Note: The following satire is based on the announcement made in the fall General Conference that the missionary age was moved down to 18 for males and 19 for females. The conversation among the Mormon Church’s General Authorities that you are about to read is a fictional discussion based on the actual declining convert-rate percentages. For example, in 1990, the church had more than 330,000 converts, growing that year at a 4.5% clip. From 1991-1997, the church grew between 3 to 4% a year, and from 1998 to 2007, 2 to 3% a year. Since 2008, it has fallen to just around 2% a year. And whereas the church was baptizing more than 300,000 converts per year between 1990 and 1999, it has never hit the magical 300,000 number in any year during the 21st century. In addition, if the convert rate could somehow be attributed to missionaries, then there were 7.5 converts per missionary (CPM) in 1990, between 6-7 CPM between 1991-1996, and between 5-6 CPM between 1997-1999. Since 2000, however, the number averages about 5 CPM. And missionary numbers peaked between 2000-2002 when there were 60,000+ missionaries, with just 51,736 on record as of 2009.
Because of these dismal numbers, something in Salt Lake City had to change. Let’s listen in on a conversation the elders had in the Salt Lake Temple on July 19, 2012.
Apostle Holland: Gosh, why can’t our church grow like we once did? Look, we’re a hit on Broadway. The “I’m a Mormon” campaign is on billboards all over the country. And we have a Mormon presidential candidate. Why aren’t we growing faster?”
Apostle Oaks: He’s right, gentlemen. We’re riding a tide here and need to take advantage of the situation. Anyone have any ideas on what we can do?
Apostle Andersen: Oh, I think I know the problem. It’s those darn antis on the Internet.
Apostle Perry: Neil, you’re the youngest apostle. Please wait your turn. Gentlemen, I think it’s those darn antis on the Internet.
Apostle Packer: Thanks, Tom, what an astute observation! Let’s see, what should we do? Make it illegal to take any of their newspapers? That sounds like a strategy.
Apostle Holland: Boyd, it won’t work. We tried that in Brigham City.
Apostle Packer: Shoot, how about we hack their websites?
Apostle Holland: No, no, no, cooler heads should prevail. I think I have the answer. How about we announce at Conference how sinful it would be to look at their websites? Put the guilt trip on them, you know. That’s good for lots of mileage.
Apostle Oaks. Nice job, Jeff. That’s why we have you talk to the media members. Let’s just come up with the copy and then have Q give the speech in October.
Apostle Holland: Great. Secretary, please write this down: “Some have immersed themselves in internet materials that magnify, exaggerate, and in some cases invent shortcomings of early church leaders. Then they draw incorrect conclusions that can affect testimony. Any who have made these choices can repent and be spiritually renewed.”
Apostle Packer: I love it, let’s make them repent for their spiritually pornographic ways! Guilt goes a long way.
President Monson: Fine, fine, fine.
Apostle Oaks: Dieter, it looks like you want to say something.
First Presidency Counselor Uchtdorf: Ahh, yes, this reminds me of a time when I was a pilot for Lufthansa Airlines. I was flying one afternoon…
Apostle Oaks: Thanks, Dieter, for the insight, but we’ve heard this story before. What else do we need to do to get our numbers up? Yes, Neil, question?
Apostle Andersen: Can you tell me why Boyd and Henry are playing paper/rocks/scissors?
Apostle Oaks: Oh, never mind them. There are rumors that President Monson may be feeling ill, but that’s not the case, is it, Tom?
President Monson: Fine, fine, fine.
Apostle Oaks: So, does anybody have any other ideas?
Apostle Cook: How about we get more female missionaries? They’re killing the boys when it comes to the conversion rates. Yet they’re not going on missions because the RMs are marrying them before they have a chance to go abroad… Get it? Go a broad.
Apostle Holland: Save it for comedy night. But boys, he’s right. I say, let’s make the girls become official sisters at 19 and the boys wait for their missions until 21. We’ll do better all the way around.
First Presidency Counselor Eyring: No, that’s too extreme, but I see your point. Yes, let’s have the girls come out at 19. This way, they won’t have enough of an opportunity to get married first. We’ll get more ladies out there. Besides, it’s hard for potential converts to say no to our females for fear of making them cry. Thus, we boost our numbers and our membership rolls go up. But wait. Let’s just have the boys go out at 18. This way both boys and girls will be out at the same time of life. Voila. We’re in the money…er, we’re in the numbers.
Apostle Oaks: The only question: How will this affect the BYU Cougar football team?
President Monson: Go Utes.
Apostle Andersen: Sir, I’ve run the numbers. High school graduates will go straight to the mission field instead of having to wait a year. They come back at 20, with four years of eligibility. As fifth-year seniors at the age of 25, they will be older than the average NFL rookie. And if any of our missionaries are good college prospects, we’ll give them Provo assignments so they can hit the weight room on Mondays. And then maybe we will have a chance against the U!
Apostle Oaks: Secretary, please note that what has just been stated was my personal analysis, for the record.
Apostle Perry: So, boy missionaries at 18, girls at 19. Let’s just hope those male RMs are still interested in the female RMs when they get back or we may have to start letting girls go to the temple right out of high school to marry them.
First Presidency Counselor Uchtdorf: This reminds me of the time when I was an airline pilot…
First Presidency Counselor Eyring: Thanks Dieter, we heard that story too. Gentlemen, bring on the youth! Let’s grow this church.
Apostle Holland: Isn’t it time for lunch?