. . . and counting.
Uh-huh. You folks crunch the numbers--with deservedly healthy skepticism.
First, that head count, Mormon-style:
"'Mormon Church Membership Hits 15 Million'
"SALT LAKE CITY--The president of the Mormon Church says worldwide membership has hit 15 million, representing a three-fold increase over the three decades.
"President Thomas S. Monson announced the milestone during the opening session of the two-day Mormon Church conference Saturday morning.
"The bi-annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints brings 100,000 members to Salt Lake City. More than half of church members live outside of the United States.
"Monson says The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints began with 30 members in 1830, taking more than a century to hit the 1 million milestone.
"Matt Martinich, a member of the LDS Church who analyzes membership numbers with the non-profit Cumorah Foundation, says Church membership has tripled since 1982 when there were 5 million members."
("Mormon Church Membership Hits 15 Million," by Brady McCombs, "Associated Press," 5 October 2013, at: http://www.azcentral.com/news/free/20131005mormon-church-membership-salt-lake-city.html
Reason to doubt the Mormon Church's officially-declared claims regarding its supposed overall membership numbers is most recently based on the fact that LDS, Inc. was last year forced to retract exaggerated assertions it was peddling about supposedly pew-popping expansion in the United States.
Let's examine its unreliable record.
--The Mormon Church Has Its Predictably Misleading Way of Counting Some and Discounting Others
"'Change Lowers Mormonism's Growth Rate'
"If you suspected the newly released U.S. Religion Census overstated the LDS Church's growth rate, you were right. That's because, this time around, the Utah-based faith changed the way it reported its membership to the researchers.
"The once-a-decade study was assembled by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, which included self-reported data on adherents for 153 participating bodies.
"Its report pegged U.S. Mormon growth at 45.5 percent, jumping from 4,224,026 in 2000 to 6,144,582 in 2010. The 2000 figure, though, was much lower than the 5,208,827 listed in the LDS Church's almanac. If researchers had been given that figure, the percentage of growth would have been considerably smaller, closer to 18 percent.
"The LDS Church also supplied smaller Utah membership numbers to the state--figures government officials use for planning.
"Here's how the LDS Church explains the discrepancy between the 2000 Religion Census figure and its own almanac for the same year.
"'Total [LDS] Church membership numbers are derived from those individuals who have been baptized or born into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," spokesman Scott Trotter said Wednesday. "They are neither projections nor estimates.'
"Trotter acknowledged that, in past years, LDS membership figures reported to the census researchers "were understated."
"For those years, he said, the LDS Church 'left out numbers of members who, although baptized, were not currently associated with a specific congregation. This year, we included total membership numbers to more accurately reflect all of those found on Church records.'
"Dale Jones, a researcher on the Religion Census, said he wished the LDS Church had alerted him about the change in its reporting methods. But Jones, director of research services at the Church of the Nazarene Global Ministry Center in Kansas, said he had no problem with the shift.
"'Any group can define [its membership] however they like,' Jones said. 'Mormons are not the only ones to change, and it's not a big deal.'
"If the LDS growth rate slipped from 45 percent to, say, 20 percent, it would still put the Mormons at the top of the list"among Christian faiths, he said. 'I don't care if it's half as much. It's not the same story, but it's still a great story.'
"In fact, Jones said, reporting the LDS Church's entire membership list 'is closer to what most Protestants do.'
"In his own Nazarene faith, officials 'have an inactive members list as well, and we do include them in our total membership,' he said. 'In that sense, this move actually strengthens our case for saying our data is pretty comparable across denominations.'
"The LDS Church does not remove any name from the list unless the person is excommunicated, asks to be removed or is dead. That means that a large number of members remain on the rolls who no longer attend or even consider themselves to be Mormon.
"'We estimate that only 40 percent of LDS Church members in the U.S. attend church regularly,' said Matt Martinich, an independent researcher who studies Mormon demographics for cumorah.com. 'That number varies by region--some areas have very high attendance like 70 percent and some as low as 20 percent.'
"Martinich gets that activity rate by comparing the ratio of members to congregations, LDS seminary and institute enrollment, and member and missionary reports.
"Unlike other studies, which track beliefs and attendance, the Religion Census attempts to count the actual number of people affiliated with U.S. congregations. For instance, it listed Utah's Catholic population at 160,125. But Catholics, who make up by far the state's second largest religion after the predominant Mormon faith, say the real figure is closer to 300,000."
