Sunday, February 15, 2009

Membership Growth in 2008

The Deseret News published the membership of the Church as of October 1st, 2008 in the 2009 Church Almanac to be 13,428,061, or an increase of around 234,000 members. This would mean an average of 26,000 people joined the Church a month for the first nine months of 2008. Assuming that membership growth rate did not change for the last three months of 2008, this would mean that Church membership as of the end of 2008 would be slightly over 13.5 million, or and an increase of 312,000 members from 2007.

Membership growth slowed in 2008 and will likely be around 10,000 people less than the previous year. Yet this still indicates a continuation of accelerated membership growth during the past few years. For instance, membership increased by only 263,700 in 2002 and 290,000 in 2003. During 2002 there were 61,600 missionaries serving around the world and in 2007 that number was only 52,700. This indicates that the number of converts per missionary has improved from 4.6 converts per missionary per year to 5.3 converts per missionary per year.

The decline in growth in 2008 from 2007 is due to fewer people joining the Church in Brazil. The 2009 Church Almanac provided the membership of Brazil in October 2008 to be 1,040,000. Considering there were nearly 1,020,000 members at the end of 2007 (a year in which almost 50,000 joined the Church in that country), this indicates a sudden decline in converts baptized, likely to number 20,000 less than 2007 for 2008.

1 comment:

David Stewart said...


Great site. This is David Stewart from One additional explanation should be considered for Brazil, which is that the decline in membership growth may reflect at least in part a number of members removed from the rolls due to record clean-ups. We know from other data that the number of people in the "lost address" file in these nations is huge, i.e. over 200,000 in Chile in 2004 out of 535,000 on the rolls, compared to only 57,000 weekly church attenders. Past record "clean-ups" have resulted in stagnation or even declines in total membership even as baptisms have continued, such as the post-baseball baptism cleanup in the UK several decades ago.

I see as more likely than a 40-50% decrease in annual baptisms in Brazil, the combination of (1) modest record cleanup removing from the rolls some records that cannot be validated and (2) a more modest decline in total baptism numbers.

"Accelerated membership growth during the past few years" also needs to be taken in the longer context; the short term has been bumpy with significant ups and downs. For 2004, 241,239 LDS convert baptisms were reported, the lowest number of converts since 1987, in spite of record numbers of missionaries serving and increasing total membership numbers. There has been slight improvement since that time but it is important to remember that the recent numbers are coming off of a 20-year nadir. 5.3 annual baptisms per missionaries is better than the low of 4.5-4.6, but this is still far from the 6-6.5 which was the norm for the fifteen-year period 1985-1999.

Contemporary growth rates still leave much to be desired; when taken in context of increasing nominal membership numbers, LDS growth rates have slowed from >5% in the 1980s and 90s to less than 3% at present.

Of course retention is another matter; there have been recent improvements in retention although these have been spotty and not entirely consistent.

Best wishes,

David Stewart