45 years ago today - Jan 17, 1979-Wednesday

[Leonard Arrington]

Last night Grace and I attended Cannon-Hinckley Church History Club at the Lion House. We sat at the same table with Ernest Wilkinson [Jr.] and wife [Marjorie], Elder and Sister Robert and Jelaire Simpson, and the speaker, John Staley and his wife. We learned many interesting things. Here are some of them. The Church teaches persons in the Utah Penitentiary and other prisons, but does not baptize any who wish it until "they have paid their price" and are released from prison or penitentiary confinement. One study in Mexico showed that a rather high proportion of prisoners were LDS. They didn't know how to explain this. Then they discovered that the personnel sheet asked them to state not what church they belong to, but what is their religious preference. A lot of persons who were committed were not Mormons, but expressed a preference for that religion. In New Zealand, about 15 percent of the [native] Maoris are Mormons. And of all the Mormons in New Zealand, perhaps about 75 or 80
percent are Maoris, and the rest whites. But now the whites are converting in increasing numbers. The reason why the bulk of the members are Maoris is that the whites who were converted sooner or later migrated to the United States, leaving behind the Maoris who couldn't afford to migrate or who were kept from migrating by their family and tribal ties. In New Zealand, [mission president] Elder Simpson [1958-61] used a stepped-up missionary approach which involved teaching lessons on successive evenings. Then on the third evening, meet at the chapel, where they were about to have a baptism, and talk to them about baptism. Many decide at that time to be baptized, or to be baptized the following week. The principal fall-out of mission converts occurs about the time of the third lesson. It is the result of members of the family telling their neighbors, persons at work, other family members, friends, that they are taking the lessons and giving serious consideration to the religion.
These persons offer various arguments, scriptures, literature, etc. to unpersuade them. The missionaries calling by the next week, are greeted with a notice that they are no longer interested and the stack of pamphlets they have received. If the missionaries had been by immediately after, they could have answered the questions or countered the arguments. Hence, the stepped-up proselyting. Elder Simpson says that the retention rate-the number still in the church after a year-is as good as under the "slow" method. This rapid method is used by Elder Hartman Rector [president] in San Diego Mission [1977-79] where they are said to be baptizing 200 per week. Cynics say these are wetbacks and that they get baptized, and promptly take off for other parts and may or may not show up for [LDS] Church Welfare somewhere. Elder Simpson is aware of the criticism, but thinks the rapid baptisms are, qualitatively, as good as the slow and more selective baptisms. ...

Dr. [Ernest] Wilkinson spoke of President Kimball's visit to the laying of the cornerstone of the temple in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Brother Martin, the black story[,] came to his attention. Brother Martin had saved up an extra tithing to send his boy on a mission, but knowing the boy couldn't go, he gave it to the Church to send another person. The boy was engaged to a non-member, simply because no blacks in the ward they belonged to in Rio. About to marry her. Then comes the Priesthood revelation of 9 June. They agree not to marry yet, so he could go on a mission. He is called on the mission, and shortly after he left, the non-member fiancee joined the Church.

[Confessions of a Mormon historian : the diaries of Leonard J. Arrington, 1971-1997, Gary James Bergera, editor, Signature Books, 2018]

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