14,110,917. That is my guess for the number of members they are going to announce in General Conference this weekend.  This post is going to cover how I got that number and give you a chance to see how close you can get.

Number of Members: Last year there were 13,824,854 members announced.  My guess is a net increase of 286,063, or 2.07%.  While the growth is always impressive given the general decline in membership of many churches, it is a decrease from prior years percentage-wise.  In the 1980’s, the net growth was in the range of 4-5% per year, and approached .  Around the year 2000, it was closer to 3%.  If my guess is right, this is around a 50% decrease from only 2 decades ago.  So, how did I get this number?

Converts: This is a number they announce each conference.  Over the past 10-15 years there has been a decreasing number of converts, both in absolute numbers as well as as a percentage of membership.  In the end of the 1990’s, there were over 300,000 converts a year, which represented over 3% of the membership at the time.  Since then, there has been a steady decrease and it has recently been in the mid-200,000 range.  As a percentage of membership, the number of converts is now down around 2%.  If this trend is followed, it can either be done lineally or exponentially.  A lineal trend line will eventually get below 0 converts, which I don’t think will happen, so I plotted an exponential decay. I predict 249,472 converts for 2010.

Children: This is also a number they announce each conference.  Here, there has been a slight upward trend.  It has gone from around 0.75% of the membership up to around 0.85%.  I used an upward linear trend to plot this, so predict there will be 116,603 new children announced.

Leaving the Church: This number includes people who died or otherwise left the Church.  Since they don’t always have records for inactive people, if they don’t otherwise have specific information that someone died, they count them until an age of 120 at which time the name is removed.  This number isn’t specifically announced, but is easy to calculate.  If you add converts and children to the prior year’s total membership, the current year is generally less.  The difference is the people who left.  This number has been gradually trending upward.  10-15 years ago it was in the 0.3-0.4% range.  Most recently it is in the 0.5-0.6% range, or nearly double in the past 10 years.  My prediction is that this number will be 80,012 this time.

This gives my overall prediction: 13,824,854 members announced last year for 2009 (+) 249,4723 converts (+) 116,603 children (-) 80,012 taken off the rolls = 14,110,917.

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Comments:

– These numbers can obviously change and are only predictions.  The missionary work could slow down even further or could increase in a new area.  Political candidates running could increase interest or decrease interest.  The internet could be having a net positive or a net negative impact.  The birth rate among members could decrease more inline with societal trends.  Who knows?

– If these trends hold, a few interesting things are seen: In 20 years, by 2031, the number of converts will equal the number of people leaving the Church.  The only net growth at that point will be through children born to current members.  Depending on the model, after that, by 2050 or so, the Church will neither grow nor shrink, but will stabilize around 20-22 million members.

I have my theories about all of these things, including reorganizing the missionary program, changing some policies, etc., but I’m mostly interested in your thoughts.  So have at it…

Questions:

  • What is your guess for the number of members they are going to announce?
  • Do you see missionary work increasing or decreasing over the next 5-10 years?  Why?
  • Do you see the number of children increasing or decreasing over the next 5-10 years?  Why?
  • Do you see the number of people leaving the Church increasing or decreasing over the next 5-10 years?  Why?
  • If you think there is a negative trend, should the Church do anything to try to correct this and what would that be if you were in charge?