The Mormon Obsession with Numbers, a man named “Tupac” and a drunken wedding: A Personal Story

The LDS church is an American corporation that masquerades as a religion, in almost every way imaginable. With the exclusion of possibly scientology, the LDS church is more rigorously obsessed with its own self-marketing and “brand” than perhaps any other church. Missionaries are trained not to have “the spirit”, but to encompass the positive marketing of the church to the tiniest possible detail.

Its doctrines are likewise presented to outsiders with wilful deception in presenting the church and its members as a “family friendly” and “joyful” experience of which will “make you happy” insidious campaigns such as “I’m a Mormon” seen the church invest millions, unsuccessfully, to try and craft the church’s public image and give it appeal at a time where interest in organized religion is declining.

It is not surprising that with such a “corporate” attitude to its own governance, the LDS church is obsessed with presenting favourable “numbers” or statistics as a means to its own publicity and psychological morale. While of course we all know the phrase there are “lies, damn lies and statistics”, in any organizational or business setting numbers matter as they are an obvious indicator of success, providing of course that they represent something meaningful and substantiated.

However, when a given organization is built upon an institutional culture of 1) dishonesty and deceit and 2) authoritarianism, where no dissent is allowed, combined with the factor that lower level leaders are under pressure to show results, it becomes an element of that given system for leaders to exaggerate, lie and fabricate numbers however they can. For example, in Communist or authoritarian states, it is common for low ranking cadres to make superfluous statistics to please their superiors, such as for example on the performance of the economy.

In the LDS church, it is no different. Not only is the church number obsessed, but its means of rigging the numbers it actually has in order to give a false public relations impression, is manifold. First of all, everyone knows the church’s total membership number counts “less active” members who don’t participate, to give the impression of growth. Secondly, the church’s total membership number counts members who are dead until they turn 110. Thirdly, and behind the scenes, what is classified as an “active member” simply has to attend once a quarter.

There are many, many more examples, the point being that the church openly deceives with its statistics to render the appearance of growth. Local and Mission leaders are under tremendous pressure to increase their numbers, especially when the church was prophesized to “fill the earth”, “like a stone cut without hands” as a clear representation of its divine truth, which is becoming increasingly obvious that it is no longer the case. As a result, Mission Presidents will do whatever they can to increase the number of convert baptisms, no matter how dubious the person may be, even if it is just 8 year old “children of record” kids of less active parents.

Tupac’s story

And that brings me to the story. Long ago in my ward the missionaries encountered a clearly mentally disabled man who had legally changed his name to “Tupac“- yes *that* Tupac who was a famous rapper. Tupac obviously lived in a way that, according to church doctrine itself, was not truly “accountable” for his own actions and clearly had no idea what he was consenting to, being pushed by desperate missionaries. This was obvious to everyone. The Bishop of my ward knew this, and subsequently objected to the premise of him being baptized, arguing he was already entitled to salvation. This Bishop was a very smart and reasonable man, a rare example of pragmatism and good judgement inside a dishonest institution.

However, this Bishop soon found his judgement overruled by the Stake and Mission Presidents, who despite the condition of Tupac, wanted the numbers on paper. As a result, he was forced to concede to Tupac getting baptized. Not surprisingly, this turned out to be a waste of time. Tupac did not of course commit to the church at all, but it turned out he was seeing every other religious group simultaneously, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Tupac soon disappeared like every other “convert” never to be seen again. One day sometime later he did turn up at church again, only to be treat contemptuously by members who sought to usher him away.

Story Two: A very drunken wedding

The second case of this was much more tragic, and even worse. I will change the names of the individuals involved for this, given they weren’t using the title of a famous late rapper! The missionaries began to frequent a couple in my town named Mark and Kathy. This couple, unmarried, had a hard life. Kathy was a chronic alcoholic and because of this, was perpetually drunk and had mental health issues. Her partner, Mark had been a drug dealer when he was younger, but was now a kind and extremely humble soul and long repented of his ways.

For reasons never clear, he chose to live with this woman who’s behaviour led to him being treat abusively. Their kids had been confiscated by social services. For example, she would get drunk and then falsely call the police claiming he had beaten her up, when he in fact did nothing and get him arrested for the sake of it. With such a troubled life it was no surprise that this couple were friendly and welcoming to the missionaries. Teaching them, however, was another question.

However, one day a missionary came to our ward who was immensely aggressive in his approach to baptisms. He wanted this couple baptized, despite the fact because of her chronic alcoholism and mental health issues, this was not appropriate. But to get her baptized, as per the rule, they had to get them married first. The Missionary shoehorned, somehow, this couple into getting legally married. The wedding was an absolute disaster as Kathy turned up to the day completely drunk, to the point it was clear she did not know what vows she was taking. Somehow, it went ahead, although this missionary gained universal disdain for what he did.

Despite this, the elders kept pushing, and eventually got her to stop the drinking for long enough to the point both of them were baptized, which of course also came at the intervention of Mission leaders. This again, ended badly. Kathy resumed her drinking, because alcoholism is not something you can simply “wish” away and neither are missionaries professional counsellors, and nor did the church’s patronizing “addiction recovery program” prove much use either. The result was that by 2018, Kathy had much sadly, drank herself to death and died from the implications of alcoholism. While this was obviously not the church’s fault, she had been another number for them on the list.

Mark, her former husband, now lives a much happier life, found a new and supportive partner, and no longer attends the church. Yet it remains staggering how during an awful period of their lives, the vulnerability and severe challenges of this couple were exploited. Why? Because the church needs baptism numbers, and they are so obsessed with demonstrating “quantity” that they have no consideration for “quality”- leading them to prey on and shoehorn the most desperate people who often have no idea what they are getting into, or providing them real support in the process. You’d think if conversion was truly being done by the Holy Spirit here, that god would give them some kind of return on this holy work, right?

Apparently not, because the Holy Spirit is not with the LDS church, the only feeling it projects is from its own marketing gimmicks.

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