Monday, March 8, 2010

Raising the Bar

The name of the policy which eliminates a large population of desirous young men from serving a mission was really unfortunate.  "Raising The Bar" implies that these young men do not measure up.

Repentant young men who have been involved with serious sexual transgressions during their teens are by and large denied the opportunity to serve.  So, also, are young men with medical conditions which require significant treatment or medications. 

As a result of this program, there have been tens of thousands of young men who have not served.  The missionary force dropped from the high 60,000's to the low 50,000's and has remained there.  Those who have been excluded who wanted to serve have quite often felt judged and alienated as a result.  Many have either left activity or left the church altogether.  They form a body numbering now in excess of 100,000, and as they marry, have children, and raise their posterity outside the church they will eventually number in the millions.

Calling this  program "Raising The Bar" has essentially precluded a change.  You can't "Lower The Bar" without seeming foolish, or to invite 'ner do well's. 

I've seen what this program has done to young men who wanted to serve, and who would have been allowed to serve before the program was announced.  I've tried to overcome their sense of rejection by the church, and have succeeded in only one case.  The others have essentially all told me that the church had rejected them and therefore they intended to stay away.


  1. Good thing that Alma the Elder didn't institute this program or his Son could never have gone on a mission! Nor could have the Sons of Mosiah...

    Personally I think this is one of the reasons the number of converts per missionary has dropped from the 7 to 8 per missionary per year to the current 4 to 5 per missionary per year.

    Those who are out that "cleared the bar" probably don't understand repentance nearly as well as one who had made a serious mistake and found his way back.

    Luke 7:36 And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.
    37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,
    38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
    39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
    40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
    41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
    42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
    43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
    44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
    45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
    46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
    47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

  2. I think in it's totality, "Raising the Bar" was a positive and inspired move.
    Maybe they should not have announced publicly, because now those truly repentant wanting to serve may feel ostracized, now that they can't. Each case should be look at individually- on it's own merits.
    However, the more important point here is that for far too long, "serving a mission" became a cultural expectation of the Church, and far too many young men turned in the papers for their parents, feeling obligated to repent, before leaving etc. They were then rushed thru the process to get them into the mission field-hoping it would be a "cure-all".

    If young men would truly be vetted before leaving, perhaps Ex Mormons like Gary Bishop and Mark Hoffman would be less in numbers and less of an embarrassment to the church.

    Just a thought.

  3. If by "vetted before leaving" you mean called by revelation to their individual Bishops and Stake Presidents and then confirmed by the SLC then yes, I agree.

    Too much of what we do is just "by wrote". Nothing should be taken for granted--a man must be called of God as was Aaron...

  4. Yeah, it is hard to know how to feel about this standard.
    On the one hand, I completely agree that a missionary should be worthy, prepared to serve, and serve for the right reasons. It was easy for me to see the missionaries that have fit this description while I served. They were "ready" and you never had to question their obedience.
    However, on the other hand we learn that those that followed the law of Moses and ultimately sacrificed our Savior were also very obedient, too obedient. They also probably could have matched the description of a well prepared missionary.
    One of the most powerful missionaries I served with like the son of Alma. He was a convert much later in his life and had repented much, and better for it. He related to people in a way many missionaries could not. He was humble, kind, and very obedient.
    I think those that have gone through serious repentance, and done it properly, feel so deeply about the atonement, that they would do anything for their Master. Although it is no doubt better to never sin at all, those that do sin, have the promise of being washed clean. I think anyone that has gone through this process and truly wants to serve the Lord should have the opportunity to do so. After all, aren't we all sinners and beggars? The Spirit should guide in this matter. If I had to make a decision as to the future of a young man, I sure would be inclined to err on the side of mercy and forgiveness. I am so glad I do not have to make those tough decisions.
    Ultimately for me, I accept it as is for now, and have faith that the Lord is in command of His organization on the Earth. My knowledge is so limited and puny, I couldn't possibly understand all His designs and ways. One thing I do know however, is that his ways are perfect. If I shared an equal perspective with Him, I am sure everything would make perfect sense in His glorious individual plan for each of us.

  5. Well said Reber Family.
    I don't think it a wrong thing that "The Bar" was raised, however it didn't need to be annouced publicly. Case by case decisions should be the course of action, maybe even using a Stake High Council as a clearing house before being later cleared by a GA in rare circumstances.

  6. Perhaps...

    Though, if we truly believe in the Atonement and the ability to be cleansed from all of our sins, why the need for "raising the bar" anyway?

    To me, and it's to me only, so take it with a huge grain of Pink Himilayan salt, the best way to raise the bar is to start teaching these young men (and women) doctrine. Even when rebellious, doctrine has the ability to change someone from within (through Christ, and only through Christ). I'm now somewhat detached from the mission program, but used to work with the missionaries every week while living out east the past couple of years. What I noted was that there exists a shallowness to the way the gospel is taught to investigators.

    It's shallow, or seems to be, because people don't study the gospel, people don't apply themselves, and, mostly, because we're all too distracted. Be it texting, cell phones, the internet or whatever, our minds are removed from the gospel and salvation and Christ. Christ is an afterthought in our church, typically only being mentioned in conjunction with the name of the church and at the closing of talks and testimonies. Otherwise, Christ is far from our minds, far from our thoughts, and even further from our actions.

    Raising the bar should be a focus on Christ and His life and His doctrine and His gospel. Instead, I fear, raising the bar is only a means of raising youth who live up to the standards of the church, and not the standards of Christ. I'm not sure Christ would ever forbid someone from preaching His doctrine, especially if that person had felt of His cleansing power.

    D&C 10:67-69
    " 67 Behold, this is my doctrine— whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
    68 Whosoever declareth more or less than this, the same is not of me, but is against me; therefore he is not of my church."

  7. There is a missionary now who I know who had a serious transgression who was called to serve a mission this year 2010. Every priesthood authority needs inspiration from God. What is the Lord's will for each young man? How about the PPI with the Savior in the future for all judges in Isreal.

  8. Agreed with what Anonymous said.
    Case by case basis. Raising the Bar isn't a bad thing, only a necessary tool for the times we live in. Yes, and it will be sobering day when a Bishop has his life review and he is shown his "mis-calls" where he did not have the Spirit to dictate the Lord's will in a certain matter. It would also be though to be a Bishop. We have probably all had bad calls made by our past Bishops in our lives, but you move on and forgive them as well.

  9. The best companion I had on my mission would not have been able to serve today. There were several other amazing missionaries who would not have served either (The "bar" was raised during my mission). It's hard to imagine my mission without those missionaries and subsequently without the lives blessed that they were able to bless.

    That said, there were also some very poor missionaries who also would not have been able to serve.

  10. I trust in this thought:

    The Lord will find His Elect regardless of where the bar is set.
    That it is raised, The Work still rolls forth. We need to remember that as privileged servants we work in the Vineyard, and not on our watch, but Heavenly Father's. His Plan will take care of itself.


What Say You?