Is the LDS Church in decline, or one of the fastest growing churches in the world? In this episode sociologists Ryan Cragun and Rick Phillips reviewed LDS Church growth statistics for 2016.
Specifically, we reviewed Matt Martinich’s recent article entitled “Top 10 Encouraging and Discouraging LDS Growth and Missionary Developments in 2016.”
Is it true that the trend of converts skews increasingly towards lower income and lower education demographics? I hear that one reason the church invests so heavily in real estate and other business ventures is to replace lost income from tithing of wealthier members who either die or leave the church, and aren’t replaced by “more desirable,” high income converts. Would like to understand this from both the U.S. perspective as well as third world. I.e., I know that as the balance shifts in membership towards Latin America and Africa we will naturally drop in terms of contributions per member, but is this happening in the U.S. and Europe as well?
The membership numbers never seem to decrease. Is it true that even when you get your name ‘removed’ from the records the church still count you in the membership stats? I would be interested to find out how many people resigned their membership in 2016.
Me also …. but it is Secret or Obfuscated as members. Don’t ask those questions or you are shunned.
Those who have their names removed are no longer counted as members in the membership statistics.
I’ve seen one study that indicated the average members of record in a Ward is 435, which translates to an active base of 125 to 150 to fill all the “church jobs.” At various times the active membership of my Protestant congregation in Utah included 75 to 100 lapsed Mormon folks who had not bothered to request their names be removed from LDS records. I did notice that between 1999 and 2003 the brief note from the LDS Confidential Membership Records office notifying people their names had been removed changed from a “real” signature to a stamped signature. That change may suggest the flow of requests to have names removed increased enough to require quicker processing with a signature stamp.
When you request to have your name removed you cease to be listed as a member. That said, if you get baptized and never go back you will be listed as a member until you die… or your death is noticed.
We do have a bit of an over-count in our membership numbers. If you compare the numbers from the census and the Pew religious survey it appears that about half of the members the church claims in the U.S. report themselves to be members of the church. The remainder do not consider themselves to be members.
My parents had ten children. Of them five consider themselves Mormons and five would probably not. Though the sample is size is ridiculously small it does match the pattern.
I hear the same and have same questions. Thx for this site!
Why is a true active member number so elusive? Seems like in every ward I’ve attended there is someone walking up the aisle at each sacrament meeting doing a count. I can’t imagine this is a worthless task and it seems there should be some numbers that have come about due to these efforts. Any thoughts on why the number of active members seems to be avoided?
The count is needed to supply records that go up in the Bomb PROOF Vault in Little Cottonwood Canyon for God. He needs those for maybe Judgement Day….??? Does that make sense to you? Not ME. I was always told as a kid you MUST have your name on the roll if you came so God would know when he used the records. Makes sense …. not. If I don’t have the secret handshake and new name from the temple ….. and a full record because the guy who took it screwed up, I was screwed. If I was cremated or pointing the wrong way when buried more problems. Fear of many unwarranted things by the church …. still has me mad.
I have read the health of missionary work from the Cumorah web site. I may be mistaken but I heard from a former Mission President to Chile that 40 Stakes were closed down and about half that number in the Philippines. Is this true? If so can you confirm the number of wards and stakes that are being closed or consolidated. All 4 of our sons went on missions where 2 wards were combined into 1.
I was also told that out of 250,000 converts over the last 10 years church attendance has only gone up by 2,000 in Chile. Their baptisms had never been to church and didn’t show up the next day or next Sunday to be confirmed.
The most disturbing news is many missions have been ruined. Non-members and members have been turned off by the LDS church’s missionary tactics. I heard that in Chile 100 baptisms and only 2 were confirmed.
This tells me that many missions have been ruined. This will take many years if ever to heal. Everyone in many countries know about our horrendous baptize at any cost programs. This is not the church of Christ. It’s a man made look good at any cost church.
Then I heard Elder Nelson in a recent talk say our missionary primary goal is not converts. It’s to bring joy. That close to a quote. When half the missionaries are coming home and going inactive by what they have done or learned what’s has been done they are sickened spiritually.
