By Kent Larsen
Perpetual Education Fund May Lead to Future Church Growth
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA -- The recently announced Perpetual Education Fund
may provide a door to future growth for The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, says a recent Las Vegas Sun article. The article
includes an interview with three foreign missionaries serving in the
Las Vegas West Mission and comments from noted sociologist of
religion Armand Mauss, who says that the Perpetual Education Fund
will be a great benefit to the Church.
LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley first announced the fund at a
speech before the National Press Club in Washington DC on March 8,
2000. However further information about the program was not available
until after he again announced the plan in the Priesthood Session of
General Conference this past April. Since that time the plan has
caught the imagination of Church members, many of whom have made
donations to get the fund up and running. The idea caught Mauss'
attention also, "The fund will allow missionaries to choose a college
in their home country and not only will it greatly enhance the
educational level of the missionaries in their own country, but it
will help bond them to the church," he says.
Mauss, a professor emeritus of Washington State University who is an
expert on the sociology of Mormonism, believes the fund is unique
among programs funded by Churches worldwide, "To my knowledge, this
is the only religion that does this. It addresses one of the biggest
problems in the church, and that is that once people are converted,
they don't always stay in the church ... this encourages them to stay
in." According to Mauss, retention of converts in the US is just 50%
of converts after the first year, while outside the US just 25% of
converts remain after one year. "It's hard to hold onto these people.
The church is always looking for a way to retain them."
But Las Vegas Sun reporter Stacy Willis thinks she has identified a
possible problem with the plan. The Perpetual Education Fund plan
assumes that the participants, many of whom will be returned
missionaries, will stay in their home country, both to go to school
and to repay the loan following their education.
But two of the foreign missionaries Willis interviewed said they
wanted to come to the US to study and live after their missions.
Elder Battur "Bo" Haltar, 21, who is from Mongolia, told Willis he
wants to return to the US, "I want to go to a U.S. college and live
here because it's a better way of life." The other Mongolian that
Willis interviewed, Elder Dembee Ulambadrakh, 20, agreed, "I know
America. I think it is better. In Mongolia there are no jobs really.
It's hard to find any job. It's better here."
A missionary from Mexico, Elder Enrique Carrera, sees the US in a
similar light, "People don't make too much money in Mexico. The
standard of living is higher here. In Mexico we don't have the
opportunities like we do here. There are few opportunities to go to
school." But he believes the fund could help him, "I think this
(mission and education fund) will help me to provide better for the
future," he said.
Meanwhile, their Mission President, Walter Hill, hopes they will
build the Church in their native lands. Drawing on a prediction Mauss
made that the Church would reach 100 million members by 2060, Hill
told Willis, "By the year 2060, we'll be a major world religion." And
he sees the US missionary service of these three Elders as a crucial
step to building the Church, "These missionaries from Mongolia, from
Mexico, from a host of Third World countries -- they represent the
genesis of a new world religion."
Mormon Church is funding its future
Las Vegas NV Sun 4May01 N1
By Stacy J. Willis: Las Vegas Sun
President Hinckley Announces Educational Assistance Fund At National Press Club
LDS Church Starts Perpetual Education Fund
Enthusiastic Mormons Boost Perpetual Education Fund
Mauss Says LDS Church Growth Brings Problems Too