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 Post subject: Re: Church Membership Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:36 am 
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Craig Paxton wrote:
stem wrote:
Do you mind digging up a few of those prophecies?

You're kidding right? But sure, here's 4 pages of them https://www.LDS.org/search?domains=gene ... hout+hands and if you didn't already know its part of your so called scriptures Doctrine and Covenants 65:2; see also Doctrine and Covenants 110:11.


I was curious what prophecies JLHProf had in mind when he mentioned prophecies that seem to combat the stone cut out of a mountain one. I think he's saying that we've reached the day when the gospel as reached all nations type of stuff. But I'm curious his response anyway.


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 Post subject: Re: Church Membership Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:37 am 
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Craig Paxton wrote:
Oops, My bad I misread this post, didn't realize it was directed at JLHPROF instead of from him. Stem please disregard my reply :-)


Oops. I chimed in before I saw this.


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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:09 am 
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Physics Guy wrote:
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I used to be into this but what turns me off is how unreal the membership count actually is. ... [W]hat it means to be a "member" is ill-defined. It has little to do with the actual strength of the church--it's just a number that comes out of a database query. What does matter are the counts in the three top groups: how many people self-identify as Mormons, how many are active, and how many are super-dedicated to the point of having a current temple recommend. The church has those numbers, but doesn't share them with us.

So what is going on? We know that demographically, life expectancy has been going up, while fertility rates have been going down. More people from the core group are leaving the church. Most converts leave the church, too. The effort required to get another 275,000 converts continually goes up ... . [boldface added]


This goes back to my previous theory, from that other thread, to explain the linear growth: that the numbers were bogus. The initial version of the theory was that whoever was presenting the numbers was really fudging them, by redefining criteria if not by flat-out lying. That became less plausible once churchistrue plotted out the yearly increases, as opposed to the running total membership numbers, because that made it apparent that the number of members added each year has really not been that constant. It has bounced up and down, just never too far from 300K, and with no systematic increasing or decreasing trend over thirty years. So blatant fudging to make sure that each year at least made as big a gain as the previous year was not really tenable.

It could still nonetheless be that the numbers are effectively fudged, just less blatantly. Perhaps nobody is really rejigging definitions in order to make each year's numbers be whatever they want that year, but rather the church as a whole organization responds to growth figures to try to keep them up. Apart from just fudging numbers outright, the main way I see for the church to try to raise numbers is to put pressure on mission authorities and on parents and grandparents, in order to induce them to baptize people who would not previously have been accepted as ready for baptism. This could mean dunking poor people who are really only there for financial assistance; it could mean guilting inactive parents into baptizing their children for the grandparents' sake.

The point would be that these measures are obviously unpleasant for sincere Mormons to implement, so nobody would apply them any more than they felt was necessary. The other ingredient in this theory is the idea that keen active members will panic if growth levels actually fall significantly from what they were recently, and in their panic become willing to push hard for more growth; but they will not be as prepared to lower baptism standards and strain family relationships just to raise growth levels above the level of recent years.

Together those two factors would be a recipe for fairly steady linear growth. If growth should happen to rise significantly over a few years, then people would gratefully relax the unpleasant effort of winking at bogus baptisms and pressuring children; if growth should fall, however, people would reluctantly increase those unpleasant efforts until growth came back up enough. On this theory, an active core membership that was not just stagnant but actually shrinking could still maintain steady linear growth by pushing harder and harder. Eventually, of course, there would be a limit to how hard they could push—and then growth would collapse. Or, on the other hand, a growing active core group might still provide only linear growth in total membership because the active members were taking advantage of their own increased numbers to relax their unpleasant efforts while maintaining acceptable growth. If the core group continued to grow once all the painful efforts had been abandoned, then growth would start to become exponential.


It seems to me your theory is certianly plausible. There are a couple of factors to consider in this, I think.

