Is the LDS Church in Decline in Europe?

A further sign that all is not well for the LDS church in Europe is the latest administrative consolidation. Ten years ago, Europe was divided into three administrative “areas” (West, Central, and East) each presided over by three General Authorities or Area Authorities. With the church’s announcement, the number of areas now stands at one.

As a friend of mine noted, “Growing businesses don’t consolidate their structures. Businesses in trouble do.” It’s been well-known that the church’s growth rates in Europe have been flatlining or in decline for several years. This has to be particularly galling, considering that twenty years ago only Western Europe was open for missionary work. The fall of the Iron Curtain was widely expected to bring about major growth for the church in previously untapped countries. Instead, the church has a miniscule presence in Eastern Europe and has been stagnating in Western Europe.

Nevertheless, the First Presidency tries to sound upbeat and positive: “As we have prayerfully considered the matter of how to more effectively establish the Church in all the world as required by the revelations, we have felt impressed to reduce the current number of areas and to place upon Area Presidencies an increased responsibility for the operation of the Church.”

I read this as a possible warning that more consolidation is coming in the future. The church is not going to go away anytime soon, but it’s clear that the salad days of rapid growth are long over.

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39 Responses to Is the LDS Church in Decline in Europe?

  1. coca Cola says:

    Querido Runtu:

    Who are the “tent city” people you refer to in your earlier posts?

    Coke

  2. runtu says:

    You can find them here: http://www.ldsavow.com/

  3. Ray A says:

    Runtu, here are some figures for Australia:

    From 1976 to 2006 the year of highest growth was 1986 (16.62%).

    From 2000-2006, growth ranged between 1.59% and 1.98%.

    Current LDS Membership Growth Rate: 1.93% (#99 out of 245 countries).

    Current LDS Unit Growth Rate: -0.17%

    Australia Annual Population Growth Rate: 1.02% (#134 out of 245 countries.)

    Relative LDS Population Growth Rate (LDS membership growth rate minus population growth rate): 0.9%

    Relative LDS Unit Growth Rate (LDS unit growth rate minus population growth rate): -1.19%

    Average members per unit: 389
    Average active members per unit: 155 (The LDS activity rate is about 40%, but I believe this figure is too high.)

    Jehovah’s Witness congregations: 770
    Seventh-Day Adventists: 406
    LDS: 285

    LDS, as percent of population: 0.5756% (SDAs and JWs are similar)

    Average baptisms per mission per month: 24.8 (annual: 297.6)

    Average new converts retained per mission per year: 119 (annual not retained per mission per year: 178.6)

    Source: The Cumorah Project.

  4. jackmormon says:

    We care about Europe? Who cares about Europe?

  5. runtu says:

    A number of my readers are in Europe, and I would imagine they care about Europe.

  6. SillyNut says:

    I wish I were in Europe… A vacation sounds good. And then I could meet Wry!

  7. Chris says:

    Pentecostalism hasn’t done especially well in Eastern Europe, either, except among gypsies and in Romania. I’ve read that a major reason for this is that Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity were major hubs of resistance against Soviet Communism and so are strongly tied to nationalism and local cultures. People just aren’t that interested in foreign alternatives, particularly when they are funded by Western interests and do not have historic Eastern European ties. In some areas the Baptists have done well, partly because they have had a long-established presence (dating back, if you count the Anabaptists as Baptists, to the sixteenth century) and partly because, like the EOs and RCCs, they make a point of refusing foreign money and they aided in the resistance against Communism.

  8. measure76 says:

    The Lord’s only true and living, inspired church, can’t figure out how to get more converts… yet again.

    You would think if GOD HIMSELF was leading the church, he could at least suggest some policy changes that would help increase the number of true converts.

    Maybe he’s busy playing Golf.

  9. erlybird says:

    Europe is embracing Rationalism…it’s been going on for years and years. Here in the U.S. if you want to get elected to ANYTHING to must first tell people that you go to Church. It is political death to say that you put no stock in anything based on faith or religious belief.