Can you address these issues. Frankly I would not send my son’s on missions today. I would get them a calling as a ward or stake missionary and go out with them. If parents knew what has been going on in the mission field in many cases they would tell their sons to not go or come home. I think I’ve made my point. Correct me where I’m wrong and spread out the full truth of the health of missions. The real truth. I’ve personally interviewed over 1000 returned missionaries since 1974. That’s what I’ve heard over and over.
Since we can’t convert not we’re going to spread joy. There’s not priesthood in the missions to spread joy. I have grandsons getting ready to go. I’m going to make sure their parents and my grandchildren know the truth. And let them decide. Stop telling us how many millions are on the rolls. Tell us how many are active–say attend 75% of their three meetings per month. Easy to do. I doubt you have 4,000,000 members that are that active. If they are coming less than that they aren’t showing up to teach their classes in primary and Sunday school.
Hello Jagl, your remarks are poignant; thank you for sharing your honesty and candor. While reading, I see similarities between two settings: comparing most Church-sanctioned proselyting methods to a wartime battlefield. Forgive the comparison; I realize that they differ in many ways. My primary lament stands in the relationship between a mission president and his missionaries and the relationship between a military officer and his soldiers.
In both cases, the leader works within uncertainties. For example, a battlefield commander orders several platoons onto Omaha Beach on D-Day and later discovers a 99% fatality rate. “Oops”, he replies, “That did not work. Let me try something else.” To the commander, it is an inconvenience; to his soldiers, it was everything. Those soldiers will not marry, raise children, climb mountains or reach other life goals. The lucky ones live without sight, or hearing, or limbs. The cost is huge to those soldiers (and their families); they bear all of it.
Mission presidents (MP) also work with uncertainties. Human lives may not end when a MP gives illogical orders, yet each missionary dies a bit inside when the MP’s order is not achieved. Each missionary’s emotional health is significant; and problematic MP orders can not achieve impossible successes. Such orders lead missionaries to place the MP’s objective goal (i.e., baptismal minimums) above subjective goals (i.e., seek a convert’s heart-felt conversion). The MP’s requirement does not consider the realities of the assignment; he often makes random and inexact decisions while announcing them as his inspired expectations.
Mission orders should always be reasonable for each environment (-i.e., country, culture, people; time, place and manner-) yet I often do not see evidence of that. Examples abound in my own mission (1980-82), and accounts of others. Often, perhaps usually, the MP is guessing how to lead his missionaries; in comparison, he sends them to Omaha Beach, then waits to discover the outcome. Some MP adjust their orders to the next platoon (or, in mission parlance, the period between zone conferences). Some MP do not adjust; they repeat the same order continuously without making adjustments. “Ouch!”
At a core level, each missionary knows that he is being re-built by his MP; and he trusts that his MP has assigned him obtainable goals, not impossible ones. The minds of young missionaries are exceptionally pliable; and the supernatural accounts within scripture (-i.e., Daniel among lions, men unaffected by fiery furnace, 2000 stripling warriors live, and many others-) amps up the young missionary’s belief that the MP’s goals are obtainable within long hours of door-to-door proselyting as assigned. In other words, he is told that Omaha Beach is obtainable if he obeys mission rules. As a young missionary in the ’80s, I felt that I had to put aside the logical thinking taught to me during grades K-12. Mission was a time to trust the unseen and the illogical; and to be remade by my MP. In hindsight, I realized that they were well-intending men, oft-naive of the details of the mission area and times. I accept that reality about them; I wish that they had told me the same at the time.
All comments welcome.
This is an addition to my prior comment.
I ask that today’s mission presidents involve their missionaries in discussion on how to best serve the people in their mission. Set the tempo as a big brainstorming session; no ideas are off-the-table, every idea is respected and appreciated if sincerely expressed. A mission list of ideas may begin like this: (1) help neighborhoods with cleanup and lawn care, (2) organize a daycare blog and exchange for working parents, (3) teach English to immigrants. Spread these ideas to the entire community using methods new and old, (I’m referring to electronic social media, community calendars and library wall postings.)
