Mormon Church Growth, Activity Rate, and Retention

01 December

LDS Church Vital StatsOver the years the LDS Church has made some mighty bold claims on how fast they’ve grown. From the infamous Rodney Stark prediction in 1984, to the yearly Statistical Reports they release at the April General Conferences, it’s difficult at best to decipher where the truth lies. Somehow, the claims at their General Conferences seem to fly under the radar of anyone’s notice, which is quite surprising considering their stories are just as outrageous as Rodney Stark’s. (A link is provided here for Stark’s full article on the BYU website.)

As far as the Church and their creative record keeping goes, it seems there’s never a dull moment. Case in point is the latest Utah Vital Stats Report we published earlier this year. One of the topics we found interesting was the claim of a huge growth spurt of LDS population inside of Utah.

This prompted us to take a closer look at the Church’s statistical claims to see how (or if) they match up to reality. In particular, we’re looking at a three items of interest –

1.The Mormon Population Inside of Utah

2.LDS Missionary Age Requirements & Convert Rates

3.Total Membership Numbers & Growth Rate of the Mormon Church

Problem #1 – LDS Population

The following is a brief excerpt from our 2014 Vital Stats Report;

Most surprising stat…

The Church stated the Mormon population in Utah grew around 10%. Not a lot you say? Think about this –

2014 Utah Population Percentages in UtahIn July 2015, reported approximately 68% of Utah’s population was Mormon which is a substantial increase from previous years. In our last report from2012, we noted the Mormon population in Utah hovered around 59 – 60%.

According to their site 2,000,554 Mormons now live in Utah.

Their numbers aren’t matching up with what the Salt Lake Trib said just seven months prior  –

“…Utah overall saw its share of Mormon adherents tick upward for the fourth straight year, reaching 62.64 percent.” – November 30, 2014

How did the Mormon population in Utah suddenly go from 62% to 69% in seven months?

Problem #2 – Missionary Program

In 2012 the Church’s missionary workforce rose by 41% when they lowered the age requirements to 18.

As it turned out, potential converts didn’t hold the same enthusiasm the young missionaries did, and the proof as they say, is in the pudding. The Church’s increase of new converts sat at a distant 26%, far below the 41% increase of their fulltime missionaries out there pounding the pavement.

This didn’t seem to be any problem at all with what the Church said though. They reported things were going wonderfully well with the newly added missionaries.


Another sign the Church isn’t growing as well as they claim is, once again, found in their own missionary data. The ‘80’s proved to be the last banner decade for the Church’s missionary program. Their tactic in 2012 of lowering the age to 18 and flooding the earth with more kids to preach the Mormon gospel, obviously didn’t produce the outcome they had hoped.

In 2014 the Church reported on average, each missionary converted 3.49 people while on their two year mission for that year. However, by the end of the ‘80’s (1989) it was as high as 8.02 converts per missionary.

Aside from the 1980’s, the missionary workforce average has stayed relatively the same throughout the 38 years they’ve provided records for.

Overall, from 2014 to 1974 (the earliest year for which they provide data), Mormon missionaries averaged 5.99 converts per year, and from 1980 – 1989 they averaged 7.96 per year.

Problem #3 – Growth, Activity, & Retention Rates

To make this more manageable, we’ve broken this down into the 3 subject matters individually.

Growth Rate

LDS Church Growth, Member Activity, and Convert Retention: Review and Analysis
II-01: Sources of Data: Official Church Statistics
“Because official LDS membership statistics have no obligatory relationship to member activity or participation, official membership data offer relatively little insight into the growth and strength of the Church. A 10% increase in reported membership in a nation does not imply that 10% more people are attending LDS church services.”

The quote above comes from a pro-Mormon website;, run by Matt Martinich. He provides every stat imaginable about the Church, as well as an analysis on the Church’s worldwide activities. It’s interesting to see how brutally forthcoming he is about the Church’s subpar honesty in the self reporting system they cling to. Oddly enough, he’s still a devoted Mormon, just as the Church still continues to reference his site with no apologies.

Now compare what Mr. Martinich said with LDS Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley’s comment.

