Is the LDS Church Really the Fastest Growing Church?

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Introduction: The purpose of this report is to provide important information regarding the growth and expansion of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The raw data for the number of stakes, missions, wards, members, converts, and full-time missionaries was gathered from the yearly statistic segment of the May 2005 edition of the Ensign magazine. I determined important categories to best reveal the growth and expansion of the LDS Church, and made comparisons by six-year segments starting in 1974. The result of the data provided will reveal that the number of converts added to the Church annually is diminishing, retention difficulties continue to rise, and other U.S. based churches far outpace the LDS Church.

Members to Each Stake: This means that for every stake there are so many members. The information on the spreadsheet reveals that the Church was very busy building stakes from 1974-1984 because membership growth was at its peak for the last 30 years. However, stake growth has slowed considerably after 1984. For example, stake growth from 1999-2004 was only 4.84% compared to 38.00% during 1979-1984. Some think this is an indication of retention problems. Armand Mauss of Washington State University, perhaps the most well-known and widely respected LDS Sociologist, notes: "the key to the church's future growth will be at least as much a function of retention as conversion. While our numbers continue to grow, the rate at which we are creating new stakes has noticeably slowed down. That is a clear indication of a retention problem" (Peggy Fletcher Stack, "Growing LDS Church Goes Global", Salt Lake Tribune [February 10, 1996] cited in David Stewart, LDS Member Activity and Convert Retention Statistics). So, although the Church may be growing in numbers on paper, the Church is having difficulty in retaining its converts as evidenced by the slowing growth in stakes. In addition, Dale E. LaBaron gave a devotional at BYU Idaho and indicated that the Church in West Africa experienced 54% attendance in the 2000 sacrament meeting, and that its attendance was "second only to the Utah South Area" (Dale E. LeBaron, "Devotional", Ricks College News Release [April 5, 2001] cited in David Stewart, LDS Member Activity and Convert Retention Statistics). If the second highest attendance rate for the sacrament meeting is 54%, it really makes you wonder how low activity really is across the world.

Members to Each Ward: This means that for every ward there are so many members. This category is very similar to the category above. However, it reveals that the biggest expansion in wards occurred between 1989-1994, as opposed to 1974-1984 when the largest expansion of stakes occurred. The amount of wards being built increased by 88% between 1989-1994: there were 11,536 wards in 1989, and there were 21,774 wards in 1994. However, total membership only grew by 23.62% over that same period. What does this mean? David Stewart from The Cumorah Project, and a contributor to the LDS FAIR Journal, notes that it may be due to the idea of "if you build it, they will come". He notes that "[m]any Westerners equate the Church with a building. As a missionary in Russia in the early 1990's, I heard many members and missionaries speak of anticipated future chapels as a panacea to growth problems. Low growth and activity? Poor convert retention? Lack of respect in the community? When there is a chapel, it will all be different, many claimed" (David Stewart, The Chapel and the Church). Again, this is another indication that the Church is suffering from slow growth and retention problems.

Converts to Each Missionary: This means that for every missionary there are so many converts. This measures the effectiveness of missionaries, and may also measure the perception people have in regards to the validity of the LDS Church. The year that produced the most converts per missionary was 1989. On average, each missionary had at least 8.03 converts during that period. Fifteen years later, this number has drastically dropped to 4.72 converts per missionary in 2004. In 2004, the Church produced the lowest amount of converts per missionary in 30 years, and as evidenced by the six-year break down, there was a 14% drop in converts in 2003 alone. This resulted in 40,215 fewer people being converted in 2003 compared to 2002. One reason for this drop could be that there were 5,401 fewer missionaries on the field than the previous year. This would have accounted for 23,332 of those 40,215 fewer people being baptized. But not only are missionaries becoming less effective in converting people, they are having a terrible time retaining those who convert. According to David Stewart, out of the 4.6 persons baptized by the average missionary, only about 1.3 will remain active (Trends in LDS Church Growth).

New Convert to New Member: This is a very important ratio. This means that for every convert there are so many new members. The ratio of 1:1 means that there is one convert for every new member. This information is relevant because it tells us if the majority of the growth occurs internally, or from people being converted into the Church. The data gathered between the years 1999-2004 reveals that there are, on average, 7.68 new converts for every new member, and internal growth only accounted for, on average, 12.2% of total annual growth. The 30-year average is 5.46 new converts for every new member. This means that the Church is growing considerably more from people that convert into the Church than internally. However, due to retention problems discussed above, only a fraction of these converts remain active.

  Highs Lows
Total Membership 1974-1979 31.0% 1999-2004 14.16%
Converts 1974-1979 179.64% 1999-2004 -21.21%
Stakes 1974-1979 61.78% 1999-2004 4.84%
Missions 1974-1979 54.87% 1979-1984 2.86%
Missionaries 1984-1989 43.70% 1999-2004 -12.84%
Wards 1989-1994 88.75 1999-2004 3.40%

Highs: During the last 30 years, the Church experienced the highest percentage of growth and expansion between the six-year period of 1974 to 1979. During this period, Church membership increased by 31.10%, converts increased by 179.64%, stakes grew by 61.78%, and the number of missions grew by 54.87%. The information for full-time missionaries was not available for that period. During 1984 to 1989 there was a 43.70% increase in full-time missionaries, the highest growth in that category over the last 30 years. During this same period, there was an 88.75% increase in the amount of wards.

