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Physics Guy

Linear growth in church membership

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2 hours ago, churchistrue said:

PS Analytics and PhysicsGuy I partially apologize for being aggressive with dissing on your analysis. This area is my core competency in my career, so I'm too prideful to fully apologize. I got clouded in my review of this due to a) the accusation that is so linear that the data looks fake and b) the visual of tall bar charts with little incremental change as evidence (eyes can't determine that). Also, I made a mistake by at one point in this by confusing the delta for the delta of the delta when discussing whether or not the dataset is linear.  Anyway, I do agree now that the data is "linear like" over the time period in question.

I appreciate a humble partial apologize. God knows that I'm usually too prideful to even do that, lol.

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Perhaps this is a question that will seem silly to many of you, but I am going to take the risk and ask it anyway.  I am simply wondering why there is what I perceive to be a significant emphasis on the need or expectation for the Church to continually grow? This seems like something of a self-validating need? If the growth slows down or stops, or the Church begins to decline in membership does that really tell us anything about the quality or validity of the faith of the adherents? Does it say anything about the strength of its doctrine? Is there a sense that the Church is validated by its growth?

For example I remember years ago when the Southern Baptists had 21,000,000 members. Now they report 16,000,000 or so. A few years ago they cut their missionary force at home and abroad down to around 8,900. Does either of those data points mean anything about the spiritual health or vitality of the group? Mennonites rarely proselytize; their growth, when it occurs comes from large families and the children staying Mennonite. They focus on service missions. What does that say about the quality or validity of their (our) faith? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has what, some 65,000 full-time missionaries out there at any one time? That is a huge commitment. Does the Church show how many baptisms per year per missionary on average? Do most newcomers to the Church come via the young missionary efforts? 

These kinds of quantitative analyses sometimes bother me.  I have preached to congregations with thousands of parishioners. I have also preached to congregations as small as six. There may be more quality of performance in the former, but the Spirit is as real in the latter as the former. Maybe the key here is the sense that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must perform ordinances for everyone who has ever lived and therefore must grow in order to be able to fulfill that massive calling? I just have something of a sense here that if the Church, by all the data that is being shown is not continuing to grow at a strong rate, the members will worry that somehow it will be perceived as less than when it was growing more in earlier years? Just mulling all this over. Maybe expectations that are maintained for corporate growth are creeping into religious faiths? I am not sure that is good? What think ye all?  

Edited by Navidad
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2 hours ago, churchistrue said:

OK, one more post on this. Here's the chart of just the increments. I included a few more years at the beginning of the data set to show the trend of what I think is the proper way to view this. This is classic data set of slowing growth. If the slowing over time is gradual enough, the curve will be stretched out and appear flat or linear at the peak of this curve, which is what we have in the time period late 80's up to a couple years ago.  

membership-growth.jpg

 

Here's the chart on growth as %. 

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. 

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9 minutes ago, Navidad said:

Perhaps this is a question that will seem silly to many of you, but I am going to take the risk and ask it anyway.  I am simply wondering why there is what I perceive to be a significant emphasis on the need or expectation for the Church to continually grow? This seems like something of a self-validating need? If the growth slows down or stops, or the Church begins to decline in membership does that really tell us anything about the quality or validity of the faith of the adherents? Does it say anything about the strength of its doctrine? Is there a sense that the Church is validated by its growth?

For example I remember years ago when the Southern Baptists had 21,000,000 members. Now they report 16,000,000 or so. A few years ago they cut their missionary force at home and abroad down to around 8,900. Does either of those data points mean anything about the spiritual health or vitality of the group? Mennonites rarely proselytize; their growth, when it occurs comes from large families and the children staying Mennonite. They focus on service missions. What does that say about the quality or validity of their (our) faith? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has what, some 65,000 full-time missionaries out there at any one time? That is a huge commitment. Does the Church show how many baptisms per year per missionary on average? Do most newcomers to the Church come via the young missionary efforts? 

