Sunday, March 28, 2021

2020 Statistical Report: Predictions

The year 2020 was definitely an anomaly year in regards to the growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Tens of thousands of full-time missionaries were released or temporarily reassigned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were several months during the year when there were extremely few new congregations being organized or discontinued. Furthermore, there was a five-month hiatus in new stake creations from March until August. Children of record totals are likely much lower than usual due to many members delaying infant blessings as a result of COVID-19 restrictions which resulted in fewer children added to Church records. Moreover, the number of convert baptisms dramatically decreased in many of the historically highest baptizing missions for at least several months during the year. However, there are many reports that the number of convert baptisms surpassed the number of convert baptisms for at least some months of the year, including in some lower-baptizing mission in Europe as well as historically high baptizing mission in Latin America. Thus, it is very difficult to predict what convert baptism totals were for 2020 given these changes from the status quo for convert baptism rates. It is like some of these metrics will see a noticeable temporary bump in 2021 as conditions begin to normalize in many of the countries where the Church operates, such as with children of record increase and the number of members serving full-time missions. One metric that appears to have noticeably improved in 2020 compared to prior years is the number of individuals meeting with missionaries and lessons taught by missionaries given major changes in online proselytism and remote teaching. However, this is not an official statistic published by the Church.

See below for my predictions for the 2020 Annual Statistical Report:

  • Membership: 16.75 million (increase of approximately 200,00 from 2019; a 1.21% annual increase)
  • Congregations: 31,140 (increase of 200 from 2019; a 0.65% annual increase)
  • Stakes: 3,464 (increase of 27 from 2019; a 0.79% annual increase)
  • Districts: 537 (decrease of 5 from 2019; a 0.92% annual decrease)
  • Missions: 406 (increase of 7 from 2019; a 1.75% annual increase)
  • Convert Baptisms: 200,000 (decrease of 48,835 from 2019; a 19.6% annual decrease)
  • Increase of Children on Record: 60,000 (decrease of 34,266 from 2019; a 36.4% annual decrease)
  • Full-time missionaries: 54,000 (decrease of 13,021 from 2019; a 19.4% annual decrease)
  • Church service missionaries: 25,000 (decrease of 6,333 from 2019; a 20.2% annual decrease)

Your insights and predictions are welcomed and encouraged. They may take a few hours or up to a day to show up below the post. I approve comments due to recent concerns with spam comments.


Unknown said...

Speaking of growth in sometimes unexpected places: 12 years ago when I served as a missionary in the India New Delhi Mission (which includes Bangladesh in its boundaries) attendance at the Dhaka branch hovered around 15. Based on pictures from a recent visit by the mission president of the India New Delhi Mission attendance attendance appears to have been over 40. That may not seem like a lot, but in a country with no full time missionaries, few Christians, and considerable challenges to the growth of the church, this is remarkable. While a long term downward trend in growth around for the church as a whole seems clear, growth sometimes occurs in unexpected places.

Eduardo said...

Thanks for the updates. The numbers of missionaries serving is sobering.
Good to see growth in Dhaka. Any membership in Chittagong?

Unknown said...

@Eduardo, not to my knowledge. There certainly wasn't any branch in Chittagong when I was in the New Delhi mission, and I haven't heard anything to indicate any church presence there since that time. I'd be surprised if there are any members in Chittagong at all, since what little membership there is in Dhaka has primarily been a function of expats sharing the gospel with Bangladeshis, who in turn share it with some family and friends.

I do hope the church begins to expand more in India and Pakistan in the near future. As commenters (and I think Matt himself) have noted, there is a window of opportunity in many countries that may close if the church is too reluctant to expand due to an overreliance on the centers of strength policy. While rapid expansion along the lines of what happened in the 1980s in South America may be excessive and cause retention problems down the line, given that stakes currently outnumber districts in India I think expanding into at least a few previously unreached areas seems reasonable.

