Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Stone Rolls Forth, Losing Speed

That random dude, pictured above, announced the church's growth statistics during the afternoon session of General Conference today.  Here are some of the numbers (as of the end of 2013) that he related to us:
  • Total church membership: 15,082,028
  • Children of record added:  115,486
  • Converts added:  282,945
Here is some relevant information that he didn't explicitly state:
  • Total church membership at the end of 2012:  14,782,473
  • Net growth during 2013:  299,555
  • Net growth during 2013 as a percentage:  2.02%
What's interesting is that, as a solid number, this is the church's smallest growth since 2005.  As a percentage, it's an even more damning statistic.  According to, it would be the church's tiniest increase since 1974.  But according to Wikipedia, it would be Mormonism's most pitiful expansion since 1947.

While that's cool news to those of us who don't want the church to roll forth to fill the whole earth, it's also not exactly a slam dunk.  Dialogue between Mormons and ex-Mormons tends to be filled with a lot of bias and lots of accusations of distorting facts.  Considering that the numbers in those two links don't line up with each other properly until 1998, it wouldn't be hard for a defender of the faith to claim that the statistics are unreliable.  A simple uncorroborated claim that the church inflates its own numbers wouldn't be enough to combat that assertion.

I couldn't find any church-sponsored source of historical membership data, although I wasn't going to spend all day looking into it. If anyone knows where to find it, I'd love to be able to verify my theory that 2013 was a monumentally awful year for the church.  


  1. This is interesting. The growth was 299,555 and converts made up 282,945 of them. The difference is 16,610. I assume that number comes from child baptisms minus deaths, excommunications, and name removal requests. That is a very small number. I would be curious to know what the US numbers are. It wouldn't surprise me if at some point church membership in the US begins to shrink. What do you think? It needs further analysis doesn't it?

    1. Further analysis, definitely.

      I was operating under the (possibly flawed) assumption that the church was counting children of record in their 15 million total. My understanding was that the gross growth was children of record plus converts, which would be 398,431. That would mean that deaths, excommunications and resignations would account for 98,876, which sounds a lot more reasonable.

      As far as numbers in the US are concerned, the Mormon Newsroom currently reports the total at 6,321,416.


      I checked Wikipedia, and according to their numbers from 2012, which I added up in Microsoft Excel, the church has actually LOST almost 10,000 members in the last two years. The problem is that Wikipedia's sources don't link to any actual data, just websites that supposedly provided that data in 2012. Unless I pay twenty bucks for a Church Almanac, which probably has the numbers in it.

      So I tried the WayBack Machine:*/

      Archived versions of the Mormon Newsroom's US Statistics page from April 2012 and April 2013 yield the following:

      2012 US Membership - 6,144,582
      2013 US Membership - 6,229,223

      Using these numbers, here's the growth:

      2012-2013| 84,641 or 1.38% increase
      2013-2014| 92,193 or 1.48% increase

      It's only a few data points, so it's hardly a trend (let's hope not considering it actually improved between 2012 and now), but the important thing that these figures share in common is that they're both significantly lower than the 2%+ worldwide church annual growth during this time period.

      Let's do the same thing, only for a country with a reputation for low activity rates, like Brazil (

      Reported Membership 2012: 1,138,740
      Reported Membership 2013: 1,209,974

      The current membership is the same as reported last year. Apparently these pages aren't updated often. Interestingly, the archived pages have a "last updated" spot near the top that is missing from the current version of the page.

      For this one-year period, Brazil netted 71,234 more members, an increase of 6.26%, well over twice the worldwide figure. Again, this is not enough data for a trend, but I think if someone had the time to comb through all of the church's available numbers, they might find some interesting stuff.

      My guess? The increased numbers of the church is carried by converts in high-baptizing countries with low retention rates. That, and maybe all the Utahn families having ten children.

      Truly this is a marvelous work and a wonder.

  2. They do count children. Here's what I found:

    Membership record

    For statistical and reporting purposes, the following persons are members of record and should have a membership record:

    1) Those who have been baptized and confirmed.
    2) Those under age nine who have been blessed but not baptized.
    3) Those who are not accountable because of intellectual disabilities, regardless of age.
    4) Unblessed children under age eight when:
    -Two member parents request you create a record.
    -One member parent requests you create a record and the nonmember parent gives permission.

    A person who is nine years or older who has a membership record but has not been baptized and confirmed is not considered a member of record. However, the bishop keeps the membership record until the person is 18. At that time if the person chooses not to be baptized despite being given every opportunity, the bishop, with written permission from the stake president, may cancel the membership record. He should not, however, cancel membership records of persons not considered accountable because of mental disabilities.

    1. I'm making a lot of assumptions here, but this is interesting.

      The 2012 birth rate for all of Utah was 18 per 1,000 population. I'll apply that number world-wide even though the Mormon birth rate in Utah is possibly much higher than the non-mormon one. Plus, Mormons make up 60% of the Utah population.

      If we assume that 18 per 1,000 rate church-wide and keep the 15 million membership number, there would have been 270,000 births in the church. Only 115,486 were added to the membership rolls, that means only 42% are blessing their children. That would put the activity rate at no more than 42% since many inactive members still get their children blessed.

      This is interesting as well:

    2. Thanks for find that. That's really interesting. I've heard similar things before, but I hadn't seen them all laid out in the same place in such detail.

      I wish we had better numbers to look at, but it's a little reassuring that, making all these assumptions that err on the side of caution, it still looks grim for the church.