Monday, July 25, 2022

Self-Affiliated Latter-day Saints in Mexico: 2010 vs 2020 Censuses

Recently, statistical data was released from the 2020 Mexican census. This data provides valuable insights into member activity and growth patterns in membership for the Church in Mexico compared to prior censuses. See below for a table that displays 2010 and 2020 census data regarding the number of Latter-day Saints by administrative division in Mexico. It is important to note that self-affiliation as measured by what people report on the census is not a perfect measurement of the total number of self-identified Latter-day Saints in a particular country. However, most self-identified Latter-day Saints appear to self-affiliate as Latter-day Saints in the census, so this statistic can provide valuable insights into the number of active members. The Church does not publish a breakdown of its membership by Mexican state.

Mexican States with the highest percentage of self-affiliated Latter-day Saints on the 2020 census include:

  1. Yucatán - 0.51%
  2. Chihuahua - 0.47%
  3. Hidalgo - 0.45%
  4. Quintana Roo - 0.43%
  5. Tamaulipas - 0.40%
  6. Morelos - 0.40%
  7. Sonora - 0.38%
  8. Campeche - 0.36%
  9. Coahuila de Zaragoza - 0.35%
  10. Baja California - 0.34%

Mexican states with the lowest percentage of self-affiliated Latter-day Saints on the 2020 census include:

  1. Michoacán de Ocampo - 0.08%
  2. Guanajuato - 0.09%
  3. Zacatecas - 0.11%
  4. Jalisco - 0.12%
  5. Nayarit - 0.14%
  6. San Luis Potosí - 0.14%
  7. Guerrero - 0.14%
  8. Chiapas - 0.16%
  9. Colima - 0.17%
  10. Tlaxcala - 0.17%

These data indicate that self-affiliated Latter-day Saints generally comprise the highest percentages of the population in Mexico in the Yucatán Peninsula and in northern Mexico along the United States border and the lowest percentage of the population in central Mexico west of Mexico City. 

The number of self-affiliated Latter-day Saints increased by the highest percentage in the following states between 2010 and 2020:

  1. Querétaro - 66.2%
  2. Quintana Roo - 21.5%
  3. Hidalgo - 17.9%
  4. Puebla - 17.6%
  5. Tlaxcala - 17.4%
  6. Nuevo León - 14.7%
  7. Oaxaca - 14.0%
  8. Yucatán - 13.1%
  9. Tabasco - 12.3%
  10. Durango - 11.8%

The number of self-affiliated Latter-day Saints decreased by the highest percentage, or increased at the smallest percentage, in the following states between 2010 and 2020:

  1.  Colima - -9.7%
  2. Guerrero - -8.9%
  3. Michoacán de Ocampo - -6.8%
  4. Coahuila de Zaragoza - -6.6%
  5. Nayarit - -6.1%
  6. Sonora - -1.5%
  7. Baja California - -0.3%
  8. Sinaloa - -0.1%
  9. Ciudad de México - 0.3%
  10. Chiapas - 1.9%

The percentage of self-affiliated Latter-day Saints in the population increased in only seven states between 2010 and 2020, including:

  1. Querétaro - 0.05%
  2. Oaxaca - 0.01%
  3. Puebla - 0.01%
  4. Tabasco - 0.01%
  5. Veracruz de Ignacio de la Llave - 0.01%
  6. Hidalgo - 0.01%
  7. Tlaxcala - 0.004%

On the contrary, the percentage of self-affiliated Latter-day Saints in the population decreased most rapidly in the following states between 2010 and 2020:

  1. Coahuila de Zaragoza - -0.08%
  2. Baja California - -0.07%
  3. Quintana Roo - -0.07%
  4. Baja California Sur - -0.05%
  5. Sonora - -0.05%
  6. Colima - -0.04%
  7. Morelos - -0.03%
  8. Nayarit - -0.03%
  9. Sinaloa - -0.03%
  10. Nuevo León - -0.03%

