268M in 2080

Most members of the Church are probably familiar with the estimate made by (nonLDS) sociologist Rodney Stark that, if current growth patterns hold, there will be 268 million members of the Church by the year 2080.

I’m not interested in debating his number–for all we know there will be 100 million or 300 million members by then–but I am interested in thinking through how the Church might operate with such numbers. President Hinckley and other leaders have repeatedly said that the biggest challenge that the Church faces is growth; what will that challenge look like when members are counted by the tens of millions?

Some thoughts:

(1) I don’t think that we will end up with layer upon layer of new leaders between stake presidents and GAs. This is just my guess, of course, but I think that the trend of training broadcasts done by general leaders will continue, and we won’t multiply intermediary layers. But I guess I don’t really know.

(2) I think opposition to the Church will increase, and we will look back fondly at 1997 as the high water mark of the Church’s positive image. As the moral and cultural decline continues, and the gap between the Church and world increases, we will be perceived as increasingly bizarre (if not backward), as an increasing threat to other religious and cultural institutions, and–most importantly–as an increasing presence in government, business, and academic leadership. And we will not be as welcomed as we shift from ‘model minority’ to power player.

(3) There are a lot of areas where I can’t even begin to think about what kinds of changes will occur.

What does a Church where most members speak Spanish and live in South America look like?

What (symbolic) role does Salt Lake take on in that Church?

What impact will the Perpetual Education Fund have in fifty years–and how will the image of the Church change in areas where an ever-increasing number of that nation’s newly-wealthy are LDS?

What changes will technology bring?

How will the experience of going to the Temple be perceived in a Church where most people have Temples in their own city?

What will happen if/when missionaries enter China or the Muslim nations?

and many, many more. . .

62 comments for “268M in 2080

  1. lyle
    February 5, 2005 at 8:49 am

    I don’t think we will see temples in _every_ city for one. While I have no ‘inside’ knowledge, the Church’s building program probably uses up a huge amount of its tithing resources. Hence, as Church growth continues in poor countries, i.e. average and median tithing per member declines, that the building program will have to be mightily scaled back. Perhaps this will trigger a change, where far fewer temples will be built in developed countries (where infrasttructure is good & it is easier to travel to other parts of the same or nearby countries); and more temples are built so that members don’t have to travel weeks or days to get to a temple.

    [ignore next comment, as it involves Julie’s non-interest in debating the numbers. As an aside, LDS Church membership growth has already deviated, for several years, below the Stark predictions. and that doesn’t even involve the question of what percentage of current members are & remain ‘active’.]

  2. Julie in Austin
    February 5, 2005 at 9:17 am

    By ‘every’ city, I did not, of course, mean ‘every city.’ ;)

    What I meant was this: last week in Church, I heard a very moving story from an older gentleman about the great financial sacrifices and complications and subsequent blessings of going to a Temple 1500 miles away to be sealed. I doubt the 80 mile drive to San Antonio will generate similar stories in 50 years. How will this change our perception of the Temple when much of the element of sacrifice is removed?

  3. Shawn Bailey
    February 5, 2005 at 9:43 am

    Not being forced (blessed with the opportunity?) to sacrifice and suffer to get to the temple is much like not being forced (blessed with the opportunity?) to pull handcarts across the plains in the snow to the utah desert. There is meaning in such journeys, but what we do (and how much in the case of temple work) when we get there seems to be the real point. As some of the other possible developments you mention indicate, we will not lack challenges. They may just be more social/institutional/moral rather than physical.

  4. John Morley
    February 5, 2005 at 9:58 am

    One interesting question will be whether top church leadership begins to reflect the demographics of the Church’s membership. Currently, non-American Church leaders are an oddity. One has to wonder whether, in year 2080 the President of the Church and half of the Quorum of the Twelve will be native Spanish speakers.

  5. annegb
    February 5, 2005 at 10:01 am

    I spoke to a friend who is in the NCIS in the Pentagon day before yesterday and he told me about being in the Kurdish part of Iraq and being wounded by a suicide bomber (that’s a pretty interesting story), but I mentioned that a lot of people from my community, and the community south were in Iraq. I live in Cedar City, Utah.

    He told me that he knew that, that he’d run into a lot of Mormons over there, especially in the translation department. And he was impressed with them.

    I think the gospel could spread much more quickly than we think it can. Those guys over in Iraq and Afganistan are lighting sparks with their examples that will spread like wildfire. That has got to spread all over the Muslim world. This is a case where some of those people probably will die for their beliefs.

  6. February 5, 2005 at 10:23 am

    I think the big change will be in money. Right now there are enough Saints in rich countries to support poorer countries. Once the poorer countries get to a certain size that will become problematic. Yet growth in rich countries has been fairly flat – mainly due to children of record with a few converts who stay active long enough to make up for those leaving the church.

    I think in terms of tithing that will, in 20 – 30 years have huge effects.

  7. Jed
    February 5, 2005 at 10:27 am

    We assume from the scriptures and the prophets that the persecutions against us will increase, but I doubt very much if those persecutions will have much to do with population increase. It is easy to pick on minorities, much harder to pick on large or majority groups. I see the persecution coming from our attempts to convert people to Mormonism from non-Christian faiths like Islam.

    Perhaps the biggest change will be the perception of Mormons as model Americans. If the church holds the line on moral issues, the perception may revert back to the pariah image of the nineteenth century–but only for a faction of Mormons. The larger Mormonism becomes, the more diffuse the perception of Mormons will be. Non-practicing and cultural Mormons will be found in responsible positions as well as believing Mormons. Already we see this tension at work among Mormon writers, politicians, and actors. The result will probably be something like Judaism where different camps (reform, orthodox, conservative) exist to muddy the water of public perception.

  8. Jed
    February 5, 2005 at 10:33 am

    If the size and cost of temples are scaled back, as already seems to be the case, the cost of building temples will not be prohibitive. The small temples we see now may be an intermediate stage. There may come a time when the meeting houses have an ante-room or wing dedicated for a scaled-back version of the temple ceremonies.

