Saturday, April 2, 2016

2015 Statistical Report

This afternoon, the Church reported the following statistics as of December 31st, 2015.

  • Membership: 15,634,199 (increase of 261,862 from 2014; a 1.70% annual increase)
  • Congregations: 30,016 (increase of 395 from 2014; a 1.33% annual increase)
  • Stakes: 3,174 (increase of 60 from 2014; a 1.93% annual increase)
  • Districts: 558 (decrease of 3 from 2014; a 0.53% annual decrease)
  • Missions: 418 (increase of 12 from 2014; a 3.0% annual increase)
  • Convert Baptisms: 257,402 (decrease of 39,401 from 2014; a 13.3% annual decrease)
  • Increase of Children on Record: 114,550 (decrease of 1,859 from 2014; a 1.62% annual decrease)
  • Full-time missionaries: 74,079 (decrease of 11,068 from 2014; a 13.0% annual decrease)
  • Church service missionaries: 31,779 (increase of 1,375 from 2014; a 4.5% annual increase)

The decline in the number of full-time missionaries serving, and the commensurate decrease in the number of convert baptisms, constitutes the most surprising development in the 2015 statistical report. The number of convert baptisms and the number of full-time missionaries serving decreased by 13% during 2015 - the largest annual decrease in the number of convert baptisms since 2003. It is interesting to note that the average number of converts baptized per missionary remained unchanged during 2015 as an average of 3.5 converts were baptized per missionary during the year. Also, the discrepancy in the summation of convert baptisms and increase in children of record, and the annual net increase in church membership, totaled 110,090 - a decrease of 12,813 compared to 2014. In other words, this finding indicates that there was a decrease in 2015 in the number of members removed from church records due to death, excommunication, resignation, or unbaptized children of record who reach age 18 compared to 2014. However, the annual membership growth rate for the Church declined to a mere 1.70% for 2015 - the slowest LDS membership growth rate since 1937 when church membership increased by 0.93%.

Although these findings for membership growth appear concerning, some significant positive LDS growth developments occurred during 2015. First, the Church reported the largest net increase in the number of congregations, and the highest percentage increase in congregations, since 2005. Second, the Church reported the most commensurate membership and congregational growth since 1998. In other words, the rates of membership and congregational growth were the most similar since 1998. As a result, the average number of members per congregation in the worldwide church barely increased from 519 to 521. Third, the Church has sustained steady increases in the number of stakes within the past five years (approximately 50-60), whereas the Church reported smaller net increases in the number of stakes in the 2000s (approximately 30-40).

In conclusion, the results of the 2015 Annual Statistical Report suggests that the Church has achieved good improvements in convert retention and local leadership development at the expense of fewer converts baptized. Greater "real growth" has appeared to occur that emphasizes quality instead of quantity - otherwise we would expect to see similar declines in LDS statistical measurements that reflect member activity rates (e.g. stakes and congregations). Rapid LDS growth in several African nations, where higher convert retention and member activity rates occur, have also likely affected LDS growth trends in the worldwide Church and may explain some of these improvements.

36 comments:

strangethingintheland said...

First, I am very appreciative of the ongoing service you provide week after week, year after year. Second, I largely agree with the many individual points of your analysis.

The only difference in perspective I would offer is that many of the outcomes are affected by a single driver: the seemingly precipitous decline in convert baptisms. However, the fact that the baptisms per missionary (BTW, have you ever considered redefining that as baptisms per missionary companionship as a more meaningful number? Sorry, I digress) remains constant suggests another way of looking at the numbers. Namely, we should be smoothing out the whole surge years, now that they are over, to gain more insight into the underlying trends. Then the highs of last years wouldn't be so high, and the resultant low's percentage-wise declines not so steep. I'm simply suggesting what you are already implying anecdotally might be extended to a numerical smoothing that results in even less need to explain outliers that may in one sense not even be that remarkable.

