April 2007 LDS General Conference Statistics: No Unhallowed Hand Shall Stop the Work from Progressing

March 31, 2007
By

LDS Church stats for 2006 are out, and the story to me is: growth is strong.

  • 44 new stakes
  • 3 new missions
  • 388 new wards and branches
  • 307,737 more members
  • An increase in 29,737 more convert baptisms than in the previous year
  • 1,104 more missionaries than we had last year
  • 5.1 baptisms per full time missionary — an increase over 4.7 from the previous 2 years.
  • A few other stats listed below.
  • Raw stats can be found here.

Finally, I do wish that they would publish activity rates. I also wish that the church would allow external auditors to publish public financial reports. But that’s just me.

Anyway, enjoy!!! Feel free to discuss at T&S, or at Mormon Mentality or here.

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43 Responses to April 2007 LDS General Conference Statistics: No Unhallowed Hand Shall Stop the Work from Progressing

  1. jose
    March 31, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    It is nice to see that the stakes grew last year at the highest rate we’ve seen in the last 8 years. The number of converts per missionary has jumped out of its six-year lull. The missionaries, though they increased, are still at the lowest rate as a percentage of members in 30 yrs.

  2. Equality
    March 31, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    John,

    How does the 300K new member number break down by convert/child of record?

  3. zionssuburb
    March 31, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    John, This data would clean up well by using a different vertical axis numbers. For Instance, set the data labels for the members per unit x axis from 400 to 600 instead of 0 to 600. Baptisms per missionary from 4 to 7 instead of 0 to 7. Etc..

  4. March 31, 2007 at 2:05 pm

    Would you know the stats that are reflected exclusively over what the progress was in America – 2006?

  5. John Dehlin
    March 31, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    Zionssuburb,

    Doesn’t that skew the visual by over-emphasizing the change/differences?

  6. John Dehlin
    March 31, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Todd–Can you give me a bit more of an explanation of what you’re looking for?

  7. Paul
    March 31, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    Regarding the new members this year:

    In 2006
    - 94k children
    - 272k converts

    8 year ago, there were 76k children added. If they were all baptized along with the converts this year, then 272k + 76k = 348k new members.

    You could assume that ~110k LDS died last year (death rate +/- .0087.) Added members should then be 348k – 110k = 248k. The actual number reported was 277k which is pretty close. There is some moderate room in these figures for resigned and excommunicated members.

    The best indicators of activity are the number of stakes and the number of members per unit. The church is less likely to form a new stake without adequate leadership and activity.

  8. m&m
    March 31, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    I was interested also to see that the convert baptism as a standalone is 30,000-ish higher than the past three years. Thanks for pulling these stats together, BTW!

  9. ann
    March 31, 2007 at 4:37 pm

    John, can you please e-mail me the raw data? Not the differences or the calculated values, but the straight numbers?

  10. HAL
    March 31, 2007 at 4:48 pm

    I dont want to sound Anti, but it seems to me that over the last 10 years (using what limited numbers are available) that the death / excomminication / resignation rate among Mormons has been amazing low.

    I have read plenty of explanations where the church must be intentionally cooking the books and the arguments are compelling from a math standpoint.

    Does anyone here have an alternative explanation?

  11. March 31, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Paul:

    The following is from the first link below. (There is no need to add the 76k from 8 years ago):
    “An official in the Church Office Building reports that for approximately the last 30 years “children of record” have been included in the membership total, not children who are baptized at age 8. In other words, children blessed in Sacrament Meeting and children age 7 or less of converts are immediately included in the aggregate membership total. So for purposes of the church’s increase, the statistic titled “increase in children of record” should be considered in the total, not “eight-year-olds baptized,” “eight-year-old children of record baptized,” or “children of record baptized.”

    In 1996, the church only reported “eight-year-olds baptized.” From 1992 to 1995, it only reported “eight-year-old children of record baptized.” From 1989 to 1991, it only reported “children of record baptized.” These are, of course, merely different words for the same statistic, but again, the LDS Church is not adding these particular numbers to its total–it is adding “increase in children of record,” a statistic that it didn’t report during any of these years.”

    John:

    Any time Church membership growth statistics are presented, the following webpages should also be cited to give context to the numbers:

    “Does the LDS Church Really have 12 million members?” (http://www.mormoninformation.com/stats.htm )

    SLTribune – “Keeping Members a Challenge” (http://www.sltrib.com/ci_2890645 )

  12. ann
    March 31, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    OK, I got most of the raw data from someplace else. All I’m really missing is the actual number of baptisms of children of record, and the number of districts. Anybody?