These kinds of quantitative analyses sometimes bother me.  I have preached to congregations with thousands of parishioners. I have also preached to congregations as small as six. There may be more quality of performance in the former, but the Spirit is as real in the latter as the former. Maybe the key here is the sense that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints must perform ordinances for everyone who has ever lived and therefore must grow in order to be able to fulfill that massive calling? I just have something of a sense here that if the Church, by all the data that is being shown is not continuing to grow at a strong rate, the members will worry that somehow it will be perceived as less than when it was growing more in earlier years? Just mulling all this over. Maybe expectations that are maintained for corporate growth are creeping into religious faiths? I am not sure that is good? What think ye all?  

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

Edited by Analytics

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10 minutes ago, Navidad said:

Perhaps this is a question that will seem silly to many of you, but I am going to take the risk and ask it anyway.  I am simply wondering why there is what I perceive to be a significant emphasis on the need or expectation for the Church to continually grow? 

I think for many of us it's because we heard preached so often that the Mormon church was the fastest growing religion on earth and that it would eventually cover the earth (giving the impression that almost all would eventually join the one true church on earth).

The first part of that claim is no longer true (if it ever was...I'm not even sure about that now) and that last part has been softened some by now saying that only meant there will just be members in every country on earth.  But, I know many thought it meant almost all on earth would come to know that this is the true church and become a member.

Edited by ALarson

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8 minutes ago, Analytics said:

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. 

Hard to know, but I think the safest bet would be that the growth continues to decrease at a very slow rate, possibly even go to zero or end up decreasing--though I think that's not for a long time maybe decades. The big factors are all negative: 1. birth rate of the active core is decreasing 2. conversion rates for new members is decreasing 3. resignations appears to be increasing and has become large enough that it's making a real impact (though this can only be extrapolated indirectly).

This "linear growth" thing, ie 300k per year. You need to get it out of your head. It's not a thing. 

 

 

 

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23 minutes ago, Physics Guy said:

For the period about which I've been talking, roughly 1985-2015, I agree that the dotted arch fits the data about as well as a flat line does. I'd put that the other way around, though: the dotted arch is no better fit than a flat line. One can always fit data to more complicated curves, but this is only really meaningful when a modest increase in complexity of fitting provides a significant improvement in fit. I wouldn't say that's the case here. For this thirty-year period, a flat line fits as well as anything does, short of complicated functions that try to represent the 1989-90 peaks. To me that's what linear growth means in the noisy real world, where no long-term trends are free of short-term blips.

The other point is that one really has to look at both the annual changes and the cumulative absolute numbers. Large base membership of several millions makes annual variation in growth hard to see on the cumulative chart, but if you only look at annual change, you lose track of whether the change is adding to a base of millions, or of hundreds of millions. If a population of hundreds of millions were growing by 300,000 per year, then you couldn't say whether the growth was linear or exponential until you looked over centuries. When you know that the total number changed from six million to sixteen million over a time frame, however, then you know that exponential growth and linear growth would have to look totally different over that time frame.

To me the main point is that thinking in terms of percentage growth can blind one to what is really going on, because it artificially turns a simple situation (linear growth) into something more complicated (logarithmically falling percentage growth rate). This can get you looking in the wrong directions for explanations. One looks for things that have been changing over time to slow the growth rate down. If you focus on linear growth, on the other hand, then that says that growth is actually being determined by something that has NOT been changing. So one looks for factors that have remained constant, which might be playing a stronger role in church growth than one thought.

For example there is Analytics's suggestion that the sizes of younger age cohorts have been staying constant for quite a long time now, with population only growing in older ages. If the US population in the 20's age range has been staying constant, and if the church membership within that age range has also been staying constant, then this suggests that church growth has stayed flat simply because church growth is all about young people. If that were the real explanation, then one might decide to feel fine about flat growth, instead of being disturbed by falling growth, and stop looking for ways to boost missionary effectiveness. Or, if one did want to boost growth, one might look for ways to attract more older people, instead of trying to squeeze more young converts out of the non-growing pool.

