Remain in your homeland

In last General Conference, Elder Uchtdorf reiterated the 1999 counsel of the First Presidency, a counsel that has actually been given since the 1950s. It says: “In our day, the Lord has seen fit to provide the blessings of the gospel, including an increased number of temples, in many parts of the world. Therefore, we wish to reiterate the long-standing counsel to members of the Church to remain in their homelands rather than immigrate to the United States. … As members throughout the world remain in their homelands, working to build the Church in their native countries, great blessings will come to them personally and to the Church collectively.”

The fact that this counsel is reiterated at General Conference level in 2005, probably means scores of Mormons are still immigrating to the U.S., in particular to the “Mormon West”. Figures are not available, but I presume it pertains to thousands of (planning) immigrants per year, not counting undocumented workers from Mexico or other Latin countries who are members of the Church. We may also assume that the opening of East-European and African countries to the preaching of the Gospel has intensified the number of people desirous to come to the U.S., considering the already intense migrating movement from these countries to Western Europe.

This post does not doubt the merit of the counsel “Remain in your homeland”. It is obvious that having Mormons stay in their units (branches, missions, wards, stakes) will strengthen the local Church by expanding membership and leadership. The more members, the more missionary work, the more converts. It should be exponential.

I am interested in probing deeper in the topic by submitting two questions: 1) Why are so many Mormons still interested in immigration? 2) What can be done to curb the trend? I will try to answer them from my perspective and experience, but am very interested to hear your comments.

1 – Why are so many Mormons still interested in immigration?

The following motives are given in no particular order of importance. Some overlap. Some work hand in hand.

1a – For economic reasons. In migration theory, it is a basic motive why people leave their country of origin: financial push-pull factors, which indeed brought tens of millions to the U.S. during the past centuries. Those factors continue to work today. First, there are people who want to escape deficiencies and find a better life elsewhere. As the Church expands into countries with major economic challenges, in Eastern-Europe, Africa, Latin America, it is inescapable that underprivileged converts will look into emigration as Mormonism turns their attention to the U.S. The image the Church radiates, through its chapels, temples, Conference center, pictures of “typical” American Mormons in Church magazines, does its share to feed the dream of a much better life in Mormon America. But, secondly, there are also those migrants who bring millions of dollars to the U.S., leaving countries where they plateau, or feel crushed by unreasonable taxes or unsatisfied for whatever reason. I know various wealthy Mormon entrepreneurs, retailers, restaurateurs, diamond dealers… who left Western Europe to settle and invest in America’s West.

1b – For education and perspective. Let me illustrate with the story of a Belgian Mormon boy named Mark. Some 25 years ago, in the demanding Belgian school system and because of family problems, Mark got behind in high school. As often happens in such cases, he was step-by-step relegated to the lowest curriculum, in his case to become a gardener, excluded from any chance for higher education. But when he was 20, the Mormon connection provided him an opportunity to come to the U.S. He got his high-school degree, was able to go to college, bloomed, got his bachelor’s, master’s and doctor’s degrees, and is now a top expert in a major U.S. firm. There are numerous Mormon Marks, from various countries, in the U.S. today, fanned out in many states. Indeed, the American school system is remedial, salvaging for those who have the talent and want to work. Imagine the appeal for those who live in countries where the educational system blocks them because it is too restricting, or too harsh at the wrong time, or substandard. The Perpetual Education Fund cannot help them locally in such case. If they are ambitious enough to break the circle, their Mormon links may give them information and opportunities to come to the U.S. Who would have denied it to Mark?

1c – For Church life. Church members in America who have an easily reachable chapel, plenty of experienced leadership, lots of willing and able hands around to serve and to help, Seminary and Institute in the neighborhood, bookstores that carry Church material, Deseret Industries, various kinds of professional LDS services, tax-deductible tithing, etc. can hardly imagine what it means to live in a far-away region where there is just a small, struggling Mormon unit. To live there, not just for the time of a mission, but for life. True, we encounter stalwart members in those small units, immensely dedicated and unshaken by hardships. Each has three or four Church callings, often gives a talk and two lessons every Sunday, travels hundreds of miles weekly to church, to various meetings, to help with missionary work, to do home and visiting teaching to scores of inactives living in a 40-mile radius. And these quiet heroes are even willing to be reprimanded by visiting authorities for not doing enough. But in other cases we see that those burdens, and the isolation, are chipping away at faith and dedication. Hence, together with other reasons, the loss of high numbers of members to inactivity. In that context it is not surprising to see that devout members consider emigration as a Church survival strategy. Young adults in particular, also faced with the prospect of finding no Mormon marriage partner in their home environment, might go after that option.

1d – For the sake of the children. This item ties in with the preceding, but shifts the focus to parents’ concern for their children. Many young people in the international Church do not remain active. Based on my observations over a few decades in Western Europe, I would say around 80%. A young Latter-day Saint is often the only Mormon among his or her peers, under pressure to participate in things contrary to Church norms, lacking the support of experienced leaders and teachers, lonesome in the Church itself where primary, YM and YW only count a few youngsters, of different age groups, and where serious problems sometimes shake the unit. Devout parents with small children, seeing these challenges approaching, may look into emigration to have their children grow up in a Mormon environment, where they can enjoy well functioning Primary, YM, YW, school-integrated Seminary, LDS Scouting, youth camps, momentum towards mission and temple marriage. Sure, none of this is a guarantee for a safer adolescence, but the overall trend seems confirmed: young people in a concentrated Mormon environment have a higher chance to remain faithful, go on a mission, marry in the temple. Parents able to emigrate face a difficult dilemma as the counsel to “remain in your homeland” entails a significant risk of not keeping their children in the Church. Then the family responsibility may outweigh the obligation to the tiny Mormon community in their country. Add to all this that the homeland might be a country where corruption, areligiosity, and low moral standards are rampant.

1e – To escape persecution. The idea that the Church is now well-known and respected throughout the world is, at least for a large part, a PR-illusion. In many countries the Church is considered a suspect cult, even more so now than e.g. 30 years ago. This has to do with the emergence of more recent groups considered “dangerous cults”, or with our entering into countries which do not know religious diversity or where a state Church has a huge impact on the government, or with distrust of things American. New legislation meant to rein in “dangerous cults” also affects the Mormon Church. Cult-hunting individuals and organizations tarnish the Church just as in the 19th century, harass members and scare off investigators. Because of their Church membership, Mormons are sometimes discriminated against in job appointments, promotion, divorce cases, attribution of children, inheritance disputes, etc. Sure, we can hail our courageous Saints who endure it all and keep the faith, but there comes a point where some want to leave it all behind and be able to live their religion serenely and unperturbedly, just like so many who in the past came to the U.S. for that very reason. And somewhat disturbing is the knowledge that the Church has, in case of serious trouble, an efficient exit-strategy in place for the missionaries, but none for the local members. Some members do not want to wait for more severe discrimination and persecution.

1f – Because America remains the promised land. America! No matter how much we say that Zion is now everywhere, our history, doctrines, prophecies, the Book of Mormon, all emphasize that America is the land “which is choice above all other lands”, where Adam dwelt, where the Garden of Eden was located, where the Constitution is divinely inspired. Yes, “Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent” (10th Article of Faith). Yes, “it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2-3). Yes, “This is the place”. All over the world, in many languages, Saints continue to sing the stirring calls to gather to Deseret as expressed in “High on the Mountain Top”, “Come, Come, Ye Saints”, “O Ye Mountains High” or “Come, All Ye Saints of Zion”. It is unavoidable that this rhetoric permeates testimonies and yearnings. No matter how much we say we are not an American Church, we are, also confirmed by our geographic center, our centripetal organization, our General Conferences, our programs, our pragmatism, our music, and there is no reason to be embarrassed about it. This undeniable, pioneering, authentic Americanness is a magnet drawing many members spiritually, emotionally – and sometimes physically – towards America. Moreover let us not forget that many investigators — certainly those with preceding emigration intentions — open their door and their heart to the missionaries because of the American connection. It’s ingrained from the beginning.

2 – What can be done to curb the trend?

In view of all the powerful motives given above, I am afraid I have little to offer as valid suggestions. More as (rhetoric) questions to consider.

2a – To what extent can we reinforce the counsel against immigration? Not easily. American law allows to apply for immigration and even encourages some forms (brain drain, exceptional abilities, investment). Church members abroad have the right to seek immigration. The “counsel” discouraging the movement is not a commandment, though one may expect that down the hierarchical line some zealous individuals will interpret it in starker terms and bestow guilt and restrictions on members who consider immigration or who have immigrated. If we really want to stop immigration, we will need to step up the guidelines, but that seems improbable.

2b – Should we stop giving a mixed message? In a previous discussion I drew the attention to the way the Church is dealing with foreign members establishing themselves in the U.S. Assimilation in local American wards used to be the preferred course for some time, but now the existence of own lingual/cultural units is again accepted policy for those who prefer that transition stage. The policy is meant to help immigrants remain active in the Church. Through e.g. the organization of Luz de las Naciones or special devotionals for all Hispanic congregations along the Wasatch Front, the Church sends a strong signal of acceptance of immigrants, even if they are illegal in the country. Perhaps, after all, the Church is even pleased to see new Mormon immigrants help counter the trend of a diminishing Mormon population ratio in Utah.

2c – Should we weaken the attractiveness of Mormon America? These past years the trend has been to reinforce that attractiveness: the building of the Conference Center, the beautification of Salt Lake City’s center, its further planned Church-led revitalization, new temples in the Mormon West, the restoration of Nauvoo, the securing and valuation of other historic landmarks, Church History Tours in the U.S. that become real pilgrimages, pageants, spectaculars, massive youth celebrations, expansion of Mormon university opportunities… The joy and pride of Mormon action is in the U.S. Could and should that be changed? Of course not, but we cannot expect members abroad not to notice it.

2d – Can we make Mormonism abroad as viable as in Utah? Difficult question which can be misunderstood. Just as for the 19th century pioneers, we expect converts to sacrifice and to follow the precepts of a demanding religion. The refiner’s fire. Moreover, is the Church not already doing the maximum for members abroad by providing temples, chapels, programs, material? Yes, and still we lose scores of converts to inactivity. This is not the place for a thorough analysis of the many factors involved. But an important one in this context is the viability of Mormon faithfulness and involvement, as usually defined, in a non-American, non-Mormon environment. A fascinating, albeit delicate topic. It has to do with reasonableness of exigencies, evaluation of the Gospel core versus (hallowed) trivialities, assessment of isolation versus acceptable linking with traditions, social obligations towards non-Mormon family — and, yes, sometimes the American perception of Saints abroad. Indeed, it would make an interesting analysis to study the extent in which present-day Mormon sacrifice-stories mainly draw from Saints abroad, the standard story hailing the family who sells everything they own to be able to go to the temple once. Strange, for it would be unthinkable, and perhaps even unethical, to require this of an American family.

2e – Should we step in to provide legal protection for our members? From my experience, the Church does not provide specialized legal counsel and support when individual members are discriminated against because of their religion. Individual members usually lack the resources to take such action. Also, the Church will not, as a rule, sue cult-hunting individuals or organizations who tarnish us on legally unacceptable levels. Other minority-religions do sue systematically and with growing experience and success. Perhaps there is wisdom in the Church’s policy, but the perceived lack of help in this area is not conducive in discouraging emigration.

There are no doubt many more hints that can be given to curb the trend. But efficient ones?

3 – Some final remarks

3a – My analysis should not give the impression that all members abroad are migration-minded. Many, I presume the vast majority, do not have that desire nor that possibility. Their home-lovingness, employment, family ties… prevent emigration. Among them are great examples of families who stayed put and produced strong second and third generation Mormons. This topic therefore deals with a minority, but still large enough to send them a worldwide message in General Conference.

3b – In all of the above, people unfamiliar with immigration laws may wonder if it is easy to immigrate to the U.S. No, it is not easy, but it is feasible. Around one million immigrants are legally admitted to the U.S. every year. There are many paths making it possible, through sponsoring, employment, investment, brain drain, exceptional abilities, marriage, legalization of dependents, refugee and asylee programs. And, yes, through the Immigration Lottery, allowing 50,000 “winners” to enter the U.S. each year as new permanent residents. Ironically, the Lottery is an interesting path for Mormons, especially for professionals from industrialized nations. I know some prominent Mormons in the U.S. who got in by winning in the Lottery…

3c – Not all immigrants find the success and happiness they expected. It was not different with 19th century pioneers. They need to adapt to a new language and traditions. Some may not feel welcome if the environment continues to treat them as “foreigners”. But I think we can safely say that the vast majority of present-day Mormon immigrants adapt well and thrive. Globalization and easy media-connections with the homeland also help. Their children Americanize quickly.

3d – A positive end note? Many immigrants, I believe, bring to Mormon America the fire of their conversion and the purity and freshness of their convictions. Am I mistaken to say that in a U.S. ward a “foreigner” may often give the most direct and genuine testimony, springing from his or her conversion experience, and geared to the essentials of the Restored Gospel?

82 comments for “Remain in your homeland

  1. Julie in Austin
    October 19, 2005 at 12:22 am

    Wow, fascinating post, with lots of big issues. Thank you so much for this perspective. I have a new appreciation for the challenges some of the Saints face.

