Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ratio of Church Membership to Country Population

I recently provided the ratio of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to the population of each state in the United States. This post can be found if you click here and includes analysis of how this ratio has changed since the end of the year of 2000. The number provided for the ratio is how many people from the given country there must be for one LDS member. For example, the ratio for members to the population in the United States is 1 in 51, or about 2%.

I thought that it would be beneficial to discuss this topic internationally. This post divides the nations of the world where the Church publicly reports membership totals by geographical region. Click on the tables to make them larger.





North America


South America

The Church used to frequently publish or refer to Church membership to population in Ensign articles and in the Church Almanac, but as of the past five years or so we have not see reference to this statistic with regularity. The Church Almanac eliminated this statistic last year.
We should ask the question why membership ratios are or are not important. I believe it provides an insight into how prevalent the Church is in the country. Entire provinces, states, islands, or regions do not have a Church presence in most countries with more than 1,000 people per Church member. These countries also tend to have large urban population centers with a very limited Church presence, like in Europe, where the Church may or may not have a strong foundation. Africa would definitely fall into category (with the exception of Cape Verde).

As for the nations that have about one Church member per 100 people, these are nations that tend to have a well established Church presence in major cities. Much of Latin America falls into this category. These countries will usually have multiple stakes in cities with a couple hundred thousand inhabitants or more and almost never have cities with over 50,000 inhabitants without a Church presence. A few nations in Asia are developing this characteristic, such as the Philippines and Mongolia, but as a whole Asia would definitely fall into the "one member in a 1,000 or more people" category.

Nations that have one Church member out of 50 or so people share many of the same characteristics as nations with one Church member out of a 100 people. The big difference between the two is that the Church is much more established in rural areas in countries where there are 50 inhabitants per one LDS member.

Lastly nations which have one member of the Church per 10 or fewer inhabitants are nations in which not only are the urban population centers pillars of strength for the Church, but rural areas as well. Most of the South Pacific and the Rocky Mountain Region of the United States are examples of these type of countries. There are rarely any towns over 1,000 inhabitants without a congregation of the Church.

As members of the Church, we follow the commandments of participating in missionary work and raising families which result in the ratio of members of the Church to the population decreasing. Areas of the world which are seeing this ratio fall the fastest (or are seeing the percentage of those who belong to the Church increase the fastest) are in the Caribbean, Asia and Africa. I imagine that we will see a couple "one member per 100 people" countries in Africa in about 10 years, which will likely be found in West Africa. Nearly every country in the world which a Church presence is seeing the percentage of Church members in the population increasing.


Anonymous said...

Thanks. This is very interesting.

In your 1st paragraph you mention but don't link to the breakdown by states.

Brandon Plewe said...

In our forthcoming Atlas of LDS History we are using a similar breakdown:
Stage VI: >50% LDS (Utah): The Church is the dominant cultural force, every village has a unit and small towns have stakes.
Stage V: >20% LDS (e.g. Idaho, Tonga): The Church is a major presence, everyone is well aware of it; every county has multiple units and rural regional towns have stakes
Stage IV: >2% LDS (e.g., California, Chile): Everyone has heard of the church, most people know a member personally; any city over 20K has a stake
Stage III: >0.2% LDS (e.g., Eastern US, Brazil, UK): Most people have heard of the church, but are not well-acquainted with it; stakes in medium-size cities (e.g. state capitals), missionaries reaching into rural areas
Stage II: >0.02% LDS and/or a stake (e.g., most of Europe and Asia): Church is permanently established, with at least 1 stake in the capitol and other major cities. Branches in regional cities, rural area is largely untouched.
Stage I: no stakes, branches in major cities only, but church has an official missionary presence.
Stage 0a: no official presence, no proselytizing missionaries, but branches (primarily expatriates) in major cities.
Stage 0: no presence whatsoever.

Of course, my thresholds are as arbitrary as yours, since there is a continuum of strength, but it seems to be meaningful.

The percentage/ratio alone doesn't tell the full story, because there are small island nations in the pacific and caribbean where the percentage is larger than, say, Europe, but the total membership is still too small to be very strong.

This is a useful tool, however, because you can track the growth of a country and see how if compares to patterns of other countries, even at other times, which helps make predictions.

Matt said...

Interesting that you have already developed a system that is close to the one I wrote about. I would say one of the greatest areas untouched by the Church are those rural areas that lack towns or small cities, like in Africa or less developed countries. We are seeing the Church make great progress in these areas in Nigeria and in the past year Ghana however.

Eric said...

That's all well and good that you list the number of total members in each area, but that doesn't tell the whole story.

As any missionary knows, only about 1/3 of baptized converts remain active in the faith. Many people who go inactive soon after their baptism don't consider themselves members of the church. for example: The church claims about 6 million members in the United States, but according to respondents in a recent Pew Forum poll, only about 3.2 million people in the U.S. called themselves Mormon/LDS.

What I would be curious to see is the total number of active members, and total number of temple recommend holding members in each area. That will tell you the real story of how the church is performing around the world.