Date: Jun 01, 2002 16:21
Author: Colonel Thomas Kane Mail Address:
The Implosion of the Mormon Church By Colonel Thomas Kane
An implosion is a return from the boundary limits of expansion, contracting at great speed into a new, and more stable, state of affairs. As Joseph Tainter observed, complex societies expand in scope and complexity until their imperial form is unsustainable: they then collapse, or implode, stabilizing when the marginal costs of union within the empire equals the marginal benefits. As a matter of form, the empire remains; as a matter of substance, empires collapse into the cohesive factor mediating alliances between republics.
Implicit in this definition is the idea of transformation - historic solutions to collective problems have failed to dynamically reform to meet the new needs of the cultural moment. The successful solving of one problem for one culture - in Mormonism, for example, a reforming of Christianity, with a foundation of Blue Lodge Freemasonry, surrounded by a communal social order, led by a charismatic - leads to other opportunities, usually disguised as problems.
Thus, the tremendous success of Joseph Smith's Nauvoo overreached, arousing the enmity of surrounding communities.
Their response was the destruction of Nauvoo.
Thus, a new order was formed, and a new solution to the needs of the cultural moment was found.
Brigham Young's answer was self-imposed isolation, in the safety and distance of the Great Salt Lake. There, a new social order - a new subculture - was formed to address a different set of problems.
In matters of religion, the Masonic foundation of Mormonism (Latter-Day Higher Gnosticism, if you will) led to a clarification of the new Church religious structures - for example, the clarification and redefinition of the inner Elites, which included the still-extant Church of the Firstborn (D&C 76), and the third, Abrahamic Order of Priesthood.
In matters of economics, a new communal ordering was developed, supporting and sustaining the hierarchical system of command. Church and State became one, and a pragmatic theocracy would shape the social institutions of Mormonism for the next century. In matters of politics, both great and small, society was ordered around the Church; first, foremost, and forever.
An important point to remember: all cultures solve one (big) problem, institutionalize the solutions, then internalize the solutions to the extent that they become the mores of the culture. In time, the mores become excessively rigid, leaving the culture without the flexibility needed to meet the new needs of the cultural moment.
For example, look at American responses to the business cycle. In the Twentieth Century, for example, the formation of a debt-based specie currency, and fractional reserve banking, led to overly generous credit being applied to all sectors of society. Consumers, corporations, and countries alike used credit, abused it by not investing in productive enterprises.
One generation later, the solution was the economic implosion known as Great Depression. This ultimately required a restructuring of all financial institutions, as assets were marked to their new market values, loans were called by the banks based on those new asset values, and the excessive expansion of the money supply of the Roaring Twenties was balanced with the excessive contraction of the money supply that was the hallmark of the Great Depression.
The cultural problem was only corrected, using that term loosely, when the society totally restructured during World War II.
In turn, American policymakers were aware that every war - a period of fantastic economic expansion - was followed by recessions and depressions. The difference is one of a qualitative component, a moment referred to as a phase shift. For instance, one additional quantitative increment of cold, applied to water, creates ice; in another situation, one more increment of heat, applied to water, creates steam. Recessions are a working off of excessive inventories, a part of the business sector; depressions, the phase shift event, manifest as a restructuring of the entire financial sector of the economy, and thus, the economy as a whole.
Thus, the solution to one problem - excessive credit expansion deriving from a debt based specie currency - created another problem - avoidance of another Great Depression following World War II.
What does this idea have to do with Exmormon ideas?
Rather a lot.
First, some definitions:
Mormon Church - the formal religious institution created by Joseph Smith, and crystallized in the vision of Brigham Young.
Corridor Mormon - someone whose beliefs are consistent with that of the Mormons raised in the Mormon Corridor, an area of roughly 18,000 sq. mi., politically and economically centered in Salt Lake, Utah, but extending as far south as Arizona, and as far north as Idaho. The central organizing idea was (1) all settlements be within a one day ride of each other, and (2) maintenance of a year round access route to Salt Lake City. All towns were organized around the Mormon Church, and its organizations - branch, ward, stake, Priesthood, and Relief Society. Originally, it was about 1000 miles long, ranging from Fort Lemhi, Idaho, in the north, San Bernardino, California, to the south, Fort Bridger, Wyoming, to the east, and Carson Valley, Nevada, to the west. Centered around present day I-15, we would define to Corridor more in cultural terms; however, it has expanded to included, demographically, for all practical purposes, America west of the Rocky Mountains.
Church Institutional - the unique Mormon culture, the construction of the social reality for Corridor Mormons, in which the Mormon Church is the common social backdrop on which their lives are defined, and lived.
