A recent article was shared online with the headline, “Is Mormonism still growing? Five facts about Latter-day Saint growth and decline.” In it, the author shared statistics about the declining growth rate in membership, children of record, missionaries serving, while closing out the article with a mention of the number of temples increasing.
The declining membership growth rate, combined with the fact that friends, family, and even social media “influencers” are leaving the Church could cause some to feel a level of concern as to where things are headed.
Is the Church true? Is the decline of membership and exit of once faithful members a sign that it is false?
The answer to the first question is yes, the Church is true. To the second question, it is not a sign at all that the Church is false.
Nephi foresaw our day and never predicted a Church with massive ranks:
And it came to pass that I beheld the church of the Lamb of God, and its numbers were few, because of the wickedness and abominations of the whore who sat upon many waters; nevertheless, I beheld that the church of the Lamb, who were the saints of God, were also upon all the face of the earth; and their dominions upon the face of the earth were small, because of the wickedness of the great whore whom I saw.
Any way you look at it, seeing someone leave the Church is tragic. Assuming the Church is true, which I do assume, it’s sad when people give up on a doctrine so beautiful and promising, especially when you consider the ultimate blessings that are promised to those who covenant with God and then keep those covenants – the reward of all that the Father hath.
In an article I wrote last year, I talked about the concern many might have about those leaving the Church and why they shouldn’t let it affect them to the point where it causes anxiety or fear. A word President Nelson used in one of his recent general conference talks [myopic] also has me taking a bigger picture view of this “declining membership.”
A Myopic View of Membership
Last month, our family went to perform proxy baptisms for the dead in the Draper, Utah, USA temple and we each printed off family names. Because of the scheduling at the time, we were able to do about 25 baptism and confirmations.
I was blessed to baptize my son, and my son was able to baptize my daughter. Once we changed from our wet clothes into Sunday dress, we went into the confirmation room, and I was blessed to be voice of the confirmations as the gift of the Holy Ghost was bestowed upon these individuals and they were confirmed members of the Church. At one point, while saying “…and confirm you a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” I was struck, as I have been before, that we are extending the invitation to those who have passed on to become members of the Church and kingdom of God.
I often wonder what the circumstances are of those we do this proxy work for. How much do they know about the gospel? Are they willing to follow Christ and accept these ordinances to be bound to Him by covenant?
Then my mind got thinking of the math. Let’s say all 25 people who are currently living beyond the veil wanted to accept the ordinances performed on their behalf. Let’s also assume that only 25 baptisms are performed in each temple every day. That might be a massively small number compared to what Utah temples actually perform each day, and it might also be a larger than temples in Europe do, but let’s roll with it.
I’m not entirely sure what the exact numbers are, but for the sake of this example, let’s just assume that in each of the 162 active temples, every day 25 people on the other side of the veil accept the baptismal ordinance and are confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Every day, that is 4,050 people. Every week that is 20,250 people. Every year that is 1,053,000 people – newly confirmed members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In the above mentioned article, this chart below was included. It’s showing a declining membership growth over the last 10 years.
What we can’t put an exact number on, is how many people on the other side of the veil are joining. Just using my estimate of 1,053,000 would mean close to 1.2 million people joined the Church this year among the living and the dead. Let’s also consider that within the next 5 years, the number of completed and operating temples could very well double, and Church membership on both sides of the veil could be increasing by well over 2 million each year.
Elder Ronald A. Rasband shared the following quote in his 2018 General Conference talk, “Be Not Troubled”:
Remember, “they that be with us” on both sides of the veil, those who love the Lord with all their heart, might, mind, and strength, “are more than they that be with them.”
The Caravan Moves On
Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave a powerful address in 1984 which included ten questions we could ask ourselves to determine if we are true to our faith. He closed his talk with this powerful declaration:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—will triumph. In this connection may I set before you this illustration:
The Church is like a great caravan—organized, prepared, following an appointed course, with its captains of tens and captains of hundreds all in place.
What does it matter if a few barking dogs snap at the heels of the weary travelers? Or that predators claim those few who fall by the way? The caravan moves on.
Is there a ravine to cross, a miry mud hole to pull through, a steep grade to climb? So be it. The oxen are strong and the teamsters wise. The caravan moves on.
Are there storms that rage along the way, floods that wash away the bridges, deserts to cross, and rivers to ford? Such is life in this fallen sphere. The caravan moves on.
Ahead is the celestial city, the eternal Zion of our God, where all who maintain their position in the caravan shall find food and drink and rest. Thank God that the caravan moves on!
As President Nelson stood at the pulpit to conclude the final session of the April 2022 General Conference, and while he announced 17 new temples, making 100 in the last four years – I had the overwhelming thought is so beautifully illustrated by the words of Elder McConkie – the caravan moves on!
It is true, that the caravan moves on. It’s sad if some leave, but no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. We wish more people on this side of the veil would accept the true gospel, but the kingdom of God will roll forth until it reaches the whole world. And do you know the most beautiful thing about it? We get to take part in it!
I conclude with the words of Joseph Smith: “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear; till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”