The previous two posts about poor members around the world and giving booze to inactive members call to mind two related anecdotes from when I was a missionary in an undisclosed location abroad, an undisclosed number of years ago.

First, in my mission we had the luxury of only needing to spend maybe five to ten percent (at most) of our weekly proselyting hours tracting. Sometimes our teaching pools had enough momentum that we could go months without knocking on a door. As a result, since we did not have to squeeze every last minute of opportunity out of a given street or neighborhood, I developed a system of “standards” that dictated how we would choose where to knock. As our circumstances gave us a more or less unlimited supply of doors, and tracting was essentially a game of statistics, I determined that we should only select houses that met my Minimum Standard of Wealth Index (MSWI).

I will forgo describing most of the factors that played into this sliding scale of conversion desirability, as they would be hard to culturally translate, but the two great commandments in the law were these:

Thou shalt only approach houses:

1. made of cement or brick (way too many wood shacks)
2. with a car parked out front (for activity reasons)

Only a spiritual impression could authorize the violation of either of these two rules.

My reasoning behind this economic discrimination was that since tracting was such an inefficient finding tactic, I concluded that were it ever to lead to a baptism we should at the very least stack the odds in favor of finding a potential leader. Obviously, poor people can be leaders, too, but our own experience in that corner of the world showed an undeniable correlation between leadership / activity and less-than-dismal economic conditions (the majority of the time, anyway). Besides, we were perfectly happy to teach poor people; however, since they usually came to us of their own accord, I did not see the need to actively seek out any more of them.

Statistically, this proved to be a resounding success. Of the five or six converts that I found on my mission through tracting, the only one that did not meet the standards of the MSWI predated their adoption. This dovetails nicely with giving out booze to members because one of these “rich” people that we found had a family vineyard business. He gave us several bottles of 100% pure grape juice as a token of his appreciation. This stuff was so concentrated it was completely opaque — and it carried a suspiciously strong kick that neither we nor the other elders that we lived with had ever tasted before (or so they said). We thought it was awesome… so we made a point of imbibing freely without ever inquiring just how long those particular bottles had been lying around — because the stuff was so good that we really did not want to know the answer.

The moral of this story? Clearly, booze is both the means and fruits of increasing sacrament meeting attendance. King Noah may have been a wicked man, but I bet his ward activity statistics were through the roof.