III. Historical Development of the Mormon Church
The Mormon Church in the Nineteenth Century was largely the vision of two men; the religious entrepreneur, Joseph Smith, and the leader of a theocracy, Brigham Young. Young took the majority of Smiths community of Nauvoo (the balance went to form RLDS), and created the Nation of Deseret, an entire country unto itself. Into the Twentieth Century, and damn near the middle of the Twentieth Century, the Church was managed like the Nineteenth Century Intermountain American Western theocracy it was.
The Mormon Church in the second half of the Twentieth Century is essentially a reflection of one man, Gordon B. Hinckley, a reflection that is shared with an organizational genius - not a term to be used lightly - N. Eldon Tanner.
While in England on his mission in the Twenties, Hinckley realized the Mormon Church needed a voice to the rest of the world. This voice, a department of the new scientific practice of public relations, would explain and moderate the provincial perspective of a Nineteenth Century Intermountain West theocracy, to a world in which mass communication took place at the speed of light.
By 1960, the Twentieth Century had caught up with Utah. The provincialism of the Corridor Mormon community faced a conflict. Apostle Henry Moyle's disastrous expansion into England, and Europe, had placed a tremendous financial burden on Salt Lake. Imperial overreach, if you will, had blindsided the theocracy in Salt Lake.
Two men reorganized the Mormon Church- N. Eldon Tanner, and Gordon B. Hinckley - in a movement called CORRELATION. Central controls went into effect. For the first time, Salt Lake formally instituted professional budgeting and investment systems as control systems.
Institutionally, all power was now centralized in the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Relief Society lost their independent budget powers, and the ability to develop their own materials. Priesthood holders now guided and guarded the Church, from the largest organization to the smallest ward, as policy and procedures replaced dogma and revelation.
Thus, one regional implosion - England, and to a degree, Europe - was the catalyst for a restructuring of the Mormon Church from its very core, outwards.
Gordon B. Hinckley then steered the Mormon Church on an expansion path of the North American Century, from West to East, in America. We would argue international expansion has been largely an afterthought, for one simple reason.
The Mormon Church is a reflection of the dreams of one place, and one idea. That place is the Intermountain American West; that idea is that they, uniquely, are a peculiar people, with a common cultural foundation of separation from the balance of American society, in the fulfillment of destiny. They will integrate with that society but only to a narrow, clearly defined point. This point is the line that will never be crossed; that line is drawn to insure that integration with the rest of the world does not conflict with their sense of fulfillment, and destiny.
The Mormon culture's foundation of separation in the fulfillment of destiny, in the American Intermountain West, remains the foundation of Mormonism.
IV. "Mormonism" and the Mormon Church
The Mormon Church is largely a matter of form; it is a corporation, cold, dead, soulless, and gifted with eternal life.
The living life of culture is carried forward with Corridor Mormonism, and the Church Institutional. These, the matters of substance, are uniquely welded to the persona of the Corridor Mormons - in a word, if you're not from Utah, even if only by family (preferably a "Trek of '47" family), you're not a Mormon.
The Corridor Mormons can no more give up being "Mormon" than we can give up speaking English; the identification is THAT close.
This point can not be overemphasized.
Mormonism is a cultural force, a social reality, that welds the persona to the Church Institutional - this is the reason for the stability of the belief shared by many in the Church, "I don't believe in Joseph Smith / Kolob / Bishop Whoever / The Leadership /, BUT, I KNOW THE CHURCH IS TRUE."
They can not even define "The Church," save in the most ambiguous phrases, much less what MAKES it "true."
The answer is simple.
THEY make it true, and give it life through their acceptance and transformation of the Corridor Mormon cultural dynamic.
Mormonism gives the Mormon Church life; to the extent that the Mormon Church meets the needs of Mormonism's adherents, it will be a viable institution. To the extent that it fails to assist the members in meeting their needs, it thwarts its own growth, and plants the seeds of its own destruction.
Archaic organizational structures, irrelevant temple rituals, and an emphasis on material expansion to the exclusion of spiritual growth, all are reasons for the Mormon Church to transform itself, quickly.
To do this, we must first look to the control systems of the Mormon Church, and see if they complement Mormonism, and the Mormon people.
V. From Members to Mormons: Creating and Controlling a People
The Mormon Church, the matter of form, is the communal touchstone for the social construction of their reality, and even their persona.
Controlling the transformation of members of the Mormon Church into cultural Mormons requires two vehicles, the mission field and the temple control system.
V. A. The Mission Field
The mission fields primary focus is to weld the institution of the Mormon Church into the adult personae of church members. This requires catching the persona as it moves from adolescence into the true individuation of adulthood. At this point, the changing persona is totally immersed, for two critically important years, in an environment controlled solely by the Mormon Church.
This is the true purpose of missionary work - to convert the MISSIONARY to the Mormon Church, or more precisely, to the Church Institutional.
The standard system of missionary work - young man at the age of nineteen are summoned by the First Presidency to two years of service, while young ladies at twenty-one MAY serve as missionaries for eighteen months, seems to work to the best interests of none of the parties.
