LDS Church Membership, Activity Rates and Retention

20 October

salt-lake-templeThe LDS Church made an incredible claim in the October 2013 General Conference by announcing they have 15 million members.  That is quite the feat and nothing to just accept with an unwavering okay and nod of the head.  So today we’re taking a look at those numbers to see if this is truth.

Membership Numbers

The Church reported at the end of 2012 they had 14,782,473 members.

In 2012 according to their site it says there were 272,330 baptisms and an increase of 122,273 who are children of record* and this totals 394,603. 

All one has to do is add the total number of members in 2011 which was 14,441,346 to the number of increases of baptisms and births from 2012 to see there’s something wrong with their calculators. 

The real numbers for 2012 should read 14,835,949, but the Church said it was 14,782,473.  That’s a loss of 53,476 members.

So why doesn’t the Church report that as well?  Why do they give the gross increase and leave out members lost?   Are the 53,476 lost members the number of dead people that were baptized? Who knows what the truth is as no plumb line to measure truth can be found in the Mormon Church.

Up to and including 1983 the Church used to list the number of deaths, children who fail to become baptized at the age of 8, voluntary name removal and excommunications.  For reasons not publicized they put an immediate halt to that practice. reported the following stats about the Church:

From 1984 to 1988 they listed children lost, member loss, and other losses.

From 1989 through 1996 they listed members and converts only.

From 1997 through 2012 they’ve listed members, converts and Children of Record.

In 1983 they reported the loss of members based on death was taken from generalized formulations of 4 deaths per 1,000 population**.  So if we use that standard for 2011 at a death rate of 4 per 1000 members, 57,764 members died and 33,586 left the Church.

In 2012 – at a death rate of 4 per 1000 members, 59,128 members died. This is more than the actual number of 53,476 members lost.

*Children of Record means a child born into the Church. These kids aren’t the 8 yr old kids who are baptized. These are children who were born to LDS members that were christened (blessed) around the age of 6 wks.

**4 deaths per 1,000 is unrealistic as a worldwide average. In reality this is around 8 per 1,000. Death rates worldwide are always much higher than they are in developed countries. 

Activity  and Retention Rates

According to the Church’s activity rate is dismal at best. They reported that only “22% of U.S. members born to active LDS families remain active lifelong, whereas 44% returned after inactivity of at least a year or more”. Children born into inactive families remained inactive themselves if they even affiliated themselves with the Church.

Between 1990 and 2001 the Church claimed they had 5.3 million members, but in the City University of New York (CUNY) report only 2.8 million Americans identified themselves as Mormons. In an interesting comparison more people identified themselves as Jehovah Witnesses than their church claimed to have on the roles. also reported a survey done by USA Today in 2002 that showed similar stats. According to the news magazine almost every state showed lower numbers of people claiming to be Mormon than what the Church claimed.  Cumorah’s studies show that between “2000 – 2010 the average branch or ward increased by only one member” even though almost a million joined Mormonism and the Church busied itself with adding over 2,000 congregations. The average number of members per congregation remained stagnant at 0.3% for the same time frame. They believe this suggests a “declining convert retention rate”.

I say praise the Lord!

Today Cumorah’s site reports that less than half of those 15 million people actually claim to be Mormon.  Additionally the number of people who are active is always lower than the number of people who claim to be Mormon. In reality there’s never any LDS congregation that sees more than 30% attendance and that number is more likely to be in the high twenties.

If that wasn’t bad enough for the Church “data from Latin America, the Philippines, and other international areas demonstrate that three quarters of converts are entirely lost to the church within a year after baptism”.

The stats also show that while over 80% of the yearly converts take place outside of the U.S., only 25% of those converts remain active longer than a year.

Interestingly, I’ve noticed over the years that the “public” information from the Church about activity rates just doesn’t hold up to what we see and hear at the ministry.  In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, pg 1527 it says;

“Attendance at sacrament meeting varies substantially. Canada, the South Pacific, and the United States average between 40 percent and 50 percent. Europe and Africa average about 35 percent. Asia and Latin America have weekly attendance rates of about 25 percent.”

