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Posted 26 Mar 2001   For week ended March 09, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 12Mar01

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 statistics convey.

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?

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