car areas I went to were such that the previous missionaries had not been accurately reflecting their mileage – going way over each month and “forgetting” to take the car to zone conf for inspection. So I got to the area and we had 100-300 miles for the rest of the month, in areas with towns 10-20 miles apart.

    my whole perspective has been changed tho – as far as “slacker” missionaries being “allowed” to stay on missions- in a talk I recently heard by a former mission president (i believe). He talked about his real purpose was to convert the missionaries – and those that went home were not likely to be active the rest of their life, and would have severe obstacles to overcome. This matched perfectly with the experience my uncle had… much to the dismay of the rest of the family.

  48. 48.

    SLP, I mean that the measures go up. The quality of self-reported measures of valued activities is universally poor; people even badly overreport things as simple as having a library card. Improvement in performance requires measurement that is externally verified in some way.

    Mark D., RE fake baptism, I think the procedure in my mission was this: the missionary companionship and the district leader would decide to fake the baptism and would fill out the forms and send them in to the mission. Because our mission had mountains of inactive members, a new convert that nobody had ever heard of would simply fall onto the pile; nobody connected with the relevant unit would double-check or even try to figure out who the person was. The fake names would then sit on the records until the church did one of its periodic clean-ups. We did one round of those during my mission and found a lot of fake people.

  49. 49.

    At one point during my mission, my companion and I lived in the same house as our district leaders. 2 slower and ambitionless people would be hard to find.
    They got up about 930 am and left the flat at noon to go and check if there was any mail at the post-office. Their afternoons were spent at members’ homes watching TV and they would come back about 10 pm.

    My comp and I were hardly the ideal missionaries, but we did our tracting and teaching the best we could in an area where our teaching pool was 2 – 3 people.

    On Saturday nights as we gave our reports to our DL’s, it was nothing less than amazing to know that they had found 5 new investigators, placed 10 Books of Mormon, (they didn’t have one between them to give to anyone) and tought upwards of 20 discussions.

    We never got any crap for our numbers (which we NOT inflated) but were made to feel that we hadn’t been doing enough.

    I don’t know if it was a common occurence, but I do know that those who had high numbers were the ones who were placed in positions of authority in my mission. There were exceptions that were obvious just by interacting with these leaders and the Spirit they carried with them.

    My mission president seemed to place his stamp of approval on this type of reporting by certain things that were said in conferences and interviews. As an aside, how is a missionary supposed to look up to his mission president when he knows nothing about said missionary. Without fail, every interview with my president began with “How are things in Minnesota?”
    My response was always the same, “I have no idea, I don’t live there.” What an arrogant ass

  50. 50.

    I served a mission about ten years ago in Europe; I remember generally reporting my numbers honestly, although there was some confusion about how to count discussions and we were even encouraged to count ‘mini-discussions’ that included any conversation in which we managed to cover things like Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and the Book of Mormon (this being the time period of actual memorized discussions). Generally I felt like the mission culture did not place a heavy emphasis on the numbers themselves, but we were often encouraged to set fairly lofty goals for things like baptisms and discussions. My first mission presdient was heavily into motivational stuff like “drawing on the powers of heaven’ and Steven Covey and the like.

    If you combine an emphasis on numbers/reporting with a place like Europe where reception is chilly (we were once in an area where we knocked on roughly 500 doors a week with only 1 or 2 placements of the BOM), things can get very demoralizing very fast. Tracting is tough. Missionaries I knew generally responded by becoming lazy or indifferent, though others would become hyper-vigilant in the hopes of achieving better numbers through greater positive thinking.

    Interestingly, in the “Hearts of the Children” historical novels by Dean Hughes there is an incident in which one of the characters is pressured to inflate his numbers while on his mission in Germany during the 1960s. He refuses and is passed over for leadership positions, but in the end discovers that he can still be a good missionary without being AP. I thought it was an interesting part of the book and an unexpected insight into missionary culture.

  51. 51.

    I served in France almost two decades ago. I don’t know if numbers were blatently falsified–I would like to think that they were not–but I do recall that I felt immense pressure to set unrealistic goals to please leaders, and I do remember feeling discouraged over my numbers (even though I worked pretty hard) For a few months proselytizing hours of the companionships were publised in the mission newsletter. Fortunately, that was a short-lived practice. I often thought I would be a better, happier missionary if statistics had been out of the picture.