  9. danithew
    February 5, 2005 at 10:41 am

    What will happen if/when missionaries enter China or the Muslim nations?

    I think the LDS Church will be able to enter China eventually without too many problems (except providing enough missionaries for that large a geographic area). As far as China goes, it seems to me that the legal barriers are what need to be surmounted.

    The Middle East of course is an entirely different matter, largely due to Islam. The doctrinal penalty for apostasy (called irtidad in Arabic) in Islam is death. That doesn’t mean every time there is a convert that person will be killed. Most governments in the Middle East don’t expressly support this penalty and could quite possibly detain and punish the killer if that were to happen. But the threat is always there. The cultural barrier is pretty high though and thus legality of missionary work (in the conventional door-to-door proselyting fashion) is pretty hard to imagine. Mass disapproval of Christians bringing the gospel to Muslims in a systematic way would be a huge difficulty to overcome.

    That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. The Lord is omnipotent. I’m just saying I will be more awed and impressed with how this cultural barrier falls than with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the destruction of that physical wall.

    One possibility it seems to me, is that the cultural barrier won’t fall … but that we’ll find another way to reach out to our Muslim brothers and sisters. And as Grasshopper pointed out in a comment recently, the gospel is already reaching some people in the Middle East. It’s a constant trickle. At least that is how I’d describe it. And one must not forget that many Arabs are not Muslims but Christians … and they are generally more free to move from one congregation to another if they so wish.

  10. Shawn Bailey
    February 5, 2005 at 10:53 am

    While true in one sense, the idea that it is easy to pick on minorities but harder to pick on majority groups seems counter-intuitive. In a real way, the larger and more pervasive the group, the more open to criticism and censure. No one fears a a minority group will take political power and rule according to its lights. A few scattered Mormons pose no threat, so they don’t require response (persecution or other less-sinister opposition). But mormons in numbers (in 19C missouri and illinois, current utah, future America, western hemisphere, the world?) will inspire more opposition, criticism, etc.

    I wonder if it would be possible to track or estimate the impact of the PEF. How much on average does it raise a family’s income? How many people are benefitting? How much is tithing revenue increasing were it exists? Is it creating a mormon middle class where it exists? I doubt data is available at all or to the public. But if it was, Frank would be able to tell us about it, right?

    Looking beyond the money the church itself brings in, the stability of the economies and governments of latin America may determine to a great extent how things go for the church. There are a lot of interesting developments to watch here: the development of FTAA, the fate of agricultural subsidies (the decline of which may help the region a great deal), Venezuela’s freak outs, Argentina’s collapse and impressive recovery, Lula’s moderation in Brazil, Brazil’s infrastructure projects that may make it much more competitive, etc., etc., etc.

    Having served my mission in Brazil, I has secretly hoping that one of the recently-called Apostles would be one of the very sharp Brazilian Seventies. I believe I will live to hear an Apostolic blessing in Portuguese–or atleast a good Brazilian accent.

  11. danithew
    February 5, 2005 at 11:01 am

    Speaking of accents, I heard a temple prayer done in a Bronx Italian accent while at the Manhattan temple last week. It was music to my ears.

  12. February 5, 2005 at 11:02 am

    We also have a very long way to go in India. My understanding is that we have converted very few Hindus, and the few missionaries that are in India only speak English.

    As for Muslim countries, many Muslims don’t live in the Middle East. We have missionaries in many countries with large Muslim populations. Central Asian countries have been much more open to the Church than many Middle Eastern countries. Missionaries have started to go into Kazakhstan. I think it will be a trickle, like danithew says. And some have wondered if Muslims will be like the Jews- the very last to be taught.

    I am very curious to see how languages change in the Church. Certainly I think Spanish will become a greater force in the Church, but I think that the addition of other languages will have a huge impact. Native English speakers will become a small minority. Will the Church continue with English as the official language, will it add Spanish, or will we be able to use technology in a way that everyone will be able to “hear the gospel in his own language?”

  13. danithew
    February 5, 2005 at 11:09 am

    Nice points Amira. Its always helpful to remember that the most populated largely-Muslim country is Indonesia (not an Arab country).

    Spanish is an amazing language. I have quite literally found it necessary to translate Spanish for others in almost every country I’ve been — even in the Middle East — even in Gaza. There were loads of Spanish-speakers in Israel. Many of them were economic refugees. I can’t figure out how many Ecuadorans arrived at the logic that Israel was the place to go to work, but that was the reality when I was there. I don’t know if there is a contingent of Spanish speakers in Asia anywhere … I doubt in Japan for example. But on more than one occasion I’ve been surprised at the places I’ve been able to use Spanish.

  14. Jack
    February 5, 2005 at 11:10 am

    Why not a little more administrative layer? Maybe something like a council of twelve presiding High Priests who govern over a given area and are called from that area. IMO, with 100 million+ members the church would have a large pool of seasoned members who could fill a near apostolic role. I think this would help facilitate a speedier administrative mechanism (given that the council has a high degree of autonomy) because of more localized decision making. Plus, such a council would have a greater sensitivity to the needs of the particular culture[s] over which they govern and would therefore better at generating the most effective programs and materials for their peoples.

  15. Shawn Bailey
    February 5, 2005 at 11:13 am

    While I am also optimistic about China, I don’t think the challenge there can be characterized as merely legal. China’s fierce opposition to Falun Gong (something much less demanding, hierarchically centralized, etc., than the church) in recent years indicates that those in power have no qualms about simply eliminating any institution that competes with the government for loyalty. And this happened even though the Chinesse government has issued a declaration that it must and does respect religious freedom. Thus, I see the problem as political rather than legal. The solution will have to be those in power giving it up to institutions that will enforce religious freedom laws.

    I hope that the transition to market economics will bring irrepressible drive to democratic institutions. The end of the current regime in China could be cast in historical terms not unfamiliar there–the withdrawal of the mandate of heaven that justified the replacement (to put it gently) of one Emperor by another. Even though it might not happen soon, we should probably start practicing our Mandarin in preparation for use on our senior missions.

