Saturday, April 4, 2009

Statistical Report 2008

The following information was presented in the Saturday afternoon session of the 179th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints portraying the status of the Church as of December 31st, 2008.
  • 13,508,509 members
  • 265,593 converts baptized in 2008
  • 123,502 new children of record for 2008
  • 2,818 stakes
  • 348 missions
  • 622 districts
  • 28,109 wards and branches
  • 52,494 missionaries serving

Membership growth overall slowed slightly during 2008 as a whole, and we saw some 14,000 less converts baptized compared to 2007. The number of congregations in the Church increased by only 282 in 2008, the lowest increase since 2003. Stakes increased by only 28, off of a nine year high of 45 the year before. Districts increased by four. The number of missionaries serving fell by only a couple hundred, but was reported to be currently around 53,000 in conference. It is saddening that the number of congregations has not increased worldwide by a greater number and evidences that inactivity and retention problems remain in much of the world where the Church is established.

The most surprising statistic given for me for 2008 was the increase of children of record. This was the largest increase we have seen in this statistic since 1982! In the 1990s, increase of children of record was typically between 70 and 80 thousand. Since 2003 this statistic has been between 90 and 100 thousand. This likely indicates that families in the Church are being better established outside of the United States.

Lastly I wanted to focus on a statistic which can be derived from the data provided by the Church. If you take the difference of membership in 2007 and 2008, you will come up with 314,510 members. However, if you add the number of converts and increase of children of record for 2008, you get a total of 389,095. So where did the 74,585 members go?

There are several reasons for this discrepancy. First off, some of these members have passed away and are no longer included in the number of members reported by the Church at conference. Secondly, some of these members were excommunicated from the Church. Some of these 74,585 members also voluntarily asked for the Church to remove their names from the Church's membership records. This number might also result from the Church maintaining its membership records and deleting duplicate or inaccurate records. Keep in mind that Church records in the United States and Canada are much more organized and up-to-date than much of the rest of the world, where most of the members of the Church now live. Believing that the Church is manipulating these numbers to make growth look less modest is unfounded and superficial.

The difference between the increase in membership and the sum of new converts and children of record tend to be between 30 and 80 thousand a year.


ed said...

"The most surprising statistic given for me for 2008 was the increase of children of record."

Indeed. This was so far out of line with earlier numbers, that it must be a result of some policy change in how things are counted. The idea that there was a real change of this magnitude is highly implausible.

(I'm not suggesting anything shady is going on here, there might well have be a perfectly good reason to change how children of record are counted. I hope we get the real story someday, but the church isn't always open about these things.)

James said...

What exactly are 'children of record'? I always thought they were 8 year old baptisms, but then I also heard that they were babies blessed.

Matt said...

Increase of children of record comes primarily through births or converts being baptized and bringing their children under age 8. There are a lot of things I do not know about this topic, but I believe that this statistic is representative of individuals from the two conditions I mentioned.

Pleather Murse said...

8 year olds are considered converts? I'm still not clear on this. That part of the stats always confused me. (I know children get baptized at 8, I just thought like James above that those were listed as children of record.)

Matt said...

If part of a family or an entire family joins the Church and if one of the children is eight years old, the child is a convert baptism. If the child has at least one parent who is a member of the Church and eight years old, then the new member is not considered a convert baptism. I know this can seem a little confusing.

On my mission, we baptized a mother of three when her children where all under the age of eight. Her oldest son was baptized less than a year later when he turned eight and was not a convert baptism because his mother was already a member of the Church.

Brandon Plewe said...

On Children of Record: This is still a bit of a mystery to me. Up until 1989, they reported both "Children Blessed" and "Children of Record Baptized." (i.e., 8yr olds) For the next 8 years, they only reported CoR Baptisms. Then starting in 1998, they've reported this "Increase in Children of Record." It sounds like blessings, but the numbers have been much more in line with the earlier baptism numbers. I wonder if the jump is a switch from baptisms to blessings--the difference is about right, based on the earlier statistics.

Brandon Plewe said...

On the growth residual: Until 1983, the annual report in conference included the death rate. That typically accounted for about 2/3 of the residual, presumably the other 1/3 being people leaving the church.