    You often provide an interesting international read to my posts; I want to provide an American read to yours: I think the Saints in the US might do the same thing by choosing to live in a city that has a critical mass of Mormons. I know that after spending the summer years ago in a stake whose borders exceeded the state boundaries (OK, OK, I realize that’s easy to do in RHODE ISLAND. . .), I had a taste of what it would be like to raise kids as the only LDS kids in their school, to have to travel an hour to stake meetings, etc. While you often hear the ‘I don’t want to live in Utah’ line from American Saints, I think that many do want to live in an area where their teens can attend a tri-stake dance, for example. While I doubt you’ll hear anything about it in GC soon, it makes me wonder if ‘critical mass of Saints’ was a bad thing to have on our list of requirements for the city we would make our home.

    One other note, on the mixed messages: we face the issue of having separate Spanish-speaking wards here. It is my impression that when units are created (or even, in one case, when a Spanish-speaking Relief Society meeting was held every Sunday as part of the ‘regular’ ward) attendance and activity rates go through the roof. It may be that we have to weigh that in the calculus. I would be curious to know if the availability of church services in their own language affects immigrants’ decisions–wonder if there is any research on this?

    Again, thanks for a wonderful post. I’d love it if we had some international Saints comment. . . .

  2. Derek
    October 19, 2005 at 12:46 am

    Should members in the United States emigrate to other countries to help boost the relative proportion of L.D.S. church members in those countries?

  3. Sarah
    October 19, 2005 at 2:10 am

    This reminds me of the issues my great-great-grandparents faced in deciding whether to come to the US or not. One set was part of a growing exodus of Jews from Eastern Europe, the other on the trailing end of the Irish Catholic diaspora.

    Wilfried, what would you guess percentage of members leaving their countries for the US would be? Are there differences between the ones who are second/third generation members, the ones who converted fairly recently, the ones who converted a long time ago? Are they more likely to want to emigrate if they’ve served a mission overseas? Is it primarily people starting their careers and families that want to move?

    The village that my great-grandmother was born in lost about 45% of its residents to various Zionist movements (from the shtetl memory book, it looks like a few hundred went to South Africa, maybe a third of that number went to the British territory in the middle east, and another thousand or so went to the US — I haven’t been able to read all of it, since the English translation is incomplete and I don’t know Hebrew); everyone in my grandfather’s neighborhood came from the same part of Lithuania while he was growing up. They attended a synagogue and bought groceries and basically did 99% of their daily interaction with other Jewish people from that area; my grandfather’s memoirs talk about not being able to go one block over from their apartment, because the Italian Catholic boys and Lithuanian Jewish boys had a tendency to beat each other up.

    I can’t help but think that while it’s better for local groups for members to stay in place, it’s almost always better for individuals to move if they can. Nearly everyone who stayed in that village was killed in WWII, as far as we can tell. And forty years before that, the Russian empire imposed various hardships, all of which my ancestors missed (by about a decade.) It’s easy to think that we’ve moved beyond that sort of thing — but in 1980, Serbia was a vacation destination, and fifteen years later it was a war zone. No one thought there’d be another “great war,” either.

  4. Soyde River
    October 19, 2005 at 3:58 am

    I believe the decision to go or to stay in their home countries is an individual decision. However, the I think Church has taken the position it has taken for two main reasons:

    1. To encourage the Saints to emigrate would be to create two problems; a) one is that those who emigrated would tend to view the Church as having some responsibility to take care of them (unfortunately, that is a factor in modern life–take any disaster, and you will hear, in the immediate aftermath, voices raised as to why help didn’t come soon enough, or why there wasn’t more of it when it did come), and b) other countries would not view favorably a church which encouraged people to emigrate, particularly if those who did were well educated, or professionals.

    2. They do need to encourage local members to build up the Church there, because otherwise we perpetually face a church full of novices, inexperienced leaders because they do not have the depth of a foundation in the gospel and in the administration of the Church. See Kirtland and Nauvoo for the troubles which happen with inexperienced leaders.

  5. Wilfried
    October 19, 2005 at 7:40 am

    Already interesting questions… Merci! I’ll do my best to answer one by one, in subsequent comments as time permits. Patience please.

    Julie: “I would be curious to know if the availability of church services in their own language affects immigrants’ decisions. I wonder if there is any research on this?”

    I do not know about any research on this, but I would imagine that it has some bearing if it pertains to people where the social and cultural threshold would be large (refugee-type, very different traditions, quite different language). Overall, though, I think that immigrants who want to “make a new life” would also seek quick integration in the host society. They may enjoy their own language unit, but it would not have affected their desire to immigrate.

    Derek: “Should members in the United States emigrate to other countries to help boost the relative proportion of L.D.S. church members in those countries?”

    Pertinent question, though, like my hints, also somewhat rhetoric. We talk here about real emigration, not the temporary help e.g. missionary couples provide to local units abroad. First of all, of course, it would require a serious effort with lots of implications – comparable to pioneers finally settled in SLC or vicinity and then sent out to start anew faraway settlements. Quite a commitment! In our day it would also imply legal permissions to immigrate, to be employed, to become part of the system. Next, I look at situations where we have indeed American Mormons who settled in other countries (usually though never for life, but tied to American-related employment). IF they go to the local ward or branch, do an effort to learn the language (if not English) and integrate, their contribution is very important. I’ve seen some of those in Belgium. But we’ve also seen that in such cases an “American” branch or ward then is created (e.g. in Brussels), with a high concentration of talent and leadership, but with little bearing on the local Church units. Interesting, however, is that such American unit can be a magnet for locals or other foreigners and can create connections for immigration to the U.S. In other words, it would require some active Church policing to see that U.S. members have a more direct impact on strengthening the local Church and not become a gateway for more immigration to the U.S.

    Sarah, thank you for your great personal contribution. I’ll answer your questions and Soyde River’s interesting comment a little later.

  6. b bell
    October 19, 2005 at 10:54 am

    Hi Wilfried,

    I heard the remarks about staying in the home countries and thought back to my mission in South Africa and went HMMMM. So many South African saints had left or were planning on leaving. Honestly I could see why they wanted to leave. I recall going to see member family where the father had been involved in a terrorist attack and been shot multiple times. They were talking about emigrating when we were there.

    To me if I was in Western Europe I would be emigrating to the US for all the reasons that you listed above. Esp the family issues. I would not feel like sacrificing my childrens future church activity (is it really 80% that fall away?) so that my branch or ward could have me as the EQP.

    Your Mark example also has a ring of truth as well. There are so many really talented LDS immigrants that I have known in my life that would not have become what they became if they had stayed outside the US.

    Its really complicated

  7. Seth Rogers
    October 19, 2005 at 11:11 am

    I can’t speak for a lot of the Mormon immigration/emigration issue. However, in Japan I noticed a few trends:

    -It wasn’t so much an issue of immigration so much as it was a trend of going to college in Utah (particularly BYU and UVSC). After all, Japan isn’t the third world.

    -Mostly female members. This meant there was a painful shortage of elligible Mormon men. I got the distinct impression that part of the reason that the women where heading to Utah was for the supposed social life. I saw several instances of interracial marriage in Japan, usually between former American and Japanese missionaries. Exposure to the tight-knit missionary culture seemed to increase the chances of actually marrying an American (but this is purely annectdotal).

    -“American culture” is idolized in Japan to an extent that might surprise you. At music stores, often about 60% of the CDs are by US artists. The summer movie blockbusters in the US are also often the blockbusters in Japan. English is, of course a required subject in all Japanese schools. The youth in Japan are really quite taken with “all things American.” Most young Japanese have, at one time or another, considered doing some study abroad in the US. So there’s already some inclination to come to the US regardless of religious reasons.

    -North Americans don’t carry the racial stigma in Japan that is often carried by Koreans, Chinese, or Phillipinos. Therefore, the parents are less likely to have a serious problem with, say .. a Canadian son-in-law (note that in Japan parental opinion matters a great deal more than in the US).

    -The US is also associated with “doing your own thing,” and freedom from social restraint. So there is a real attraction for Japanese youth to American stuff.

    -Then, of course, connections with US missionaries and their families makes study abroad much easier.

    My impression though was that not a huge number are dying to get away from Japan. The marriage aspirations don’t always pan out either. This is especially true for the Japanese students who never quite pick up the English language or culture. For them, a stay in the US remains merely a chance for sightseeing, a few parties and shopping.

  8. Talon
    October 19, 2005 at 11:23 am

    “Because America remains the promised land. America! No matter how much we say that Zion is now everywhere, our history, doctrines, prophecies, the Book of Mormon, all emphasize that America is the land “which is choice above all other lands”

    I was just reading about this last night in Nephi:

    “And lo, the Gentiles shall arbitrarily set a border upon the 49th parallel, and yea, South of that, and North of the border with a country yet to be established called Mexico, shall the Promised Land be established”.

  9. Wilfried
    October 19, 2005 at 11:25 am

    Sarah (3), here are some answers to your questions:

    – “What would you guess percentage of members leaving their countries for the US would be?”
    I have no figures, but I presume the Church has those. It should not be difficult to calculate for Church administration, considering the address trace on our membership certificates. My guess from my experience? One out of 20, so somewhere around 5% of those who are active. But it will differ from country to country. Some countries are much more prone to the arguments mentioned in my post above.

    – “Are there differences between the ones who are second/third generation members, the ones who converted fairly recently, the ones who converted a long time ago?”
    Interesting question. I think you find immigrants in all groups, but I have been surprised to discover how many young people of second/third generation immigrate. They come e.g. as students to BYU, marry here, and settle in the U.S. I know a number of “old vested Mormon families” in Holland and Belgium, who have children and grandchildren now in the U.S.

    – “Are they more likely to want to emigrate if they?ve served a mission overseas?”
    Yes, no doubt. Even any mission, even in their own country. The contact with American missionaries opens their horizon, they make connections, enter the network, get information.

    – “Is it primarily people starting their careers and families that want to move?”
    I am not sure. My experience is that the desire to immigrate pertains especially to young people, unmarried, college-age, ambitious, daring, second or third generation Mormons, who see the limitations in their own country (economy, employment, little prospect to find a Mormon marriage partner…). Of course, their leaving hurts the local units most for they are the lifeblood for future leadership .

  10. Mark B.
    October 19, 2005 at 11:32 am

    I’ll echo Julie’s first comment. There is an interesting pattern of migration within the United States, from areas where the church is relatively small to those where it is larger. (All my evidence is anecdotal, but 25 years of living in New York City have given me a lot of anecdotes.)

    The experience of many young people, just out of school, who come to New York, mirrors the contributions of missionaries. They come for a few years, some make great contributions, but then they move back “home.”

    Substantial numbers of converts here in New York move to Utah. Whether it’s the large clan of Peruvians who decide that it’s best for the children, or the Guyanese girl who marries the former missionary from the Mountain West, or the single Haitian mother who sees a better life for her family, they pack up and head west. One wonders if they’ll be happy there, away from the nurturing immigrant communities that they fit into so well here, but they continue to move (and they don’t come back).

    Young people in the church here experience the loneliness of being the only church members in their classes. At the neighborhood elementary school, my children were the only Mormons. In middle school, one daughter had one Mormon classmate. And, since the five children attended four different high schools, they were again the only Mormons in their schools.

    The fatigue that Wilfried describes sets in here too. After years of callings that require long hours away from home, away from one’s home ward (or branch), there comes a time when one would be happy for a rest, for a chance to sit with family to worship, to simply teach a lesson on Sunday mornings a few times each month. Elder Maxwell decried the “doctrinal ping pong” that lessons in high priests groups can become, but, frankly, there are days that I’d be happy to pick up the paddle and join in.

    So, despite my having said for years that I will never (again) live in Utah, there are times when it looks awfully good. Eliza R. Snow was surely right when she wrote “Think Not When You Gather to Zion”–but my gut feeling says otherwise..

  11. Richard
    October 19, 2005 at 11:33 am

    Wilfried — I know this would be the weirdest coincidence if it were true, but, are you the Wilfried that used to live in Geneva?

  12. Wilfried
    October 19, 2005 at 11:35 am

    No, Richard, that’s not me. At least I can’t remember living there!

  13. Brian C.
    October 19, 2005 at 11:52 am

    I am one of the immigrants from South Korea to US although I didn’t plan to immigrate to US when I came to US to pursue a higher degree many years ago.

    I don’t know about other countries, but for south Koreans, massive immigration to US had started back in early 1970 because of political problems, poor economy, better educational opportunity for children, etc.

    While Wilfried’s analysis is very good overall , I think that very few church members from South Korea immigrated to US because they think that US provides better religious experience for them.

    Actually it is quite contrary in my experience. Due to the language barrier, lack of church callings, and infrequent racial discrimination within and outside of the church, they often become inactive and sometimes join Korean Christian churches. Some of them became anti-mormons.

    Church members who immigrated from Korea to US are much smaller in comparison to the members and non-members ratio in Korea. If you go to California or New York or any big cities, you will find lots of Korean immigrants, but very few church members among them. For example, my family is only the church members among more than 1000 Korean families in my city and its vicinity. I wish there were a few more Korean familes who are members so that we can worship together in Korean.

    Now with Korean speaking ward and branches in bigger cities like LA or New York, Korean members can worship together and enjoy the gospel as they did in Korea. And non-member Koreans in US can hear the gospel in their own languages.

