Saturday, October 5, 2013

15 Million Member Milestone Reached

This morning, President Thomas S. Monson reported that the Church reached the 15 million member milestone just two weeks ago.  Membership growth rates for 2013 thus far have not appeared to significant differ from other years within recent memory notwithstanding the massive surge in the full-time missionary force.  If membership growth rates achieved within the first nine months of 2013 are maintained for the remainder of the year, there will likely be a nominal membership increase of 290,000 for 2013 - approximately 50,000 less than the nominal membership increase of 341,000 for 2012.

Furthermore, with a worldwide membership activity rate estimated at 30%, it appears that 10 million of the current 15 million members are inactive or less-active members.


Pascal said...

There is a minor calculation problem with that number: Even if President Monson said that he "learned" about reaching the 15 Million milestone two weeks ago, the data is probably much older. From experience we know that particularly from areas with strong growth such as Africa or South America, it can take several weeks or even months for membership records to be created and counted. I would assume that current Church membership is actually closer to 15.1 million than to 15.0 million, fueled by the observation that many Missions throughout the world are constantly reporting baptism records.

On another note, it seems like more resources are dedicated to reactivation and retention efforts. Those don`t show up in statistics immediately, but the Church will greatly benefit from it in the long-term.

Mike Johnson said...

Pascal, very good points.

James Greene said...

Where do you get your church in active/less active membership data? 70% seems higher then I've heard.

DJ said...

Perhaps the 80,333 missionaries are doing a bit more to help get that 30% closer to 50%.

BCR said...

I'm not sure who exactly posted this but if it is Matt Martinich I have sent him an email message too long to post here. I am surprised at this data. I thought this was only a situation that Lamanite members are having to deal with. High inactivity that is.

Matt said...


I agree that there is a sizable amount of error with when the Church exactly reached the 15 million mark. It often takes weeks or even months for baptismal records to be entered in and for convert baptisms to be accounted for in total church membership (hence one of the reasons why membership totals are reported in April and not in January). However, I do think that we are not experiencing an acceleration in convert baptisms that commensurately increased with the number of missionaries now serving in the field.

That being said, I think that there are enormous opportunities to help reactivate the 10 million or so less-active and inactive members worldwide. Granted there are many inactive members who would want nothing to do with the Church, there are still likely a couple million members that could be reactivated if local members, church leaders, and missionaries team up to help bring these individuals back into full activity.

As for where I ascertained the 30% activity rate for the Church as a whole, this was calculated by estimating the member activity rate for each individual country (a process that literary took years to complete). This process was done by obtaining reports from church leaders, missionaries, and members from around the world in regards to sacrament meeting attendance and other measurements of activity for individual countries. 70% may seem high for inactivity, but when you consider that the countries with the most members generally have some of the lowest member activity rates in the world (less than 25%), then this makes a lot more sense.

Pascal said...

I agree with that general statement, Matt. I also do not believe that there is a chance to increase membership growth in exact proportion to Missionary numbers at year-end (~90,000?). Everyone who has served a Mission knows that the percentage of receptive individuals who are ready and willing to keep commitments is somewhat limited and isn`t influenced by the number of Missionaries. Hence, all that efficiently increases in "saturated" parts of the world is the effort that can be put into finding and teaching those people. On the other hand, we will probably see an explosion of membership in parts of Africa where there is high receptivity and a traditional lack of Missionary manpower. We`ll have to see how those numbers work out.

Also, we shouldn`t forget that we are on a sharp rise (though not as sharp as I would have expected) in Missionary numbers throughout this year, meaning that we did not have the current ~80,000 Missionaries at any given time. At the end of the year, the average increase for Missionaries in the field at any given time might not be more than 10,000, or some 15-20%. If growth would increase by this number, we`d have a numerical growth increase of maybe 60,000 members compared to previous years - which, I believe, is something that`s still possible to achieve.

The Opinion said...