Overall, the percentage of self-affiliated Latter-day Saints in the population slightly decreased from 0.24% to 0.22% between 2010 and 2020. The 2010 census reported 314,932 Latter-day Saints, whereas the 2020 census reported 337,998 Latter-day Saints. There was a net increase of only 23,066 self-affiliated Latter-day Saints between 2010 and 2020, whereas Church-reported membership increased by 246,985. Thus, the increase in the number of census-reported Latter-day Saints was 9.3% of the Church-reported increase in membership during this time. The Church in Mexico has struggled for decades with low convert retention and member activity rates. Probably only 20% of Church-reported membership in Mexico regularly attends church - a percentage that has not appeared to have significantly changed in the past two decades based on survey data from returned missionaries and local members and census data (i.e., 23.2% of Church-reported membership self-affiliated on the census in 2000). The number of Latter-day Saint congregations in Mexico decreased between 2010 and 2020 from 2,007 to 1,843 primarily due to the consolidation of wards with few active members. Moreover, Latter-day Saints are the most urbanized religious group among the largest religious groups on the Mexican census, and this appears primarily attributed to the centers of strength policy. Two-thirds (65.4%) of self-affiliated Latter-day Saints in 2010 resided in cities of 100,000 or more people—the highest percentage of any other major religious group in Mexico. Only 47.7% of Mexicans lived in such cities at the time. There has also been research that indicates Latter-day Saint families in Mexico have fewer children than non-Latter-day Saint families in Mexico per Fox K (2011) Mormon fertility in Latin America found in the BYU Scholars Archive.

Querétaro stands out as an anomaly in the data for Latter-day Saints given a whopping increase of 66.2% in self-affiliated Latter-day Saints between 2010 and 2020. Moreover, Querétaro was the only Mexican state where the percentage of Latter-day Saints in the population increased by more than 0.01% during this period. Local members report that Querétaro is an important emerging economic center in Mexico that has attracted many young families who work in the tech industry. Thus, much of the growth in membership in Querétaro appears attributed to Latter-day Saint families moving to the city.

Click on the image below to see the data table for the statistical data I presented above. Data from 2010 was presented and analyzed in this post.



13 comments:

James said...

Thanks, Matt. Mexico is fascinating because it could serve as a case study for nascent growth in other countries (particularly in Africa).

The most shocking statistic: Roughly 6% of all official members of the church WORLDWIDE are people in Mexico who don't consider themselves LDS.

More than 1 million people baptized and simply lost. And having served in Mexico, I mean, literally, lost. When we filled out baptism certificate forms, the address line was often left blank, especially in smaller towns or poorer areas. There is no getting these people back, because even if they returned to church, their records would be incredibly difficult to trace back to them. We rebaptized a couple who came back and made entirely new records for them because of this issue.

I baptized over 200 people on my mission and can honestly say that I'm aware of roughly 10 that are still active.

To me, this really highlights how incredibly irrelevant the church's official membership numbers are.

The solution doesn't seem that hard. Simply have a set of books that reflect activity, and a set of books that reflect all members (current books). When the lost sheep return, they can be accounted for in both sets of books and added to the active rolls. Leadership could be more effective if they had both sets of books because it would help them assess callings (active membership) and possible reactivation (non-active). Additions to or subtractions from the active books could be indicators of growth, concerns, or opportunities.

This also isn't a labor-intensive problem. You could follow something like the Adventist approach and automatically remove people from the active list after they haven't attended for a year.

Matt, any idea why the church uses such an ineffective, inaccurate accounting of church membership? Any pilots going on out there that would suggest the church may change on this dimension?

Christopher Duerig said...

"Overnight fire at the Orem Utah Temple extinguished, under investigation"

By Scott Taylor 26 July 2022, 3:26 PM MDT

https://www.thechurchnews.com/2022/7/26/23279489/overnight-fire-at-the-orem-utah-temple-extinguished-under-investigation-construction

Paranoico said...

I want to clarify that the data of the 2020 census in Mexico isn't accurate. The name of the church in spanish is La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días. In the questionnarie it was difficult to determine which option yo choose since there were different and it divides the total population into the next categories:
-Mormon Church
-LDS Church
-La Iglesia de Jesucristo de los santos de los Últimos Días
-Iglesia de Jesucristo de los Santos de los Últimos Días

Kimberley in San Diego said...