  16. Hans Hansen
    February 5, 2005 at 11:15 am

    “Speaking of accents, I heard a temple prayer done in a Bronx Italian accent while at the Manhattan temple last week. It was music to my ears.”

    I had to work in Manhattan for a couple months about 14 years ago (I am based in Southern California). While attending EQ meeting I heard the Priesthood Lesson in Brooklyn Italian. I had trouble finding “Toid Nephi” in my Book of Mormon but the teacher testified that “the choich was true”!.

  17. Shawn Bailey
    February 5, 2005 at 11:32 am

    Can we imagine the hymn book in 2080? I would like to see hymns written in the different literary and musical traditions where the church is and will grow. It will still include great hymns of the restoration, but will not be so exclusively Anglo-American or 19C.

  18. February 5, 2005 at 11:36 am

    I hope that the hymnbook becomes much more diverse, or that there are different ones for different areas. I became painfully aware of the need when we attended a small branch in Irbid, Jordan. A Japanese man played the portable keyboard and the nearly exclusivley Arab congregation muddled throught the hymns. Neither the piano nor the style of music were familiar to anyone there.

  19. Sheri Lynn
    February 5, 2005 at 11:49 am

    What does a Church where most members speak Spanish and live in South America look like?
    Maybe that alone is the main reason why my family was prompted to begin attending a Spanish branch, and learn the language. We will NOT be part of the xenophobia in and out of the Church, that will resist the changes this inevitable trend will bring to the Church and the United States of America.

  20. Christian Cardall
    February 5, 2005 at 12:01 pm

    Shawn, if trends in sacred fashion—e.g. the seas of white shirts and ties we see in the Ensign in African nations—are any indication, I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for much broadening from abroad of our own Mormon/American tastes in sacred music.

  21. Christian Cardall
    February 5, 2005 at 12:28 pm

    Julie, regarding your point (2): Your sentiment fits well with the millenial and apocalyptic worldview that comes so naturally to us.

    But apocalyptic expectations are notorious for being delayed, and I’d bet my left [insert favorite dyadic body part here] that these expectations of intense polarization, isolation, and Armageddon-like culture war will be postponed beyond 2080. Such developments, were they to occur, would be inconsistent with our rise to and/or maintenance of `power player’ status.

    Apocalyptic-style expectations seem to be developed/adopted/maintained principally by smaller groups “out in the wilderness” in some sense. At the end of the 19th century, we could have chosen to follow, say, a bin Laden-type approach, waging the war all-out. But that would have led to bin Laden’s fate. Instead, we made a choice the engage the United States, with associated accomodations. We have also chosen irreversibly to engage the world, with two possibile outcomes: if we remain monolithic, we will forever continue with accomodations as necessary (it may only be necessary to the extent that America has to accomodate the world) to maintain that engagement; or we will fragment, possibly in relatively `soft’ ways, with the resulting diffusion in perceptions as Jed described so insightfully.

  22. February 5, 2005 at 1:54 pm

    Three quick points, then I have to get to my Honey-do list.

    1. While attending BYU, I took Book of Mormon 2 from Joseph F. McConkie. Personally, his lectures were kind of boring, and I found myself asleep as much as not. Anyway, we had a test one week and on the test was this question: “What will the population of the Church be when the Savior comes again.” I think we had 3 options- 8 million, 80 million, or 800 million. I didn’t like any of the options, so I wrote in my own answer “Since we don’t know when the Savior will come again, we have no way of knowing the answer to this question”. I got it wrong, Apparently in one of the classes in which I had slept through it, the answer 800 million was given. Hmmm.

    2. Dennis Prager, a well known Jewish Talk Show host once had a guest on to discuss the decline of European populations. Seems boring, but in fact was quite interesting. Seems that most European countries are not having enough children to replace those elder citizens that are dieing. However, there is also similar trend forming in the US. The only exception to these two apparent rules are that in Europe, Muslims are moving there and increasing the population, and in the US, Mormons are making up for the 2.5 children per family norm. The final quote by Prager- “There will come a day when all of Europe is Muslim, and all of America is Mormon.”

    3. Well, I have forgotten the third point, so I guess I will get back to work…

  23. daylan darby
    February 5, 2005 at 2:09 pm

    No mention of the 2nd coming before 2080?

    With evil destroyed it ought to be fairly easy to convert many. What’s the quote? … The word from Zion, the law from Jerusalem? If the entire world government directed by Christ there shouldn’t be any economic or political problems for the missionaries, nor for the building of temples.

    Or don’t you see the 2nd coming by 2080?

  24. Adam Greenwood
    February 5, 2005 at 2:30 pm

    “mainly due to children of record with a few converts who stay active long enough to make up for those leaving the church”

    And, contra Kelly Knight in #22, birth rates are falling in the American church. We’re still at replacement levels, but we’re falling. There is NO WAY that American mormons will have enough kids to make up for the childlessness of the general American population.

    This childlessness could have consequences, some of them possibly apocalyptic. If we grow enormously that too could have consequences, some of them apocalyptic. Christian Cardall’s suggestion that nothing bad enough to be considered ‘apocalyptic’ can happen to the church because apocalypticism is only a concern of small, outsider groups, is incredibly naive. It is the typical unsophistication of sophisticates. Catastrophe doesn’t care whether we’re expecting it or not.

    And it will come. Apocalypse is unlikely in the short term but inevitable in the long term. Ask Dr. Goldstein, a wealthy Berliner, who looked out his window one fine morning in 1931 and thought all was right with the world. God calls us to be one with him, while nature calls us to be ‘one with Nineveh and Tyre.’ Only the second call is compulsory.

  25. Keith
    February 5, 2005 at 3:46 pm

    For those interested in what’s happening globally with respect to Christianity (and I think similar patterns are relevant in our Church now), I would recommend Phillip Jenkins’ _The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity_. For the Christian world, the numbers are shifting to the southern hemisphere (think South America, the Phillipines, Asia).