("Change Lowers Mormonism's Growth Rate," by Peggy Fletcher Stack, "The Salt Lake Tribune," 18 May 2013, at: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54036926-78/church-lds-membership-growth.html.csp
; see also, "Church Falsifies U.S. Membership Numbers for National Survey," posted by "Simon in Oz," on "Recovery from Mormonism" discussion board, May 2012, at; http://exmormon.org/d6/drupal/Mormon-Church-falsifies-US-membership-numbers
--The Mormon Church's "15 Million" Claim Deserves Further Disbelief Since It Has a History of Releasing Highly-Questionable Membership Numbers (Which Serve to Disguise the Drop in the Rate of Convert Baptisms)
"'LDS Church Growth Statistics: Anomalies Since 1970'
"[In April 2013], the LDS Church released their statistical report for 2012 at their General Conference held in Salt Lake City. They release these reports every spring, and you can review the historical data . . . from the LDS General Conference archive . . . . Since the General Conference archive only goes back to 1971 (which includes 1970 data) we’ll only analyze data from 1970 onward.
" . . . It’s important to note that these figures are self-reported by the LDS Church and, as far as I know, the figures are not audited or verified by any third party. The information they choose to release--accurate or inaccurate as it may be--is all that’s available. Everything else is just guesswork . . . .
"Total LDS Church Membership
"First, let’s look at the self-reported total membership of the LDS Church over time.
[As the Mormon Church declares it], [t]here’s some strong growth here. The LDS Church grew from about 3 million members in 1970 to about 15 million in 2012, which means it grew five times larger in a little more than 40 years. [Graphing the numbers] appears to show some exponential growth but the trend has also been quite linear since about 1990 or so.
"Okay, so what about year-over-year change in membership? To get this information, I simply calculated the difference in total Church membership for each consecutive year. Nothing else was taken into account. . . .
"LDS Church Year-Over-Year Change in Membership
"[Graphing these numbers], [o]n average, it’s obvious that the LDS Church is adding an increasing number of members each year although it’s . . . pretty erratic . . . . Let’s smooth things out by graphing this data as a five-year rolling average.
"LDS Church Year-Over-Year Change in Membership: Five Year Average
"[Graphing in 5-year segments makes it] much easier to see . . . . There’s still an upward trend in year-over-year change in membership since 1970 but there’s also a notable downward trend since the peak in the early 1990s. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that the LDS Church is not growing (the first graph proves that) but that the number of members added each year is down from its peak 20 years ago.
"So, all this is showing growth trends in terms of members added--but what happens when we look at growth trends as growth rate?
"[Further graphing] shows the percentage of year-over-year change in membership compared to the total number of members, which is effectively the Church rate of growth. Again, we’re not being specific about anything other than the change in year-over-year membership. It could be due to missionary work or 8-year-old baptisms but this data is completely neutral.
"LDS Church Growth Rate: Percentage
"We’re seeing a downward trend but again it’s pretty erratic, so let’s smooth it out with a 5-year rolling average. . . .
"Over the past 40 years, the year-over-year rate of growth for the LDS Church has been slowing. This is to be expected because it’s easier for a small organization to display huge growth rates than it is for a large one. There are a number of reasons for this but a big reason is that each year it’s more and more likely that receptive converts have already joined the Church.
"Still, the LDS Church’s current growth rate of about 2.25% well outpaces the world population growth rate of 1.15% and the United States’ population growth rate of 0.72%. This means that if the growth rate held firm, every person in the world would eventually be a member of the LDS Church.
"This is highly unlikely, though, given the steady, predictable erosion of the LDS Church’s growth rate. However, it’s worth noting that, at the current growth rate, each year a (slightly) larger percentage of the world’s population belongs to the LDS Church. With about 6,973,700,000 people on earth, that means 0.21% of them are Mormon--or about 1 in 472. By next year, another 0.0045% of the world will probably be Mormon. Modest, no doubt, but growing, nonetheless.
"Evangelism is important in the LDS Church and their pursuit of new members is a proportionally gigantic effort. They have released self-reported conversion statistics as part of their annual reports since at least 1970 so we can take a peek at how the missionary effort is progressing.
"First, let’s take a look at total yearly convert baptisms, which means conversions coming from outside the LDS Church and not children of Church members. These are straight-forward numbers and no retention information is included [in this study]. . . .
"LDS Church Convert Baptisms
"[The provided] convert-baptisms graph generally corresponds with trends we’ve seen in previous graphs. Numbers of annual convert baptisms exploded from about 1974 until 1980 and again from 1985 until 1990. Since 1990, the trend has generally tapered downward with an obvious low spot in the mid-2000s. It has somewhat recovered in the past few years but the current number of annual baptisms still falls short of the rates seen during the 1990s.