I'm perplexed that the problem of inactivity doesn't seem to be addressed. Why not require converts to be active (attend church/pay tithing/live word of wisdom, etc.) for one month prior to baptism? It seems like that would eliminate most of the people who are not sincere. I was surprised when a missionary (in California) told me that the requirement regarding church attendance was that a convert must attend only one sacrament meeting before being baptized. I would think that someone who is unwilling to attend church before being baptized isn't like to start attending afterwards.

Pascal Friedmann said...

I have gotten around a fair bit and to be honest, it seems like the minimum requirement for Church attendance hardly plays a role in real-life baptisms. I have never witnessed anyone get baptized who attended for less than two months prior as far as I can remember. People get put "on date" earlier very often, but their initial dates fall through with great reliability until they have established some Church attendance habits. In fact, it seems like there is a trend for people in the wards I've attended over the years to investigate for a longer period of time on their own, years in some cases, before baptism. While I believe that it is crucial to accept that some people take longer to receive answers and make the necessary life changes to get them covenant-ready, I don't see this as something that is particularly positive per se. As long as someone has a basic understanding of "the lessons" and is willing to enter the covenant path, their baptism should not be artificially delayed, because a wait period would deprive them of receiving other saving ordinances in a timely manner and of receiving the blessings of service in the Church and the Priesthood.

Further, tithing is a commandment only for members of the Church, and from a clerical point of view, "tithes" and other donations received from nonmembers of the Church or even of the unit in question cannot be processed for that reason. However, the candidate for baptism must follow the Word of Wisdom by the time of the baptismal interview, along with the Law of Chastity.

So really, a lot of the concerns rightfully raised from formal minimum requirements don't really hold up in reality, at least in my experience throughout North America and Europe, because most of the people getting baptized far eclipse the bare minimum requirements before they themselves feel adequately prepared to be baptized.

Final thoughts on activity: I firmly believe that the one-year retention rates after baptism are as low as they are in some parts of the world because priesthood leaders do not trust recent converts to make meaningful contributions through callings, ministering, and temple work. Callings should not be overwhelming but probably more spiritually engaging than sacrament program folder or (many bishops' favorite) nothing. We should absolutely support recent converts in attending the temple as frequently as their circumstances allow and to begin meaningful work on their own family history. Ministering assignments should be manageable and ideally, they should begin ministering to households which are active in living the Gospel and which can be good examples to the young ministering brother or sister in living a Gospel-centered life. This requires trust and a little bit of reflection and creativity from leaders, but I believe it is a blueprint for raising one-year retention rates from perhaps half globally to 80 or 90 percent.

Hank said...

We are those who need to address inactivity. Do we do our ministering? Do we make sure recent converts have a friend in the church? The idea that "they" haven't fixed the problem is a misallocation of responsibility.

The Lord has set standards for baptism in D+C 20:37 and Preach My Gospel by revelation- some places they are enforced conservatively- which is why Africa has such a high activity rate, while in other missions the standards are interpreted liberally (a sacrament attendance of 1 being kind of a cop-out though because preach my gospel does say "several" sacrament attendances are required.) We should not raise our standards above what the Lord has set.

As to dual membership roles, area book for missionaries used to have a less active and active differentiation, but people started getting offended when they were dropped down to less active, sometimes because they can't often attend church in their home wards, are sick, etc. There are doctrinal issues with the idea too- we all made a covenant with God and joined the church in baptism and all are eligible to receive the support and responsible to fulfill the duties outlined in Mosiah 18- no matter whether we have been to church recently or not. A list that would likely turn into a bucket of forgotten members is a scary prospect in that light.

Hank said...

We are those who need to address inactivity. Do we do our ministering? Do we make sure recent converts have a friend in the church? The idea that "they" haven't fixed the problem is a misallocation of responsibility.

The Lord has set standards for baptism in D+C 20:37 and Preach My Gospel by revelation- some places they are enforced conservatively- which is why Africa has such a high activity rate, while in other missions the standards are interpreted liberally (a sacrament attendance of 1 being kind of a cop-out though because preach my gospel does say "several" sacrament attendances are required.) We should not raise our standards above what the Lord has set.