My thoughts are coming from listening to Elder Ballard today in conference. The convert baptisms will not increase substantially until the members begin to work with the missionaries and finding people to teach. I firmly believe that will happen and in 5-7 years the convert number will be close to 600,000 concerts a year. (Pres. Hinckley 1999 "Feed my Lambs") The engine is just starting to be revved up.

JonErik said...

While I don't have access to all ward/branch/mission statistics, as others must have - as a ward clerk, I do know that my ward's Sacrament Meeting attendance hoovers between 42% to 46%.....not the 25% to 30% reported here.

Brooks M. Wilson said...

I don't want to seem rude by providing results posted on my blog, "Blu Principles," (you can Google it) on Matt's blog, but I will take the chance given the topic. I used census data from a number of countries to estimate the percentage of the Church membership that is seminary age. Using that data with seminary enrollment data, I estimated enrollment rates for seminary by country. My enrollment rate for all countries is 37.7%. This is likely to be a little higher than Matt's activity rate, but it probably should be.

One factor that I don't believe gets enough attention when estimating convert baptisms is the aging of the world population. My guess is that most converts are relatively young and they form a smaller percentage of total population than in the past.

Adam said...

In America it is closer to 40-45%, but worldwide it is much lower. Served in some areas in the Philippines where there were 800 on record and less than 50 at church. That doesn't include the people whose names were already in the "lost members" file. Of course all weren't like that, but there are countries that are worse than the Philippines.

Rolf said...

I believe the church will only experience real growth when the responsibility for the baptismal interview is done by the local church leader. The missionary program does not work because non committed people are being baptized – as Pre. Uchtdorf said in his talk yesterday, about what is expected from members – the list is so long. That’s why I believe, if you are not truly converted, you should wait with your baptism. As long as we are not following D&C 20:37 – I believe we will not receive the blessings. When the Norway Drammen Stake was created 1,5 years ago – a Seventy told the congregation that for some time now in Europe there had been around 7000 convert baptisms a year – at the same time the average church attendants in Europe was around 97000 for these years. He said there was no real growth.

Rolf said...

Just so nobody misunderstands me – I love the missionaries and the mission presidents & their wives. They are wonderful – but I do believe they get caught up in reporting numbers, while the local congregations has to live with the long list of inactive investigator that became inactive members.

Mike Johnson said...

Our mission president reported a story that happened not long after he arrived in Richmond this summer.

He was called one Friday by a district leader to report that sister missionaries in his district had a young lady ready for baptism, but the bishop opposed her baptism.

So, the mission president called the bishop to find out why. The bishop said the sisters wanted to baptize her on Saturday and that she was moving on Sunday to go to college. The bishop said he had talked with her and that she was ready, but felt she should be baptized in her new ward.

The mission president said he knew he could authorize the baptism but is very reluctant to do so without the bishop's support. He called the sisters and told him his decision to not baptize her on Saturday and let her new ward do so. On Saturday morning, the sisters called him and asked if he had changed his mind. So, he made arrangements to interview the young woman himself. That was set up for Saturday night and he found somebody with a testimony wanting to be baptized. But he too felt strongly it should happen in the new ward.

The mission president called the bishop of the new ward early Sunday morning before his bishopric meeting. He explained the situation and asked if this young lady could have home and visiting teachers and a member of the bishopric meet her when she arrived at her housing that afternoon.

The bishop replied that that would happen and asked the mission president if he wanted to know the rest of the story. Intrigued, the mission president agreed. The bishop said that his ward had not had a convert baptism in years and had decided to have a 40-day ward fast, with one family at a time taking a day to fast, for a missionary experience. He told the mission president that that day was day 40 of the fast and until then nothing had changed. He believed this young lady was the answer to the ward's fast and prayers.

The bishop later called the mission president to say that he and much of the ward turned out to help her move in. She was then baptized the next Saturday in a ward ready to receive her.

We never know how the Lord arranges things at times.

Mike Johnson said...

