Friday, June 11, 2010

The numbers game

What would be the total membership of the lds mormon church if no-one had ever removed their name or been exed? —jacarre

The reported numbers would probably be the same. For starters, I don't think there are nearly the number of resignations that some ex-Mormon sites estimate. There's a commonly cited source that puts the number of resignations at around 100,000 annually, but my hunch is it's far fewer, maybe a few thousand. Just anecdotally, I personally know dozens of people who were baptized Mormon but no longer believe, practice, or self-identify as Mormon. Of all those, how many have actually formally resigned? I think two, including myself.

Again, it's just a hunch and only the church really knows, but I think the resignation thing is mostly a web phenomenon. People who participate in ex-Mormon communities online are far more likely to send a letter to the church, for one thing because they know they can. Most people just move on or "go inactive." And yes, I agree that there are a ton of inactive Mormons who actually do still believe, so I could care less if the church continues counting these people to make their numbers look better. But the bottom line is the church's bottom line cannot be reconciled. The number of people that drop off the totals each year isn't nearly enough even to account for the death rate in a population that size.

In summary, they may or may not be removing ex-members like me from their numbers. They're certainly removing members who are known to be deceased. But there's a huge number of once-baptized "Mormons" out there who the church is not in contact with, and these folks are assumed (if online sources can be believed) to be alive until age 110. Hence the inflated total membership numbers. And of course if they were to report actual weekly meeting attendance, or number of full tithe payers, then the remaining active members out there would really know how large a crowd they're part of.

gintzer wrote: "They don't hide the #s, they announce them at General Conference and print them in the Ensign magazine every year."

The numbers they share in General Conference are almost completely meaningless, and are irreconcilable with reality. You know, sort of like the story of the Jaredite barges.