Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Additional Information on New Mission Creations and the Surge in the Number of Full-time Missionaries Serving

The Church News published an article last week that provides additional data regarding the number of missionaries serving and plans for new missions to be organized in 2024. Data not previously disclosed that is included in this article includes the following:

  • Projections of small, steady increases in the number of full-time missionaries serving during the next 10 years.
  • A likely need to organize more missions within the next 3-4 years.
  • The worldwide number of convert baptisms in the third quarter of 2023 was higher than it was in the third quarter of 2019.
  • Higher numbers of self-referrals in the media currently than in the past.
  • The number of applications submitted for senior couple missionaries within the past month has exceeded anything seen in the history of the Church since Elder Rasband invited more senior couples to serve full-time missions in his General Conference address.
  • Some missions have become "rather large" with the number of missionaries assigned, especially in Utah, due to the integration of service missionaries and teaching missionaries into the same missions.


Jim Anderson said...

Growth is explosive in the Lehi/Saratoga Springs area, Lehi is considering a second freeway (first, 2100 North to be built in 2026. In 25 years there could be 500k people west of I-15 there.

That also means temples. Those will come in time as things develop, but I do expect 1-2 in that city in the near term and a couple more west of there in the long term.

Kenny said...

With the creation of a new mission in El Paso, TX, which will have at least the 3 El Paso stakes, the Las Cruces, NM stake, and the Silver City, NM stake, and a TX district in the mission; it makes me wonder how this may increase the timing of a temple in the area.

James G. Stokes said...

This was reported a couple of hours ago:

My analysis:

My thanks once again to you all.

Ray said...

There was a big increase in missionaries called in 1843 and much higher in 1844, from 45 called in 1842 to 586 called in 1844, the year of Joseph Smith's martyrdom. From this huge jump in the missionary force, the total Church membership increased nearly 20% the following year. In fact membership grew at close to that rate through the rest of the 1840s. The current increase in missionary totals will result in substantial growth in membership.

twinnumerouno said...

I was glad to see that President Holland was able to attend and speak at President Ballard's funeral, even if he did need help standing and getting to the pulpit.

James G. Stokes said...

He was also seated while giving his remarks, and photographs from the funeral and graveside services indicate that, as a result of his new assignment, he now has a security detail as do the members of the First Presidency:

Chris D. said...

Can anyone tell me the date, or approximate date, that the "Marietta Georgia East Stake (518840)" was renamed just "Marietta Georgia Stake (518840)"? Ita was originally organized June 21st, 1987. And posted in the 2013 version of the Church Almanac pg. 348, where the Church News assigned it the Stake #1643.

Chris D. said...

As recently as August 22, 2021, It was still called Marietta Georgia East Stake. As verified in this New Stake Presidency biography posted by the Church News.

"MARIETTA GEORGIA EAST STAKE: (Aug. 22, 2021) President — James Everett Watson, 45, McKesson senior director; succeeding Rodney E. Roberts; wife, Michelle Lynn Dunn Watson. Counselors — David William Schwieger Jr., 48, Rollins Inc. service manager; wife, Lora Christine Olliff Schwieger. Steven Louis Madsen, 45, Wellstar Health System enterprise project manager; wife, Carrie Leigh Danneman Madsen."

pressue said...

Something worth of note - Elder Cook said this in the YSA devotional tonight:

"For your information, youth and young adults are not less active or leaving the Church in higher numbers than in the past, as has been widely circulated. The number of missionaries called to serve has significantly increased. The percentage of church participation for the rising generation shows a continuous upward trend.

Perhaps this is in conjunction with the church's projections for future missionary growth?

Chris D. said...

Also of note, the president of the High Islamic Council in Mali, visited with Elder D. Todd Christofferson and other Church leaders in Salt Lake City. And toured Welfare Square. Accompanied by a citizen of Mali who graduated from Brigham Young University.

"18 November 2023 - Salt Lake City News Release
Mali Muslim Leader Visits Church Sites in Utah "

Ryan said...

Hi Matt! Thanks for all you do here. As mentioned above, Elder Cook explicitly and categorically denied that more youth are leaving the church today than in the past. Anecdotally, though, I hear (in the United States) about more young people leaving religion than before and declining activity rates. Are the anecdotes just a product of social media and people being more vocal, or is something else going on? Is it possible activity rates are decreasing in the USA but increasing in the rest of the world, thus counteracting the USA effect?