I don't know whether that explanation about growth being all about youth will really hold up under closer examination, but it's an example of the different kind of explanation one finds when one thinks in terms of linear growth instead of percentages. 

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. 

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35 minutes ago, Analytics said:

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

Thanks for sharing the link to President Kimball's talk. When we studied Isaiah in Gospel Doctrine class I was surprised that prophecy in Isaiah was so liberally interpreted as to refer to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially in the context that the Kingdom of God referred only to Saints. After all, even the Council of 50 had non-Saints on it! This sermon you linked to, really helps me understand. I love his use of  "so-called Christian world" That is pretty blunt. Those of us non-LDS Christians are not really Christians, just "so-called" Christians. Apparently from most sources I know, Pentecostal Christianity is the fastest growing religious faith in the world right now. In my  mind that doesn't mean it is the most valid, "best," or most "approved by God" faith in the world. It is simply gaining, for one reason or another the most adherents right now. 

Edited by Navidad
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On the other hand, postulating that any given age cohort has a stable population just pushes the question back. What is keeping that number stable? Since people age linearly, and there's a boundary condition of zero people at zero age, there needs to be a steady linear gain from somewhere in order to keep a population steady within any fixed age range.

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If growth rates for the past decade remain constant, membership will increase to 12 million by the year 2000, to 35 million by 2020, and to 157 million by the mid-twenty-first century.

12 hours ago, ALarson said:

Wow.  Did they figure that correctly?  

The reason these numbers were not realized is that growth rates have not remained constant.  They have dropped off quite a bit.

Here are the average annual growth rates for the last several decades based on the official numbers reported at conference:

1980-1989: membership: 5.1% - units (wards+branches): 4.2%

1990-1999: membership: 4.0% - units: 4.1%

2000-2009: membership: 2.5% - units: 1.0%

2010-2017: membership: 1.9% - units:  0.9%

 

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19 hours ago, hoo rider said:

In response to the your statement that I bolded:

Do we know when the church started keeping all missing-in-action (MIA) members of the roles until 110?  Is it possible that the age used to be lower, but then a change was made during that period?  If the policy on keeping MIA members on the roles changed to 110 from a lower age (say 95), then we would expect that there would be a lower reported "death rate" of MIA church members for 15 years.  

I know I"m preaching to the choir, but I wish the church would give more information on membership counting.  It can be difficult to tell what is happening when we can't see the whole picture.  

I don't know.  

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11 minutes ago, churchistrue said:

Hard to know, but I think the safest bet would be that the growth continues to decrease at a very slow rate, possibly even go to zero or end up decreasing--though I think that's not for a long time maybe decades. The big factors are all negative: 1. birth rate of the active core is decreasing 2. conversion rates for new members is decreasing 3. resignations appears to be increasing and has become large enough that it's making a real impact (though this can only be extrapolated indirectly).

This "linear growth" thing, ie 300k per year. You need to get it out of your head. It's not a thing.

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. 

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34 minutes ago, Physics Guy said:

On the other hand, postulating that any given age cohort has a stable population just pushes the question back. What is keeping that number stable? Since people age linearly, and there's a boundary condition of zero people at zero age, there needs to be a steady linear gain from somewhere in order to keep a population steady within any fixed age range.

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.

 

Edited by Analytics

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If you guys keep talking about this "linear trend", I'm going to withdraw my partial apology. Please stop. It's not a thing.

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1 hour ago, Navidad said:

I am simply wondering why there is what I perceive to be a significant emphasis on the need or expectation for the Church to continually grow?

No. And many of us were saying the same thing back when numbers were big. I never understood the fascinating for a while in the 90's and early naught on "fastest growing."

1 hour ago, ALarson said:

I think for many of us it's because we heard preached so often that the Mormon church was the fastest growing religion on earth and that it would eventually cover the earth (giving the impression that almost all would eventually join the one true church on earth).