  52. 52.

    Thanks to everyone who’s shared reflections and personal experiences. It’s been an enlightening read.

    Sorry, Mark, for publicly savaging your reputation, and thanks for further explanation of your method. Your approach seems excellent to me; I hope to adopt it if (or rather, when) I’m again subject to bureaucratic pressures at church.

    Anonymous for obvious reasons (#40, #42) no worries; yours isn’t the sort of comment we delete.

    I find myself particularly disturbed by the experiences of those who’ve encountered widespread or serious mission corruption (which evidently takes a variety of forms) or intense pressure to lie. Especially given that a mission is a rite of passage required of young men, some of what evidently goes on in some missions is a profound betrayal of gospel ideals and of Mormon young adults at a crucial period in their lives. It definitely gives me pause, thinking about the possibility of sending my own daughter on a mission in a couple of decades. I would not want her to have some of the experiences people I know and love have had.

    I’ve realized two things from this thread. One is that my own mission was, relatively speaking, a pretty darned good experience. There were the inevitable domineering ZLs and DLs, there was the inevitable benign sexism (my mission president exclaimed in genuine surprise, “Can she _do_ that? upon hearing about my plans for graduate education), there were a few shady dealings I witnessed (APs rushing people into baptism by flouting rules on how fast the discussions could be taught) and there were the couple of bad companionships everyone has, but I never encountered any massive or widespread deceit or abuse or any pressure to lie.

    The other thing I’ve realized is that these kinds of numbers (self-reported under sometimes intense pressures of reward and punishment and without any external verification) are meaningless. I’d never given this much thought before. But it makes me think there simply must be a better way.

  53. 53.

    I wasn’t aware of flagrant falsifying of numbers in my mission, just unclear and lax standards for what constituted an investigator, a discussion, a scheduled baptism, etc. I think fake baptisms would have been very hard to pull off.

    We did have the phenomenon of “cheap proselyting time.” We were allowed to count certain activities in the apartment (telephoning, paperwork, etc.) as proselyting hours. However, it was not considered effective use of time, and was generally considered acceptable only to fill short periods of time that would otherwise be wasted. Extended periods of “cheap time” were definitely frowned upon, though sometimes weather, sickness (or just plain laziness) kept missionaries in the apartment getting cheap hours. A favorite cheap time activity was marking Books of Mormon. We had a string of recommended passages that we would mark with notations of what pages to turn to. I hated it. I preferred to give unmarked books. And if we had recommended readings, why couldn’t we have just enclosed a list of references? But the marking did give us something to do when stuck in the apartment.

    One district leader and his companion received a referral that they had been unable to contact. The man was never home and didn’t answer the phone. Normally after awhile, you would send these referrals back marked “unable to contact.” But these elders liked to use the referral for cheap time. I don’t know that they wasted hours with it, but if they had some time in the apartment to fill, they joked that they would dial the number, let the phone ring, and report it as telephoning time. One day to their astonishment, the guy answered the phone. Last I heard, he was a stake president in NYC.

  54. 54.

    JNS(27), I don’t doubt it does happen, but in my mission, and we saw evidence of this and other chicanery under former mission presidents (We came across people who were “baptized” on a “want to go to the swimming pool” trip, for example) but my mission president went to a lot of effort to talk about things like this and I never came across issues like this under our administration. On top of that, my mission president made an effort to visit anytime more than 1 person was baptized at a time, and a lot of our DL training focused around not letting people be baptized who weren’t ready. (This included not having permission from their spouse, and not having a parent or guardian who was a member or would be baptized with them). Maybe I am naive in thinking that didn’t happen during my time, but I never saw any evidence of it. But again, we were the lowest baptising mission in the philippines with under 2000 converts a year.

  55. 55.

    I’m with JM. Since it doesn’t really matter, who cares if the numbers are falsified? I guess if it were me, I’d probably just make up all kinds of outrageous stats and wait and see if anybody noticed.

  56. 56.

    Wow. We had numbers pressure, sure, but not like so many have described here. My mission president was a good man and concerned about the missionaries as much as the numbers. Also, I don’t think I ever had a DL or ZL that I didn’t look up to. I also had a couple APs who I was convinced could have walked on water, had it been necessary. Maybe my memory has filtered out all the bad stuff…

  57. 57.

