Church Growth and the lack thereof

This post is a collection of attempts by redditors and others to estimate “Actual membership”, and all result in about 5 million.  This is not my work:


From a talk given to students at Southern Virginia University[1] :

Anyone who’s served a recent mission in Europe knows that the Church is struggling to maintain a demographic peak in those countries that was never very high. Church membership has rarely exceeded one-tenth of one percent of the population of any European country. And even in the United Kingdom, where the Church has a long historical presence, Mormons constitute only three-tenths of one percent of the population.

Now church membership, of course, is much stronger in the United States, Mormons make up about 2% of the US population, and there are notable concentrations in California, Utah and other states in the interior west. But even here there are disquieting signs of the challenges we face as a church:

membership growth in the United States has been flat during the last decade;

independent survey evidence shows that about as many people leave the church now as join it each year;

convert baptisms have been declining during this period,

and that means that most of our US growth now is internal. Perhaps most disturbing are declining activities among young adults. Our church is very successful — more successful than most religions — at retaining teenagers, an age when many other religions tend to lose their youth. But among members your age, we struggle, especially with singles. The reasons for this are complex, but one likely factor is the many ways in which western culture is growing away from LDS values and practices. President Monson described this distance last week as “a chasm.” Most of you, I think, are familiar with that divide from your own experience and you know better than I do, I think, how deep and real it is.


The self-reported number by the church[1] :

  • In the US: 6,229,659
  • In the territories: 39,926 (28% of the Samoan islands)

Overall self-reported numbers[2] : Those reporting more than 500,000 members are

  • The US (~6,229,659),
  • Mexico (1,273,199)
  • Brazil (1,173,533)
  • Chile (570,833)
  • Peru (508,812)
  • Philippines (661,598)

Of those, we can pull census data to find the real number of self-identifying members (+/- a few % for the two year gap between the two data sets)

  • US – 2008[3] – The religion reported[4] – 6,058,907 adults. A random sampling of self-reported numbers[5]creates an estimate of ~3,158,000 in the US. (~52% the church’s claim) Note that the US Law prohibits mandatory census data on religion, hence the USA census does not collect this information as part of the report.
  • Mexico – 2010[6] – population self-reported rate of 314,932 (~24.7% of the church’s claim)
  • Brazil – 2010[7] – population self-reported rate of 226,000 (~19% of the church’s claim)
  • Chile – 2010[8] – population self-report ~0.9% Mormon or ~148,262 (~29% of the church’s claim)
  • Peru – 2007[9] Unknown. The 2007 census has the “Other” field at 679,807. The LDS church would need to make up about 70% of this group to meet its claim. That seems unlikely.
  • Philipines – 2000[10] 181,485 in 2000[11] . Note the large year discrepancy, but they would need an additional 50% growth in this time to meet today’s numbers. Using the 2002 claim[12] of near 500,000 members, we see (~36% the church’s claim). Another interesting note is the membership total jumped from 250,000-500,000 (1991-2002) and is currently claimed at 600,000. Using natural attrition rates, It’s fair to say that this estimate is too high for today’s numbers.

Disclaimer: Please note that the above are just people who consider themselves Mormon, so the activity rate would likely be lower. And again, the years are off. This means that this report is not a precise measurement. It’s good data, but +/- a few percentage points from the actual number.


The numbers released officially by the church are suspect. A few other methods of making guesses have been discussed here.

This entry was posted in Current issues. Bookmark the permalink.
Last edited by Mithryn on July 9, 2013 at 8:49 pm

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