Well that's the prophecy although it's also clear contextually that the prophecy is fulfilled after great wars and destructions. Even then it sounds like it'll be well into the millennium. I've heard statements about covering the earth in the sense of being everywhere, but never it being a majority prior to the 2cd coming. Indeed the problem with all the focus on growth was always that continued growth seemed to conflict with most vague prophecies of the last days.

1 hour ago, Analytics said:

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. 

There are various pressures to get rid of people on the records who aren't members in any real sense. Don't know what the current incentives were, but when I was a kid often ward splits and so forth required more accurate information about members of record. I know in the 90's when I was ward hopping a fair bit since I was single I'd regularly get contacted by SLC asking where my ward was and if I still considered myself a member. So the idea that it's all people who haven't self-identified as Mormon is I think wrong. Something is keeping the number from becoming too inaccurate (which we'd expect over time if people weren't ever eliminated from records). I've no idea what contemporary policies do to update such figures. I know back again when I was younger they actually had leadership try and find people and sign that they weren't members - but that was in the days when it was tied to budgets too.

23 hours ago, RevTestament said:

One of the societal trends was the advent of the internet, which changed how people learn. It made anti-Church ideas and presentations much more accessible and prominent. I believe this too slowed the growth of the Church - at least in N. America. However, as compared to other Christian sects in N. America which entered a stage of decline, the Church has at least been able to continue growth. 

The whole "it's the internet" is a problematic thesis for several reasons. (Not pointing at you - just using your comments here as a jumping off point) The biggest one is the Canadian effect. You see the drop in Christians starting about a decade before the US in Canada - well before the rise of the internet. This graph from an old post shows this phenomena well:

CanadaRelLandscape-02.png

Second the trend change occurs well before the rise of the popular internet (usually dated to when AOL plugs into the Internet around 1997). 

I get why people like the "internet information" thesis but I really don't think there's a ton of evidence for it. I think LDS drops are tied to larger trends. Those trends are primarily a shift of those who had loose social and often only nominal connections to religions (they'd say they were members but weren't really participating) to no longer being associated. That in turn affects the socialization of their children. Combined with all this is a significant birth rate drop Mormons, as I've noted before, especially after 2008, had significant birth rate drops. That honestly explains most of the data.

The rest of the data is tied to the convert side and is largely attributable (IMO) to changes to the missionary program starting in 2012. You see a big drop in effectiveness that never recovers.

I also think a big problem for the Church is that they've primarily attracted converts from other Christian faiths who were dissatisfied with those faiths yet shared common expectations with Mormons. There's big a huge social shift over the last decade. The very notion of sin and duty as key to understanding religious belief and practice has changed. Now people look at what religion does for them rather than what religion demands of them. That shift to a more consumerist set of expectations isn't surprising but it is very transformative. That in turn really makes attracting people, particularly the young, difficult. Add in that the Church has never really done a good job tailoring a message to non-Christians and its missionary program is in turmoil.  You can compare it especially in Asia with similar organizations with similar growth curves like the Seventh Day Adventists. The Advenstists are doing great at conversion in Asia. We by and large are doing horrible. That's because of having no real message that connects. 

 

Edited by clarkgoble
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2 hours ago, Navidad said:

Perhaps this is a question that will seem silly to many of you, but I am going to take the risk and ask it anyway.  I am simply wondering why there is what I perceive to be a significant emphasis on the need or expectation for the Church to continually grow? This seems like something of a self-validating need? If the growth slows down or stops, or the Church begins to decline in membership does that really tell us anything about the quality or validity of the faith of the adherents? Does it say anything about the strength of its doctrine? Is there a sense that the Church is validated by its growth?
 

The LDS Church's "dominant narrative" is that it is the restoration of the church Jesus Christ organized and is the exclusive, one, true church of God. The purpose of the Church is to gather Israel and redeem all mankind through ordinances. It's intuitive, to me at least, that if that "dominant narrative" is to be accepted at face value, then the church should be a significant entity in the world. Either now, or growing into that in the future. If God's going to go through the trouble of having a church, it probably should eventually at least grow to something larger than a small regional church with less than .1% of the world's population as active members.