    Matt W., I absolutely agree that there is a lot of variation on these things, and certainly there are mission presidents who manage to structure things so that incentives for flagrant dishonesty don’t exist. One of the remarkable things about our mission program is how, for all the highly institutionalized training missionaries receive, it’s hugely different across missions, areas, leaders, and time. Obviously, there are plenty of mission presidents now and in the past who don’t care about numbers and instead want to nurture people (missionaries, members, and converts). But equally obviously, there are mission presidents of the opposite sort.

    During my mission, I had three presidents, two of which were wonderful in a lot of ways and the third of which was mentally ill and nearly destroyed the mission during his six months or so. Extrapolating those experiences out to the entire church (problematically!), it’s easy for me to believe that there are lots of great mission presidents. And some of those don’t even care how close they come to meeting their own numbers pressures.

  58. 58.

    The only time I was every given any pressure on any numbers or how I was getting them, I responded by not reporting any the next week. Nothing but 0s.

  59. 59.

    Though reporting in my mission was generally accurate, given that people reported low numbers (the time I had some pressure we had gone contacting with members, taught a family and the family was coming to church with the member who taught them. We had a member who felt they weren’t good enough quality and complained….)

    good start would be to allow women to pay tithing under their own name

    I’ve never heard of any place where women did not pay tithing under their own names, from Mary Smith (Hyrum Smith’s widow) to the present.

    Where are you living? Seems like the audit committee needs to be contacted about that ward/stake.

  60. 60.

    I thought I would add that in many parts of the United States (and other countries as well) married women were covered by a legal rule called coverature, so that if they paid tithing under their own names the husband was entitled to have the money refunded.

  61. 61.

    […] Lies my mission president told me. […]

  62. 62.

    I find this numbers pressure described here to be analogous to the pressure I feel at my corporate job to report extravagant amounts of hours worked. One colleague said, “I was told that if I even think of work on the weekend to count it as an hour worked.” The expectation is to work at least 8 hours overtime (despite being salaried) and anything reported less is a promotion killer. So if nothing else, I guess this prepares our youth for the “real (and drury) world.” :-/

  63. 63.

    I never falsified numbers or heard of people doing it ( though it may be that like Eve I was not tapped into the mission grapevine or part of the “Mafia” as we called it), but my second area in Brazil had problems from days of yore along the lines that Matt W. described: reports of going “to take a special bath” before playing basketball; baptizing people when they were still actively smoking; or even just outright faking the baptism sheet ( I recall we one time went looking for a man who was 92 according to the ward roster and discovered that he was 14 or so, which probably means that he was below 8 when baptized) and so on. Shenanigans, but we found some people to teach and had some fun looking for people on the 700-odd members on the roster.

  64. 64.

    I am so impressed by those who would refuse to falsify reports ( and can have sympathy for those who did falsify). I have been impressed more and more lately by our pioneer ancestors, who just wanted to practice the religion that Christ intended and established. I see more and more that although many of us are members of the same church, our commitment to that first intention of the church varies widely. I don’t understand what possesses people to feel compelled to absolutely futile dishonesty about such a thing as the state of our souls, but all I can say in the end is that I know the state of mine.

  65. 65.

    “I have been impressed more and more lately by our pioneer ancestors, who just wanted to practice the religion that Christ intended and established.”

    Traci – they were just as human as the rest of us. And as prone to weakness, vanity, pride and all the other things that affect us today.

  66. 66.

    Re:# 34 Ian
    In my situation, I paid $250 per month with @25 in fast offering. It was my check, under my name only account and I initially thought it was just a mistake by the stake. They put it under “head of household:, so it showed up as my husband’s tithing. He doesn’t remember ever contributing tithing as he has some political causes to support and a university so he can gain access to our season football seats. Each year, tithing came in his name only. I asked that they put my tithing under my name and was told by the bishop, That’s not the way we do it here.”
    Tithing was a minor issue compared to what followed.
    We are not attending and have been requested by visiting teachers to take our name off the church rosters or move. These are people that come to our house after I stated why I do not attend the local stake.
    We haven’t yet followed up, but know that asking for no contact is more difficult than it sounds as they push for members to excommunicate themselves. Once one starts extricating themselves from this type of harassment, it feels like a weight off of one’s shoulders. We will try again, in a time and place that is more evolved spiritually and will treat us as equal souls. I believe that we will see this progress and spiritual growth in the church in our lifetime, only if we continually ask for it. Thank you for raising our awareness.

