Good to Great – the right people on the bus

In the concepts in Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great”, he discusses the key points from his research on how the best companies go from good to great. Last time, we discussed Level 5 Leadership. This time, we’ll discuss the next important thing: Getting the Right People on the Bus.

One of the problems with many companies is they hire people who have specific talents, but the people are not the “right fit” for the overall goals of the company.  Note that this is a bus, if a person does not fit in one seat, they may fit well in another seat (position), however if they are a bad fit for the bus, there is no seat that will fit them well.

There must be a shared vision that carries the company to success. Why is our military the best in the world? Because the vision is strong and spread throughout the organization: defend freedom and America.

Jim Collins teaches that when someone is wrong for the bus, it is best to quickly remove that person. It does not help the company or the person to have him linger, trying to keep him on simply because we hate to fire anyone.

So, how does this fit in with the LDS Church? At first glance, this concept may seem contrary to Christian concepts of charity, forgiveness and tolerance. Our methods of bringing people into the Church sometimes go against our teachings.  I’ve seen some people baptized quickly, and then go inactive shortly afterward. Our doctrine, however, teaches:

 And again, by way of commandment to the church concerning the manner of baptism—All those who humble themselves before God, and desire to be baptized, and come forth with broken hearts and contrite spirits, and witness before the church that they have truly repented of all their sins, and are willing to take upon them the name of Jesus Christ, having a determination to serve him to the end, and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church. (D&C 20:37)

Here we see a process that, if followed, would guarantee most members are the right people on the bus. The question, then, is how do we train 18 year olds how to interview a person in a way to ensure he has truly repented, received the Spirit of Christ to the remission of sins, and has a determination to serve to the end?  Of course, this is no guarantee that a person may fall away later down the road, but it could eliminate much inactivity that burdens wards and branches worldwide with caring for people that do not provide any benefit for the Church bus.  I once lived in a ward that had 850 members, but only 150 active. This was a huge burden on the ward, as it tried to reactivate and to grow.  Most of those people were left on the books, but it perhaps would have been better for the Church to find out which were attending other churches or not interested in being Mormon, and just release them from membership. Like declaring bankruptcy allows a person or company a fresh start, this ward also could have used such a new beginning.

Regarding sin, the Church used to be very quick at excommunicating many people for grievous sins.  In the last 2 decades, excommunication has often been established as a last resort event, with probation or disfellowshipping as the common sanctions.  It seems we’ve chosen to set aside a few bus seats near the exit for those who are on a probation, to see if they can become right for the bus.  I think that is a good balance, as long as the person is not kept in the limbo seats for years and years, but are either brought back fully into activity or removed from the bus.

It is very important for the Church to be able to clean house. There is no doubt that the Church has its enemies, and keeping those who become enemies of the Church on the bus is to commit suicide.  We need to have respectful discussions on difficult topics, but the concept that those who openly attack the prophets are heading into apostasy is very correct.

So, it may be that the LDS Church is as successful as it is, because we do try to have the right people on the bus.  With this comes the caveat that our less actives may become such a big burden on us that the bus will no longer be drivable, at least in some wards and branches. For those who fall into apostasy, defined by the Church and not by the apostates or media, we need to remove them quickly from the bus.


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About rameumptom

Gerald (Rameumptom) Smith is a student of the gospel. Joining the Church of Jesus Christ when he was 16, he served a mission in Santa Cruz Bolivia (1978=1980). He is married to Ramona, has 3 stepchildren and 7 grandchildren. Retired Air Force (Aim High!). He has been on the Internet since 1986 when only colleges and military were online. Gerald has defended the gospel since the 1980s, and was on the first Latter-Day Saint email lists, including the late Bill Hamblin's Morm-Ant. Gerald has worked with FairMormon, More Good Foundation, LDS.Net and other pro-LDS online groups. He has blogged on the scriptures for over a decade at his site: Joel's Monastery ( He has the following degrees: AAS Computer Management, BS Resource Mgmt, MA Teaching/History. Gerald was the leader for the Tuskegee Alabama group, prior to it becoming a branch. He opened the door for missionary work to African Americans in Montgomery Alabama in the 1980s. He's served in two bishoprics, stake clerk, high council, HP group leader and several other callings over the years. While on his mission, he served as a counselor in a branch Relief Society presidency.