    It really will be interesting to see what will happen in China, in the Middle East, and in other places. Maybe it will be a long time yet, or it may take the second coming before it happens. Still, when it seems like it will take a very very long time for places like these to open up, and for the Church to be ready to go there, I like to remind myself how very sure so many of us were that the iron curtain would never come down until the millenium. It seemed to fall in an instant.

    As far as dealing with large numbers and adminstration, I think we will continue to see a strong effort to have solid, basic training and policies (the world-wide broadcast sort of thing) while at the same time much more trust and responsibility on the local level. And this will simply take Bishops and Stake Presidents who are up to the task–who know the gospel, who know the Church, who have and follow the Spirit, who love purely, who are wise, and who are humble (truly unwilling to impose their own will). A tall order. I don’t see how we will get along with out that, however.

  26. Mike
    February 5, 2005 at 4:34 pm

    ” Thus, I see the problem as political rather than legal”
    Shawn, I think that danithew was including political within that- and mostly looking at the barriers outside of a political/legal framework where we look at laws or who is in power and how they view religion- but a cultural question.

    If China let us in and the government was fully accepting would it be significantly different than if the same were to happen in Iran? I think that the cultural differences (which do influence the political) would make growth in non-muslim asia slightly more likely than within the middle east.

  27. Christian Cardall
    February 5, 2005 at 4:53 pm

    I certainly don’t deny the possibility of catastrophe. Contrary to the sense Adam conveys, it seems to me that it is the ranks of the ‘sophisticates’ that are replete with doomsayers. Adam calls up an apt quote, for the lastest book by perhaps the most famous such sophisticate Prophet of Doom, Paul Ehrlich, is in fact titled One With Ninevah. Another recent sophisticate doomsday offering is Jared Diamond’s Collapse.

    I’m not enough of a sophisticate to judge the merits of their claims, but I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibile danger of us going down along with the rest of civilization. If we were to face an apocalyptic scenario, this is what I think it would be; us along with everyone else, not us against everyone else. Why do I think this way?

    For one thing, we can take a cue from the fact that contra the ‘sophisticates,’ our own prophet has explicitly eschewed the title of Prophet of Doom. The expansion and strength of the Church are cited in every `status of the Church’ opening conference talk by President Hinckley; the stone cut without hands filling the earth is the current evidence of God with us, not our isolated flight to the wilderness.

    With regard to us against ‘prevailing culture,’ that’s not us as persecuted minority; it’s us together with the majority of the population (the red states won) against the minority Hollywood cultural elite. Do we fall to the right of even the red-state majority? We show signs of accomodation to `moderate’ sensibilities: we don’t hear preaching against birth control, we’re not absolutists with regard to abortion or stem cell research, we water down our doctrine for Larry King. To the extent we can stay in sync with this solid American majority, with America remaining dominant in the world, I just don’t see us in a worldwide clash of civilizations (like bin Laden would like to imagine himself whipping up).

  28. Ben H
    February 5, 2005 at 5:11 pm

    I think numerical projections are not much help because I expect the dynamics of growth to change substantially from one stage to the next. I think the church is currently pushing against a couple of different barriers to growth, and we are adapting, but we have yet to see just how well the adaptations will go, how quickly. It may take us a decade or two to retool, and then in another decade after that we’ll hit other challenges. The world political climate is evolving fairly quickly, though, and so is the US political and cultural climate.

    I think the church will retool in a couple of ways in the next couple of decades, besides the changes we’ve seen in recent years in leadership structure and missionary methods. The PEF represents a significant change in our strategy for building up the church, and I expect to see more developments of comparable freshness in coming years. I think we’ll see growth increase again, and that at some point our size will weigh in favor of more growth, even though at this stage our size seems to be limiting our growth. Yet despite slowed growth in the past decade or so, the church’s political and PR profile has risen dramatically, and the church has gained a lot of respect. Perhaps our ability to be an influence for good has increased more quickly than our numbers during this period. At the same time, what do you think the market was like for sensationalist books about Mormons twenty years ago? I suspect Krakauer for example sold far more books because of our higher profile. I think we will start to see more political opposition, but I also think we will be better able to face it, politically, because we have also built real friendships. Both major political parties in this country face all kinds of concerted opposition, but they are also each continually fending it off and pressing on. Have I been vague enough? : )

  29. Godot
    February 5, 2005 at 5:55 pm

    Another aspect of the language issue is the strength of English. Though it seems as if Spanish is gaining ground in the United States, the fact is that all those children are learning English in school. In three generations the Mexican immigrants will be speaking English fluently as a first language. Meanwhile, secondary schools all throughout Europe, Japan and South America teach mandatory English. An English section is included in the “SAT” type test of most of these countries already.

    I have heard linguists say that, because of the current snowballing effect of English, everyone in Western civilization will speak English as a first or second language in 100 years. BYU language professor William Eggington told us that he didn’t support the recent attempt to make English the official language of Utah because doing so was unnecessary – there is no real chance of survival for Spanish in Utah in the long run. He pointed to times in NYC’s history when everyone was sure that it would become a primarily Italian speaking city.

    My intention is not to be lingocentric, or whatever the word may be, but that, from a purely sociological/scientific point of view, it would appear that God chose the right language to restore the gospel in.

  30. Wilfried
    February 5, 2005 at 6:26 pm

    I agree that English is the unavoidable lingua franca on superior levels of economic, academic and political life. With Godot, I agree English will remain the lingua franca of the Church. I even agree that Mormons all over the world should be encouraged to learn English, as Hugh B. Brown once stated at a multiregional conference in Europe. It is the evident way to be able to participate in the expanding stream of Mormon information, literature, films. It brings cohesion and unity to Mormondom.

    However, l doubt that English will automatically become the lingua franca of the overall immigrant population, especially the less privileged educationally. In times past (Godot’s example of NY) there was no way to escape anglification, but this is not true any more. The media now provide easy access to the home language (Hispanophones have Spanish TV, internet… / Muslims in Europe have Arabic TV channels, internet…). In times past, immigration required one to adapt to the host society. It was expected. It was done. Not any more. Consciousness of national and cultural identity is being promoted, even among immigrants, leading to the formation of lingual ghetto’s, even own (mostly professional) schools, own centra. We see it in full development in Europe. It may seem strange that I, a foreigner, would be in favor of “English the official language of Utah”, but I am. I am afraid in the long run separate lingual communities are being formed, which may lead to frictions and which may ultimately clash. Or where one lingual community will always remain the underdog, the realm of the poor and of those without opportunities. It’s of course difficult to predict how things will evolve, but the variables are not the same any more as decades ago.