Lows: During the last 30 years, the Church experienced the least amount of growth and expansion between the six-year period of 1999-2004. During 1999-2004, Church membership only increased by 14.16%, converts decreased by 21.21%, full time missionaries decreased by 12.84%, the number of wards only increased 3.40%, and the number of stakes only increased by 4.84%.

Compared to other Churches: Contrary to common thought, the LDS Church is not the fastest growing church, nor is it close to being the fastest-growing religious movement to arise from the United States. The LDS Church began in 1830 and today has membership at 12.2 million ( Pentecostal Christianity, which originated in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901, has membership of around 480 million adherents worldwide as of 1998 ( Latter-day Saints claim over 150 thousand raw members in Africa, while Pentecostal groups claim over 150 million adherents on the continent. The Assemblies of God denomination, which was organized in 1914, has membership of about 50 million members worldwide, adding approximately 3.6 million new members a year ( That's 12 times as much as the LDS Church. Lawrence Young notes: "The Mormon church, which was established nearly eighty-five years before the Assemblies of God, has only one-fifth as large of a presence in Latin America" ("Confronting Turbulent Environments" in Marie Cornwall, Tim Heaton, and Lawrence Young, eds., Contemporary Mormonism Social Science Perspectives [University of Illinois: 1994], 60, cited in David Stewart, Trends in LDS Church Growth). This is despite the fact that Latin America is supposedly the ancient setting for the Book of Mormon.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church was organized in 1849 and as of the middle of 2004 has membership of 13.6 million ( Seventh-day Adventists were adding an average of 95,280 new members each month in 2000, and have experienced increased growth since that time ( In comparison, the LDS Church only added an average of 27,000 new members a month in 2001, of whom only a fraction go on to experience meaningful church activity. The Assemblies of God are growing at approximately 10% per year, that's about four times the growth rate of the LDS Church, while the Seventh-day Adventists report growth at 5.6-8% per year--two to three times LDS rates.

Conclusion: The Church of Jesus-Christ is not the fastest growing religion, nor is it the fastest growing U.S. based religion. The truth is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is loosing steam. The Church, while still growing, is growing at a much slower pace today than it has over the last 30 years. The indicators include much slower membership growth, a decline in conversions, a decline in conversions for each missionary, and a lack of retention. A few things to note: the amount of missionaries on the field went down by 10,571 from 2002-2004, the Church experienced the least amount of converts per missionary in 2003, the Church experienced one of the biggest declines in converts in 2003, and retention is a growing problem. I believe possible explanations could be: there is a very high saturation of so-called "anti-Mormon" media, especially the relatively recent development of the internet, there are fewer LDS missionaries on the field, there has been a significant increase in Evangelical efforts to create public dialogue between LDS and Christians, and there is a significant growth in missions towards the LDS among Christian churches and Universities.

Matt Vessey
June 11, 2005


Jehovah's Witnesses Fastest-Growing of U.S. Faiths

From the MRM (Mormonism Research Ministry) Update (June 2009): New statistics released at general conference in April show that as of December 31, 2008, LDS Church membership stands at 13,508,509. This is an increase of 314,510 from 2007. While this number definitely is disconcerting, what is encouraging is that convert baptisms fell once again. A total of 279,218 people converted to Mormonism in 2007. In 2008 that number fell to 265,593, which is a difference of 13,685. The LDS Church convert baptism rate peaked in 1990 when 330,877 people embraced Mormonism's "Restored Gospel."

Daniel Peterson of BYU said in April 2011, "Aren't we 'the fastest growing religion'? Actually, we're not. Church growth has been falling for many years, and our current rate of missionary success is the lowest it's been for decades." 


LDS Church Historian and Recorder General Authority Marlin K. Jensen confirmed the end of 2011 that LDS are "leaving in droves."


Mormon Numbers Not Adding Up (2-2-12)
Mormonism is no longer one of America’s fastest-growing faiths. What happened?_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

Religion census reveals substantial LDS growth (5-1-12)

Bogus growth stats in recent articles on LDS growth. They are reporting a ten year growth that is actually the numbers for a 20 year growth.

"Following closely behind is Mormonism, which rocketed by 45 per cent from 4.2 million to 6.1 mi...llion followers across the country in 2010 - gaining the most members of any religious group since 2000."


The LDS "Church Almanac 1993-1994," page 395, lists the Dec. 31, 1991 USA membership as 4,336,000.

The LDS "Church Almanac 2001-2002", p. 167, gives the USA membership number as 5,113,409.