    Fortunately, the church in Korea is doing fine and still growing without immigrants like me ;-)

  14. Wilfried
    October 19, 2005 at 12:20 pm

    I need to comment on the comments… I continue in the order they were received…

    Soyde River (4), thanks for the contribution. You mentioned:

    “To encourage the Saints to emigrate would be to create two problems;
    a) one is that those who emigrated would tend to view the Church as having some responsibility to take care of them”

    Wilfried: I guess some would tend to view it that way, but certainly not as a rule. All immigrants I know are hard-working individuals, taking care of their own, and serving the Church. You must also consider the fact that the permission to immigrate to the U.S. usually entails a thorough set of criteria to be met – financial backing, employment, health. Only exception are refugees and asylees. Few Mormons among them for now I think.

    “b) other countries would not view favorably a church which encouraged people to emigrate, particularly if those who did were well educated, or professionals.”

    Wilfried: true, but the figures for Mormons per country are pretty insignificant compared to the many others who want to emigrate. Plus, you may have countries that are not reluctant to see members of the “Mormon cult” go…

    It’s complex, there are many variables.

  15. October 19, 2005 at 12:31 pm

    Fascinating post, as always Wilfried.

    The comments from Seth and Brian make me wonder if your observations are particular to Western Europe. Obviously, as that’s your background, that’s the intitial basis for your investigation, but do you know of data (even if only anecdotal) that expands it to other regions of the world? I’m talking particularly about your points 1c-f; certainly it’s undeniable that there is a great deal of immigration from other parts of the world as well (East Asia, for example), but Brian’s and Seth’s comments (which also match my own experiences in Korea) suggest that the Mormons who move from those parts of the world are mostly caught up in the usual, primarily economic reasons for immigration, and are not especially motivated by fears about persecution or desires for a different, more “easy” church life, much less a belief in America as the promised Zion for Mormons. (Though the gender imbalance in many East Asian wards and branches, and the appeal American missionaries and the social opportunities often seem to hold out to faithful single sisters, cannot be denied either.) I wonder if part of the problem is simply that the church has been around in Western Europe for a long time, with institutional and family memories going back to an era when immigrating to Zion was strongly encouraged, and with the concomitant impact such experiences have had on those who remained and their descendents, as well as those who joined them later. That is, the heart of the issue maybe isn’t so much that the church is too American, but that church-inspired immigration was so common in Western Europe for so long (and church leadership has been so slow to internationalize its own ranks), that the particular religious concerns you list loom far larger in the mentality of, say, a British saint (who has over a 150 years of dependency upon the American church to reflect back upon) vs. a Korean one (who barely has 50 years of church history to shape his thinking about such issues).

    Possibly related anecdote: when my younger brother Abraham served a mission in England, his (English) mission president would apparently tell his missionaries that “the elect have already heard the message” in Britain. Sure, there were probably a few left here and there, and so the missionaries needed to scour around to find them, but he basically was quite certain that the church’s mission to save souls in the British Isles had, after a century and a half, essentially been fulfilled, and there wasn’t much reason for anything besides a small remnant church to remain there, to catch the occasional immigrant or elect soul born into a non-elect family; everyone else might as well move to Zion.

  16. Wilfried
    October 19, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    B Bell, Seth Rogers, Mark B, thanks for your enlightening comments and additions to understand the various movements and nuances. There are indeed many angles to look at the process. And, bottom-line, Utah is still the place…

    Brian C, how nice to hear your voice in this discussion. You add a very interesting perspective to it. You’re right to draw attention to the first motive I mentioned too: economic reasons. The religious part may be minimal, but often it provided the connections. The drama of losing Church members who arrive in the U.S. as immigrants, and have problems integrating, has been understood by the Church. As I mentioned, the more recent permission to create language-cultural units in the U.S. is mainly meant to help immigrants remain active. But of course, there must be a critical mass to organize them. BTW, in our chapel here in Provo the Korean ward is meeting too. We see many of them on Sunday! But, Brian, congratulations on your faithfulness in the conditions you describe.

  17. Gilgamesh
    October 19, 2005 at 12:33 pm

    Even when there is no persecution, there is a sense of belonging that is not found in other countries. I have a good friend from Italy, 2nd generation member, from a relatively stable ward, etc… her first trip to Utah was a joy to experience. She reminded us that in Italy you cannot escape the Catholic Church, there is a church on every corner and the history is filled with the Catholic church. When you are a religious minority in a country dominated by another faith, you are made to realize you don’t “belong” even if there is no overt persecution or discrimination. When she came to the temple, she noted that she finally belonged and she was “home.”

  18. b bell
    October 19, 2005 at 12:44 pm


    I also know a South African LDS family who were Muslim prior to conversion. They were persecuted so badly in SA that they fled to Provo. I am not sure if they were granted Asylum by the US Government but based on what was occuring with their former Muslim community it would not surprise me if Asylum had been granted.

    This type of situation is a further complication of the Stay Home talk at conference.

  19. JWL
    October 19, 2005 at 12:47 pm

    I think it helps in analyzing LDS emigration to the US to distinguish between the situations of developed and less-developed countries.

    In most LDCs where there is substantial Church membership, there is also substantial non-LDS migration to the US. For example, I have heard estimates that a quarter of all persons of Ecuadorian nationality live in the US and personally attended a US campaign rally for an Ecuadorian presidential candidate where I was told that a trip to the US to campaign among emigres is pretty much mandatory for any serious presidential candidate. This emigration is primarily driven by economic factors. The Church is fairly well established in many of these countries, with large, well-attended (if sometimes relatively inexperienced) wards and branches. While the attractions Wilfried outlined are present for LDS emigrants from these countries, my impression is that for the most part they are being carried along by the same forces which lead millions of their non-LDS countrymen to want to emigrate to the US. I suspect that if these economic factors were not present, that the Church is sufficiently present in these countries to counteract the specifically LDS attractions of the US. If this is true, the best focus of efforts to keep members in these countries would be economic development. The Perpetual Education Fund is a nice start, although much more could be done. But that is another topic, and goodness knows one does not dare go off topic at timesandseasons.

    In contrast, in developed countries which do not otherwise have high emigration I think that the challenges are LDS lifestyle, as Wilfried has so ably outlines in his post, and intellectual. Obviously, as much as we wish it, we can not simply will that it be the activity rate which is 80% rather than the inactivity rate, or that tens of thousands immediately join the Church so that stakes are as dense in Berlin or Brussels as they are Mexico City and Manila. However, there are a few steps which might reduce the social isolation that drives LDS emigration from countries where there are not major economic reasons to emigrate:

    (1) More cross-communion in the Church. With its top-down hierarchical structure, the Church does nothing to facilitate interaction among Church members outside of the stake or district. Outside of the occaisional brief conference, there is little means for Church members in different parts of a country to get to know each other. However, if for example there were an all-French Primary Curriculum Committee, an all-French Seminary and Institute Teachers Council, an all-French LDS Religious Liberty Committee (unofficial but not discouraged), etc., etc. francophone members could get a sense of numbers and fellowship beyond thier own isolated little wards and branches. Not coincidentally, the informal social networks that such activities would generate might facilitate a wider scope of introductions for single Church members to potential LDS mates. There are good arguments for undertaking such efforts in parts of the US with small LDS populations, but the need here is somewhat obviated by the extensive informal social networks arising from missions, extended families, BYU, etc.

    (2) Higher profile success stories. I know the issue of the paucity of non-Americans in the upper ranks of the GAs is senstive, but more high profile examples of prominent Latter-day Saints such as Elder Uchtdorf who have successfully led LDS lives outside the US could be very powerful.

    (3) I personally think that the sucess of American Latter-day Saints in the later 20th century has much to do with the availability of intellectual resources for dealing with American society. We can never underestimate the power of the legacies of Hugh Nibley and others in providing educated Latter-day Saints with the intellectual wherewithal to deal with the challenges of hostile environments in educational and professional spheres. Now this material is of course available to English-speaking European members. However, this material addresses the American intellectual environment, which is now increasingly diverging from that in Europe. Do we really have material to address the overwhelmingly hostile intellectual environment in Europe toward premarital celibacy, marriage, family, religious practice and belief? Actually, work on these issues would be helpful in the US as well, where we tend to glom on to right-wing evangelical arguments rather than make our own arguments. But they would be especially helpful in Europe, where the atmosphere is almost unrelentingly hostile to religious belief and practice. Now this material would have to be produced by independent LDS thinkers. But such work could be substantially encouraged if the Church welcomed something deeper than the current correlated pablum. Initially, at least, it might help if the Church published contributions by European members addressing these intellectual issues in a European context rather than simply translating material produced in Utah.

  20. annegb
    October 19, 2005 at 12:49 pm

    I think the answer is “America is still the promised land.” I don’t think so many are coming to Zion, although that may be important to immigrants, as are coming to America.

    I don’t know numbers, but my feeling is that everybody wants to come to America. Even many who proclaim their hatred.

  21. annegb
    October 19, 2005 at 12:51 pm

    And you know, if LDS people do remain in their homeland, imagine what good they can do for their countries, to help them progress. A lot of good people now leave their countries in search of something better for their families.

    That would make those who decide to stay and bloom where they’re planted would be true pioneers. What courage.

  22. Wilfried
    October 19, 2005 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks, Russell (15). Appreciate your thoughtful comments.

    No, I wasn’t looking at Western Europe in particular. Living now in the U.S., member of a ward with immigrants from various nationalities (nearly all from outside Europe), working on a campus with students from all over the world, I think I tried to formulate my ideas from that general perspective.

    I agree the economic reason for immigration is in many cases primordial. I put it on top of my list, but also added: “The following motives are given in no particular order of importance. Some overlap. Some work hand in hand.” I think I mentioned in my list nearly all the elements that others have indicated. All depends on the individual, the country, the circumstances to decide which factor to immigrate was the most important.

    To what extent the “call to Zion” is important, I’m not sure. I put it on the bottom of my list. You mention:

    “I wonder if part of the problem is simply that the church has been around in Western Europe for a long time, with institutional and family memories going back to an era when immigrating to Zion was strongly encouraged, and with the concomitant impact such experiences have had on those who remained and their descendents, as well as those who joined them later.”

    I don’t think so. First, we have few second generation Mormons, let alone third ones. Many are pretty recent converts with no “memories”. Second, many converts in Western Europe are “foreigners” themselves, from Africa, from former communist countries. Some units count now a majority of those. The “Gather to Zion” idea may still be a factor in the feel for immigration, but more for the emotional background, and still fostered by the Church today (ah, those Sesquicentennial celebrations about the pioneers…).

    While I posted this, I see a series of other comments that came in. Thanks! I’ll comment later on…

  23. b bell
    October 19, 2005 at 1:01 pm

    “I don’t think so. First, we have few second generation Mormons, let alone third ones. Many are pretty recent converts with no “memories”. Second, many converts in Western Europe are “foreigners” themselves, from Africa, from former communist countries. Some units count now a majority of those”

    Wilfried, Could you elaborate on what long term impact this has on the Church in Europe? I have heard the same thing from friends who have served there. Many of them never baptized a German in Germany but baptized people from Russia or Kenya.

  24. Rosalynde
    October 19, 2005 at 1:15 pm

    Interesting post, Wilfried. My brother and his family live in Hungary, where he is working temporarily, and they have integrated into the local Hungarian-speaking unit, even though there is an anglophone unit in the district. They’ve had a wonderful experience, but it has been challenging, and they’ve become real pillars in the congregation—my brother in the branch presidency, and my sister-in-law in the YW leadership. Maybe I can get them to comment on this thread.

    I’ve often heard it asserted that some local kerfuffle along the Wasatch front will catch the attention of the GAs, resulting in inscrutable conference addresses and strange policies—the prophet’s warnings against raves and multiple piercings, for example.

    But looking at the longer history of the last half of the twentieth century, it’s striking to see how much of the real structural change was prompted not by local or American development but by international development: correlation, for example, proceeded not as a result of American 60s counterculture (or not primarily) but to address the difficulties of exporting the church program abroad; similarly, the revelation on the priesthood occurred not as a result of American civil rights agitation (or, again, not primarily) but as a result of the growth of the church in Brasil, and the need for local priesthood leadership. It’s interesting to consider what other structural changes may occur, particularly as we work now not just to expand the borders of the tent of Zion, but actually to make those stakes viable, as you say. One way of extending the potential pool of priesthood leadership and thereby lessening the burdens on the few potentials, for example, comes to mind fairly easily. (NOT that I’m advocating it!)

  25. Wilfried
    October 19, 2005 at 2:03 pm

    Gilgamesh (17) and B Bell (18), these are to the point illustrations of the topic. For Muslim converts to Mormonism in particular, immigration might be life-saving. We once had a Muslim young man who converted in Belgium. His life was so threatened that he had to abandon coming to Church.

    JWL (19), you provide us with some excellent deepening and concrete, even daring suggestions to break through social isolation. Next to these, I should concede there are already a number of excellent initiatives to help give members abroad a greater sense of community. Young adults are usually the forerunners to establish broader networks in their country. Some have created excellent websites that foster exchanges and information. So, definitely, things are happening, but much more could be done. The problem is that we must be careful at the same time to not overburden the same members with even more work. One path to assess is how to divert “lost energy” (endless empty lessons and meetings) to more productive use.