And also, are the indicators Elder Cook mentioned, institute enrollment and mission service, good proxies for activity? Thanks!

Roberts said...

My wife and I and extended family (all active LDS) are shaking our heads at what Elder Cook said ("The reality is that youth and young adults are not less active or leaving the Church in higher numbers than in the past, as has been widely circulated. The number of missionaries called to serve has significantly increased. The percentage of Church participation for the rising generation shows a continuous upward trend. Moreover, the number of young adults attending institute has also been increasing.”) I've been a bishop twice, and my father was a YSA bishop for six years. We've lived in multiple states (intermountain West and Midwest), and have a lot of Church experience and connections in a lot of places. It simply isn't true that the Church has massive problems with young adults and their connection with, commitment to, and activity in the Church. If it were true, then we wouldn't see obvious attempts (such as this devotional) to address the problem.

As my mother said, "Everyone knows with their own eyes that this isn't true! Family members, ward members, areas --- everyone knows that we're losing young adults in droves. And increasingly their parents, too."

John Pack Lambert said...

The general trend is that there is a lot less fence sitting in religious matters. The current rate of missionaries serving is very encouraging.

The think is at times in the past many people were not really engaged, committed or doing much in the Church but they sort of hung around on the margins. Today people are more involved.

That said, I think some also very much underestimate the rate at which people left the Church in the past.

The internet does allow people to network their total lack of belief in new ways, but there were people doing this even in the 1940s.

The level at which youth today are involved in temple work and family history is very encouraging. The level on enrollment in seminary and institute is very encouraging.

The attempts to invade every conner of the internet with a constant spew of hate, lies, invective and such against the Lord's anointed I find very disheartening. I am really tired of people who feel a constant need to post negative and faith reducing things on the internet.

David Todd said...

I agree with the above comment. While it is true that lots of young people are leaving the church, this is not a new phenomenon. Retention rates have been abysmal for nearly the entire history of the church. Children who grow up in the church are not going to remain unless they are truly converted themselves. The main difference between current times and generations past is the ease at which defectors can communicate and spread thoughts due to modern technology and social media. Those who do remain in the church though are likely stronger in their faith than many in previous generations because they are forced to choose from an early age if they want to continue with the church against opposition. These young people also have more opportunities than ever before to serve in the temple, participate in family history, and serve missions. Many studies have shown that taking a family name to the temple is one of the biggest indicators towards convert retention. Why wouldn't this also be the case for retention of youth and young adults?

Daniel Moretti said...

Regardless of whether activity rates decrease in the 18-30 age range due to the challenges of this generation (inability to date, influence of the internet and especially feminist blogs and redpills/MGTOWS forums, early pregnancy, drugs, etc.) or to escape of the full-time mission (in the case of boys), it is undeniable that the retention of young people of university age is and has always been very low. Those who survive this phase become very strong parents and leaders, but many fall by the wayside.

I believe that the end of the obligation to serve full-time missions for young men or the reduction of service time as a whole (limiting it to 12 months, allowing reappointment if young people show interest) could be a renewed incentive for young people to remain in the covenant path without the pressure of spending so much time away from home only to return unemployed or the stigma of not having been brave enough.

The Church needs to create an environment for young people to come together, and a BYU Brazil campus could be a suitable space for this. There has been a lot of talk here that the Pathway solves this problem: it doesn't solve it, as it doesn't allow daily personal interaction between young adults, it only guarantees professional training.

Here in Brazil we have young people who abandoned the church and became secular leaders of national renown, precisely because they were not properly supported by the programs, and in this way they became witnesses of how the gospel can be, in their words, retrograde and outdated: the former missionary, economist and gay activist Gil do Vigor and funk singer and "sex symbol" MC Pipokinha. These young people report the project's problems to young adults here in Latin American lands.

Ohhappydane33 said...

I agree Daniel. I think most everyone views Pathways as the worldwide solution and it will be used as an excuse to NOT expand Church owned and operated universities across the world. Even in America, the young adult resources and programs that everyone takes for granted in Utah have never been all that successfully replicates elsewhere. The membership base just isn't strong enough so the majority of active young adults end up moving to Utah.

