It is rare for me to come across full-time missionaries that I really like. Most of the missionaries I come across are quite forgettable, others are memorable for the wrong reasons. Living in a small and somewhat isolated ward missionaries are hard to avoid. There was a long stretch when we had three sets serving just in our ward. And when you get a few coming around that are into member guilt trips they can get to be a real drag.
There have been a set of overused statistics that have been around for decades. I don’t know where they come from, but you all know what they are. When missionaries contact somebody there is apparently this 1 out of 1000 chance of their getting baptized (when? In two weeks? In a year? ever? Where?). And if a member invites someone to their home then the chances are 1 out of two.
I am highly suspicious of these statistics. They were old news when I was a missionary 20 years ago. But if we assume that they are generally correct, I would say that there are reasons for these results. The members are patient in their preparation. If members just invited people to hear the discussions left and right eventually their chances of success would be no better than the missionaries inviting at random.
I am not quite through ranting yet.
It is my understanding that in Central and South America missionaries are baptizing by the dozens, or hundreds. New missions, stakes, and temples popping up all over. Yet in many Scandinavian countries missionaries are rarely baptizing anyone. What is the reason for this great difference?
I have never been to the countries I just brought up. So I can only throw out my impressions.
I do not believe that the missionaries serving in South America are more righteous or faithful than missionaries serving in Scandinavian countries. I do not believe that there are gimmicks or programs being used in South America that if used in Norway would yield dramatic increases in baptisms. I do not believe that the members in South America are more brave and smart in doing missionary work than folks in other parts of the world.
I do believe that in places where there are large numbers of baptisms the general population tend to be more humble and teachable. They would also tend to not be satisfied with their life as it is. They probably tend to place a higher level of importance on religion, and may not have strong traditional ties to a particular church. Just add missionaries and stir.
In places where baptisms are low, the opposite conditions likely exist:
Lack of humility.
A sense of satisfaction.
Little interest in religion.
If interested in religion, then strong ties to a religion.
Just add missionaries. Or don’t.
This leads me to believe that the three most important aspects of successful missionary work judged in terms of number of baptisms are:
Location. Location. And location.
Oh, and timing. Maybe there are four aspects.
When Ammon was having his famous and successful missionary experience, his brothers were naked and starving in a prison. They should have tried the set-a-date program. Again. But it seems to me that there are areas of the world that are much more prepared to receive the message of the gospel than other places are. And that this preparation is the most important factor in missionary success.
Will someone please kick me in the butt and straighten me out?