Subject: Church obsession with numbers goes from the top to the bottom
Date: Apr 14 18:05
Author: Deconstructor

Anyone who has served a mission or in church leadership recognizes the numbers game the GAs are playing.

The numbers game is rampant in the mission field. In my mission, numbers drove everything. Each companionship had to report a slew of weekly numbers to their District Leader. All the District Leaders had to report their number to the Zone Leaders. Zone Leaders reported numbers to the Assistants to the President, who then reported them to the Mission President. Every week the MP would stew over the numbers like his life depended on it.

I was very dissapointed to discover such obsession with numbers in the mission field. I thought it was because of my over-zealous mission president. But later when I rose in the mission ranks, I discovered that the mission president was obsessed with numbers because he was pressured on the numbers he reported. And the regional reps above him also had pressure to report impressive numbers to thier church superiors.

The numbers game goes all the way up the pecking order, all the way to the very top of the church. Junior missionary companions feel the pressure to produce numbers and so does everyone else up the chain.

The whole system is numbers-obsessed, which leads to a lot of lying. When people are judged by their numbers, it can often be easier to fudge the numbers to get approval, rather than stay honest and not meet the unrealistic targets.

Did anyone else see this phenomena in church leadership?

To some extent the same thing goes on in the Wards, where Stake Presidencies obsess over home teaching numbers. But they obsess over it because thier leaders obsess over it.

Is this numbers-driven game really healthy?

Who's to blame for the game, the people or the system?

Subject: Mission numbers
Date: Apr 14 18:21
Author: Wag

I remember being hounded for numbers all the time. I don't recall that I ever INTENTIONALLY fudged the numbers, however, I can't speak for my comps when it was their turn to track them.

But it would certainly have been easy to fudge the numbers, that's for sure. As a HT after my mission, I think I used to feel a lot of guilt from reporting someone has having been home taught when I had merely called them on the 'phone. That was right up to the point when I had a fanatical EQP who actually suggested that we do that rather than visit.


Subject: Vintage Jack Welch: Manage by the numbers.
Date: Apr 14 18:22
Author: Rocannon

Jack Welch is the legendary CEO of GE, a real icon in the corporate management field (and lately in the news for getting taken to the cleaners by his ex-wife in the divorce settlement).

The Mormon Church (or should I say The Corproation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is managed like a corporation, with senior mangement, middle management, a management career path, executive training seminars, an in-house training facility (BYU), etc. Of course numbers are the central focus of management in the Church. That's how you boost productivity and hit growth targets.

The only corporate governance feature missing from the Mormon ecclesiastical structure is . . . accountability of the senior management. An unfortunate oversight.

Subject: Management structure based on the military.
Date: Apr 15 09:07
Author: Stray Mutt

When American business came out of WWII, it adopted to the greatest extent ever the command and control structure of the military. Why not, since it had just proved successful in the war. It was relatively easy to implement since so many employees and young executives had been in the military and were used to the org chart culture where information flowed up, orders flowed down, and the ones at the lower levels did what they were told without questioning.

Before the war, there were fewer management layers between the top guy and the bottom guys. After the war, middle management expanded greatly, and with it, a lot of reporting systems. -- systems based on numbers. Who was doing what and how well were all measured and reported up the chain of corporate command.

The irony of business culture (and by extension, military culture) is that they are essentially monarchies, dictatorships, oligarchies or aristocracies that flourish in an otherwise democratic society. The folks at the bottom don't get to choose the bosses, they don't steer the ship. They take orders or suffer the consequences.

And so it is with the Corporation of Jesus Christ. Information, numbers and money flow up the chain of command, orders flow down. The members don't choose the leaders, the leaders do. Follow the prophet, follow the profit.

Subject: Very insightful post...(cussing)
Date: Apr 16 08:00
Author: anon

I'm in the military and I'm currently assigned to a Staff section whose sole existence, it seems, is to attend meeting after f*cking meeting reporting every goddamn numerical stat you can imagine....but wait, it doesn't just stop at my unit....ooooohh noooo...I have ADDITIONAL duties which require a plethora of new f*cking reports that are due on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis. I have six different databases tracking twenty different reporting requirments and every is SOOOO f*ckING important that it seems like your life would stop if you didn't get it in on time....

