Church Growth and Activity

Chart depicting LDS Church growth from 1900 to 2021.
Church growth with a 10-year moving average. In the last 20 years, growth rates have stabilized around 1%–2% but the trend lines indicate a downward trend from the higher growth rates of the 1980s and 1990s. [1]

Is the church growing or shrinking?

Overall, it's growing.[2] However, in some places, the growth rate is flat.[3] In others, it is relatively high.[4]

But isn't the rate of growth declining?

Yes. The Church's growth rate has been declining for the past couple of decades, from a growth rate of 5%–10% in the late twentieth century down to a stable growth rate of about 1%–2% in the twenty-first century.[5]

Why has the Church's growth rate been declining?

Religious affiliation has been generally declining in the United States[6] and elsewhere.[7] Nearly all major religious organizations have declined in numbers in the U.S.[8]

Isn't most of the Church growth from children being born into the Church as opposed to converts?

No. For the past decade, the Church has had about a quarter-million convert baptisms each year, with the children of record reported by the Church in the low hundred thousand each year.[9]

Has the Church ever been the "fastest-growing religion"?

Possibly. The U.S. Census Bureau does not collect information on religion, so it's difficult to make comparisons with other religions.[10] The Church says it "makes no statistical comparisons with other churches" and "makes no claim to be the fastest-growing Christian denomination."[11]

What percentage of Church members are "active"?

The best current data from the U.S. General Social Survey indicates about 65% of U.S. members attend church once a week.[12] Worldwide membership activity is estimated to be around 30% from Reaching the Nations: International Church Growth Almanac, an unofficial Church almanac.[13]

How many new converts remain active?

Possibly 20%–50%, according to various third-party studies.[14] However, convert retention rates vary widely by geography[15] and by time measured.[16]

The Facts

  • The growth rate of the Church is positive but has been on the decline for about two decades.

  • The number of members, stakes, and wards are all growing at about 1.5% per year.

  • Convert baptisms are the primary means of growth as opposed to children born into the Church.

  • Metrics like growth, retention, and activity vary depending on geography, with developed countries showing little, stagnant, or negative growth, and developing countries showing high growth.

  • Accurate activity rates in the U.S. are unknown, but estimates are about 65% depending on geography.

Our Take

Some might connect the truthfulness of the Gospel to the way the Church grows. Some might feel that high growth affirms their belief in the Church, while others might see declining growth as an indication that the Church isn't true.

So if someone's image of the Church is that of a fast-growing community, it can be uncomfortable to discover that the Church isn't growing that quickly. If the gospel is true, shouldn't it be more popular?

The Church is growing, with growth primarily coming from convert baptisms. However, the growth rate of the Church, along with other religions, has been declining for the last two decades.

There may come a day where Church growth becomes stagnant or declines, and it can be sad that more people don't accept the gospel of Jesus Christ. While it can feel affirming to have evidence that our beliefs are popular and that missionary efforts are succeeding, Church growth and the truthfulness of the gospel aren't necessarily tied.

What's Your Take?

280 characters remaining
These takes are curated for a general audience and may contain minor edits when posted.
  • Drew T.
    I believe there is a sifting going on. We will pretty much sift ourselves out of the Church for varying reasons like getting caught up in the world and its strong attractions.
  • Brent
    The convert baptism rate needs more context. Since 9 year olds of inactive parents count as a convert it muddies the water. If 8, 9 or even 10 year olds get baptized, they don’t fit well in the convert category, but make more sense as a child or record.
  • Grant
    I think with information about the church being so widely available now testimonies either get destroyed or strengthened. You need a lot of faith to join a church that is so against the norm that I’m not surprised at all by declining growth rate.
  • Jordan W.
    I used to think it was important that the church grow fast and sweep in converts by the tens of millions. But then I looked more carefully at the prophecy of 1 Nephi 14:12-14. We will be a scattered few, but because of our covenants, we will be blessed with power and great glory.
  • Mason
    I am a convert myself and a child of apostates far from the pioneer belt. I have been a member for a year and baptized a friend of mine. As I see it, in a world where activity rates among all faiths decline so steadily, any kind of growth, no matter how small, is impressive.