    Annegb (20-21), as always, we love your pointed comments. You’re right, and it was also dual in my argument 1f, that “the promised land” can be America as such, outside of the concept of “Zion”. When I wrote: “Moreover let us not forget that many investigators – certainly those with preceding emigration intentions – open their door and their heart to the missionaries because of the American connection” — I implied that some of those wanting to emigrate to America (mis)use the Church to promote their own original agenda.

    To be continued…

  26. UKAnn
    October 19, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    Thank you Wilfried for another interesting and thought-provoking post. I am so glad that you raise the problems faced by the international church.

    As one who married in the Temple in the late 60’s and had my four children in the 70’s, this was a subject much discussed at the time, especially as a close friends emigrated “for the sake of the children”. My husband very firmly felt our calling was in this part of the Lord’s vineyard, and indeed my patriarchal blessing bore this out, so there was never much of a chance that we would have ever emigrated to Utah.

    I am one who feels quite confident that Zion is wherever the pure in heart are, and we have the blessings of the Temple, so that was never an issue. Economically we manage, so that wasn’t an issue either.

    However, all four of my children went inactive – as they went away to University. Three of them were Seminary graduates. I often wonder if I HAD emigrated whether things might have worked out any better. I should add that my eldest has returned to activity and has since been married in the Temple, – for which I continue to thank my Heavenly Father – I am still waiting for my other 3 miracles.

    During all of this time my husband and I have served faithfully and well – rather like Wilfried’s paragraph c. This is not to boast, and I certainly don’t think Heavenly Father ‘owes’ it to us to keep our children active, they have their free agency, and what service we give to the Lord is freely given.

    From my own, admittedly limited, knowledge of church life in the UK, I think we have very strong ‘pockets’ (usually University areas) where there are lots of Young Adults and good activities, but yet still lots of areas where the Young Adults are very few in number. Having said that my children COULD have joined one of these strong groups, yet decided not to – the lure of the world was too strong for them. In the words of one daughter ‘she wanted some ‘fun’ out of life’.

    I do however have great faith in Heavenly Father that he is a just and fair God, and I am sure that when the judgement takes place, he will bear in mind each person’s individual circumstances, and the reward given will be fair and just. I remember that they are born in the convenant and that I am promised eternal joy if I remain steadfast – in that I put my faith.

    Sorry for somewhat personal comments.

    I’m not sure what church leaders can do for the youth in the area. I do know that in the north of England they stopped the famous ‘Huddersfield’ dances because they were getting too popular and too many youth were making too many long journies late at night to attend them. To the youth it just seemed they were stopping their fun. So we’re back to the old Stake dances. I’m chaperoning this weekend at a two-Stake youth dance, (that covers an area about 100 miles north to south), and I’m not too sure there will be that many youth there – we’ll be lucky to hit 70. We’re trying to encourage the youth to bring their non-member friends too. The activities (which I think are rather good) are often abysmally supported by the youth. And what is surprising is that often it’s because the parents don’t want to bring them – too busy. As a result the few youth that do attend think it’s a waste of time, and don’t come to the next one, and we find ourselves in a worsening circle. I wish I knew the answer.

    We used to have a great Stake combined youth and young adult ball each year, but again that was stopped. Young Adults and Youth are not now allowed to join together for dances. So that makes it a bit harder. The reason given was that it would be possible for a 29 year old man to ‘socialise’ inappropriately with a 14 year old girl! (Would be kind of hard to do in our Stake, where we know every single member!).

    And I just must finish the story of our friends who emigrated to Utah – all their children remained faithful and married in the Temple – but they divorced. You can never tell.

  27. Wilfried
    October 19, 2005 at 3:24 pm

    Next, b bell, 23 ! I’ll get to the following as soon as possible.

    You ask the question on the growing presence of “foreigners” who become converts in European units. I do not have precise figures, but these past decade we are definitely baptizing as many if not many more “non-locals” than locals. Which does not mean high numbers per se, I’m just referring to the ratio’s. Go to any French, Belgian, Dutch, German… ward and you will meet people from Africa, Russia, Albania, Kazakhstan… I understand British units have the same situation. Three considerations:

    – The fact that these “foreigners” are more easily taught and that they accept the Gospel is a well-known and normal phenomenon. Uprooted, in search of a new community, open to a message of hope and salvation, unafraid of missionaries, they open their house (or little apartment / room) and accept the Gospel. Many of them become solid members, but many fall away too (usually Church-shoppers looking for financial help).

    – This phenomenon creates peculiar challenges for the local units: taking care of more people in need, facing problems with illegals (sometimes from suspect countries or backgrounds), having to translate constantly, facing lack in leadership…

    – The fact that we baptize few locals is, in my opinion, not due to the fact that the population has become secularized etc. (the usual excuse). There are still millions of people in Western Europe, disappointed by the vested Churches, longing for renewed faith, spiritual security and moral norms. But our present missionary-system simply fails in reaching them. I dare to say that less than 1 out of a 1,000 has ever heard our message. Next, if we can teach some of them, there is the issue of viability of “Mormon life” as presently defined or expected. As long as we do not seriously assess that delicate issue, we will not baptize more or we will quickly lose new converts.

  28. Mike
    October 19, 2005 at 3:29 pm

    I take it from Elder U-dorf’s talk that I am not supposed to quit my nice job here in Georgia and move my wife and rowdy teenage kids back to Utah to live in my in-law’s basement while I work at a skii resort or somewhere else for minimum wages?

    One other factor that drives the migration: Search for a spouse. Like spawning salmon returning to the streams where they were first conceived.

    I have noticed that here in Georgia the youth who leave after high school and go to college in Utah tend to marry Mormons while the youth who stay here for college don’t as often marry Mormons. Many exceptions can be found but as a general rule it holds. The number of single available LDS youth of the opposite sex is in the thousands or tens of thousands out west. Here it is in the dozens to maybe a hundred if you are lucky enough to be near a singles ward. Not nearly enough.

    Those moving into Georgia are generally young married couples or else single college graduates; most coming here for new jobs. Again with some exceptions the majority of them are coming out of Utah, Arizona, California, Idaho. Some stay for a long time, even to the extend of raising their children to adulthood here. But it is amazing how they eventually gravitate back West in great numbers all along the path of life even after retirement. Though we have 20 some Stakes in Georgia I do not think we are yet self sustaining; the church would dry up if the immigration ever was to stop.

    Young Mormons today face two sharp horns of a dilemna. On the one horn is the threat of perpetual singlehood. Single people can make enormous contributions to the good of the church and the community as they often have more time and resources to devote. But if 20 or 30% of us never marry, the next generation will not be very large and the church will not grow. The other horn of the dilemna is to marry a person with whom you can not manage to build a stable marriage and end up divorcing them. Mormon divorce rates are hard to pin down and it depends on how you define Mormon, and how you define a marriage, and when and how long you define the periods you study. But like the rest of our society, our divorce rate is way too high. I believe that active Mormons who marry in the temple have about a 20% divorce rate long term and those who marry across the Mormon faith probably have a divorce rate somewhere in the mid to upper 30’s%. It is hard enough avoiding the twin horns of this dilemna in the central Stakes and orders of magnitude harder in the hinderlands.

    The message of the church, that families are forever in all of its various rammifications can be hopeful but it can be hard on the children of divorce. This coupled with the economic impovershment usually associated with divorce and all the other difficulties; retention of these youth from broken homes is and has always been poor. And the two horns have a strong influence on each other. Children who grow up in broken homes have a hard time trusting another person enough to gamble their whole life on them. They are going into foreign not familar territory with marriage.

    If only a third of us manage to navigate successfully between these two horns and if we only have 2 or 3 children each on average, the church will shrink with each passing generation. If half of us manage to get past the two horns and average 4 children with retention at only 50%, the church will not grow. We can not baptize our way out of this problem. It is hard to even believe that the church is not growing in the face of recent history and glowing propaganda from church publications. For those who live there, all is well in Zion, or so it seems. Weighing all of this makes me seriously consider the in-law’s basement option; so my kids can go to college in Utah and marry in the church, even if they don’t make it into the BYU.

    The tuition at BYU is very reasonable, arguably one of the best deals in higher education. Church leaders have complete control over that amount. Tuition for out-of-state students in Utah is terribly high. In-state residency requirements are difficult and not the least bit compatible with interruptions like missions or military service. Church leaders have less but some influence over these factors, as the state legistlature in Utah is overwhelmingly Mormon and they listen to the church leaders and in fact have numerous kinship interconnections. I find it very encouraging that the church is going to build another university in downtown Salt Lake. I feel it will be crucial to the future growth of the church.

    I think we as a church need to do more to address this problem. We need to somehow create a new subculture where it is easier to date and to get to know each other and to develop the personal characteristics that make us better marriage partners so that more of us will get married and stay married. We need lessons, not just on general plattitudes, but on developing specific skills crucial to successful marriage. Communication, and finances and sex and toilet training and teenagers and all the rest. Sort of like preventive group marital therapy at church. The correlation movement pruned the church programs and culture back down to where the basic gospel message became very potable and transplantable to other places. But it did not do a very good job of transferring or generating a culture where it is easy to find a marriage partner and easy to stay married.

    I believe that the correlated church still grows as much from internal reproduction as external conversions inspite of the gross differences reported in those numbers each year. While I am grateful for every active convert who enriches us with their experiences, I believe that long term retention across generations of new converts is rather low now. Mexico has 1 million members baptized and about 200,000 admit to being Mormon on the national census. It seems about the same here if not worse. Our 250,000 annual converts (and that number is not going up very fast at all) translate into about 50,000 active members. The number of children of record who are baptized each year is 80-90,000 and that number is creaping up slowly. About half the church lives in areas where we are not scarce and retention of children in the faith often exceeds 50% in those places. The other half lives in areas where we are scarce and we have as low as 20% retention of our children. That adds up not far from 50,000. A total of 100,000 new members each year in a ten million plus church is less than 1% annual growth.

    If we realize, intuititively or otherwise, that the church is not really growing anymore. That the fruits of correlation have ripened and rotted and fallen off the tree. And we have little hope that it will change before our children mature into young adults, then it does not make sense to hunker down in these far flung foxholes. Places where enormous church responsibilities keeping small dysfunctional units barely alive actively competes with and interfere with raising our children. And all this in a place where our children are unlikely to marry and raise another generation. It does not make sense.

    But hope springs eternal.

  29. ESO
    October 19, 2005 at 3:30 pm

    Immigration to the US is feasible, sort of. It really helps if you are wealthy, white, and from a “friendly” nation, like Japan, or western Europe. For saints from elsewhere, it is considerably more difficult. I was astounded at all the hoops my husband (a Kenyan) had to get through, and he was a relative shoe-in, already married to an American, and all.

    Average Kenyans would be bound by simple economics. Only the VERY rich might consider leaving the country (or the very smart, as Harvard famously invites the #1 high school student to college every year).

  30. Wilfried
    October 19, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    Rosalynde (24), great thoughts, and at the core of “what could be done”. I am sure you are right, international developments and challenges have had a major impact on some of the most important new policies in the Church this past half century.

    Right now the problem of inactivity seems to be one of the main issues the Church is struggling with. We do not solve that with simple slogans without considering possible changes in traditional policies. But a main challenge is how far we can go as a Church without losing some of the essence. I have mentioned it before, one aspect is the viability of expected “Mormon dedication” in non-Mormon environments. What do we gain by losing so many overburdened and burned out good people? Or by judging good standing on external trivialities without looking at the heart?

    Yes, I like your delicately put “One way of extending the potential pool of priesthood leadership and thereby lessening the burdens on the few potentials, for example, comes to mind fairly easily. (NOT that I’m advocating it!)” Now THAT would be a welcome structural change… As a matter of fact, many units in the international church actually are functioning thanks to the faith, work and dedication of the sisters. Lack of sufficient priesthood leadership is heavily compensated that way.

  31. b bell
    October 19, 2005 at 5:17 pm

    “there is the issue of viability of “Mormon life” as presently defined or expected. As long as we do not seriously assess that delicate issue, we will not baptize more or we will quickly lose new converts. ”


    Can you elaborate on this? What exactly do you mean? Sorry to threadjack. I find your opinions very interesting. And now I am off to YM’s in a couple of hours. Is this what you mean?

    Ek hoe van heirdie pratt.

  32. October 19, 2005 at 5:23 pm

    Rosalynde: “One way of extending the potential pool of priesthood leadership and thereby lessening the burdens on the few potentials, for example, comes to mind fairly easily. (NOT that I’m advocating it!)”

    Wilfried: “Now THAT would be a welcome structural change… As a matter of fact, many units in the international church actually are functioning thanks to the faith, work and dedication of the sisters. Lack of sufficient priesthood leadership is heavily compensated that way.”

    Let’s see if we can’t carefully but intelligently explore this possibility, and by so doing–who knows?–perhaps imitate similar unofficial discussions which may be taking place at the Church Office Building.