  31. ed
    February 5, 2005 at 7:29 pm

    Does anyone have any sense how big and significant a program the PEF actually is, or is likely to become?

  32. Nate Oman
    February 5, 2005 at 9:47 pm

    Two points:

    1. It is my no means obvious that the Church can continue its exponential growth, as predicted by Stark, for the better part of another century. Historically, it is very very difficult for social groups to maintain exponential growth, and Mormon growth rates have historically been marked by spurts and draughts. We may be coming out of a growth spurt that will leave us with much more modest growth for several decades. 2080 may see 20 million Mormons rather than the numbers we dream of now.

    2. I think that Clark has hit a huge, huge, huge issue. The basic program of the Church and how we think about what it means to be an active Mormon will be dramatically transformed as the annual budget per member shrinks. I think that this budgetary contraction is inevitable. The only question is how much shrinkage we see. For example, what happens to very high cost items like BYU? Do we see a revival of more local, non-tithing financing for building, particularlly in more affluent areas? Who knows. But I think that the there are major financial implications to the shift in the demographics of the Church.

  33. annegb
    February 5, 2005 at 9:58 pm

    Kelly, are you having dementia, too? That is so me.

    I was thinking. One of my daughter’s friends just got back from a mission to Taiwan. If he converted anyone, sooner or later, relatives in China will hear about it. It’s inevitable.

  34. Ben H
    February 5, 2005 at 10:38 pm

    Nate, I think Clark is right that budget per capita will make a difference, and it’s an insightful point. But how big a difference? What if we just build simpler, less expensive buildings in some places? Buildings that are comparable to what people use for other purposes there. That shouldn’t have a very big impact on the way missionary work is done, or home teaching, or what goes on in our meetings. Money matters, but I think policies and ideas and institutional structures and programs and cultural forces matter a lot more. We certainly don’t want differences in building budgets to divide people, though, so yeah, reviving local funding in affluent areas or something might be a good idea.

    Of course, moves like this would reduce some aspects of uniformity in the church. As the church grows, or perhaps in order for the church to grow, we may need to be a little more flexible in dealing with a range of local circumstances. People have mentioned music as another area where we may see changes. Some adjustments in the way the church’s finances work might contribute to changes in leadership structure, as things like building programs or hymn books or videos for local use rely more on local leadership. While leadership training broadcasts and such can do a lot to stave off a need for more layers of middle leadership, I wonder whether we won’t see more decisions delegated to regional leadership as the church grows internationally.

    As an empirical matter, though, I wonder if the change in per-capita budget will be as large as one might think. In Japan, at least, a lot of the people who really embraced the church deeply were more cosmopolitan than the general population. A lot of them were people interested in the US and in the international scene. My parents noticed similar trends in Russia. If we think of the international church as largely inhabiting the cosmopolitan culture in which English is the lingua franca, church economic demographics won’t necessarily follow world economic demographics. I hope we can reach outside this cosmopolitan culture and make everyone feel welcome. In many ways a lower budget per capita might be a wonderful sign of success! But so far I’m not sure how successful we are at this. Of course, I don’t know much about what’s really going on on the ground in Latin America.

  35. David King Landrith
    February 5, 2005 at 10:41 pm

    So what’s the estimate of the number of inactives in 2080? And who’s going to collect fast offerings from 268 million people?

  36. danithew
    February 6, 2005 at 12:17 am

    LOL. DKL, I think that fast offerings at that point will simply be an automatic deduction from each person’s paycheck. President Harry Reid and his vice president Wayne McLaws will have enacted legislation to make this happen.

    Either that or they’ll be collected by the world’s 26.8 million bishops (or whatever the number would be).

    By the way, barring an unusually vicious persecution, I can’t imagine the Church would only have 20 million members in 2080. Remember we’re only in 2005. I think in my lifetime (as long as I’ve been aware of church numbers) I’ve seen the Church go from 6 million to 11 or 12 million. So in a period of 75 years I’d expect that the Church would grow by quite a bit, even if current growth trends slowed down quite a bit. But if Church growth spikes or has ups and downs, there’s enough time in 75 years for a few new trends to occur.

  37. February 6, 2005 at 1:47 am

    I think it will look very young, at least to me, as I’ll turn 100 years old that year.

    Now for some serious “avoid writing my Primary lesson” activities:

    If I had to guess, I’d say more like 30-40 million active or semi-active members (their kids are making it to Primary at least enough to be in the annual sacrament program, and they remember the words to more than six hymns, and they’ve still got a white shirt and tie somewhere in the event there’s a baptism they really do need to be at…), and another 50-60 million inactive members — people who still have home teachers assigned to them, but who just aren’t showing up. An unknown number (probably pretty high: 100 million or more) of people with a significant connection to the Church — a member of the immediate family is an active member, or they went to Primary when they were little, or Grandpa was an area authority, or they were really active until they got to high school and then basketball got in the way and YSA/Relief Society was boring so they never went back and that was 28 years and six residences ago, or they’ve written to get themselves removed from the rolls.

    I’d guess that 50%, at least, will be either English or Spanish-speaking as a first language, and that everyone in an upper-level authority position (General auxiliary presidencies, area authorities, seventies, etc.) will be able to give (and will generally in fact give) a General Conference talk in English, Spanish, or possibly Chinese (depends on if the Church takes hold or not: there are cultural obstacles there that go beyond the whole Communist Party thing). The majority of Church members will live either in the Americas or Africa; a sizeable minority will be in the Pacific islands. The popularity of the Church in Canada, Britain, and the EU will not be as high as what we’ll find in Eastern Europe and Asia. Most converts will be converting from a “pagan” religion or another form of Christianity (i.e. I don’t think we’ll be seeing a lot of members who were once observant Jews or Muslims). Most converts, regardless of original religious identification, will perceive themselves to be “rediscovering” a “lost” spiritual aspect to their universe after a generation or so of almost complete lack of religious observance in their families (this is one advantage of widespread secularism: if you’re truly open to all kinds of ideas, and something strikes you as the truth, there’s not much standing in your way, culturally, from accepting it).

