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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fudging Numbers, Padding Statistics and False Witness: Is This Really a Problem in Mormondom?

When Church leaders handed down the policy that slide show presentations were not allowed in Sacrament meetings, I was surprised. I'd never seen anyone use a slide show presentation. I could certainly understand the policy; because the problems it could cause were obvious. I'd just never witnessed it myself.

This is not the case for other problems I've seen that exist in the Church. As I've witnessed some of them I would think to myself, "Do Church leaders know that this sort of thing is happening?" So, when President Uchtdorf started his address in the April 2015 Priesthood session I knew instantly where he was going:
In the late 18th century, Catherine the Great of Russia announced she would tour the southern part of her empire, accompanied by several foreign ambassadors.
I thought to myself, "Potemkin's villages!" I remained on the edge of my seat throughout his entire talk. I couldn't believe it. Every sentence he uttered drew pictures in my mind of all the instances where I had witnessed exactly the problems he was addressing.

I had despaired of talking about these problems to distant friends and family. It was so outside their experiences that they could not believe what I was describing actually existed anywhere in Mormondom. Their skepticism was obvious.

When President Uchtdorf finished, I felt I'd died and gone to heaven. Two things had been established:


  1. Without question, everyone has to accept that these problems exist in the Church or else President Uchtdorf wouldn't have addressed them.
  2. Church leaders are aware that this is going on in the Church.


All this time I had wondered to myself, "Do they know?" Clearly they did, and do. President Uchtdorf took action by addressing them in his conference talk.

If you carefully read his address and try to identify the problems he outlines, you should come up with the following list:


  • Trying to appear better than we really are.
  • This isn't trying to look our best, our efforts are deceitful.
  • Your lips are saying the right things, but your heart isn't where your lips are.
  • Jesus was compassionate and patient with sinners, but never with hypocrites.
  • Those who seek worldly praise, influence and wealth by acting righteous are condemned.
  • Men lose their priesthood when they try to shield their sins of pride and vain ambition.
  • This personal deceit has crept into our church assignments.
  • The indicators for success we should have in the Church cannot be measured using human tools. Only Heavenly Father can truly measure them.
  • We may think our successes look impressive; but they are not addressing the real needs.
  • Deity isn't impressed with our programs and our statistics. They look in our hearts.
  • Our motive for acting in the Church and in our personal lives should be our sincere love for Heavenly Father and His son Jesus Christ.
  • We should not hide behind artificial discipleship and fake facades.
  • We are not on display. The Church is meant to help us.
  • We should not seek the praise of the world. Our actions should be humble, sincere and anonymous.
  • We should never draw attention to ourselves.

President Uchtdorf also gave us a mini sermon in management. Having studied and taught management, I'm already familiar with it:
“many of the things you can count, do not count. Many of the things you cannot count, really do count.”7
A colleague once remarked to me, "If we only study what we can measure, I don't think we will end up asking important questions."

If you think about the terms that are used in missionary work, you can see that the Church knows this about measurement and is taking steps to counteract it. Statistics are referred to as "indicators." Lessons taught or the numbers of people met with are just that, indicators.

President Uchtdorf did refer to fudging numbers, falsifying statistics and giving measurement too much credence at their prior General Conference. He certainly hit it hard with this one. Last October he said:
Although the ward had every outward indication of faithfulness and strength, something unfortunate was happening in the hearts and lives of the members. And the troubling thing is that this situation is not unique. Such terrible and often unnecessary things happen when members of the Church become disengaged from gospel principles. They may appear on the outside to be disciples of Jesus Christ, but on the inside their hearts have separated from their Savior and His teachings. They have gradually turned away from the things of the Spirit and moved toward the things of the world.
Statistics must have internal consistency over time. What that means is that if something is inflated, it will show up in other statistics over time. If you have 100 percent home teaching, but families are drifting away from the Church, there is something wrong.

I was actually present in a ward once when the Bishop proudly proclaimed that we had achieved 100 percent home teaching in the prior month. My husband and I looked at each other in astonishment, because we hadn't done our home teaching and no one had home taught us during the prior month. No one had even sought our home teaching report for that month.

Anyone who fudges statistics is more afraid of people than of Heavenly Father or divine judgment. People who try and appear more saintly than they are fear men more than God.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your thoughts. I can certainly identify with them. I served as the RS Pres. in our tiny branch and saw first hand, not fudging of numbers, but a failure to know exactly what counted as a home/visiting teaching visit. As I stood at the back of the chapel handing out RS bulletins I overheard the Elders Quorum Pres. quizzing a brother about who had been seen during the month. "How about this family?" "Oh, I saw him at Wal-Mart." "Okay, we'll count that." "And what about this family?" "I spoke to him in the hall last Sunday." "Good, we'll count that." I had to move away before I exploded and said something I'd regret to the two brothers. For the two and a half years I served I taught and trained the sisters on what "counted" as a VT visit, and that the purpose was to get to know their sisters, teach them the gospel, strengthen their testimonies, and minister to their needs. That cannot be accomplished by sending a card that says "Have a great day!" or a "Thinking of you" post on Facebook. I was grateful for Elder Uchtdorf's talk also. Thanks again for sharing your insights.

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