Converting people in the west is harder than it used to be, overall. While the growth is linear, and convert numbers remain fairly steady (although that has dipped recently), it is harder to get people to join and to keep people in than it used to, just by the sheer pressure from society and access to information factors. Thus, it is possible that the core group grows to some extent, but are unable to bring in converts like they once did. It may be that there were 2 million core members in '88 compared to a possible 4 or even 4.5 million today. THat may still just mean linear growth to the core, but it also could mean the core is not stagnant. One thing remains evident though, the majority of those the Church claims as members don't consider themselves members at all. Also, in terms of converts, very few seem to stick still.

Growth trends, or declinging trends vary by region. Some areas seem to capture the excitement of the religion while others tend to struggle with its relevance, at the same time. If so, then it seems some areas probalby have very little growth in the core at all, and in cases like Great Britain, the rest of Europe and perhaps even North America, the core group stays stagnant, while other areas the core grows to some extent.

Anyway, my thoughts on this.


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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:44 am 
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I'm not committed to any particular theory; if anyone else has other theories than mine I'd be glad to see them.

My basic point is just that linear growth over thirty years is a remarkable fact. It's not just a default that calls for no explanation.

Exponential growth—or decline—is what you expect in simple situations where the main effect on something's growth is just the thing itself. But with exponential growth, the rate of growth always changes in lockstep with the number that's growing. If your numbers have doubled, then your rate of growth must have doubled, too—or you're just not growing exponentially.

The LDS church has been on cruise control, growth-wise, for thirty years. That can't just happen; it requires some kind of feedback mechanism that tends to stabilize the growth rate around the same level even as other factors change.

I don't care what the mechanism turns out to be. I'm just curious what it is. Whatever it is, it's been working for at least thirty years.


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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:58 am 
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Wait. Doesn’t a constant growth rate produce exponential growth? Annual doubling would be a constant growth rate of 100%, wouldn’t it?

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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 10:36 am 
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Physics Guy wrote:
I don't care what the mechanism turns out to be. I'm just curious what it is. Whatever it is, it's been working for at least thirty years.

Theory: Utah economics. The church drives the economy in Utah. New congregational units depend on things like meetinghouses. Which then further depends on the capacity of Mormon businesses like Jacobsen Construction, which get awarded all that work. So, the linearity you describe could be a reflection of the capacity of the underlying economy in Utah, all the Mormon owned businesses, the friends/family of leaders, etc., which benefit from and participate in this whole machine.

ETA: The machine also includes foreign participation. So when growth happens in a place like Africa, on the ground what you'll find is that to a certain extent locals become a part of this economy. There is a local bureaucracy that becomes paid staff. There are some number of local contractors that start getting church contracts to participate in building construction. And so on. And by extension those people then have a vested interest in driving missionary work and finding bodies to fill the pews. All of the money runs through Utah, though.


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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 12:07 pm 
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Res Ipsa wrote:
Wait. Doesn’t a constant growth rate produce exponential growth? Annual doubling would be a constant growth rate of 100%, wouldn’t it?


Naw, you're just thinking of "growth rate" as "rate of exponential growth". Growth as a percentage of previous numbers is the right way to think about exponential growth.

I'm talking about linear growth, though, which the LDS church has been doing. The constant growth rate is 300K new Mormons per year (on average—it does fluctuate from year to year around that average). It's not a constant percentage of the current total whatever that may be: it's a constant absolute number of new members getting added each year. That's what a constant rate means, when you're talking about linear growth.

It's like a fixed salary as opposed to an investment with fixed annual yield. And that's really my point. These are two quite different kinds of increase, and you have to think of them differently.


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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 12:12 pm 
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Water Dog wrote:
Theory: Utah economics. The church drives the economy in Utah. New congregational units depend on things like meetinghouses. Which then further depends on the capacity of Mormon businesses like Jacobsen Construction, which get awarded all that work. So, the linearity you describe could be a reflection of the capacity of the underlying economy in Utah, all the Mormon owned businesses, the friends/family of leaders, etc., which benefit from and participate in this whole machine.