    There’ll be a “missionary hymnal” of about 150 hymns translated into every language there is — these hymns will always be the same. There’ll be about 25-30 major language/culture hymnals (English, Spanish, Chinese, etc.) with a core of about 225-275 hymns that are always the same and 40-60 “local” or “native” hymns and songs that meet the usual hymn-type requirements but probably wouldn’t be appreciated by the native English and Spanish speaking populations in the Church. Some of the drums/shouting “AMEN!” type stuff will probably have seeped into some regional Church services, but there’ll be ten pages in the hymnal (and something in the handbook of instructions — especially the Branch handbook) explaining how the chorister and organist and music director and bishopric/branch presidency have to work together and follow all these guidelines to ensure the Spirit is welcomed and blahblahblah.

    Stakes will be even more important than they are now — it will fall to the Stake High Council and Stake Presidency to manage nearly everything in a given stake, possibly including missionary efforts (I don’t know about how it works in Utah/Idaho, but here in Ohio, the mission boundaries are much, much larger than the stake boundaries — there are at least four stakes in the Columbus mission district).

    I think most places where the Church will be by 2080, it’ll have been established and more or less legally permitted for at least 30-50 years, so the material well being and activity rates in places like China will closely mirror what you see in Ohio and the US “mission field” areas now. Young Single Adults will have the lowest activity rates, and the biggest challenge will be trying to get them to marry each other and create member families with children who will definitely be raised in the Church. The entire Church will be highly focused on the Primary and Youth, in an effort to get the problem solved before kids are over 18 and fulfilling all kinds of responsibilities. In poorer communities in the Church, wards and branches will do almost anything get their young men to go on missions, because of the economic, theological, and potentially genetic benefits to the group. Missions will become the equivalent of college in that respect, and that may encourage the Church to try and send people of various ethnic heritages to areas where that heritage is predominant (unless they drop the “marry someone as much like you as possible” line from all the advice pamphlets… it’s still in all my 1999-2000 dated materials ^_^) BYU will become a top-flight elite school, followed close behind by the Hawaii and Provo units, and they’ll have stopped admitting all RMs (it’s either that or stop all growth in the number of missionaries). I imagine that schools like Southern Virginia will become more popular, but the Church’s focus seems to be on the PEF and institutes rather than another BYU (if we get more of them, I think we should have BYUs only in major tourist/vacation-friendly areas: just think BYU-Orlando, BYU-Paris, BYU-Tokyo — but no BYU-Anaheim, please, the traffic there is already bad enough)

    Overall I think the biggest concern for the Church organizationally will be to try and keep theological control over the newer areas (Africa, Asia, South America — in that order), to try and retain activity and committment levels in the United States/Australia and portions of South America where the Church has been well-established for some time, and to re-invigorate the secular societies in Europe and Canada. I don’t think that the openess of individuals to Truth and so forth will be a significant force in opposition to the overwhelming spiritual blahness that that sort of of community just tends to foster, which is why I’m worried about those areas. If any place doesn’t have the Church around in force by 2080, I’d wager it to be predominantly Muslim — Indonesia, India, possibly North Africa and portions of Eastern Europe, or possibly some countries in Europe. The Church authorities will be most concerned, in addresses and talks and so forth, with hostility towards religion (or worse, apathy) in the United States and other earlier strongholds of the Church. Think the Red/Blue state map (though I don’t think that pattern is perfectly analogous, I DO think that a similar tactical situation will exist: there’ll be 10 or 12 states where huge groups of people are LDS, 5 to 15 more where huge groups of people are active in SOME religion or other — depends on how a lot of the midwest and South actually go — and between 23 and 35 states where people just aren’t responding to religion anymore. They’ll be looking at the numbers from Western Europe over the previous 150 years, comparing it to what will be going on in Oregon and Indiana and South Carolina, and kind of freaking out. The only real advantage they’ll have, as compared with the situation in Europe, is that the nascent religious population will be LDS or Protestant, and still at least vaguely familiar with a fairly orthodox way of looking at religious life.

    They may also be concerned with a “Catholicization” of LDS religious observance in Utah, Idaho, Nevada, etc., where many or even most people are going through the motions because they’re supposed to and everyone else does and it’s as natural as brushing their teeth — but no one is putting in mission papers anymore (cf. the problem the Catholic Church is having in France… last I heard, they were importing priests from Africa due to the shortage of French men entering the seminary) The Church leadership might be worried about the “secular Mormon” thing, too — but that took 5000 years of cultural and ethnic foundation-laying before the idea came about amongst Jewish intellectuals, so I bet it’s a lower-level worry.

    Or there could be a cataclysmic event ala “The Stand,” in which case all bets are off. There’s also the Second Coming to be concerned with, but I don’t think I’ll be alive for that and there’s something really cool about living till your 100th birthday, so I’ve decided to ignore that alternative altogether (except for this sentence, obviously).

  38. John T.
    February 6, 2005 at 2:02 am

    Wow, Sarah; you sound extremely thoughtful and prescient; a true Prophet, Seer, and Revelator…..Oh wait, that can’t happen. Sorry.

  39. annegb
    February 6, 2005 at 9:22 am

    Yeah, DKL, I’m chuckling, too. As the visiting teaching coordinater (if you ever get called to that, run for your life, plead constipation or something, do not do it), I see a lot of record keeping.

    I think you’re right, how can we reach the individual when the numbers are so high? I hate numbers.

    In my calling, I get on the computer, we click on a thing called visit, one called letter, or one called phone. Little pictures. It’s kind of cool.