I was glad to see that I’m not alone in thinking the numbers don’t add up when I read the following comment about the Encyclopedia of Mormonism;

“For clarity, Dr. Heaton cites data as representing the average attendance at sacrament meeting as a percentage of membership. These figures do not appear to include “lost address file members,” as sacrament meeting attendance rates are calculated based on total congregational membership, whereas lost address file members are not included in congregational rolls. When “lost address file” members are included in the denominator of total membership, weekly attendance rates as a percentage of total membership would be further diluted by our conservative estimate of the lost address file comprising 10% of total North American membership and 30% of membership in the developing world.”

This means that of the 6.3 million members the Church claims for North America only 630,000 people show up for Church.   

While the Church gives the impression that 15 million people are going to church every week we know this is far from the truth.

It’s hard to know how many people really belong to the LDS Church because 1. The Church doesn’t tell the truth about the real numbers and 2. There’s no verifiable way to ascertain how to retrieve any solid information based on the accounting practices.

The bottom line in all this is the Church probably has 4-5 million members and maybe 30% of those attend church regularly; there’s simply no way to make sense out of anything they try to brag about.

The one thing we do know for sure is that we as Christians need to pray for any and all of those who claim to be Mormon.  We need to pray for those who unbeknownst to them will receive a knock on their door this week or next month that the Lord will provide a hedge of protection around their hearts spiritually and open their eyes to Jesus’ truth.

With Love in Christ;


1 Cor 1:18

PS: is run by five people who are obviously LDS.  Although I obviously disagree with their theological outlook, I use their stats because of the honest analysis they provide.

See stat report Mormon Church Growth, Activity Rate and Retention for latest info.

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18 Responses to “LDS Church Membership, Activity Rates and Retention”

  1. Jay Mackley July 3, 2014 at 3:45 am #

    As a former LDS/Mormon Stake Clerk and Ward Clerk who also currently keeps a detailed spreadsheet on Church membership stats I think I can offer some insight. Over the last 10 years, church membership losses have averaged 5.18 per 1000 members. Most of that, maybe the 4% you cited, are death losses. Worldwide the LDS are a young church and most converts are relatively young and of course children of record newly baptised are only 8. The death rate in Utah (I am not from Utah) , including non-Mormons, is 5.2% due to a large LDS population who, on average, are healthier and live longer than the rest of the U.S. population. Outside of the U.S. there is a higher percentage of converts than in the U.S. and converts tend to be younger than average, as I said — which of course lowers the death rate. I wish I had a stat for average convert age but I don’t. Just personal observation as a missionary, clerk, and leader.

    Those that leave the Church have a miniscule effect on membership numbers. This is because when someone quits going to church they are still recorded as members and few bother to actually have their names removed. Some members are excommunicated also but, percentage wise, that isn’t a big impact either. In my Ward of 300+, nearly all the “less active” have and accept home teachers from the church. These people still consider themselves members even though they do not attend. There are 20 who have requested “no contact” but are still members and are well aware they are recorded as such and in most cases are not antagonistic. Believe me, the Church does not “guess” at membership. They simply count the total in the central database and really try hard to find and keep track of all the members. The Church does not ever “drop” the “no contacts”. Can you imagine how one of these folks would feel if they decided to show up one day in church just to find out they had been “dropped”! The Church would never do that to someone.

    My experience is that average U.S. Church attendance at Sacrament meeting is around 40%, at least. I have been in many Wards where 50-60% was a regular occurrence. Of course, in some areas of the world, especially where the church is weak, the members are poor, and/or the commute is long, it is much less than 40%.

    I am just quoting my experience here — from someone who has been there and done that.

    • T Wwd March 17, 2016 at 11:50 am #

      You are so right, if you are still even checking comments on this site.

      My fam: In the beginning there were 2 parents, 4 kids. Then 4 spouses. Then 10 grandkids. Then 6 spouses. Then 4 great-grandchildren.

      total people 30 so far
      total Mormons 18 (baptized & on the books)
      total active 9
      total likely to EVER restart attending again: ZERO

      So if they are counting # of ppl baptized & on the books regardless of attendance, they are severely misrepresenting.

      Also, question, do they count the ppl they baptize that are dead? (A ritual they do in the temple with dead ppl’s names so dead ppl get baptized since they “never had the opportunity here.)