    It is the exact opposite in Europe. If you are running for political office and you mention religion AT ALL, you are dubbed as a weirdo, crazy loon. It is no WONDER that it is more difficult to get people to listen to ANY relgio-insanity let ALONE that of the LDS missionaries.

    I know of what I speak. I proselytized in southern France and Switzerland in the early ’80s. The final stop on my own exit from the LDS church and to be quite frank, the very fact that I was SENT to Europe and saw how easily people discounted such silly notions made it a lot easier for me to make the break. I worked hard at finding a way to believe. I found none. Within 18 months of leaving my mission I was back in Europe, as a civilian, taking part in the culture and COMPLETELY understanding why religion is on the the slide in Europe and loving it even more for that very fact.

    • VFan says:

      You’re lucky you figured it out while you were still young and not yet married. I was 40 with a full family of believers by the time I wised up.

  10. You’re failing to notice the obvious answer to this. It’s not that the church is failing in Europe, it’s that most of the people in Europe are evil. Most of the wheat has been harvested and that just leaves the tares. (btw, this is meant to be sarcastic)

  11. measure76 says:

    LOL Michael. Well said.

    But uh, where IS the ripe wheat, ready to be harvested these days?

  12. sideon says:

    Re-enacting the harsh days of pioneers and pushcarts doesn’t quite touch the European heartstrings, evidently.

  13. zackc says:

    Runtu says: “A number of my readers…”

    This is more evidence of Runtu’s uppityness and ego. Bragging about readers like he’s the man. Well maybe he is, but does he have to rub our nose in it? 😛

  14. jackmormon says:

    When the conversion rate starts so drop in the 3rd World, I’d probably hit the panic button then. Oh wait, it has…. nevermind.

  15. jackmormon says:

    The claim that Mormonism is the fastest-growing faith in the world has been repeated so routinely by proud Latter-day Saints as to be perceived as unassailable fact.
    The trouble is, it isn’t true.
    Today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has more than 12 million members on its rolls, more than doubling its numbers in the past quarter-century. But since 1990, other faiths – Seventh-day Adventists, Assemblies of God and Pentecostal groups – have grown much faster and in more places around the globe. And most telling, the number of Latter-day Saints who are considered active churchgoers is only about a third of the total, or 4 million in the pews every Sunday, researchers say. For a church with such a large, dedicated missionary corps constantly seeking to spread its word, conversion numbers in recent years tell an unexpected story. According to LDS-published statistics, the annual number of LDS converts declined from a high of 321,385 in 1996 to 241,239 in 2004. In the 1990s, the church’s growth rate went from 5 percent a year to 3 percent. By comparison, the Seventh-day Adventist Church reports it has added more than 900,000 adult converts each year since 2000 (an average growth of about 5 percent), bringing the total membership to 14.3 million. The Assemblies of God now claims more than 50 million members worldwide, adding 10,000 new members every day. On the question of how many Mormons are actively participating, BYU demographer Tim Heaton noted in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism that attendance at weekly sacrament meetings in the early 1990s was between 40 % and 50 % in Canada, the South Pacific, and the United States. In Europe and Africa, the average was 35%. Attendance in Asia and Latin America hovered around 25 %. By multiplying the number of members in each area by these fractions, estimates show worldwide activity at about 35% – which would give the church about 4 million active members.

  16. labestia says:

    Señores:
    Pregunto?…
    Por que les interesa polemizar acerca de algo que desprecian?
    Dejen esto para los que hemos arriesgado la vida por esta causa y seguimos viviendo para defender estos principios.
    Para los que la causa del Señor es el principal motivo para vivir, no podemos andar polemizando.
    Si deseamos jugar ….busquemos otra cosa!

  17. runtu says:

    Reconocer que la iglesia tiene problemas en Europa no es “polemizar.”

