Does This Add Up?
Several days ago I stumbled across this infographic that was being shared on Facebook. I clicked on it and saw that right on the top 100% is the “percentage of sacramental worship services that focus on Jesus Christ”.
But what about all those sacrament meetings that were about food storage, or church history, or prop 8, or something else? I suppose they are using that same line I have heard from members before: “It’s all about Christ, because this is Christ’s church”. Well, that seems like a stretch at best, and a (hopefully) well-meaning lie at worst.
It’s being willfully misleading to say that you can talk about any topic in sacrament meeting, and as long as it is church-approved, then it has to do with Jesus Christ.
Perhaps they were referring to “worship services” as the entire 3-hour block? There must be something Christ-centered during one of those three hours right? It just seems like more stretching to me.
When I think of Christ-focused worship services, I think of Easter Sunday sacrament meeting where we talk about Christ, His teachings, and how to love each other. I don’t think of politics or #10 cans.
And then I came to the “77% of members attend church at least weekly, compared to 39% of the U.S. average” about halfway down.
I immediately wondered which population they were using for their 77% calculation. They are referring to the U.S. only which is a smart move, considering the low retention rate in many other countries. (We’ve all heard the massive number of baptisms in South America, coupled with low percentage of those still attending a year later, right?)
A friend of mine crunched some numbers when we were talking about this, and here’s what he had to say regarding the U.S. numbers: “14,131,467 members / 28,660 congregations * 77% attendance = 379.6 average attendance / congregation. To get this average, for every branch with 40 people attending they need a ward with 720 people attending.”
So I’m guessing that the only way they can get 77% is to only count active members of the church in wards and branches in the U.S. Activity in the church is usually determined by whether or not you attend sacrament meeting once a quarter.
I understand that the church needs to worry about how it is perceived in the media. I find the 77% statistic problematic, because I think we all know that it’s unlikely that we live in ward boundaries where there is a 77% attendance rate. Another friend of mine also pointed out that it would be hard to read this infographic as the ward clerk and not think that the numbers for church attendance were a bit skewed.
I think the statistics have always bothered me, whether I was active or not, because they didn’t seem all that honest.
However, this isn’t what bothered me the most about this latest Mormon news. The infographic is located at the bottom of this Mormonism 101: FAQ page that was released by the Church’s official Mormon Newsroom website.
There is a list of typical FAQ (frequently asked questions) text at the beginning of the post, ranging from Most of the answers I read I had little response to…until I read this little nugget here:
Yes. All women are daughters of a loving Heavenly Father. Women and men are equal in the sight of God. The Bible says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). In the family, a wife and a husband form an equal partnership in leading and raising a family.
From the beginning of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints women have played an integral role in the work of the Church. While worthy men hold the priesthood, worthy women serve as leaders, counselors, missionaries, teachers, and in many other responsibilities— they routinely preach from the pulpit and lead congregational prayers in worship services. They serve both in the Church and in their local communities and contribute to the world as leaders in a variety of professions. Their vital and unique contribution to raising children is considered an important responsibility and a special privilege of equal importance to priesthood responsibilities.
Zuh? I’m so dizzy I can’t even see straight after all that spin! I suppose it reveals what I still care about when I say that this is what got my blood boiling. I’m not surprised that the church’s PR department is honing statistics to make the LDS church look more mainstream Christian. But I am surprised that they think that women will swallow this kind of patriarchal rhetoric anymore. It’s 2012!
Women are not stupid, and they are not willing to pretend they are happy and equal when they are not. We know when we are being placated with flowery words, and we know if we have any real equality or power. Those two paragraphs quoted above are offensive and condescending. Saying women are equal and then not giving them equal status is not equality. Separate but equal is not equal.
As my husband sarcastically put it: “Wow! Sounds like a lot has changed since I stopped going to church a few years ago! Back then, men led the meetings–you couldn’t even have a meeting unless a certain number of priesthood holders were there; men chose who prayed, prayed first in most meetings; men chose (“called”) who led each group (including which women “led” the women’s group); men set the budgets (including deciding how much money went to the groups “run” by women); men conducted worthiness interviews; men decided who could participate in ordinances, administered the ordinances; and, in general, only men were cited in teaching manuals and in talks (even in talks and lessons given by women, the women pretty much just quoted all-male church leaders). And all this was just at the lower levels of leadership. At the higher levels, I saw nary a woman do anything. What a difference three years makes!”
You just have to laugh at a certain point. I mean, really!
Even some apologist friends of mine have condemned this latest PR move as embarrassing and shameful. And that’s just the people I know who are Mormon. I wonder about those “outside” the church who see these PR moves and if they can see through them as well as we who are Mormon can.
I hope that the church will learn, as soon as possible, that our internet generation doesn’t fall for this kind of thing anymore. We can search the vast interwebz for all kinds of information, including fact-checking statistics, and finding other people who are thinking the same thing: do they really think we bought this?
Perhaps it’s my idealistic nature, but I think the church could be more forthcoming and honest and we would be better for it. I have been saying that about church history, along with many of you, for years. If they would have just told us the whole truth, I don’t think as many Mormons would be surprised by polyandry or peepstones.
Even in this hostile political climate with Mitt Romney in the headlines, it would be best for us, the Church, the PR department, the members, to just say it like it is. I think Mormons are typically viewed as happy, clean-cut, go-getter people. But they can also be seen as fake, eerie, and judgmental. The best thing we can do is relax our fears of the truth and get real with people.
So what do you think of the statistics? What do you think of the claim that women are equal in the church? How do you think the PR department could do a better job? Let us come and speculate.