Real growth is more than numbers. Individuals progress in their faith and in their ability to serve.

The first recorded parable by Jesus is that of the sower, describing four groups of people and how they respond to the gospel. I am sure we all know people in all four categories. We would like all to be in the fourth category and get frustrated by those who accept the gospel and then have their faith chocked by the cares of the world, or who grow rapidly without establishing roots sufficient to keep them going.

The Church needs a minimal level of conversion to simply replace those whose faith is choked by the cares of the world or that burn out without adequate roots. In the process, we gain more of the 4th category, those that bring forth fruit. In southern Europe, in particular, we are seeing new stakes and wards. This is a result of growth, perhaps in numbers, but also particularly in the faith of the members.

Ed Clinch said...

5 million active of the 15 million (or 15.1) currently enrolled in Church records is probably a little high, as that would would make worldwide membership at 33 percent. In the US we might be at 45 percent, with parts of the inter-mountain west with possible 60 or 70 percent activity rates.
To be considered "active", a baptized member only needs to attend sacrament once every quarter, I believe. That means that out of the approximate 5 million in 2013, some of them are less active active.
So, there is a bit more growth to go to get the numbers really impressive on the world stage.
In Chile, where I served and then returned twice since as a non-full time missionary, the numbers are around 10 percent active of well over 550,000 on the roles. Perhaps there are similar numbers in the Philipines. And many other third world nations have impressive numbers on paper who baptized, bu the true activity rate is as low as Chile. One in 10. Of all the people I baptized in the early 90s, I would be grateful if more than 10 percent were active. I was lucky enough to see a few of them since my full time mission, but some of them were already less active.
Re-activating our former baptizees and finding new part member families and new ones should go on stronger now.
I liked hearing about the conference speaker (forgot his name) who was the Bangalore Mission President and spoke of the Nepalese elder. Good stuff continues to go on.
We should probably expect new temple announcements next spring.
Exciting times.

Mike Johnson said...

In our ward, we have about 60-65% Sacrament attendance and close to 90% activity (at least once per quarter), based on our reports.

Congregations vary widely.

dastew said...

The congregations I've attended in upstate NY and rural New England average between 25% and 40% activity. I've never seen anything higher than that. I believe France (my mission) was about 30% activity at the time. However, in both cases we're dealing with a relatively small number of Saints, so the effect on the overall average would be negligible.

Ed Clinch said...

Any ward outside the inter-mountain west that has 60-65 percent weekly sacrament attendance and 90 percent quarterly activity is really nice. With that kind of activity, there ought to be decent conversions on a yearly basis, more missionaries being sent out to areas around the world where there are less active members.

Also, hopefully that kind of scenario produces more married couples going on missions. I wonder what portion of older couples are opting to go on shorter term missions of 3, 6, 9, 12 months?

My mom and step-dad did missions together of 18 and 24 months, which is definitely a sacrifice but a great way to get away for a long period. A couple who were strong leaders in my home ward of Indiana served in Denmark, Ghana, then China. Incidentally, I just heard that after about 50 years in the Hoosier state, they will be moving back to Utah now. I think they have left their mark in the mid-west, after raising 6 kids there and now dozens of grand-kids ranging across the continent.
Hollis Johnson pops up in the Church almanac as an early (or first) stake president in Indiana.

The Opinion said...

I can not help but to mention what I am reading from some missionary blogs about how the Lord is about to do something miraculous. The General Authorities and Apostles are teaching and instructing the missionaries what it means by the Lord hastening the work.
I came across two quotes from two different blogs. One was from Mexico and it was Elder Johnson, 1st Quorum of Seventy stating "He also mentioned that very, very soon, the Lord will hasten his work as we have never before seen or imagined possible, but that Satan is neither blind or deaf to what the Lord is up to and will not let him have an easy win. Elder Johnson said that the world is about to get much, much worse and even more perverted and ugly. Here is a direct quote, "Things that you and I have never seen or imagined, for bad and for good, are about to occur. You must be ready".
The other was spoken by Elder Q. Cook to the mission presidents in the intermountain west this past June. He said " With this mission age change this is now the time that the work will hasten. We have seen people joining the church in the thousands and tens of thousands but now it will be in the millions."

