What We Learned from Our Book of Mormon Project: Report from the Field

What We Learned from Our Book of Mormon Project:

Why is there such a wide variation in performance in Church programs? What are the ingredients that contribute to success?

To attempt to answer these questions, a study was undertaken some time ago at Brigham Young University to pinpoint some of the reasons why a particular program was successful. The program under study at the time originated with the 450th Quorum of Seventy at BYU and was entitled “Send a Book of Mormon on a Foreign Mission.”

Each member of the ten campus stakes was invited to write his testimony and include it, with his photograph, in a copy of the Book of Mormon for which he donated a nominal amount. These copies of the Book of Mormon, along with self-addressed envelopes from the individual participants, were forwarded to missions of the Church.

At all levels of participation in the program (stake, ward, family) there was great variation in results. Though all ten stakes participated, about ten percent of the campus branches did not. The conclusions were interesting. Some branches achieved more than 100 percent, while others had but token involvement.

The study undertaken provided six principles that were seen as foundations for success in those branches that achieved high levels of participation. These particular branches were very explicit in observing these principles, and in no instance did a successful branch assume that these principles were automatically in effect.

Here, then, are the six principles to consider applying to your own leadership situations at home and church.

1. LINE OF AUTHORITY: Successful programs in the study followed the line of priesthood authority in the Church. The program was endorsed at each level of priesthood leadership before it was passed to the next lower level.

2. ROLE CLARIFICATION: Whoever led the program was clearly defined, widely understood, and highly endorsed by priesthood leadership. Members were clearly told who was responsible to whom and for what.

3. CONSISTENCY: It was clearly emphasized that the program was consistent with the goals of the Church. A second aspect of consistency was that branch members were shown that the activity required was consistent with their own abilities, and they were shown how to participate.

4. EXPECTANCY OF SUCCESS: While the level of expectancy was seen to vary initially from person to person, it appeared to be greatly influenced and molded by leadership. The fact that similar programs had proven successful was a key to motivation and the self-fulfilling prophecy of success.

5. ENTHUSIASM OF LEADERSHIP: Of great importance was the directly observable relationship between the warmth and enthusiasm of the project leaders with the warmth, enthusiasm, and resulting efficiency of the individual participants. Interestingly, efficiency was seen to correlate most significantly with enthusiasm.

6. LEVEL OF COMMITMENT: Perhaps one of the most significant findings was the commitment pattern of successful branches where members were committed to a specific goal, within a specific time period, and assured that there would be valuable follow-up to provide reminders or assistance. The most successful branches also committed members on an individual basis and not in groups.

All six of these principles may be considered obvious ones, but it should be emphasized that the successful branches did not assume that these principles were in force—they made sure that they were.

How about your own home and church situation? It may well be that you could profitably apply some or all of these principles and achieve greater success.

Edward W. Hoppe is one of the seven presidents of the 450th Quorum of Seventy and president of the BYU Third Stake Mission. He is a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology.