Monday, May 12, 2014

Baptisms are Not the Measure of a Successful Mission

I don't like fast baptisms, as a rule or a standard approach - but I know of quite a few individual cases where a baptism within 3-5 weeks was completely appropriate. I don't want a minimum wait time established, but I don't like trying to set a baptism date in the first or second lesson. I want investigators to know up-front and immediately that the missionaries are there to teach and baptize them, ideally, so I don't mind baptism being mentioned from the moment they sit down for the first time, but I want it to be "whenever you feel a confirmation from God that joining our church is what He wants you to do" and not "let's pick a date and pray you feel good about it by then." 

That is my own view, and I don't claim that it is the only right one. 

I understand not wanting to make someone wait longer than necessary when they want to join, and I understand youthful zeal and enthusiasm, and I understand leaders (especially Mission Presidents) wanting to do their best and be recognized as successful leaders - but, in principle, I don't like rushing things that shouldn't be rushed. I'd rather take a little longer than necessary, for example, than too little time when it comes to baptism.

For what it's worth, I know the two-year retention rates right now for new converts are higher than they've been, overall, in the past - but I don't attribute that to fast or slow baptisms. I attribute it to better, more personalized teaching than used to occur with the memorized lessons and, overall, less measurement of success as a function of total baptisms. "Preach My Gospel" says in crystal clear terms that the number of baptisms is not how a successful mission should be measured, and I've heard it said from the pulpit in multiple locations over the last five years or so. It's sad that some leaders still are preaching the old line of success being measured best by baptism numbers, but it is not the way it is supposed to be.

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