  13. March 31, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    I decided to expand the first chart on (http://www.mormoninformation.com/stats.htm ) to see how the numbers turned out.

    By Dec. 31, 2005, the Church claimed 12,560,869 members. By Dec. 31, 2006, the Church claimed 12,868,606. That is a net gain of 307,737. Convert baptisms claimed for 2006 is 272,845. I have not yet seen the claimed increase in children of record. Without that there is no way to calculate the gross increase and the number of member loss due to death, crossing the 110 year old barrier, resignation, and excommunication.

    Did they report the increase in children of record in conference itself? If not, this is the first year they have not. That makes me wonder if they have figured out that we can calculate member loss with it and they don’t want anyone to know the extent of the member loss.

  14. March 31, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    The number of stakes has increased less than 1.63%. That’s higher than the last two years, which shows how anemic growth really is.

    For a comprehensive audit of the Annual Statistical Report, check this post at FLAK, which demonstrates that thousands of Mormons must have resurrected between 1973 and 2005 for the numbers to add up.

    I have discussed these results with professional demographers of religion who have confirmed that their own findings match mine.

    I am afraid that the LDS Church does not have the capcity to count its members properly.

  15. March 31, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    Well, it appears that they did report increase in children of record. The claimed increase in children of record is 94,006. That makes the gross increase 366,851, and member loss due to all causes at 59,114.

    Up to and including 1983 the church published its death rate per 1,000, and it hovered around 4 per 1,000. If we assume that stayed about the same, then 51,474 people died. That leaves 7,640 members leaving the church, not by death. I think that number is much lower than the actual number of non-death losses.

  16. john dehlin
    March 31, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    7640 actually sounds right to me.

    What data do you have that the number is bigger?

    I sometimes think that DAMU folks tend to overstate the # of disaffections and resignations.

    10,000 per year seems like the max, no?

  17. HAL
    March 31, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    10,000 resignations a year would not surprize me. I know that some (DAMU) do believe the number to be much higher but the data is spurious.

    But 4 / 1000 death rate? Why do I think that this seems low? I thought that the death rate was a little higher than that in the US. I would think the death rate would be much higher than that in other countries where the church claims large membership tallies.

    I really appreciate this dialouge. It is on point but not pointed.

  18. Paul
    March 31, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    Hueffenhardt, thanks for the info on the children of record.

    Do you have an official reference for this definition? Who is the official in the COB who is the source for that information and in what context was it given?

    Like John, I wouldn’t be surprised by ~10k disaffections. I think the vast majority of ex-LDS members go inactive as opposed to resigning.

    However, my gut feel is that the sum of excommunications plus resignations could be higher. I have no scientific basis for this but everyone knows someone who has been excommunicated

  19. March 31, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    John, the 7640 number for formal resignations might be right, it might not. Without full disclosure from the church, we’ll never know. In my own admittedly anecdotal experience in the DAMU, the number of people who formally resign compared to people who no longer believe/attend is small. Most of that is probably due to family pressure. The reasons that people are fearful to resign membership in an organiztion they don’t believe in due to family pressures is an interesting topic, and one I wish you would explore. Anyway, back on topic, for every 7640 people who go through the process to write a letter and get off the books, there are probably many tens of thousands who are still technically members, but don’t consider themsleves mormons, at least in their belief and/or attendance. Wouldn’t activity statistics be a much more reliable indicator of church “growth”? Why doesn’t the church release those numbers?

  20. mistaben
    April 1, 2007 at 12:09 am

    My impression is that many, if not all, of these numbers have been harvested from the annual statistical report. Could it be that they find they’re off by a few thousand each year, after issuing the public report, and then make internal corrections that are reflected in the following year’s public report?

    That may partially explain some of the wacky numbers…

  21. April 1, 2007 at 4:19 am

    The slightly higher members per unit statistic could point to a slightly higher inactivity rate, couldn’t it?

  22. Left Field
    April 1, 2007 at 7:45 am

    Efforts to analyze the membership numbers generally make the mistaken assumption that baptisms and increase in children of record are the only sources of membership increase. Another source of increase is the readmission of members who were previously excommunicated or who resigned. These are not counted as converts, but they would be added back into the membership totals. The CHI (page 253) states, “Former members who are readmitted by baptism after excommunication or name removal are not converts.”