Ohhappydane33 said...

I would also argue that Pathways is designed to attract the largest numbers of students possible. It is not at all academically selective, so high achieving, highly motivated students have a lot more and arguably better choices out there for higher education.

Matt said...

There are so many church growth-related developments going on, it is getting really difficult for me to have the time to chronicle them all. Thank you all for your comments and observations.

Elder Cook's comments are very interesting and are creating quite a stir online, especially with the dissonance experienced by many who have held to the narrative that the Church is experiencing decline and worsening inactivity. I can tell you from the decades of research and reviewing thousands of surveys from scores of countries that such claims ARE NOT TRUE overall, and that member activity and convert retention rates have generally remained static or have slightly improved for youth and YSAs in recent years for when members are in this age group. As noted by some of the comments here, yes the Church has experienced low activity rates among YSAs and older youth for many decades (it is not uncommon for as few as 10% of YSAs to be active outside of traditional Latter-day Saint gathering places, and this has been the case for decades. Church schools create quite the drain activity rates elsewhere). However, we do appear to be experiencing some increase in activity rates as manifested by seminary/institute enrollment numbers and the number of full-time missionaries serving missions. If there is an area where member activity rates have appeared to have declined from previous decades, it is probably with married (or divorced) adults who are ages 25-45. I have a reliable source who worked at Church Headquarters tell me once a few years ago that it is becoming less common to see an active mother with her children come to Church who have an inactive father. Now, it is more common for the whole family to be inactive.

Why would Elder Cook lie or mislead in regard to youth/YSA activity rates at this time? He clearly is not speaking in hyperbole like Elder Holland several years ago who exaggerated and misrepresented stake creation rates. There has obviously been an emphasis on addressing concerns with rampant inactivity among YSAs in particular, but like I said, this is not a new problem, and in most areas, it actually appears to have been making some improvements. For example, in the Philippines, the area reached its goal of having 4,600 Filipino YSAs serving full-time missions - something that was quite an achievement as the area was thousands of full-time missionaries short of this goal about a year or so ago. The creation of the three new missions in the Philippines planned for 2024 was only possible due to this goal being reached. Similar progress seems to be occurring in most church areas.

Daniel Moretti - You are absolutely correct that the Church is in dire need of having actual brick-and-mortar universities that are a BYU campus or Church school outside of the USA. I would argue that the greatest failing of the Church internationally (and within the USA) in the past two decades is with the low number of children of record increase. This would seem to reflect problems with people marrying within the Church and staying active long enough to have children. Despite all of the international growth in developing countries with higher birthrates than the USA, Mexico, and Brazil in the past two decades, this has not seemed to many any dent in this statistic. Clearly a long-term concern that has also been address candidly by Church leaders in settings like General Conference addresses.

Ryan said...

Thank you for your response, Matt. Very helpful and very informative.

Daniel Moretti said...

Thank you very much Matt. I'm always afraid that the uneven translation of my text into English might create disputes or inaccuracies, and I'm grateful that that didn't happen this time.

Hank said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hank said...

The United States has a problem that most of its young and active members go to Utah. The rest of us are left in small wards and branches with few prospects.

If a BYU Manila, Lima, MX, Accra, or Sao Paulo were introduced it would create similar problems.

Maybe the success of the Utah area is not that it has successful systems, but that it sucks everything that is successful (youth who stay active) to it. This leaves the rest of the church kind of destitute.

Mario Miguel said...

I agree. Few people from my hometown in Florida have gone back after graduating from Church schools (I'm not going back either). Internationally it's probably best to strengthen YSA programs locally through institute and local YSA wards.

Eduardo said...

I think that the next apostle of the Quorum of the 12 will be a native Spanish speaker. The law of averages comes into effect. I know, many faithful on this forum are all about the Lord picking and selecting whom He pleases, and I do not discount that, nor do I disagree. But sheer numbers plus Book of Mormon prophesy grants some favors to the Hispanic population.

Sub-Saharan Africa could provide an apostle, plus Europe, or even Asia or the South Pacific (to include Australia), but I am thinking that a descendant of Lehi, the tribe of Manasseh and Ephraim will be the sensible choice.