I wouldn't expect the church to level out at 5M active members (which is what it appears is happening) and becoming a less and less significant entity in the world, ie active members in the church as percent of world population is either shrinking or trending towards shrinking in the near future. I wouldn't expect that from the assumptions in the "dominant narrative" and it's one data point of many for me that led me to rethink my paradigm of the LDS Church.  

Edited by churchistrue

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51 minutes ago, churchistrue said:

If you guys keep talking about this "linear trend", I'm going to withdraw my partial apology. Please stop. It's not a thing.

Linear growth is a simple fact about what happened during that thirty-year time frame. Perhaps you can explain what you mean by "a thing".

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7 minutes ago, Physics Guy said:

Linear growth is a simple fact about what happened during that thirty-year time frame. Perhaps you can explain what you mean by "a thing".

It's akin to saying you noticed a trend that appears to be the little dipper in the chart. It's sort of interesting that you noticed that, but it means nothing. It's goofy to even talk about. 

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Clark, as always raises some great points. I wish he would also post a lesson on how to quote previous posts. I absolutely cannot figure out how to do the quote thing without quoting the whole thing!

Anyway, I am wondering if any of you are confident that you know and understand who the current target population is for the missionary? Are they given different training on how to present different material to different folks? Does the missionary sent to a Bible-belt town get the same training and use the same material as one sent to a Shinto country - just in different languages? I often agree with the pride of the Church in that it has wonderful training for language skills. It seems to me they are pretty ineffective in speaking however, my language as an evangelical (formal sense). I am surprised just in a simplistic example, how many LDS Christian teenagers don't know how to cite a Bible book or verse in a talk or testimony. Old Testament names give them fits. My impression is that their message is somewhat rote in nature. I have talked to many. Many do not seem to have enough personal knowledge of "so-called Christians" 🙄 to know how to speak to them in their language, in a way that will reach them and not turn them off. That is not a criticism; just an observation. In my unique in-between position I have yet to figure out which group understands the other the least. Both groups (Saints and so-called Christians) don't really understand the other, do a lot of parroting, and have terrible sensors in place as to whether the other is even listening anymore. I think both groups are equally bad in their "conversion of the other" efforts. 

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I must confess...everytime I see this type of discussion on LDS Church growth...I am somewhat at a loss to understand the angst and handwringing.  I am always reminded of  Elder Andersons talk entitled "It's true isn't? What else matters?"    The gospel  is being preached in all the world...at least in all the world that will allow us.  We have the Social Media presence which is increasing.  The peoples of the world are more and more...having their opportunity to hear the gospel.  At the end of the day...it's simply all about choices.  In my view, according to my understanding of the gospel....our responsibility is to share the gospel.  If the person I share with joins the church...great!  If they don't...I say "next"!!    I agree with Navidad...growth statisics cannot and should not...have any connection to the truthfulness of the gospel message.  If the church grows by a billion converts a year...yippee skippee,  if it continues to grow by 300k a year...that's fine too.  Either way...."It's true isn't it? What else matters?"

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9 minutes ago, Navidad said:

Clark, as always raises some great points. I wish he would also post a lesson on how to quote previous posts. I absolutely cannot figure out how to do the quote thing without quoting the whole thing!

Anyway, I am wondering if any of you are confident that you know and understand who the current target population is for the missionary? Are they given different training on how to present different material to different folks? Does the missionary sent to a Bible-belt town get the same training and use the same material as one sent to a Shinto country - just in different languages? I often agree with the pride of the Church in that it has wonderful training for language skills. It seems to me they are pretty ineffective in speaking however, my language as an evangelical (formal sense). I am surprised just in a simplistic example, how many LDS Christian teenagers don't know how to cite a Bible book or verse in a talk or testimony. Old Testament names give them fits. My impression is that their message is somewhat rote in nature. I have talked to many. Many do not seem to have enough personal knowledge of "so-called Christians" 🙄 to know how to speak to them in their language, in a way that will reach them and not turn them off. That is not a criticism; just an observation. In my unique in-between position I have yet to figure out which group understands the other the least. Both groups (Saints and so-called Christians) don't really understand the other, do a lot of parroting, and have terrible sensors in place as to whether the other is even listening anymore. I think both groups are equally bad in their "conversion of the other" efforts. 