A few locations that I would consider logical next places to expand to are:

Guntur (already in the Vijaywada branch boundaries -- an ideal location for a home group if there isn't one already -- there might be),

Salem (there was an elder in my mission from Salem who would take the bus from there to Erode to attend church as a young man, and there are at least a few members there already),

Pondicherry (close enough to Chennai to perhaps be included in the district, and with a Christian tradition already in place due to its history as a Portuguese colony),

Madurai, a major city in south India and a higher percent Christian than India generally (when first opening a city in India it can be helpful to have a pre-existing Christian population to get things rolling, although in my experience members from other faith backgrounds are deeply committed; nonetheless members from other Christian denominations provide a helpful jump start),

Kochi (I was told there used to be a branch there, but during a period of time when the church was unable to send any missionaries a combination of apostasy and inactivity led to its collapse -- I don't know for certain that is true, but if so perhaps there are a few members there who could be brought back to the fold as an initial group to build on),

Pune (there has been an on-again, off-again home group in Pune for years, just depending on the vagaries of if and when Indian members' employment takes them there. Given that there is now a branch with missionaries in Mumbai and the fact that there are often members moving there from other cities, Pune is a prime candidate),

Dehradun (another city with on-again, off-again home groups, and a number of members in Delhi have extended family in Dehradun that they have shared the gospel with, so there is a built in initial teaching pool, and the possibility of some support from the New Delhi stake, in spite of the distance),

Imphal (there are a number of Manipuri members in Delhi, and the opportunity to introduce their friends and family back home in one of India's most Christian states should not be passed by. Growth potential here is tremendous, perhaps more than anywhere else in India if only the church sent missionaries),

Kolkata (there is already a branch there -- it is just a matter of sending missionaries).

There is (or at least was, a decade ago) a home group in Gorakhpur, and lots of self-referrals in Lucknow, so there is some potential in both cities, however considering the political situation in that area of India at present it is probably simply too unsafe to send missionaries to either of those cities.

Unknown said...

The church is very cautious about its operations in Pakistan -- it doesn't indicate a presence on church websites, only allows native Pakistanis to serve as missionaries there, and only allows them to teach Christians. In spite of these restrictions, growth there often is higher than in India (probably partly because church is held in Urdu, while in India it is held in English). If Hyderabad (in Pakistan) has not yet been opened (it wasn't when I was there, and too my knowledge hasn't been opened since), it would be an ideal location. There are a number of members in cities the church already has districts in with family in Hyderabad that they would like to bring into the church.

Last but not least, although legal barriers have thus far prevented the church from engaging in full time missionary work in Nepal, when that day comes there is great potential there. The branch in Kathmandu has a tradition of successful member missionary work to build on.

Eduardo said...

Sri Lanka seems like fertile grounds for missionary work but not the Maldives. From what I know that archipelago is quite poor and Islam is rather official. People are spread out, too. By ocean.

John Pack Lambert said...

Sri Lanka has a militantly Buddhist government that is very antagonistic to Christian prosyletitism. I think they as a result soberly restrict missionary visas. There is growth, but it will at some point have to come from local member initiative.

John Pack Lambert said...

In India there are a few units that are officially designated as I believe Telugu and Kannada. There are no Tamil or Hindi units. I would think in Pakistan it might make more sense to operate units in Punjabi in some areas.

Keep in mind that no south Asian governments are welcoming to large numbers of Western Christian missionaries.

John Pack Lambert said...

Pondicherry was a French colony not a Portuguese one.

John Pack Lambert said...

In the northeast of India Mizoram and Nagalamd have over 80% Christian populations and Manipur, Arunchal Pradesh and Meghalaya all have large Christian populations. Even Assam rivals the percentages in any of the more Christian states in southern India. True the whole north-east probably has fewer Christian's than Kerala, Tamil Nadu or Kannada states each have on their own. Still all north east stakes have over 1 million inhabitants, I think Nagaland at over 90% Christian has over 2.5 million people. I still think this is a path of growth worth pursuing.

John Pack Lambert said...

Imphal and Manipur is actually Hindu majority. There are Christians there yes. However Manipur is majority in all the other districts of the state, which tend to be more rural.

Eduardo said...

Diu and Goa were Portguese enclaves, on both sides of the country, on the coasts. Sugar ports and other commodities, as I understand it, extending from Europe.

John Pack Lambert said...

