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  1. I didn't mean to take that snip out of context or pretend the rest of it didn't exist. Clearly you are a deep thinker. I neither intended to comment on a full, accurate representation of your beliefs in all of their subtleties, nor did I intend to attack a strawman. Rather, I was merely talking about my own view. This might not be nearly as post-modern or sophisticated as you see the world, but I do think that some viewpoints and paradigms are more valid than others. I think that flaws in thinking exist, and that if there is a flaw in somebody's own thinking, they probably aren't aware of it. While an interviewer with one set of skills <I>could</I> put his thumb on the scale and manipulate the conversation to his own advantage, an interviewer with another set of skills <I>could</I> illuminate how the interviewee's thumb is on his own internal scale. I affirm your right to decide for yourself how you will judge this 14-hour long conversation, with or without listening to any of it.
  2. It depends on the interviewer. Behavioral Economics has demonstrated that the human brain is adept at systematically distorting the way we perceive the world so that what we think are honest impressions of an objective reality are really warped views driven by our cognitive biases. A good interviewer could focus on the big issues--on the main points--and ask good, probing questions the way that Socrates would so that the inconsistencies in our own thinking become apparent. Did Bill have his thumb on the scale, or did he simply remove Jim's thumb from it? You would have to listen to the interview to create an informed decision about whether Bill manipulated the conversation by focusing on the objectively wrong things, or whether he focused on the right things and exposed the inconsistences in Jim's belief structure. Either way it is a fascinating conversation, and Jim and Bill should both be congratulated for engaging in the conversation and sharing it with the rest of us.
  3. To clarify, the doctrinal and soteriological implications are only about whether or not you are a member--not whether you are on the rolls of a specific ward. As I understand it, having your name removed is considered reneging on all of the covenants you've made in the church at baptism, priesthood ordinations, and at the temple. At the very least it causes you to officially lose all of the associated promises. At the worst, there are implications that walking away from your covenants puts you in Satan's power.
  4. I know there is pressure to keep local rolls clean--on my mission, I was once in a ward (yes, it was a ward) with 10 people that were marginally active and 350 that were inactive. I get the impression that the Church believes whether or not somebody's name is on the rolls of the church has soteriological implications. Thus, they really don't want to officially remove any names as being actual members until they are absolutely certain that the person wants their name removed and understands the doctrinal implications of forfeiting membership in the kingdom, or are absolutely certain they are dead. I have no idea what the basis is for this, but people always say that there is a "lost members" file that has members who don't belong to any specific congregation, and that they won't presume the people on that list are dead until age 110. If 25% of converts end up on that list, there could now be well over a million members of the church who don't belong to any congregation. I recall a few decades ago when the Church was pushing hard to be officially recognized as an option on the Chilean census. They claimed to have something like 400,000 members in Chile, and proudly issued a press release about how big and important they were when the name of the Church did in fact appear on the census questionnaire. After asking every man, woman, and child in the country what their religion was, about 80,000 people self-identified as Mormon.
  5. Let me flesh this out and be more specific to make sure you see my point. Say the cohort of people between 0-40 is size x. These are the people who create new members--once you turn 41 you don't have any more kids and are done converting your friends. That is the model. Say that through their missionary efforts and procreation, this cohort bring 350,000 people into the Church every year. Assume that only people under 40 are interested in converting, so every one of those 350,000 people are also in the 0-40 cohort. Further, say that 350,000 people leave that cohort every year, either through death, resignation, or the celebration of their 41st birthday. If that were to happen, the size of the cohort would remain size x. If their ability to have children and convert people remains steady on a per-member basis, they will continue to bring 350,000 into the Church, and 350,000 would continue to leave that cohort. The point is that in this model, this cohort has reached a steady-state equilibrium. If you look at the complimentary cohort--people over 40--that cohort is growing. Say, for example, 345,000 people join that cohort every year because they were members who turned 41. But, say only 45,000 died each year. If that were to happen, the cohort would be getting bigger every year in a linear fashion--345,000 people would join the cohort every year through aging, but only 45,000 people would leave because of death. The net result would be this cohort growing by 300,000 every year, and the overall church also growing by 300,000 every year, in a linear fashion. But why would only 45,000 people be dying? Multiple reasons. First, more people are entering the cohort now than entered it 30+ years ago. Thus, the cohort overall is relatively young. Second, people are living longer--people in this cohort used to typically die in their mid 70's, now they are surviving to their mid 80's and beyond. Finally, a ton of people in this cohort are people on the "lost address" file. The church doesn't know where these people are because they moved and didn't give the church their forwarding address. The rumor is that the church presumes that such people don't die until they turn 110.
