Over at the Mormon Chapbook blog, Mike Tea takes a look at the demographics of Mormonism. Employing a helpful map (below) provided by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Mike argues that the grandiose LDS claims of worldwide Mormon growth and influence are greatly overstated. He writes,
…into modern times Mormons have entertained the idea that one day “men’s hearts will fail them”, governments will tumble and the Mormon Church with its priesthood organisation and reputation for strong self-government will be called upon to save America and the world, bringing order out of chaos. When we look at the Mormon organisation today it is well to remember that this is how Mormons see themselves. They have a self-image that reflects those early vainglorious ambitions and that belies the real state and strength of the Mormon Church today.
It is this that allows successive Mormon presidents to stand in the two general conferences every year and declare, “The Church has grown steadily since that day in 1830. It continues to change the lives of more and more people every year and to spread across the earth as our missionary force seeks out those who are searching for the truth”* while the fact is the Mormon Church has struggled to grow for some years and is described by some as “flat lining”. (*Thomas S Monson, April 2010 General Conference)
We have looked at Mormon demographics before. Here I want to look at the true geographical extent of the Mormon kingdom…Mormonism is very much an American religion in that the great majority of Mormons today live in the Americas and the most significant concentration of Mormons is in the North-West United States…
The darkest colour marks Utah (51-100% Mormon affiliation according to the Pew Forum); it is currently like 67%. West of Utah is Nevada with 41-50% of people self-identifying as Mormons. Northwest of Utah is Idaho (410,757), 31-40% Mormon. The other grey-blue coloured states, Wyoming (62,411), Montana (45,893), Oregon (146,617), Arizona (381,235) Alaska (31,268) and Hawaii (68,858) each boast a Mormon population of between 6% and 10%. The rest of the United States shows no more than 0-2% Mormons in its population…
Outside these parameters Mormonism is all but invisible in terms of significant and established communities around the world. At 180,000 for instance the Mormon population of the UK is just 0.24% of the general population. In the rest of the world Mormonism doesn’t even fair as well as this. The Mormon Church outside the Mormon kingdom is truly an outpost of empire. While other churches and denominations can boast strong cultural relevance and identity across borders and traditions Mormonism is American to the core and is a stranger wherever else it goes in the world.
Even adding into consideration the relatively high concentration of Mormons in some islands of the South Pacific, Mike makes a very good point. Putting real numbers into the context of the real world, Mormonism is not on the verge of fulfilling Heber C. Kimball’s bold words:
“And so the nations will bow to this kingdom, sooner or later, and all hell cannot help it.” (Journal of Discourses, 7:170)
I was talking with a young Mormon friend the other day. Though active in his church and committed to his faith, he was explaining the odd phenomenon of Utah Mormonism being “Sunday’s only.” He told me that in places where Mormonism is a minority, members are better people and better Mormons. I asked, “What if the words in D&C [65:2] about Mormonism filling the whole earth came true? What then?” He answered, “That would suck.”
While I don’t share my friend’s aversion to majority-Mormon behavior, I share his sentiment that Mormonism filling the whole earth would be a very unhappy circumstance–because it is my firm conviction that Mormonism stands in the way of people knowing Christ and being reconciled to God through Him. Mormonism is a religion that leads people to trust in a false god while making grand eternal promises it cannot keep.
I long to see a love and devotion for the one true God fill this earth. I long for the fulfillment of Philippians 2:10-11, that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
This will happen; there is no doubt. It will be a glorious day for those who know the one true God and trust in Christ alone for salvation; it will be a terrifying day for those who do not. Which group are you in?
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”
I agree that Mormons outside of Happy Valley are much more friendly and better people. The ones in Utah, especially in the Salt Lake Valley, know they are the majority, and can make you quite miserable if you are not one of them. I have lived in both types of communities, and prefer to never live in SLC or Utah again.
Question for mormons: If church growth is a sign of the one true and living church… could we say that the church isn´t true anymore?
The church has taught that every ear will hear their gospel before the second coming of Christ, and there are just a few countries left that have not authorized missionaries to preach there, such as China, Israel and some african and middle-eastern countries that are in constant war. I wonder how the political arm of the church will deal with that, because the "prophet" will have to account for that prophecy if it doesn´t come true as taught it would.
Well, i guess he can always says that God changed His mind. Again.
You said that it was your conviction that Mormonism stands in the way of people knowing
Christ and being reconciled to God through him. I agree. Mormon prophets and apostles
have become roadblocks in the path of sincere Mormon people hindering them from
experiencing the full truth of God and of His redeeming love through Jesus — Heb 7:25
me too. by the way, i really love the map. 🙂
Numbers are a dangerous game. This angle will also condemn the early Christians, especially during the life of Christ, they were the ragged laughing stock of the sophisticated Greek schoolmen. Besides, you lightly toss out the hard facts about the magnificent LDS populations in the Western US as if that is no biggie. These are some of the fastest growing, most intellectual areas of the nation with Mormon hubs in Seattle, LA, SF, Las Vegas, San Diego, Phoenix, not to mention an SLC that is exploding. Not bad at all really.
The other oft overlooked issue is committment and activity. LDS who are active are hardcore. I served a mission in the Mediterranean and there were millions of Catholics but not one who had been to church in a year. 50 more years of Catholic AND EVANGELICAL attrition in the US, combined with a stable LDS growth is going to spell some interesting demographics.
"The other oft overlooked issue is committment and activity."
