There’s a fun thing people do with Dalle where they have it create an image with a certain descriptor, then continually ask it to make it “even more X.” In this case I asked it to create a righteous-looking missionary, then asked it to be even more righteous, then even more righteous, etc. After six iterations “The image now portrays the ultimate embodiment of righteousness in a Mormon missionary, reaching a celestial level of virtue and spiritual enlightenment.”
It has become fashionable to deride the use of missionary numbers, ministering metrics, or other quantitative indicators in Church work. An overemphasis on numeric indicators bothered me as much as the next missionary, and nobody can accuse me of being a “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” type member who thinks that Zion will be achieved with some second-coming-of-Mitt Romney MBA clone to whom is revealed God’s chosen seven step program for managerial success. Still, there are people who swing too far the other way, and think that if nothing but a burning testimony of the Savior was good enough for Paul it should be good enough for our missionaries.
Except it’s really not. Our missionaries are essentially late-teenagers, and as annoying as it is to admit it, it was clear in the mission that having some kind of quantitative standard that we were expected to hit did in fact lead to more proselytizing overall. Were the motives absolutely pure? No, but if God required absolutely pure motives for every effort for His Kingdom there would be a lot less effort expended for His Kingdom.
Of course, there are some numbers, baptism being the prime example, that hinge on other people’s decisions , and in many cases have a low enough sample size anyway that statistically speaking they map only very imprecisely and noisily onto missionary quality. (I was a bit of a smart aleck on my mission, and when people would try to connect baptism success with not taking a lunch break, spending exactly 10 minutes planning instead of 9 minutes, etc., I would point out that in my highest baptizing area I had an apostate companion that would watch TV with the members we lived with).
However, other numbers were more achievable by any reasonably productive missionary. In my mission, for example, we were expected to contact at least ten people every day, come heck or high water, and having that expectation, and knowing we’d catch flack if we didn’t meet it, did in fact lead to us being a little more chatty on the metro on the way home.
Something similar can be said for ministering. As adults with mortgages we’re probably a lot less susceptible to being motivated by a reporting or numbers game than the more-zealous-but-more-immature late-teenagers, but still, knowing that I have to return and report about my ministering assignment does in fact motivate me, if for no other reason to avoid an awkward discussion. If we achieved a state of higher law existence where we naturally fulfill our responsibilities without any reporting or quantitative indicators, then and only then will numbers be superfluous but until then being obedient to a lower law that impels us towards action and concern (because, while the motivations are rarely completely pure, neither are they completely impure either), is better than having a higher law that does not impel us.