By Paul A. Douglas, Ph.D,
The growth of the Mormon Church is over, at least in the developed world. Members will continue to have children, and, for a time, the Church will continue to grow in the third world where people are more trusting, less skeptical and where the internet and the “alternative” facts it showcases have not yet taken a firm hold.
Also, almost all insightful criticism and commentary on Joseph Smith and the Church’s true historicity is chronicled primarily in the English language.
I believe this is the reason the Church is so aggressively building its secular empire – malls, raw land, TV stations, corporate ownership, and the like, to make up for the certain future downfall in tithing revenues.
The Church takes pride in projecting the image that it is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. An unknowing media repeats this mantra which is blatantly and demonstrably untrue.
There is a ‘law’ of influence and propaganda that is often referred to as the ‘Law of Conformity. It is the bandwagon effect.
If you are over thirty years of age, you can no doubt remember the McDonald’s restaurant signs the displayed ’30 Billion Served.’
The law of conformity is the psychological phenomenon where people reference the behavior of others to guide their own behavior. It suggests that people tend to want products and services that they believe are desired or possessed by other people.
It recognizes that we are social animals. We like what other people like. We reject and discard what other people reject and discard. We tend to do what other people do, to follow the crowd. We perceive behaviors as being more correct in a given situation to the degree that others view them as correct. This ‘law’ extends to what we wear, how fast we drive on the freeway, what we purchase, and yes, what Church we belong to.
This is precisely why the Church projects overly optimistic membership statistics.
Mormon demographist David Clark Knowlton in an article entitled, “How Many Members Are There Really?” shows below, just how exaggerated the memberships statistics the LDS Church reports are:
Members claimed by church (1999) 846,931
Mormons in official gov’t census (2000) 205,229
Phantom or ex-Mormons (difference) 641,702
Percentage of Mexican Mormons overstated by the LDS Church 76%
Members claimed by church (2001) 520,202
Mormons in official gov’t census (2002) 103,735
Phantom or ex-Mormons (difference) 416,467
Percentage of Chilean Mormons overstated by the LDS Church 80%
The Mormon Church is far from being the fastest growing religions in the world. The truth is that Islam is by far, the world’s fastest-growing faith. The number of Muslims on this planet will leap from 1.9 billion in 2017 to 2.76 billion by 2050. At that time, Muslims will make up nearly one-third of the world’s total projected population of about 9 billion people.
Regarding Christian denominations, the LDS Church’s 1.57% annual growth rate falls far short of many Christian Churches:
Church of God in Christ In 1965, the CoG had 425,000 members. In 2012, the membership was 5,499,875, an increase of 1,194 percent.
Presbyterian Church (in America) In 1973, the PCA had 41,232 members. In 2013, the membership was 367,033, an increase of 790 percent.
Assemblies of God In 1965, the AoG had 572,123 members. In 2013, the membership was 3,030,944, an increase of 430 percent.
Southern Baptist Convention In 1965, the SBC had 10,770,573 members. In 2013, the membership was 15,735,640, an increase of 46 percent.
LDS Church’s Internal Statistics The LDS Church’s own statistics tell the real story. While the Church publishes worldwide membership at 15 million, Cumorah.com reports that less than half of those counted identify themselves as Mormon.
Assuming that the number of people who are active would be lower than those who claim to be Mormon, hardly a heroic assumption, the actual functional membership, accounting for record resignations, is more realistically to be roughly 5 million.
The Church’s annual report, presented during General Conference indicate that the LDS Church grew by 261,862 people in 2015, a 1.7% annual increase. In 2016, it is even worse 1.59%. This represents the slowest growth in any year since 1937 (when it was 0.93%)
Incidentally, the population of the world is growing at a rate of 84 million people per year. So the world’s population is growing at a rate about 400% faster than the LDS Church or to put it another way, the Mormon Church is falling behind population growth by 83,700,000 each year.
With a growth rate of a paltry 1.59%, and convert baptisms down by more than 13%, as well as declining member activity rates – roughly 25% of young single adults it can be argued that the Mormon Church is actually in decline.
The chart below shows the Church’s current and projected membership statistics LDS Church Membership Statistics:
An Analysis of LDS Annual Statistical Reports (Revised March 31, 2017)
As the circle on the chart above shows, the real active LDS membership today is about 5 million. It is projected that in 2060, more than forty years from now, the active membership will remain at 5 million, as indicated by the square on the chart. Remember too, that these are the Church’s own predictions and are likely to be optimistic.
Why the stagnation?
Certainly, there has been a growth in secularism – it is almost trite to say that the fastest growing new religion is no religion! However, in the LDS Church’s case, I do not doubt that Google and the ubiquitous internet coupled with the Church’s continuing policy of just stonewalling and pretending there are no problems is also responsible for its waning growth.
Websites such as mormonthink.com, cesletter.org, exmormon.org and many others as well as blogs such as mormonstories.org, zelphontheshelf.com, mormoncurtain. org and lettertoanapostle.org are just a click away.
I think it is telling to look at the Google search statistics for each of the following queries:
Joseph Smith prophet – 496,000
Joseph Smith con man – 6,250,000
President Monson – 673,000
Grant Palmer – 42,800,000
Mormon Apostles – 584,000
MormonThink – 13,000,000
Inspiring LDS Stories – 704,000
CES letter – 19,100,000
Google Search Date: June 6, 2017
It is not hyperbole to say that young people are the future of the Mormon or any other Church. According to the 2011 Pew Research Center’s ‘Survey of American Mormons’ 51% of American converts are under the age of 25.
I think that failing a Mormon Reformation or a significant change to the Church’s dominant narrative, the future of Mormonism will, to say the least, be interesting.
There are a few major impediments to any future growth for the Mormon Church. First, Mormonism is an American religion.
Most people outside the USA are “turned off” by the style over substance, celebrity worshiping and brutally capitalistic US culture.
Second, the Church is out of step with social issues that the majority of people support – women’s’ rights, LGBTQ issues, medical marijuana, and euthanasia.
But, the greatest obstacle to the future of Mormonism is Joseph Smith. When people discover the real Joseph Smith, warts and all, it’s not pretty. As more non-Mormon historians turn their attention to Smith and the actual historicity of his foundation claims, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for the Church to put a positive spin on his actions, behavior, and character. You can run but never hide from the truth in the digital age.
© Copyright Paul A. Douglas, All rights reserved | http://www.padouglas.com | 800-222-4062