I I had to bet on one thing showing up in general conference, Elisabeth, I’d bet on numbers. We Mormons love numbers, and they love us. The love affair is clear in stake, ward, or general conferences, where Mormons recite numbers in loving detail.
How many members are there exactly? As of 2004, there were 12,275,822 members, divided into 2,665 stakes, 646 districts, and 26,670 wards and branches. There were 98,870 new children born into the church that year, and 241,239 convert baptisms.
And we seem to think — perhaps correctly — that the Lord approves of our current love of numbers. If so, that would be a stark departure from prior scriptural attitudes. As we read in scriptures such as 2nd Samuel, the very act of numbering was once a grave sin:
And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.
For the king said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people.
And Joab said unto the king, Now the LORD thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing?
Notwithstanding the king’s word prevailed against Joab, and against the captains of the host. And Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the king, to number the people of Israel.
And Joab gave up the sum of the number of the people unto the king: and there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.
And Davidâ€™s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the Lord, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O Lord, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
For when David was up in the morning, the word of the Lord came unto the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,
Go and say unto David, Thus saith the Lord, I offer thee three things; choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee.
So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days’ pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.
In times past, numbering Israel brought on God’s wrath, and led to pestilence, famine, or war. How things have changed in just a few millennia.