In my opinion, the Lord is about to show something that none of us really understand in terms of His power to gather Israel. The Apostles have seen it as they stand on the watchtowers looking into the futures.

I received an email about a statewide ward council training on October 26 in Charlotte for the Raleigh and Charlotte missions. I look forward to hearing the words of the Seventy.

Michael Worley said...

This is a transition year. Have faith and be missionaries.

Iris and Craig said...

@The Opinion. Thanks for that. I needed that today.

MLewis82 said...

Just some thoughts on activity rates. I think Matt's 30% for the worldwide church isn't a bad estimate. Just to give some examples (though much of my data is now ten years old) when I was on a mission in Japan, Elder Kikuchi came through and told us the Presiding Bishopric Office (PBO) in Tokyo showed 9% hometeaching in the Nagoya area and 7% hometeaching in the Osaka area. Roughly half of what they saw in Tokyo. In each of the wards I served, average Sacrament meeting attendance looked to be about 10%. (75-80 members in Ibaraki with 800+ on the rolls, 40-45 in Habikino with 450 on the roles, 4--including the missionaries--in Shingu, with 31 on the rolls, etc.)
I've been back twice. Yokohama appears to be a real center of strength for the Church in Japan, but Nagoya and Osaka don't appear to have changed much.

On the flip side, I remember the DC South mission president coming to our stake conference when I was a kid, and telling us our stake was unique in a lot of ways. One ward in our stake (the Franklin Ward, Oakton VA Stake -- also my home ward) had the highest hometeaching rate in the entire mission. It was frequently at 100%. I remember the snapshot from when I was a freshman or sophmore was 396 active members in the ward with 405 on the rolls. BUT, we also had the lowest baptizing rate in the mission. I literally couldn't remember anyone getting baptized in my ward until I was a senior in high school and I lived there my entire life (I think the ward was organized when I was 5). The neighboring ward (Reston for those who know the area) was the reverse. They had the worst hometeaching record in the mission (and presumably the lowest activity rate), but the highest baptizing rate in the whole mission, including the Spanish units.

Since that time, the Chantilly Ward has been created, and the boundaries severely altered so the numbers are more even.

Now my parents live in West Virginia where they report 30-40% activity. I now live in Los Angeles, where the Hollywood Ward has 800+ on the rolls with around 100 attending Sacrament meetings.

And none of this takes the address unknown file into account, which could be as much as 20% of the Church membership.

As this hopefully shows, a snapshot of one ward doesn't even provide a good estimate for the stake, let alone the country or world. A more systematic approach like the seminary enrollment numbers from the Blu Principles blog or massive aggregation like Matt and the Cumorah project have done will be way more accurate than anything I could come up with.

coachodeeps said...

Mike Johnson, that is a great illustration of how missions and wards/stakes could work together to create a better way of bringing souls into the church and to Christ. Up until now, the work has been separate. We can and must do better as local leaders and missionaries to bring about the true or real conversion. Numbers overlook most of the information. As we can truly meet the needs of the soon to be convert and fully integrate them into the ward and the missionaries aren't so interested in the numbers of baptisms we can change the activity rate in our areas. It is a difficult task because missionaries come and go and so the short term is on their mind, but the members in the branches/wards are looking at the long-term. When the mission and missionaries see the view of the branch/ward and the members are really a part of the conversion process, the best formula for retention success can happen.

Erik said...

@The Opinion - those are some pretty cool predictions! I do have a hard time believing that we'll baptize a million converts a year anytime soon, if that is how we are to take Elder Cook's statement.

See - "Within the past decade, the average missionary has baptized five converts a year. Maintaining this same ratio as the number of missionaries serving increases may yield as many as 425,000 convert baptisms in a single year if there are at least 85,000 missionaries serving throughout the year."