To some, those ideas may be obvious ways to serve. Also, consider these:
Build a house with Habitat For Humanity, counsel youth through drug issues at a Boys & Girls Club, volunteer with Red Cross or FEMA. Consider counseling college students through academic rigors or pregnancy, or manning a Suicide hotline. Ride along with local police, fire, or ambulance to serve victims’ emotional needs. Chair the annual community block party, invite all to watch for neighborhood crime. Participate with Interfaith Outreach, encourage participation regardless of religion. Join with other faith leaders (pastor, rabbi, imam,..) to speak at a college’s “Comparative Religions” seminar; meet them for lunch regularly.
Let each elder and sister apply their personal talents to mission. For example, a mission-athlete organizes a community running team and teaches benefits of good health and fitness, a mission-musician teaches lessons to an under-served community, a mission-comic shares clean humor on Open Mic Night at a local comedy club, another does Poetry Jam with the same end goal. Another organizes a flash mob in the commons of a local mall, another on a college campus, and again at a community center; the message varies by venue yet the conclusion is clear, all are known and loved by God.
Let missionaries be seen publicly as the well-rounded people that they are. Let them dress to fit the task at hand. Suit and tie, sometimes yes. Sports clothing, lumber-jack clothing, college-prep clothing, medical scrubs, all yes at fits each situation. Do not require them to wear a large sign screen-printed with “Mormon Helping Hands”. If it is important to help them find one another in a crowd, wearing the same color shirt (without large signage) works fine. Or do as is common; a simple name label near the shirt pocket of a shirt in a common color.
This hasty write-up has scratched the surface. Best wishes with your ongoing brainstorm.
There is a growing LDS Young Church Service Mission in San Diego which includes among other things, working with Habitat For Humanity. These young missionaries live at home and spend their day doing various service activities. I believe that this is a pilot program for the Church. It is an alternative to a full-time proselyting mission.
Your ideas about how LDS Missionaries could actually SERVE the real needs of the people in their mission fields would ALREADY be happening, but for one elephant-in-the-room reason.
Could it be this?
The Brethren do not appear to be very interested in SERVING the real needs of real people … beyond the expansion of Church membership and global presence. And you don’t have to be a Rocket Surgeon to figure that out. For example, they are telegraphing their core values by requiring bright yellow “Mormon Helping Hands” T-shirts to make sure onlookers and TV news viewers know who is dispensing all of that compassion and generosity.
The Brethren consistently FAIL the WWJD test (What Would Jesus Do?) for a dirt simple reason. The Brethren are sporting a different flavor of Core Values than what Jesus exemplified.
Jesus demonstrated His own core values by how He lived, what He taught, and how He treated others with loving acceptance and non-judgment.
Try to imagine Jesus sending out missionaries and instructing them to maximize new membership numbers by playing soccer with young kids and then quickly baptizing the kids after the game. Imagine Jesus sending His disciples out to help people experiencing serious misfortune, but first giving His disciples “Jesus Helping Hands” T-shirts to wear. And not just regular logo T-shirts, but BRIGHT YELLOW?
“By their fruits ye shall know them.”
Truer words were never spoken or written.
Is it possible that The Brethren are starting to figure out that trying to PASS the WWJD test might be a better idea?
I’m not sure that I agree with you. The New Testament makes it pretty clear that the early church had huge problems with retention, baptized people rapidly with little preparation, and focused primarily on spiritual rather than temporal welfare.
I think you may be injecting a little too much 19th century ‘Social Gospel’ into your Jesus.
Forget about how many are on the rolls. How many are active. If their attendance is 50% or below they aren’t active. I doubt 4,000,000 coming more than 50% of the time in most of the missions. About 11% are active in South America. Most missionaries see their converts go inactive within a year.
I thought this might help provide some insight in regards to the average number of wards per stake since 1987. Sorry the formatting is hard to read.