BUT, the irony is that your reports are paradoxically important. In other words, the less important they are to you and your job, the more important it is to the higher ups. Thus, our reporting is inaccurate because taking the time to report accurate numbers (tracking down people, getting numbers, assigning people to fill meaningless slots...) would take up so much time that your main job would suffer. Thus the higher ups get a less accurate picture because the lower downs are stretched so thin that they just make shit up.

There were many similarities in my mission. Bullshit discussions, for example just talking to someone on the street and saying a few lines out of the first discussion would count. Quicky baptisms. Fudged numbers. Whatever. The system is set up to breed a culture of dishonesty because the expectations and promises are so unrealistic. Eventually it collapses.

Subject: A lesson from the Soviet Union
Date: Apr 14 18:28
Author: Gunshy

This reminds me of stories of the Soviet Union , where productivity goals were driven by numbers.

The nail making industry would be judged on how many nails it produced in a given year. To maximize the number and gain approval from the authorities, very small nails would be made by the billions. The productivity numbers looked great, but there was a national shortage of nails big enough to do anything but hang pictures.

To rectify the situation, the goals were then changed to judge the industry by the total tonnage of nails produced in a year. To maximize tonnage, the factories churned out railroad spike sized nails and the tonnage numbers went through the roof. Unfortunately this produced a national shortage of smaller nails.

The Church has been emphasizing numbers of converts over quality for decades. The consequences are getting hard to hide.

Subject: The negative consequences of the numbers game...
Date: Apr 14 18:39
Author: Deconstructor

Both you and wag have provided some real examples of how the numbers game reduces quality and effectiveness.

That's what's so demoralizing about the whole numbers game, especially as applied to religion. Obsessing over numbers chokes out nurturing spirituality and human relationships.

It makes you wonder just how divinely inspired the church is for institutionalizing the numbers game.

It looks like ineffective and obsolete 1950's management style rather than a divine plan for mankind.

How can the church be anywhere near perfect (as the TBM mantra suggests) using such unhealthy management techniques?

Subject: Interesting observation; Alpha males form the System, then...
Date: Apr 14 18:33
Author: Colonel Thomas Kane

use the System to shape the behavior of the beta males, and the gammas - the Drones.

There is an excellent, subtle observation, in Deconstructor's observations - the subordinates simply never even think of questioning what they do - it is The Lord's Anointed, who have done all of the thinking, and have The Big Picture.

The judgments of the betas and gammas are not only discounted; they are ignored as not worthy of discussion.

Thus, SOMEWHERE, at one time or another, SOME brand-new missionary said, if only to himself, "All of this tracting makes no sense whatsoever; not only are we not recruiting anyone, the people we seem to attract are not worth recruiting - they are basket cases, and we are not prepared to help them, if we wanted to."


Immediately, the overriding message kicks in, "We are doing the work of the Lord's Anointed; if we are not succeeding, it is our moral failures that are blocking the work and wonder."

The worship of meaningless numbers are an archaic holdover from the old days of American management, the Sixties, when "Theory X" ruled management thinking.

With a system of blind, unthinking followers, it works rather well.

One more observation - structural changes must be introduced slowly, or people might suspect The Lord's Anointed were fallible.

Can't have THAT!

That's why, among other reasons, this last, historic General Conference, was the moment the Church began to accept the need for change - this was the first Conference to announce the truth - a decline in stakes, representing a decline in the Church, and the failure of the historic system of management by numbers.

Best wishes.

Subject: Remember Boxer from Orwell's classic "Animal Farm?"
Date: Apr 15 08:39
Author: rpm

The huge dumb workhorse who just kept on trudging along despite failure in every respect?

Sounds like he would have made a good mormon missionary.


Subject: Re: Church obsession with numbers
Date: Apr 14 18:40
Author: Stinger

My mission President gave the same talk to all new missionaries:

"Elders, why are you here?"