16 thoughts on “Good to Great – the right people on the bus

  1. I think I understand what you’re getting at. I’ve talked a lot with dissedents that seem to be all over the Internet these days. They seem to love to find things to hate about the Church. The solution is not clear to me. I guess I’m glad I’m not the one that has to decide whether or not a particular person should be a member. The Church has a pretty unambiguous policy in this regard – apparently it has not always been so.

    So come what may, and love it! As things in the world get worse, it only gets better for the obedient disciples of Christ.


  2. I have been in leadership positions in wards with well below 50% activity. I am hesitant to remove names from the records, but we consistently had a long list of people who did not get much church contact. They did not have home teachers assigned and got little to no attention from anyone. If someone contacted them and they showed some interest, they would be moved up the priority list.
    We were constantly looking for members who had been active for years, or had a family connection to an active member to work with.

  3. So MS is advocating mass excommunications? So is it MS’s position that the criteria set forth for dicipline in Handbook 1 which make excommunication difficult are too lenient? Do you think your position places you in opposition to the current general authorities?

  4. Paul,
    First, I’m not sure who MS is. Second, no one is discussing going against what the Church does in this regards. It is a matter of policy on where they will draw the line on whom to excommunicate, and that line has changed over the years. For example, 20 years ago, several people were excommunicated for apostasy (known as the September 6), because of things they were teaching. We live in a different day now, where the Church is more patient in regards to those who speak out on various topics.

    I will say that it makes for a difficult balancing act for the Church. One thing very different between the companies Collins talks about and the Church, is that the companies create items for external customers. The Church brings in people as both customer and employee in a sense, as we are a lay church, filled with people who covenant to give their time and talents to build up the Church.

    However, in technical terms, the Church’s membership is designed for those who meet a minimum criteria: that of a Terrestrial Law (D&C 88, 76). These are people who are good and honorable people, and hopefully will become sanctified to a celestial state. So, we could be excommunicating anyone who does not live up to the covenants they’ve made on a terrestrial level. This would include sexual sin, breaking major laws of the land, not paying tithing (a terrestrial law), etc. Clearly, we are rather lenient in some areas.

    However, the day will come when the wheat and tares will be separated. Those who will not observe a terrestrial law will not be a member of the Church. At Christ’s coming, the telestial and sons of perdition will be burned off the earth, as it is cleansed. So, if not before, there will be a cleansing at Jesus’ 2nd Coming.

    And there must be a prior cleansing. so that Zion may be established as a refuge from the wicked and evil in the world.

    I’m thinking that we will eventually use D&C 20:37 more as criteria for baptism, and Alma the Elder’s guidance on excommunication for those who commit serious sin (if they truly repent, we forgive and they continue in the Church. If they do not truly repent, they are excommunicated).

  5. Great Post!

    I like when John the Baptist tells the Pharisees coming to get baptised, “Oh you generation of vipers! Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath go come? Bring forth fruits meet for repentance!”

    He didn’t want just anyone to get baptised. IF you are willing to repent, change, commit to Christ and His commandments, then YOU MAY have the opportunity to be baptised. Joining the church is a priviledge, but we treat investigators like they are doing us a favor if they join. Wrong. We are doing them a favor. An incredible eternal, favor.

  6. However, as far as excommunication, I think LDSP’s stance is too harsh. Getting into the church should be hard, and getting out should be hard too.

    Once you join, you are God’s covenant people, and He has covenanted to bear with you, through your sins and wanderings. The whole story of the House of Israel is the story of God bearing with His Chosen People, even though they were wicked and idolatrous.

    If you leave the church, fine. There’s nothing to do. No reason to excommunicate. If you’ve committed a so-called “serious” sin, like something of a sexual nature, I think we freak out too much. If someone wants to repent, is excommunication really the right solution?

    Excommunication is appropriate for people who are actively corrupting the church with intent to lie and mislead, wolves in sheep’s clothing, pedophiles, and the like.

  7. Nate, I think both entrance and exit are an issue of if the person has become the right person for the bus. If one truly repents and desires to serve God for the rest of his/her life, then such a person is ready for baptism.

