Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mathematical Functions and LDS Membership Growth

As part of creating hundreds of statistical profiles for cumorah.com over the past year or two, I have noticed certain mathematical functions occurring for membership growth trends in countries around the world.  I am still trying to understand what this all means and whether certain mathematical functions occur with certain church growth conditions (i.e. high receptivity, national outreach expansion, mission resource allocation, ect).  Although it may be difficult to determine what all these data mean, I do believe that examining past LDS growth trends can shed insight into forecasting and predicting future LDS growth trends.

So far I have categorized the membership growth trends of countries into six categories
  • Linear
  • Negative quadratic
  • Positive quadratic
  • Exponential
  • Piecewise
  • Disorganized
Here are some examples of what I have observed.  I have included the equation for the best-fit line for the first four examples:

LINEAR


NEGATIVE QUADRATIC


POSITIVE QUADRATIC


EXPONENTIAL


PIECEWISE 
(two examples)



DISORGANIZED


I am interested in your thoughts.  What factors do you believe are responsible for these relatively predictable membership growth trends in these and other countries?  Do certain contextual factors correlate with certain mathematical functions?  I am surprised to see how predictable these growth trends are and how closely past membership data has followed best-fit lines for these various mathematical functions.

55 comments:

Chris said...

I wonder if member missionary work in Malaysia is stronger (each individual part adding to the total continuously...i.e. exponential)...

Scott W. Clark said...

I wonder if it has anything to do with a particular mission president type or mission president approach to missionary work, at least some of it. (Is missionary work really completely deterministic?) I heard, for instance, that Portugal went through a baptize at all costs period after I was there (in the seventies). I also visited two of the missions in Portugal and saw a big difference in the style of the missionaries between the two. (1998) Missions are mini cultures where something takes hold and is perpetuated by the culture from missionary to missionary. It can change but that change might be slow.
Just a couple of thoughts.

Ivan Jurkovic said...

Here in Australia there is a huge push for members and missionaries to work side by side. Just looking at the high standard of the missionaries we have today & the spirit they bring is helping the work move forward.
There are good things happening, I know there is still a lot more we can do. I'm exited & how I can do my part.
Love this Church.

Unknown said...

Although the time periods are similar, they are most certainly not similar. Ukraine in the 1990s was light years technologically advanced past Nigeria of the same period. So while your years match, the "maturity" of the several societies differs greatly. The Early Church had most success in countries where the newly democratized printing press was leveraged. Today we are utilizing mobile apps and modular integration, but only in places where it's appropriate. You're samples, therefore, are not controlled for technological or societal "age", so to speak. Wonderful analysis, though perhaps there's another dimension in this regard.

Unknown said...

From the 1980s to 2012 the use of membership databases, telephones, cell phones, car phones, Smart phones, computers, email, facebook, commercial airflight and other technological advances was accelerating through these regions at various paces. Additionally, I know the Russian missions had their missionary force nearly cut in half around 2004 ...

Mike Johnson said...

Guam in 1989 to 1991 probably reflects a post-Cold War drawdown of military on the island.

Aaron and Kamyra said...

Those graphs are interesting. there are varied significant factors that effect groeth and could be quite different from country to country and even from state to state within a country. When I served my mission I saw the convert baptisms for each year in my mission over the last 30 years or so and the spikes were in relation to mission presidents most of the time. There was a double and at times triple convert batisms in relation to mission presidents.

Other factors pertain to employment, war, and other environmental issues that change from time to time.

I agree with Ivan, in Australia, (I am in the Brisbane Mission) there is a significant push to do with the hastening of the work where missionaries and members are working together like never before. We have split nights every week with the MP in our wards. This is having a great effect with most wards reporting to be reactivating 10-30 members in the last 10 months or so, in some wards more. Growth always brings hope in members I find and they want to participate and do more. Home teaching and Visiting teaching is better than its ever been in our ward. The problem I think is that in the past we have focused our efforts for short periods of time and the progress has then slowed.

In saying less actives have been reactivated with the missionary serge, we have not yet seen any extra converts baptised I must say.

Just a few thoughts.

Iris and Craig said...

To me the secret of missionary work was using the ward roster, updating it by going through it and visiting every inactive on there and then you kill two birds with one stone by reactiving them, finding them three friends in the ward, and then baptizing their family and friends. Most of my baptisms were done this way, and some of my most sacred experiences and joy. The ward will love you for it too.

Ray said...