YEAR WARDS STAKES WARDS PER STAKE
1987 10,907 1,666 6.55
1989 11,520 1,739 6.62
1991 12,184 1,837 6.63
1993 13,255 1,968 6.74
1995 14,336 2,150 6.67
1997 16,678 2,424 6.88
1999 17,699 2,542 6.96
2000 17,994 2,581 6.97
2001 18,205 2,607 6.98
2002 18,285 2,602 7.03
2003 18,496 2,624 7.05
2004 18,860 2,665 7.08
2005 19,253 2,701 7.13
2006 19,615 2,745 7.15
2007 19,978 2,790 7.16
2008 20,205 2,818 7.17
2009 20,535 2,865 7.17
2010 20,854 2,896 7.20
2011 21,101 2,946 7.16
2012 21,447 3,005 7.14
2013 21,751 3,050 7.13
2014 22,176 3,114 7.12
2015 22,572 3,174 7.11
late 2016* 22,904 3,252 7.04
Making wards smaller would account for these figures.
This is indeed interesting. In contrary to what was speculated (that wards per stake was decreasing over time), the actual trend is that the wards per stake is, at least, remaining fairly constant – if not increasing slightly – over time.
It would be interesting to see wards per stake by geographical location.
22% of the Wards and 18% of the Stakes are in Utah. Just about the only reliable way to analyze LDS membership statistics is to count ecclesiastical units. The statistics for 2001-2002 are telling. In that year the LDS church claimed the usual 250,000 or more new members, but the number of Wards increased by 80 and the number of Stakes declined by 5, which means the true growth number was around a bit less than 40,000 and could be mostly attributed to the fertility rate.
The requirements for a stake have actually been increased, and it hinges on full tithe paying priesthood holders and overall members, an important ratio as long as we have an entirely male lay-clergy. I believe it is currently around 3,000 members for a stake, and 150 active tithe-paying priesthood holders in the United States and Canada, and half that many elsewhere in the world. My numbers might be off, but the concept is sound.
Also, the decision to divide a ward or stake – or close one for that matter – begins locally. A Stake President may prefer to divide a strong ward, or likewise may choose to leave it intact to be a strong point in the stake. Salt Lake reviews the decisions but rarely interferes.
Here in the Montpelier Vermont Stake we are facing a political and social climate that should predict negative church growth – very liberal, aging, least religious state – and yet the truth is different. We are seeing some congregations decline, others grow, and others stay stagnant, and all in the same stake. The Branch I grew up in once had 120 active members, 30 of whom were youth. Nearly all those former youth are inactive now, and attendance is at perhaps 40. The main problem was low quality leadership that did not pay attention to the youth and the needs of the congregation.
Meanwhile, my current Congregation was formed perhaps twenty years ago as a tiny branch and today has as many as 150 attending each week. Convert baptisms are frequent, and the birthrate is high too. During this time another congregation was formed drawing away some 30 active members, and we are still growing. Strong local leadership is a consistent feature in our Ward.
Finally, we built a new stake center some ten years ago for what appeared to be our strongest congregation. Then the economy went south, and two-thirds of the ward moved away (they were mostly transient professionals, not local converts). Today perhaps 30 people attend meetings on a low week. Leadership was good but the economy was not, and the “Mormon gypsies” went back out west.
I’m not sure that church policies have had any impact at all on the situation.
Comparing the LDS Church official numbers to the last Brazilian census (2010), member retention can be estimated at 22% in Brazil . How does that rate compare to other countries? Also, how accurate are the official Church numbers elsewhere?
I served a mission in Brazil (Sao Paulo South). The wards I served in varied; but I remember being in a ward (Peruibe) with over 900 members on the rolls, and maybe 50 people at church every week.
Other wards were much better – 30 – 50% activity rates.
I actually think that 22% is higher than I would have thought; I would have guessed around 15%.
