I had been serving my mission for a year when President Monson lowered the age requirements for full-time missionaries. The change in policy seemed especially inspired considering that we were in the midst of the Mormon Moment. The Book of Mormon musical had come out, Glenn Beck was having a religious reawakening, and Mitt Romney was about to become the 45th President of the United States.
As unprecedented amounts of youth signed up to serve, every missionary felt like the world was on the cusp of hearing the glorious news of the gospel. I remember going into members’ homes, reading D&C 88:73, and together with families attempting to calculate the massive impact that tens of thousands of more missionaries would have on the Lord’s work (side note: we would have been the world’s single largest religion within 10 years).
In the months following, our ward’s bishopric and ward council hearkened to the voice of God’s modern prophets, who by this time referred to the policy change as a “revelation”. Worldwide training broadcasts told members to step up their game, pray about each of their friends, buy a bunch of copies of the Book of Mormon, and get the Elders into their friends. Promises that the field was white and ready to harvest were left tenderly in the name of Christ. Just read some of the material published during this whole push. I love Elder Perry’s prophetic quote here. Or the entire Hastening The Work Of Salvation website. Or this October 2013 Ensign article. Bloggers were caught up in it. Touchy-feely videos moved all of us.
But by January 2014, the goal posts had moved. One LDS website really summed the new outlook in this single paragraph:
“Hastening the work of salvation” is not just about missionary work. It’s more than a catchphrase, but it’s not a new Church program.”
We’ve always been at war with Eurasia.
Y0u see, nothing hastened. Mitt Romney lost the election, the initial spike of missionaries really was just a spike, and, most importantly, baptisms per missionary decreased and haven’t improved. In Laman’s terms, LESS people care about Mormonism, not more. It seems that the Mormon Moment didn’t create a sudden demand for converts like God’s prophets revealed it would. Although everyone was bearing their heartfelt testimony that the field was white and ready to harvest, it just wasn’t the case. The only thing that has gotten whiter and more ready to harvest are the organ donors serving in the Quorum of the Twelve.
Missionaries serving has dropped 12%. These Top 10 Discouraging membership trends are more discouraging than the Top 10 Encouraging ones. Even the Deseret New admits everything isn’t ideal.
Members in poorer countries are inactive. Converts in developed countries are few and far between. And between it all, a growing crisis of faith and history that will continue to ripple throughout the Church. Is this what “hastening the work” is supposed to look like? Or is it safe to say that Church leadership were just speaking as men?