Calling Goa an enclave is a bit misleading. Diu has 15 square miles and is,adjacent to Gujarat. Goa has 1400 square miles and is between Maharashtra and Karnataka. Thus they are both along the western coast of India. Mumbai was actually under Portuguese control until it was transferred to the British as part of the dowry of Charles II's wife in 1662. At that point I believe it was an island. Some of the modern city was under water then, and it was only a small area compared to the modern city.

Also at that point the only places were Europeans existed outside of very small areas were in the far south of Indua where there was a broad range of states. The whole north of India and modern Pakistan and Bangladesh, except some eastern areas of Bangladesh and the area in and around modern Assam was under Mughal control. That changed as Muggal power collapsed starting in about 1715. It is not until the 1770s that large areas really come under British control. The French and British fought the 7 Years War which began as the French and Indian War when Washington and others fought the British to control Pittsburgh, in part in India. Still this was mainly in coastal areas.

It would not be until the 1820s that Assam came under British control. Manipur, with its Capitol in Imphal was in 1815 and for a few decades before that a tributary state to Burma. The line with Afghanistan was drawn later, and in what was called the North West Frontier Province there was a large level of refusal to vote in the post-Independence plebiscite because joining Afghanistan was not an option.

Ladakh, which was split off from Jammu Kashmir as a separate union territory is majority Buddhist. These are Tihetan Buddhists. Nagalamd with its 2.5 million Christian Nagas does not have all the Naga. There are maybe just as many over th he border in Myanmar. Myanmar may be the second most Christian nation in mainly Asia after South Korea, or 3rd after Lebanon. However the Christians are primarily members of ethnic minorities living in the periphery of the country, some of whom have battled for more autonomy or full independence since the British left in 1947.

Eduardo said...

Good points about Diu and Goa. Years ago when taking an intensive Portuguese at UCLA, I thought the text book had the colonies on both sides of the sub-continent. Looking at recent maps I saw something like a dozen ports of Portugal around the whole peninsula. India is a massive puzzle. The Gospel will continue to grow there.

John Pack Lambert said...

Keep in mind Portuguese presence in the 16th-century in India often amounted to a few traders in a port and no actual power there, For various reasons there were also areas the Portuguese controlled in the 16th-century in both Asia and on the east African coast that they by the end of the century or early in the 17th-century.

In the early 18th-century the French had somewhat significant holdings in the southeast of India, including several areas that are now in Tamil Nadu, but they lost several of them to the British in the treaty of 1763.

One of the new Area Seventies if from India. The previous Area Seventy from India was called as a mission president. I have to admit I was hoping we would see a general authority called from India this last conference, but it was not so. We did get the first Tongan general authority, although he moved to the United States at about age 10 or so.

Elder Sikahema's wife is American. In fact she is the aunt of the actor who played Napoleon Dynamite in the movie of that name.

Johnathan Reese Whiting said...

@John Pack Lambert

John Heder is the actor. :)

Johnathan Reese Whiting said...


You probably know this, but have there been any other Polynesian General Authorities? Like from Samoa, Tahiti, Fiji, or Hawaii?

twinnumerouno said...

I hope it's all right if I jump in here.

As far as I know, the only other Polynesian currently serving as a General Authority is Elder Taniela B. Wakolo from Fiji, who spoke in the Sunday Morning Session- he was called as a General Authority in 2017.

Elder O. Vincent Haleck from Samoa served as a General Authority from 2011-2019. He may have been the first Polynesian to so serve, but I am not clear on this point.

We have had at least 3 General Authorities each from Hawaii and New Zealand- which is also considered part of Polynesia, but I am not aware that any of them had Polynesian ancestry. (2 of the 3 from New Zealand are currently serving, Elder Ardern and Elder Palmer who also spoke in general conference. In the case of Hawaii, there have been at least 2 general authorities who were born and raised there but had Japanese ancestry, plus Elder Hallstrom who appeared to be of European descent.)

I have a feeling I am forgetting someone, but I do not have a complete list of general authorities to look at.

twinnumerouno said...

Elder Douglas J. Martin, the first General Authority from New Zealand, had a Maori wife, according to this site:

twinnumerouno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnathan Reese Whiting said...


Thanks for the Polynesian research, buddy. :)