Matt,

Are these charts available for other countries? I went to Cumorah.com and didn't find growth charts for any of the countries listed. Thanks for the charts and mathematical functions that you showed us in this post--very interesting.

Matt said...

Ray-

Here's the link to the statistical profiles on cumorah.com. Enjoy!

http://www.cumorah.com/index.php?target=countries&cnt_res=2&wid=2&cmdfind=Search

Mike Johnson said...

The Lundeen Park Ward, Marysville Washington Stake, was created on 2 February. There are now 8 wards and 1 branch in the stake:

Cavalero Ward
Cedar Crest Ward
Foothills Park Ward
Granite Falls Ward
Lake Stevens Ward
Lundeen Park Ward
Quil Ceda Creek Ward
Shoultes Ward
Sunnyside Branch (Spanish)


The Middleton 8th and 9th wards, Middleton Idaho Stake, were created on 2 February. There are now 9 wards and 1 branch in the stake:

Middleton 1st Ward
Middleton 2nd Ward
Middleton 3rd Ward
Middleton 4th Ward
Middleton 5th Ward
Middleton 6th Ward
Middleton 7th Ward
Middleton 8th Ward
Middleton 9th Ward
Black Canyon YSA Branch


The Rocklin 6th Ward, Rocklin California Stake, was created on 2 February. There are now 9 wards in the stake:

Granite Bay 1st Ward
Granite Bay 2nd Ward
Rocklin 1st Ward
Rocklin 2nd Ward
Rocklin 3rd Ward
Rocklin 4th Ward
Rocklin 5th Ward
Rocklin 6th Ward
Rocklin YSA Ward

Ray said...

Mike J.,

Thanks as always for your reporting early on new wards and branches that will show up on the CDOL later. Idaho with 2 more wards--already 4 new wards for 2014 plus a new stake. Interesting to see a new ward in Washington. There was a reported ward closure there on the CDOL Feb 1 (which I understand you have no way of knowing about from your sources). The new ward in California was encouraging because of the slow growth in that state for the last few years.

Brooks M. Wilson said...

I think that the total fertility rate is often important. Nigeria has a total fertility rate of 4.9, Malaysia 2.95 and Ukraine 1.26.

Mike Johnson said...

I am curious about 1983 to 1985. In the US (13%), Canada (12%), and Australia (19%) growth in membership between those years. Just the first three I checked. But, 1983 to 85 really stood out in all three.

It is almost enough to give me a complex, having completed my mission in January 1983.

Michael Worley said...

Fertility rate is a decent proxy for acceptance of family values, so it is not surprising that there would be such a correlation

Adam said...

Don't remember the exact years, but when records were done by hand there was a lot of membership that was lost in the scuffle. Once it all went digital there were large increases in the addition to membership even though there weren't necessarily more converts/people being born into the church. Maybe that explains the 1983-85.

Mike Johnson said...

The Igbo-Etche Branch, Port Harcourt Nigeria East Stake, was created on 2 February. There are now 6 wards and 4 branches in the stake:

Mini-Okoro Ward
Oyigbo Ward
Rukpokwu Ward
Rumuogba Ward
Umuebule Ward
Woji Ward
Elelenwo Branch
Eliohani Branch
Eneka Branch
Igbo-Etche Branch

Ray said...

Re Post No. 12 (additional information):

I pointed out there were 4 new wards in Idaho in Jan. 2014, but in reality there were 5 new Idaho wards and one ward discontinued in southeastern Idaho.

The Idaho Area shows 5 new wards and the discontinued Idaho ward was in the Utah North Area.

Ray said...


Matt,

The recent post on Turkey has disappeared, along with the comments made on it. Is it just temporarily down or has it gone away for good? It brought up a very interesting point about Iranians being baptized--there are many, many Iranian Americans in southern California that have joined the Church.

Mike Johnson said...

The Franklin Idaho Stake used to have a Whitney 1st and a Whitney 2nd Ward. It now just has a Whitney Ward. I am not sure which one was officially discontinued.

Mike Johnson said...

I also posted information on the new Arkansas state, as well as a couple of other congregations on the Turkey post, that is now gone. I wasn't sure I should simply post them again.

Ray said...

Mike,

Thanks for the news about the Whitney Ward--it was the discontinued Idaho Ward I mentioned earlier to go along with 5 new Idaho wards created in January.

My mother grew up in the Whitney ward, where a fellow member was Ezra Taft Benson. The meetinghouse also houses a Spanish-speaking branch.

Grant Emery said...

