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7/2/97 Mormonism’s growth pushing membership toward 10 million

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Mormons have grown to 9.7 million members worldwide since 1820, when Joseph Smith told of having a vision of “two Personages” who instructed him not to join any existing church because they were “all wrong,” their members were “all corrupt” and their creeds were an “abomination in (the Lord’s) sight.”
Utah and other western states remain Mormonism’s “breadbasket” numerically and financially in the United States, said Sandra Tanner, co-director of Utah Lighthouse Ministries, Salt Lake City, during a Denominational Summit on Mormonism, June 27-28 at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Baptist Conference Center.
But the Mormon church, or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, now reports more members outside the United States — 4.9 million, compared to its U.S. membership of 4.8 million — according to their own statistical reports, which count children as members. Most of the non-U.S. Mormons are in Latin America.
Mormonism’s worldwide growth likely will strain its U.S. breadbasket, Tanner said. The extent of any financial strain, however, may never be known, she said, because Mormon officials do not release financial data about church income and expenditures.
Tanner noted the financial giving of U.S. Mormons likely will be required to cover the costs of Mormon efforts abroad, which typically operate “in the red” because Mormon converts in less-affluent countries do not have the financial means to pay for new Mormon church buildings in their communities.
Of the 1.2 million people in the Greater Salt Lake Basin, Herb Stoneman, evangelism consultant for the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention, cited estimates that 200,000 are Mormons known as “temple worthy,” with access to temple rites, and 200,000 are otherwise counted as active in their Mormon wards. Another 300,000 are non-Mormons, he noted, while nearly 400,000 are inactive Mormons, Stoneman noted.
In worldwide statistics, the top five countries in Mormon membership after the United States include Mexico, with 760,000 Mormons; Brazil, 585,000; Chile, 410,000; and the Philippines, 370,000.
Other Mormon geographic statistics include South America, minus Brazil and Chile, 1 million; Central America, minus Mexico, 370,000; Australia and New Zealand, 170,000 combined; United Kingdom and Ireland, 170,000 combined; Europe, 190,000; Canada, 150,000; Asia, 240,000; South Pacific, minus the Philippines, 160,000; and Africa, 110,000.
Mormon membership is six times larger than 1960, when it stood at 1.5 million worldwide, Tanner said. Mormons add a new convert every two minutes and the equivalent of a new congregation every day, she said. Most new converts come through member referrals, she said, while their 50,000 missionaries average one convert for each 1,000 residences they visit.