I have a grandchild that at 15 is a lot like me. The other day they sent me a link to an article on “Survivorship Bias”. I had never heard of it, and thoroughly enjoyed the article. I asked my grandchild if they learned about this in school, and their response was “no, I just found it on YouTube and though you’d like it”

The one example from the linked article I really liked was the one about the airplanes from World War Two. The military collected data from returned airplanes (the survivors) on where they were getting shot (see photo above). They then had a plan to reinforce the airplanes in these areas (where all the red dots are). A statistician by the name of Wald noted that the military had only considered the aircraft that had survived their missions; any bombers that had been shot down or otherwise lost had logically also been rendered unavailable for assessment. The bullet holes in the returning aircraft, then, represented areas where a bomber could take damage and still fly well enough to return safely to base. Thus, Wald proposed that the Navy reinforce areas where the returning aircraft were unscathed, since those were the areas that, if hit, would cause the plane to be lost.

How does survivorship bias affect the church? I came up with a couple of areas.

Leadership only talks to survivors , not the ones that left. To get re-baptized after excommunication (or whatever the current name is) , you need to to have an interview and approval by a GA. (The handbook say FP approval, but it has been delegated). So these GA’s will only talk with people that want back in, and thus form their whole view of excommunication, the reasons and mindset of the excommunicated from the very small percentage that want to come back! These are probably the people that had a loving and caring Stake President, a family that didn’t shun them, and felt community at church and missed it.

These GA’s do not interview the vast majority of people that are excommunicated. They don’t talk to the people that had a hard nose SP that made their life a living hell. They don’t talk to those that had a falling out with the SP on some subject, and were excommunicated for not following their leaders. They don’t talk to those that were excommunicated for teaching incorrect doctrine (according to the SP).

Another way that survivorship bias is manifested in the church is that leadership is selected from survivors, people who had nice bishops that they admired. So they can’t imagine a bad bishop, because they never had one. The people with bad bishops or Stake Presidents, that were vindictive, they have taken themselves out of the running be either leaving the church, becoming inactive, or if they are active they get labeled as a trouble makers. Thus our current leaders, from the Q15 on down to our bishops are the survivors of good bishop youth interviews, inclusive youth activities, bishops that cared for the members, and showed Christ like love to everybody.

What other ways do you see survivorship bias in church?

Illustration by Martin Grandjean (vector), McGeddon (picture), Cameron Moll (concept) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=102017718