Every General Conference, the LDS Church releases a statistical report that gives a brief window into how the Church has changed over the past year. With my accounting background, I’m a bit of a statistics wonk, and I’ve long thought that there is a lot that can be gleaned from these statistics and from the additional information published in the Deseret News Church Almanac.
So this year, I thought I’d put together some statistics calculated from the figures that the Church gives out each year — a kind of report of the implications of the Church’s statistical report.
I pulled together the statistics for the past 5 years, those of 10 years ago, and those of 25 years ago, and put them into a google docs spreadsheet here. I’ve added a number of calcuations to that spreadsheet which, I think. add some interesting information about how the Church has changed and what these changes mean in our lives. Here’s a summary of some of the statistics I thought were interesting:
- While its clear that the Church is growing, how fast it is growing is another question. The increase in the number of members also includes inactive members. The increase in the number of wards and branches may give a better picture, since it better matches the increase in active members. This past year the number of members grew by 2.38%, but the number of wards and branches grew by a more modest 1.3%
- But, the average number of members per ward and branch has increased steadily over the past 25 years (from 391 in 1984 to 479 in 2008), which either means that the number of inactive members of a ward is increasing, or that Church policy has changed to encourage larger wards. The latter would also imply that the 1.3% growth rate in active members is too low.
- The number of wards and branches in the average stake or district has increased over the past 5 years, and in the past 25 years. The only explanations I can think of is either normal variation, or a change in Church policy.
- The number of full-time missionaries per stake and per ward has remained steady over the past 5 years, and is about the same as it was 25 years ago. It looks like the Church managed to push up the number of missionaries by getting more missionaries per ward, and has now decided to return to the levels of 25 years ago.
- While the number of converts has decreased about 10% from its high of over 300,000 a year, the number of missionaries in the field is also down by more than 10%, as I understand it because of a conscious choice to improve the quality of the missionaries serving.
- Converts account for about 85% of the increase in the number of Church members each year (up from 77% 25 years ago). The rest is a combination of the number of births, deaths and those who are removed from Church records either at their request or due to excommunication.
I know a lot of this is extrapolation and that it isn’t based on direct measurement. But if it isn’t taken too far, if the detail between 0.05% ande 0.06% isn’t accepted as gospel, for example, then there is something that can be gained from these numbers.
The statistically saavy among our readers may also notice some additional trends or ratios that would be of interest. I invite you to take a look a the statistics I’ve posted and add to them or calculate your own ratios and post here your conclusions.