Ad-hominem against Statisticians

Recently a blog post claims:

There is no exodus from the Church. In fact, just the opposite.

It then insults people who get their Statistics degree from “The University of Reddit”.

The article fails to cite even a single source for its claims.

The number of folks applying for rebaptism far and away outnumbers the resignation requests.

And where does our blog poster get this fantastic number?

My source told us over family dinner one Sunday that the perception that social media gives about the “exodus” is simply not representative of the Church not just globally but even within the US.

Well who could ever doubt a source you had over for dinner.  The problem is that mathematics isn’t hard and it doesn’t lie like a friend over for dinner might.  Here is one post from Reddit that simply uses the Church’s own published numbers to draw the conclusion of lowered church growth.

If we go back to the previous membership count on Dec 31, 2012 it shows 14,782,473. So 15,000,000-14,782,473= 217,527 increase over a period of 38 weeks. With a little math, we can turn this into an annual growth rate of 1.388%. Compare this to past growth rates on this wiki page. Notice the steady decrease from 8.74% in 1989. (- painted_red)

Notice there are cited sources.  A person can follow the calculations and come to the same conclusion.  No matter how much people want belief to equal truth, truth is independent of your personal wishes and aspirations.

As far as number of people leaving the church, I think that the number of times LDS leaders mention “Do not leave the church” in their talks is a good indication that things have shifted.  From “Stay in the Boat” talks (There have been multiple now) to an increase in youth firesides focused on retention one can do a quick comparison to years prior to 2012 and see that even in the last three years there is an acceleration in “Just stay” rhetoric in talks.

I’d challenge the individual, S. Stevenson, which isn’t his real name, to come forward with a source that can be cited, rather than adding to “Faith promoting rumor”

“If it can be destroyed by the truth, it deserves to be destroyed by the truth.” – Carl Sagan

No need to spread false rumors to make people feel better about their beliefs.  Oh and as to my degree, it’s from BYU, included Statistics, and I work with statistics all day every day professionally for at least 6 years.  And I post on Reddit.  Given the lack of sources or even understanding of basic math, I think Mr. S. Stevenson probably doesn’t have a stats degree at all.  Glass houses, throwing stones.

I hope the author at adds this one to his pile of faith-promoting rumors from the start.

This entry was posted in Apologetics, Current issues. Bookmark the permalink.
Last edited by Mithryn on June 3, 2016 at 8:34 pm

8 Responses to Ad-hominem against Statisticians

  1. Tom Doggett says:

    Count me as one who is grudgingly prepared to accept the claim given by the Millennial Star guest-blogger as both fact but also, more importantly, as smokescreen. I can accept that the raw number of re-baptisms to the LDS Church is numerically higher than the raw numbers of official resignations.

    This is very similar to the argument about chiasmus in the Book of Mormon. The apologist likes to play it as an argument between those who don’t believe that chiastic structures are present in the text (the anti-Mormons) and those who do (the apologists). Then they simply point out chiastic structures and claim victory. Except the REAL argument isn’t whether or not chiastic structures are in the text (they are) but whether that actually means anything about the text (it doesn’t).

    The larger argument here is that the LDS Church is having an activity crisis, not truly a membership crisis (at least not yet). Look at me personally: I’m still technically a member-of-record. It bothers me slightly, but I’m one of those Exmos who will leave if and when I want to and in the meantime I count myself as a former member even if my database record is still flagged “true” instead of flagged “false”. I’m never getting out of those databases either way.

    The Church is hemorrhaging active members, but where are they going? Most of them are just going inactive. While thousands may be officially leaving, hundreds of thousands more are just heading quietly out of the doors. And when you’ve got plenty of people who are leaving for reasons that have more to do with orthopraxy than orthodoxy then you’ve still got plenty of jack-Mormons who might still technically believe in the doctrine. And if they’ve officially left or, more likely, been exxed, then they may have a turn-around in their lives that leads them to try the Mormon thing again and re-join. I helped baptized at least two former members like this on my mission a decade ago.

    I’ll admit that I still doubt the reality of the claim, but I will accept that it is certainly within the realm of probability. It is entirely probably that more people are re-joining the Church than those who go through the trouble of formally requesting resignation in writing from TSCC. The anonymous source of the blogger may be pulling even more of a fast one on us by counting re-activation efforts as “rejoining” instead of just counting re-baptisms, in which case it seems completely reasonable that more people would be simply coming back to Church after a period away than those who go through a technical process of exiting.

    The more we engage with the claim itself instead of the underlying issues the more people like “S. Stevenson” will claim a hollow victory against “The University of Reddit”. To win this argument is to address the real issue that “Stevenson” deftly side-steps: the Church is having an activity crisis, not (yet) a membership crisis.

  2. Parker says:

    How can the number seeking rebaptism exceed the number who have resigned?

    • Mithryn says:

      I think they included less actives being re-activated; but bah; who knows they provide no sources to find out.

    • Will Roberts says:

      Probably because the church excommunicates so many people who “sinned” that want back in that haven’t read the CES Letter yet. The fact that so many people allegedly want rebaptism is nothing to be proud of.

  3. A few points here.

    1) The world population growth rate is about 1.1% a year, so pure inertia would produce a church growth rate at that level. An annual growth rate of 1.4% a year would thus indicate a church that is just barely growing as a proportion of the overall human population.

    2) Mormons probably reproduce at an above average rate. Utah, for example, has a population growth rate of about 1.6%. Thus, if Mormons are indeed giving birth at an above average rate, a growth rate of 1.4% may be consistent with growth at or just below the birth rate — suggesting that convert growth is pretty much fully offset by departures.

    3) Re-baptism isn’t a comparable metric to resignations. People who are faithful and committed LDS believers but who commit crimes or sexual misbehavior may be excommunicated and in need of re-baptism. This kind of excommunication isn’t exactly rare, so it’s unclear how one would adjust the numbers to support the comparison the author discussed here wants to make.

    4) Actual statistical data exist about the size of the Mormon community in the U.S. Surveys such as the ARIS, the Religious Landscape Survey, and so forth routinely ask the general adult population to state their religious identity. There is no evidence of statistically significant change in this percentage since 1990; across various surveys and over the last few decades, the result is always about 1.5%. The Religious Landscape Survey shows that Mormons have about 50% more children than the average U.S. adult. Thus, a growth rate as a share of the population that is about zero combined with a birth rate that is well above average implies a significant and at this point long-lasting net exodus of adult believers.

    5) While the LDS church has not been growing in real terms in the U.S. for decades, it is not shrinking like most Christian religions. Much of the difference has to do with higher fertility as discussed in the last point, but not all of it. Mormons retain better than most U.S. Christian religions, as per the Religious Landscape Survey.

    6) Hooray for actual public data.

    • Mithryn says:

      ^ This. So much this comment. Facts, sources, caviats to those sources. Not just a “Friend at Sunday Dinner once said”. But ya know, I’d invite someone who has their stats down to Sunday dinner 😉

      • J. Nelson-Seawright says:

        Well, I’ve already had dinner today, and I doubt we’re in the same time zone. Maybe we can compare statistics degrees some other time. ?

  4. Andrew says:

    I can’t even count the number of people I know, or know of, that have resigned. On the other hand I’ve never heard of anybody getting rebaptized. Not even one. And that’s after a mission, multiple bishoprics, mission leader, etc. (BTW, autocorrect changed “rebaptized” to “recaptured”, lol)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.