Just a thought,

strangethingintheland said...

sorry, "last" -> "past"

John Pack Lambert said...

Of the 11 newly called General Authorities, they were born in 6 countries. Namely, Argentina, Guatemala, Italy, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. The one born in Argentina was living in Peru working for a Danish investment firm. He was born in the Entre Rios province of Argentina. The one born in New Zealand served his mission in New Zealand but graduated from BYU and was an Area Seventy in the North America Southwest Area. I do not have much insight on him. That is S. Mark Palmer.

Grant Emery said...

Anyone know when general boards are called? With a new Primary general presidency, I'll be fascinated to see if they follow the Young Women's general board model of having half of the board members from outside of Utah (mostly outside the USA).

Sinverguenza said...

Has the information on the church in South Sudan gone back to being sensitive?

Downtownchrisbrown said...

It was an April fool's joke

Scott said...

Thank you for your analysis. I truly appreciate this site and its related sites in providing some great information. I wanted to add my two cents to this discussion.

I live in Las Vegas, Nevada and there have been three new stakes created here at the end of 2015. The reasons for this is a desire for smaller stakes which gives more people an opportunity to serve. Here, we have plenty of church buildings and plenty of well trained priesthood leadership in the outer reaches of the valley. In my ward we had 13 former bishops before the new stakes were created. The new stakes, however were not created due to convert baptisms. Our ward may see two or three new converts a year. Also members moving to Vegas has gone way down due to the recession and things have only turned around in the last couple of years. I think the recession had a big effect on a lot of places. Texas gained and California lost members when you crunch the numbers.

I think the surge had one very positive effect that is really hard to see directly in a statistical report. That is reactivation. Full time missionaries visited everyone in the wards here in Vegas and people came back, they were accepted, they were loved and helped and that had been a big positive. More children are in church and teenagers. I think we still have some work to do on getting missionaries prepared and actually go on missions and staying on missions. But the difference is kids now have to choose to live the gospel early, there is no fence sitting.

So, how does it increase? I would not be surprised if senior missionary couples becomes more of a calling than a consideration. The church had a lot of talent sitting on the sidelines. President Kimball's declaration that all worthy male members are called to serve happened just at the end of the Vietnam Nam war in the mid 70s, about 50 years ago. Those men are just entering retirement. And the number of returned missionaries will continue to increase every year. That talent and experience and integrity will be used more and more to build the kingdom. Maybe this is the bottom as far as number of converts. It should go up and we are probably better at helping converts.

One last thing, as the world becomes more economically unstable, and also adjust a scarier place to be in, it could also help a growing number of people look to God for help in life. I hope so. I know the world seems colder and less hospitable, so our simple acts of kindness can make a difference in showing some a better way of life.

Reed said...

According to my records, the actual numerical growth, 261,862, in 2015 was the lowest one-year growth in 31 years. Not since 1985 were there that few additional members added in one year.

Eduardo Clinch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eduardo Clinch said...

Perhaps the April Fool's South Sudan post can be marked in a color or a ₩₩₩₩ line where people can tell it is false. I read the whole thing out loud to my family before trying to pronounce the 3rd language which finally announced the joke. It reminded of me of getting my 25 year+ hopes for on paper results of Chile but constantly being re-disappointed by its lack of fuller dynamic growth. The numbers baptized with the real numbers of active Saints has been a bit of a mill stone around my and perhaps others' necks.
It can be difficult to ingest all the information especially if there are false parts to eliminate in the overall assimilation. Like seeing hundreds of thousands of converts in Chile where a smaller fraction is the more authentic reality.

Ray Felsted said...

Actually, the predictions were very close. The only surprise was the decline in convert baptisms, but that decrease matched the drop in the number of missionaries as the surge with the age changes has taken place. The underestimate of year-end congregations was due to either late-reporting units created or perhaps a higher number of sensitive units. The converts per missionary rate was unchanged, and I think that a better metric would be the number of convert baptisms per pair of missionaries.