      I have also seen convert after convert slip away. I wonder if these numbers are counted…probably.

      Just some involved you may already know!

      Take care!

    • Doug April 26, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

      T Wwd

      If you want to avoid the visit with the bishop, simply write directly to Church Headquarters.

    • Doug April 26, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

      Sorry, T Wwd, my comment about writing to CHQ was meant for your comment below.

      Concerning your other comments and questions above, here are some responses:
      Yes, to come up with the total membership, “they are counting # of ppl baptized & on the books regardless of attendance,” but no, that is not “severely misrepresenting.” A member, by definition, is one who is baptized. If that member removes his name, he is no longer counted. They keep a different statistic for attendance, which is what Michelle refers to earlier. They count converts once they are baptized and, like above, count them as attending if they attend.

      They do not count baptisms in the temple.

  2. Calculator May 10, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

    Dear Michelle,

    In addition to praying for anyone who considers themselves Mormon, let’s also pray that all who read your article are both mathematically illiterate and don’t have a calculator. If 40 – 50% attend in NA per your source, and they don’t include up to a 10% lost file group in the denominator, then instead of 40 / 100 to 50 / 100, it would be 40 / 110 (36%) to 50 / 110 (45%) attendance in North America. Or, please go ahead and round that down to 10%. I’m frustrated the the LDS Church for so many reasons, but ironically, when you clearly cite false conclusions as your rebuttal to what you claim are false claims, you invalidate any sense of credibility while hypocritically doing the exact thing you are condemning. Further, one can sort of understand why the church reports its own statistics and understand some of the difficulty in so doing. I have long wanted to believe claims that the church has been less than honest and forthright with this and miriad other issues. Your article has done more to make me think the church is accurate than any other publication I’ve read on the subject. Disappointing honestly. Thanks,

    • Nat Readerland February 8, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

      “Those that leave the Church have a miniscule effect on membership numbers. This is because when someone quits going to church they are still recorded as members and few bother to actually have their names removed.”

      I stopped going maybe 20 years ago and finally got my name off the rolls this year. Getting your name off the rolls is horribly administrative. I had to dig my feet in a refuse to visit a bishop or ward and the same for my physical address. I also started sending an email every 15 minutes for days when they refused to respond.

      They finally relented and did everything by email when I provided enough information to show it was me and was adamant they did not need to know my address. I gave them the ward where my records would have sat and that should be enough. In fact after 20 years, a ward should not even be involved..

      Im sorry, but getting off the LDS member rolls should just be an email and response from them saying…okay….

      So my guess is their rolls are horribly bloated with people that wish there was an easy way to remove their names without revealing their entire life to so that the Church can chase them down to beg them to come back

    • Kris August 27, 2016 at 5:55 pm #

      I pastor a church in an area that has a large LDS population.
      I would venture to say that a good 25% or more of our members (baptized, very faithful, tithing folk) are also on the rolls of the LDS church.
      There are folks here who pastor Christian churches that I would venture to say are on the LDS rolls.
      Of all the folks I know that converted from Mormonism I can only think of one who went through the hassle of getting their names taken off.
      I suspect that the Membership Rolls of the LDS church are tremendously bloated with Christians of all stripes, Agnostics and Athiests, and folks who have long ago lost their faith and just don’t care.
      By the way….our membership numbers are our attendance numbers.

    • Kris August 27, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

      I pastor a church in an area that has a large LDS population.
      I would venture to say that a good 25% or more of our members (baptized, very faithful, tithing folk) are also on the rolls of the LDS church.
      There are folks here who pastor Christian churches that I would venture to say are on the LDS rolls.
      Of all the folks I know that converted from Mormonism I can only think of one who went through the hassle of getting their names taken off.
      I suspect that the Membership Rolls of the LDS church are tremendously bloated with Christians of all stripes, Agnostics and Athiests, and folks who have long ago lost their faith and just don’t care.
      By the way….our membership numbers are our attendance numbers.

  3. Perry May 23, 2015 at 6:09 pm #

    It seems to me that the less active figures are incorrect. I have been in 17 different wards and branches and less actives have never been more that 30%. It is news to me that at least half the worldwide members are less active. Can anyone who is an active member verify this please?