News of the Church, July 1999; “Church Building Efforts Accelerate…Speaking of the need for new meetinghouses, President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “We must house our people as they come into the Church.” His remarks were given during a speech at Brigham Young University on 6 November 1998. “We are experiencing a combined growth of converts and natural increase of some 400,000 a year. Every single year that is the equivalent of 160 new stakes of 2,500 people each. We are building more than 350 to 400 new buildings a year, and we are getting behind. We must increase our efforts and will do so.” – Gordon B. Hinckley

Truth: Hinckley’s statement is technically wrong. The Church has never seen a one year growth of 400,000 members. No doubt, they’ve come close, but to date haven’t produced the numbers Mr. Hinckley claimed.

The oft repeated story ‘Mormonism is the fastest growing church’ is just that – a story.

The truth is that Mormonism is growing at a much slower rate than any of the larger Christian denominations, and even slower than another well known cult; the JW’s. Overall, Mormonism is growing at less than 2% a year (1.89% in 2014), and by all estimates will continue to do so for awhile, just as they’ve done in the past 15 year trend they’ve produced.  –

A large portion of the Church’s growth is coming from within, meaning their kids are being baptized.  Non-Mormons who become Mormons (converts) have seen a significant depreciation.

“This year [2014], like other years since 2005, around 1.9% of all members were baptized in the last year, or about 1 in 50. While the percentage has been mostly flat since 2005, it’s very different from 1980, for example, when nearly 1 in 20 Mormons were baptized within the previous year.” –

In sum, gave a rather dismal portrayal of the Church’s membership and congregational growth. Here in part is their analysis –

“Annual congregational growth rates have widely fluctuated year to year but averaged around…0.6% in the early 2010s… … Membership growth outpaced congregational growth in all other countries in the world; a sign of decreasing member activity and convert retention rates…”

Activity Rate

30 percentTheir activity rates are also worse than what they portray to the public, as seen in the outdated info from the 1992 publication Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 1527:

“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.”

Today they can only dream of having such high activity rates, more telling however, is the hidden truth that only 1.8% of Mormons in Latin America are temple worthy, and they comprise 35% of all LDS population. See

Overall, the Church’s activity rate sits at an overall rate of 30% and when you look at the claim they have 15,372,337 members, you’re left with 4,581,701 who are actively engaged in Mormonism. That’s a far cry from the 15 million the Church claims they have on the roles.

LDS Growth Encyclopedia on Missionary Work and Church Growth (Missiology), Member Activity Rates, Posted: October 6th, 2014;

“The majority of members on church records are inactive or less active. Approximately 30% of worldwide membership was active as of 2012, suggesting that 30% of members attended church regularly and followed most basic church teachings…The ten countries with the most members account for 79% of worldwide membership and experience an average member activity rate of 22%…” –, Matt Martinich

Retention Rate

Running a ministry, or in this case a worldwide church, the wearing of many hats is needed to ensure it runs smoothly, and enjoys continued success. Certainly, having and maintaining, a strong business team is of great import, for without that key element the ministry will run aground. While this is one of the top priorities, the business side must always be overshadowed by its purpose.

The reputation of the ministry stands on the purpose of what you’re doing. If any other aspect of the ministry takes more priority than its purpose, over time your ministry will have a 100% failure rate – guaranteed.

Historically, the Church’s main focus has always been on the monetary value of its existence, rather than the eternal destiny of its adherents. An example of why this is so is seen in the Church’s converts.

When I met my husband Kirk, I wasn’t aware he was a shining example of millions who had joined the Church, and after a very  brief stay, would end up leaving.

The main problem the Church faces is convert retention, or rather, the lack thereof, and it’s chronically dogging on them. offered an insightful analysis of why the Church continues to face this issue, and as noted above, will continue to do so well into the foreseeable future.

“The continued implementation of quick-baptism tactics by full-time missionaries that are more reminiscent of business quotas rather than spiritual goals that emphasize prayerful goal setting, involve local members and church leaders, instill habitual church attendance before baptism, and create long-lasting spiritual change are the primary contributor for incommensurate international congregational and membership growth.”

Worldwide, the typical convert stays active in the Church for a year or less. The Church claims mighty big numbers, but just under the shiny veneer, the dark underbelly of truth lurks and patiently waits. The numbers they brag about at the April General Conference every year aren’t telling the whole story.