The number of net new congregations was the highest since 2005 at 395, and the increase in Africa of 163 was 41.3% of that total, mainly in West Africa. It would be interesting to know what percent of the convert baptism total of 257,402 came from the few missions in West Africa.

Shannon Payton said...

I think that we could increase the number of baptisms and congragations in the United States if we could call retired couples on a stake level to go and start a group in a smaller area that has not been reached. The stake high council and presidency would be able to identify these areas and assign the newly called senior missionaries to go and teach folks help with less active members with the goal of establishing a group in a couple of months and a branch in a year or two. This would relieve the pressure on the full time missionaries to go and reach some of the farther out areas in their branch or ward and make more miles available to them for areas that have been more productive. It could also free up younger missionaries for areas where they could be more useful such as urban areas where you have to do more walking. I only think this because in my area of the church some of our branches are bigger than some new England states.

John Pack Lambert said...

I know for part of last year my mission had several sets of 3 missionaries. So calculating baptisms per mission companionship might be harder to expected.

Alex Compton said...

John, Elder Palmer lived in the Austin, TX area for a while, raising his kids there. He served as mission president in Washington state. Was an Area Seventy for 1 year before this call.

John Pack Lambert said...

In my stake at least there are lots of senior couples serving as stake level service missionaries. Currently they run the Personal Storehouse Project and the Pathway Program primarily but others just assist in inner city units. They could be used to build more units but considering how few youths some inner city units have I think right now we are in a build the people phase.

Mike Johnson said...

4 temples (Ecuador, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Peru)

Lima Peru is the smallest temple and it has a large temple district.

Mike Johnson said...

Estimating baptisms per companionship is simply doubling the the rate per missionary.

Joseph Heath said...

Well Belem, Harare, and Quito were all predicted on the map!

Pascal Friedmann said...

I believe that most of the dip in convert baptisms came from North America, and I wouldn't be surprised if the net growth for the U.S. was under 50,000 in 2015. That makes sense, since most of the Missionaries brought out by the surge were assigned to North America. It also makes sense because the Church might be reaching a certain level of saturation in the U.S., and truly unreached populations are becoming smaller.

So, I feel that if we want the Church to grow throughout the world, there should (and there will come) a movement away from the U.S. and toward Africa and Asia. There are two keys I see for achieving the greatest possible growth in those areas: Increase the number of senior missionaries (I believe the Church should help financially, where necessary, to allow local couples from places like Africa and Asia to serve in their home countries), and help the vast numbers of young converts from Africa go on Missions.

John said...

New temples announced: Harare, Zimbabwe; Lima, Peru (2nd); Quito, Ecuador; Belem, Brazil.

John Pack Lambert said...

Let us see. The Quito, Ecuador is not really that surprising. Guayaquil has 36 stakes and 9 districts assigned to it. Lima has 73 stakes and 11 districts. So it is still a huge district even after the Trujillo Temple has been built. Arequipa will take some, but I remember thinking when Peru got its 100th stake as one of them in Lima that the 41 stakes with the Lima name could easily support another temple, especially considering the Lima Temple is so small. I expect what will happen is that after the second Lima Temple is built that the Church will close the Lima Temple for renovation, and then reopen it after expanding it.

The last, Belem Brazil, is a slight surprise. I really expected Brasilia to be the next temple announced in Brazil.

Harare Zimbabwe does not surprise me. There are 4 stakes in Zimbabwe alone, and another in Zambia. While not as far from the temple as Nairobi, Kenya, the fact that South Africa worries about undocumented immigrantion from Zimbabwe makes it hard for Church members to get visas to go to South Africa. I still would not be surprised if there is a temple announced for Nairobi Kenya this fall. This would make 4 temples being built from the Johannesburg South Africa Temple District. But due to distances, visa issues, and poverty levels, only the Durban South Africa Temple is taking stakes that are likely to contribute many regular attendees to Johannesburg.

