This makes me think, funnily enough, of one of those "I Am An Ex-Mormon" videos. I watched it, oh, it's been quite some time ago now. The subject of this particular video is a woman in maybe her late 50s who lives in Salt Lake. She talked about one of her wake-up moments and it was a somewhat unusual one.
She was one of those women who'd been made the nursery teacher and actually really loved it. She loved the kids, loved the lessons they had for the kids. She said the lessons were things like "God made puppies. He loves puppies. We love puppies. Let's all be kind to puppies and take good care of them."
Then one year she went to a meeting where they were introducing a new curriculum. Now the nursery curriculum would teach "deep doctrine" -- Joseph Smith's first vision, the apostasy and restoration, the nature of the godhead, sin and repentance, eternal progression, what have you. To kids from 18 months to age three. She was quite appalled by it and asked why they were making this change. They said that the GAs were concerned about how many people - including many BIC, raised in the church people - were leaving the church. They felt like if they just started indoctrinating earlier that kids would not leave the church when they were older. She was a devout believer, but said she couldn't see the move as anything but "a violation of young minds." So she started questioning and investigating things - why ARE so many lifelong members leaving the church? - and eventually . . . well, you all know the story.
I think the common thread here to the new mission age (yes, I have a point) is the kind of insane linearity to this. We'll just teach 'em younger and younger and their brains will just be FULL UP with church stuff. I mean they can't even let 18 month olds talk about puppies, for Spider Pig's sake! We have to stuff their heads full of our narrative before their brains are even developed enough for language. If teaching them starting at oh, four or five, doesn't keep them from leaving the church as adults, then we'll start teaching them at a year and a half.
It's amazing to me that they don't look at what they're doing. The unspoken assumption here is that the people are somehow deficient. If they just got with the program (young enough) they wouldn't be doing this. So no examination of the death of community at the hands of correlation and pervasive corporatism. No looking at how defunding the local level has killed the members' experience, and of course, OF COURSE, no looking at the actual dubious truth claims they're trying to put across. What we're doing isn't working and so rather than look for why we'll just do MORE of it, SOONER.
I think this is a similar impulse. We'll just send them younger, when they're less developed, and we'll get them molded right earlier on and later they "won't depart from it." It's just jaw-droppingly dumb. I think it's going to cause all kinds of problems on all kinds of levels (both for individuals and institutionally) and it isn't going to stop people leaving in droves 5, 10, 15 or more years down the line.
The church needs to study some basic human psychology, for fuck's sake. You don't keep people from leaving by filling their heads with more mumbo jumbo at an earlier age. What you need to do is strengthen the tribe through tradition, social activities, ritual, etc. Once the church correlated itself and started eliminating the very things that bound people to the tribe, they started hemorrhaging.