Friday, March 5, 2010

An emphasis on doctrine

In addition to what I posted earlier about baptism rates, there is another number which is somewhat misleading.  The total member numbers reported in General Conference never deducts for those who are excommunicated or who voluntarily ask to have their membership terminated.  There is likely a doctrinal reason for that.  When a person is excommunicated they are re-baptized to return to membership, but they are not re-ordained to the priesthood.  They are given a blessing to reinstate their covenants and blessings, including authorization to begin using priesthood again.  But they are not re-ordained.  Although they are excommunicated, they retain some affiliation despite the severance.  Nevertheless, most people do not assume someone who has been excommunicated would be counted in the number of total members, but it is my understanding that they are.

Also, I've heard estimates from as little as 25% to much more than that as the percentage of members for whom the Church has completely lost contact.  That is, there is some significant number of members whose membership is so tenuous that the Church has nothing but a record.  There is no address, no way to contact them, and no information about whether they are living or deceased.  These people continue to be counted in the total membership number despite their complete absence of contact with or from the Church.

With the significantly lower fertility rate, and an aging population, the Church's future will not be anything like the projections of Professor Stark.  That is, unless something changes.  

I agree that there may be many reasons for the decline.  However, the most prominent of reasons in my view is the de-emphasis on doctrine.  As a convert to the Church I know what attracted me to become a Mormon.  It had nothing to do with the formulaic discussions of the missionaries, slick marketing or good arguments.  It had to do with doctrine.  I DIDN'T WANT to be a Mormon.  Quite the contrary.  But I knew I should become a Mormon because their doctrines came from God and answered questions other faiths could not begin to answer.

I'd like to see the trend return to a dramatic increase of numbers.  In fact, I think there are many millions in the United States alone who are only kept from the truth because they do not know where to find it.  (D&C 123: 12.)  We won't attract them to the Church until we begin again to emphasize doctrine.


  1. Who is Professor Stark and what are his projections?

  2. I was asked about who Rodney Stark was. He studied the LDS Church and made projections about its future growth. His book can be found here:

    He is the one responsible for predicting that Mormonism was a rising new world religion. That was one of the questions which the conference at the Smithsonian Institution gathering on Joseph Smith was trying to answer. That conference is now available in book form and can be found here:


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