The parents face the financial burden of supporting their children while on a mission; for all too many of the imploding American middle class - and the Church recruits from the middle class and above - the cost of a mission is simply not economically feasible.
Their young men, who are supposed to go on a mission, are less inclined to support two years of indentured servitude. Remember, many leaders of the Church, including President Howard Hunter, and Thomas S. Monson, did not go on this mission as young men. Additionally, undocumented reports of a 25% inactivity rate among returned missionaries - the core of the Core, if you will - persist.
Their daughters are supporting a new demographic archetype, the "Virile Female." See, for instance, on television, "Dark Angel," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Earth: Final Conflict," and in books, David Weber's very successful series of (MILITARY!) science fiction novels featuring Honor Harrington. The list goes on of a new generation that does Tae-Bo instead of Quilting, Hiking instead of Housekeeping.
The missionary work of the daughters of Mormonism is simply incompatible with either the rapidly emerging new persona, or their personal dreams, and desires.
Thus, Salt Lake City gains very little from the status quo from missionary work - compared to what is possible.
A modest proposal.
One, tracting, the practice of going door to door trying to convert people to Mormonism, stops immediately. It is increasingly seen, correctly, as "make work," when their leaders have nothing for them to do. This is an insult to the missionaries - it says their work, and by extension, they, themselves, are of no real value; it becomes an exercise of "time serving," of all parties going through the motions of achieving superficial, and irrelevant, ends.
Obviously, the current pattern of missionary work for men fails to serve the interests of either the missionary, or the Church. Two years of unfocused and/or misdirected activity works to the benefit of no one. The solution is
Two, give the missionary an opportunity to serve the Church community while the Church community serves him.
The "two years at nineteen" pattern came from two good ideas - the two years of service, at the age when adult individuation is developing, and solidifying.
Why should they be served all at once, at a time when many other young men are starting college, and careers?
The greater good of all parties can be realized by giving them aptitude tests and skills test, as well as personality tests, the winter before their fourteenth summer. Here, the church's investment in MSTAR, the Church's Internet Service Provider, begins to pay off. Tests are administered over the Internet. These should be supplemented by personal interviews, as well.
Service can be structured around the summer vacations, and can be designed to help the young missionary develop personally, and professionally.
Imagine a young man from Argentina being told he has the opportunity to work for a summer on a Church-owned ranch in Montana. While there, counselors will work with him on transforming his personal problems into his greatest opportunities. MSTAR provides him with computer assisted learning, on his schedule, when it suite him, at his own pace. Learnframe Corporation, in association with BYU, can develop courseware to meet the needs of the all missionaries. MSTAR/Learnframe removes the barriers of time and space for education. His personal counselors are freed to help him in the unique issues of personal and spiritual development he faces.
The next summer, when he realizes he has an aptitude for construction, could be spent helping to build new barns and residences for the cowboys on another, Church-owned, ranch, in Alberta.
The following summer, he will move into servant leadership, learning more about the engineering behind the construction, as well as ranch management, at another, Church owned ranch, in Wyoming. His counselors will continue to work with him, personally as well as spiritually.
One year later, he advances into greater knowledge of the engineering, and management, of a larger Church-ranch in Oregon. His counselors are taking a more active role, but more as elder brothers, than as parent figures.
The following year, he graduates from school, and fulfills one year of service at a Church-owned ranch in Argentina. Additionally, this ranch works with the greater community, demonstrating responsible stewardship on the one hand, while building bridges from the Mormon community to the greater community, on the other. Eventually, MSTAR, and the cultural fabric of Mormonism connect a network of sustainable community-based agricultural enterprises, as well as such valuable young men.
Finally, he and others like him can work with other ecumenical organizations, like Habitat for Humanity. Again, they can learn valuable construction and engineering skills - with MSTAR and local assistance- and help make the world a better place. BYU's Engineering Department can, in turn, help develop standardized, low environmental impact housing - butterfly roofs and cisterns for arid climates, for one example, transforming multimodal storage containers into local housing, for another, and developing monolithic domes, for yet another.
Now, what does these young men associate with the Mormon Church?
They will associate the Mormon Church with periods of tremendous positive personal growth and development, all with an eye to removing the barriers to fulfilling his purpose on Earth.
By extension, this can make the Perpetual Education Fund a living, dynamic force for social change.
For example, new schools could be created - in parallel with the existing school system, or as charter schools, or as home schooling - along the lines of LDS Institute, but on steroids. Thus, an entire educational system can be supplied to the home, or the classroom, wherever the classroom is, by MSTAR in association with Learnframe Corporation. The Robinson Curriculum seems ideally suited as a foundation for home based education.
This simply takes the idea of the "old" Brigham Young Academy, spoken of so fondly by Elder David Haight, and extends it to the world; in doing so, it creates dynamic opportunities for missionaries to develop their families, their extended families, and their communities, in one move.