  18. Brian says:

    I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that the days of the Gentiles are coming to a close and now the Gospel will be preached more abundantly to the Lamanites and Jews. Not much of a presence in Israel yet, but we are not shrinking in the Pacific Islands nor in Latin America. Numbers of converts among white Americans is shrinking as well, and yet Mormonism continues to grow among the Latin American communities in the United States. Oh no, that can’t mean the Book of Mormon prophecies are actually coming true. Say what you want, this is what has been prophesied all along. Europe is corrupt and they will sign on to the Anti-Christ and attack Israel soon.

    • Graham Lindsay says:

      A word from England. I find it very funny how a religion that is based on a charlatans lies and false doctrine can be used to call Europeans evil and corrupt. I say bah humbug to the deluded and the deranged who follow all the contradictory junk that is written within the pages of their anti Christian texts. The Mormon Church is the church of the anti Christ. They have bastardized the Bible, they have made up fictional texts of Abraham and Mozes, which only a deluded imbecile would give any merit to. We in Europe are rejecting this phony cult for all its worth. May it wither and die to the pathetic rump it deserves to become. Israel is a young country and will go through many difficulties before it stabilizes within recognized boundaries. There will be conflict for decades if not centuries between the Palestinians and the Israelis due to deep ingrained religious antagonism and the deep mistrust over land ownership. The Book of Mormon is worthless dust that has nothing to say but lies.

      • JC says:

        The Mormon church is not based on the “anti-Christ” anymore than any other religion out there. The anti-Christ doesn’t exist, any more than God, demons, or werewolves do.

        If you want to attack the Mormons, first look at all of the silly Mythology that your own religion (presumably Evangelical Christianity) believes in.

      • craig says:

        Did you have to go through a dictionary to compose that rant. Moses with a ‘Z’, Come on !

      • Gulsen Holton says:

        oh you silly sod, Mormons are idiots but so are you. Calm down and if you are going to burst a blood vessel try spell check before you cover the page with your undiluted bile. I agree that the Book of Mormon is rubbish but you sound like Ian Paisley shouting at the Pope, Anti-Christ indeed. I agree with your views on Israel so your not totally stupid. Leave ranting about religion to other religious bigots and keep calm. Mormons are a dying breed but morons are not.

  19. Jackmormonofeurope says:

    I think that Europeans are now wise to a lot of American junk that is exported to make cash! Mormonism is exposed as a questionable faith. Manipulation, cash orientated and a product of dubious worth other than to supply an arrogant race, Americans, with financial assets they poorly manage!

    • craig says:

      You think!!! Are you sure ??? Who exposed anything and who cares??? i suspect you have no idea where any money in the church goes, or infact that the church leaders are unpaid and self funded in all cases. Mormons do alot of good in the world, they have been practising ‘the BIG society’ for years, helping the poor and needy, the sick and those caught up in natural disasters. They channel their money through organisations like Oxfam, Children in need and so on. Are you critical of those organisations as well?? They believe that people should be free to worship or not worship, and respect all faiths and laws of the land. There are more Mormons worldwide than just in America. Generally good people. You are entitled to an opinion…but please back it up with some real evidence, and not just what you think!

      • Hurcules says:

        Sorry to burst your bubble, but mormon leaders are paid. I worked for IRS in Ogen, UT years ago and saw many general authority tax returns, They were paid well then, and I assume are still paid well. The only one that are not paid are the local leaders at stake and wards.

  20. Mike says:

    I moved from the most liberal state in the US in regards to religion (Oregon) to Sweden. Yes, religion is on decline in these nations (except for Islam) but a lot has to do with governmental and cultural forces marginalizing religion.

    Europe (western) has lost that idea of spiritual inquisitiveness as well as much of the concept of commitment to culture or the idea of sacrificing to raise a family. It takes a lot of guts to break out of the cycle of conformity in western Europe and explore a religion like Mormonism.

    Now here’s the problem though. The type of person who will explore and search for truth and meaning in life beyond drinking and sex is often rather far outside the norm. In my experience I have found them to be more essoteric and experimental — in fact, the ones I talk to and have had visit church with me are the kind you might find listening to death metal rather than flute music from the 1950s. They want somethig different but nowadays we seem to be offering white shirts on Sunday and …and…let me think…well, that’s a tough one. When I joined the church back in the late 70s there seemed to be a kind of revolutionary and idealistic message (much as it was with what the prophets of the 1800s promoted). We are somewhat corporate now and to tell you the truth I don’t think that’s what the searchers are looking for.

