Wednesday, February 1, 2012

When Is a Member Not a Member?

According to this recent Reuters article, Mormonism may be losing members at the highest rate since 1837.

The church claims to have a worldwide membership of more than 14 million, but there is a common theory (I don't know if this has ever been proven) that the church inflates its numbers.  That 14 million is probably simply a count of baptisms.  It still includes people like me--I haven't been to church in more than three years.  I'm angry at the church for brainwashing me and cheating me out of the first twenty years of my life.  I would advise any friend and most of my enemies not to join the church.  I take a sick pleasure in reading bad publicity about Mormonism or individual Mormons.  But I was baptized when I was eight years I still count, right?

According to the same article, unnamed "sociologists" have estimated the church's actual active membership around the world to be in the neighborhood of 5 million.  And if you believe the estimation that convert retention stands at 25%, then you could surmise that most of the growing the church is doing is from its nearly endless crop of children born into the covenant.  There's probably a much higher retention rate for victims of the child brainwashing machine than for converts who haven't grown up with the church being all they have ever known.  Although I'm betting retention among brainwashed kids is probably dropping too.

It makes sense to me that the LDS Church is having trouble keeping members in the modern era.  Religion just isn't as popular as it used to be, especially during Joseph Smith's era and the Second Great Awakening.  With the Internet Age, the church's tumultuous history, doctrinal oddities and other dirty laundry are all easy to find.  All that, combined with the church's continual low-resistance missionary efforts (give 'em the accessible, peachy-sounding stuff first, then spring the weird, less glossy stuff after they're already in) is a recipe for dwindling membership.

But what jumped out at me the most in was a comment from Marlin K. Jensen, the Church's "Historian and Recorder."  The article says:
"The church has a very progressive research and information division, with tremendous public opinion surveyors," he said. Among other steps, it has hired an expert in search-engine optimization to raise the profile of the church's own views in a web search.
That paragraph reeks of secular public relations.  Why does a religious organization with leaders who are supposedly given divine revelation need to survey public opinion to aid its advertising and recruitment?  And why does the supposedly only true church on the face of the earth need to ensure that its own information comes up first in a Google search?  Why would it need to quash unfriendly opinions?  It's a religion, right?  Not a totalitarian regime?

The Church continues to bring in new members (revolving door or not) and inflate its purported membership, all the while doing its best to keep its facade of virtue and infallibility from slipping.  That is corrupt and wrong.

And that doesn't seem right to me.

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