LDS Church Growth, Member Activity, and Convert Retention: Review and Analysis

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Chapter: II-08: Sources of Data: Hybrid Research

A final category exists of hybrid research which includes data from official or quasi-official sources, third-party research, and original insights and observations. Although any given point of research data can technically be classified as originating from either internal church sources or population-based data, hybrid research is sufficiently different church-only or population-only data to deserve special consideration. The synthesis of church and population-based data provides context and synergy greater than the sum of its parts, and offers a reality check which is essential to the correct interpretation of data from both of the primary sources.

This category includes articles and books by professional researchers with access to internal church data as well as third-party sources. These sources are among the most valuable, and are often more helpful than third-party dependent research such as the Glenmary Survey for several reasons. First, the articles are a written by professional LDS scholars with direct knowledge of the LDS faith. Knowledgeable scholars are able to avoid many of the pitfalls that confound outside researchers who may be unfamiliar with the special considerations and reporting definitions of the LDS Church. Second, the authors have often been directly involved in internal research for the Church as well as external publication and writing, offering deeper insight into methodology and an element of independence even if much of the data used is officially provided by the Church. Third, the authors often draw from third party sources for additional information. Although they rely heavily upon church-provided data, they are not solely dependent upon it.

An good example of a hybrid source is Dr. Tim Heaton's article entitled "Vital Statistics" in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism[1], an encyclopedia covering all aspects of the LDS faith produced through a cooperative effort of secular scholars and BYU professors. The Encyclopedia is not an official publication of the LDS Church, yet its authors had access to many internal church documents and the cooperation of church officials. The statistics on member participation and demographics included in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism are attributed to the Church Research Division, and therefore can be considered to represent official church data.


FOOTNOTES
[1] Macmillan, 1992.