Something along these lines may be worth considering, but economic growth is normally exponential. Economists expect to add a couple of percent a year to everything. So although economic factors might well be part of the feedback mechanism that has kept Mormon church growth on cruise control for thirty years, the question of why the economic factors have led to linear rather than exponential growth still needs to be answered.


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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 12:46 pm 
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Physics Guy wrote:
Res Ipsa wrote:
Wait. Doesn’t a constant growth rate produce exponential growth? Annual doubling would be a constant growth rate of 100%, wouldn’t it?


Naw, you're just thinking of "growth rate" as "rate of exponential growth". Growth as a percentage of previous numbers is the right way to think about exponential growth.

I'm talking about linear growth, though, which the LDS church has been doing. The constant growth rate is 300K new Mormons per year (on average—it does fluctuate from year to year around that average). It's not a constant percentage of the current total whatever that may be: it's a constant absolute number of new members getting added each year. That's what a constant rate means, when you're talking about linear growth.

It's like a fixed salary as opposed to an investment with fixed annual yield. And that's really my point. These are two quite different kinds of increase, and you have to think of them differently.


I think we may be talking about two different things. The statistics we’ve been discussing measure the rate of growth from the previous year, rather than as a percentage of the first year. So, if the growth rate, year on year, stays at a constant 3%, the number of members is growing exponentially.

Or, reaching way back to calculus, if you take the derivative of function that determines the number of members twice and get a constant, the original function is exponential.

Does that work?

I agree that linear growth over that number of years is odd.

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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 1:17 pm 
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Res Ipsa wrote:
I think we may be talking about two different things. The statistics we’ve been discussing measure the rate of growth from the previous year, rather than as a percentage of the first year. So, if the growth rate, year on year, stays at a constant 3%, the number of members is growing exponentially.

I'm telling you that you shouldn't be discussing those kind of statistics here. They're like telling a kid in their first job that in month 2 they made 100% of their previous lifetime earnings (namely one month's pay) but in month 11 they only made 10% (of ten months' pay). It's technically accurate but it's just not the right way to put the situation.

Interpreting the kid's financial situation in terms of falling percentage yield is going to lead them to try to restore conditions back to those glory days of month 2 when monthly growth was 100%. That won't help, though, because month 11 was not actually worse in any way than month 2. The kid's financial problem in month 11 is really the same one they've had from the beginning: a low monthly paycheck.

That's also how things seem to be for the Mormon church. You can lay a ruler along the tops of churchistrue's bar chart bars. The membership growth is linear, not exponential. So analyzing it in exponential terms is going to misinterpret whatever has happened.

(If you differentiate a function twice and get a constant, then the function was a quadratic, not an exponential. An exponential is the function whose derivative is a constant times the function itself.)


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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 1:50 pm 
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Physics Guy wrote:
Res Ipsa wrote:
I think we may be talking about two different things. The statistics we’ve been discussing measure the rate of growth from the previous year, rather than as a percentage of the first year. So, if the growth rate, year on year, stays at a constant 3%, the number of members is growing exponentially.

I'm telling you that you shouldn't be discussing those kind of statistics here. They're like telling a kid in their first job that in month 2 they made 100% of their previous lifetime earnings (namely one month's pay) but in month 11 they only made 10% (of ten months' pay). It's technically accurate but it's just not the right way to put the situation.

Interpreting the kid's financial situation in terms of falling percentage yield is going to lead them to try to restore conditions back to those glory days of month 2 when monthly growth was 100%. That won't help, though, because month 11 was not actually worse in any way than month 2. The kid's financial problem in month 11 is really the same one they've had from the beginning: a low monthly paycheck.

That's also how things seem to be for the Mormon church. You can lay a ruler along the tops of churchistrue's bar chart bars. The membership growth is linear, not exponential. So analyzing it in exponential terms is going to misinterpret whatever has happened.