Getting a million converts a year (if that is indeed the right way to interpret Elder Cook, since he did not specify per year) seems like it will take a little bit longer than being in the near future. But who knows? It will be fascinating to see what kind of growth happens in the next couple years as the number of missionaries peaks and levels off and we have better indication of how many more converts and congregations (and openings of new missions, etc.) the changes will bring about. Perhaps a confluence of factors and developments will lead us closer to a million a year than we can currently estimate. Accelerated expansion of outreach in Africa and other very open-high-growth areas could certainly be a big factor in helping this along.

The Opinion said...


From what I have read on the missionary blogs of General Authorities/Apostles visits to the missions is that the Lord is about do something.

I am not sure either about the millions comment meaning per year or over a period of time, but the sense I have gotten as I read these blogs are that the Apostles all have said we are entering a time in church history that the gathering will increase in historic numbers. Remember the promise from Pres. Hinckley in Feb 1999 missionary fireside that 600,000 a year could join the church if the members worked with the missionaries. (Google "Feed the Lambs, Feed the Sheep")

soc. man I am ---------------- said...

A elderly sister in my ward worked with the address unknown file a couple of years ago. Her job was to call family members of those lost. I asked her about the commonly quoted 20% number a while back. She laughed and said there is no way that 20% of the church is on that list. She explained that there is certainly a large number of people from South and Central America on the list because they are hard to find. She explained that only a few thousand North Americans/Europeans are on the list because they are generally easy to find and they rotate. They will find 50 and then 50 new names will come up. The most common reason is when Kids.

soc. man I am ---------------- said...

Whoops I didn't finish. The most common reason people make it on the list is when kids of inactive members grow up and move away. But even they are easy to track down.

Matt said...

Currently 85-90% of Singles in the Church over the age of 30 are inactive. 80% of divorced men who were active during their marriage, go inactive afterwards.

I firmly believe that as more of the membership of the Church is single, that much more needs to be done to better reach out and include singles in the Church who feel ignored and kicked to the curb in this family oriented Church. More resources need to given to those divorced, widowed, and never been married.

Stronger singles program (different subsets by age than just 18-30, 31+ , more divorce and single parenting support), etc leads to better activity rates, more marriages, and active families.

Rolf said...

Maybe we can use this as a case study. This is a small ward with 183 members in northern Europe. The members were divided into 5 groups, group A(members that come to church very week), group B(they come once a month), group C(once every 6 months), group D(inactive, but positive to the church), group E(inactive, but negative to the church).
The number of members in every group is: A-61, B-13, C-21, D-55, E-33.
More information: 75% of group A come to church as families, 25% of group A have been on missions. Only 5% of group D&E have been to the Temple. Almost all of those in group D&E are members that grow up in the church but went inactive in their teens or they where converts that never where active enough to go to the Temple.
The numbers show that it is very difficult to be single in the church – either you grow up in the church and move away for work/schooling or you come in as a single convert. Almost all converts today are single – this is an enormous challenge for the church.

The Opinion said...

The single adult issue is certainly a valid point about activity rates. I would not be surprised that something comes out in the near future (3-5yrs) addressing this from an organizational point of view. As marriage becomes less important in the world, more and more single people are going to be baptized. The method of retention of that single person is the same as a married couple however the time given to them is more because they don't have a companion to encourage them in their conversion efforts like in a married couple joining the church.

Brooks M. Wilson said...

@Rolf-Your history is of great interest to me. I tried to estimate enrollment rates in institute by country and found that the enrollment rates in Europe were extraordinary, particularly in Northern Europe. I understand that the Church has instituted programs aimed at young, single adults. Are you familiar with these programs? Might some of these programs be those that will result in increased baptisms?

Ed Clinch said...