(One answer)"To teach the gospel."


(Second answer)"To make converts to the church."


Now silence. Everyone just looks at each other

"Elders," the President said after a good pause, "You are here to BAPTIZE!

He was right. What people actually learned. Why or Whether they actually believed was none of our business. Leave that to the ward or whatever. JUST BAPTIZE THEM!

False Prophets? "...By their fruits ye shall know them." JC

Subject: I've heard of similar talks from MPs. Was it part of their training? n/t

Subject: You're right - here are two good examples.
Date: Apr 14 20:12
Author: Lurker 2

1. An Australian guy I knew met Spencer Kimball (then church president ) at the MTC in Provo. Pres. Kimball asked him where he was from. "Perth, Australia," came the reply. "Perth, Australia? They had 105 baptisms last month," said Kimball. This Aussie guy didn't have the heart to tell the church president that most of those baptised were being hustled into the church and didn't stay active for very long.
2. My TBM brother, a ward clerk, told me of a meeting he was called to attend - at the stake centre, with some important guy from the regional church office. At the start of this guy's talk to all the clerks, he said, " Brethren, I've read all the statistical reports you've sent in, and now I've come to find out what's REALLY happening." Everyone laughed.

Subject: Quantifying the absurd...
Date: Apr 14 20:20
Author: Ron G.

...In the case of my mission in southern France, numbers games were all we had, since the baptisms were few and far between. After my mission I noticed how important stats were to members, since so much of church "work", (like home teaching), was busy work. I think some people believe that quantifying the nonsense that is Mormonism lends it an air of credibility.

My 2


Subject: Oh yes - I was often asked......
Date: Apr 15 02:41
Author: Lurker 2

how many H.T. visits my comp and I had made for the month, but rarely asked how the folks we visited were doing.

Subject: When the Church says it's not about the numbers, guess what . . .
Date: Apr 14 20:52
Author: steve benson

it's about the numbers.

Subject: Ashamed to admit this...(racial slurs)
Date: Apr 15 10:45
Author: rofecoxib

I recall the obsession with numbers well during my mission in SE United States. I don't recall there being a blatant desire to lie abuot the weekly numbers reports from most missionaries, but they also knew that mission realities dictated that the numbers had to look good or there would be hell to pay. Hence, there was some creativity and rationaliztions in the number reoprting process.

The only numbers that I recall reporting that were complete fiction was the number of proselyting hours worked. For most of the companionships I was in, we rarely were out working at 9:30 in the morning. For one, many missionaries tended to sleep in, and though I didn't very often, I soon learned to respect the sleep habits of my companions if we were to get along. Also, there was almost nothing productive to do at 9:30 in the morning anyway. You could tract, but most just lunatics and lazy folks were home at that time. These people did not result in baptisms.

I vividly recall being "creative" with number of discussions taught and BoMs placed. Typically, on one afternoon of the week, we would make an attempt to beef up numbers to a level acceptable to the DLs/Zls/APs ect. We would typically go to the black neighborhoods (often government housing projects), because the blacks were a thousand times more likely to be receptive to hearing a "message about Jesus" and to accept a FREE BoM. In fact, we could cover the princples of the 1st discussion on a porch while placing a BoM in just a couple of minutes. I am not proud to say this, but we referred to these as "Nigger D's" (D for discussion). Anyways, in my mission, that's how the numbers game was satisfied. Of course, we hardly ever even bothered to follow up on any of these initial contacts since we knew it was pointless, and that we could get more 1st discussion Nigger D's anytime we wanted. In an hour or two, we could have the 10 to 12 discussions for the week for numbers purposes, and then we were free the rest of the week to try "real missionary work" which was usually unproductive, but did produce occasional baptisms (about an average of one baptism every two months for me.)

Subject: Example at a ward I recently attended
Date: Apr 15 10:55
Author: Jackson

I recently attended a small midwestern ward. It was spring break. The Bishop announced that 28 members were gone on vacation. I counted the people in the congregation -- 50 were there including 6 missionaries. The Bishop had told me they had 300 members in the ward and normally reported quarterly attendance of between 95-105.