  6. What do you mean it isn't "a thing"? We aren't talking about real things here. We are talking about models that fit the data. If you take the deltas from your graph above and run a linear regression, you'll get a line that is almost flat, the slope is zero and near the middle of the 95% confidence interval. This implies that linear growth is a model that fits the actual size of the church quite well. If you look at it in more detail, you'll see that the error terms of the regression aren't too far off from being normally distributed. They are in fact centered around zero. And for the most part, they are independent. Granted, if you include 81-88 there appears to be some upwards correlation in the deltas of the deltas, and there is a little bit of correlation from 2014 to 2017 in the deltas of the deltas going in the other direction. But there is a big group of points between where there is no statistical reason to say the size of the church isn't a "random walk with a positive drift of about 300,000," i.e. linear growth (or "linear-like" if you insist on using that term). I do totally agree that when looking at this specific problem, there isn't an obvious natural reason why we would see this. But we do. That is why this is a topic.
  7. One more thing I'd add to my narrative is that there are two sides of the demographics--there are people who join the church at different ages--either by birth or conversion--and there are also decrements due to death or walking away. In the U.S. population, we are growing primarily because older people are taking longer to die--that graph I showed about the 60+ cohort growing isn't because there is a ton of immigration on those ages--it is growing because people are living longer. So something to think about is demographically, which members cause the church to grow, and which members don't do much to promote growth? I'd suggest that it is the young members who cause growth--they are the ones having kids, sending those kids on missions, and converting their young friends. But, if that group is having fewer kids and more of them are leaving the church--either by formal resignation or by simply no longer self-identifying as members--then we could be close to an equilibrium in members in the 0-30 range. If that young cohort is stable, then total growth might be linear for an extended period. For example, every year 350,000 might enter the 31+ cohort, but only 50,000 leave because they finally died. The remaining 300,000 just stay on the roles year after year.
  8. In the late 1990's, somebody published something on the Internet (that has since been taken down) that asked the question, "Could 1 billion Mormons possibly be wrong?" His basic argument was that since the church grew from 1,000,000 to 10,000,000 over the 50 years from 1950 to 2000, it would grow by 10 times to 100,000,000 by 2050, and then to a cool 1,000,000,000 by 2100. This is classical exponential growth, and he considered this to be a conservative projection. All that being the case, the Church must be true--otherwise a billion people wouldn't be joining. It says somewhere in Isaiah that there would be a "stone cut out of the mountain without hands" that would split apart and fill the entire earth. It has been taught that this was referring to the LDS Church and that continued growth was a fulfillment of prophesy. For example: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1976/04/the-stone-cut-without-hands?lang=eng
  9. To me, the bottom line is that people joining and leaving the church happen on an individual by individual basis, and any type of a line we try to draw to describe these individual experiences in aggregate will be a crude model. Hopefully it will be insightful, but it can't be exact. Other than merely trying to describe what's been happening, the other big question here is how will this extrapolate into the future. Will the dotted line you drew above continue to decelerate? Predicting that the church will continue to have grow by about 300,000 per year seems like the safest bet. Of course if the church has been fluffing up its numbers by continuing to count people who have clearly moved on and even by counting people who have clearly moved on but aren't confirmed dead, then sooner or later there will be a day of reckoning. If that is done gradually, then perhaps a continued decrease in the delta is what we'll see.