There are a few reasons one shouldn’t rely upon the membership numbers, or growth rate of the Church and they are;

  1. Converts stay in the Church for 1 year or less.
  1. The Church keeps names on their roles until the age of 110 whether they’re dead or not.
  1. The Church doesn’t publicize if they’ve subtracted members lost from their totals, making the claims for their membership totals suspicious. For example, people are lost through death, voluntary exodus, or excommunication. The only report we’ve heard in recent years is the growth of the Church. Up until the end of 1998 the Church used to publish death rates in their stat reports which allowed analysts to figure out the real numbers of church membership. Without explanation, this was abruptly discontinued.

Lost in the shuffle of looking good on the outside is the purpose of what you’re doing. The main focus of a ministry/church’s purpose should always be to ensure the convert is firmly established in the faith with a clear understanding of their decision, both before, and after conversion.

Retention rates will skyrocket 100% of the time if/when this simple rule is implemented. This is one of the major things the Church hasn’t done, and why they have a high rollover rate. Going back to the basics of telling the truth is always the best way to go.

In April 2015 the LDS Church claimed there were 15,372,337 members. In reality, only 30% (4,581,701) of those actually go to church, and that’s taking into account the highest average of North America. The rest of the world reports activity rates of 12-35%.

Convert Rates & the Church’s Fuzzy Math

Complicating matters further, the Church also adds ghost members to their roles. You can find years where they’ve mysteriously added members who are either unaccounted for, or were listed as members without baptizing them. Here’s how their fuzzy math works –

Unaccounted Members =

Baptisms & conversions exceed net gain for that particular year, but somehow they’re mysteriously counted in the totals.

Un-baptized Members =

Net gain exceeds number of baptisms and conversions for that particular year. We found several years when members were added without being baptized.

We looked at 23 years worth of data, and found the following info on membership claims the Church has made and here’s what we found:

6 years when members were added without baptism for a total of 301,617 members.

17 years  of members unaccounted for, but were still included, totaling 1,001,197 members.

In those 23 years we found a total of 1,302,814 members that were obvious anomalies.

Some sites (LDS Church Growth,  MormonCurtain, and even to name a few, have suggested the unaccounted for members could be the number of people who’ve died, were excommunicated, or voluntarily left. I personally think that’s a fair assessment, and as good an explanation as anything else out there. The Good Lord knows we’re not going to hear anything from the Church.

After subtracting 1.3 million from the Church’s claim of 15.3 million it brings us down to

14,069,523. Finally, after we have a number that’s closer to reality, we need to factor in only 30% are actually participating. This whittles membership numbers down to 4,220,856.

This is in line with the activity and retention rates we’ve been seeing over the past several years.

The list of the 23 years we looked at, and a chart spanning the 38 years of Mormon activity are both listed below.

The main message we hope comes through all this is this –

It hurts our hearts to see what the Church has done. Why they go about presenting false information is something only they can answer for. It’s certainly not glorifying our Lord, nor is it comforting for the members who’ve fallen for the lies.

We pray that Mormons will see this for what it is – the Church’s deceitful marketing ploy to trick people into their clan. In the process, we’re also praying Mormons everywhere will come to  a saving knowledge of the real Jesus and Him crucified.

With Love in Christ;


1 Cor. 1:18

1973 – 45,167 members unaccounted for

1974 – 37,001 members unaccounted for

1975 – 40,618 members added without baptism

1976 – 15,693 members unaccounted for

1980 – 13,000 members added without baptism

1984 – 11,983 members unaccounted for

1985 – 2,360 members added without baptism

1989 – 186,060 members added without baptism

1990 – 51,123 members added without baptism

1992 – 64,962 – members unaccounted for

1993 – 91,791 members unaccounted for

1995 – 59,140 members unaccounted for

1996 – 48,751 members unaccounted for

1999 – 8,456 members added without baptism

2002 – 37,244 members unaccounted for

2004 – 49,541 members unaccounted for

2005 – 51,211 members unaccounted for

2007 – 47,523 members unaccounted for

2008 – 74,585 members unaccounted for

2011 – 91,350 members unaccounted for

2012 – 53,476 members unaccounted for

2013 – 98,876 members unaccounted for

2014 – 122,903 members unaccounted for


The numbers presented above were retrieved from during 11/2015. Other sites outside of here have provided different totals for some of the years listed. For example, in 1976, we show 15,693 members were unaccounted for, but other sites report 59,392 members were unaccounted for in the same year (1976).

