Baptism numbers in Utah missions

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A post over at Nine Moons got me thinking about my mission. No, CJ, not like that.

One of the bragging points i heard among missionaries in my mission (Utah Provo Mission) was that we were the highest baptizing, English-speaking mission in the world. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?

Let’s take a look at this a bit further.

When I served in the Utah Provo Mission, the mission had about 200 stakes. We also had about 200 baptisms every month.

“200 Baptisms?!”

Yep, but look at those numbers. That’s just 1 baptism per stake per month. That’s pathetic. When I was in the stake mission presidency in the Lethbridge Alberta West Stake, we saw at least 2 baptisms per month in the stake.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that there’s more to numbers than quantity.

19 thoughts on “Baptism numbers in Utah missions

  1. I also served in the Great UPM Kim. And I agree, the numbers are misleading. But like Mark B. mentioned, it did provide may opportunities for each elder and sister to teach and baptize even if the members didn’t see it too often.

    The real story is in the way the people were brought to baptism. I never saw someone baptized who wasn’t referred by a member – not once. They did the finding work and the baptizing – we were middle (wo)men. Let’s not even mention handful of 9 year olds that are baptized each month. So, jokes aside, I’m glad I served in such a mission – but there’s nothing really to brag about.

    ps. What do you make of the fact that when I served in the UPM (from 99-01) there were always at least 30-40 missionaries from Canada – mostly Alberta? Is that your experience as well?

  2. Maybe they’re trying to teach some of the members in Alberta how missionary work should really be done. Some areas of Alberta have a very dense LDS population as well (no pun intended) LOL

  3. I served in the Philippines Angeles City Mission (98-00) and I remember my mission president talking about ‘Us’ and Utah. We were the number 1 non-english speaking baptizing mission for a while.

  4. My mission, England Coventry (88-90), led the church in car accidents and other associated car damage. I personally broke a windshield while playing wiffle ball inside the car while my comp drove. While not much compared to the several cars that were totaled, I like to think I did my small part in making us number one.

    And we used to get an award (The Wilford) if we baptized four people in a month.

  5. Oh yikes. Now why on earth would you play wiffle ball in your car while your companion was driving?? Never mind, don’t answer that, LOL.

    While I lived in Dublin, Ireland during 1990, I was told (by a sister) that the Sisters weren’t allowed to drive (though the ELDERS were) because sister had had an accident.

  6. You’re right–there is more to numbers than quantity. For example, quantity of stakes doesn’t stand for much, all by itself. How many total people lived in each of those stakes, compared with the total population living within the boundaries of most stakes? What is the actual ratio of people to baptisms, rather than just the ratio of stakes to baptisms?

  7. TStevens

    You could have left the wiffle bat where it was :) But no, why would I even ASSUME that would be an option with four young men between 19 and 21 (or actually between 4 and 70 or so). Ah, the logic of the male mind (I know that sounds sexist, but tell me, if 4 sister missionaries were in the car do you think they would have had the urge to do what you elders did? I think not. LOL)

  8. Hey, it is not like I was picking up roadkill and mailing it to another Elder in a prank war. Oh wait, forget that one as well. I know, I know; that is totally sister missionary behaviour.

    FWIW – I lost that war.

  9. I had a mission president who was obsessed with numbers and I was a missionary who was obsessed with pleasing him. My feelings towards my mission experience were tainted by that experience. We need to find a better way of evaluating ourselves and our missionaries that has less to do with quantity and more to do with quality. The difficulty is that numbers are just way too easy. I think this could give us some insight into how we evaluate ourselves in general couldn’t it?

  10. So what would qualify as a quality baptism?
    It also implies that some baptisms are better than others… is that the case?

  11. I don’t know Rick. We pat ourselves on the back when they get baptized and then promptly forget about them when they are struggling with the commitment and adjustments needed to continue their conversion. Which is more important the baptism or the conversion?

  12. rick,

    some baptisms have better snacks afterwards than others. In fact, some don’t even have snacks at all!!!

    I’d say the ones with the good snacks are better baptisms than the other ones.

    In addition, really long talks on the meaning of baptism, during a baptismal service, make it a not so good baptism.

  13. I think you have to consider maybe baptisms per square mile/km or whatever. How big of an area did your stake cover in Provo? What about the area the stake covered in Alberta? When I lived in TN, my stake was the entire city. When I lived in southern California, my stake was several cities.

    How many baptisms would you have had per stake if you gathered the numbers for the same area in Provo? I think you need to look at this as baptisms per sq mile/km.

    How many

  14. How big of an area did your stake cover in Provo?

    I don’t see how that is relevant.

    The statistics I gave were for the entire mission, not a single stake; the baptism/stake number I gave was an average. Obviously, some stakes in the mission did well, and some others were lucky if they had any baptisms.

    For example, the Mesquite stake covered about 40 miles along I-15. I had more baptisms there (12 over a 6-month period) than in the three areas prior, combined). The Wellington stake covered about 20 miles along Hwy 6, and we had 6 baptisms over a 5-month period. My area in Kanab covered 2 stakes and encompassed an area 80 miles wide and 120 miles long. We had 7 baptisms over a 4 month period.

  15. Kim, I think the geographic size of the stake may be relevant, but what’s more relevant is the proportion of non-members living in a stake. Most Utah stakes have a much lower proportion of baptismal prospects living in them than other stakes. Given that, I believe they do pretty well.

    Then again, I’m not sure it ultimately matters whether they’re baptizing at high rates or low, as long as the gospel is being offered to people who then have the power to exercise their own agency. I think missionaries who warn but don’t convert are doing the Lord’s work just as much as those whose hearers are more willing to listen.

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