"Now, let’s look at those same convert baptisms figures as a percentage of total reported Church membership. . . .
"LDS Church Convert Baptisms: Percentage of Total Membership
"When looking at the growth rate of convert baptisms, we see a definite downward trend. The recurring peak in the early 1990s appears here, too, but an even higher peak happens in 1980--showing just how effective, proportionally, the Mormon missionary effort was from the late 1970s until the early 1980s.
"Another way of saying this is that each year it’s probable that a smaller percentage of Mormons will be new converts than in previous years. This is pretty easily shown on a graph. In any given year, a certain percentage of Mormons will have been baptized within the past five years and we can display this trend, year by year, with [another] graph.
"LDS Church Percentage of Recent Converts (Past Five Years)
"Over time, new converts are becoming rarer in the Mormon Church. In 1980, nearly 1/5 of all members had been baptized within the previous five years. By 1990, the number had fallen to about 1/6 and in 2012 fewer than 1/10 of members had been baptized within the past five years. The opposite is true, too; More than 90% of all current LDS Church members have been Mormon for over five years (92.3%).
"Children of Record and 8-Year-Old Baptisms
"In the LDS Church, children are eligible for baptism when they turn eight years old. For statistical purposes, the Church has historically separated convert baptisms from child baptisms, probably to differentiate growth from missionary work versus growth from natural population growth.
"There’s some statistical trouble [with this approach], though, because the LDS Church hasn’t always counted growth from reproduction the same way through the years.
"In 1970--which is our statistical starting year for this study--the LDS Church reported the number of 8-year-old baptisms, as well as the number of children of record. I assume these two numbers show the number of children added to the official member tally (8-year-old baptisms) and the number of new babies which were blessed but not added to the membership tally (children of record).
"This reporting changed for 1984 when the LDS Church began reporting only 8-year-old baptisms and stopped reporting children of record. This continued until 1997 when the reporting reversed and the Church started reporting children of record and not specifically 8-year-old baptisms. This reporting continues from 1997 forward. It’s unclear whether the Church merely changed the title of the statistic or if they actually began counting a different set of people. We don’t know so we won’t assume that we know what’s going on. For our purposes here, we’ll only look at the numbers.
"To reflect these statistical inconsistencies, [a graph with more than one line is needed]. One line . . . shows the number of children of record, while the other line . . . shows the number of 8-year-olds baptized. . . .
"LDS Church Children of Record and 8-Year-Olds Baptized
"To be really honest, I don’t know what’s going on. There’s no way to be certain. There are a few things we can gather, however.
"First, things are trending upward for both metrics indicating that there are more children in the LDS Church each year, regardless of their classification.
"Second, it’s pretty apparent that the . . . line [for](children of record) . . . is unrelated to the other lines. It’s on a whole different trajectory and, to make things worse, it just stops until 1997 when the [children-of-record] term comes back but seems to more closely correspond to the '8-year-olds baptized' line.
"It seems far more plausible that the LDS Church may have just changed the terminology for 8-year-old baptisms to children of record and the [children of record line] in 1997 is just a continuation of the [same] line before it. It’s a little strange, though, because the line gets a lot more erratic and choppier after the change. Maybe that’s just real numbers and, again, we’ll never know for sure.
"One other thing we can know is how these rather inconsistent numbers look as a growth rate. This is the percentage of total membership that’s either an 8-year-old baptism or a change in children of record. . . .
"LDS Church Growth Rate for 8-Year-Olds Baptized and Children of Record
"Things are clear as mud here, too, but we can draw a lot of the same conclusions as before.
"First, we’re seeing an overall declining growth rate for these figures, regardless of how they’re classified. We can be quite confident in saying there are an increasing number of children in the LDS church each year but each year the percentage of the membership that is either an 8-year-old baptism or an increase in children of record is smaller.
"Now, I want to point out some interesting statistical anomalies found in the data. The . . . graph [for] Year-Over-Year Change in Membership shows the yearly difference in the total number of LDS Church members. I got this number by simply subtracting the previous year’s membership total from each year’s membership total since 1970. (For 1970, I subtracted 1969′s total, which is available from the LDS Church).
"Each year, the number is positive--meaning that each year there are more Mormons than the year before (at least since 1970) and we know how many more there are. We also have conversion and children of record statistics so we can readily compare conversion details to membership numbers as a whole.
