Wednesday, November 19, 2014

LDS Growth Accelerating in California

The Church in California has begun to experience accelerating congregational growth for the first time in a decade. So far in 2013 and 2014, the Church has reported a net increase of 20 congregations (+21 wards, -1 branch) in California. The Church reported a net increase of seven congregations in 2013 and a net increase of 13 congregations for 2014. The last time the Church in California experienced as large of a net increase in the number of congregations occurred in 2004 when there was a net increase of 40 congregations (12 wards, 28 branches). The growth the Church in California has experienced in 2013 and 2014 has been more impressive than the growth experienced in 2004 as the majority of congregations organized in 2004 were young single adult (YSA) branches whereas in the majority of congregations organized in 2013 and 2014 have been English-speaking family wards. The Church has also organized many non-English speaking wards in California so far in 2014, including several Spanish-speaking wards and branches, a new Mandarin Chinese-speaking branch in Pasadena, and a new Hmong-speaking branch in Yuba City.

This acceleration in congregational growth in California is a surprising LDS growth development as the Church has experienced essentially stagnant membership and congregational growth for over two decades. Stagnant growth has primarily occurred due to members moving outside of the state. Recent congregational growth trends in 2014 may indicate a reduction in the number of active members moving away from the state, improvements in member activity rates, and increases in the numbers of converts joining the Church and remaining active.

The Church in California continues to have many challenges. The Church continues to operate fewer wards and branches than it did in the mid-2000s when there were as many as 1,386 congregations (compared to 1,368 at present). The Church in California has also gone through multiple cycles of organizing and consolidating congregations based on patterns of active membership moving away from the state. For example, the Church reported congregational growth until 1993 when a high of 1,353 congregations was reached, but consolidated many wards and branches until 1997 when there were 1,273 congregations reported. Congregational growth rebounded to reach a new high of 1,386 in 2004 and 2005, but declined to 1,348 in 2011 and 2012. Recent history suggests that the Church in California may continue to experience oscillations in net increases and declines in congregational growth based on the rate that members move away from the state, the number of converts who join the Church and remain active, and fluctuations in member activity rates.

Click here to access the state statistical profile for California on


MainTour said...

I think California is still seeing an flight of anglo middle-class to lower tax states and an influx of non-member illegal aliens.

The biggest reduction of congregations is in the inner-city areas. A large territory of my home ward in San Diego (and my high school) now sees a huge muslim population, which was not there when I was.

Michael Worley said...

On topic: There are a lot of cycles going on in California. In the San Diego mission in, one stake has just 5 wards (and declined in number since I served there). Another has 10 wards + 1 branch (up from 7 wards 7 years ago). California is a place of great opportunities and challenges.

Off topic: The number of missionaries has declined from 88,000 to 87,000, per this article:

Matt said...

I am not sure if these stats are accurate for missionary numbers. They reported there are 405 missions when there are actually 406.

Michael Worley said...

Seems like they got both numbers from here.

Michael Worley said...

Maybe they closed a mission because of tensions in Crimea or Ebola?

Eduardo said...

I know the Ensign miscounted the Chilean missions a couple of months ago (at 9) when by my count there are 10, the newest, Santiago South, was re-established in 2013. This year there were not many new ones, but 2013 was a huge increase. It is so great to see whole countries like Angola and Botswana get their own missions.

It is encouraging to see California build up again. After living there 8 years in a ten year span ('99-'09) and marrying a southern Californian, I feel like I may be buried there someday.

As discussed before, economics explains a lot of church growth trends. The Golden State has had its job losses and problems, but hopefully the general economy is improving the increase of missions and missionaries helps all the people. 7 temples is an impressive number, no matter how you slice it. And there are many, many longstanding members who contribute to the kingdom there. I look forward to new stakes there, as the first one I lived in, Highland in the San Bernardino Valley, was fused in 2005 or so. Let's pray that all of us prosper, both financially and spiritually.

Matt said...

Actually living here in Southern California, the Church continues to grow, despite the fact some move to Utah, Arizona, or Texas.

I'm currently working with the Japanese Group that has Japanese Firesides every other month, with a goal to start a Japanese Sunday School Class and eventual Japanese Branch.

