“Numbers Reflect Steady Growth,” Liahona, June 2008, N5–N6
New official Church membership numbers surpassed 13 million for the first time when statistics were released at the general conference of the Church in April 2008. The numbers reflect steady growth for the Church worldwide. According to recent trends, the Church is growing by about one million people every three years worldwide.
Growth rates vary across the world and are highest in areas such as Africa, where, according to Church statistics, Nigeria is experiencing an annual growth rate of 8.1 percent. In the period from 2000 to 2006, Nigerian membership has grown from about 30,000 to almost 79,500.
The Church creates a membership record when an individual is baptized and confirmed into the faith. For example, in 2006 there were more than 272,800 convert baptisms. The Church also creates a membership record for a child with the parents’ consent. However, children are not counted as members if they turn age 9 and are not yet baptized and confirmed. The net increase for these “children of record” for 2006 was more than 94,000.
Glen Buckner, a Church statistician and a member of the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, explains that the “member count is inclusive by intent and design.” He says remembering all members, despite their activity level, is important. This methodology differs from how other faiths count membership. The Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches, which recognized the Church as the fourth-largest religious body in the United States, acknowledges that there are no standards or customary church tallies used by ecclesiastical organizations. The yearbook states that “no single standard for data collection exists to apply across the variety of ecclesiastical structures reported in the Yearbook. Moreover, the definitions of membership and related terms differ widely from one church structure to another.”
In fact, the study Religious Congregations & Memberships in the United States 2000 by Dale E. Jones and others concluded that “the most critical methodological problem [of the study] was that of defining membership. … Since there is no generally accepted statistical definition of membership, it was felt that the designation of members rested finally with the religious bodies themselves.”
A good indicator of robust Church growth is its building program. There are currently 8,254 meetinghouses outside the United States, which shows a 10 percent growth rate over the past five years. That trend has also proven true in the U.S., where there are now 6,361 meetinghouses, which shows a 9.6 percent growth rate for the same time period. Many of these meetinghouses accommodate several congregations.