But even these numbers are suspect as they include babies on up, not just baptized members, and since they make it hard for people to resign, the number includes thousands (if not millions) of people who would no longer self-identify as LDS.

Also see the article we ran in the SLC Messenger, No. 117.

Sandra Tanner

LDS Church reports 18 percent growth in 2000s (5-3-12)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the fastest-growing Christian church in America from 2000-10, but it didn't grow as fast as reported Tuesday.


LDS Church Growth Statistics, Anomalies Since 1970 (5-13-13)


"The Assemblies of God was founded in 1914... Today, Assemblies of God members worldwide, including the United States and 252 countries, territories and provinces, number more than 65 million" (AGTrust, "The Centennial Initiative, 1914-2014: New Century. Renewed Commitment," 2).  Contrast that with the LDS Church, which was established in 1830, and they have how many members today?  And you expect us to believe LDS when they tell us they are the fastest growing church?

R. M. Sivulka

NY Times: Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt (7-20-13)
Around the world and in the United States, where the faith was founded, the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith, according to interviews with dozens of Mormons and those who study the church.

The Deseret News 2012 Church Almanac lists the LDS membership in Scotland as 26,826. However, the UK gov. stats for Scotland only list 4,651. Hmmmm.

Sandra Tanner (10-14-13)

Goes along with similar results from places like Mexico where the 2000 census had 205,000 LDS v. the LDS church which was claiming 846,000.  And Chile, which in the 2002 census had 103,000, v. 520,000 per LDS records. Peggy F. Stack had an interesting article on this I just found - she had this to say about Brazil:

That's only 913,000 missing members.

Joel Groat (10-15-13)


Looks like God didn't "hasten the work" very much. New converts increased 0.58% despite an almost 50% increase in missionaries from "the surge." (4-6-14)


How the Mormons Conquered America (6-12-14) 
The success of the Mormon religion is a study in social adaptation.


See how the LDS Church growth rate has been losing steam on Wiki.


Number of LDS converts, missionaries increasing; conversion rate declines (4-17-15)
A record number of young Mormons signed up for missions after church leaders lowered the minimum age in 2012, but new figures show the onslaught of proselytizing Latter-day Saints didn't lead to an equally dramatic spike in converts.


LDS Church Membership Statistics (5-3-15)
An Analysis of LDS Annual Statistical Reports


Christianity shrinking in U.S.; Mormon numbers essentially flat (5-12-15) 
The share of Americans who consider themselves Christian is falling fast, while the ranks of the "nones" — atheists, agnostics and "nothing in particulars" — continue to swell, according to a major new study.


Millennial Mormons leaving faith at higher rate than previous generations (4-13-16) 
Mormon millennials are the focus of a symposium at Utah Valley University this week.



Overall LDS Growth Trend Case Studies (12-31-16) 
Top 10 Encouraging and Discouraging LDS Growth and Missionary Developments in 2016

Mormon growth slowing dramatically in U.S., researcher reports (1-3-17)
In 2016, Mormonism saw steady — and occasionally impressive — congregational growth in Africa, Asia, Central America and Oceania, but a slowdown in new U.S. wards and branches, stagnant membership rates in Europe, a lack of progress in South America and Mexico, and deceleration in the Philippines, Korea and India.


Is Mormonism dying? (2-25-18)
When outsiders think of Utah, polygamy and pairs of freshly scrubbed young men with nametags often come to mind first, probably more often than gangs, breweries, Catholics, lesbian punk bands, and the NSA.

Salt Lake County is now minority Mormon, and the impacts are far reaching (12-9-18)
With major implications on everything from the classroom to the church pews, from the Capitol to the dinner table, an unrelenting demographic shift has hit a major milestone: Fewer than half the people living in Salt Lake County are on the rolls of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

LDS Church tops 16.3 million members, but number reflects lowest net increase in 40 years (4-6-19)
Amid the 2018 statistic report announced Saturday by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is a startling finding: the largest number of membership records ever removed in a single year — 140,868.

Utah sees Latter-day Saint slowdown and membership numbers drop in Salt Lake County (1-5-20)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recorded its smallest membership growth in Utah in at least three decades this past year. And, in 2019, 14 of the state’s 29 counties saw the actual number of members decline.


Jana Riess: For U.S. Latter-day Saints, religiosity has declined over time (11-23-21)
They remain more religious than the nation as a whole, but they aren’t as devout as they used to be.


LDS Church withholds membership data from Utah for first time in decades. Here’s why. (11-30-21)
It has happened every year for decades. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has handed over membership data to Utah’s government.


Letter: Totals of missionaries, convert baptisms and the membership growth rate have become dismal data points for the LDS Church  (11-12-23)
Recent articles quoting LDS leaders refer to “strong” missionary growth and an “expanding throng” of missionaries. While numbers of full-time teaching missionaries have indeed increased, the current tally of 72,721 is a short-term aberration.


Study: Utah is no longer a majority-Mormon state (12-28-23)
With more nonmembers moving into the state and smaller Mormon birthrates, Utah is no longer a majority-Mormon state.

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