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“Force always attracts men of low morality.”

— Albert Einstein

The premise is old but still profound. If you cannot control the narrative, change the narrative.

Power. Of all things that we fallible humans crave, nothing on the whole can equal the natural lust for power. Sex is temporary. Fame is fleeting. Money buys neat stuff, but it makes you a target for sinister people and intentions. And then there is bacon. We can buy and eat it anytime we want.

Power endures. Power separates the smart from the dumb. Controlling not only what is in our sphere of influence, but also to expand that sphere so others capitulate to our will is intoxicating. Power in control. Control is everything.

Enter God. Or, if we can pluralize the word and make it common, gods. Deities. Omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent immortals. Divine, supreme and celestial beings who are (Is?) the father of us all. God—we will use the generic term and make it a proper noun for the purpose of my thesis—must be equally loved and feared. He must be worshipped and idolized. That is our lives. This is how it is and how it has been from one millennia to the next.

God’s will was instilled in all of us by men. Men said what God wanted. Common people with little education, weaponry or ambition adhered to the will of God as demanded by the men who spoke for Him. This was our world for a very long time. And the men who spoke for God got rich and powerful off being His emissaries

Then, Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing press. People who could not read learned to do so. They not only could read the Bible themselves, they could write their opinions on the book—good or bad— and have it printed for mass consumption.

The telegraph came to be and soon was surpassed by radio, moving pictures, the Internet and smart phones. God’s will and the dissenters could be heard faster and over wide areas.

Riding on horses was upgraded to trains, boats, automobiles, airplanes and, in a few weeks, a spaceship that can beam back to Earth high definition photographs of Pluto. Moses would not have to stand in front of Pharaoh in 2015 A.D.; he could call him out on Twitter.

We can order a pizza delivered to our home, listen to a Barry Manilow song, view pornography and read the Bible on a phone that weighs less than two pounds and fits snugly into the back pocket of our pants. God’s message does not dominate like it once did. There is competition for our cognizant brain avenues. The deluge of information submerges us all. We are autonomous. No one can tell us what to do when we control our own lives by speaking commands into an iPhone.

God is not dead. The power and influence of those who purport to speak for God has been diminished.

Enter The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For most of its history, the LDS Church has relied heavily on an oligarchical, patriarchal and unchallenged hierarchy and men who are called by revelation to bring forth the fulfillment of His word. This dispensation came back to the world through Joseph Smith. If you do not believe that Smith was called directly by God to bring back the truth of His will, the entire theological structure of Mormon belief implodes around you. It’s that simple.

If you refute that those who currently are at the head of the LDS Church are called by God to run what Mormons say is His church, then you deny the most basic tenet that Mormonism espouses—that being, that there are living prophets alive today. No gray area. In your mind, it is true or it is not.

For this reason, the LDS Church has relied heavily on missionary work. The bulk of this work is done by teenage boys set out for two years to spread the word about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. A few years back, the LDS Church announced that the age at which young men could go on a mission would be dropped from 19 to 18. A report released last week stated that this recent move has produced one fantastic result: the LDS Church now has more missionaries in the field–over 85,000–than at any other time in its history.

Problem. The percentage of converts to the Mormon Church has not spiked upward. It has gone down. And while the LDS Church trumpets its recent membership numbers of over 15 million members, the actual number of Latter-day Saints who adhere to the Mormon dogma and are considered active varies upon different survey models. The numbers can be as low as only ⅓ of members.

And, as I love to remind all of you when I scribe a column about the LDS Church, I am still a member. So, yeah, numbers lie.

Why is the LDS Church having problems lifting their conversion numbers? And if some data analytical reports are to believed, why is the retention level of converts abysmally low. The answer is in my premise. Control.

In the past, most converts to the Church only knew what was told to them in the six lessons carefully prepared, scripted and presented by missionaries. Who really wanted to go to a library and ask for big stuffy books that offered an alternate understanding of Joseph Smith and the history of the Mormons? Most converts believed the missionaries or they did not.

But then came the 1990’s…and with it, the explosion of the Internet. The home computer went from a luxury to a necessity. Anti-Mormon websites were at the top of most word searches for Mormonism. Two, and sometimes more, versions of the Joseph Smith story were presented. Different arguments on the validity of Mormon theology were readily available. For as great a tool as the Internet could be for any church to spread their rendition of God’s word, it could be more destructive.

That is where the effulgent genius of former LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley came to the fore. Before ascending to the presidency of the LDS Church in 1995, Hinckley was the de facto leader due to the illnesses of his two predecessors for a decade. Hinckley saw that this new age dawning before him could not be stopped, nor contained. The Mormon Church would no longer be able to control the narrative, so they changed it.

The LDS Church deemphasized dogma in lieu of social construct. The Mormon lifestyle was clean. It felt good to live by a standard that focused on family and strong moral beliefs. The meaty details of what Mormons believe God to be was important…but we will talk about that later. Have some pie!

It worked then. But it doesn’t work now. An entire generation has been born with the Internet and mass communication on-demand embedded into their existence. Kids today never saw a house phone. If they want to watch a TV show, they do not believe they have to be in front of a TV on Tuesday at 7 PM to see it. Songs and books can be consumed on devices that are less cumbersome than socks. Smart phones are an appendage. We are spoiled.

The Mormon Church cannot control the narrative. Thusly, I believe that their numbers will not rise to any significant level. Those who wish for the extirpation of the LDS Church in their lifetime are going to die bitterly disappointed. The Mormons ain’t going anywhere.

Like most corporations and organizations, the LDS Church has to find a way to get ahead of the expanding breakthroughs in technology. The desire to reach the masses and gain their loyalty is becoming harder every day. If the LDS Church wishes to expand their numbers, more missionaries appears, from the newest numbers, not to be the answer.

By Staff