In a previous post I discussed how, according to reported baptisms, 2020 was a particularly low Church growth year, presumably due to COVID. Thankfully, the 2021 General Social Survey data recently dropped, so we can look at whether the COVID slump is “real,” in terms of people identifying as Latter-day Saints, or whether it’s just an artifact of the weirdness of a COVID year. The GSS is the standard survey used for measuring religious identification on a year-by-year basis in the US. It is not as big as the Pew surveys, but it has the advantage of being taken on a more or less yearly basis. In the year 2021, the GSS shows that .9% of people in the US self-identify as Latter-day Saint. While this is a decline from the previous year measured (1.2% in 2018), the exact number bounces around a little at about 1% each year, so for all intents and purposes it appears that the percentage of people in the US who identify as Latter-day Saint has been flat for about a decade (the chart below smooths the trend with a 4-year moving average; as always, the code is on my Github page). Now, the GSS is a blunt tool; it is possible that COVID will have longer term effects on the Church’s vitality in the US that we cannot pick up yet. With a larger sample size we could get more precise and possibly detect a…
Tag: church growth
Is Church Growth Declining?
I’m a Church growth amateur; occasionally I enjoy dropping by Matt Martinich’s blog to look at the latest temple predictions, and I’ll often skim through headlines about the latest data point on Church growth and what it means. However, for some time now I’ve been suspicious that we’re reading way too much into the natural jitters in the data. Church growth was 1.2%, now it’s 1.5%, what does that mean!? What gets credit? In data science this is what we call “overfitting.” Sometimes there’s a random blip in the data that we interpret as meaningful change when in reality, it’s just a random blip. If we’re oversensitive to variations we can read trends into the data that aren’t there, and we’re definitely at a high risk for this when we only look at the data once a year when the latest numbers are announced at spring General Conference. In reality things like the growth of a relatively developed religion follow slow-moving, long-term patterns. To use a metaphor, some social phenomenon are like a large boat that requires a long time to turn left or right, and short of some nuclear level event like the President of the Church abdicating and declaring the Church a fraud, it is likely that growth trends won’t drastically swing in a real, meaningful sense on a dime. And even events that might be considered “nuclear level” don’t turn out to be. For example, the Jehovah’s…
Literary Lorenzo Snow #20: A Marvel and a Wonder
We often use the phrase “a marvelous work and a wonder” to describe the restoration and subsequent spread of the gospel across the earth. And this work is marvelous and wonderful, as lesson 20 of the Lorenzo Snow manual discusses. As a story it has conflict and drama and surprise. And it is, I think, easy to see the hand of God moving the work forward. It may be, however, that the work doesn’t move forward in a straight line, continually growing and improving. Our history shows, I think, some steps back, times when problems led many to leave the Church and the number of active, participating members diminished. So, given that, what does “a marvelous work and a wonder” mean? The following poem is an excerpt, the first four stanzas of a longer, politically-oriented poem describing the Mormon situation in the 1880s—one of the most dramatic times in Mormon history. Still, despite the difficulties, its author opens the poem with the view that the Church is “a marvel and a wonder.”
The Implied Statistical Report 2011
Over the past few years I’ve put together an analysis of the cumulative information in the Church’s statistical reports. Three years ago I posted The Implied Statistical Report, 2008, and last year I titled my analysis The Implied Statistical Report, 2010. Over this time I’ve tried to improve my methods and the data available, collecting data from a few different sources. This year I’ve again looked at the data and discovered something unexpected: The Church’s real growth is actually faster in the U.S. and Canada than it is in the rest of the world.