Miraculous Numbers

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It’s always interesting when the church releases its statistics for the year.

I noticed something that’s either miraculous or … or … I don’t really know what it would be.

In 2005 the church had 12,560,869 members and in 2006 it increased to 12,868,606 – an increase in membership of 307,737.

In the 2006 stats we’re told that newborn member kids totaled 94,006 and converts accounted for 272,845 of the increased membership – kids+converts=366,851 in total.

Well if you take the total membership increase and subtract the kids and converts, you’re left with the number -59,114.

I’m going to assume this negative number is deaths, excommunications and resignations.

But even assuming a zero number of excommunications and resignations (which is not likely, but I’ll gloss over that fact for this example), that means that the LDS have a death rate of 4.59 per 1000 people.

To illustrate how miraculous this number is, the National death rate in the US in 2004 was 8(ish) per 1000, and in Canada it was 7.7(ish) per 1000.

Are Canadians really dying in numbers 1.7 times that of the LDS?

… or is there something screwy with these numbers?

10 thoughts on “Miraculous Numbers

  1. I doubt the church is aware of all of the deaths of its members. If a member is inactive and hasn’t had any contact with the church or other members for years and then passes away, how is the church to know to delete that membership?

    I served my mission in Japan and I know that many members on the records over there have been MIA for quite a long time. Some of them have likely died.

    These unreported deaths might help explain the screwy numbers.

  2. This is something of a constant in the DAMU and Ex worlds, there’s a fellow on RFM who’s done some stunning (and I’m entirely neutral on that, statistics make my head spin) statistical work noting that Church statistics actually show something of a 0% growth rate. This of course results in lots of loud speculation, but Cumorah.org seems to have some work done on it as well that throws doubt on official stats. The ‘self identification’ surveys that have been done in Latin America and the US sure seem to show a difference between those that identify as LDS and official numbers.

    There’s also something about changes from reporting baptisms to reporting children of record in the early 90’s that screws up calculations…

    Anyway, it’s a hot topic of conversation. I’m highly sceptical of statistics whatever their source and it takes me months to understand them. If anyone is aware of a spreadsheet with raw data (Official church numbers for 20 years or so), I’d love to get a copy of it to work through myself.

  3. Statistics, schmatistics,

    If the “Official” numbers are as accurate as the local home teaching numbers that get reported, none of them mean anything.

  4. Here’s a bit of math I find more interesting. If the Church’s membership is about 12,000,000 and the world’s population is roughly 6,500,000,000; cancel the zeros and you get 12 and 6,500. This means the ratio of members to nonmembers is about 1 to 541.

    Even if the active membership is only around four million, that still makes it 1 to 1,625.

    However, if the world’s 6.5 billion is actually British billions instead of American . . .

  5. In my personal experience and work I have recognized that it is quite common, particularly amongst non-profit organizations to report figures amounting to astounding claims. A lot of these institutions have a record of reporting numbers which may serve to flatter/favour the institution’s underlying message/purpose. If these numbers do not constitute a direct financial fraud, the reported figures are largely left up to the general membership and/or interested parties within the community to support or refute.

    In a nut-shell, right or wrong, no authority really gives a “rats beast of burden” about reported figures of non-financial matters, unless the reporting of the figures contravenes the (Revenue Canada requirements for being a non-profit organization/institution.

    I always wish there were supporting documentation to these numbers, to break it all down for people like myself who are interested in the findings but do not like doing the math.

  6. AML, I’ve got a spreadsheet with raw data since 1971 on my personal website at http://www.annporter.com/membership06.xls

    Dude, if you are a numbers person, HAVE AT IT. Then write up a post with the analysis for The Cultural Hall and e-mail it to me at ann dot porter at gmail dot com and I’ll post it.

  7. Mike Peterson, I heard from a regional office of the church back in the 80’s, that inactive members are presumed dead when they reach the age of 100 according to the date of birth on their membership record. And, that the church has a system to do their temple ordinances if the membership record does not indicate that they are done.

    So if someone is actually active when they are thought inactive, and alive past age 101, it’s possible for a living person to have his/her temple work done by proxy. :-)

    I remember specifically asking, because a companion and I taught/baptized one old guy in Ecuador who we thought wasn’t going to live long enough to see a temple built there.

    Rick: The difference between the 4.59 and the 8.0 per 1000 is probably the resignations/excommunications. So that means there could be as many as .74 resignations for every 1 death. IE: (8.0-4.59)/4.59 But I might not be doing the right math on that.

    Another factor is the general young age of members of the church compared to the world population as a whole. IE, high Mormon birthrate = lots of kids in the church compared to non-member population.

    Also, the church baptizes a lot more young people than old people, disproportionate even to the world-wide ratio of young to old. That makes the LDS population younger, and less mortality rate, than the world as a whole.

  8. Mike, you might want to check this with a ward clerk of a ward that has centenarians, but my understanding is that in the month of someone’s 100th birthday, some kind of form requiring action gets sent to the bishop or the ward clerk in the regular packet of records notification. The bishop or clerk then returns the form (may be an electronic form now) indicating they are still known to be alive, and that notice of death will be given by the ward to church HQ when that person passes. Or, if the person is known to be deceased, that info is transmitted back to church records dept. Or, if the person is “whereabouts unknown,” that is transmitted back. If the latter (whereabouts unknown, ie, inactive, and over 100) then the church assumes they are deceased.

    So yeah, there could be hundreds of thousands of deceased inactive members who aren’t taken off the “live” rolls until many years after their passing.

  9. Bookslinger, I’ve used a subtractive method to determine the total number of deaths, excommunications and resignations – so it’s what is left after taking all of the defined groups into account.

    So if they are all deaths, then that is the best-case statistical scenario for membership.

    In regard to the ‘more, younger members’ line of thought – in Canada I know that the average size of families of members are statistically very close to the national average (looked it up once and now I can’t find the reference – I’ll scrounge around and see what I can find), I’m not sure if it applies state-side but I’d be willing to speculate that the US-LDS demographics would follow a similar trend.

    The youth-heavy scenario may attribute to the twisted statistics, but I think it has more to do with keeping people on the books which a) are not members or b) are already dead.

    That’s just my speculation, though.

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