  67. 67.

    I didn’t lie about my numbers, and got called on it a few times. I am normally very shy, and it was a struggle nearly every day for me to get out the door in the morning. Once I finally got out of the house, though, I worked hard. Among the numbers we reported were hours out of the house, and hours tracting, teaching, etc.

    My DLs told me once that I was one of the lowest in the mission for out-of-the-house hours, but one of the highest in the mission for hours worked. They wondered how I could do that. Looking back, part of it could be that I didn’t have much imagination to find other things to do. I was too cheap to shop, and too guilt-driven to just waste time otherwise once I got started.

  68. 68.

    I’m not sure many posters here realize that before the mid-1980s, most missions had absurd reports you had to fill out weekly. The worse I saw were the missionaries where I grew up–they had to account for every 15 minute block of every day (including P-Days) and had to satisfy dozens of numbers else they would get reprimanded. I later heard of even worse reporting systems (I vaguely recall that the most notorious was in France in around 1980/81.)

    My mission president (Caracas Venzuela, 1981/82) had minimal reporting–number of baptisms, number of discussions, number of investigators. Oddly enough, the APs and ZLs were the ones who tried to add more data points, but the mission president rejected their suggestions. I soon discovered that nobody cared anyway and stopped turning the dumb things in.

    The second mission president came in just when 18-month missions started and introduced the form the church HQ finally created to clear up this mess. I never filled out a single one of those forms.

    As for fake baptisms; I don’t know of a single instance in my mission of a totally fake baptism, but it was chock full of sham baptisms. To celebrate my first mission president leaving, we hit 300 baptisms a month for several months. The month after he left, we did 50 (due to the 18-month fiasco and Visa problems, we were losing missionaries at a massive rate, but the drop in baptisms vastly exceeded the drop in missionaries.) In one case, I was so upset about a family my ZL companion pushed for baptism, that I refused to go. Sure enough, the Mom and one or two kids showed up the next Sunday and never again.

    The biggest trick was baptizing 16 and 17 year olds. We had one town with hundreds of these, done mainly by one missionary.

    Looking back at my mission, the one thing I marvel about is how we managed to burn time. I was in burned over districts where there really was nothing to do. In one case we resorted to scheduling every other visit all the way across town. Earlier, in that same town, my [senior] companion decided we would hitchhike to “save money” and find people–wink wink.

  69. 69.

    RE: Women paying tithing in own name

    I was finance clerk the last several years I still attended and we had at least two couples where the wives paid tithing separate from their husbands (for tax purposes.) It wasn’t a problem. That tells me that if it is a problem in a ward, it’s due to the bishop, not the church itself.

  70. 70.

    I served the first portion of my mission in the United States, and the second portion in South America.

    I discovered that my first trainer in the US falsified some numbers (street contacts). However, I never falsified numbers the remainder of my mission. Nore was I aware of other missionaries falsifying reports.

    We were taught that numbers only matter insofar as they represent people, so although numbers were reported, the ZLs and APs would talk to us about the people behind our numbers by name. They obviously would take notes, because they would remember people from week to week. I think this helped control the desire to falsify numbers. I never had a leader yell or scold me for numbers. The focus was on things within your control, rather than decisions other people made.

    I wonder if my good experience was the exception, based on all the posts…

  71. 71.

    I found this link by accident, but I’m sure glad that I did. I also was a missionary back in the early 80’s, served in the Japan Tokyo North mission, just after the Tokyo South Mission “fiasco”. My son also served in Tokyo (South) a couple of years ago, and said they are still paying the price for all the “rushed baptisms” (kindest way to put it). Chasing stats for stats sake is detrimental; no other way to put it.