    Has anyone ever bothered to ask the membership department for an explanation of the years in which anomalous numbers were reported? It would seem rather bizarre that at random intervals every 10-15 years, the church just decides to report some nonexistent members. For example, between 1998 and 1999, the church reported an increase from 10.35 million to 10.75 million. Given the reported baptisms and children of record (and the unreported readmissions, deaths, excommunications, and resignations) we might have expected something like perhaps 10.70-10.71 million. The critics would have us believe that the church was embarrassed to report a mere 10.70 million in 1999, and just decided to increase the number to 10.75. In other years, the church didn’t seem to mind reporting a 350,000 increase (or less); what would possibly be the motivation for tacking on 40-50,000 bogus members in that particular year?

    More plausible explanations for the numbers would include such factors as: (1) a change in the way membership is counted (such as the age at which a person is presumed dead if no death has been reported, or the time that unbaptized children remain on the records); (2) a correction of a previous error; (3) an unusually high number of readmissions; and/or (4) the discovery of previously unreported membership records.

    Since 1973, there have been 4 to 5 years in which the reported membership seems considerably higher than would be predicted from the reported increase. But during the same period, there are 4 to 5 years in which the reported membership is considerably lower than would be predicted. It looks to me like they have to make occasional adjustments and corrections (which result in a decrease as often as an increase) and that some relevant parameters fluctuate from year to year. It does not look like a systematic attempt to inflate the numbers.

  23. April 1, 2007 at 7:46 am

    My impression is that many, if not all, of these numbers have been harvested from the annual statistical report. Could it be that they find they’re off by a few thousand each year, after issuing the public report, and then make internal corrections that are reflected in the following year’s public report?

    That may partially explain some of the wacky numbers…

    That’s what I suspected. So I called the National Council of Churches because that’s who the BBC, for example, cites when it reports the erroneous claim that we are the fastest growing Church in the United States.

    However, the LDS Church does not publish corrected numbers. The LDS Almanach numbers are just as flawed as the Annual Statistical Report.

    The NCC statistician in New York told me that all their numbers are provided by the various faith organizations (I am sorry that I forgot his name but anyone can call him at the NCC office in New York).

    One of the demographers claimed that the LDS Church had shared proprietary data with him that still does not add up. Unfortunately, I did not get to see that myself since the data is proprietary.

    In light of these reports, I am afraid that the Annual Statistical Report is it. There probably are no better numbers.

  24. April 1, 2007 at 7:55 am

    Anyway, back on topic, for every 7640 people who go through the process to write a letter and get off the books, there are probably many tens of thousands who are still technically members, but don’t consider themsleves mormons, at least in their belief and/or attendance.

    I agree that the resignations are the tip of the iceberg. There appear to be four layers.

    Top layer: People who formally resign.
    Second layer: People who don’t resign because they consider resignation a validation of LDS authority.
    Third layer: Legacy Mormons who don’t resign because of family relationships.
    Fourth layer: People who just melt away.

    The last layer includes the bulk of the “converts” such as children, teenage women, and psychiatric cases. Other groups that leave in big numbers include people who resent tight social control and who are committed to the values of liberal democracy.

  25. jose
    April 1, 2007 at 8:41 am

    Paul,
    To help validate Hueffenhardt’s contention, look at the last time Children of Record, 8yr old baptism and convert baptism were all reported in GC: 1988. The net membership increased 280k from 1987. The sum of CoR and converts is 350k, that leaves a 70k loss of membership from all sources. If 8yr baptisms are mistakenly included (remember that these are already children of record meaning their names are included on the records of the church) in membership growth, the gross increase swells to 423k meaning a loss of 143k! Therefore, either the reported membership includes CoR already or the Church loses 30% of its membership increase each year to death, name removal (voluntary or not), and 110 yr threshold.

  26. jose
    April 1, 2007 at 8:54 am

    I think the biggest anomaly occurred with the 1989 data where church membership increase doubled over the previous year while convert baptisms only increased 25%. (This is the first of several years where Children of record were not reported.) I assume CoR did not jump 250% in one year. Maybe a change in accounting practices or a correction as mistaben speculates? Either way, an outside observer will be less perplexed by the church statistical data than in examining my checkbook.