I served in Joao Pessoa when it was a new mission, and we were split off of Recife North which was using slash and burn baptism tactics. They were baptizing several hundred people a month. We had wards with 900 members and perhaps 60 attending. We stopped the slash and burn tactics and baptisms fell to 80 to 120 a month. We had a strong emphasis on growth.
We were ordered by the area presidency to spend 40 of our 60 hours on reactivation. Many older missionaries weaned on the slash and burn tactics were disgruntled, but I thought it was great. Reactivation worked very well.
Today, just fifteen years later, the number of stakes has doubled. The mission divided again. Several small cities have been opened to missionary work. The growth appears to be stable, much more so than the mess we inherited from the Recife North mission.
The irony? I seriously struggled with being a missionary. I loved Brazil, and the culture was awesome, but working around westerners all day long every day wore me out!
West Africa and all developing countries = long-term investments in both members and tithes.
Financial investment = long-term needs.
For true believers (and I believe the vast majority of church management in Salt Lake are), I would imagine their first, second, and third priorities are to preserve the institution, which they believe to be “The Kingdom of God on Earth” and the sole source of saving ordinances for the world. As such, if facing declining tithing revenue, one would expect them to increase the purchase of revenue generating assets. In addition, when facing declining revenue, one would expect them to cut costs, which for them (as largely businessmen by trade) should be in their skill set. I don’t think they believe they have been commissioned (as an institution) to take upon large humanitarian spending. They obviously delegate that to individual members and to governments. And, honestly, I think that is wise if preserving the institution is of utmost importance to them. The church almost spent its way into bankruptcy under David O. McKay, so they know that they can’t count on God to prevent financial disaster. I imagine they could reach the point where active membership dwindles so much that they can incur large humanitarian expenses without risking its financial stability. Without transparency, it’s hard to know whether they have reached that point yet, so I withhold judgment on that.
Great commentary. You nailed it.
I will go out on a limb and state that I believe LDS, Inc. is close to the tipping point. The corporation of the president of the church has purchased (or acquired) real estate all over the world for the purpose of appreciation and future gain. They have cut costs by replacing paid workers as janitors in buildings and temples. At my designated temple, members even do work on the grounds donating thousands of hours of labor worth tens of thousands of dollars. Professionals are serving missions replacing paid employees in the COB and other for-profit enterprises. Finally, the church donates very little in cash each year.
Ryan writes “their [LDS church leaders] first, second, and third priorities are to preserve the institution, which they believe to be “The Kingdom of God on Earth” and the sole source of saving ordinances for the world.” So if true, it is easy to see that donating money to the poor or taking care of those in need are not the primary concern of Mormonism.
I was a missionary in Ukraine in the early 1990s after the collapse of the USSR. At the time, Ukrainian cities had consistently higher rates of new converts than corresponding cities in Russia or any other neighboring countries, and it ultimately became the home of the first stake and temple in eastern Europe. I’ve wondered for a long time what might explain the difference. My theory is that Ukraine has more of a tradition of religious pluralism than its neighbors, due to the existence of Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Ukrainian Orthodox churches. This leads to a culture where it’s more acceptable to change one’s religion than in countries dominated by a single religion. If true, I think this may also be a contributing factor to higher rates of baptisms in US missions compared to other developed countries. I’d be interested to know whether this has ever been studied, or whether there might be other factors I hadn’t considered to explain these kinds of differences.
Excellent discussion. Did I hear it correctly that churches must spend their money in order to maintain their tax-free status, this makes sense considering all the temples being built- along with all the temple and chapel refurbishments. I would think that real long-term growth would be more likely achieved through investments in people and humanitarian aid. But alas doing the things Jesus actually taught is not in the 3 fold mission of the Church- proclaim the gospel, perfect the saints, and redeem the dead.
FYI … Dr. Stewart has done apologetics work for FAIR Mormon.
Here is a videotaped presentation he made on DNA and the Book of Mormon (Part 1 of 3)
What’s the cost of a live and active convert?