Again, great to see substantive growth in Chile with new missions and temples and stakes announced. We know Peru is somewhat of a powerhouse for the continent, perhaps second to Brazil?

How are developments in Cuba?

I wonder if French-speaking missionaries from Africa could help the populated islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. Or even smaller ones like San Martin or north in Pierre and Miquelon. Or in the South Pacific, New Caledonia. How is Mayotte doing in the Indian Ocean?

Daniel Moretti said...

A power center 3000 km from home is still better than one 20,000 km away...

Hank said...

Daniel, I think you bring up the exact question. Will we better thrive with power centers or in an integrated distributed system?

I think creating a university in Sao Paulo for church members would be great, but it would leave few young leaders in Curitiba, Joao Pessoa, Rio, Porto Alegre and other cities. Latter-day Saints often find themselves limited to the educational opportunities taught at such a school, which will probably focus less on defining culture and future (arts, humanities, sciences) and more on providing the most basic employment training (business, communications), which pathways and BYUI online programs already provide.

I completely recognize the benefits that a church university in Mexico City, Lima, Sao Paulo, Accra, and Manila would provide, I get it that Latter-day Saints in counties other than the United States see the opportunities for a large dating pool, a more local LDS identity, and a reasonably prized church education as a wonderful opportunity. I am just asking, what is the cost? (not in money but to missionary efforts, plurality in the church, etc?)

How about one question. What are the benefits of a system where members of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints attend in local branches and wards, attend institute, and attend state run or private universities?

May the real answer we are looking for be YSA wards and stakes in these areas? (also why does all of Latin America only have one or two YSA wards?)

David Todd said...

Hank, you bring up the very problem that isn't being addressed and which church schools could at least help. There are very few institutions in place for young single adults in other countries to gather and date and create communities of faith. I'd also argue that creating church schools in other countries would increase missionary efforts in a lot of places. There would likely be non members attending or involved in YSA groups that would join the church as there is in the other church schools. I think it would also lead to more missionaries serving from these countries.

Daniel Moretti said...

Dear Hank, I don't have all those answers, and I wish I did. But I can compare our experience with the Adventist and Methodist educational models, which are quite strong in Brazil. They seem to be doing the right thing...

John Pack Lambert said...

Gordon B. Hinckley was an assistant to the 12 for 3.5 years before he was called as an apostle. Elder Mutombo will have been a 70 for 4 years as of April. So Elder Renlund has served as a general authority longer than some previous apostles did at their call.

I am not sure at this point what I think is likely to happen.

James G. Stokes said...

JPL, my comments above were based on an analysis of the last 5 apostles called. What happened 50 years ago with apostolic calls may not be as accurate a measure for today as would be an analysis of the last 5 or even the last 8 apostles called. The trends of the last 15 years aren't comparable to older trends, and the Church today is markedly different from the Church 50 years ago.

Roberts said...

Matt M. said: "Why would Elder Cook lie or mislead in regard to youth/YSA activity rates at this time?"

Well, the obvious motive would be to combat the fact that there is a very, very big problem transmitting commitment and loyalty to the Restoration among youth and young adults worldwide. Everyone knows it, because everyone sees it among family, friends, and ward/stake members.

People react differently to "Baghdad Bob" style PR approaches. Some say, "Wow, conventional wisdom and my lying eyes must be wrong. Everything must actually be great!" Others get angry at the obvious duplicity. Most older people, I think, fall between the two extremes. They still know what they know, but they don't get worked up about "lying," because they know that threading the needle between transparency and panicking people is no easy task.

I agree with many here that inactivity among youth and young adults is not a new phenomenon, but I think the level of apathy and lack of commitment and loyalty among the rising generation is of a level not experienced before. In the past, many inactives were generally well-disposed towards the Church and likely to come back at some point. Many young people today really feel no attachment to the Church at all. It has been a breakdown in transmitting this generationally.

I think it is the prophesied fulfilling of the "times of the Gentiles." The Church won't fully fall away or be left to another people, but the vitality of Gentile Israel (descendants of northern Europeans) is on the decline. I think we are entering a new phase in Church history, leading up to the "winding up scene."

Hank said...