  21. Michael says:

    I am English – and have been reading about the Mormons recently, after finding a Mormon funded statue in Liverpool (where I live) of sad looking poor people facing out to sea … to America, that land of freedom?
    hahahahahahaha. Interestingly the Mormons are now the largest foreign land owner in the UK…. which is a bit strange, and they make £2.5 million a year off the land, which they send to Uganda.
    I think Mormonism might interest people for a few or so, but isn’t something people will join in any serious way

  22. Maria S. says:

    The lds church continues to grow at phenomenal levels across the world including Europe. If you’re in doubt look at the church’s growth statistics announced each April Conference and at the amount of tithing expenditures dedicated to facility growth in Europe.

    As for the rationality of the premise of this web site, it seems poorly conceived, extreme stretches in thought to justify poorly documented theory and an obvious bent towards hoping the church is in decline. Your argument is sad really and far from true. The consolidation of church administrative function occurs from time to time and simply makes good business sense.

  23. runtu says:

    Maria,

    I’m not “hoping” the church is in decline in Europe or anywhere else. I really don’t care whether the church grows or shrinks. That said, the church is definitely not experiencing “phenomenal levels” of growth in Europe. If you want to see some actual numbers, please see http://www.cumorah.com.

    As for an “argument,” I am not aware of having made one, sad, poorly documented, or otherwise. I’ve simply given my view of the subject.

  24. craig says:

    Like everything, their are ebbs and flows of membership. It could be down to the move to a more secular Europe, and religion under attack generally.
    I don’t see any lack of growth world wide. With growth obviously comes more members falling away from religion. I have been a member all my life, but was totally inactive for about 10 years. It all comes down to personal choice….you all make yours, and I have made mine. In a free Europe I have that right. I am happy now I have had to choose. I am also doing a pHD and have considered many of the points raised during my time. I can only say that I have only ever found a faith to be a positive inclusion in my life, because at the end of the day, humans do not have all the answers.

  25. Aaron says:

    I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    I know full well that the growth of our church in Europe is on the decline. It is definitely not the fastest growing church in the world anymore either. I think that because we used to be the fastest growing some members still think that we are.

    I really think that a mistake that members of our church and non-members make is to compare with other churches in relation to growth. The things that someone needs to do to be recognised as a member in our church is very different to most others. I’m not trying to say it’s easier or harder, I’m just saying that it’s different. There are to many variables to get an accurate representation of how well one church is doing in when comparing with another.

    The right thing to do is what many of you have said and that is to look at our own growth trends and compare with our own history. The growth in Europe is on decline but I know that our church leaders aren’t just smiling and pretending like all is well. We are working hard and setting goals and making plans as to what we should do. Our leaders have prayed and sought revelation as to what we should do. I believe that they have received answers and if we do as God commands then we will see the blessings.

    • runtu says:

      I’m a member of the LDS church, too. What I am cautioning against is the seemingly widespread belief that growth in numbers somehow validates the truth of the church.

      • Todd says:

        Amen to that. Certain prophecies indicate that the church will always comprise a minority of the Earth’s population, and there is strong inferrences suggesting that even in the Millennium the church will not be an exclusive world religion. Yet, some members seem to thrive on the concept that the Church will someday dominate the world in the same way it dominates Utah. I for one find such an idea unsavory, instead savoring the rarity of our members.

  26. Harlan says:

    Is the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saint in decline…? In your dreams…!

    • runtu says:

      I couldn’t care less what the church does. I’m sure not dreaming of anything. But yes, the church is clearly in decline in Europe, as all the statistics show. *shrug*

  27. […] atrás o Brasil gozava de duas áreas administrativas, que foram consolidadas em uma, e a Europa consolidou de três para duas. Esforços missionários mais intensos nos últimos quatro anos não resultaram […]

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