That´s not the point of the article:
"Mike argues that the grandiose LDS claims of worldwide Mormon growth and influence are greatly overstated."
The article isn´t talking about commitment at all, and nobody would question the commitment of real, active, lds members.
"Numbers are a dangerous game. This angle will also condemn the early Christians, especially during the life of Christ"
Please provide some evidence, you´ve got to have some to make an absurd claim like that… the day the mormons make such a difference as to almost overthrow a pagan empire, maybe i´ll listen to your argument.
Let me know when this prophecy come true:
"And so the nations will bow to this kingdom, sooner or later, and all hell cannot help it.” (Journal of Discourses, 7:170)
Whoa, melo (I'm not a nuggets fan), you suffer from 21st Century amnesia. The "Christian" Church did not gain a foothold until hundreds of years after Jesus. The intro was extremely rough. The "overthrowing of the Pagan empire" did not occur until Constantine! According to that trajectory, the LDS Church is ahead of the curve by generations. Just saying.
This ad campaign is working well according to recent surveys. In the last couple of years the LDS Church has undergone a massive re-structuring and branding. Everything from BYU football's move, to the missionary strategy to local chapels. The last stake center was just finished in Springville, the Church is no longer building any stake centers, they are streamilining everything. The Deseret News, like BYU football, has decided it is not a local paper competing with the Trib, they slashed the local jobs and are hiring legions of global correspondents, some of other faiths, to direct the paper's focus to an international brand. BYU Broadcasting is firing up the most advanced HD facility west of the Mississippi (including L.A.), also a global thrust. SLC downtown is undergoing massive transformation.
So far the results are incalculable for the Church. Wait out the next 20 years. Things are changing and the LDS are parlaying the 15 year old internet attack MO of critics.
I don't think the Scriptures are a marketing manual. Was Jesus here to establish a brand? Did he do market research? Was His goal to establish the Coca-Cola of the Spiritual world?
No, he was here to become the sacrifice for our sins – and through His body and blood given for those who believe, those who are granted faith through the hearing of the gospel, He redeems through His perfect sacrifice. He was here to grant mercy and grace, forgiveness of sins.
If your goal is Church growth, perhaps marketing and branding strategies are appropriate, and certainly there is plenty of that going around in Mormonism, Evangelical Christianity, and everything else. Everyone is suddenly and marketing expert. Is there anything more insincere?
I agree completely. Remember, it was Mike Tea who was trumping up the importance of the numbers and corporate influence results. How Mormonism is faring in public opinion, membership, etc. Judeo-Christianity was never about such worldly trophies. It was always the narrow path.
So which argument is it because they cancel each other out really? Either the LDS Church is failing because it small and peculiar, or it is failing because it is Coca-Cola. You could also say that it is succeeding because it is one or the other. It's an unreliable yardstick to measure anything really. Fruits remain the best indicator, and while many hotly disagree here, I am enjoying every bite!
So I take it that means you opportunistically argue whatever position suits you at the time. One can never be genuine when you take such an approach. Of course, I have committed the same sin, but I try not to do it on the same thread – and hate myself when I forget my focus is Jesus on the Cross paying for our sins and rather seek merely to win some temporary argument.
Marketing, branding, sales strategies are great when used to tell people about products available for purchase. When used with the gospel it sends the message that the truth of Christ sacrifice for our sins, Christianity is not enough, it's deficient and needs to be sold to an unwilling audience. People may sell some kind of spirituality to an unconvinced audience for a time, before the next ad comes along with another new improved product. God calls those who are His through the faithful preaching of the cross of Christ, and teaching of Scripture – God's very voice to us lost and condemned apart from His intervention and mercy.
Ethan, you said that the numbers game is dangerous, I tend to agree. Islam is growing at an
impressive rate, especialy in places like England . When groups employ marketing techniques
growth in numbers usually follow. In the case of any church this really does not validate their
scriptural truth claims. You said that the LDS church is streamling etc. There could be a sound
financial reason behind this . As for your statement that " the LDS is parlaying the 15 yr.old
internet attack MO of critics " , I think it is more acurrate to say that the LDS church is attempting
such " parlaying" . I believe that there are a great many LDS who have come to see that
"Mormonism" is not what it claims to be because of ministries like this one on the internet.
The Mormon church is changing. Now if only it would change some key doctrines. If it does
or does'nt, my respect for the Mormon people will not change.
I agree Ethan that it is fruit, but it is the Mormon Church that trumps statistics and I am simply responding to those inflated claims. Mormonism isn't necessarliy failing but it is smaller than it claims even as it trumpets those claims like a Fortune 500 corporation. Mormonism is marketed and you would think they were taking their lessons from George Barna rather than the early church it claims to model.
I do not dismiss the LDS population in the Western US, indeed I higlight it in order to make my point, i.e. beyond the Zion curtain Mormonism is not the force it pretends to be. As to activity levels, if the Mormon Church was honest about its stats it would make clear that any number they quote can be reduced by an average 70% because that is the true activity level across the Mormon Church. Of that active population only 50% will be temple worthy and so the much-vaunted "limitless supply of lay leaders" is in fact very limited because not that many are "worthy" to hold office. Think on that the next time you wonder why a stake or mission is shut down.
I guess Mike Tea's position is, "If it's Mormon, I'm again it!"
In that, Mr Tea is most unlike Jesus who advised his apostles that grumbled about those not of their immediate group, "Leave them alone. there is non one that does good in my name that will speak against me."
Different page than Jesus, Mr Tea? That speaks volumes for you.