50+28=78, not 95 or 100 or 105. My guess is these guys were shooting to add a new wing to their small building. So they inflated the numbers to make it look like they deserved the new wing. I have often thought that membership reports should be based on attendance totals, but the attendance totals are just as suspect as the overall membership totals.

Mormons are taught to lie at the lowest levels. When they reach higher levels, lying has just become part of their nature. The teenage boy lies about masturbation and the Word of Wisdom. Then he lies about how many discussions he taught this month as a missionary. Then he in effect lies by dunking some less than convinced converts and counting them as a baptisms.

He goes home and becomes a home teacher and lies about home teaching a family he didn't really teach. The Elders Quorum lies about how many families were home taught. The Bishop lies about how many members are attending each week. The Stake President accepts all the lies (probably knowing they are lies) and reports them to SLC. The lies make the Church look better so the GAs are happy to accept the lies.

And Joseph Smith, John Taylor, etc. lied about polygamy and who knows what else. It is a dishonest organization from top to bottom. And they are taught this in their youth.

Subject: Re: Example at a ward I recently attended
Date: Apr 15 11:00
Author: rofecoxib

This reminds me of the practice of some stake presidents that have a small branch in the stake and wants to get a building or expansion of a current building. I have known stake presidents to make assignments to families in other wards to go to the small branch on certain weeks in order to boost the attendance numbers and get approval for their building.

Subject: Playing the Numbers Game to Win
Date: Apr 15 11:26
Author: Anonymous semi-regular poster

Something like this occurred 12-15 years ago where I live now. An English Ward and a Spanish Ward met in the same dumpy old building. Members of both wards attended each others' Sacrament Meetings to get the numbers up to get a new building. A few years later, my old branch got a new building by ginning up attendance for one month. We didn't have to bring in ringers from other units. Under the old system, an average attendance of 90 for one quarter was sufficient to get a new building. However, only one month of each quarter was reported to SLC. Therefore, average attendance of 90 for one month did the trick.

Subject: what does an EQP say to the quorum.....
Date: Apr 15 11:08
Author: danboyle

does he ask about the families? or does he ask about the numbers. I have never heard an eqp ask for a report on the well being of families, just the numbers, numbers, numbers. Years ago, I told my HT that he is NOT to come visit us EVER, but that he is to report us as having been visited every month. Six years later, it's still working.

Subject: As an EQP I did an audit of home teaching once...
Date: Apr 15 11:33
Author: Scott Jensen

I sensed that many people were checking the box and not home teaching so in a zealous, around-the-back effort that I thought was directed by God, the EQ presidency called every family on our list to verify the claim of being home taught.

Many people laughed when we asked if they had been home taught that month. The result was that less than half of what was reported actually were home taught. I put a little presentation together for the correlation meeting and got my head handed to me by the Bishop when I suggested that the real numbers need to be reported.

He wasn't interested in the truth. He wanted to look good.
Best always,

Subject: In my case, just after taking over the EQ reigns
Date: Apr 16 00:57
Author: rpm

I cracked the books and discovered that the previous EQ pres. had been reporting 80-90 percent HT averages, based on a relatively small number of families.

I soon discovered that there were about 40 families that were not even on the HT lists, all inactive. So, when these families were added into the averages, the result was a poor less than 50 percent HT average. Which I faithfully reported on the next Quarteyly report.

A day or so after teh report was submitted, one of the SP's counselors called me into his office to explain this apparent error in calculations. He assumed I had goofed the math, because he figured that the averages would remain the same under different leadership. When I told him what I found, he brushed it aside, and asked that I figure the percentages without adding in the "lost" families.


Subject: I can beat that stat!
Date: Apr 16 03:02
Author: GLG

In our last ward, the EQP reported 17% home teaching for a month, when in reality, only 7% had been done. All the TBM's asked only one question when the "Scandal" broke: "Why did he bother to fudge such a low number?"


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