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Is the Mormon Church Really Growing?

I estimate that in 2002 the LDS church had a net growth, including children being blessed, of only a little over 200,000 or 2.29%. In terms of reported growth, the LDS church reported annual growth of 2.87%, which continues the significant downward trend in the growth rate since 1997. The decline in convert baptisms of -3.24% was more than offset by a substantial increase of 16.7% in the number of babies being blessed and counted as being members. (The LDS church used to report the number of children being baptised but ended this practice in 1997 when it became obvious that counting babies added more to membership numbers than counting children who were not being counted until they were baptised when 8-years old. Without counting blessed babies as members, the reportable growth rate trend would show a even greater decline than the current falling rates.) Also of note is the failure of a growing missionary program, 1.29% more missionaries in 2002 than in 2001, to raise the rate and number of convert baptisms, which, as reported previously, fell in 2002 by 3.24%. Please take a look at a study of LDS membership data since 1973, including the most recent 2002 data, in the attached spreadsheet file Membership.xls.

Membership is overstated by as much as 2,142,121 or 18.28% and the overstatement is growing. A study of membership data since 1973 (see the attached spreadsheet) appears to indicate that total membership numbers take into account deaths but do not factor in members who leave the church each year. Retention of new converts is a problem that is well known within Mormonism, a problem that was recently addressed publicly by President Hinckley at a General Conference. The building of more temples is not an indicator of church growth but rather is an expensive reaction to the major problem of retention.

Keep in mind that there is no outside accountability, no review, and no challenge of reported LDS membership numbers.

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