By David Stewart
Church Growth Down in 2000
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Pres. Hinckley challenged us to double
baptisms last year, but LDS convert baptisms actually fell to only
275,000 in 2000. While the number of full-time missionaries increased
by 35% in the 1990s, we were baptizing more people a decade ago.
Since only about 25% of LDS baptisees worldwide remain active
long-term (40-50% in North America and 20-25% outside of the US), the
real growth of the Church is much less even than these modest
Trends indicate that general receptivity to the message of the
restored gospel remains good: LDS missionaries spend an average of
300 proselyting hours for every convert baptism worldwide, compared
to an average of over 3400 proselyting hours per convert for the
Jehovah's Witnesses. Concerningly, however, the the effort put forth
by LDS members in sharing the gospel has continued to decline over
the past decade. Only 20% of baptisms in North America come from
member referrals today, compared to 42% several years ago (Elder M.
Russell Ballard, Conversion and Retention Satellite Broadcast, August
1999). Member-missionary efforts are inconsistent, with the average
branch in North America generating only two missionary referrals per
month. In fact, population-based studies suggest that the average
Latter-day Saint is actually less likely than non-LDS Christians to
regularly share his or her faith with others (see
Additionally, missionaries make fewer contacts today than a decade ago.
Among major Christian denominations with active missionary programs,
including Latter-day Saints, Seventh-Day Adventists, Southern
Baptists, and Jehovah's Witnesses, only Latter-day Saints not only
did not experience a substantial increase in conversion rates during
the 1990s, but actually experienced a decline in conversions. Paul
Harvey reports that 250,000 people a day become Christians. That
means that approximately 300 people join other Christian
denominations for every individual who becomes a Latter-day Saint.
Are we too complacent about sharing the gospel? Do we view
missionary work as a temporary diversion for those with special
callings, as "someone else's job," or as a lifetime work? Most
importantly, what are we doing personally to regularly share the
inspired message of the restored gospel now? Do we regard sharing
the gospel as a hard and unpleasant duty, or as a joyful privilege?
This story appears on Mormon News courtesy of GatheringofIsrael.com
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