Below are some statistics that indicate that the Church is growing.
- Increase in Membership: The Church counts baptized members and children on record (children under age eight within LDS families) on official church membership totals. In 2011, worldwide membership increased by 309,879 and grew at a rate of 2.19%. Within the past decade the Church has added 304,682 members a year on average. Year-end 2011 membership totals were 14,441,346. Membership statistics provide no insight into activity rates and whether nominal members affiliate as Latter-day Saints.
- Increase in Congregations: Congregations require certain numbers of active members to operate and divide to create new congregations once a single ward or branch can longer effectively administer an area. New congregations can also signify expansion of the Church into new areas where no congregation previously functioned. In 2011, the number of wards and branches increased by 124 or 0.43%. Within the past decade the number of congregations increased by 261 a year on average.
- Increase in Stakes: Like congregations, stakes require certain numbers of active members to operate and an increase in the number of stakes suggests an increase in active membership. In 2011, the number of stakes increased by 50, or 1.73%. The number of stakes increased by 33 a year on average within the past decade.
- Increase in Temples: General Authorities have indicated that the construction of new temples is warranted when church membership in a given area is determined adequate to staff and utilize a temple. Temples also require more mature and seasoned church membership to provide needed personnel to properly operate. In 2011, the Church announced nine new temples bringing the total number of temples operating, under construction, or announced to 166.
- Number of Full-Time Missionaries Serving: There remain fewer members serving full-time missions at present than 10 years ago. In 2011, there were 55,410 members serving full-time missions worldwide; approximately 6,000 fewer than in 2002. A growing church would suggest a steady annual increase in the number of members serving as full-time missionaries but a variety of factors have contributed to a decline in the number of full-time missionaries such as increased standards for full-time missionary service, convert retention problems for youth converts outside the United States, and the increasing influence of secularism on LDS populations in the United States. A slight reduction in the number of missionary training centers (MTCs) worldwide over the past decade also suggests stagnation as a growing church would need to increase the number of MTCs worldwide to accommodate a growing number of members serving full-time missions.
- Number of Cities Opening to Proselytism: Notwithstanding nearly 29,000 wards and branches worldwide, the Church in recent years only opens a few dozen new cities to proselytism a year. I have not completed an extensive analysis of the number of cities closed versus opened to proselytism year-to-year, but I would estimate that these numbers would nearly equal one another. A growing church would suggest a steady increase in new cities opened to proselytism notwithstanding some locations closing to missionary activity and wards or branches consolidating with neighboring units.
- Membership Growth Outpacing Congregational Growth: The worldwide Church has experienced an increase in the average number of members per unit over the past decade from 437 members per ward or branch to 502 members per ward or branch. The influence of branches (smaller congregations) maturing into wards (larger congregations) on this statistic appears minimal. Rather, low convert retention rates appear the primary reason for noncommensurate congregational and membership growth.
- Decreasing Percentage Growth Rates for Membership and Congregational Growth: The annual percentage growth rate for membership has declined over the past decade from approximately 2.9% to 2.2%. Annual congregational growth rates have fluctuated from a high of 1.62% to a low of 0.23%. Although growth is still occurring in both these statistics at present, slowing growth rates can be interpreted as an impeding sign of stagnation.
- Stagnant Numbers of Districts: Districts are an administrative unit similar to a stake generally formed in areas with a more recently established church presence. Districts do not require a certain number of active members to function but do possess some aspects of self-sufficiency like stakes. The number of districts worldwide has remained relatively unchanged over the past decade at slightly more than 600. Although it may seem strange to consider district growth as a sign of overall healthy church growth as the maturation of districts into stakes points to increase in active membership, no worldwide increase in this statistic indicates a lack of progress introducing the Church into new areas.