The couple moving back to Utah from Indiana after 50 years, mentioned above, spent a sabbatical in Denmark (Hollis was a renowned astronomer) in Copenhagen before retiring with his native Danish wife Grete (sp.?) before retiring and subsequently getting called on their first mission in Denmark. They spent about 2 1/2 years there in total, and I heard they were very active with the YSA and the institute program.
Perhaps this ward sampled was in Copenhagen?

Rolf said...

Yes, in Europe the church has increased the focus on this group. They have created institute centers to help support the young single adults. Hopefully this can reduce the falling away. Although I have also heard that the Church is now closing some of these centers due to cost.
I have so many poor experiences when there is too much focus on baptisms – I prefer a focus on real growth. I feel we need to learn from our experiences and when we do not show the fruits we yearn for with regards to the bringing in true converts – we must be willing to change the program in order to achieve the results the Lord expects of us. At the moment we are not “one”, the mission presidents often shows a short term focus, while the local congregations have a long term focus. Having lived 10 years in Salt Lake City – I think it’s very difficult to understand the burden this places on the local congregations if you have not see it firsthand. The frustration is in many cases so high that I know of many local church leaders that simply have given up on trying to make it work. They let the missionaries do their baptizing.

In his address to the new mission presidents, President Hinckley charged them to "work to hold on to every one who is baptized."
In some areas, converts come in large numbers. In others, only occasionally is there a convert baptism, he said. But, he emphasized, "there is no point in baptizing people if they do not become solid members of the Church."
Actual harm, he said, may be done to those who leave old friendships and old ways of doing things only to be allowed to slip into inactivity.
The Church leader reported he has asked the Quorum of the Twelve to improve convert retention. The Brethren have been out in all the missions of the world.
(Church News associate editor - Published: Saturday, July 4, 1998)

Rolf said...

Ed, we are so thankful for couples like the Johnson’s – we love them for the service and love they show our youth her in Europe. Please send more!
This case study was not from any of the Copenhagen wards.

Mike Johnson said...

I would be surprised if the activity rate of singles above 30 were 10-15%. But, I do recognize the challenges they face. I was married a few months shy of 31, but at the time about 1/3 of the active members of my singles ward was older than me.

In Crystal City Virginia (part of Arlington), the Potomac Ward is for singles 31 to 45, but two nearby family wards (Crystal City and Shirlington) reportedly are heavily --close to half active membership--singles between 31 and 45. The Potomac Ward meets in the same building with two YSA wards (Colonial 1st and 2nd). Note, I was in the Colonial Ward 20 years ago before "graduating" as it unfortunately was termed. That Ward is now five wards--2 YSA, 1 singles, and 2 family that are heavily single.

Note, this doesn't prove that singles over 30 are active, but I do think they might end up gathering to places to be together.

I know plenty of active singles over 30.

John Pack Lambert said...

Well, I am a 32 year old single living in a place where there is no program for those who are single and over 30.

Well, there is, but it is dominated by widows and widowers. Many of the people who show up are my mom's age, and one literally has grandchildren who are older than me. I really struggle to feel like a fit in.

In a lot of ways, I feel more at place in elders quorum activities in my ward.

That said, I think the percentage of singles among those baptized is being overstated. Our most recent convert in my ward was a married father of two. True, his wife was a long time member. In the broadcast at the Mission Presidents Seminar they talked a lot about converting part member families.

Anyway, we have seen lots of forward motions with singles. 5 years ago it was heavily encouraged to send 18-21 year olds living with their parents to home wards. Now those 18+ out of high school are generally to attend singles wards.

True, we have low rates of activity among divorced men, and this might be partly because we are to quick to condemn them. Still, as a divorced man I will admit that my divorce is largely my fault, and have to say that despite that fact leaders I have dealt with have been nothing but encouraging and supportive.

The fact of the matter is people who are single often have major issues they are working with. At least in my experience church leaders do a lot to try and make singles feel welcome. My ward almost never has a husband/wife give the opening and closing prayer in sacrament meeting and never has a husband and wife give the talks. Doing those things really do make single people not find a place.