(If you differentiate a function twice and get a constant, then the function was a quadratic, not an exponential. An exponential is the function whose derivative is a constant times the function itself.)


Ah, thanks. I was confusing quadratic with exponential. I understand your point and agree with it. I just got sideways with the math. Saying that the year to year growth rate is crashing gives the impression that the trend will lead to a decline in the membership numbers, when the trend is actually a linear increase.

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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 2:16 pm 
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Res Ipsa wrote:
Physics Guy wrote:
Naw, you're just thinking of "growth rate" as "rate of exponential growth". Growth as a percentage of previous numbers is the right way to think about exponential growth.


If somebody said the growth rate of the church was 1% per year, I'd assume they did in fact mean it was growing 1% exponentially.

The idea of 280,000,000 Mormons by the year 2080 comes from the non-Mormon sociologist Rodney Stark. He looked at early Christianity, and determined that during the first 200 years of Christianity, the Church was growing exponentially at a rate of about 30% to 50% per decade. So according to him, Christians were a small group that was growing exponentially in a way that caused a small-but-growing group to eventually exploded into a major world religion. But it wasn't that something fundamentally changed that caused the explosion. Rather, the exponential growth eventually did its thing in a smooth, predictable way. The exponential growth curve was justified with the theory that it grew along social networks.

He then took that model and overlaid it onto Mormonism--Mormonism had been growing exponentially at a rate of 30% to 50% per decade for several decades, driven by the same social-network-member-missionary mechanism. He was making these arguments in 1980. Taking the church of 4.8M and growing it by 30% to 50% for 100 years resulted in 67M to 280M members by 2080. What really captured everyone's imagination is that when he revisited his projections 20 years later in the year 2000, the church had grown faster than 50% per decade for two decades in a row, making the 280M forecast seem conservative.

The thing is, in all circumstances exponential growth simply can't last forever. There are no exceptions to this (other than, perhaps, the volume of the universe itself?).

The church's growth rate has been consistently slowing down since the mid-90's. Members are having fewer kids, and are waiting to have kids. The demographics are switching away from the 5th generation families to other places and cultures where more than 1 or 2 kids isn't practical for most people. As a percentage of total membership, fewer are going on missions. More are going apostate or inactive. After missionaries have been preaching in the same Latin-American town for a few decades, the message is no longer new, interesting, or exciting, and it gets harder to find new blood. Yes, the Internet is part of it, but let's be honest here--you don't need the Internet to figure out this message doesn't make sense. It is patently obvious. If the Internet has had an effect, it is that it allows people to find communities with like-minded people, freeing them to leave Mormonism and find a more suitable group of friends.

I don't think there is a force causing it to grow linearly. Rather, I think the growth rate is slowing down--the church is working harder and harder to get new members. This happens to result in a period of more-or-less linear growth for a few decades. While linear growth could continue for a very long time, I doubt it will.

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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 2:25 pm 
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Physics Guy wrote:
Res Ipsa wrote:
I think we may be talking about two different things. The statistics we’ve been discussing measure the rate of growth from the previous year, rather than as a percentage of the first year. So, if the growth rate, year on year, stays at a constant 3%, the number of members is growing exponentially.

I'm telling you that you shouldn't be discussing those kind of statistics here.

:rolleyes: You vastly underestimate the audience here.
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That's also how things seem to be for the Mormon church. You can lay a ruler along the tops of churchistrue's bar chart bars. The membership growth is linear, not exponential. So analyzing it in exponential terms is going to misinterpret whatever has happened.

Yes, it seems linear, but laying a ruler atop a very small online bar chart where the change is an extremely small amount of the total is not a good method for determining the underlying type of growth. Analysis of the data itself is necessary.

That being said, the data components underlying the absolute change in membership seem too stable to be organic. I suspect that the convert numbers, collected from mission reports and evaluated across the years relative to the changes missionary numbers, may be the strongest component of what seems to indicate an artificially linear-looking pattern, and may also be the category most susceptible to artificial manipulation.

