I took the recent congregation numbers by continent reported by the Church and extrapolated the growth by continent to look at the likely composition of the Church in the future. Now, this is not a sophisticated projection (to put it gently). All I’m doing is estimating the starting point in 2010, deriving the percentage change to 2021, then applying this percentage change across multiple 11-year increments.
With enough elbow grease I could get more precise (I have to estimate the numbers from eyeballing the figures), but for basic take-aways it would probably look close enough to what I have here. A growth rate extrapolated this far is undoubtedly an oversimplification. I suspect that proselytizing a country follows a similar epidemiological dynamic as a pandemic (not that religion is a virus). At some point proselytizers have been in an area long enough that most people who are susceptible to conversion have done so, and the high, initial growth “burns out.” Also, if Africa becomes more developed economically that may affect its baseline religiosity, which would affect conversions. It’s anybody’s guess, but these extrapolations are a fun, simple look at what the Church will look like globally if current rates are extrapolated forward.
If we do this, then Africa will surpass North America in terms of congregations around the year 2050. This is pretty far in the future, so it’s highly speculative, but the globalization of the Church, and the shifting of its center of gravity elsewhere, has potentially interesting implications. For example, it isn’t written anywhere that the Church’s iconic institutions have to be based out of the United States. Maybe at some point in the next half century we’ll be broadcasting General Conference from Accra. Additionally, it may become more difficult to justify subsidizing non-technical/applied education at BYU for a well-off minority of US Church members when the population center is shifting elsewhere. (I suspect the drive to internationalize the Pathways program is part in anticipation of these shifts, but that’s just conjecture on my part). Whatever the exact numbers, it’s hard to see a situation where Africa does not become a significant part of Church culture and institutions in the long run.