  27. Sampson
    April 1, 2007 at 9:51 am

    There is a good article about growth numbers within the LDS Church by Rick Phillips called “Rethinking the International Expansion of Mormonism”. I think it opens up quite a bit the numbers and how they might be misleading… Just in case any of you have missed it. I don’t know if it is found free anywhere on the internet though?

  28. John Dehlin
    April 1, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Sorry for the delay, Ann, but here it is:

    LDS Membership Data

  29. April 1, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    7640 actually sounds right to me.

    That figure would also have to include the children that drop off the record when not bpatized by their ninth birthday. In light of this fact, 7640 is not plausible.

  30. ann
    April 1, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    Children of record who aren’t baptized are listed on church roles (though not counted for statistical purposes) until they are 18. It is possible that they continue to be listed as members for membership purposes, especially since the church doesn’t present baptisms of children of record any more.

  31. April 1, 2007 at 10:26 pm

    Didn’t Grant Palmer make a claim in John’s podcast to have inside sources at the COB that indicated the formal resignations were something like 100,000? Anyone else remember this?

  32. Equality
    April 2, 2007 at 8:34 am

    I think the membership number is not all that helpful, for the reasons that are illustrated in many of the comments in this thread. I agree that one good measure of the growth/stength of the church is the number of stakes, assuming that the number of members/stake does not change (probably not a valid assumption). That is, the number of stakes is not a good measure id the number of members per stake goes down. The church could double the number of stakes by halving the number of members per stake, for example.

    I think the best statistics for showing the strength of the church would be number of Melchizidek Prioesthood holders year over year; number of temple recommend holders year over year; and sacrament meeting attendance numbers year over year. The church keeps close track of all these numbers, and they are not subject to the same kinds of vagaries that plague the membership numbers. I would think that if the church were “rolling forth” triumphantly, these numbers would be touted. That the church does not disclose these numbers makes me wonder if the stone isn’t actually clunking forth rather than rolling with momentum.

    Anecdotally, I offer this as support for Domokun’s assertion that most disaffected members do not formally resign. For example, let me just name some prominent denizens of the DAMU: Mayan Elephant, Desert Vulture, Domokun, Juggler Vain, Lunar Quaker, Texas Guy, and myself. Of these seven rather vocal critics of the church, only one has officially resigned membership in the church. I imagine that among disaffected members who do not participate in Internet message boards and blogs, the percentages are not likely to be any greater than this little sample. The point is that total membership numbers really don’t tell much about the strength of the church. Even if the number of converts went way up last year, how many of these converts are still active? How many identify as Mormon? How many will be active in 2, 5, or 10 years? John, as you well know, the number of baptisms can be very misleading (soccer baptisms, anyone?)

    Having said all that, I agree with those who say that there are folks in the DAMU who greatly exaggerate the extent of disaffection within the ranks of Mormonism, and I for one do not expect the church to implode or die or anything of the sort. It’s not going anywhere. But then, neither are the Seventh-day Adventists or Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose membership growth seems to give them at least as much of a claim on being the “stone cut out of the mountain” as the Mormons.

  33. Matt Thurston
    April 2, 2007 at 10:51 am

    I’ve seen people use the following methodology to calculate excommunications and/or formal membership withdrawals:

    Supposedly there is a department at COB that does nothing but process formal resignations. According to “anonymous inside sources,” the number of people working in this department is known, and the average length of time it takes to process a membership withdrawal is also known (about 30 minutes). It is also assumed that these Resignation Processors do nothing else but process resignations. If all of the above is true, one could calculate the number of formal resignations processed each year.

    Personally, I find the above methodology rife with speculative holes. In other words, it begs more questions than it answers.

    I’d agree with Equality that church attendance, number of Priesthood holders, and number of Temple Recommend holders are better indicators of church activity.

    Number of Priesthood holders is the weakest of the three. For one, it excludes women. The relationship of active men to active women in the church is not one-to-one. Furthermore, what does it take for a man to lose his priesthood? Ostensibly, my two long-inactive brothers are still counted as priesthood holders. One’s priesthood is not a renewable “status,” if you will, not like church attendance or temple recommend holder status. Or am I missing something?

    Church attendance is a good indicator of the number of “loyal” or “active” Mormons, but it doesn’t say anything about belief. It captures attending agnotistic and non-believing new order mormons along with their believing counterparts.