It's pretty much a global strategy with global training materials and only customization at the local level based on small tweaks that a mission president or a missionary companionship might implement on their own based on trial and error. But those are mostly related to finding techniques, ie knocking on doors vs street contacting, etc. Targeting only occurs in the sense that the church reshuffles number of missionaries and mission boundaries based on where they're having most baptisms.

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12 minutes ago, Navidad said:

Clark, as always raises some great points. I wish he would also post a lesson on how to quote previous posts. I absolutely cannot figure out how to do the quote thing without quoting the whole thing!

Anyway, I am wondering if any of you are confident that you know and understand who the current target population is for the missionary? Are they given different training on how to present different material to different folks? Does the missionary sent to a Bible-belt town get the same training and use the same material as one sent to a Shinto country - just in different languages? I often agree with the pride of the Church in that it has wonderful training for language skills. It seems to me they are pretty ineffective in speaking however, my language as an evangelical (formal sense). I am surprised just in a simplistic example, how many LDS Christian teenagers don't know how to cite a Bible book or verse in a talk or testimony. Old Testament names give them fits. My impression is that their message is somewhat rote in nature. I have talked to many. Many do not seem to have enough personal knowledge of "so-called Christians" 🙄 to know how to speak to them in their language, in a way that will reach them and not turn them off. That is not a criticism; just an observation. In my unique in-between position I have yet to figure out which group understands the other the least. Both groups (Saints and so-called Christians) don't really understand the other, do a lot of parroting, and have terrible sensors in place as to whether the other is even listening anymore. I think both groups are equally bad in their "conversion of the other" efforts. 

whole thing

13 minutes ago, Navidad said:

Clark, as always raises some great points. I wish he would also post a lesson on how to quote previous posts. I absolutely cannot figure out how to do the quote thing without quoting the whole thing!

Part of quote. You just put your cursor in the quote and delete what you don't want. If you want to make a comment on just this part, then right click your mouse to "cut" what you don't want. Then when you have finished your comment, if you want to comment on something in the part you just "cut" hit <return> to move your cursor to the next line, and then use your mouse pointer to click on the quote mark above in the editor  tool bar. That will create a new quote text box for you. By clicking your cursor inside that box, you can now right click your mouse to paste what you have cut from the first quote box like this:

Quote

Anyway, I am wondering if any of you are confident that you know and understand who the current target population is for the missionary? Are they given different training on how to present different material to different folks? Does the missionary sent to a Bible-belt town get the same training and use the same material as one sent to a Shinto country - just in different languages? I often agree with the pride of the Church in that it has wonderful training for language skills. It seems to me they are pretty ineffective in speaking however, my language as an evangelical (formal sense). I am surprised just in a simplistic example, how many LDS Christian teenagers don't know how to cite a Bible book or verse in a talk or testimony. Old Testament names give them fits. My impression is that their message is somewhat rote in nature. I have talked to many. Many do not seem to have enough personal knowledge of "so-called Christians" 🙄 to know how to speak to them in their language, in a way that will reach them and not turn them off. That is not a criticism; just an observation. In my unique in-between position I have yet to figure out which group understands the other the least. Both groups (Saints and so-called Christians) don't really understand the other, do a lot of parroting, and have terrible sensors in place as to whether the other is even listening anymore. I think both groups are equally bad in their "conversion of the other" efforts. 

tada! If you want to delete a quote box you have created, move your mouse pointer to the "Quote" in the head of the box, and then hit your <Ctrl> key while right clicking at the same time, and a box will pop up giving you options of what to delete. Now you should be quote box savvy!