As to dual membership roles, area book for missionaries used to have a less active and active differentiation, but people started getting offended when they were dropped down to less active, sometimes because they can't often attend church in their home wards, are sick, etc. There are doctrinal issues with the idea too- we all made a covenant with God and joined the church in baptism and all are eligible to receive the support and responsible to fulfill the duties outlined in Mosiah 18- no matter whether we have been to church recently or not. A list that would likely turn into a bucket of forgotten members is a scary prospect in that light.

John Pack Lambert said...

The things we need to require before baptism is a complex system. The fact of the matter is the things that are required before baptism is more than in the past. I think however some people do not appreciate how far some people come before they are baptized. The process of coming unto Christ for some is gradual.

Also, at least on the case of tithing, I do not see that as a big issue. A large percentage of the people I baptized on my mission had no technical income.

There is some amount of living the word of wisdom before baptism required. I saw baptisms delayed on my mission over this issue.

My understanding is the minimum sacrament meeting attendance required is now 3 times, preferably in a row, and at least in my branch, the norm is several more than 3 times before baptism.

I have also known people who very much testified of the helpful power of having the gift of the Holy Ghost even though they had not been participant in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for long period of time.

The issues involved are complex. Creating more stringent requirements for baptism in the main is not going to solve things. What is going to is maybe creating more functioning ward and branch communities, but that is not a simple thing to do.

Christopher Duerig said...

Convert retention, I believe, has a lot to do with the new members personal support group in the transition period.

I consider my mission in Argentina between 1989-1991 a fairly successful one in terms of 40 baptisms in the 21 months in the mission field (2 months MTC language learning + returned 1 month early to start school). But after the Mission we were encouraged to not keep contact with our new baptisms after leaving the assigned area at that time. So I lost direct contact with most shortly after. and can only hope and pray that the local members helped them in the "new member fellowshipping program". Of the 40, I have only known of 1 personally, that had remained active to her death a few years ago with a very strong testimony. But she was the elderly mother of a branch single sister, who had resisted being baptized for many years by many missionaries that visited her and taught in her home, until I arrived and the way I taught her, her heart was opened and let the spirit confirm to her the truth of the gospel. And remained faithful for several years until her death of old age, I was informed when i returned to check on her and her daughters progress.

And only 1 other success i can attribute today. My companion and I were door-to-door tracting. and came across a young teenage high school age girl. who was curious about us. and Let us in and we taught her a few lessons and then i was transferred to another area. and she received the lessons from the next companionship. I never thought much would come of it. And a few years ago, here in Utah, while checking posts on my Facebook page, I had a name appear as a possible friend. I thought it sounded familiar the name from years ago.
It turns out, while talking with this person, she was this door-to-door contact whom I had followed the spirit in knocking her door that day. And now she is married in the temple and her 2 sons have both served missions.

So, we often measure the success of a mission by number of baptisms. But the Lord measures success in other ways. I may have brought 40 to baptism and 39 may have been lost along the way. But the Lord measures in other ways, not just numbers but also long lasting contacts and relations and local members receiving the new baptisms into the fold with open hearts and not judging for their previous life's mistakes or customs, long after the baptizing missionary is just a memory.

Eduardo said...

The Church's membership records are not irrelevant. Knowing that 10 out of 200 people baptized is relevant. And, I am not sure that the baptizer knows the status of the 190 'lost souls'. One thing that I do know: God knows them all.

There are many factors in life and death which will determine where all of us will end up in the eternities.

Dead or alive, we all fall en el redil de Dios, some of us closer than others.

I am careful to criticize policies and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ, and I know that many are imperfect. But not bad for a faith of 99 plus percent lay clergy.

Mexico is growing in temples, which is as much about the totality of the dead (who are all really alive, hopefully in Christ), as those that are still breathing.

Great to see growth in Queretaro, Chihuahua, the Bajas, and all over.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your comments, Christopher. It put into words what I (and I'm sure many other here) feel.

Henry Ponnefz said...

Census in Latin America are not reliable.

Christopher Duerig said...

"Making history: Church endorses its first female military chaplain"

https://www.thechurchnews.com/23283247/chaplain-latter-day-saint-military-air-force-jeremy-jaggi-jenna-carson-byu-harvard