Possibly, the foundation could be laid for a new, alternative, parallel school system, using the dramatically underutilized ward and stake buildings. These would be, for example, an institution offering preschool through grade six learning, for example; computer assisted learning could extend this, of course, to lifelong learning.
In one generation, the Church could transform sections of Mexico, Latin America, and South America.
The new missionary program would be a personal development program of the first magnitude. Community sustainable agriculture, new construction skills - why not use Monolithic Domes for construction, and use the trained missionaries as contractors and builders of Monolithic Domes? Why not look at modifying cargo containers as residences in Second and Third World countries? Why not actively consider designing a new educational system that requires virtually none of the massive capital expenditures and bureaucracy of the status quo? New educational forms might well create the opportunity to look at alternative perspectives - the next breakthrough in the geometry of thinking might come from Brazil, the next master of TRIZ, from Guadalajara, the next master (mistress?) of systems dynamics from Villahermosa....
Now, THAT would be a meaningful missionary experience!
Perhaps Elder Jeffrey Holland, in Santiago, Chile, might find these ideas immediately useful....
(Incidentally, students of economic development for South America should acquaint themselves with the memorandum Buckminster Fuller wrote concerning Brazil in 1943.)
This opportunity should be no less available to young ladies, as well. However, for them, one extraordinary consideration should be borne in mind.
It has been noted elsewhere that many young ladies leave BYU to go on a mission at the age of twenty-one, the end of their junior year, for eighteen months.
Again, this can be broken into two "mini-missions" of three months each, following their freshman and sophomore years, and one full year, as it is now, following their junior year.
Let's assume the Mormon Church (a) wishes to grow, and (b) with a quality membership.
The best work for these young ladies is to go on a mission as ambassadors of the Church to Christian churches, in areas that are demographically and culturally compatible with their background. There is one exception to the rule. Their mission should served in an area that is at least one demographic step up from their background.
A shrewd and cunning man might note that this situation is ideal for those young ladies who might have an eye towards matrimony.
V. B. The Temple Based Control System
The formal control mechanism for the Church Institutional is the Mormon Church's temple recommend. Members are strongly encouraged to attend the temple. This requires a signed document, called a temple recommend, which follows a temple interview with the Bishop. In the interview, members essentially declare their support for the Church leadership, and verify their tithing.
Temple recommends have failed as a control system, largely because temple attendance, and temple work, is irrelevant to the vast majority of the membership. Many people in America outside the Mormon Corridor looked to the great burden of (distant)temple attendance. This was commonly cited as the reason for not seeking a temple recommend.
This was being disingenuous; it was an artful rationalization to politely speak an impolite truth: they simply did not want to go to the temple.
And yet, the Corridor Mormons cultural reality was that everyone at least said they wanted to go to the temple. Historically, Corridor temple attendance was supported by strong incentives; lack of attendance attracted stronger sanctions. Thus, the fact that virtually everyone said they wanted to attend the temple, and most did, reflected a social reality of the Mormon Corridor.
Hinckley failed to realize that this belief was not widely held, outside the Corridor, even by Corridor Mormons.
Hinckley's response was to place smaller temples closer to the people. This was the foundation of the "100 by 2000" temple construction plan. By all accounts, the "100 by 2000" temple program has become as ashes in Hinckley's mouth. The new temples are not drawing new members, but, at best, are largely displacing members from the established temples.
Members do not attend the temple for one reason - the costs outweigh the benefits of such work as vicarious atonement for the dead, where computer generated lists of total strangers are passed from temple to temple, and the same names are baptized in the Spirit for the Nth time.
The lack of spiritual power in the hollow, mechanistic, and bureaucratic temple rituals can be supplanted with a dynamic program that focuses on spiritual development - regular meditation sessions, preceded by a lecture on the interplay of spiritual forces that create Man, and the Universe, would provide a welcome alternative.
The Church has modified the temple rituals over the years as the organizations needs changed; in 1990, major changes - the removal of the more bloodthirsty sections (also borrowed from the Blue Lodge Freemason ritual) - helped make a bizarre ritual slightly less bizarre, and no less irrelevant.
These changes can be reviewed, and modified over time.
Remember, this is a religion that claims "the fulness of the Gospel," a dynamic "fulness" that unfolds as it is approached.
That this "fulness," as revealed in the temple ritual, is routinely rejected by such a large percentage of the membership speaks volumes as to its irrelevance.
The ritual can be supplemented with dynamic meditation exercises, following group discussions of spiritual issues, led by senior members of the Abrahamic Priesthood .
