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Fastest Growing Church
A steady growth pattern has continued for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with about a million new members now being added every three years or less.
The National Council of Churches published its 2009 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, where it listed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the fourth-largest religion in the United States. However, the Church itself makes no statistical comparisons with other churches and makes no claim to be the fastest-growing Christian denomination.
“The Church is unusual in that it creates membership records and updates them constantly,” said Church statistician Glen Buckner, who is also a member of the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. “We believe we have a scriptural mandate (Moroni 6:4) to keep records in the Church, particularly (those) of our members, and we go to great lengths to try to ensure their accuracy.”
Like other faiths, the Church has varying degrees of growth among its members throughout the world. For example, the Church shows relatively slow growth in Northern Europe, where many other churches are declining. It has steady and manageable growth in the United States (the third fastest growing after Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventist) and is expanding rapidly in Africa and South America, as well as in east Asia.
Membership records aside, a good indicator of robust Church growth is its chapel-building program. In 2008 there were 8,254 chapels internationally, which showed a 10.0 percent growth rate over the previous five years. That trend has also proven true in the United States, where there were 6,361 chapels, or a 9.6 percent growth rate for the same time period. Many of these chapels accommodate several congregations.
“Membership growth is a challenge but a welcome one. During 2006, the number of congregations increased by more than 250 congregations in the United States alone, and we need to accommodate that growth,” said Buckner. “It’s definitely a financial investment, but we have many new members coming into the Church who need a place to worship.” Worldwide, there are now 28,660 congregations (as of end 2010).
The 2010 Religions and Congregations Membership Study
A new study released in early May 2012 shows the rapid growth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the United States.
The 2010 Religious Congregations and Membership Study shows that mainline Protestantism and Catholicism are losing members while Mormonism is growing faster than any other religion in America. The study is conducted every ten years and is able to follow the religious affiliations of Americans county by county. The LDS Church gained 2 million new adherents and new congregations in 295 counties where they didn't exist a decade ago, making it the fastest-growing church in 26 U.S. states, and thereby the fastest-growing group in the U.S.
One facet of LDS Church growth has to do with an increasing number of congregations, tallied by the study. Mormons meet according to geographical location. Rather than establishing mega-churches, the Church of Jesus Christ creates local congregations of 250 to 500 people. This leads to the establishment new congregations in counties nearby an existing one, rather than people driving farther to attend one larger congregation.
One unique aspect of the study is that it focused on members who actually affiliate with congregations and attend religious services, and not just general membership records. A trend in the United States is to retain some aspect of faith, while becoming unaffiliated with any organized religion. The study found that while upwards of 80 percent of Americans claim to be Christians, only about 49 percent are affiliated with a local congregation.
- “Overall, the survey identified nearly 350,000 religious congregations in the United States, from Albanian Orthodox to Zoroastrian. Those churches, temples and mosques are the spiritual home for 150.6 million Americans, and researchers say they were able to capture 90 percent of all U.S. congregations.”