The “Ammon” Pilot-Project

Ammon. 'Nuff said.

This is for all the Japanese returned missionaries out there. There were always rumors circulating in the Sendai Mission about an “Ammon Project” that, through various recounts and exaggeration of facts, was viewed as one of the great tragedies of the Church in Japan.

I am currently reading Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s biography, A Disciple’s Life, by Elder Bruce C. Hafen and I came across this passage concerning the “Ammon” Project:

“During his years as first contact for Asia, from 1990 to 1995, Neal had similar concerns about Church growth in Japan, where the number of less-active members had been growing at a faster rate than the number of active members. The Fukuoka Mission President was Cyril Figuerres, a former researcher for the Correlation Department, which Neal had helped create in 1976. With the combination of Cyril’s baackground and his own interest in drawing on empirical data, Neal urged Cyril to identify and address the root problems in the mission’s membership growth.

The result of these efforts was the “Ammon” pilot project, which drew on Elder Maxwell’s long-term, multigenerational perspective to make significant adaptations in both member and missionary programs “without tampering with ‘non-negotiables’ such as doctrines and ordinances.” The project recognized the unique needs of the Japanese people, who have stronger ties to group associations than is typical of Western culture, and only 2 percent of whom have a Christian background. Under Elder Maxwell’s direction, with concurrence from the Area Presidency, President Figuerres designed the project to improve real growth on the individual level, the family level, and the “community of Saints” level.

Drawing on the research findings, the project implemented several interventions suited for Latter-day Saints in the Japanese culture. For example, the mission provided extended “greenhouse” nurturing for investigators and new converts, holding missionaries accountable for strengthening new converts every week for an entire year. The project also worked to “create a community of Saints where individuals and families could experience righteousness, joy and social integration in a spiritually enriched, nurturing environment.” Over time the number of convert baptisms nearly doubled, the proportion of converts who remained active increased significantly, and the number of newly reactivated members more than tripled.

For Cyril, working on the Ammon project with Elder Maxwell was “like a spiritual odyssey” that gave him “a glimpse of . . . the global leadership needed to develop a truly global Church.” Elder Maxwell, he said, “never loses sight of the big picture and the grand ‘why.’ He is visionary, forward-looking, with an eye fixed just beyond the horizon.” His “humble but serious involvement with the Japanese members” showed them “how much members of the Twelve care about their unique challenges and spiritual lives.” (p. 465-66)

If you want to check out a personal account, albeit 15 years after the fact, of the “Ammon” Pilot-Project then go here ( and read in the comments section from #11 on. There is some anti-Mormon sentiments in some of the comments as well, if you’re into that kind of thing.

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  1. Jessica

     /  May 17, 2010

    Adam- that’s cool that you are reading that biography. I read it while I was in D.C. and I loved it.

  2. Did I ever tell you I’m from Ammon, Idaho? which is, I recognize, in no way related to this post other than its namesake? Well, I’m from Ammon, Idaho.

  3. Jessica, I started it in D.C. my last two weeks and then got it in the library because it’s so good. I hear it’s one of the best written biographies of a Latter-day leader.

    Britt, I’m so happy you are from Ammon, Idaho just because it got you to write on my blog.

  4. Andrew

     /  June 1, 2010

    Having been one of President Figuerres’ missionaries in the Fukuoka Japan mission and not only listening to Elder Maxwell, but Cyril as well talk and work with them on the Ammon Project, no idea where all the weird ideas came from. For me it all came down to reactivation being as important as new converts, and retaining converts through making sure the members accepted them!

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