Just curious, are there any resources regarding where YSA populations are? There are some obvious general notions that "if you want to get married, you need to live in [Utah/California/Arizona/DC/NYC/Boston/Wherever]". I'd be interested to know the geography of YSA wards and branches, like the maps seen on Cumorah.com.

Just curious.

John Pack Lambert said...

I think the Guam case is a result of high numbers of US military personal there, and fluctuations in the amount of US military presence.

John Pack Lambert said...

I seem to be noticing a trend of more mission presidents being called to serve over the mission they reside in. Last year I noticed that we had someone called from Salt Lake City to serve over one of the 5 missions in the city (although I am not sure the couple lived in the mission they were assigned to). Also in Mexico a couple from Monterrey was sent to Reynosa and from Chihuahua to Ciudad Juarez. This would be similar to the St. George mission having a mission president from Provo.

This year I noticed the new president of the Paris mission was from Paris. Then I noticed Efren and Marissa Lamoglia called to preside over the Philipines Davao Mission. They are currently members of the Davao 1st Ward, Davao Phillipines Stake. Is this part of a larger trend, or have there been cases like this for a while.

I know Tonga has had several mission presidents called from Tonga, and Haiti's last 2 or 3 mission presidents were called from Haiti. However France and the Philipines are multi-mission nations, so you could call nationals from outside the boundaries of the specific mission.

At first I wondered if Davao might have special issues as a heavily Muslim area. However Davao City has a population that is 80% Catholic and 8% other Christians. Muslims are just part of the remaining 12% of the population. It is not part of the majority Muslim portion of the Phillipines.

John Pack Lambert said...

I think in the Malaysian case, at some point the Church moved into East Malaysia (an area largely inhabited by Christians, whereas the more populous west is more heavily Muslim), and after that is when the growth of the church really took off.

John Pack Lambert said...

My grandmother grew up in Whitney Ward, although a little after Ezra Taft Benson. She was shocked when I told her they had created two wards there. I am a little sad they are back down to one.

John Pack Lambert said...

For what it is worth, we have had several marriages in the various YSA wards I have been connected with here in Michigan. 3 of my sibblings found their LDS spouses through Michigan YSA wards.

Ray said...

John, what was your grandmother's family name? My mother was a Winward.

Matt said...

I removed my post from earlier this week regarding growth among Iranians in Turkey due to the request of a missionary's parent who advised me that the Church has advised missionaries and their parents to not post any details on social media about current LDS missionary activity in Turkey.

Grant Emery said...

They announced that the Young Women's General Board will now include de-localized members. Four will be from those living on the Wasatch Front and one in each of the following locations: New York City, Peru, Brazil, Africa, Japan. This will be interesting, though I'm mostly curious about the logistics of it (I'm not positive how far-reaching the effects will be). They say there will be teleconferencing, but I wonder what they'll do off-line. Also, my first thought was that they would have offices in the Area HQ Offices, but there are currently no Area HQs are not currently in NYC or Peru. Anyway, this should be a pilot program for the other auxiliaries, particularly the Primary and the Relief Society.

Does anyone understand what the YW General Board actually does? I know that Personal Progress was developed back in the 70s, and now we have Come Follow Me, but really, what have they done in the mean time? What kind of stuff are they doing now? I feel like information could improve my understanding of what kind of effects we'll see with more international influence.

Joseph said...

A general Board for the YW is new they haven't had one before. That's one reason they're trying it out with the YW first, there isn't a body of established practice they have to overcome.

Something to measure along with the growth is general demographics such as birth, emigration and immigration and other societal changes.

The Opinion said...

Here is a link to that the YM board generally consisted of before the change. It is not that the board is new but rather the members of the board will live around the earth as noted.

http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/young-women#General Leadership

The Opinion said...

Here is a link to the recently released YW General Board
https://www.lds.org/callings/young-women/leader-resources/biographies/board-members?lang=eng

John Pack Lambert said...

I have to lodge a complaint at "Africa" being listed along side Peru, Japan and Brazil. It is clear they have called one sister from somewhere, my guess is most likely Nigeria. However wherever she is from, she is from a country. I am sick and tired of people speaking of "Africa" as if it is all one country.

The various countries in Africa are distinct, with distict histories. Ethiopia is not Senegal. Mozambique is not Sierra Leone. Ivory Coast is not even Ghana.

Maybe I am too sensitive, but when they say Peru, Brazil and Japan, they should say Nigeria (or South Africa, or whatever country it actually is), not just use an amorphous, meaningless "Africa".

John Pack Lambert said...