References used for this article:

Fuller Consideration

LDS Church News Archive

Deseret News

Year Total


Growth %


Converts NaturalGrowth # of  





2014 15,372,337/1.93% 296,803 116,409 85,147/3.49
2013 15,082,028/


282,945 115,486 83,035/


2012 14,782,473/


272,330 122,273 58,990/


2011 14,441,346/1.94 281,132 119,917 55,410/


2010 14,131,467/1.92 272,814 120,528 52,225/5.22


13,824,854/2.02 280,106 119,722 51,736/5.41


13,508,509/1.96 265,593 123,502 52,494/5.06
2007 13,193,999/2.11 279,218 93,698 52,686/5.30
2006 12,868,606/2.12 272,845 94,006 53,164/5.13
2005 12,560,869/1.93 243,108 93,150 52,060/4.67
2004 12,275,822/2.01 241,239 98,870 51,067/4.72
2003 11,985,254/2.07 242,923 99,457 56,237/4.32
2002 11,721,548/2.48 283,138 81,132 61,638/4.59
2001 11,394,522/2.64 292,612 69,522 60,850/4.81
2000 11,068,861/2.54 273,973 81,450 60,784/4.51
1999 10,752,986/2.95 306,171 84,118 58,593/5.23
1998 10,354,241/2.97 299,134 76,829 57,853/5.17
1997 10,070,524/3.27 317,798 75,214 56,531/5.62
1996 9,694,549/3.42 321,385 81,017 52,938/6.07
1995 9,340,898/3.37 304,330 71,139 48,631/6.25
1994 9,024,569/3.49 300,730 72,538 47,311/6.35
1993 8,696,2243.62 304,808 76,312 48,708/6.25
1992 8,406,895/3.38 274,477 77,380 46,025/5.96
1991 8,120,000/3.83 297,770 75,000 43,395/6.86
1990 7,760,000/4.45 330,877 78,000 43,651/7.58
1989 7,300,000/4.36 318,940 ƒ75,000 39,739/8.02
1988 6,720,000/3.81 256,515 73,000 36,132/7.09
1987 6,440,000/3.52 227,284 72,000 34,750/6.54
1986 6,170,000/3.50 216,210 72,000 31,803/6.79
1985 5,920,000/3.33 197,640 70,000 29,265/6.75
1984 5,650,000/3.41 192,983 69,000 27,655/6.97
1983 5,400,000/3.50 189,419 69,000 26,565/7.13
1982 5,165,000/4.00 207,000 67,000 26,300/7.87
1981 4,936,000/4.53 224,000 69,000 29,700/7.54
1980 4,638,000/4.76 221,000 65,000 29,953/7.37
1979 4,439,000/4.34 193,000 67,000 29,454/6.55
1978 4,160,000/3.65 152,000 63,000 27,669/5.49
1977 3,966,000/4.23 167,939 62,000 25,300/6.63
1976 3,742,749/1.98 133,959 52,281 25,000+/5.35
1975 3,572,202/2.67 95,412 50,263 14,446/6.60
1974 3,385,909/2.03 69,018 47,234 9,811/7.03
1973 3,321,556/2.39 79,603 48,578 9,471/8.40
1972 3,227,790/4.42 91,237 58,343 7,874/11.58
1971 3,090,953/5.46 83,514 53,524 8,344/10.00
1970 2,930,810/4.39 79,126 55,210 7,526/10.51

ƒ  (1989) Addition of new category by the Church. They listed three items which are the same thing with different wording;

Purple font for 2004 indicates lowest convert total since 1987

Blue highlight for 1998 is in reference to Hinckley’s quote mentioned above; ‘News of the Church, July 1999’. You’ll note the year he made this comment, stats were significantly lower than the previous year.

Tan/grey highlight for 1989 indicates an example of fuzzy math. The Church recorded a membership increase of 587,234 in 1989. However, we see there were only 318,940 convert baptisms, and 75,000 8-year-old baptisms. This means 193,294 members added to membership totals that weren’t baptized.

Green highlight in 1975 indicates beginning of missionary stats from Church Almanac. These stats are rather high compared to others from General Conferences. No info was provided from General Conferences on yearly # of missionaries previous to 1977.

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