Brent at Doves and Serpents has posted a thoughtful interpretation ofthe recently announced change in missionary age. Brent believes stagnant Church growth motivated the change which will provide an influx of missionaries in the near future. He backs his opinion with links to reliable statistics. Find his post here.
Posts tagged ‘Mormon Church growth’
From the beginning, Mormon Doctrine has interpreted the stone “cut out without hands” described in Daniel 2 as the restored gospel going forth to fill the whole earth (D&C 65:2) The rapid growth of the Church for the first 1 ½ centuries after its 1830 beginning with six members confirmed this belief.
A strange thing happened in the latter decades of the 20th century—and unexpected and unheralded thing. Mormon Church growth slowed. It stagnated—possibly even declined. In Utah and other areas in the U.S., wards began combining rather than dividing. George and I lived in two different stakes in Salt Lake County where wards with dwindling enrollment were disbanded and boundaries redrawn to include members with other wards. Friends in Seattle had their ward incorporated into other wards as happened to our daughter and son-in-law’s ward in upper New York State.
The closing of wards wasn’t disconcerting to most Utahns because state growth continued, so the overall Mormon population probably increased. Outside Utah, the effects were more problematic. Converts who had based part of their testimony on the rapid growth of the Church were shaken.
Few Mormons who leave the Church bother to have their names removed from the records and are counted as members until 110 years after their date of birth. More realistic estimates of Church growth are made by comparing the number of wards and stakes from year to year. Obviously, wards and stakes are not created for non-existent members.
The Church’s count shows membership increased from 13,824,854 in 2009 to 14,441,346—an increase of 309,879 members. Since Earth’s population increased from 6.8 billion in 2009 to over 7 billion in 2011—an increase of over 200 million people, it is pretty obvious the Mormon percentage of world population decreases each year.
Given these circumstances, I speculate that the Church will drop references to Daniel 2 from future rhetoric and within a few years will deny it was ever a doctrine—unless, of course, some miraculous way of converting hundreds of millions of people each year occurs.
I’m becoming aware of two Mormon churches in the 21st century: The traditional church and a newer model. The traditional church features leaders like Julie Beck extolling ideal motherhood and general authorities like Boyd K. Packer condemning gays. This church defines gender roles rigidly. It emphasizes sexual purity, stresses modest clothing for girls, and obsesses over young males who masturbate to relieve sexual tension. This church insists Ezra Taft Benson’s 14 fundamentals for following the prophet are essential for salvation. (See Elder Costa and Elder Duncan’s October conference talks). This church harbors devotees of Glenn Beck-style “last days” and conspiracy theories.
The newer model Mormon Church seems to be led by the PR department, especially it’s “I’m a Mormon” series which recently included a segment of Irene Caso, a Spanish sister with a radio/TV career and a stay-at-home-dad husband. This church spotlights–and apparently approves of–testimony-bearing celebrities who follow their own conscience—career women like Marie Osmond and Gladys Knight—sports stars who play on Sunday like Steve Young. This church took a pro-active stand on humane immigration reform and is currently building environmentally-friendly meetinghouses.
Which church will dominate the 21st century? Of course, I’m hoping for the new, improved model. I suspect that if the traditional church continues, membership will continue at its current flat growth rate or even decline.