The Unauthorized Investigator's Guide to
The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints

First Growth Paper

(A revised version of this is on the web here)


Measuring Church Growth

Rolling Unto the Ends of the Earth


The Truth About Mormonism
Mormon Missionaries
Mormon Missionary Lessons
God Is Our Loving Heavenly Father
The Gospel Blesses Families
Heavenly Father Reveals His Gospel in Every Dispensation
The Savior's Earthly Ministry
The Great Apostasy
The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through Joseph Smith
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ
Pray to Know the Truth through the Holy Ghost
Pre-Earth Life: God's Purpose and Plan for Us
The Creation
Agency and the Fall of Adam and Eve
Our Life on Earth
The Atonement
The Spirit World
The Resurrection, Judgment, and Immortality
Kingdoms of Glory
Through Christ We Can Be Cleansed from Sin
Faith in Jesus Christ
Baptism, Our First Covenant
The Gift of the Holy Ghost
Endure to the End
Pray Often
Study the Scriptures
Keep the Sabbath Day Holy
Baptism and Confirmation
Follow the Prophet
Keep the Ten Commandments
Live the Law of Chastity
Obey the Word of Wisdom
Keep the Law of Tithing
Observe the Law of the Fast
How to Donate Tithes and Offerings
Obey and Honor the Law
Priesthood and Auxiliaries
Missionary Work
Eternal Marriage
Temples and Family History
Teaching and Learning in the Church
Endure to the End
Mormon Church History
Mormon Church Growth

The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth.  
-D&C 65:2



This is just laying the foundation; it is a little nucleus, and a few thousands are gathering to it year after year; but the work that is now commenced will increase, and continue to increase, like the stone that was hewn out of the mountain.
Orson Pratt, 1854

In 1984 Sociologist Rodney Stark predicted that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would grow at a rate of 30-50% per decade for the next several decades, reaching from 70 million to possibly as high as 280 million members by the year 2080 (Stark, Rodney. 1984. "The Rise of a New World Faith." Review of Religious Research 26:18-27). From 1984 to 2000, the church actually grew at an average rate of 52% per decade, outpacing the upper bound on Stark’s prediction. This has led some people to think that the upper bound of Stark’s 2080 forecast is conservative.

This paper will discuss the nature of exponential growth and the prerequisites that the church must meet to sustain it. It will examine the evidence available for how well the church is meeting those prerequisites and will take a closer look at the church’s growth pattern over the last 25 years. It will argue that the growth rate of the church is decreasing and will probably continue to decrease in the future, with the total membership of the church never coming close to 280 million.

(Note:  The following discussion can be viewed as web pages or as a single *.pdf document using Acrobat Reader.  Click here to see the *.pdf document and here to see the tables and graphs, or simply follow the links below for the web page version.)


(Click on the formulas and graphs in the following sections to magnify)

  The Nature of Exponential Growth: Stark's prediction is based on the assumption that the church will continue to grow exponentially.  This section looks at the general characteristics necessary for continued exponential growth.

The Homogeneity of Mormons:  Are the new members of the church just as capable of generating more new members as their predecessors?

Competition:  Does the church have an advantage over other growing religions?

Deterministic Model:  The mathematics of growth.

Stochastic Model:  A statistical test of the hypothesis that the church grew exponentially from 1984 to 2000.

Forecast:  The growth of the church that I predict.

Conclusion:  The summary of the above analysis.

Index of Tables and Graphs



If you have a question or would like to discuss these topics, I suggest that you go to a Mormon-related bulletin board. If you'd like to <i>contact me</i> with comments or feedback, you may send an email to

Copyright © 2001 by Permission is granted to copy and distribute for non-commercial purposes provided the text is not changed and this copyright notice is included.