    Suppose that it is the case that the church simply can’t, except in marginal ways, “slim down” any further institutionally speaking. I think most of us have heard here and there about different experiments the church has conducted in certain Third World regions, involving the church functioning without buildings, or meetings reduced to only an hour or two in length, etc. My understanding is the the church leadership has determined that most of these experiments have been failures; that too much needed training, learning, information keeping, and socialization is lost when the church tries too radically to shear off its most obvious and burdensome functions and programs. Let us also suppose that the church has closed the door on any serious decentralization. For a variety of reasons, most of which having to do with various doctrinal concerns vis-a-vis apostasy, the church will remains a highly centralized institution, giving local units a limited ability to innovate and change their ways of worship so as to satisfy cultural or social differences. In short, let us suppose that, for the time being, the church we all know is the church that is going to have to be made to work throughout the world: three-hour meetings, numerous layers of priesthood quorums and leadership, Primary and Young Women and Relief Society, ward-stake-regional structure–the whole nine yards.

    Which church duties, given these realities, could be spread among sisters, so as to make better and less exhausting use of the already too-few priesthood holders around the world, thus making for hopefully more functioning church environments, which in turn would make relocating to centers of church activity less appealing to members both new and old? Some suggestions:

    Ward and stake mission leaders. These are not positions directly related to the functioning of priesthood quorums so far as I know; rather, they are callings that try to associate local units with local missionaries, with the intention of furthering one of the primary missions of the church, a mission which women covenant to as well as men. Moreover, in East Asia at least, there is an abundance of faithful, experienced returned sister missionaries to draw upon in comparison to returned elders. This is a task, then, that could, in my view, be extended to women without in any major way changing the way the church is supposed to operate.

    Ward and stake clerks. Again, not a calling that involves any sort of formal priesthood responsibility; on the contrary, while I’m sure a lot of presidencies make inclusive use of their clerks, just as many treat them as glorified secretaries. That sounds like an odd way to make an argument about the inclusion of women, but in this case, it is.

    Sunday School presidencies. This is a long-standing frustration of mine, especially given that, unless I am mistaken, the policy to restrict Sunday School presidencies to priesthood holders is a relatively recent (last 30 years or so) innovation. Of course, one could argue that Sunday School presidencies are not in any way time-consuming callings, that most presidencies rarely do much, and so there’s no reason to think much energy of the brethren would be saved by changing the requirements for this calling. I would disagree–it is my experience that the impression of Sunday School presidencies as a slacker calling is particular to the United States, and especially to well-established wards. In places where the number of members are few and many are new to the church, it has seemed to me that the Sunday School takes on great importance, and those responsible for making certain that there really is regular and orthodox instruction taking place is both time-consuming and much valued. Hence, it’s important to find good people to fill this role, particularly in the places where, because of all the reasons Wilfried has outlined, there may be a paucity of good people already. I can’t think of any way the operation of the church would be harmed by allowing women to be considered for this calling as well.


  33. October 19, 2005 at 5:29 pm

    Wilfried: “There is the issue of viability of “Mormon life” as presently defined or expected. As long as we do not seriously assess that delicate issue, we will not baptize more or we will quickly lose new converts.”

    B Bell: “Can you elaborate on this? What exactly do you mean? Sorry to threadjack. I find your opinions very interesting. And now I am off to YM’s in a couple of hours. Is this what you mean?”

    I think that–YM, YW, the whole package of activities and programs–are exactly what Wilfried means. He can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think his claims about “Mormon life” have less to do with the cultural implications of being Mormon–given that such implications could only be altered by altering the behavioral and doctrinal expectations of Mormonism, and I don’t think anyone here is talking about rethinking the Word of Wisdom or such–than with the time and effort and mentality involved in “being active.” In other words, the church meetings, the callings, the level of participation, etc.

    In my comment above, I assumed that such expectations will not change, and so we need to think about how best to make them viable when personal resources are lacking. But of course, I could be wrong; maybe such expectations, programs, and commitments will someday be fundamentally changed. I just see it happening anytime soon.

  34. queuno
    October 19, 2005 at 5:33 pm

    Re #15 and #23 – I spent a little over a week in Cork, Ireland (the second largest city) earlier this summer. I saw absolutely no vestiges of anything that remotely resembled the Church (there is apparently a branch, but I never found it). So the statement that either we’re not trying hard enough in Europe or are being ineffective or are dealing with societies that have utterly lost interest does NOT surprise me.

    Re #28 – where did you read the Church is establishing a new university in SLC? Obviously, there is the BYU-SLC center, and the LDS Business College, but I’ve heard nothing about a new university.

    My own observation, as a BYU graduate, is that many of the best/brightest/most faithful from other countries come to BYU, get the degree, find a wife, and then STAY HERE. Maybe BYU should offer them a deal – reduced tuition to international students if they covenant to go back home and build the Church.

  35. Nate Oman
    October 19, 2005 at 5:39 pm

    Russell: One problem with non-priesthood holding clerks is the role that they serve in church disciplinary councils. However, this does not apply to assitant clerks.

    In theory I think that one needn’t have priesthood holders as YM advisors or in the young mens presidency, although I think that there are obvious pedagogical reasons to limit these callings to me. (The same applies to men as YW leaders.)

  36. Rosalynde
    October 19, 2005 at 5:48 pm

    Russell, what about consolidating the HT/VT programs? Companionships could be both same-sex singles and married couples, drawn from the RS and priesthood quorums, but the total number of individuals/families needing to be visited would be assigned to just one companionship, and a single coordinator would organize it (and facilitate priesthood presence when necessary). It’s my impression that all the visiting is both a heavy logistical burden and, because of that, a demoralizing statistical failure. Perhaps by consolidating this way the burden on active brothers and sisters would be lessened, the success rate higher, and spirits lightened.

  37. Mark B.
    October 19, 2005 at 5:53 pm

    I think that there are obvious pedagogical reasons to limit these callings to me.

    That’s one sweet little Freudian slip.

    My only question is, how would you make it to all the wards?

  38. Julie in Austin
    October 19, 2005 at 5:54 pm

    “Companionships could be both same-sex singles and married couples”

    Yeah, and that gets us half-way down the slippery slope to SSM by legitimating those companionships.

    (FYI to those with no sense of humor: guess what?)

  39. October 19, 2005 at 6:02 pm

    “It’s my impression that all the visiting is both a heavy logistical burden and, because of that, a demoralizing statistical failure. Perhaps by consolidating this way the burden on active brothers and sisters would be lessened, the success rate higher, and spirits lightened.”

    You’re certainly right about that, Rosalynde. And I think you’re on to something too. I have seen married couples fulfilling HT and VT assignments in almost every ward I’ve ever lived in; while not common, it certainly is something that many Relief Society, High Priest and Elder’s Quorum leaders have made use of before, so making it policy would hardly be a dramatic shift.

    “One problem with non-priesthood holding clerks is the role that they serve in church disciplinary councils.”

    I’ve never been a clerk, Nate, so tell me–do the clerks actively participate in the councils? I mean, do they speak, or participate in any sort of formal priesthood procedure which has to be included in the convening of any such church court? My impression has always been that they recorded testimony and the decision of the council, and that was it. So yes, I suppose the inclusion of a woman would perhaps change the tone of the meetings, but if it’s just a matter of keeping private information, well, I don’t see why a female clerk could keep a secret any worse than a male clerk could.

  40. b bell
    October 19, 2005 at 6:05 pm

    “It’s my impression that all the visiting is both a heavy logistical burden and, because of that, a demoralizing statistical failure. Perhaps by consolidating this way the burden on active brothers and sisters would be lessened, the success rate higher, and spirits lightened.”


  41. Wilfried
    October 19, 2005 at 6:16 pm

    Just got back from meetings… I see lots of things to clarify and discuss.

    But first, to work orderly, a response to UKAnn (26). Thanks! It is very valuable to get this feedback straight from the field. The personal details say more than all the theoretical descriptions. I admire those Saints who keep the faith in such circumstances for decades. Ann, I found it particularly interesting to read how sometimes we change rules to get rid of a (small) problem and by so doing bring also much good down. I’ve seen this myself quite a few times: the implications of changing a program are not always well studied. In that sense I can see the wisdom of the top Church leaders too: very little changes in basic programs, unless we really know what the side-effects could be. I presume experiments being conducted here and there are not convincing enough to be applied in general.

    Mike (28), also here my appreciation for your detailed analysis and your view from “another” side in the U.S. I can see how many things can be comparable, either viewed from Georgia or from Holland. In spite of the problems, what I also see in your contribution is this continued desire to build the Kingdom and suggest solutions. They will float around and perhaps help make changes at some point. Our detractors should not set their hope that we are collapsing. Far from. All we talk about is growth pains.

    ESO (29), I agree. Immigration laws are not equal for all. The U.S. has a lot of strict policies that regulate immigration and filter the flow. Some countries and some professions are at a clear advantage.

  42. Julie in Austin
    October 19, 2005 at 6:31 pm

    “Suppose that it is the case that the church simply can’t, except in marginal ways, “slim down” any further institutionally speaking.”

    A data point that you allude to: during the extreme expansion of the 60s and 70s, the Church experimented in ‘new’ areas with having sacrament meeting and HT–that’s it. (This from the Pres. Kimball bio.) Interesting that the one thing some of you (RW et al) are calling to get rid of is the one thing that they kept!

    I, personally, struggle constantly to see value in HT/VT justifying the effort and time put into it–and I don’t have to drive far to do mine! But that’s the topic for another post.

  43. Adam Greenwood
    October 19, 2005 at 7:15 pm

    What would you replace it with? Dinner/Discussion groups that rotate houses or something? Evangelicals have got a lot of mileage out of those.

  44. ESO
    October 19, 2005 at 7:24 pm

    I (a female) have been in a Sunday School Presidency as a secretary (I think it counts because I was in the preseidency meetings). This was not in an area struggling for Priesthood members, it was at BYU. This probably has nothing to do with our genders, but I was the only member of the preseidency who appeared to actually do anything.

    Why give women more work? I am very busy already. Got more people to VT than I know what to do with, am music director, RS counselor, and choir director. Aren’t we all busy? [I am in an under-staffed branch, but isn’t this the scenario we are discussing?] It is true that there is no reason for some callings to be gender/ordination-specific, but women already run RS, YW, mostly Primary, and teach a good chunk of SS, so why do we need more potential callings? And for those HT/VT pair-ups, what do they do with their kids when they go out?

    The branches I attended in Kenya were the only LDS units (outside the MTC) I have ever seen that had a majority of men. I think this is largely due to the demographics of Nairobi–many men live there to work while their wives and children remain in the rural homes. I would guess this makes things difficult in the family (men converting to some weird religion the family has never heard of) but perhaps it is good for Priesthood numbers? [the Church only exists in a few cities in Nairobi (except for one rural branch that has inspired your faith in the Ensign article every few years), so the vast majority of the population has no access to it–a commen phenomenon, I gather, in Africa outside SA]

    I only know anecdotes, but I have been disturbed by stories that some church leaders (bishops) guide their illegal immigrant members in how to ______________ (get a job, file for taxes, etc.) as an illegal alien. I am also a bit surprised that apparently illegal aliens are temple worthy even though they are clearly not honoring the laws of the land. Do I have bad information on this?

    I do feel that US immigration laws are very lacking and am very sympathetic to people wanting to immigrate to the US (for economic/education opportunities, not for Church), I just wish it was more feasible to do it LEGALLY and do not think that the church at any level should sanction/assist/condone illegal immigration.

  45. gst
    October 19, 2005 at 7:42 pm

    Are we overworked? The bishop in my new ward (I won’t say where, but the region rhymes with “mouthern balifornia”) told me that I shouldn’t expect a calling anytime soon because they were pretty much all staffed-up. I told him, “Great, because I don’t really need the blessings of church service anyway!” So now he knows I’m a jerk, which is good.

  46. gst
    October 19, 2005 at 7:48 pm

    It seems to me that the proscription against emigration to the US also largely applies to those that would move from Gentile City, USA to Utah, as discussed here:

    If folks in Wales are expected to build the kingdom there, why aren’t saints in Maine under the same obligation?

  47. Amira
    October 19, 2005 at 9:54 pm

    Very few of my LDS international friends have actually emigrated to the US; they’ve simply gone for educational or short term job opportunities and have every intention of returning (or already have returned) to their home countries. However, most of them are from Central Asia (mostly Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan).

    Central Asians in general seem to have far less admiration for the US- Europe is a lot more likely to be the goal. The US has had extremely little involvement in Central Asia. There also seems to be a feeling here that the local members need to stay and get the church going in Central Asia. Of course, this could partly be the fact that it is very difficult to get to the US. There also have been very few expatriate families that live even in the capitals of these countries- my understanding is that there are only 6 or 7 LDS families in the entire area, and most live in a country that is FAR from recognizing the Church.

    But it’s hard here. With fewer than 100 members in the entire region, mostly in Kazakhstan, there really isn’t much church life available. Some are lucky to attend church once a year. Some don’t even have the opportunity to take the sacrament at home. If you look at a map of LDS temples, Central Asia is right in the middle of a gaping hole- we’re right in between the temples in Germany and those in Seoul and Hong Kong. Even the wealthier members have had a very difficult time getting to any temple.

    What I like to see is the younger members serving missions in the US and then returning home. They get some valuable experience. But even that has its problems.