This makes it at least the last two announcement rounds had no new temples in the USA announced.

Bryce .Gillespie said...

A lot of the missianry work seems to be on lies actives, that was true in my mission I thank I spend a lot mere time on lies actives eather finding or teaching. The sisters in my ward here in Florida has been doing a lot of work with lies Active members my stack prisdent has spent a lot of time teaching us to go after the lies actives.

Alex said...

I'm actually not at all surprised about Belem happening before Brasilia. Belem is more than twice as far from its temple as Brasilia (about 1270 miles to Recife vs about 570 miles to Campinas). Belem is also in the top 10 largest cities in Latin America that previously did not have a temple. I've talked to missionaries coming home from Brasilia as well, and they tell me that they don't think a temple is likely to be announced imminently due to immaturity in the Church in that area. (Generally the missionaries say something different right before a temple gets announced.) While Brasilia is going to remain one of my predictions until it happens, Belem makes just as much sense to me.

Only Nicaragua has more members than Zimbabwe without a temple, and with border crossing problems, Zimbabwe makes tons of sense. Ecuador is the country that previously had the most members with only one temple, so it also makes tons of sense.

I was wondering what the next split to the Lima district would be. I had thought there would be another small temple between Lima and Arequipa as well as a small temple in Iquitos next, but I think that a Lima temple #2 will serve the members better.

John Pack Lambert said...

I have to admit that I thought of Belem and Fortaleza as close. It is a 932 mile drive from one to the other. The 521 mile drive from Detroit to Washington DC takes about 10 hours, so I would guess that it would take at least 20 hours to go from Belem to Fortaleza, so a temple in Belem is not really going to effect the active Fortaleza district. It is 1264 miles from Belem to Recife. Fortaleza only is 483 miles from Recife. That is still about 8 hours or more in travel time.

John Pack Lambert said...

It is 501 miles from Salvador, Brazil to Recife, Brazil. Salvador only has 4 stakes to Belem's 5 and Fortaleza's 8. I am not 100% sure on the later because for some reason even though the Fortaleza Stakes if you look them up on LDStemples.com I says that they are listed in the Recife Temple District, if you look up the Recife Temple District it does not list the Recife Temple. So I used the classic LDS maps. One stake in Fortaleza, the Fortaleza Brazil West Stake, is almost non-contiguous. The most interesting thing I learned is about Sao Luis. The Sao Luis Ward surrounds the other 9 wards. The Sao Luis Ward takes in Tutoia on the east, a 283 mile drive from Sao Luis, and Carutapera on the west, which is a 341 mile drive. Due to how the roads go, it is 495 miles between those cities. There is also Brejo de Areia is also in that ward, a 216 mile drive from Sao Luis going inland. The ward actually extends further inland, but it is not clear that it is more than just jungle. My guess is that the Sao Luis Ward includes some groups under it, hopefully several groups. So evidently the drive within the boundaries of the Sao Luis Ward, 495 miles from east to west, is greater than the travel distance from Fortaleza to Recife. I have to admit I don't really get how big Brazil is.

Brasilia and Belem both have 5 stakes. However if you include Anapolis and Goiania, the Goias/Federal District area has more stakes than does Para. Still, looking at LDS maps the main thing I gather from looking at LDS maps in northern Brazil is that wards cover huge areas.

John Pack Lambert said...

Actually, I was behind time with Zimbabwe. There are 6 stakes there, plus the one in Zambia.

I just used the distance tracker website I was using to try and figure out which temple the Lumbumbashi Stake was likely to be assigned to. It is a 937 mile flight between Lumbumbashi and Kinshasa. For the road travel it says such is "not possible". It is a 642 mile drive from Lumbumbashi to Harare. So it is possible that some members will travel that distance once the temple is built. Although the crossing of two international boundaries may make such a journey difficult.