    But what a paregoric. It’s really hard to get the spirit of a calling when we concentrate on numbers. So this is what we’re going to do: fake it, and forget about it. Just make our focus the bonds between sisters. Actually, fake it is a misnomer. It’s “lie”–keep our numbers good enough to keep people off our back. So we can relax and do the right thing.

    Well, before you bishops get all upset, this is sort of the deal: we put people who don’t want to be visited with people who don’t go out, and call it good. It’s not totally dishonest. The longer I’m in the church, the older I get, the more I like the forgiveness over permission principle. Works every time. Do what you want and apologize abjectly. :)

    …but I’ve never done that here. yet.

  40. February 6, 2005 at 10:07 am

    Annegb- Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching have always seemed to be difficult.

    When I was an Elders’ Quorum President, I decided to be practical about the assignments I made, rather than making certain that every single family in the ward was assigned.

    What I did was this-
    1. I took all of the active Elders, Priests, and Teachers and made as many companionships as possible. Where I felt I could, I had some of the most active Elders go Home Teaching with their wives (this helped with Visiting Teaching as well)
    2. I assigned every companionship at least one active family.
    3. I went through the rest of the ward list and assigned those families whose names I recognized as at some time being in church, and assigned them home teachers. Typically, each companionship would have 4 families.
    4. And this was the difficult decision- I did not assign those families that I had never heard of, or who had never attended to the ward, home teachers.
    5. Those families who had requested that there be no contact with the Church, I assigned to a companionship consisting of one of my councillors and me.
    6. Those families that we knew had moved from the ward, but whose names were still on the ward list, I put in a separate companionship.

    In this manner, I kept two sets of records. The first was the actual reporting that was required by the Church for statistical purposes. It usually looked pretty poor. The second was for reality- The proportion of active, some-what active, and less active families that were home taught, setting aside those who did not want contact, or who had moved. This number always looked better, but was used strictly “internally”.

    I think that in the future, the key to active, healthy wards will be exactly what it is today- A strong bishop, strong youth leaders, a strong RS President, a strong Primary President, and a strong EQ President.

    When all is said and done, however, the real strength of the Church is found in the strength of the most basic unit of the Church, the family. And whether the Church has 20 million, or 286 million members, it is up to each father and mother, each single sister or brother, to set the right course and move forward in a manner the Lord would approve of.

  41. Ivan Wolfe
    February 6, 2005 at 12:29 pm

    Kelly – that’s a great idea for splitting up HT duty.

    On thing that bugs me is that my HT list is 2 actives and five people who no longer live at their addresses (and we don’t even know if they live in the ward anymore). But they stay on my list for some reason, so my HT winds up being 40% or less every month.

    Not any fun, especially when the old EQ pres would rebuek the quorm for low numbers and when asked how we could get higher numbers when EVERYONE had at least 3 families that no one was sure even existed, he would reply pur faith must be lacking (or something along those lines).

    It’s a tough row to hoe, though. I don’t envy the EQ presidency one bit.

  42. Shawn Bailey
    February 6, 2005 at 2:37 pm

    Christian (regarding #20):

    My crystal ball says our sacred music will draw more on local traditions when the authorities to whom the music committee reports are composed of people to whom anglo-american 19C music does not speak (or those who have witnessed anglo-american 19C music failing to speak to people). That was awkward, but I hope still deciferable.

  43. annegb
    February 6, 2005 at 3:04 pm

    Thanks, Kelly. That kind of reminds me of Ray (Everybody Loves Raymond) Romano, who had the real checkbook (all screwed up) and the fake checkbook (the perfect one he showed Debra).

    You are kind of doing it opposite than us. We are just giving the stake the numbers they want,but we are looking in every nook and cranny and making bonds of friendships. It’s sort of my special gift from God to include people.

    Think about guys, if you were in my ward, would you feel inferior to me? I’ve been in the drunk tank. Nobody can top that. So they don’t feel bad about who they are. That’s kind of convoluted, but it’s sort of what you said, only backwards. Like “Strike that, reverse it.”

    Whatever works. This is a thankless job. For real.

  44. annegb
    February 6, 2005 at 3:07 pm

    Just to clarify, it’s been 35 years since I was in the drunk tank. But still…it makes some of the members feel better about themselves.

    I have no idea how we got to this subject of my drinking from how many members we’ll have in whenever that was.

  45. February 6, 2005 at 5:40 pm

    Ivan, in opening exercises this morning, the current EQ president stood up and mentioned that he had a list of 72 names from the ward list that no one knows. Of those, they went out and made contact with 27, and found 13 that no longer live in the ward.

    If they are no longer in the ward, then their records need to be returned to SLC in hopes of them sending out Family Search Requests, or whatever they are called, and finding out where these individuals are. In the mean time, the statistics of the quorums HT efforts go up, which in the end is what the stake is really looking for.

    Annegb makes a great point, however, and that has to do with finding and bringing back to activity those that we can, and parenthetically those who want to be found, many do not.

    I wrote about Home Teaching on my blog, you can go there and see what I really feel; just click on my name below this comment.

  46. Ivan Wolfe
    February 7, 2005 at 8:30 am

    Kelly –

    Well, my old EQ president said he wouldn’t forward names to SLC until he was absolutely sure the person/family no longer lived in the ward boundaries. “No longer at this address” was not enough. I’m not sure what the standard of proof for him was, but it was waaaay high.

    The new EQ is a nice guy who seems to be cleaning things up, but he also seems a bit overwhelmed by all the stuff he has to clean up. So I still have a name or two on my HT list that was reported as “no longer at this address” for three months running.

  47. February 7, 2005 at 8:50 am


    I have been very intrigued with your straight forward, home-grown way of speaking. You remind me of a member of my ward I had called as my EQ secretary. One day, for Sacrament Meeting, he was called upon to offer the invocation. While I honestly do not remember the entire prayer, this much I can quote- “Dear Lord, please help the elders get up off their lazy duffs and get their home teaching done”. It was very refreshing. Unfortunately for the ward, he has moved out, and I have lost track of him.