Hi Robets,

I would not go as far as to claiming that Elder Cook is attempting to mislead us. Your idea that misleading us would somehow combat inactivity among young people also doesn't work. Your argument, based on personal like experience and anecdotes also has some fallacies in it.

First, because you r I are seeing youth and young people leave the church in greater numbers than expected, does not mean that they are doing so more than they have before. It simply means that they are doing so in a way that we can see it, in places that we can see it. Lets say --very roughly-- that in the past youth in LDS dominant areas stayed in the church more, while youth in the "mission field" left more. Today, the democratization of information and culture through the internet means that youth in neighborhoods where they would never have thought of leaving the church (lets say Logan, Utah) are leaving, while youth who had a harder time staying active before, due to harder social pressures and a lack of LDS culture in place outside of the LDS corridor (lets say Pittsburgh, PA) may be staying in greater numbers.

Basically, while youth going inactive may have been a primarily geographic phenomenon in the past, we now likely have both inactivity and activity happening in a more distributed fashion (and therefore closer to us).

This question of "where are people leaving and where are they staying?" can also be made bigger. Due to declining birthrates, even from 20 years ago, in the US and Latin America, (where youth have greater trouble staying in the church) we have less youth able to leave in such places (or at least youth that carry less statistical weight). Due to growth in membership in places like Africa and the Philippines, where multitudes of youth are active, there may be a tipping of the statistic in the favor of activity that U.S. Americans may not expect.

The increased preservation of weak social contacts through social media also may make us more able to see that people who previously stayed are now leaving. Instead of not seeing people at church and forgetting about them, we do not see the people at church and remember them, because they are on our Facebook, Instagram, etc. This does not mean that there are more leavers than before, solely that they are more visible.

In short, of course we need to work on youth retention, but likely there has never been a time where we haven't had to work on youth retention. Likely, the numbers were just as bad in the past as our perspectives show them to be in the present.

An anecdote: It is notable that in my family, ALL of my maternal ancestors (the only family line with several generations of members) had been inactive during their 20's. My great-gandmother, grandmother, and mother all had a period of inactivity, as well as my grandmother's sister. My mom's generation only saw my mom go inactive (1/4), to come back later. Mine has seen two of my sibling go incative, while the other two still devoutly attend church. While this anecdote carries no statistical significance, it, and many others debunk the nostalgic idea that the past was filled solely, or even in primarily, with active youth.

Also important to note is that Elder Cook noted several statistical indicators showing youth activity, including institute and seminary enrollment, missionary service, among others. He did not name straight numbers, but the idea that the numbers show one thing and that he tells us another is dubious in my book. Call me a young person trusting the apostles.

In short, call us what you want, but don't you dare claim that we aren't committed to the gospel as any other generation. (I hope you understand that I am a little perturbed by your comments and that as a young person, I see where you are coming from, but also know that you may be wrong).

Roberts said...


“I would not go as far as to claiming that Elder Cook is attempting to mislead us. Your idea that misleading us would somehow combat inactivity among young people also doesn't work.”

I agree that it doesn’t work (because I don’t think that it’s true that youth and young adults are more active and committed than ever before), but I don’t fault him for attempting to combat inactivity. That’s all I’m saying --- that it was an attempt to address the claim that “youth and young adults are less active or leaving the Church in higher numbers than in the past.”

I agree that it’s possible that youth and young adults are not more inactive (less committed) or leaving the Church in higher numbers than before. I also agree that a “perception vs. reality” issue might be at play, because of social media. But from my experience as a bishop twice (2007-2018), my father’s experience as a YSA bishop for six years in a heavily LDS area, other stake callings in different stakes, my wife’s callings (currently YW president), the experience within our network of friends and acquaintances around the world, and my children’s experience on their missions and in college (one of our RM sons is an EQP in a YSA college ward) --- from all this, we all as a family think that Elder Cook’s remarks aren’t based on on-the-ground reality.