The ritual itself can be changed in time; it has before, under Smith, Young, and others, including Hinckley. Incidentally, Scot Denhalter, of mormonvillage.com, spoke at the SUNSTONE Conference concerning a new "Disciplina Arcani" for the Mormon Church. He seems to have displayed an awareness of the Gnostic core of the Blue Lodge Freemasonry that is at the core of the religious structures of the Mormon Church. Other Mormon apologists, such as D. Charles Pyle and KSLs Martin Tanner, could help provide the analytical foundation for a new approach to spiritual issues in the structure of the Mormon Church.
Ultimately, of course, the vicarious baptism for the dead should be phased out, allowing it only for the ancestors of a new member. The new program will replace the time spent on this, to the benefit of new, living forms of worship.
VI. Implosions - Internal and External
It is reasonable to suspect the leading indicators, the secretly maintained indicators of depth and breadth of Church member support, are imploding. Critical indicators, such as the number of Priesthood holders, are no longer published to the public in official Church records. Nor is the corporate structure fully disclosed, much less matched with disclosure of the financial conditions of the Mormon Church.
Internally, the true situation can be masked, for a season. Thus, for instance, many members of America's middle class masked their declining real income by using credit cards, and masked the cost of credit card based debt by rolling their credit card debt into mortgages. Nonetheless, they have overreached their sustainable standard of living, and are only delaying the day of reckoning.
It is reasonable to believe the Mormon Church faces a version of imperial overreach similar to that which led to CORRELATION. That overreach, remember, generated a regional implosion, and from that, an international restructuring of the Mormon Church.
Externally, their North American middle class core faces reduced economic circumstances, and are less willing to accept further responsibilities from a Church that, in turn, refuses to be even marginally accountable to them.
The lack of members under 40 - and precious few under 50! - at the recent Relief Society Conference is simply a hallmark of the demographic destiny of the Mormon Church.
The young women of today have choices that were literally unimaginable to their grandparents, and they are choosing to leave an organization that fails to address their needs, or provide meaningful opportunities to them.
Internationally, misallocation of investment resources may all too often be the norm, and not the exception. The incredible vagaries of member accounting - keeping members on the rolls until they reach the age of 110, for example, guarantee a misallocation of Church resources. Many countries are believed to have member participation rates as low as THREE PERCENT. The Philippines Area, for example, claims more than 440,000 members - yet, ONE temple is more than adequate for their needs. Incidentally, there are no plans for another temple in the Philippines obviously, one temple is more than adequate.
The solution is simple.
The needs of the cultural moment have changed, and the Mormon Church must support and sustain what Mormonism has become, or fade into the shadows of history.
The Mormon Church must address those needs, and transform itself, yet again.
This is, thanks to the Internet, easier than many might think.
The world Gordon B. Hinckley looked upon 75 years ago is gone; Britain, where he served his mission, was then the center of a mighty empire. Now, it is a small island off the coast of Europe.
Nauvoo, the capital of Joseph Smith's kingdom, is now the jewel in the crown of the Mormon Church; a preindustrial anachronism, the restored temple was purchased and developed with the Mormon Churchs spare change. A Mormon Church that was run out of Nauvoo, fearing for its life, now returns in a position of dominion.
The world changes: the inability of the leadership to transform the organization to meet the needs of the new environment guarantees an organization that is dying. On the outside, it may seem full of life; inside, it is as rotten as the core of a tree destroyed by lightning, incapable of generating new life from within.
The union of internal and external implosions defines the obstacles, and illuminates the spiritual opportunity hidden by the material obstacles.
VII. "Mainstreaming" as a Response to the Implosion
Hinckley's response has been to "Mainstream" the Mormon Church; to make it seem, externally, like another American Protestant denomination. This may be referred to as CORRELATION 2. This program seems to have the dual, complementary purposes of "activating" inactive members, and getting greater activation from the active members. A small review may be in order.
It is reasonable to assume the distinctions between the nominally stated number of members - including the dead - at roughly 11 million, and the accounting reality of "members of record" at about, to be generous, 5 million.
Let's assume the demographic reality: a net doubling of the population of the "Trek of '47" every 20 years.
This gives us a population of Corridor Mormons, cultural Mormons, the "true" Mormons, of about 3 million. An average family size of 3.1 gives us, for all practical purposes, two million adult Core Mormons.
Let's extrapolate this to the "100 by 2000" temple construction plan.
Assume that there are 1 million adult Mormons with current and active temple recommends; assume, further, that half of them are outside the Corridor. This assumption is supported by the massive expansion of temple capacity outside the Corridor during the period from 1990 to 2000 - from four to twenty temples, or 42% of the NUMBER of temples in America. (Inside the Corridor, for this same period, temple numbers grew to twenty-seven.)
This assumption has greater validity than many might understand. Defining the Corridor to include, essentially, America west of the Rockies - a not unreasonable assumption, if you look at actual temple placement - gives America 68% of the world's temple capacity as defined by square feet of space. Of this, the Corridor, writ large, is 76% of America's square foot temple capacity. Of this, 54% is located in Utah.