Considering just the out-of-missionary-family-pocket cost…
$400/month for 12 months for 70,000 missionaries …
$400 x 12 x 60,000 = $336,000,000 or $336 million per year (:O)
Could someone please divide this by the number of convert baptisms per year? Or baptisms that lead to endowed active members? My guess it’s rather costly.
What’s the cost of a deceased and receptive convert?
The Philadelphia temple building costs were least $80 million.
Based on this alone … taking its 12 endowment sessions per week for 48 weeks a year over 10 years … that’s about $14,000 per endowment session.
Divide this by the number of proxy endowments per session? While it’s probably cheaper than a live one, still…
I’m dismayed by the missed opportunity costs associated with all this stuff.
The discussion on increasing stakes to increase leadership positions in a static geographic area hit me like a brick to the head! OF COURSE, this is what LDS leadership is doing. It’s what I WOULD DO if I were still in TBM mode and in charge. I believe it was Spencer Kimball who said every member needs a friend, A RESPONSIBILITY, and to be nourished by the good word of God.
By increasing the number of stakes or wards in a geographical area where there is little or no growth you increase the number of RESPONSIBLE positions for the same pool of people, and this creates more devout TBM leaders and the families that are attached to those leaders. Brilliant. Smaller stakes. Smaller wards. More leadership positions. More families buying in at the top levels of local leadership. AND the shifting of wards and stakes can show the creation of new units that gives THE APPEARANCE OF GROWTH.
I judge growth by my ward. The last time a traditional (mom, dad and a couple of kids) middle-income family were baptized in mass was 13 years ago. (They left in less than 60 days and never returned.)
Growth in the LDS church will be negligible for the rest of the organization’s life span. Any growth over 2% will take place in Africa and other poor regions of the world. This type of growth will lead to cash drains on the LDS treasury, and one thing is clear, the leaders don’t like to lose money. Operations will then be pulled back in Africa and other poverty-stricken countries leaving to worldwide growth dependent on the birth of babies to families that have stuck around.
In developed countries, you will continue to see disaffection and bold proclamations of departure. This began just a few days ago on Reddit. Previous members showing their faces and not ashamed to tell the world they have left Mormonism. LDS leaders have been lying and distorting the truth for so long they don’t even recognize that they are doing it. When you operate in the shadows that long you forget what light and truth look like.
Here comes the sun Mr. General Authority. Are you ready?
I served my mission in Mexico from 2006 to 2008, and towards the end of my mission the area presidency was having all the missionaries attempt to make contact with every member on the rolls of each ward or branch in an attempt to figure out who even was still living in the ward, and work with the local leaders to clean up the rolls. We found tons of people who had moved away years ago, and even a fair number who had passed away.
There were a few comments from the discussion that “everyone knows that the church is basically stagnant.” I am not so sure. I think with the amount of trust the general membership has in the leaders and the rhetoric most members think we are growing at a decent rate.
Yay more temples
Yay, more missionaries
Wow, that is a lot if stakes
Leadership does not share downers, so it is out of site and out of mind.
Do you think Elohim Mormon Jesus will ever have a change of heart on paying a full 10% tithing? I’m thinking there could be revelation like the age of a missionary from 21 to 18…Elohim could discount the tithing rate from 10% down to 5%…cut the church time from 3 hours to 1 hour sacrament meeting. I’m certain if you cut back the required hand shakes in the temple, 1 high five should suffice, and serve up some popcorn from the apricot tree. This is a recipe for for growth, and more peeps will surely endeavor to reach Kolob than ever before.
One of the wards that I have attended in the last 5 years in New Mexico had one large well functioning ward and has been split into 3 small non functioning wards
Thanks for such an invigorating and interesting discussion about a subject which is too often obfuscated.
A few points:
Both Armenia and Ethiopia are predominantly Christian nations with ancient traditions dating back to the Bible. The Armenian Orthodox Church and Ethiopian Orthodox Church are also synonymous with their respective national identities, so converting away from them is equivalent to abandoning one’s national identity. I think this is an important factor as to why Ethiopia would be an outlier to LDS growth in the rest of Africa. Same goes for Armenia, which claims to be the oldest surviving Christian community in the world. Mormonism does well in more pluralist nations, whereas in Catholic nations like Italy or France, or other countries with national religions, missionaries tend to struggle. I would place both Armenia and Ethiopia in that category.