Up in LA, Los Angeles Stake now has a Farsi program, and down in El Cajon (in San Diego County), there are now Arabic speaking missionaries.

In South Orange County (like Ladera Ranch, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente) the Church is relatively strong with about 5-8% LDS Population. Same out in the Menifee, Murrieta, Temecula areas of Riverside County. 5-10% LDS...

Some of the established areas that lost English speaking wards in the past, are now being replaced with Spanish speaking branches or wards, or new English wards (from Latinos who speak more English, and less Spanish) or Chinese speaking units...

Another strong point in California compared to other areas, is that California is ahead of the curve in reaching out and having different wards and program for Singles (YSAs, Midsingles 31-45, 46+ Singles, etc) ...

Michael Worley said...


Are they working to establish new units in El Cajon?

Unknown said...

The Abeokuta Nigeria Distict has been reorganized as a stake last Sunday. All eight branches in the old district became wards.

According to, this leaves the world at 29,488 official congregations in total. I post this last piece of information because I`ve been anxiously watching the Church reaching for the 30,000 milestone. And it appears we are going to get there pretty soon.

Also, exciting to see good things happening in California again. All those new Missions from 2013 needed to pay off at some point. And I`m glad that Mission leaders have been so courageous to reach out to minorities in CA which speak "non-traditional" proselytism languages, such as Farsi and Arabic.

MLewis said...

Matt - where is the Japanese group you're working with? About 2 years ago I attended 3-4 Japanese firesides in the LA area (always held near the temple), and a sheet was passed around at the last one asking if there was any interest in starting a Japanese sunday school in Torrance at the Kent building. When I went to the first fireside I was still living in Torrance, and the firesides were on a quarterly basis and were run by the Japanese missionary couple working at the visitor center. They've since gone home, and I heard some of the participants were going to try and continue the firesides in Orange County, but I never heard what happened with that.

Adam said...


I wanna say that the branches in China and other such countries are still counted in the yearly totals. With that in mind, the number of total units is closer to 29600, because there are about a hundred units the church doesn't release in the individual country totals. Someone correct me if I'm off.

Considering so far this year (if I have my numbers right) we have had an increase of around 340 units, we are projected to end the year around 384 (largest in about a decade.) That would mean we would likely make the milestone by the end of next year if we performed similar to this year.

Eduardo said...

Afghanistan had about 1,000 members back in 2012, making its own district. Now it might be down to 200 people? Not sure, but we had a full district just two years ago, with maybe 50 groups? One group I was part of over half a year averaged about 16 per Sunday, another for a month only had 2-3. Another one in Kabul had the magic number of 12 week in week out.

Iraq now has a few more individual members than before; it is hard to count all the international groups and branches at one time. There are at least two in Kuwait, I don't know where or if those show up. Jordan and Istanbul, I wonder how those do...

The Balkan states seem to be improving, pretty cool.

alizabeth.leake said...

What is the record for unit growth? How about stake growth?

Michael said...

More late updates to CDOL on newly created units:

9 November 2014

12. Bungarribee Ward, Sydney Australia Hebersham Stake (7 wards)
13. Southern Pines Ward, Fayetteville North Carolina West Stake (7 wards, 3 branches)
14. Telchaquillo Branch, Ticul Mexico District (8 branches)

Ray said...


To answer your question about unit growth, we are nearing 350 new wards and branches for this year and, so far, 61 stakes. District totals are down about 8 due mainly to many districts becoming stakes and others consolidating with other districts in preparation for stakehood.

Recent growth in wards and branches are:
2013 + 256
2012 + 204
2011 + 124
2010 + 236
2009 + 315
2008 + 282
2007 + 352
2006 + 388
2005 + 457
2004 + 333
2003 + 94
2002 + 59
2001 + 169
2000 + 122
1999 + 242
1998 + 881
1997 + 1,142
1996 + 843
1995 + 911
1994 + 772
1993 + 921
1992 + 1,243
1991 + 756
1990 + 798
1989 + 745
1988 + 537
1987 + 624
1986 + 375

John Pack Lambert said...

We currently have two people serving Spanish-speaking missions from my ward in California.