Thus, two-thirds of the world's temple capacity is in America; three-quarters of that is west of the Rocky Mountains, and half of THAT is in Utah.
Another look at the expansion pattern in the Corridor, versus the rest of America, is educational.
Outside the Corridor, to 1990 - FOUR temples, with 266,803 square feet.
Inside the Corridor, to 1990 - FIFTEEN temples, with 1,739,944 square feet.
Outside the Corridor, from 1991 to the end of 2000, SIXTEEN temples, with 368,838 square feet; an average temple size of 23,052 square feet.
Inside the Corridor, from 1991 to the end of 2000, TWELVE temples, with 462,997 square feet; an average temple size of 38,585 square feet - more than 55% LARGER than the average temple outside the Corridor in the same time frame.
Thus, the Corridor has 75% of the temple square footage - temple capacity - with 57% of the temples.
Outside the Corridor, in America, assuming the population distribution matches temple capacity, that's 1,00,000 adults spread out over twenty-seven temples; or, 37,000 people per temple.
If we assume 250 work days for the temple, temple demand, assuming 100% of the corridor Mormons have current and active temple recommends, then the demand for temple services is about 140 people per day.
From what we have heard, and the Mormon Church refuses to disclose this data, over a year, demand for temple work, certainly outside the Corridor, comes to 14 people per temple per day.
Alternatively, certainly outside the Corridor, ONLY 100 PEOPLE GO TO ANY TEMPLE IN A WEEK; the entire temple can meet all of their needs by opening the temple only ONE DAY A WEEK.
With capacity utilization of less than 14%, the failure of the "100 by 2000" temple plan is obvious.
There are other, more substantive issues, supporting the Implosion Hypothesis.
Let's assume half of them are "active" - tithe, fulfill callings, etc.
(Incidentally, with an average family income of $60,000 per year, tithing from this Core group comes to SIX BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR. Add to this various offerings and "inkind services" (free labor), and the benefits of even marginally increased member activity are obvious.)
THE MEMBERS THAT REMAIN INACTIVE ARE NO LESS "MORMON" THAN THE MEMBERS OF THE QUORUM OF THE TWELVE.
These "less active" members are the keys to realizing the potentially vast internal gains. They reflect, in larger part, what Mormonism has become in practice. These members are the focus of "Mainstreaming," a program of increasing INTERNAL conversions.
Remember, quantitatively, the Mormon Church's external conversion efforts have peaked. Further, qualitatively, external conversions are (a) a "wash" from an accounting perspective (members joining equals members leaving), and (b) a net drain on the quality of the membership. Why? The "members leaving" component must include a substantial number of people with superior socioeconomic status. After all, poor people simply join, fail to see any benefits, and leave.
Additionally, an amazing number of people of superior socioeconomic status have taken the step of formally sending in letters of resignation to Salt Lake City. This is doubly disheartening to the Church - the kind of people who would do this are exactly what the missionary effort was designed to recruit.
Reasonably, does Hinckley deserve the benefit of the doubt?
The answer seems to be a highly qualified "Maybe."
VIII. The Future, and Alternatives to Failure
"Mainstreaming" seems to be a response to the failures of the Mormon Church, and the Church Institutional, to keep pace with Mormonism.
The Implosion is thus a cultural response to the fact that Mormonism - the practices and beliefs of the Church Institutional - is no longer compatible with America outside of the Mormon corridor. Given the status quo, it is reasonable to believe a new conservatism would come to the forefront; social experimentation would be a thing of the past.
The Implosion could, over the space of a generation, call many of the Corridor Mormons home to Deseret, whether in reaction to an economic implosion where THE extended family comes together to pool their resources, and survive, or as a cultural retreat from an America that does not work for them.
Prescient leadership would begin to accept this force by realigning the Mormon Church from the East - West axis of Hinckley's American Century, to the North - South axis of the New American Century; from Idaho to Mexico, and, in any case, stopping at the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains.
The first steps of the new leadership are obvious.
An effective action plan would have two simple components, consolidation and transformation. These would be based around three basic principles:
Principle One, economic self-sufficiency - every program, every ward, must pay its own way.
Principle Two, an internal focus to missionary efforts - "if you don't want to be here, that's fine with us."
Principle Three, removal of structural barriers to feminine empowerment - women must matter.
Principle One - economic self-sufficiency - can be met by recognizing the obvious - empty ward buildings is an expensive embarrassment.
Going to two hour sessions on Sunday would increase the effectiveness of these capital assets by fifty percent with the stroke of a pen. Closing the Johannesburg temple would send a signal to all - and would allow Packer to remind the membership that their continued support for The Lords Work is a test of their faith. As the Church membership in Johannesburg was unfaithful in sustaining the temple, they were sanctioned by the removal of the temple. The new temples announced for Aba, Nigeria and Accra, Ghana, would certainly reflect the true demand for temple service. Certainly, the lower operations and maintenance expenses for these temples would accrue to Salt Lakes benefit.