    I had two Mission Presidents while I served, the first was a wonderful man from New Zealand (only 29 when he was called!), and NEVER pressured us for stats; only concerned that we were happy and content in the work! My second MP couldn’t have been more opposite (though in fairness, I’m told by some of my younger jr comps that he “softened up” quite a bit by the end of his 3 years). He was a lawyer from S. CA, and was use to “being in charge” (I’ll let you interpretat that). That was when the “numbers game” really heated up. I NEVER falsified my numbers, and paid the price via advancement stopped (though it’s not about advancement anyway, and thankfully I came to realize that), and some conflicts with ZL’s & the MP himself. Funny, in that country (those who served there know what I’m talking about) where you were lucky to have even a few baptisms your whole mission, I was resonsible for baptising over half a dozen in my 18 months (yes, I was a “shorty” during that time of experimentation before the Lord let us learn and set it straight!), and had the lowest hours worked (as HONESTLY reported) of any companionship. It’s not about numbers, but people; I never lost sight of that, and I believe my success in the mission reflected it (not in NUMBERS of baptisms, but in lives changed for the better!).

    However, I do believe that the Lord knows “whom He has called”, and blesses those of us with honest hearts. I know my first MP is now an Area Authority 70, and I never hear about my second MP at all; even no reunions ever “advertised” if you can believe that! Also, those of us in our mission that always reported true numbers are the ones that have served as Bishops, Stake Presidents, and Mission Presidents; those that I remember were the biggest offenders are largely inactive today (most went inactive shortly after their missions!). The Lord does indeed know “whom He has chosen”; we all individually just need to remember whom we represent, and live our lives accordingly regardless of how we appear to other men.

    Thanks for letter me share; this issue has “haunted” me for over 25 years now, and this was the first time I was able to share and “exercise” those deamons!

  72. 72.

    Re: #69 Joe,
    “RE: Women paying tithing in own name.
    That tells me that if it is a problem in a ward, it’s due to the bishop, not the church itself.”
    The church allows it to be done as they have little oversight. What I discovered, later, was that they were just trying to make my DH look good on paper and encourage him to be more active and seek his temple endowments. How they “encouraged” him to do so was unethical. I was denied my temple recommend renewal based on “tithing” and when I pointed out that I had paid my tithing, but it was being represented under my husband’s name, they shifted their direction to their real objective. They then required that I wait until my husband wishes to attend the temple and then I can attend with him. My DH is a brilliant and engaging man, who was highly insulted by their tactic of using me to strong arm him into more participation.
    Women should always be given recognition for paying their own tithing and their temple recommends should always be determined on their own individual factors, not linked to someone else’s behavior. The GA that I contacted refused to provide clarification of any process or procedure regarding tithing or temple recommendations and referred me back to the Stake President, to clarify the rule. It was the Stake President and the Bishop who had decided to:
    1. Credit my tithing under my DH’s name.
    2. Require that my DH schedule and attend any meetings with stake president, if I requested one.
    3. Require that my DH seek his endowments, before allowing me to renew my temple recommend.
    4. Require that when that happens, we attend the temple, together.
    Leaving the stake president’s office, my DH looked at me and asked, “Why would you want to be in a church that treats you like a second class citizen?”
    I thought it was an error, but it is not and stake presidents have little oversight of their decisions, because women are considered second class citizens in the LDS church. My bishop clarified that point to me when he stated, “This is not the legal system, this is not the academic system, this is religion.” His point was, “We can do whatever we want.” This Bishop also justified breaking confidentiality of the situation to members in the ward as “I can tell anyone that I think needs to know.”
    As a certified school psychologist and school counselor in the state of Washington, I offered to provide instruction on what confidentiality is for our priesthood.
    Let us bring to light our leaders actions and what we, as a church are doing. We need to ask for a system of individual rights for all members, a best practices process and an oversight process when leaders oppress individuals in a church to meet their own ego needs. Our public education system has done this effectively, so our religious sytem can easily accomplish this, if they wish. I have a dream that someday the LDS church will be able to treat all God’s children as equal souls, with equal love and justice for all.

  73. 73.

    […] interesting Mormon Blog article today about inflating missionary numbers to satisfy Zone Leaders: Zelophehad’s Daughters | Missions, Numbers, and Lying __________________ Jesus said, "The first in importance is, love the Lord God.’ And here […]

  74. 74.

