Various estimates in the last few decades projected that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would have between 75 million and 175 million members by the year 2030. At previous growth rates,
That's our biggest problem. It's not that it's hard to be a Mormon. It's not that people are spreading lies about our doctrine. It's that we don't have anything unique to offer. Mormons have become just like everyone else, and in doing so, we have become our own worst enemy.this goal would still seem probable. At the current rate of about 1 million new members every three years, including baptisms of 8-year children from already-LDS families, the possibility of reaching 30 million members of the Church by 2030 seems quaint.
Although it could still happen.
Sociologist Rodney Stark made some bold predictions about the LDS Church in 1984:
Stark was astonished to discover that the LDS Church's growth rate from 1940 through 1980 was 53 percent. He estimated that if it continued to grow at a more modest 30 percent, there would be 60 million Mormons by the year 2080; if 50 percent, the figure would explode to 265 million.Oops! What gives?
He famously predicted that the LDS Church "will soon achieve a worldwide following comparable to that of Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, and the other dominant world faiths."
Latter-day Saints were on the threshold of becoming "the first major faith to appear on earth since the Prophet Mohammed rode out of the desert," Stark wrote.
Sure, we get persecuted. Joseph Sitati, the first black African called as an LDS general authority, said he saw a particular persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in his home country of Kenya. Interestingly, the disparagements of the LDS Church in Kenya were never home grown.
Most of the current anti-Mormon attacks are imported from America, Sitati said. "Some people who are trying to protect their own faith spread bad stories about Mormonism. There is no indigenous hostility to the church."Additionally, I suspect the requirements for membership in the LDS Church are a bit (a lot?) more stringent than are those of other faiths. In a world of increasing wickedness, fewer and fewer people would be attracted to the Church. On the other hand, in a world of increasing wickedness, more and more people who are looking for something better should be attracted to the Church.
Why aren't they? Because Mormons don't live their religion very well anymore. Brigham Young warned members of the Church that if we don't live our religion,
If we simply were to live the forgotten half of our religion, which is to help our brothers and sisters to become self-sufficient--instead of trying to get and stay ahead of them--our Church growth problem would take care of itself.our religion will fail. It might just be doing that.
Beyond preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, the religion of the Latter-Day Saints is to help each other succeed. But I dare say most Mormons are too busy helping themselves to succeed to notice how much they could help the many that are in far more dire temporal circumstances than themselves.
Robert D. Hales's discussion in April 2009 LDS General Conference of the importance of being a provident provider hit me right between the eyes. What is a provident provider? It's someone who is not consumed with their own life, but instead someone who can look outward to see how they can be of help to others. Based on this definition, I'm at best a semi-provident provider.
A provident provider has little or no debt. President of the Church Gordon B. Hinckley admonished Church members 11 years ago in General Conference to get out of debt. How many members of the Church heeded his advice? Not many. The housing boom and bust has been just as great in Utah as in any other area of the globe. Foreclosures and bankruptcies continue apace.
Brigham Young warned that
the Latter-day Saints will never accomplish their mission until...inequality shall cease in the earth.The whole point of temporal life is to help ensure that everyone (not just ourselves) has what is sufficient for their needs. Yet most Americans, including most American Mormons, believe in the opposite--cutthroat capitalism. In our perverted just-like-everyone-else Mormon way of thinking, we assume that the free market is embodied by boards of directors who give themselves and their CEOs multi-million-dollar bonuses while firing thousands of employees in order to make their companies profitable. The free market is so-o-o not that.
Elder Sitati talked of the real problems facing the LDS Church in Kenya:
The bigger problems are unemployment, poverty and illiteracy, which make it tough to be completely involved in Mormonism's all-volunteer organization.Sitati's statement drips with irony. If we simply
"Because of poverty, most Africans are highly interdependent, they tend to share the little they have," Sitati said. "That obliges them to adopt social norms that might not fit with church practices."
In our perverted Mormon way of thinking, we assume that the free market is embodied by boards of directors who give themselves and their CEOs multi-million-dollar bonuses while firing thousands of employees in order to make their companies profitable.were to live the forgotten half of our religion, which is to help our brothers and sisters to become self-sufficient instead of trying to get and stay ahead of them, our Church growth problem would take care of itself. Everything is spiritual to God, including providing for the temporal part of our natures. Helping the poor is every bit as spiritual (and doctrinal) as are the Plan of Salvation, baptism, and the sacrament.
Somehow we have forgotten that. We're fabulous at showing up with our helping hands for the cameras when a hurricane or a tsunami causes a catastrophe. This is important, too, but how much do we actually help the rest of those in need when no one is looking? Are we even in a position to be able to help them, our are we still squeaking by paying off our new mansion, a motor home, and an armada of four wheelers?
Zion is made up of the pure in heart who support each
If enough of us can get and keep ourselves out of debt long enough to begin looking outward to those who need our help, then perhaps we can yet instill in the rest of the world an understanding that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has something unique to offer.other so well that the poor eventually cease to exist. By contrast, in Utah, the Mecca of Mormonism, the irony is that paltry donations to Scouting for Food drives barely keep the public pantry shelves from being empty.
That's our biggest problem. It's not that it's hard to be a Mormon. It's not that people are spreading lies about our doctrine. It's simply that we don't seem to have anything unique to offer anymore. Mormons have become just like everyone else, and in doing so, we have become our own worst enemy.
While so many in the world ascribe the deepening divide between rich and poor as a natural consequence of the free market, Mormons--of all people--should decry such lies from the rooftops. If enough of us can get and keep ourselves out of debt long enough to begin looking outward to those who need our help, then perhaps we can yet instill in the rest of the world an understanding that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has something unique to offer.
If not, we may not have even 265,000 converts in the year 2030.