This continues the practice of consolidating wards (and stakes) that serve as net outflows of resources - human and capital resources - that might be better invested in sustaining and enhancing the Mormon Corridor, Brigham Young's "Zion."
The quantitative, material consolidation could be accelerated by acknowledging the importance of the qualitative component - more ACTIVE Priesthood holders, with current temple recommends - as the driver and force multiplier in consolidation efforts. By increasing the number of active Priesthood holders needed to form a ward, consolidation could proceed fairly easily, leaving a more effective series of wards and stakes in place.
Principle Two - the internal focus of the missionary efforts - can be fulfilled by making home teaching truly optional, leaving the truly inactive alone, and eliminating tracting from missionary duties.
In turn, missionaries will be freed up from wasting their time on hostile, inactive members, to truly assist in transforming the lives and communities of Church members.
This creates the opportunity for true mutual (!) support - the hallmark of the extended family that is at the heart of Mormonism. Less time spent on "make-work" activities creates opportunities for true growth and development, and even relaxation.
In this vein, the missionaries learning construction skills under the new programs could assist in routine maintenance on the property of the membership; a welcome surprise would be a young lady explaining to the Relief Society the property method to replace, say, worn-out lamp sockets. Extremely cost effective, low skill, low cost efforts to improve the insulation of members houses pay big dividends, for all parties.
The use of MSTAR/Learnframe Corporations efforts to move information, and education, can help transform many marginal wards, by creating opportunities to add value to the benefits of Church membership.
Principle Three - structural feminine empowerment - can be done by creating a parallel organization to the Boy Scout troops currently sponsored by almost all wards. By using Girl Scout manuals for guidance, and as a source of activities, room could be made for the "Virile Female" demographic - along with the more traditional, "Molly" practices. Indeed, it is not unreasonable for the YW leadership to contact Land's End for some ideas on designing and supplying a uniform look. The abolition of the historical "yucky green uniforms" seems to have done wonders for the Girl Scouts. The YW leadership has a head start. It should take full advantage of it.
In time, they will prove themselves as strong, solid, self-reliant partners, much as the wives of the "Trek of '47" were to their husbands.
Three ideas for a new start!
IX. The New Start: The New American South Area
Viewing the demographic future of the Mormon Church, a look into the future, say, thirty years or so, might be useful.
The economic implosion of the early twenty first century is past; what happened to Argentina is 2001-2003 hit the American middle class by late 2005. By 2010 the series of race to the bottom economic policies had worsened the economies of all nations. The world had evolved into three trading blocks. The nations in each bloc had a common political leadership in all but name: the Americas, Europe (including Russia), and the Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.
Having set the international stage....
The consolidation efforts of President Monson accelerated though 2005; by then, the Mormon Church was down to 2 million members. After closing the Johannesburg temple, Hinckley, in his last proclamation as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, drew the line on temple closings. We have closed wards and stakes throughout the world. So many of those who remain in the Church, but outside the Americas, are meting in branches, the homes of members. We have cut all of the fat, and a goodly portion of the meat. No more.
They were his last words to the public.
The new First Presidency of Thomas Monson, James Faust, and Boyd K. Packer, took to the task at hand with a rare sense of purpose. The consolidation continued in America. Church welfare became available only to those who held current and active temple recommends. Stakes and wards were consolidated, and branches were held together by the faith of an older, poorer, membership.
Eventually, the Church was all but isolated in its stronghold, the Intermountain West. Monsons gift, Consolidation, was the last offering of the only man who knew how to reform the Churchs business practices and investments during crisis.
Under Monson, any investment that was not feasible, from Deseret Citrus and Cattle to vacant ward buildings, were liquidated, and the Church remained on stable ground.
Observers note that the Implosion was the answer to Monsons prayers; only those who wanted to be there, and were willing to work, were wanted as Church members. This single-mindedness harkened back to the days of Brigham Young, who tried to make a community survive, and flourish, in the harsh Salt Lake Valley.
With the legendary hard-liners of Faust and Packer by his side, he could phase out the archaic Baptism for the dead ceremonies. A new temple ritual was now possible. As the Churchs external consultants noted, Nobody likes the damn thing, and it doesnt teach anything. Cut it to one hour, and simplify it. Make the new center of temple attendance a group discussion of spiritual issues, followed by dynamic group meditation.
This was a remarkably successful practice; particularly in the smaller, more powerful Church. The School of the Prophets, reconstituted for the second time in Church history, was the perfect tool to help the people through the troubled times they faced. Focused by the economic and political crisis about them, people sought peace and refuge in a community setting. The temple became, again, a center of the new community, and a place of peace, and personal development.