    Temple Recommend Holder status is by far the best indicator of the health of the church, or the best measure of the number of true Mormons. This is becasue it is a renewable status (therefore, information is more or less always up to date) and because it better measures belief and fidelity. It doesn’t capture children and teens, which is a appropriate because children/teen membership is largely dependent on parental influence or pressure.

  34. Equality
    April 2, 2007 at 11:42 am

    Matt,

    I agree with you. What the Melch. priesthood number gives you is an indication of how many males are leaving or going inactive before they turn 19 and how many converts are going inactive before they get the Melch. priesthood. The number of Melch. priesthood holders ought to, on average, go up about 1/2 as fast as the growth in church membership. If it doesn’t (and it doesn’t) you could get a rough idea of retention rates. But I agree, the TR number is probably the best indicator. Also, number of stakes is pretty good as well, if the number of members per stake is kept constant. If members per unit is increasing, though, it seems like the increase in stakes/wards would actually be masking growth. Of course, it also could be intrepreted as an indication that the number of actives per unit is down, so you need more members to staff and split wards.

  35. April 2, 2007 at 6:42 pm

    If one is worried about institutional viability, it will eventually be understood that the irrational exuberance over foreign membership numbers was not only a distraction for the LDS church, it was (and still is) a liability. (By that, I mean from the perspective of the institutional sustainability, the massive investment will never have a commensurate return. Obviously, from God’s perspective, the worth of every soul is no doubt great regardless of whether or not he or she can help the institution sustain itself.)

    In the long term, the main numbers to be looking at are tithe-payers in North America by age group. Of course, we don’t have those numbers; but the most interesting information to learn would be whether the LDS church is growing in terms of total North American tithe-payers the 25-45 age group, or if it is only achieving replacement rate or less in that group.

  36. April 2, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    John Hamer, it’s true “we” don’t have the number of tithe-payers in North America by age group, but as a former ward financial clerk, I am 100% sure that “they” have those numbers. Why don’t they report them?

  37. April 3, 2007 at 10:05 am

    Domokun: As with everything it does, the institution of the LDS church is in a position where it continues to do the same thing it’s always done — even in the face of diminishing returns — because it lacks the capacity to change course. Back when the institution was truly achieving phenomonal growth where it counted (i.e., in North America), it seized on the narrative of that growth as a public-relations panacaea. Overuse of the “growth” narrative as a source of legitimacy has had the unfortunate effect of addicting the institution to the narrative.

  38. Lisa
    April 3, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    I came across this sight will looking for something else and having read through the comments, I have just one question – does all this really matter in the grand scheme of things and bring a person spiritually closer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?

  39. Equality
    April 3, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Lisa,

    I have asked myself the same question when perusing lds.org.

    Did asking that question make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

  40. Mayan Elephant
    April 4, 2007 at 10:18 am

    can we cuss here? i just typed a response that got wiped out when i hit submit comment? now, i am cussing. a lot. really really really bad words.

    there are approximately 3,400 stakes and districts in the church. and we are debating whether 10,000 resignations or excommunications is too high? gimme a break. thats only 2-3 per STAKE per year. I would be very surprised if there were stakes out there that were excommunicating, involuntarily or otherwise, fewer than 20 people in a decade. That is not that many at all. But this number now has to include the 9 year olds that are in the address unknown file and 9 year olds that dont get baptized, even if their address is known. I suspect that number, over 10 years, for any given stake, could approach 10 or more. In international units, where families with little kids were baptized, a record was made for the child, and the parents never ever came back, the number of kids turning 9 has got to be a significant number.

    so, thats my guess. 10K resignations/excommunications, out of 13 million people, Easy. Fortunately, they arent all goofing off in Equality’s crew.

  41. Trevor
    April 5, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    I have no particular comment about the statistics. I have no personal stake in how the Church uses numbers to represent itself. I will say, however, that while I agree that the title of this post is appropriate for the subject, its tone makes me extremely uncomfortable. Who is to say whose hand is hallowed or not? How should we read this statement, as arrogance, triumphalism, or an expression of faith? I am uncertain, but I see the possibility of misusing it.

    By the way, I am not ascribing any particular intent to John. I am speaking in broader terms about the use and interpretation of this verbiage.

  42. Equality
    April 5, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Trevor,

    I honestly thought John was being ironic with the title, until he characterized growth as strong in the opening line. I think perphaps John was caught up in the exuberance of the moment.

  43. ann
    April 6, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    #40 now, i am cussing. a lot. really really really bad words.
    No! I don’t believe it!

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