Since one of the members of the outgoing YW general board was a lady born in Bolivia and raised there and in Brazil, the amount they were "Americans" can be over-stated.

There is an added perspective from people in other areas. However I understand the logistical issues that have made calling members of the general board from outside the Wasatch Front less likely in the past.

John Pack Lambert said...

My Grandmother was a Swainston.

John Pack Lambert said...

I assume the general board gives training to local leaders, and develops curriculum. They might not make major chances to curriculum, but I am sure the Young Women have not kept the same manuals from 1975 on.

In the 1980s they came up with the Young Women Values. Here is an article that discusses that:

http://www.theideadoorfiles.com/index.php/young-women/68-young-women/personal-progress/570-yw-general-board-developed-the-values

They are a board, sort of like a council, and thus hold spiritual meetings. I actually half wonder if it might work better if we called these general councils. It would unify church terminology. We did away with superintendents in the 1970s, but still have boards.

I was looking at the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article on the history of the Young Women. In the 1960s there were over 60 women on the Young Women General Board. After the restructuring right around 1970, we have seen the much leaner present boards, generally at most 12 members.

From that article we learn that starting in the 1970s "Ruth H. Funk, and the general presidencies and boards of other Church auxiliary organizations began to meet with priesthood leaders to formulate and initiate the best possible spiritual and social experiences for youth."

It appears that some of the role of the general board may be on advising Church leaders on how best to implement programs for the young women.

It is telling that the calls (issues by teleconference) to these new sisters, were actually issued by Elder Christopherson and Elder Holland.

The YWGB may also have a role in producing the New Era.

In 1978 Elaine Anderson created a board of 12 members, all of whom had daughter young woman age.

Actually, come to think of it, there was no Sunday program for young women until 1980, it was entirely a week-day program before that.

Here is a link to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism article:
http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Young_Women

I hope this helps.

Mike Johnson said...

The South America Northwest Area headquarters are in Lima Peru.

Mike Johnson said...

I think it was Sherri Dew who stated that the General Boards for the auxiliaries ran the day to day operations, freeing the general presidencies for visiting stakes around the world.

This change, which I am excited about, would allow board members to visit stakes easier.

I agree, I wished press release would have said the country and not just "Africa."

Mike Johnson said...

>>>Actually, come to think of it, there was no Sunday program for young women until 1980, it was entirely a week-day program before that.

Having grown up in the pre-block days, I remember this well. The Presiding Bishopric was responsible for the Sunday young men (Aaronic Priesthood) program and the Young Men's presidency for the week day program (Scouting). The Young Women's presidency was responsible only for the week day program. I remember some bad feelings expressed by some young women that the boys just have fun, while they have spiritual lessons.

Going to the block was a wonderful change, in my opinion--made possible by correlation.

Downtownchrisbrown said...

Two developments in the Regina Saskatchewan Stake. The Sunrise ward was created.

Although no official group has yet been organized, today was the first day that they have had a sacrament meeting in Estevan Saskatchewan.

2.5HSGPA said...

You forgot logged growth.

Cameron Lewis said...

My in-laws live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and next week they are expecting that their Stake (the Colleyville Texas Stake) will be split. Considering my father-in-law is on the High Council I am guessing it really is happening. Elder Bradley D. Foster of the Second Quorum of the Seventy will be the visiting general authority.

Bryan Dorman said...

Wouldn't be surprised to see that. I remembered President Manion (who is now MP in the Edmonton Alberta mission) and what he did in order to get the stake to where it is today...

A pattern that should be followed to guarantee high retention. Have all the RCs and the RAs go through the temple for baptisms, within a couple of months of being baptized (or reactivated). At least while I was out on my mission, the retention rate was in the mid 90s.

Then again the Church has been getting progressively stronger in ALL of the Metroplex.

Grant Emery said...

Thanks for all that information on the general board. I feel silly that I had to ask, since one of you even mentioned my grandma (Ruth H. Funk) in your answer. And, chock one up to a bad grandson moment!

As far as the comment about the board not being uniquely American, it's true that they haven't been. However, they have always been living in Utah when they were called, which means they had already been Americanized to some degree. If they were called from their country to move, that would be different, but I know some foreign members would categorize them as "the type who move to Utah" ahead of time.