  48. annegb
    October 19, 2005 at 10:01 pm

    UKAnn, I’m sorry, I can relate. I raised all my kids here in southern Utah and we were faithful in all the things families are supposed to do. Three of our kids are inactive.It is a heartache to us. We forgot to teach our kids lovingly, we just taught them. That could happen anywhere.

    I don’t think it’s easier to raise kids in the US or Utah and have them remain faithful to the church. It is easier to live where you can count on hot water and electricity and people aren’t shooting at you. I’m grateful for this easy life and I don’t take it for granted. I feel a lot of guilt about it, especially with all that’s going on in the world.

    Wilfried, I wonder if there are countries where there are second and third generation members, maybe south America–or Asia? We currently have two boys in our ward on missions in Germany, one has written to me about it being a very hard mission. Even the members seem to dislike things American.

    If you consider the PEF program and the changes the gospel makes in the lives of people, it’s wonderful to contemplate the possibilities for progress if converts in third world countries stay where they are.

  49. Julie in Austin
    October 19, 2005 at 10:13 pm

    Adam, I was thinking about that very issue over dinner. I think that the persistence of HT/VT in the face of huge obstacles is based on our commitment to ministering to The One. And that’s a good thing. But I wonder how else we might do it? Here’s an alternate reality for you: every active household (regardless of compostion of that household) is assigned 2-3 other households to ‘shepherd.’ This would require weekly contact, but that might be a phone call or a brief chat at church. But instead of feeling that a brief in-home visit meant that you were ‘finished’ for the month, you would consider yourself to have a continual responsiblity to be sure that that household’s needs were met. (And I love your dinner idea–I think socializing among the Saints is becoming a lost art, and getting together with the kids at the park, or for dessert, or whatever, would be a great thing.)

    I’m cringing a little lest this come off as ark-steadying, as I am sure that there are very good reasons for doing things the way that we do. But I am just tossing this out as something that might meet the need better with less time investment.

  50. Wilfried
    October 19, 2005 at 11:02 pm

    Thank you all. I see I am getting behind in commenting on comments.

    As major issues from some of the foregoing I notice 1) the function of women in (traditionally priesthood) leadership positions, and 2) the topic of viability (which I would like to treat separately from 1). This in relation to making small local units abroad stronger, keeping more members active, and diminishing the desire to emigrate. Let’s not forget the main issue of the thread.

    For the first issue, the function of women in some Church positions, Russell (32) has staked out some parameters and made a number of suggestions for possible tasks shifting from brothers to sisters: mission leader, clerk, Sunday School presidencies. Of course, we need to make clear, in our present context, that we talk about units with very few (or weak) priesthood holders, but with more able sisters, a number of them single, who are not overburdened by other tasks or family responsibilities. Indeed, ESO (44) rightfully reminded us that it would not make sense to shift overwork from one gender to another. Russell’s proposal is indeed a careful, realistic scenario. Rosalynde (36) added the suggestion for consolidation in HT/VT programs. Russell (39) confirmed this is already in action here and there (I have seen it too occasionally, but I guess it was more unofficial arrangement). I agree that such adaptations could relieve the burden from some and contribute to a less pressured and more effective Church life.

    More complex and more delicate is the issue of viability. B bell (31) asked for clarification, Russell (33) thought that I meant “the whole package of activities and programs”. Well, I see it broader and in a versatile dimension. With viability I mean how each individual convert can internalize and practice Mormonism, in a for the Church still acceptable way, without it becoming overburdening, or threatening, or too frustrating, or too alienating from the host society. Because this is the realm where we lose so many converts to inactivity. I know, it is easy to be unyielding and use all our rhetoric of obedience and sacrifice. But what do we gain when, among other things, the very sphere we create chases many of our converts away, and then the remaining handful has to resort to endless HT/VT to get them back?

    Viability is about being happy in the Church. It raises various issues. Foremost is the extent of our internalization of the Gospel: are we at peace with ourselves, spiritually, morally, emotionally? When external criteria tend to dominate or replace internalization (like attendance at meetings, % of HT/VT, etc.) something primordial may be at risk. Next, to what extent can Church activity be tailored according to reasonable needs and possibilities of the individual in his country? Some need a lot of Church activity to remain faithful (perhaps a form of escapism in involvement, but if that keeps them active…), others drop out when the activity demands become impossible to match. The following is even more delicate: the acceptance of some leniency in commandments like tithing, Word or Wisdom and Sabbath observance. These commandments are usually pretty easy to follow in a U.S. Mormon environment where the whole society contributes to the normality of them. But these commandments are often major stumbling blocks in countries where people are crushed by taxes and tithing is non-deductible, where e.g. coffee or tea have huge social functions, where a familial Sunday leisure culture is ingrained (family visits, cultural and sport activities…), but made impossible by the average of 5 hours Sunday Church involvement (including travel). Caveat: I am not proposing changes! But I think we must dare to analyze the factors that contribute to massive inactivity and point at the differences in related burdens between e.g. Utah and other places in the world.

    Viability can be negatively seen as easification, and that goes squarely against our fundamental concept of a demanding religion. But could it also be seen as a way to help members stay in the realm of the Church and feel accepted without the constant feelings of guilt that drive people out? Right now, the stark separation between “all or nothing” contributes to making people inactive. In all this a major problem is: can we ever move to a culture accepting that obedience and faithfulness are on a continuum and that each soul is somewhere on that road? Or is there only one message: conversion implies total obedience to the commandments and unquestioned dedication – that’s what the core of Mormonism is?

    Enough for this part. I still need to go over some comments with specific questions.

  51. Wilfried
    October 20, 2005 at 12:00 am

    Queuno (34), your question about a new university in SLC: I think it pertains to the BYU-SLC center, nothing more. As to your remark about international students coming to BYU and then staying in the U.S., yes, my impression is also that many do. However, regulations could require they return home. But if they marry an American (and many do), I think that would overrule any regulation.

    ESO (44), thank you for your extra information on Kenya. You raise the question how the Church deals with illegal immigrants. The policy is now “to stay out of the questions of status”. I quote from a Deseret News article from last Friday:

    The LDS Church has no formal position on illegal immigration. “We leave those matters to civil authorities,” spokesman Dale Bills said. “This isn’t the church’s issue,” said Elder Pingree, who served as a mission president in Mexico City. “This is the government’s issue.” Some Latter-day Saints question the church’s baptizing converts and issuing temple privileges to members who are in the country illegally. Potential templegoers must avow to a bishop that they are honest in their dealings with others. Some members can’t reconcile church membership and illegal status.
    “It’s not a problem for me,” Pingree said. He made clear that immigration enforcement “is not the role of the church.” Church leaders do not ascertain potential converts’ citizenship prior to baptism or temple attendance. They look for commitment to live the tenets of the religion, Pingree says. The church, he says, does everything it can to encourage its members to stay in their home countries to strengthen local stakes and wards. “But once they’re here, we want to make them feel like part of the community, a valued part of the community,” Pingree said.

    Amira (47), please tell us more about yourself and the Church where you live. What is your conversion story? In which of these countries do we have missionaries? From your account, it seems this is the “most extreme” in Mormon isolation in the world. We’re pleased you join us from that part of the globe.

    Annegb (48), you ask the question “I wonder if there are countries where there are second and third generation members, maybe south America?or Asia?” I think that any place in the world that has had missionaries for decades, or a century or longer, would have at least some generation-Mormons. I know a Belgian family with Belgian “pioneer ancestors” going back to around 1900. But… two of their 4 children have meanwhile married an American and are living in the U.S. That’s the way it goes.

  52. October 20, 2005 at 12:30 am

    “Russell thought that I meant ‘the whole package of activities and programs.’ Well, I see it broader and in a versatile dimension. With viability I mean how each individual convert can internalize and practice Mormonism….without it becoming overburdening, or threatening, or too frustrating, or too alienating from the host society….[T]o what extent can Church activity be tailored according to reasonable needs and possibilities of the individual in his country?….The following is even more delicate: the acceptance of some leniency in commandments like tithing, Word or Wisdom and Sabbath observance.”

    Thoughtful, probing questions there, Wilfried. My comments above came out of the presumption that the church, with all its extant programs and policies, is not going to significantly change–that we will not, in fact, see another change as wide-ranging like the initial response to the internationalization of the church (in other words, Correlation) anytime soon. So I was talking about making callings work as best as possible. If we want to dig deeper than that, and really talk about doctrinal and behavioral practices and expectations, well, it seems to me that the length and number of church meetings, and the layers of organization which go into realizing them, is the obvious target. We are, no bones about it, a top-heavy, meetings-heavy church–perhaps perversely because of our lay character: since we don’t, except at regional levels or higher, have anyone doing church work full-time, we often end up, in my view, parceling out numerous overlapping responsibilities which in turn require numerous overlapping meetings. Perhaps this is unavoidable; perhaps the benefits of not having a professional clergy outweigh by the sometimes repetitive and wearying costs of church activity. But the result is that, so often, the Sabbath is no longer a day of rest. In societies that are less obsessively workaholic than the United States–and with the exception of East Asia, that is just about everywhere–these time and travel demands may be viewed as simply ridiculous. Some people will want to go to all the meetings; some people will want to get their kids involved in each and every activity. But surely it wouldn’t hurt to contemplate the possibility that full faith and “activity” in the church needn’t necessarily involve the same time commitments, the same work expectations, the same attendance to detail. As I said in an old post, while I know the socialization and acculturation that takes place at our church meetings is absolutely vital to building a faith community, aside from the ordinance of the sacrament I’m not sure how much the actual work that takes place in weekly our meetings really matters. Maybe if we dispersed after Sacrament meeting and Primary/Sunday School, and went about the rest of our church work through the sort of local household “shepherding” and socializing that Julie and Adam suggest, our Sundays would more adaptable to smaller, non-American Mormon environments.

  53. TMD
    October 20, 2005 at 12:32 am

    A perhaps interesting contribution–the stake presidencies in my area (a midwestern city with a large university) routinely send letters to the young married students to strongly consider remaining to build the kingdom here, rather than ‘running home to utah.’ Some laugh, some take it seriously. Over the past generation, the strong growth of the local church has benefitted from just that a great deal.

    Also, I think that someone in Utah is at least trying to encourage emigration FROM Utah–through the lack of a dental school (in wards near universities with dental schools, the “dental student single” or the ‘dental student and his wife” have become near-cliches). This is, I think, good for them; its certainly good for the gospel in these parts.

  54. Kaimi
    October 20, 2005 at 1:27 am

    I think I’ve hit on the solution: AnneGB needs to move to Belgium. Then she could help Wilfried’s ward, and he could regale us all with fun little anecdotes about her strange antics at church.

  55. Bob
    October 20, 2005 at 4:00 am

    In 1958 the New Zealand temple was dedicated and the Church College of New Zealand was opened, it is situated a few kilometers from the city of Hamilton. For the next 20 years or so teachers came, generally from the US to teach at the school.
    This provided a fantastic opportunity for the local members to recieve leadership training, and a grounding in the gospel that would probably not have occured without them.

    As a result the church as grown and blossomed in this city. In 1970 when my family moved here there was 3 wards, now there are abut 15, three stakes.

    Utah emmigrants, albiet only temporary ones can have a great influance in bringing the church out of obscurity, and strengthening the saints.

    Our ward, has a high concentration of church members within a small geographical area, our home visiting teaching is almost always 85^+.

    Without the almost 20 year concentration of active, strong church members coming here I don’t think we would be doing quite as welll.

    Now members return here, Wilfried, one even recently just back from Belgium, after living there for almost 30 years, and being reactivated there.

  56. UKAnn
    October 20, 2005 at 4:40 am

    Just a few further thoughts prompted by recent postings:

    The Brethren have tried to reduce our workload by preaching the ‘reduce and simplify’ message. However, we then have further meetings with area leadership whose messages and directions sometimes appear to run counter.

    We did try simplifying our HT/VT by visiting as married couples, this was soon stopped as running counter to the programme – even though it came under the banner of ‘simplifying’.

    I wonder whether the dedication shown by a lot of Saints can actually be off-putting to our young people. I have known two instances recently where young people are becoming less active and have said words along the lines of …. ‘I see what you and Dad do in the church and I don’t think I’m prepared to give that time’. It’s hard, as Wilfried says, to just go along and enjoy church. You have to be all or nothing here.

    And yes, we do still have quite a few second and third generation member families in our Ward, it’s quite common in England. Heck, we’ve even got 4th!

  57. Wilfried
    October 20, 2005 at 8:16 am

    Thank you, Russell (52) for wording it better than I could. You touch upon another aspect that is fundamental, the lay character of our church organization with its many levels and overlapping ramifications. It is a unique thing, and mostly a source of immense blessings, but it can also lead to lack of efficiency, needless and empty meetings, multiple interpretations as to guidelines and expectations. UKAnn (56) hints at this: “… we then have further meetings with area leadership whose messages and directions sometimes appear to run counter.”

    A central aspect, and challenge, in all this remains the diverse needs of members. Some are perfectly happy with the high rate of activities, meetings, service, and with detailed rules that direct their lives. Others run aground on it, though they love the Gospel. I heard a GA once say: “We need more Gospel and less Church”. But what is “required” for that? Certainly not more meetings to explain it and more programs to implement it.