"[A following] graph shows how the conversion numbers break down. . . . From the second graph in this entry (Year-Over-Year Change in Membership) we know how many more LDS Church members there are that year versus the year before; and for each year shown [on this graph], we’ll call that 100% since it’s the total growth.
"To break down this yearly 100%, we’ll take the percentage of the growth that’s due to convert baptisms [and to] 8-year-olds baptized and the total of the two. Together, each year, the two statistics should add up to about 100%, allowing some wiggle room for members who have died or left. However, these totals shouldn’t be too far from 100% because, well, you can’t convert more than 100% of the members added and you can’t add members that you don’t baptize.
"The green bars show the percentage of the total from convert baptisms; the blue bars show the percentage of the total from increase of children of record or 8-year-olds baptized; and the orange bars show the total of the two compared to the reported change in membership. Please note that before 1997 I counted 8-year-old baptisms for the blue bars and after 1997 I counted children of record because I didn’t have much choice. . . .
"LDS Church Growth Breakdown
"[THe graph showing these numbers] uncovers some very interesting anomalies in the data.
"For instance, in 1973 the Mormon Church membership was reported to have increased to 3,306,658 from 3,218,908 the previous year--a difference of 87,750 members. But the Church also reported that they had baptized 80,128 new converts and 52,789 8-year-olds (totaling 132,917)--or over 150% of the membership increase that year. That leaves 45,167 members unaccounted for. When looking again at the graph Year-Over-Year Change in Membership, we see that 1973 is the lowest year for increase in membership--the only year lower than 100,000.
"We see this same phenomenon quite a few times in the graph.
"In 2011, there were 91,350 members unaccounted for. Again, perhaps these members died or left but there’s a notable discrepancy between baptisms and increase in total church membership.
"Even stranger are years like 1989--when the total number of baptisms falls short of the Mormon Church membership increase for that year. The LDS Church shows a membership increase of 587,234 in 1989 but there were only 318,940 convert baptisms and 75,000 8-year-old baptisms--meaning that 193,294 members were added to the membership total that weren’t baptized.
"We see the same thing in 1990, in 1999 and in several years in the 1970s and 80s. The phenomenon hasn’t occurred in the past ten years.
"It’s anyone’s guess as to what’s going on. Perhaps the LDS Church has had a difficult time keeping such vast records straight and the numbers show errors in their collected data or perhaps the Church has made some calculation mistakes in their yearly General Conference reports over the years.
"We know with certainty that a number of Mormon Church members die each year and those decreases could be reflected [in this analysis=.
"We don’t know whether the LDS Church removes resigned members or excommunicated members from their tally but if they do, that could explain some of the discrepancies.
"The LDS Church is growing. The Church adds a significant number of converts and baptized children to its membership total each year. From the first graph [in this analysis], you can see a strikingly linear growth chart showing that LDS Church growth is robust and will likely continue indefinitely. Even so, there is a notable decrease in the overall LDS Church growth rate, both among converts baptized and among children baptized."
("LDS Church Growth Statistics, Anomalies Since 1970," posted by 'RoundelMike," complete with graphs, 7 May 2013, at: http://roundelmike.com/2013/05/lds-church-growth-statistics-anomalies-since-1970/
Let's keep things in perspective--one provided by none other than Marlin Jensen, the Mormon Church's official historian, who blabbed the truth at the expense of the LDS Church's official fiction to a group of Mormon college students, faculty and other Church members at Weber State University.
As reported by the Reuters News Agency:
"A religious studies class late last year at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, was unusual for two reasons:
"The small group of students, faculty and faithful there to hear Mormon Elder Marlin Jensen were openly troubled about the future of their Church, asking hard questions.
"And Jensen was uncharacteristically frank in acknowledging their concerns.
"Did the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints know that members are 'leaving in droves?' a woman asked.
"'We are aware,' said Jensen, according to a tape recording of his unscripted remarks. 'And I'm speaking of the 15 men that are above me in the hierarchy of the Church. They really do know and they really care,' he said. . . .
"Jensen, the Church's official historian, would not provide any figures on the rate of defections but he told Reuters that attrition has accelerated in the last five or 10 years, reflecting greater secularization of society"
("Special Report: Mormonism Besieged by the Modern Age," by Peter Henderson and Kristina Cooke, Reuters News Agency, 31 January 2012, at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/31/us-mormonchurch-idustre80t1cm20120131
The Mormon Church knows and cares, all right.
So much so that it's desperately fudging the numbers. Math for the Myth. It all adds up to subtracting credibility.