I also got squeamish when Africa was grouped with the other locations. My uneasiness was relieved a little bit when I recognized that New York City was also grouped with Peru, Japan, and Brazil. I think that the non-African locations have had longer LDS histories than Africa, so maybe they picked locations where they knew the Church would already be strong and consistent (Lima has the most stakes for a South American metropolitan area, maybe something similar for wherever they're thinking in Brazil, probably something similar for Tokyo where the first Asian temple was built). They might be trying to see where growth will be consistent and strong in Africa before they put a mini-HQ in one particular location (yes, I know some areas have had great growth, but long-term strength still needs to be confirmed).

Matt said...

I cannot find any examples of membership growth that are best described as logarithmic. The countries that have come closest to resembling logarithmic growth exhibit negative quadratic growth.

Ray said...

John, thanks for that information on the Whitney Swainstons. They are in a book I have about the history of Whitney. It's filled with stories and old photos showing all the families who settled there, beginning in the late 1800s .

Ray said...

To Chris Brown, it was nice to hear about the growth in Regina and Estevan, Saskatchewan. The Regina Stake was only one of two that I knew of with just three wards (and now will have four, still under the normal threshold of five). The other one is Sioux City, Iowa, with 2 wards in Iowa and one in northeast Nebraska.

Ray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Johnson said...

The Colleyville Texas Stake currently has 15 wards:

Bedford Ward
Colleyville Ward
Colleyville YSA Ward
Euless 1st Ward
Euless 2nd Ward (Tongan)
Euless 3rd Ward (Tongan)
Grapevine Ward
Heritage Ward
Keller 1st Ward
Keller 2nd Ward
Roanoke Ward
Southlake Ward
Trophy Club Ward
Woodland Springs 1st Ward
Woodland Springs 2nd Ward

Mike Johnson said...

Grant, the following are the number of active YSA stakes, wards, and branches by country and state:

Australia: 2 wards
New South Wales: 1 ward
Queensland: 1 ward

Botswana: 1 ward

Canada: 21 wards; 13 branches
Alberta: 18 wards; 3 branches
British Columbia: 3 branches
Manitoba: 1 ward
Nova Scotia: 1 branch
Ontario: 2 wards; 4 branches
Quebec: 2 branches

Paraguay: 1 branch

Philippines: 1 ward

Taiwan: 1 branch

Tonga: 1 ward

United Kingdom: 2 wards
England: 2 wards

United States: 75 stakes; 945 wards; 190 branches
Alabama: 1 branch
Alaska: 3 wards; 2 branches
Arizona: 5 stakes; 47 wards; 7 branches
Arkansas: 1 ward; 1 branch
California: 77 wards; 26 branches
Colorado: 14 wards; 3 branches
Connecticut: 1 ward; 1 branch
Delaware: 1 branch
Florida: 3 wards; 8 branches
Georgia: 2 wards; 3 branches
Hawaii: 2 stakes; 17 wards; 5 branches
Idaho: 13 stakes; 136 wards; 19 branches
Illinois: 2 wards; 5 branches
Indiana: 3 branches
Iowa: 1 ward; 1 branch
Kansas: 2 wards; 1 branch
Kentucky: 2 branches
Louisiana: 1 ward
Maryland: 3 wards; 1 branch
Massachusetts: 3 wards; 1 branch
Michigan: 1 ward; 1 branch
Minnesota: 1 ward; 1 branch
Missouri: 1 ward; 10 branches
Montana: 1 ward; 1 branch
Nebraska: 2 wards; 2 branches
Nevada: 13 wards; 4 branches
New Jersey: 2 branches
New Mexico: 1 ward; 5 branches
New York: 3 wards; 5 branches
North Carolina: 3 wards; 3 branches
Ohio: 2 wards; 3 branches
Oklahoma: 2 wards; 2 branches
Oregon: 10 wards; 8 branches
Pennsylvania: 2 wards; 2 branches
Rhode Island: 1 branch
South Carolina: 1 ward; 1 branch
Tennessee: 5 branches
Texas: 17 wards; 21 branches
Utah: 54 stakes; 531 wards; 8 branches
Virginia: 1 stake; 14 wards; 3 branches
Washington: 21 wards; 8 branches
Wisconsin: 1 ward; 1 branch
Wyoming: 5 wards; 2 branches
Total: 75 stakes; 973 wards; 205 branches

John Pack Lambert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Pack Lambert said...

The member of the Young Women General Board from "Africa", is Dorah Mkhabela. She is from Soweto, South Africa.

I wonder if they said "Africa" because if you say "South Africa" some will think the person is white.

Interestingly enough, one of the newly called members of the YWGB was born in Cuba.

Avander Promentory said...

Since you're looking at population growth, you may want to consider logistic (not logarithmic) growth curves. Such may actually account for most of your examples.