    On the other side of things, if a person no longer fits in any of the seats in the bus, due to apostasy or sin (or perhaps some forms of inactivity), and he is not willing to conform to the standards of a Terrestrial kingdom, then that person should be removed from the bus. Otherwise, it becomes an excess strain on those trying to steer and drive the bus in the right direction. Plus, the burden of unkept covenants remains with the person. In many instances, I think it would be better to remove them until they are ready to join us again. Now, do I think someone who was excommunicated need to be outside the Church for a decade before being allowed to rejoin? In most instances, no. However, that does occur in many occasions today. Once they are right for the bus, they should be allowed to reenter and take their place.

  8. I can see your point if you want to run the church like an efficient corporation, like those highlighted in the book. And certainly I think we should think about the church in that way, greater activity, missionary work, passion and commitment.

    But when we start talking about excommunicating the dead weight, like firering an employee that doesnt share the vision, I think we miss the whole point of church. In rare cases, it might be appropriate, but I really think that “the church” is by its nature, an imperfect, even sometimes rebellious institution, at least as it is described Biblically. Love your wives as Christ loved the church, which church is adulterous and sinful, awhoring after Babylon. I really think it is no different than a marriage. You don’t abandon your spouse for losing their testimony. Rather, the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the believing wife. So the unbelieving member is never taken off the records, never forgotten in reactivation efforts, unless they themselves formally request it in writing. For the whole purpose of the church is to reach out to that unbelieving member, to plead for them to return continually, and kill the fatted calf the moment they return.

  9. nate, Perhaps you’ve forgotten about the Lord’s instructions to Alma:

    “Therefore I say unto you, Go; and whosoever transgresseth against me, him shall ye judge baccording to the sins which he has committed; and if he confess his sins before thee and me, and repenteth in the sincerity of his heart, him shall ye forgive, and I will forgive him also. Yea, and as often as my people brepent will I forgive them their trespasses against me. …

    “Now I say unto you, Go; and whosoever will not repent of his sins the same shall not be numbered among my people; and this shall be observed from this time forward. And it came to pass when Alma had heard these words he wrote them down that he might have them, and that he might judge the people of that church according to the commandments of God.

    “And it came to pass that Alma went and judged those that had been taken in iniquity, according to the aword of the Lord. And whosoever repented of their sins and did confess them, them he did number among the people of the church; And those that would not confess their sins and repent of their iniquity, the same were not numbered among the people of the church, and their names were blotted out. And it came to pass that Alma did regulate all the affairs of the church; and they began again to have peace and to prosper exceedingly in the affairs of the church, walking circumspectly before God, receiving many, and baptizing many.”

  10. Also, Rameumption, I always get little uncomfortable when members accuse missionaries of baptizing people who aren’t ready — it feels like a blame game. When people go less active, many members — instead of reflecting on what they could do better — want to place the whole (or at least the bulk) of responsibility on the missionaries.

    I wish members would take to heart the words and warning of President Howard W. Hunter:

    Missionaries don’t teach the gospel; they cry repentance and instill in the people enough faith to have the desire to be baptized. At that moment, they are turned over to the church, then, the church teaches them. There are not many in the church that understand this. They think that the missionaries haven’t spent enough time and haven’t taught them all the gospel. Now, the missionaries aren’t to do that! We have six [four] discussions. We take that far, and that does not cover all the gospel, but then the church spends the rest of this person’s life teaching them the gospel. We do the same thing with our eight-year-old children. No one in this church should ever be heard to say, “The missionaries baptized this person before they were ready!”

  11. LDSP, I won’t argue that The Lord gave those instructions to Alma.

    And I wouldn’t argue if the prophet today said The Lord commanded him to take a similar action.

    But the modern church does not follow Alma’s revelation as stated. Why? Rather Pres. Monson has bragged about how when he was mission president, he didn’t send a single Elder home, when others sent dozens home.

    I think today’s practice is justified by its own inspiration, and the parable of the wheat and the tares. God gives different practices at different times, and maybe all of them have their rationale and wisdom for their time, and perhaps according to the personality and culture of the church and its current leaders.

  12. LDSP, I agree we should not blame missionaries, at least not on a grand scale. For the most part, they do a great job of preparing people to have a testimony. That said, we all know of instances when they’ve quickly baptized someone outside the standard process. We just had one in the branch I’m responsible for on the HC.

    That said, if we follow the standards in the scriptures, rather than going by some other standard, then we know we are doing things the Lord’s way. Oh, and PMG also uses those same scriptures for its foundations of missionary work.

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