    I would like to invite you to become a guest blogger on my blogspot, and start a blog chain with the story of your conversion. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to contact you outside of these comments. If you are so inclined, please visit my blog by clicking on my name below and sending me an email.


  48. Bryce I
    February 7, 2005 at 9:33 am

    Kelly —

    See here for contact info for annegb.

  49. annegb
    February 7, 2005 at 10:14 am

    Wo, I feel famous. I was actually at your blog site last night, Kelly, about 2 o’clock in the morning, while I was trying to update this wretched visiting teaching reports. This calling brings out the very worst in me, I hate people that I’ve known for 25 years with a cold deep hatred because they didn’t get out last month. It’s pretty pathetic.

    I was planning to go back this morning because I was intrigued by seeing things from a bishop’s point of view, one that isn’t written by Anita Stansfield.
    I know my bishop wishes I would move sometimes.

    Okay, I’m game, but I know jack about computers. I didn’t even know what a blog was until a few weeks ago. [email protected].

    It’s your funeral.

  50. Frank McIntyre
    February 7, 2005 at 10:54 am


    There is a checklist that one can follow to make sure we’ve done what can be done before returning the name. The problem with dropping the name back to SLC is that they are really lost until they pop back up on somebody’s radar. And it is quite possible that they are still in the same town. The list that I remember had things on it like, check the phone book and talk to the neighbors, etc. None of it, as I recall, was over the top, but it did require some effort.


    The Church certainly is keeping tabs on its PEF people. But I am quite sure that administrative data is private. I imagine President Hinckley is interested in knowing the effect of the program. I am not so sure as to what exactly is being done to assess the program’s outcomes. Assessing these sorts of programs is rather tricky, because the participants are non-random and so standard control-experiment methods run into problems.

  51. February 7, 2005 at 11:25 am

    A slightly different aspect of the church’s future that interests me: In 80 years, what will be the church’s relationship to its history? In other words, will the world still hold polygamy as its more relevant data point about Mormons? Will Mormon history be bigger and more important, or less relevant, given the distance of time? Will the more challenging aspects of history have faded, or magnified?

  52. February 7, 2005 at 1:29 pm

    By 2080, women will hold the priesthood.

  53. annegb
    February 7, 2005 at 1:40 pm

    Kim, I hope not, hon. Are you a guy or a girl? I thought Kaimi was a girl (you never wrote to me yet, Kaimi), I thought Kelly was a girl. So I’m a little nervous about context.

    I have never wanted to hold the priesthood. It somehow seems right to me for things to be the way they are. That being said, I don’t take any crap from any man no matter what his position is, and my husband would be lost without me.

    I figure I have enough to do, if we let men have the priesthood, it keeps them out of my hair while I do the important stuff.

  54. February 7, 2005 at 1:55 pm

    I am a man.

  55. February 7, 2005 at 3:09 pm

    Time for the ward clerk to weigh in:

    1) Kelly, I almost swallowed my tongue when you mentioned keeping dead records around. AAAGGH!!! That’s exactly what I’ve tried to spend the last four years training people NOT to do! Now, granted, my Utah ward has miniscule geographic boundaries compared to some, so it’s a much better bet that someone who isn’t at their listed address has left the ward, but dang — keeping a name around even though you have no idea how to contact them does no good for the ward, and more importantly, no good for the member in question.

    2) If every other ward clerk in the church were halfway competent, my calling would take me five minutes a week.

    3) The best way to track a moved member is to mail an envelope with “DO NOT FORWARD — ADDRESS CORRECTION REQUESTED” on it. If it comes back without a new address because they moved too long ago, they’ve had time to be listed in the current phone book. If they’re not in the phone book, dump ’em back to Salt Lake.

    – Nathan (proud to be running the cleanest ward list you ever did see)

  56. annegb
    February 7, 2005 at 5:15 pm

    dani, I think my daughter and I are going to come to New York for a trip this summer, before she gets married. My neighbor’s daughter, who I’ve known since she was tiny, lives there, and my friend said that she attended church at the temple–maybe you saw her! The thing that she said was really cool was how everybody sings out. In our ward, there are very few good voices, and those others, who like me, can’t sing well, don’t sing out. I sing out loud and proud. Which used to make my bishop snicker when I was the ward chorister, it was probably embarrassing for him.

    Jed #7, I am in agreement with you. I’ve thought that very thing. Which is a hopeful sign for me because I’ve felt isolated in a way because I’m not the typical Molly Mormon. I think it’s a good thing, though.

    Kelly & Adam, where are you getting your statistics on population?

    You know, they are telling me we can’t send dead records in to headquarters. They said they’ll just send it back, because we have a few people who we have no clue where they are.

    But, for some reason, this is a scary topic to me. Hopefully, I’ll be dead by then. In the heaven with the hot tubs and color TV’s. Me and Walt Whitman. :)

  57. Frank McIntyre
    February 7, 2005 at 5:56 pm

    TOTAL Nathan, (3) is very clever. Did you come up with that yourself or was it taught you by a wise old ward clerk lving on top of the Himalayas?

  58. Adam Greenwood
    February 7, 2005 at 6:00 pm

    Comment #55 is awesome. Hopefully I don’t forget its location when I’m called to be ward clerk (if I’m called, I mean. It’s by no means clear that the Lord thinks my organizational skills are fit to be used in his Kingdom).

  59. ed
    February 7, 2005 at 6:13 pm

    It’s funny that it’s so much easier to get away from the church than it is to get away from BYU magazine.

  60. February 8, 2005 at 7:45 am

    Ed, perhaps the solution to the “where does this member live” problem is to send their membership records to BYU Magazine.

  61. February 8, 2005 at 3:30 pm

    I would love to be able to attribute any of my (ahem) wisdom to a senior clerk, passing on the tricks of his trade. Unfortunately, I had none such. I was called when the ward boundaries changed (the only two members left in leadership positions after the shuffle were the bishop and the scoutmaster). I had no idea what a ward clerk did. They said, “Here’s your computer, here’s the manual. Make it work.” (There might have been one former ward clerk in the ward, but he’s — how should I say this? — not the person you want explaining anything to you.)

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