Monson was succeeded in the First Presidency in 2010 by Apostle, now President, Jeffrey Holland.
Hollands great innovation, called the Mexican Miracle, took hold of the Churchs imagination.
The Mexican Miracle was based on the observation of Hernando Desoto concerning the inability of the average Mexican to raise the resources needed to escape poverty. Without collateral, it was impossible, Their primary store of collateral was their real property, their houses and farms. Because of the vagaries of the Mexican land titling system, nobody could be sure enough who owned what, to be able to use it as collateral. Holland, working with BYU and the National University of Mexico School of Law, and the Reuben J. Clark School of Law, developed an accelerated system of ascertaining exactly who owned what property, and the best means of assuring the integrity of that title. With title insurance now a reality, loans could be generated to assist in the transformation of the real property and agricultural centers of the economy. Membership in the Mormon Church was now seeing as offering tangible advantages. The Americas South Research Group at Brigham Young University noted, in their confidential report to the First Presidency, The Mormon Church has offered one thing, alone, to the people of the Americas South region- America, and the possibility of American citizenship. When these were not forthcoming, they left.
The new home based school system was reaping rewards; Oaxaca was promising to be the Bangalore of Mexico; as one student said, My father can not add or subtract; thanks to the Mormon school, I am learning calculus. I will be an engineer.
Above all, a generational shift in thinking was taking place. Voluntary Simplicity became the watchword for all Church members; the Relief Societys famous Longitudinal Analysis of Income and Wealth demonstrated the dramatically lower real incomes of Church members. This forced an awareness of real value, and the importance of simplification to avoid false attachments. The Relief Society had also taken to heart the principles Paul Hawken defined in Natural Capitalism. For the first time, pollution was defined as economic waste, and new efforts to foster a Green Consumer Revolution took place. Church wide support for sustainable economic practices, and boycotts of industries that practiced wasteful design, became a common topic at Relief Society meetings.
Practicing what she preached, all were amazed when Relief Society President Sheri Dew took the podium at General Conference, and quoted from Factor Four: Doubling Wealth, Having Resource Use. This is the key to the rapid economic development and transformation we are seeing in the New America South Area; starting with cutting edge technology, they did not need to invest in miles of copper wire to communicate, or develop harmful industrial processes. They followed the example of our ancestors, who carried all they had to the Valley, and started over, from scratch. Dew then went on to quietly poke fun at her detractors. Many people laughed when, as the head of Deseret Book, I went to the Durabook system. The twenty-five percent higher cost of development was a burden to all. Fortunately, they are waterproof, and recyclable. It just so happens that, with these advantages, the Scouts of America choose Bookcraft to print the new Scout Manuals, and merit badge booklets. Weve recovered our money, and then some.
Conference Center went wild.
Our home based education system has made it possible to have schooling without the tremendous capital costs of the schools, and the archaic bureaucracy that went with them. Sixteen year old Juan Rafael Ramirez has just published a paper on The Uses of Riemann Geometry for Modeling Econometric States. He has just been offered a faculty position at BYU - Virginia.
The transformation of Southern Virginia College into a part of the BYU System was one of the last things President Hinckley did. He said, By God, our educational system must be the best in the West; why isnt it the best in the East, as well?
BYU - Virginia, ironically, had modified its educational system to follow in the footsteps of Ackoffs Learning Cell Model, as applied at Mexicos National Autonomous University. The Oxbridge-like campus was the ideal environment for such learning; motivated teachers worked closely with motivated students.
The closing speech at General Conference was given by President Jeffrey Holland. In it, he moving described his quiet feelings of joy when the community based sustainable agriculture system was used to feed the people, teach their children about biology, and build bridges to surrounding communities. The Church gardens and canneries were the last line of defense for a people facing starvation; the genetically altered food crops were dying, and no one knew why. The farmers became a new class of serfs, bound to the land by debts they could never repay, forced to buy new GM seed each year. Only the Churchs gardens and farms kept the community going. The new church-based cooperatives were doing a remarkable job of sustainable agriculture; hemp based fibers were making wastelands profitable, and were used for everything from fabrics to paper.
The application of Desotos economic model to the rest of the New American South Area was making it profitable for banks to invest, and a new dynamic took place in the community; new, sustainable businesses were growing by leaps and bounds. More and more, they were based on the business principles put forward by Ricardo Semler, and Jack Stack.
The new economic system replaced income taxes with taxes on imports, and pollution. Energy is remarkable, noted Holland. Its the one thing you get more of as you tax it. He was right. Taxing one form, such as fossil fuels, to recognize their external costs, made alternatives, including conservation, more attractive, to the point that they became competitors.
And, in time, the Church-based cooperatives became the core of a new Community, that embraced workable, sustainable economic ideals with a new sense of compassion.
And THAT became the hallmark of the Holland Era.