How often have we heard the claim that the growth of Mormonism proves it is a true religion? Honestly, too many times to count. It is insinuated that the LDS Church’s size and success in getting people to join its church are factors that are somehow supposed to lend credibility to the religion’s truthfulness. We are then asked, How could such a successful organization be wrong?
There are several problems to this rationale:
- The church’s rate of growth has been going down over the past two decades (see growth table below). In fact, in 1990, the church grew by more than 330,000 members, which is an incredible 4.45% rate of annual growth. At that time one social scientist even predicted that Mormonism could reach almost a quarter billion members by the 2040s. However, the LDS Church has not had this rate of success since that time. The rate hovered in the three percent growth rate range during the 1990s before going to under three percent in 2000 (and never again going over this three percent mark). In three of the six years since 2005, the rate of growth has been less than 2%. Last year, a total of almost 273,000 converts were added at a 1.93% growth rate. Despite the fact that the church is listed at 14.1 million members (compared with 7.6 million in 1990), its rate of growth has greatly suffered.
- Some might wonder how many missionaries there were in 1990. In fact, there were 43,651. Yet the number has been as high as 61,000 (2002) and, in 2010, was at 52,000. If we were to assume all converts came to the church through missionaries, then in 1990 there were 7.58 converts per missionary yet only 5.22 converts per missionary in 2010.
- Consider a comparable United States religion such as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses)—which is about half the size of the LDS Church. In 2010, the JWs grew by 294,000 converts (as compared to Mormonism’s 272,000 converts during the same time frame). This is a 4% increase from the previous year’s numbers, more than doubling the total percentage of growth as listed by the Mormon Church. It is doubtful that a Mormon would consider the Watchtower Society true just because the JW numbers are growing at this rate!
- As far as total numbers, the Mormon Church could never compete with Roman Catholicism, Islam, or Hinduism. Percentage-wise, the LDS Church is not even the fastest growing religion in the United States. In 2009, it grew by 1.71 percent to almost 5.9 million U.S. members; however, the Jehovah’s Witnesses grew 2 percent (to 1.1 million) while the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) grew 1.76 percent (to 1.05 million).
The next time a Mormon uses the “growth card,” suggest this is not a very good indicator for determining truth.
The above information was compiled from the May Ensign magazines, an official LDS Church publication that includes an annual church audit. The convert rate does not include members’ children who came of age and were baptized into the church.