The birth of children of record is very far off from known birth rates; looking at the pattern of presented data over the years relative to expected birth rates may also indicate a very artificial pattern, or provide further evidence that the totals are extremely overinflated and artificially maintained.

If the underlying data is found to be artificially holding fairly steady in a manner that appears to be closer to linear than anything else, that may be the strongest evidence that the church is aware of exponential decline in the rate of growth and is trying to hide it.
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I don't think there is a force causing it to grow linearly. Rather, I think the growth rate is slowing down--the church is working harder and harder to get new members. This happens to result in a period of more-or-less linear growth for a few decades. While linear growth could continue for a very long time, I doubt it will.

ETA: I agree with Analytics that the church may be experiencing an otherwise normal exponential decline; my opinion is that their reaction is to attempt to massage the data to hide it, resulting in an artificial pattern.


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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 2:49 pm 
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Lemmie, I’m not sure I understand your point about the missionary and convert numbers. Are you saying that, given the relatively significant swings in the number of missionaries, we should have seen wider swings in the number of converts? If so, is there any kind of statistical test that evaluate the historical relationship between number of missionaries and number of converts and then see if that relationship changed at some point?

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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 2:53 pm 
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Lemmie wrote:
...If the underlying data is found to be artificially holding fairly steady in a manner that appears to be closer to linear than anything else, that may be the strongest evidence that the church is aware of exponential decline in the rate of growth and is trying to hide it.

ETA: I agree with Analytics that the church may be experiencing an otherwise normal exponential decline; my opinion is that their reaction is to attempt to massage the data to hide it, resulting in an artificial pattern.


As far as I can tell, the only way they actually meddle with the data is by changing the definition of who is a member. If you were blessed and are now 6, are you a member? If you were blessed and turned 10 but still haven't been baptized, are you a member? What if you are totally lost to the church and they don't know your address? Still a member? Even if you are 100? 110? There are a surprising number of scenarios where whether or not a record in the database "should" be in the membership count is fuzzy.

Over time, the number of converts and total membership number has been stable. "New Children of Record" and the imputed balancing item of "deaths-excommunications-resignations" are the least stable. In fact, there were a few years in the 80's and 90's when the total church membership increased by more than the number of convert baptisms and births.

So why has the number of convert baptisms been so stable? It might have to do with how missionary resources are allocated, and some mental benchmarks that funnel down to missionaries on what needs to happen one way or another. Maybe the GA's know that falling below 250k converts would be a real blow, so while they put as much missionary effort as they can into rich areas where they want to grow, they put as much missionary effort as they need to into poor Latin American (now African) countries where they will get enough baptisms to keep the total number of converts near the 300k number that has become a mental benchmark.

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 Post subject: Re: Church Membership Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 6:48 pm 
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Stem wrote:
It's becoming more and more apparent to me, that "growth" to the Church is not to be measured in membership anymore. "Growth" is only measured in financial gain. It used to be that financial gain would be a result of membership growth. I don't' think that's necessarily true anymore. So the Church had to redefine growth.



And if it so be that you should labor all your days, and bring, save it be one dollar unto me, how great shall be your joy with that dollar in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one dollar that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many dollars unto me!


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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:14 pm 
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oliblish wrote:
Craig Paxton wrote:
Seems stagnante or declining growth is the norm world wide

http://www.cumorah.com/index.php?target ... s&cat_id=2

10 years ago USA could account for at least 100,000 converts a year...last year America accounted for less than 50,000 ...seriously something is happening...this is a trend we've been seeing for at least a decade and its excellerating.

Even with nearly 50,000 new members in the US, the total number of congregations increase by:

ZERO

In 2016 there were 14,225 congregations in the US.
In 2017 that number was 14,225 congregations.

That tells me that the number of active members actually didn't change by much if any. That leads me to believe that around 50,000 members that were active at the end of 2016 were inactive by the end of 2017.