From Beira, Mozambique it is 346 miles driving to Harare, Zimbabwe. It is 831 miles to Johanesburg, even further to Durban. So I think Beira Mozambique Stake will be assigned to the Harare Zimbabwe Temple. Maputo is 342 miles from Johanesburg and 377 from Durban, so I think it will remain in the Johanesburg Temple District. So it looks like 9 current stakes would be assigned to Harare, plus possibly the 4 in Kenya and Uganda. Actually maybe more than just Lumbumbashi from south-east Democratic Republic of the Congo.

John Pack Lambert said...

With the new temple announcements is the South America Northwest Area now the one in the Church with the most temples announced to be built (4) followed by Europe (3), Africa South-East (3) and Brazil (3)?

Ohhappydane33 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L. Chris Jones said...

I would like to see more retired coulples called to areas within thier own communities to serve either in humanitarian or spiritual positions. I think we had huge growth in units last year even with slower membership growth. Probably largly from greater retention and reactivation. More couples could serve in this way.

L. Chris Jones said...

I would like to see more retired coulples called to areas within thier own communities to serve either in humanitarian or spiritual positions. I think we had huge growth in units last year even with slower membership growth. Probably largly from greater retention and reactivation. More couples could serve in this way.

Aaron and Kamyra said...

On Sunday the Townsville branch in the Townsville district split to form the Townsville 1st and 2nd branches. There is talk of combining the Cairns Australia and Townsville Australia districts to form a stake in northern Queensland. There have been goals for years to do this, some 10 years ago the mission split the Cairns Branch to form two in that city and there has remained to 2 functioning branches, finally Townsville has the numbers to split which makes it possible now with a little further growth to create a stake in northern Queensland. That would make between the districts 4 ward size branches and a number of smaller ones. What has always been an issues is distance, Cairns is about 4 hours drive from Townsville. With the other branches south of Townsville by up to two hours, Mt Isa branch is 10 hours west of townsville and Thursday Island Branch is on an island maybe 8 hours north of Cairns. I imagine if they created a stake some of those branches would become part of the mission. Even then, it would make the stake one of the biggers ones if not biggest in Australia size wise.

Tah said...

The Child of record number bothers me. 115,000 new children in a population of
15.4 million give a rate increase of 7.5 per thousand population that rate is
lower than the birthrates of South Korea or japan, ahead of only Saint Pierre and Miquelon and Monaco. The US Birth rate is 12.5 if the LDS rate was the same the
number should be 192500.

Joe said...

I don't think you can just divide the member population by new children of records as inactive members' kids' are not probably counted. They probably do not bother to have the children recorded.

Joe said...

What I find curious that convert baptisms and current member attrition go down together. You would think both trends go in opposite directions.

John Pack Lambert said...

My girlfriend brings her grandson to Church most of the time, and his mother is a baptized member of the Church. However he has not been blessed and not been added to the records of the Church. I suspect that there are many other similar cases. I would expect that one would have to calculate the children of record to active church members, and come up with somewhere around 21 per thousand, depending on lots of unknowable factors.

Eduardo Clinch said...

I guess one way of thinking of the immense size of Brazil is the the lower 48 US states could fit in the Amazon Basin, which includes about four other countries and their waters that feed into that huge water system.
Only two South American nation do not border Brazil, although maybe some Ecuadorean jungle is part of the basin? Some people call Chile an "island" because of how its population is cut off from the rest of the continent.
One other note about Brazilian geography that many do not know: the northeast corner is very dry and quite poor, maybe climatologically like parts of eastern Australia in the northest or Africa, I don't know if those are proper comparisons.
Great to see the temple growth. I did endowments for a North Carolina born (1893) Delaware nominated gentleman baptized at Oquirrh Temple, iniatiated at Snowflake and endowed in DC.
Maybe he'll be sealed in Nova Scotia?