I agree with you that the perception issue may have to do with the fact that people who disengage with the Church (I don’t like to say “leave the Church,” because it’s much more a matter of people going very inactive and having no connection with the Church at all than it is a matter of name removal) are more on our radar than in the past because of social media. My yardstick is simply that the resiliency, commitment, and enthusiasm of people under 40 in the Church has noticeably and sharply declined. So, even if it’s true that seminary and institute enrollment has increased (I find it interesting that Elder Cook’s remarks and President Nelson’s videos encouraging people to enroll in seminary and institute were both issued on the same day, though some have touted the increase as being because of President Nelson’s videos), the larger problem is the resiliency, commitment, reliability, and enthusiasm of those attending seminary and institute. That’s where some choose to see the emperor with clothes, and many know that he isn’t wearing anything.

I also agree with you that the last chapter isn’t written in any of our books (you had cited anecdotal evidence from your ancestry of people coming back). People can and do “catch fire” and “get it” all the time (the parable of the laborers in the vineyard is my favorite). I’m not writing off anyone, especially youth and young adults, but until they do “catch fire” and “get it,” we are left with an increasing generational drop in reliability, commitment, and resiliency.

“In short, call us what you want, but don't you dare claim that we aren't committed to the gospel as any other generation. (I hope you understand that I am a little perturbed by your comments and that as a young person, I see where you are coming from, but also know that you may be wrong).”

I completely understand why a reliable, committed, resilient young person wouldn’t like his generation to be criticized. There are indeed many strong, solid stalwarts among the youth and young adults. But almost any bishop will also acknowledge the obvious difference in general trends of attendance, willingness to accept callings, reliability to perform callings, and tendency to “ghost” or go “radio silent” between older and younger generations. The “same ten people” in wards seems to often now be the “same three people.”

James G. Stokes said...

Roberts, I mean no disrespect to you or the opinions you expressed here. But you cited your personal experience (and that of your wife and other individuals you know) to confirm the opinion you are expressing. Have you looked at this matter from Elder Cook's perspective? Not only have he and his wife served in most of the same positions the people you mentioned have, but he also has literal decades of experience as a general leader of the Church who has frequently visited various parts of the world. And above and beyond that, he regularly sits in council with his now-13 fellow apostles, who have similarly had decades of experience in Church administration and ministering to Latter-day Saints around the world. Any analysis of Elder Cook's remarks that fails to account for that will, in my view, be short-sighted. And I'm not saying the apostles know everything. But aside from their personal ministries and experiences, they are authorized to receive revelation for the entire Church. With that in mind, I'd respectfully suggest that perhaps Elder Cook and his fellow apostles know more about what he said than you or I do. Again, no disrespect intended, and I know our apostles aren't infallible. But when it comes to any issue in the Church, I worry that some of us might not give the apostles enough credit in terms of their experiences that have molded their perspectives and assertions. I'll be hoping off my soapbox now and waiting for the comments telling me how wrong I am on this.

Roberts said...

@ James G. Stokes:

No disrespect taken.

There seems to be a default setting in the Church of infallibility. We often claim that we don't believe our leaders are infallible, but when pressed to name an example of a *modern* or *current* leader making s mistake, most refuse to do that. Probably because they see that as speaking evil of leaders. You seem to be saying that as an apostle, Elder Cook would never lie for PR reasons --- it's simply unthinkable.

It is not unthinkable to me, because of how PR-controlled and PR-sensitive our church is. Our Church bureaucracy (not just General Authorities, but the whole Church Office Building apparatus) demonstrates over and over how much they crave good PR and loathe bad PR. We even have embarrassing things like the $5 million SEC fine because of things like this (not wanting the extent of the Church's financial holdings to be known).

We can certainly differ in our opinions on this, but it is clear to me (my opinion) that the Brethren are well aware of the demographic problems facing the Church --- and that they desperately do not want members and non-members to think that there is a problem; that we're doing better than ever.

I mean, we're seeing consolidation of YSA wards in heavily LDS areas (e.g., Pioneer Ward being combined with the South Mountain YSA Ward in Gilbert/Tempe). The bishop says that he's only getting 30 kids out to church on Sunday (same for SM), and these formerly very large YSA wards are on life support. This is in the ASU/MCC area, and it aligns with almost everyone else's experience with their own youth/young adults and their own areas.

And for increasingly many, just because an apostle says "there's nothing to see here" doesn't wave away what we know.

Matt said...

