The LDS church announced today a new program granting emeritus status to members who fall outside of traditional activity.
“As the church continues to grow at a fast pace, many of its members find themselves unable to maintain church activity for a variety of reasons,” said spokesman Dan LeFevered. “Always sensitive to the needs of the members, the brethren have fasted and prayed for guidance and have been inspired to grant these nontraditional members ’emeritus’ status.”
Currently, statistics are kept on those who do not attend a church meeting in a given quarter. From this point on, LeFevered explained, members who do not attend a meeting in a given quarter will be termed “members emeritus.”
Emeritus members will be counted as members in the annual statistical report, but they will not be counted towards activity rates.
“Isn’t it marvelous?” said church president Thomas S. Monson in a written statement. “Instantly we have the highest activity rate of any religion in the world: 100%.”
LeFevered explained that activity rates will be calculated from members who attend a meeting at least once quarterly, so in effect, all who are counted are considered active. And those who do not attend are considered “emeritus” and will not count.
When asked about those who resign their membership in the church, LeFevered responded, “We don’t think there’s a need for that drastic a step. Rather than go through the difficult process of writing a letter, members can simply choose to grant themselves emeritus status.”
LeFevered went on to say that the new program is retroactive to the beginning of the church. “We have sent out millions of letters to former members notifying them of the change to their status.”
Fred Pecker, professional anti-Mormon, reached by phone in Washington State, expressed outrage intially at the new policy. “Yeah, I got my letter welcoming me back into the kingdom. But I’ve been thinking about it. Maybe it’s time for me to come back, anyway. I’m going to call my bishop today.”
LeFevered explained that the new status would also take the place of disciplinary councils, which had been taking up too much of church leaders’ time. “It’s much easier for a stake president to click an ’emeritus’ button on a computer than it is to convene a high council to try a case.”
He went on to say that leaders have wide discretion as to how to use emeritus status. “It could be for serious transgression, or it could just be to rein in people who are, you know, a little off.”
Food Sciences professor and FARMS contributor Daniel Midgley-Welch explained that this system has its roots in the Mosaic practice of counting membership by tribe and family, such that no one was left out. “We even see echoes of this in the census that played a prominent role in the Savior’s birth in Nazareth.”
Midgley-Welch expressed bewilderment that he and the entire staff at FARMS have received letters from the First Presidency granting them emeritus status. “Maybe they think we need more time to research the gospel. That’s just like the brethren, always thinking of us.”
“Yeah, sure, if that’s how they want to look at it,” said LeFevered.