I think this is one of the things that has to keep GAs up at night. The church has over 6 million members in the USA and yet could only garner a .007 growth rate in it’s own backyard. This is pathetic growth

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Last edited by Craig Paxton on Fri Apr 13, 2018 8:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 7:48 pm 
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I can explain the linear growth without knowing anything about statistics.

As a missionary, every week you call in stats to your DLs; DLs to ZLs, and all the way up. There's a certain sweet spot for how many Book of Mormon's you've given out, first discussions, total discussions, and so on. No one wants to draw attention by reporting a zero or very low number. If the "meh" number is 5 Book of Mormon's a week, then missionaries report 5 and that could be an outright fabrication, but it's most likely a well-rationalized number. Enough key points brought up at a door one week could count as a first discussion, or a zero could be a 5 with good intentions to make up for it the next week. And this works at every level. If the greenie comp report 1 discussion, the DL's might up that to three to keep the heat off.

You could physically count book of Mormons going out and audit these numbers, but at what expense and for what? I assume the mission president reports to Salt Lake City the same way the ZLs report to him. Now, baptisms in a European mission obviously can't be fudged; that hovers around zero. But in missions where there are baptisms, I'll bet the numbers are reported the same way that Book of Mormon's going out are reported, and lists of names and permits aren't physically tallied and what gets reported is the "meh" number unless occasionally, there's a miracle and that number is beaten.

Since there is no growth, only decline, at a mission level, the next round of stats on average looks like the previous, which looks like the previous. This is the "deniability" number, that keeps everyone from getting chewed out and doesn't raise suspicion. It won't be 5 - 5 - 5 - 5 -5, but 4 - 6 - 5 -5 - 4. I'm sure membership stats are summarized the same way from bishops.

I'd put a least and Andrew Jackson on this theory.

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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Fri Apr 13, 2018 9:09 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2018 3:12 am 
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A few pictures relevant to the discussion.


Image

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The recent stalling of congregation growth in the US has captured significant attention. But surely the leadership saw this coming years ago. They have had access to far more data than anyone. The graphs above tell a story that has been unfolding since the mid 1990s.

Both graphs show congregation growth over the last 30 years in some key countries. During that period, growth in each country reached a tipping point (indicated by the arrows), where unit growth noticeably slowed down or began falling. For ALL but one of the countries outside of the US that tipping point occurred between 1995 and 2003. Nigeria, like most African countries, continues to power ahead.

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 Post subject: Re: Church "Growth" Continues it's Nose Dive
PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 6:26 am 
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Lemmie wrote:
Yes, it seems linear, but laying a ruler atop a very small online bar chart where the change is an extremely small amount of the total is not a good method for determining the underlying type of growth. Analysis of the data itself is necessary.

This online bar chart is not so small. It covers 27 years, and over this period the total number of Mormons doubled. Yet the straight line fits very well throughout the whole time.

You can always do more analysis, but pointing out this striking linearity is analysis of the data itself, and when the linearity is this striking, then drawing the line is an excellent way to determine the type of growth.

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That being said, the data components underlying the absolute change in membership seem too stable to be organic. I suspect that the convert numbers, collected from mission reports and evaluated across the years relative to the changes missionary numbers, may be the strongest component of what seems to indicate an artificially linear-looking pattern, and may also be the category most susceptible to artificial manipulation.

Right. That was my first theory.

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The birth of children of record is very far off from known birth rates; looking at the pattern of presented data over the years relative to expected birth rates may also indicate a very artificial pattern, or provide further evidence that the totals are extremely overinflated and artificially maintained.

The birth rates are indeed weird, too. But can they really get away with fudging those?

It is possible that some kind of natural slowing down just happens, by fluke, to have produced linear growth for three decades. It would take quite a fluke, though, to keep the growth line so straight for so long. It seems worthwhile to look for some explanation that does not involve fluke.


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