    I never lied about my mission stats, but I did lie about the food I ate for 18 months where I traveled the US repairing computers. I would be gone for weeks at a time, and phone calls home couldn’t be put on my expense report. So, I ate cheap hamburgers and charged the company the max I was allowed so I could afford to call my wife once in a while.

  75. 75.

    What a find! I have been reading for so long that can’t even remember how I navigated here. All of these comments bring back memories I haven’t allowed to cross my brain in 33 years, since I was serving in Michigan in the mid 70s. I had two MPs, the first one struck me immediately as a stuffed shirt, uninterested in his missionaries, I’m really not sure exactly what he WAS interested in, but he seemed to be very receptive to artificially inflated numbers. My first companion was a tyrant to me and a brown-noser of the highest order to the MP. I was, shall we say “intensely irritated” that for what I had come to do he was just as forcefully intent on avoiding, yet doing everything he could to impress the MP with his efforts in the field. We’d spend endless hours with his set of “pros”, professional investigators, usually lonely isolated people who were completely uninterested in becoming members but nonetheless enjoyed the company of equally lonely and isolated missionaries. The pros were good for his practice of “padding the planner”, essentially a half-hourly diary of your daily activity that would be submitted with your weekly report to the office. He could make a full day dithering at a pro’s house into a frenetic day of proselytizing, when in reality we accomplished nothing other than killing time. I, being new, had been beaten down by this tyrant and just accepted his way, biding my time until I could get a new companion and get on with the reason for interrupting my life at that point. And to top it all off, this guy was a DL! When he was transferred it was no surprise whatsoever to me that he was promoted to ZL, such was the MP’s zeal to accept his padded planners as evidence of his high accomplishments. When the new DL transferred in I took him to all of the previous DL’s pros and we challenged them and when they refused we dropped them like hot potatoes. I wanted the new DL to bust the previous guy to the MP but he wouldn’t, I guess in his eyes he would rather have been accomplice to fraud than be seen as a snitch. I stood my ground since I was finally free of the tyrant, who I actually did not fully trust not to react violently had I been the one to bust on him while he was my companion, he actually threatened just that, darkly and convincingly. Not long after my first companion was made a ZL that MP was released and I did come clean to his replacement, who seemed a far more sensitive and moral figure than my first MP was.

    I’m not sure why, but my first companion remained a ZL for some time after that, I guess that the new MP was reluctant to throw out his existing leadership until he got a handle on things. I refused to “pad the planners”, and despite turning in accurate, realistic and low numbers I quickly rose up through the leadership ranks. I wasn’t above the practice of counting “dog discussions” though, just so no one reading this gets the idea I was a saint, far from it. A “dog discussion” was when a conversation with a new contact covered three or more points of a regular discussion, though informally and was recorded as such for the numbers. It was a universal practice, to the point that if an area was turning in vastly improved numbers, the recipient of those numbers would begin to howl and bark, letting the other side know that his discussion quality and numbers were being held suspect.

    I was aghast and appalled at the pervasiveness of lying about numbers among missionaries, and despite my second MP being, in my opinion, a much more sincere and moral man than my first, and certainly cared more about his missionaries, it did not go unnoticed that the most dishonest missionaries, the ones turning in what were obviously inflated numbers, advanced in mission leadership faster and farther than the ones who were honest and turned in more realistic numbers. I do not recall the pressures that others here have related, yellings over the phone and blatant instructions on how to lie, but seeing the liars advancing as they did while the honest ones advancing more slowly if at all, the message still came through, if you want to go places, lie. If you don’t and are honest, there will be a price to pay. I may have been an exception, I advanced in spite of low but honest numbers, but that was part of my undoing. I ended up so completely drained and so exhausted that I have little recollection of much of the last months of the experience. It took me several years to recover and I remain distant and estranged from the church with no interest whatsoever in reconciling. I have said that the main effect of the mission on me was teaching me the dark side of what I had believed so strongly in. The starkest lesson learned was the most cynical, that to get ahead you must abandon your morals, even in “the work of the Lord”. Unless you’re willing to do that you will just have to settle. Honesty, virtue and morality, unfortunately, carry a hefty price tag, one that I can say that I’m proud to have paid up to this point in life, despite my non-stellar levels of achievement. I am now retired and I’m not especially unhappy with how things turned out. At least my meager accomplishments were gained without sacrificing my soul for them.

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