  58. Amira
    October 20, 2005 at 9:22 am

    Wilfried, I should have been clearer. I’m an American living in Kyrgyzstan, so I’m not particularly exciting. There are some interesting conversion stories here though, but since the Church isn’t on solid ground yet (but hopefully soon!) in Kyrgyzstan, I’m not comfortable with sharing those stories.

    Currently Kazakhstan is the only country in Central Asia that has recognized the Church. A branch was established there about 4 years ago. Expat families have provided most of the leadership, but most of those families have left. I think there are about 70 members right now in that branch and there are missionaries in Kazakhstan.

    The isolation is extreme here. We look forward to the day when the very few of us here in Kyrgyzstan can actually meet together and take the Sacrament. It is nowhere near as difficult for us, but the local members here need more than they have.

  59. Ginny
    October 20, 2005 at 11:38 am

    (56) “I wonder whether the dedication shown by a lot of Saints can actually be off-putting to our young people. I have known two instances recently where young people are becoming less active and have said words along the lines of …. ‘I see what you and Dad do in the church and I don’t think I’m prepared to give that time’. It’s hard, as Wilfried says, to just go along and enjoy church. You have to be all or nothing here.”

    In a word – yes. As a young (mid-20s) convert of less than a year who is already on the verge of inactivity, the time demands are quite off-putting. If there were a way to go to church, honor the sabbath, and not be hounded by constant phone calls/emails/Visiting Teaching reminders/other upon my time by various church members, I would be much more at peace. As it is, I rather feel like I signed up for a telemarketing campaign, and it creates a sour feeling whenever I think about attending church on Sundays knowing I’ll have 5 people on me the moment I walk in the door.

  60. October 20, 2005 at 12:24 pm


    “As a young (mid-20s) convert of less than a year who is already on the verge of inactivity, the time demands are quite off-putting. If there were a way to go to church, honor the sabbath, and not be hounded by constant phone calls/emails/Visiting Teaching reminders/other upon my time by various church members, I would be much more at peace. As it is, I rather feel like I signed up for a telemarketing campaign, and it creates a sour feeling whenever I think about attending church on Sundays knowing I’ll have 5 people on me the moment I walk in the door.”

    Thanks for sharing your feelings here; I hope and pray you stick with the church. The way Mormonism is often practiced, especially in the U.S., unfortunately sometimes doesn’t allow for the sort of solace, contemplation, and peace that makes for real communal worship. But you can find places for it, I assure you. Sometimes, surprisingly enough, you can find it even in the midst of busy activity, when you happen to light upon that calling or role in a ward where God’s grace is real. I feel it, for example, in Primary; I confess that I am far less responsive to the priesthood and leadership-type needs (home teaching, etc.) of the wards I’ve been in than perhaps I should, simply because I’m rarely rewarded much by it spiritually. Whereas working with kids does me much good. The obvious “orthodox” suggestion is that I need to be tested and stretched further, and that may be true…but in the meantime, I see little harm in doing what I can to shape (even, to a degree, restrict) my activity around those things which add to my appreciation of being with my fellow Saints on the Sabbath, rather than those things which lead me to feel harassed by them. Good luck!

  61. Wilfried
    October 20, 2005 at 12:38 pm

    Amira (58), thanks for the clarification. I wish you well in that faraway country. It reminds me of my years in Central Africa, at a time when the closest Church was 2,000 miles away.

    Ginny (59), that is a distressing plea to hear. But I do appreciate your sincerity in saying it. It illustrates well one of the aspects we have talked about. I wish Pres. Hinckley would read a little letter like yours in next General Conference, like he read one, a few years ago, from the young man who was not fellowshipped properly. In your case, the “fellowshipping” is of the other extreme and of a unilateral kind. I hope you will keep your eyes and heart on the essence of the Gospel. If my testimony can help…

  62. Mike
    October 20, 2005 at 12:57 pm

    If slimming down is the answer, then I have a really great suggestion. Disorganize the church, cancel all meetings and sell off the buildings and the businesses and give everyone who paid tithing last year a refund; my peepstone calculations show it would be about 100,000 bucks each.

    Seriously, slimming down is not the answer. Doing things better in a different way is the answer. Some things don’t work and need to stop, other things we are not doing need to be done. Strong central control has its benefits but it interfers with the process of throwing out the unworkable and implementing new ideas that do not come from the top.

    Slimming down or doing better does not equal shifting duties to women. Even if women are more capable than men. (My teenage daughter told our Bishop that she thought every last woman in the ward could do a better job as Bishop than he was doing, and after thinking for a moment he agreed with her). One interesting observation is that religions where most of the work is done by a few highly effective professionals have mostly active women in the congregation and can not figure out how to get their men involved. Religions with a strong reliance on volunteer work typically have more men involved. Mormons follow this pattern with our relatively high participation of men at church and our mostly a non-professional clergy and our exceedingly extensive volunteerism. If empowering women is linked to marginalization of men it will fail, just as will (some might say – already has) the opposite.

    I wonder if we are thinking broadly enough. Many of the suggestions offered would help. But I really think the problem is bigger than the suggested solutions. A recent biography about David O. McKay mentions a fascinating event in remote Nigeria. Several thousand African people indicated by mail they wanted to join the LDS faith in a place where never a Mormon missionary had tread a decade before the 1978 revelation and where it seemed doubtful that more than a handful of white people would ever be allowed to even visit. President McKay gave serious thought to creating an entirely different kind of LDS church in 1960’s rural Nigeria where thousands of Africans would be served by almost zero Priesthood. (??? Sacrament services once a year where one visiting white Priest would take all day to distribute the bread and water to thousands assembled, a young athletic mission president fresh off the BYU football team who would travel around and rapidly perform thousands of baptisms a day and do little else, bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost to congregations en mass, strong independent auxillaries with many levels interrelated into a community with no Priesthood oversight, etc.??).

    Think about it as a theoretical problem of extremes: How could three white men and their wives living in a separate country and only allowed brief infrequent visits be able to lead/minister to say 50,000 African Saints; none of whom were able to hold the priesthoodI? How long would it take you just to baptise them? Would this little exercise not cause us to more fully consider some options for our current problems? In the end it turns out that there were more complex political factors at work in Nigeria in the 1960’s. The conversions never took place and a terrible civil war killed most of these people off. God took them home.

    I was discussing the concept of the “true but crummy church” with my Bishop and why we can’t do a better job than what seems to be going on around us. Bishop told me that our church is a “family centered church” in contrast to a “church centered church.” I asked him then why do I spend many hours here on Sunday rather than home with the family? Would staying home and spending three hours reading or playing or hiking or picnicing with my wife and kids on Sunday morning be better than dragging them all out to church? If the answer is yes, then we have a problem with what is happening at church.

    I don’t understand the idea of more gospel and less church. I think I probably disagree with it. It seems to me to be parallel to saying more wool and fewer sheep. Sheep I am told are highly evolved to provide excessive amounts of wool and it is doubtful that drastic increases in amount of wool per each sheep beyond that already achieved is biologically possible. Genetic engineering is not going to help wool production because it already happened through intentional selection over thousands of years. Sheep are the way they are for sound biological reasons. (Of course all it takes is one smart graduate student to change this with one clever break through).

    Likewise the gospel and the church are interrelated. People need church to implement the principles of the gospel into their lives and into their character. If our wool production is declining and of poor quality, then we need to take better care of our sheep. I would say better church leads to better living of the gospel, but only if it is done right. It seems odd to trim church (correlation) and then when problems appear to say even less church and expect more gospel. Maybe I need further clarification what is meant by less church and more gospel.

    Reply to #34 queuno:

    I read it in the SL Tribune a few months ago and being so far out of the loop I assumed it is common knowledge; that the church was going to build another university and call it BYU-Salt Lake. J. Golden Kimball once said he had to restrain the sons of President (Joseph F.) Smith from publicly horsewhipping the editors of the tribune. They could be wrong, it won’t be the first time or I might be mixing it up with a planned expansion of one of the institutions of education already there. The tribune it seems to me was harping on the “fact” that the Mormon church had wasted a billion dollars on high risk real estate in downtown Salt Lake and one of the examples they mentioned was plans for the establishment of a large concentration camp kind of college in some of the empty buildings without all of the frills available at BYU such as a beautiful campus, great (sometimes) athletic teams, elaborate research etc. I am going by memory and reading between the lines and emotional impression here and I should check my facts better, but I thought this site is more like a friendly chat during a church basketball game, not a scientific presentation. I appologize if I am wrong.

  63. annegb
    October 20, 2005 at 1:05 pm

    Wilfried, I was thinking you’d said that there were not many second generation members in Germany or maybe it was Belgium.

    Kaimi, I don’t do antics, really. If you saw me, you’d just think I was a normal Mormon woman. You’ll see if I ever figure out how to post that picture. I just be myself and this stuff happens. I don’t do it on purpose. You make it sound like I wear a big red nose and a clown hat. I bet you wouldn’t pick me out of a lineup. Most of the time I’m pretty normally nice. Not insulted, though, really.

    Somewhere on another blog, I can’t remember, somebody said their bishop told them to leave Utah and never look back. It can be stifling here. Also surprising for those who emigrate with fresh and vibrant testimonies, as I discovered when I moved here from Nevada. I thought I was moving to Zion and was really disappointed at first. I love it now, but it was a difficult adjustment.

    Wilfried, how do you make the adjustment of the back and forth so often? The societies have to be very different, even if the church is the same.

  64. Wilfried
    October 20, 2005 at 1:17 pm

    Annegb (63): “Wilfried, I was thinking you’d said that there were not many second generation members in Germany or maybe it was Belgium. ”

    As I mentioned earlier, any place in the world that has had missionaries for decades, or a century or longer, would have at least some generation-Mormons. How many exactly I do not know, but from my experience in Belgium, very few compared to the original potential. A statistical analysis, per country, would be interesting.

    You also ask how I make the adjustment going back and forth between Provo and Belgium. No problems, but revealing. The Church is “the same everywhere, with huge differences.” In a Belgian branch or ward every member has two or three callings etc., while I just heard that in our Provo ward only about half of the members “can” have a church calling because there are not enough callings for each. And many “callings” require almost no “work”. In Provo we do our HT to our three active families in 1,5 hour per month, across the street. In Belgium, well… And so on. No complaints involved, just arithmetic. But arithmetic with an immense admiration for the quiet heroes in Belgium, and anywhere where it’s similar.

  65. UKAnn
    October 20, 2005 at 1:31 pm

    Ginny (#59) – If I can give a word of encouragement – hang in there. The blessings of the gospel far outweigh anything we can give.

    If I can give a word of advice – it took me many years to learn it – just say ‘no’. Live the basic principles of the gospel, and do what you can. Anything you feel is draining to your time/testimony – just give a polite – no I can’t do that at the moment. And don’t be emotionally blackmailed (everyone in the Church from the brethren down are expert in this ploy!). What you can offer in the church is between you and the Lord under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

    Mike (#62) “More gospel, less church” is a good standard to live by. I understand that to mean we’ve got to spend less time in unproductive meetings, that take us away from time we could be more usefully spending with families and community service.

  66. b bell
    October 20, 2005 at 1:40 pm


    hang in there. Learn how to say no. It can keep you sane. Also start telling people to back off.

    When my spiritual batteries need a recharge cause I have been wrestling my twins and the drop-off of my three nursery aged kids went horribly here is what I do.

    I slip into the back of primary and just absorb all the talks/songs etc. The spirit is so so strong in primary that the batteries are recharged and I am ready to do battle again. Primary is pure. No adult style agendas or controversies. Just the pure love of Christ and lots of the spirit. The talks are amazing. Nothing like a 7 year old talking about his brother on a mission.

  67. Adam Greenwood
    October 20, 2005 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks, Mike, for putting your finger on something true. I’ve been groping my way towards what you just expressed clearly. Thank you.l

  68. Wilfried
    October 20, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    Also, thank you, Mike, for your helpful contribution (62). “More Gospel, less Church” of course does not mean “no Church”. The Gospel points at the internalization of principles, at spirituality, prayer… , but also at the way we serve each other and reach out. The Church, in this context, points at meetings, programs, reports… True, the one needs the other and there is a grey zone between the two. But in some cases the balance goes wrong and meetings, programs etc. tend to prejudice the time and place we need for the Gospel. Hence…

  69. Mike
    October 21, 2005 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks to many of you for clarification of the more gospel and less church idea. I think we are more or less on the same page. It is a vague idea but when properly understood a useful one. We can’t kill the sheep, ,just make sure they have clover to eat not straw and that the wolves don’t get them.

    I try and make the church better one lesson at a time, one week at a time, one charitable act at a time in my ward. I have a calling as teacher of something or other usually adults most of the time, that is about as far as the Lord or the Bishop usually trusts me. I hold onto the hope that Elder Oaks was not kidding when he said that we don’t move up or down in our callings in the church, we just move around. In that light the hierarchial lesser calling I have generally held are very important. I am not that smart and sometimes it feels like too many others slavishly devoted to mediocracy prevail. I can not change my ward much. I think of Napolean or Alexander the Great or Moses or Joseph and consider the enormous impact they had on their society. I can’t even get a blood drive organized in my ward. I often offend people and have learned to be quick to ask for forgiveness. I would like to think we are making slow progress in my ward and I am part of it.

