Question: Does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints distort its membership numbers and rate of growth for public relations purposes?

Table of Contents

Question: Does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints distort its membership numbers and rate of growth for public relations purposes?

The truth or falsity of the Church does not change, regardless of whether only one person believes its tenets, or whether everyone does

At its base, this complaint is a variant of the appeal to the majority, or argumentum ad populum. In this fallacy, a belief is assumed to be false because few people hold it, or true because many people hold it. Critics might attempt to question LDS membership figures because they fear (rightly or otherwise) that the Church or a member is using this fallacy to argue that because of its relatively high growth rate, the Church is true.

In either case, the truth or falsity of the Church does not change, regardless of whether only one person believes its tenets, or whether everyone does. Truth is not decided by vote or consensus.

It is claimed that the Church reports raw membership numbers (i.e., the number of members "on the books," without regard for whether such members are active, believing, etc.) This is done, it is charged, for public relations purposes: larger numbers and higher rates of growth are supposed to encourage the faithful.

The critics ignore that calculating membership in any organization or church can be fraught with inaccuracy. Individuals may be on the records of more than one denomination. It is difficult, if not impossible, to assess the actual level of belief which a member may have: someone who is outwardly "active" in the faith could harbor doubts, while someone who has not attended church for years might be a believer who does not attend for other reasons.

Critics ignore that claims about the Church's growth rate usually come from outside observers. The Church is not particularly concerned about making claims about its growth rate relative to other faiths:

According to the National Council of Churches, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the second-fastest-growing church in the United States. However, despite its increasing numbers, the Church cautions against overemphasis on growth statistics. The Church makes no statistical comparisons with other churches and makes no claim to be the fastest-growing Christian denomination despite frequent news media comments to that effect. Such comparisons rarely take account of a multiplicity of complex factors, including activity rates and death rates, the methodology used in registering or counting members and what factors constitute membership. Growth rates also vary significantly across the world. Additionally, many other factors contribute to the strength of the Church, most especially the devotion and commitment of its members. [1]

Notes

  1. ↑ "Growth of the Church," newsroom.lds.org (last accessed 7 December 2010).