Thursday, February 12, 2015

Growth Rates of the LDS Church

I was looking at the membership stats of the church, wondering what the number might be when they announce it in this April's General Conference. The trend would suggest the number's going to be somewhere between 15,350,00-15,400,000. Then I started thinking about the percentages and here's some things I found interesting.

First, the membership number of the church is about double what it was in 1990.

Second, the growth rate of the church has fluxuated over the years. It started with 6 members in 1830 and grew to 17,881 by 1838. But after the collapse of the Kirtland Safety Society and many members of leadership left, including four of the Apostles and all three of the Three Witnesses. The church dropped for a bit but recovered and grew back up.

Another spot where there was actually a decline in church membership was the 1850's, when it went from 68,429 in 1854 to 55,236 in 1857, but that was the last year church membership was lower than the year before.

The rest of the 1800's saw slow growth, when the U.S. government was hounding the church and Wilford Woodruff finally had to give the Manifesto, ending polygamy. Even with some members spinning off from there to start their own polygamous sects, the main LDS church kept increasing its numbers.

The first half of the 20th century saw growth rates anywhere between 1%-5%, but it was when David O. McKay became prophet/president that the church saw at least 3% growth every year. 1961-1963 had over 7% per year. There was a good period in the late 1970's, and the mid to late 1980's were strong periods of growth for the church. 1989 had 8.74% growth, the best single year since Brigham Young's days.

1992-1999 saw growth rates between 2.8% to 3.88%. 1999 was the last year the church had at least 3%. 2000 to present day has been in the 2's. 2013 had 2.03% growth, and when you get down to those decimals, that would make 2013 the slowest year since 1947.

Now 2013 saw an increase of 299,972 members, so could it be the size of the numbers just makes the percentages smaller?

The growth of the church is still outpacing the population of the Earth, but to put it in perspective, 21 out of every 10,000 people on Earth are LDS.

Even if the church is growing at 2% a year, the world population is growing at 1.1% per year and is slowing down, ever so slightly. In fact, somewhere around 2110 is when it's expected for the world to not see an increase in its population, and by then, there'll be over 10.8 billion people on Earth. And LDS church membership, barring some major scandal or Second Coming, should be over 40 million.

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