    But my kids are only young once and time passes so swiftly and the church here and today is what they are going to internalize. Already they have passed through Primary making me feel old. Primary was what b. bell #66 described above for us for several years due to enormous effort by a few. It was a blessing to teach there. But then it changed to the single most toxic experience in the lives of both of my children. Both of my children utterly refused/hated to attend Primary the last few months of their years there. I dare not describe here all of the damage this and related events have done to my wife, and to us as a family. Things have been somewhat better the last few months but much damage was done.

    I have watched way too many of my friends suffer the loss of their children in the church. Often it is is hard to explain, but it has to be the accumulation of many small events that block critical conversion experiences. Sometimes it infuriates me to the point that I want to drag somebody out of bed at night and tie them to a tree in the swamp and leave them for the alligators. But who should be the victim of my wrath? When we are all so sweetly marching lock step together in “following the prophet,” or rather our shallow perversion of it, then responsibility conveniently rests with no one.

    Forgiveness. It is hard.

    But I have hope. I say to UK Ann and all the rest with children who are currently not on the path, the game of life isn’t over. I may be discourged but I will never give up. I have an uncle who left the church as a soldier in WWII and came back in his late 70’s and serves as a HPGL. Another relative: a cousin raised in the faith who lived about the worst life you can imagine. Gangster, multiple murders, rape, prison, drug abuse, multiple illegit. children, etc. His mother told me at his funeral something along the lines that it was now the responsibility of others to bring him back to the Lord. She had not given up hope for him in this life until the day he died in a shootout with the police when his gun jammed or there would have been even more killings. And not even then did she give up all hope, only that he was temporarily out of her immediate concern. A mother’s love is unfathomable and even irrational, but beautiful. She passed away a few years later and I don’t know much about the other side, but she is back on his case if it is at all possible.

    This was going to be only be a short thank-you but it turned into more. .

  70. b bell
    October 21, 2005 at 12:51 pm

    I want to echo Mikes comments about people coming back.

    Both of my grandfathers took 40 year absences in the wilderness. Then they were back. Just like that it seemed.

  71. JKS
    October 21, 2005 at 2:20 pm

    My first calling was when I was 10. I was the primary pianist during opening exercises because there wasn’t anyone else who was available to do it. My mother used to spend all day (6+ hours) doing her visiting teaching. This type of church atmosphere is how I grew up.
    While living in Utah during the college years was wonderful (LDS friends, dating, marrying), I am glad I did not have to stay in Utah. I prefer to be in a ward where I am needed, and I need the church.
    When I was in high school, I needed to go to church. I needed to go mid-week to Seminary/Mutual. I needed to be spiritually fulfilled, and to be near people who believed like I did.
    In Utah, I didn’t need that anymore. Everyone I knew was Mormon. I missed that feeling. I missed having a real reason to go to church.
    In Seattle, I don’t have to have 3 callings, but I am still needed. And I need my ward. I don’t wish to go to Utah for my children. I hope they have the same positive experience that I did being the only Mormon in their class. I hope it makes them stronger, not weaker. I hope that my daughter’s decision to be baptized next week is more powerful for her because she knows it is something rare that she gets to do, rather than because that is just what is done at age eight.

  72. Porter
    October 21, 2005 at 2:26 pm

    One issue that hasn’t been mentioned is the unintended consequences of the church’s Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) in Hawaii. I served a mission in Fiji, and virtually all of the local Fijian missionaries I served with (as well as all of the Tongans and Samoans) took advantage of the Church’s scholarship program to attend BYU Hawaii for free as long as they danced their hearts out every day for the tourists at the (very profitable) PCC.

    I think the PCC concept was well intentioned and probably a predecessor in some ways to the Perpetual Education Fund. It has the goal of giving the Polynesians a good education and preparing them to return to their native homeland to become productive members of their society there.

    The problem is that very few of them ever go back! Many of them meet and marry non-Polynesian spouses, and the majority of them like the life in the USA so much that they simply stay. I have several former companions who are now living illegally in the US after their student visas expired. I wonder if the church has ever looked into this issue? Do they realize that the PCC is actually draining these wonderful countries of some of their finest and brightest returned missionaries? Could BYU Hawaii even operate without the lucrative PCC attached to it?

  73. Sara
    October 21, 2005 at 4:30 pm

    I would even restrict this further in saying that non-Utah Latter-day Saints idealize life in Utah as well.

    I was baptized when I was 19 by my then boyfriend (now husband). He was attending BYU and I Texas A&M University. I think the idealization of all things Mormon is part of the “on fire” stage of being a recently baptized member; and that’s how I viewed things, especially things in Utah. It’s the land of milk and honey where everyone is kind to each other. It has to be because that’s where the Church is most prolific. Right? Well…was I in for a shock when I started attending BYU after my husband and I got married. When I first moved to Happy Valley, I was so excited to be able to be a Mormon with all my little quirks. I wouldn’t get weird looks, and people wouldn’t be telling me, “I’ll pray for your damned immortal soul.” It was a relief. However, within the first few weeks up here, I noticed that things aren’t really all that much better here in Utah than anywhere else. I was a little bitter because I expected certain standards of Church members. I expected that all those petty social pestilences of “the world” would have diminshed the moment I crossed over that Utah border. I was severly let-down with many experiences over a few months.

    I look back now at these first impressions of life in Utah, and I’m a lot more realisitic. But in some ways, I feel a tad more bitter having realized that Mormons are just like everyone else in world, with the same weaknesses and temptations. I’m not a naive person, but perhaps I was a naive new convert. However, was it so wrong of me to expect Church members to be living certain standards, ones that proceed from their mouths during sacrament meetings and Sunday School lessons? Were my expectations so outlandish as to really even be considered naive? I don’t have answers to these questions. I do know however that I can’t wait to get out of Utah, back to a place where you feel like you need other people in your ward in order to get by; where everyone contributes to this community of believers with the same zeal for the gospel that you have; and where petty differences are looked-past because you’re too busy trying to get people to the temple to be sealed, or doing your visiting and home teaching, or focusing on missionary work.

  74. Wilfried
    October 21, 2005 at 4:40 pm

    Mike (69), as always your personal words are appreciated. Thanks for both the realism and the emotion.

    JKS (71), I agree. The ideal for our kids is probably between the two extremes — on the one hand not totally lonely in a non-Mormon environment AND moreover in a weak struggling branch without leadership and Mormon peers, on the other hand not in a total Mormon environment where nothing differentiates them — but in a place where they can stand out as Mormons and still have the support of a reasonable ward… But, I’m afraid, that middle ground is still often in the U.S., but outside the Mormon West. We’ll talk the immigrants into going to Seattle!

    Porter (72), you touch upon a topic that is indeed vital in the issue at hand. Not only BYU-Hawaii seems to drain young people (often the most promising) from their homelands, but so is BYU in Provo (and probably in Idaho). I presume statistics would show us the extent of the “no-returnees”. And understandable: once they have tasted of American life, liberty, opportunities… Hard to tell them to “go home”, when their home has in fact become America.

  75. Ross Geddes
    October 21, 2005 at 4:48 pm

    If it’s not too late, I wanted to comment from an Australian perspective. Based on what I have observed over 40+ years, I’d say this is pretty much a non-issue here (at least where I live), and hasn’t been since probably the 1950s. The first stakes here were created in 1960. We have 7 in the city (and surrounding region) where I live. Many US members would probably be surprised how mature the church is in this part of the world. We have sixth generation members (not a lot), but there are quite a few very active families who trace their church membership back to the early 1900s (1902 etc). Third generation members are very common.

    I don’t know of anyone in recent times who has deliberately migrated to the Utah area. What emigration does occur is usually accidental. For example, a young person will sometimes attend BYU and end up marrying and staying in the US. Plus internet romances are more frequent now, and these can lead to emigration. I know of a couple of men (and their families) who have gone to the US to take up highly skilled jobs, but neither is in the Mormon heartland. Both, as far as I know, plan to return to Australia.

    Australia is often called “the lucky country” (after a well-known 1960s book by Donald Horne). There probably aren’t many Australians (LDS or otherwise) who cast covetous eyes on the US. (No offence intended to US readers!) My guess is that if the prophet were to tell us all it was time to move to Missouri or wherever, many Australians would be severely tested!

  76. Wilfried
    October 21, 2005 at 4:51 pm

    Sara (73), you posted while I was working on 74… Thanks for adding your voice of experience to the whole. Your words echo what some pioneers have written since the middle of the 19th century, and some later immigrants, when arriving to Utah — though I think they would be a minority compared to those who fell in love with the place.

    But indeed, if the expectations are too high, you’re in for disappointment. Also, very much will depend on the locale. Some wards are much better than others, some people live the Gospel in a more mature way… You are absolutely right that converts may idealize the community they are entering, and that is risky. On the other hand, allow me to add my voice as a testimony to the other side of the picture. My experience in Utah is overwhelmingly positive. Maybe because I’ve been in the Church for more than 40 years and in the trenches of the mission field… Maybe because I can compare between various places in the world…

  77. b bell
    October 21, 2005 at 4:55 pm


    Americans assume that if they work hard, they can achieve a middle-class lifestyle. A house, 2 cars, vacations, a secure retirement. I can tell you that young people on my mission in Africa did not have those same assumptions about their future. For many of my comps/fellow missionaries living in a missionary apartment and driving around in a missionary car was an economic highlite. When they went home they went back to poverty while I went back to school got married bought a house etc. (IS THIS FAIR??? SUPPORT PEF) Imagine that you had the connections to get to BYU and you were from the townships of South Africa. Your BYU ward bishop hooks you up with a job in Utah county. Pretty soon you have a car, job, career. Your fellow ward members love and respect you and love your conversion story and rise from poverty. You are soon in the YM program and telling stories about how the missionaries knocked on your door and here you are in America. The kids think you are the man…

    Would you go back? With your college education you could live OK in South Africa but not as well in Utah county.

    What would you do? Most would stay. I would not blame them.

    Its very complicated….

  78. Wilfried
    October 21, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    Well, the thread is active again… Merci, Ross (76), for the voice from Australia. As mentioned in my post, the nuances were included about the variety of countries in the world and the differences this makes.

    It is obvious that the viewpoint on Church-experience and on immigration is very different in an industrialized, English-speaking nation, and certainly in one that in se already carries “immigration” as part of its history. English-speaking nations have e.g. the advantage of access to all the Church-related material available nowadays – a remarkable market. When I compare that to the lacuna members elsewehere still experience… Also the economic criteria for immigration are totally different for Australia, compared to Africa or Eastern Europe. So indeed, it seems quite normal that Australians are not prone to immigrate to the U.S.

    Ross, to what extent is immigration still going on to Australia?

  79. Wilfried
    October 21, 2005 at 5:05 pm

    Indeed, b bell, indeed… It IS complicated. And immigration, for some, is understandable.

  80. Ross Geddes
    October 22, 2005 at 3:55 pm

    Wilfried: To answer your question, immigration to Australia is still very much alive. However, where once migrants were mainly from the UK and Ireland (and later a lot from Italy and other European nations), now the majority are probably from various Asian and Pacific countries. Both of these sources have impacted on the church here, but especially the latter, since the church is very strong in New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, probably the three countries that contribute the most to Pacific immigration. This means we now have a large minority of Polynesian members who are unevenly distributed geographically. Some wards have large numbers, others few or none. We have experienced the same dilemmas as the US in regard to ethnic units. There are several Samoan and Tongan wards and branches in this region, and the usual pros and cons accompanying them. We are certainly a much more culturally diverse country than we were 50 or even 20 years ago.

  81. Wilfried
    October 22, 2005 at 4:27 pm

    Thank you for the info, Ross. Interesting that in Australia the Church is responding similarly to the challenge of immigration and diversity by allowing the creation of ethnic units. The criterion to help people remain faithful and active takes precedence. I recognize the cons too, but I think it is wise that the core is more important than secondary reasons. I hope that line of thinking will be extended to other aspects of Church life. Keeping our brothers and sisters, especially those with struggles, doubts or weaknesses, within the realm of the Church, should be primordial in the decisions we make.

  82. Wilfried
    October 27, 2005 at 11:58 am

    In connection with brain drain and the need the U.S. (and Utah in particular) has for continued immigration, see this article in today’s Salt Lake Tribune. I was surprised to read, among other things, the following:

    In Utah alone, 49 percent of all medical scientists, 30 percent of astronomers and physicists and 24 percent of physical scientists are foreign born.

    What about Americans, you say. The decline in our home-grown brain power is startling. Our natives are not pursuing science and engineering degrees in the numbers needed to meet employment demands. This is partly due to sheer numbers, says Pamela Perlich, senior research economist with the U.’s BEBR. The baby boom peaked in 1980, making the current college-age crop of 18- to 21-year-olds in the U.S. and Utah “a flat demographic,” Perlich says. “Even in Utah this is the case,” Perlich notes, wryly. Meanwhile, foreign-born students – especially those seeking graduate degrees and post-doctoral research spots are lining up to immigrate. The same goes for researchers seeking private sector jobs in the sciences, medicine, pharmacology, engineering and computer technology. But they will wait only so long. New Zealand, Ireland, the United Kingdom and other industrialized countries are winning many candidates the U.S. turns away.

    So, “remain in your homeland” is a brave statement, but for certain categories of people it hurts the U.S.

Comments are closed.