Meanwhile, you mentioned your befuddlement by low numbers in India, where religious pluralism is the norm. However, I think it’s the demands of Mormonism that would cause it to not do well in India. I know on my mission (in Europe) we taught plenty of Indians, mostly Hindus, who gladly accepted Joseph Smith as a prophet on the first discussion, because they did not review it as a rejection of their own faith. Mormonism demands an all-or-nothing approach to the godhead, which does not play out well in India, in particular Hinduism, where there are literally hundreds of thousands of recognized gods. My Hindu investigators were more than happy to sweep Mormonism into their canon, but once they learned it meant getting rid of everything else they believed in, they walked. India has a small, home-grown Christian community already, but it has never expanded under the behemoth that is Hinduism. One must also remember that religion and socio-economic class are tightly knit in India, and so there might be some underlying factors as to how Mormonism is viewed in terms of caste. More exactly, often a person’s very job and skin color determine what religion they will be, and vice versa. I imagine it would be hard for Mormonism to establish itself in that paradigm.
Fascinating. Thanks for the perspective, Andrew!!!
If the church’s plan is to have less people in wards and stakes, so there are more callings to go round, I think they might not have thought that one through. That might work in Sandy Utah where you can be a 35 year old male in good standing and be the ward librarian. But in my part of the world in Western Europe we operate on a skeleton crew already, and if you are are a 35 year old male in good standing you’re being groomed to be the bishop, due to the fact there are just not enough candidates in the pool. Depending on your perspective the members in our smaller wards and branches are either fully engaged (due to everyone have a substantial calling) or they are overburdened. My reading of the situation over the last few years has led me to believe that I would like to see our smaller wards combined, so the burden could be shared, rather than having a stalwart burned over people. As it is, I feel as though I’m looking down the barrel of spending the next 35 years or so (until I expire) making sawdust with every spare minute that I have – in other words substantial callings at the expense of personal development, exercise and looking after my health, and spending time with family. Maybe some of my perspective is tempered by my own liberal view of the absolute of the truth of the church, but I suspect for many people the overall feeling is the same: attending church is burdensome. As more and more people find out that the church truth claims are not black and white, people will look to get more out of the church, and obeisance and busywork is not going to cut it.
During my LDS missionary service in the Central British Mission the membership base was so thin that for a time I served as Relief Society President in Bangor, Wales, branch.
I have a lovely visualisation of that, I’m sure in no way accurate, but lovely all the same.
I would like to correct what I believe was an error in the discussion of temples in this podcast. If you look at the temple schedules on lds.org, almost every temple is open Tuesday-Saturday, with multiple endowment sessions per day (including the temple in Ohio). I did notice that the temple in The Hague is only open Thursday to Saturday with other days by special arrangement, but this is the exception rather than the rule. I know that the temples do not schedule sessions unless they regularly have at least some people to attend them, since it requires temple workers to be available. Many of these sessions may have small numbers, but these temples are definitely not just placeholder buildings. I believe that the new temples are mainly being built for easier accessibility rather than because other temples are too full.
I agree with you. The pattern appears to be more to do with accessibility. The ldstemples.org website has some great tools, and you can see how many stakes exist in each temple district. Many temples were / are built for long term growth, not because of immediate needs.
As far as why the Mormon church, in the face of a stagnant future, is concerned about property, investments & income, etc, one need only look to Joseph Smith…
“…the Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”
Even if they were fully aware of what the growth & stagnation numbers portend, one must assume that the leadership and the TBM bureaucracy still believe that Jesus is coming back, and that there’s still a lot of work to be done in every continent, clime and country getting the message to every ear.
And whatever the current situation, that large amount of remaining work is not going to be cheap.
That’s not to say the Mormon church hasn’t gotten very comfortable with wealth and what it provides them.