BYU Professor Dr. Ted Lyon has served as an LDS (Mormon) mission president in Chile. He has also served as the president of the Chile LDS Missionary Training Center. He is currently serving as Temple President in the Santiago Chile LDS Temple.

In this interveiw, Dr. Lyon discusses some of the painful lessons learned from LDS missionary work in Latin America in the 20th century.


  1. John M. Green November 23, 2007 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    I would never have thought that ambition would be the driving force of a Mission President. What an eye opener. Thank You Dr. Lyon and MormonStories. I am grateful.

  2. Dr. B. November 24, 2007 at 2:07 am - Reply

    I really think it is a service that you have an actual mission president sharing his practical experiences. The problem of mass baptism and better preparing converts is an ongoing problem of the last thirty years. Hartman Rector did the same things in the San Diego Mission back in the 1970s. His missionaries baptized people in swimming pools on the same day they taught them.

    I think the statistic of eleven percent is not overly startling Marion G. Romney in a CR (Romney, Marion G. “Conversion.” IE 66 (1963):1065-67.) gave the conversion rate at around 16 percent where baptized at age of eight or later as a convert.

    I agree we can do better at retention. I think that is a member function. I agree you need a commitment and that two hours is ridiculous amount of time before baptizing some one.

    Kay Smith gives some interesting ideas also about conversion at

    Thanks it was a very candid presentation and got me to think about the quality of baptisms.

  3. Hellmut November 25, 2007 at 7:55 pm - Reply

    Yes, that’s right, Dr. B. Lets send some power and career minded Rocky Mountain Mormons around the world and then blame the local Mormons for the failures of the program. The key to retention is to respect the dignity of “converts” instead of reducing them to trophies in the numbers game.

    What really needs to happen is quality control. The best way to do that is to give local bishops veto power over baptisms. Bishops who are not invested in the numbers game but having to deal with the home teaching loads resulting from preying on imbeciles, disabled, lonely women, and refugees.

    If bishops had to approve baptisms, the numbers game would be over.

    It’s pretty easy to solve the problem.

    The real problem is, of course, that the function of the Mormon missionary program is to validate the culture and identity of corridor Mormons. That’s why the numbers game is of value to Mormonism in the first place even though it does so much damage to the Church abroad.

    It’s about mission presidents who have their eyes firmly on their superiors in Salt Lake instead of dedicating themselves to the needs of converts and investigators. It’s about missionaries who cannot be allowed to question their way of life. It’s about Church leaders who suffer under the delusion that they can govern the Church from Salt Lake.

    In the missionary program, we are ultimately witnessing the failure of correlation, a management program that has made Mormonism less effective every year.

    The realities of the missionary program are such that it amounts to a form of exploitation. Corridor Mormons get to feel good. International Mormons can pick up the pieces.

    A little bit of humility instead of arrogant ethnocentrism would go a long way in reviving the missionary program. Loving the gospel more than “the Church” would put us on the right path.

    Instead we instrumentalize the converts as trophies so that we can tell our loved ones how great we are, how fast the Church is growing, and leave the mess to the local members.

    The Mormon missionary program is a case study of bureaucratic politics. Until we begin to treat the converts as human beings, there will only be atrophy.

  4. Hellmut November 25, 2007 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    There is something that Brother Lyon failed to recognize about the former branch president’s commitment.

    How would you like to be a branch president full of invented people? Imagine what that must be like. A couple of foreign missionaries every other month, each time they drop of dozens of baptismal forms and you are responsible to see to it that everyone gets home taught.

    It’s a horrible life.

    That’s an aspect that Brother Lyon does not seem to appreciate. If he had to live in Chile on a Chilean salary and the Church was completely dysfunctional because some gringos keep messing it up, may be, Brother Lyon would want to put some distance between himself and Mormonism as well.

  5. Dude November 28, 2007 at 9:54 am - Reply

    John, why don’t you have an mp3 download for this just as you do for the rest of your stuff. I’d like to be able to download an mp3 of this.

  6. Elder Joseph December 1, 2007 at 10:47 am - Reply

    At last we get an insight into the true membership statistics of the church .Thanks to John’s desire for transparency and honesty within the church.
    I still don’t think the church is learning from it’s past as desperate Asylum Seekers top the conversion statistics here in the UK….. leaving Ward members to pick up the pieces and sort the problems out.

  7. John Dehlin December 1, 2007 at 11:46 am - Reply

    All these should be downloadable now.

  8. […] Comment on Dr. Ted Lyon Pt. 2: Tough Lessons from LDS / Mormon …By John DehlinAll these should be downloadable now.Comments for Mormon Stories Podcast – […]

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