  10. I appreciate a humble partial apologize. God knows that I'm usually too prideful to even do that, lol.
  11. One more idea. The following graph shows the growth of the U.S. population by age cohort. Each area shows the total population for a cohort--ages 0-4, 5-9, 10-14, and so forth. As you can see, the total number of people under the age of 20 has reached a steady state. However, the total population is continuing to rise. This is partly due to immigration (the gradual increase in people from 20-59), but is mainly being driven by people living longer (the relatively steep increase of people in the 60+ cohort). Perhaps there is a similar trend in Mormonism? If most of the growth in the Church is in the 60+ cohort and the inactive cohort, the church would maintain its ability to keep growing (at a rate of 300,000 per year), but wouldn't be increasing its ability to grow faster--i.e. would be experiencing nominal linear growth rather than exponential.
  12. Sort of. One of your examples is GDP. Here is a graph that shows the year-over-year increase in GDP from 1991 to 2017: The absolute growth is between a negative $260 billion to a positive $820 billion, with an average of about $50 billion. You might argue that this is generally linear, but there is some noise, which can be measured by the coefficient of variance, which is 45%. In contrast, here is the year over year growth of the church over that same time period. It grew between 238k and 399k every year, with an average of $309k. The coefficient of variance is only 11%, indicating that this is much more smooth. Linear growth this consistent and this smooth is not common. Maybe the populations of some countries are like this. Maybe certain utilities in certain municipalities have growth patterns like this. But such cases are rare.
  13. Whether it is suspicious or not is subjective. However, it is in fact quite linear. When I was in college in the late 1990's, I was in a statistics class studying time series. ARIMA analysis, and stuff like that. A friend of mine decided to apply the model to the growth of the church, and was surprised to find that according to that methodology, the church was growing linearly. Whether you say the growth has been linear or that the growth has been slowing from around 4.5% to 2% per year in a way that happens to result in growth that appears linear is a matter of semantics. But the clearest way to describe it is "linear growth". Yes, there is plenty of randomness from year to year. But that doesn't mean the growth isn't linear. If you put together a linear model, the error term (i.e. the year-to-year randomness around the linear trend) is about equal to zero, and very roughly has a normal distribution. If you look at PhysicsGuy's graph you see some autocorrelation, but not that much. That being the case, "linear growth" is an accurate description. Most things don't have a pattern nearly so linear. Look at the price of any stock over such a time period. Or the profits of any company. Or the gross revenue of any company. You'll never see anything like this. On the other hand, the population of the U.S. has been growing linearly longer than the church has. Perhaps a country with decreasing birthrates and a relatively constant immigration rate is the closest thing to how the Church changes over time?
  14. That is what Physics Guy did, and he is right. He knows what he is talking about regarding what "linear growth" and "exponential growth" mean, and he is correct in noting that the growth has been very linear for the last 30 years.
  15. I get your point and agree--there isn't an obvious natural reason to see linear growth like this. Here are a few points to consider: 1- Perhaps 300k converts is kind of like a "comfort zone" number of baptisms for the Church, kind of like how I always golf in the mid 90's, despite years of practice and all sorts of theoretical reasons why I should be improving. 2- The definition of "number of members" is surprisingly fluid, and has changed from year to year. For example: a- are you a member when you are born into the church, or when you are actually baptized? b- if you are born into the church but aren't baptized, when is your name removed from the record? c- if you resign from the church, are you removed from the membership count? d- if you are a completely inactive member to the point where the Church has lost total track of you, at what point will it remove your name from the membership count? After you've been lost for 10 years? After your 110th birthday? They never explain these rules nor provide a full accounting of how the membership total changes. If they are free to change the rules for how membership is counted, they can make adjustments to manage the membership count and keep it within expectations. If you look at history you can tell they've made adjustments to how they do the counting. For example, if you take the membership count for last year, add new membership from babies, add convert baptisms, and then subtract the total membership count at the end of next year, you should get the total number of decrements: deaths plus resignations plus excommunications. This number tends to fluctuated wildly, and there have been a couple of times over the last 30 years where we've seen the total membership grow by <I>more</I> than the total number of convert and born-in-church baptisms. I think that explains the overall smoothness to the declining growth rate. I think the growth rate is declining because in a consistent way missionaries are getting less effective, members are having fewer children, and a large percentage of converts quickly drop out and don't go on missions, don't raise kids in the church, don't send their kids on missions, etc. Those totally-inactives bloat the roles but don't contribute to growth.
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