Roberts - There are a lot of issues I have with the Church's PR department. They very much want to control the narrative of how the Church looks, and their process of doing this is often counterproductive and a times makes me cringe. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the history department is very much about providing accurate information and soliciting other sources for resources and research. For example, I have been contacted by the history department on multiple occasions to provide permission to have them use and catalog some of the resources I have developed. I have never been contacted by the PR department (although they have used my resources at times without contacting me, such as the Newsroom staff). There have also been times with the Newsroom staff has appeared to deliberately run stories to contradict some of my findings I have made on this blog (like the trends in membership growth by state in 2020-2021). There is a lot of inconsistency between departments at headquarters with how different matters are addressed.

Roberts, you are correct about there being a consolidation at this time in some of these areas you have mentioned. The Church in Arizona has essentially stopped growing for a few years now, and it does not surprise me at all what you shared about the status of some of the YSA units. I would emphasize that much of these trends in unit growth in the United States are determined by people moving rather than convert baptisms or short-term trends in convert retention or member activity rates. Also, with YSA units, we generally have been net zero for consolidations and creations - with most consolidations occurring in older areas of Salt Lake, California, Arizona, and Washington, whereas we generally see steady increases in the number of new YSA units being created in the eastern United States, at Church schools in Provo/Orem and Rexburg.

As for general church leadership being "afraid" of disclosing information that is not positive, I do not think that this is something that they are deliberately hiding, but we can certainly see a precedent of a bias with most reporting positive growth developments while not mentioning the less encouraging ones (like updates on how many full-time missionaries are serving). Nevertheless, we have seen these more negative areas getting attention in a variety of settings (i.e., area-specific broadcasts, General Conference addresses, mission tours, etc.). The areas that seem to have gotten the most attention have been with the birth rate in the Church, marriage and divorce, secularism, social media, and political conflict. Areas I wish would get more attention would be on a lack of progress with expanding the Church into previously unreached areas and among specific ethnolinguistic groups, establishing Church schools in additional countries, translation efforts, and really more a science toward mission expansion and growth strategies.

Roberts said...

@ Matt: "There are a lot of issues I have with the Church's PR department. They very much want to control the narrative of how the Church looks, and their process of doing this is often counterproductive and a times makes me cringe . . . I have never been contacted by the PR department (although they have used my resources at times without contacting me, such as the Newsroom staff). There have also been times with the Newsroom staff has appeared to deliberately run stories to contradict some of my findings I have made on this blog (like the trends in membership growth by state in 2020-2021). There is a lot of inconsistency between departments at headquarters with how different matters are addressed."

>>>I also believe that Church Public Affairs acts on their own quite a bit. Many here would balk at that ("Everything they do is scrutinized and approved in advance by the Brethren!"), but it doesn't seem to me that the Brethren micromanage it. I often think that there is a PR agenda with Public Affairs that is counterproductive, as you say. I think the Brethren often let things stand rather than contradict or correct them. I wish these bureaucrats at the COB had less sway and less influence.<<<

"As for general church leadership being "afraid" of disclosing information that is not positive, I do not think that this is something that they are deliberately hiding, but we can certainly see a precedent of a bias with most reporting positive growth developments while not mentioning the less encouraging ones . . ."

Agreed. I also don't think it's a deliberate, systematic thing. As I've said earlier, I think it's as simple as Elder Cook doesn't want people to think that we have a problem with youth and young adults in the Church, so he tried to downplay that by saying that it's actually the opposite. The problem with that is that so many people's experience and knowledge of experience within their networks of people makes this seem absurd.

David Stewart famously said in his book ("Law of the Harvest") something like "you can tell that the Church struggles with finding its footing with missionary work by how many changes (and how often) and how much tinkering the Church is constantly doing with it. No other program in the Church undergoes so much constant change." I think this principle will be applicable to this question (what is the reality of the state of youth and youth programs?). Will there continue to be further initiatives, changes, tinkering, etc. with seminaries and institutes, YSA wards, YM/YW, missionaries, etc.? If there is, then the Church is obviously trying to address what it sees as a big problem.

Just like with Elder Holland's prediction of perennial droves of 90,000+ missionaries, we will all know in short order whether the "they're doing better than ever" narrative is true or not. We will be able to tell by what the Church is doing and how much it tries to address problems among youth and young adults.