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4 minutes ago, RevTestament said:

tada! If you want to delete a quote box you have created, move your mouse pointer to the "Quote" in the head of the box, and then hit your <Ctrl> key while right clicking at the same time, and a box will pop up giving you options of what to delete. Now you should be quote box savvy!

Voila! I did it! Thanks amigo! Quote box savvy now! That is terrific!

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30 minutes ago, Navidad said:

Voila! I did it! Thanks amigo! Quote box savvy now! That is terrific!

If you want to just quote a small section, select that and a "quote selection" box should appear beneath it similar to the copy box, click on that to quote.  It doesn't always show up when selected for me, sometimes takes two or three times.  

Edited by Calm
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1 hour ago, clarkgoble said:

The whole "it's the internet" is a problematic thesis for several reasons. (Not pointing at you - just using your comments here as a jumping off point) The biggest one is the Canadian effect. You see the drop in Christians starting about a decade before the US in Canada - well before the rise of the internet. This graph from an old post shows this phenomena well:

CanadaRelLandscape-02.png

Second the trend change occurs well before the rise of the popular internet (usually dated to when AOL plugs into the Internet around 1997). I get why people like the "internet information" thesis but I really don't think there's a ton of evidence for it.

I agree somewhat, but note that talking points of critics get brought up in conversations, etc. Heck the whole "Letter to a CES Director" is an internet phenomenon I think. It seems the internet played a part in the general societal shift imho. Yes, I agree the societal shift began in the sixties before the internet, but again imho, the internet has increased it.  That is not based on actual statistics, which I think would be hard to come up with. It is just based on my observation.

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I think LDS drops are tied to larger trends. Those trends are primarily a shift of those who had loose social and often only nominal connections to religions (they'd say they were members but weren't really participating) to no longer being associated. That in turn affects the socialization of their children. Combined with all this is a significant birth rate drop Mormons, as I've noted before, especially after 2008, had significant birth rate drops. That honestly explains most of the data.

I agree it's a factor. I just brought up the lack of growth in U.S. population, which began after the baby boomers, but I agree the same has occurred in LDS populations but just to a lesser extent.

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The rest of the data is tied to the convert side and is largely attributable (IMO) to changes to the missionary program starting in 2012. You see a big drop in effectiveness that never recovers.

Just so I understand you, are you attributing a drop in conversions to a less effective missionary program? If so, what changes are you specifically blaming? it seems to me the missionary conversions were already dropping, and the changes were a reaction to that. 

Quote

I also think a big problem for the Church is that they've primarily attracted converts from other Christian faiths who were dissatisfied with those faiths yet shared common expectations with Mormons. There's big a huge social shift over the last decade. The very notion of sin and duty as key to understanding religious belief and practice has changed. Now people look at what religion does for them rather than what religion demands of them. That shift to a more consumerist set of expectations isn't surprising but it is very transformative. That in turn really makes attracting people, particularly the young, difficult. Add in that the Church has never really done a good job tailoring a message to non-Christians and its missionary program is in turmoil.  You can compare it especially in Asia with similar organizations with similar growth curves like the Seventh Day Adventists. The Advenstists are doing great at conversion in Asia. We by and large are doing horrible.

Wow. You don't seem to like the changes in the missionary program started by Monson. I agree the younger generation is different. They pose new issues. However, I don't see catering to their consumerist desires to be entertained. To the extent that they continue to expect their religion to be entertaining or to present solutions to all their "problems" or to bring them prosperity, I think the Church will continue to suffer in their conversion rates. However, the emphasis on tithing bringing blessings is surely an attempt to answer these types of demands. I agree that the younger generation has a new emphasis on entertainment rather than learning, but I think that the American society has just become more secular, and doesn't see a way of believing in evolution and God, for instance. I believe that is the major trend, but you do see a shift in the evangelical churches towards singing services, Christian bands, and other forms of consumerism.

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That's because of having no real message that connects. 

I wouldn't worry too much about the message. I think that issue will change soon enough.

 

Edited by RevTestament

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