  4. Ex bishop September 13, 2015 at 10:37 pm #

    I served my mission in Scotland and had the chance to survey the country for activity rates. Due to the baseball baptisms, Scotland averages about 10% attendance and ranks among the lowest in the world with Chile and the Philippines. It’s an outlayer though.

    Europe generally averages about 20-35%. My own city ward averaged about 23%. The biggest reason by far is the missionary program baptizing year over year people who were never really converted and stop coming very quickly.

  5. Doug January 4, 2016 at 4:09 pm #

    Perry: There is a wide variance in Church attendance. Nonetheless, Michelle’s statement that, “there’s never any LDS congregation that sees more than 30% attendance” is wrong. In our stake, we have yet to have attendance LESS than 30%. Our stake was formed in 1978, so we are not an “established” area, nor are we like the mission field. Attendance varies from 34%-38%, which is more than twice that of many international units, and less than half of many well-established stakes. Like I said, rates vary considerably.
    For more accurate, unbiased data, see the U.S. Religion Census (assembled by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies), or the Pew Research Center, which surveys all major religions in the US. You might find them interesting.

    • Nat Readerland February 8, 2016 at 5:40 pm #

      34-38% is dismal considering the amount of proselytizing and supposed follow-up. And being proud of that percentage is dizzying.

  6. Doug February 9, 2016 at 5:09 pm #

    Nat, if you are implying I am “proud of that percentage” you misunderstood. I am not proud of that low percentage. I wish it were higher. And I wish we would live our religion better than we do. My comment was aimed at Michelle’s statement: “there’s never any LDS congregation that sees more than 30% attendance”. National surveys show otherwise. Pew Research Ctr survey from November shows that LDS lead the way on engagement ( Now, this is only one survey, and it has limitations, but is certainly shows Michelle’s statements are incorrect.

  7. T Wwd March 17, 2016 at 11:52 am #

    I meant just some information

  8. T Wwd March 17, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    Re: Nat’s comment about getting your name off the books – I tried too, but they DO insist that you come meet with a bishop and discuss it. I finally negotiated it down to a phone call, but he suckered me into not doing it. I’ll probably try again soon. It is just too cultish to DEMAND that you are brought before an intimidating person that you don’t know from Adam!

    • Paula A Thornton March 19, 2017 at 3:53 am #

      TWwd: You make it sound like you know Adam. If you did, then you’d recognize his voice in speaking with your Bishop as the both hold the same priesthood and espoused to the same fundamental principles of the gospel. Indeed, if you truly knew Adam you would realize the importance of his role in leading the way for us to come to earth to prove ourselves worthy to return to God’s presence. Likewise, you would also do everything to secure that right for yourself and your family.

      Your Bishop is not the enemy here.

  9. Jenny October 5, 2016 at 1:09 am #

    This article fails to consider one critical point: a child of record can become a member. Children of record include un-blessed children who are children of members, and any blessed child of a member 9 or older who has not been baptized. I lived in Utah, and children aged 9 or older were counted as convert baptisms on the statistics. We had at least one every year. Your simple subtraction doesn’t take this into account (it can’t–not enough information), which means that your calculation is irredeemably off.

    I am a fan of clearing names from the records, and I pushed for it when I was on the ward council. In every instance I know of when a member was approached by the bishop about having their records removed — even when they were baptized into and attending another church — they declined.

    The new system allows for any leader to delete the records of children of record who have reached age 18 and been offered every opportunity for baptism. No interview is necessary. It’s simply a clerical issue that even I as YW president can handle.

    Also note, children of record are not included in unit statistics, but they DO show up on class rolls. So although my YW class appears to have just 60% attendance to the untrained eye (because rolls include children of record), our statistical attendance is actually over 90%.

    Obviously it would be disingenuous to count the numbers of nonmembers on statistics (and they aren’t), but it can be frustrating and confusing for leaders to think they have a responsibility to activate the children of members who haven’t darkened the door of the church in decades, and it can confuse leaders who see a printout of “members” that includes children of record (they all do) and compare that to sacrament attendance.

  10. Paula A Thornton March 19, 2017 at 4:01 am #

    While the rates are older, activity rates have been published:

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