Since I have left the Mormon faith, I still find myself interested in developments within the church. I like to keep abreast of what is being said by church leaders, what information is being reported by the church in the news media, and I especially like to see statistical reports about the church’s growth (or in some cases, decline) around the world. Each year at April General Conference I watch to see what numbers are being reported for membership statistics.
For the past two years I have compiled the statistical reports from LDS general conferences, over the previous decade, analyzed the results, and created projections for what we could expect to hear reported at the next conference. As it turns out, church statistical reports have been very predictable lately. A year ago, I projected that the worldwide church membership for the year ending 2009 would be 13,824,420. The actual number reported in April 2010 was 13,824,854 (so I was off by a whopping 434 members, 0.0031%, or the equivalent of one average LDS ward).
By compiling these statistics, analyzing the results, and comparing them to general conference reports, this will give us a good idea of how the church is actually doing in its efforts to grow worldwide. Is current church growth holding steady with recent trends? Are they accelerating ahead of the projections or are they falling behind, and losing momentum? Keeping these questions in mind, here is my report.
Projections for April 2011 General Conference statistical report:
(Report for yearend, 2010)
Total Church Membership: 14,142,817
Convert Baptisms: 286,365
Increase in Children of Record: 125,252
Total Units (wards/branches): 28,742
Full-time Missionaries: 51,230
(In this analysis I have not included total Stakes, Districts, or Missions, because I do not feel these numbers are significant reflections of overall church growth. Units within each Stake or District often vary widely, depending on geographical distribution, and may fluctuate regardless of overall membership growth or decline. The number of missionaries per mission often fluctuates as well; therefore the total number of missions is not necessarily indicative of overall growth or decline.)
Total projected church membership in 2010 represents a net growth of 317,963 members (2009: 13,824,854), which includes a loss of 93,654 members due to death or name removal. The overall membership growth rate for the church would be 2.25%, with new converts growing the church by 2.02%.
While overall growth appears to remain steady in the past decade, the percent of growth has actually steadily declined in the same period, from 2.85% in 2000, down to 2.29% in 2009. The growth rate for the past decade is sharply off of the church’s peak growth—a period from roughly 1979 through 1995, in which growth fluctuated widely between 4%, to as high 9%, annually.
Overall church membership has grown by 24.90% in the past decade, from 11,068,861 in 2000, to 13,824,854 at the end of 2009. However, in that same time, total wards and branches have grown only 9.68%, from 25,915 to 28,424. If it takes the same average number of active members to fill the responsibilities of operating each ward or branch now as it did a decade ago, that would mean the church’s worldwide activity rate averages only 38.88%. Additionally, the number of less-active or inactive members appears to be steadily rising, worldwide. In 2000, there were an average of 427.1 members per each unit, but by 2009 that number had jumped to 486.4. Over the past 4 years the number of members per unit has consistently increased by about 6, annually. My latest projections of membership growth for 2011 conference also reflect a similar increase, to 492.1 members per unit.
Total numbers of Convert Baptisms, Increase in Children of Record, and Member Loss, in 2010, all reflect modest gains from the year previous. The total net growth for 2010 would then be an increase of 1,618 from the previous year. Total full-time missionaries, though, would decline by 506, from 51,736 in 2009. In 2002, the church saw its peak number of missionaries, at 61,638. Missionary numbers have been in steady decline since then.
So what about what we really hear at the upcoming General Conference?
The trends have been relatively steady and predictable in recent years, with modest gains in some areas, and slight declines in others. But the projections outlined at the top will help us to determine whether those trends have remained steady, or whether the church is moving ahead of the curve or falling behind.
The current trends remain STEADY* if the following is reported by the church, in April:
Total Church Membership: 14,128,000 – 14,158,000
Net increase from previous year: 303,000 – 333,000
Convert Baptisms: 275,000 – 295,000
Increase in Children of Record: 118,000 – 128,000
Member loss: 90,000 – 96,000
Total Units (wards/branches): 28,600 – 28,900
Full-time Missionaries: 50,750 – 51,750
The church is GROWING FASTER* than current trends if the following is reported:
Total Church Membership: Greater than 14,158,000
Net increase from previous year: Greater than 333,000
Convert Baptisms: Greater than 295,000
Increase in Children of Record: Greater than 128,000
Member loss: Less than 90,000
Total Units (wards/branches): Greater than 28,900
Full-time Missionaries: Greater than 51,750
The church is FALLING BEHIND* the current trends if the following is reported:
Total Church Membership: Less than 14,128,000
Net increase from previous year: Less than 303,000
Convert Baptisms: Less than 275,000
Increase in Children of Record: Less than 118,000
Member loss: Greater than 96,000
Total Units (wards/branches): Less than 28,600
Full-time Missionaries: Less than 50,750
CHURCH ACTIVITY RATES…
Remain stable if there are between 484 and 489 members per unit.
Increase if there are fewer than 484 members per unit.
Decrease if there are more than 489 members per unit.
* - I would like to clarify that the terms "steady", "growing faster", or "falling behind" are based on my own personal opinions, and not any particular scientific formula. I leave it to the individual readers to determine for themselves how they choose to interpret the actual numbers reported. However, my original projections at the top of the report ARE based on a weighted mathematical formula, and do not represent personal opinion.
Doesn't the ward clerk do that every Sunday?
Good job Eric,
I have a distrust of the numbers that Salt Lake gives us. They benefit from the info and it is not objective. Why would they count membership on people that they cannot locate (don't know they died) and hold the person a member until they are 110 years old! No one lives that long.
They are more "show" than "reality", more form over substance. What they say will be presented in a way to make them look good. If it does not serve their needs, they omit it. we thank thee oh God for a PROFIT.