LDS Growth Encyclopedia on Missionary Work and Church Growth (Missiology)
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Percentage of Members in the Population
Author: Matt Martinich
Posted: December 30th, 2013
Missiology researchers calculate the percentage of Latter-day Saints in a country or location through dividing the population by the number of members reported by the Church for that country or location. At times researchers express this statistic as a ratio instead of a percentage, specifically for countries where there is a very small LDS presence and large population.
The percentage of Latter-day Saints in a given location is utilized by researchers to determine the saturation of missionary activity and extent of national outreach. Countries with higher percentages of Latter-day Saints generally experience greater national outreach by the LDS Church than those with lower percentages. Changes in the percentage of members in the population provide insight into whether LDS membership growth rates surpass, equal, or lag behind the population growth rates for an area. Rapid LDS membership growth occurs when membership growth rates surpass population growth rates whereas low or stagnant membership growth generally occurs when commensurate membership and population growth occurs or if there is a decline in the percentage of members in the population.
Generally speaking, nominal membership constitutes the highest percentages in Oceania, Latin America, and North America; moderate percentages in the Caribbean and Western Europe; and the lowest percentages in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. In 2011, nominal LDS membership comprised over 10% in six countries and dependencies (Tonga - 56%, Samoa - 37%, American Samoa - 28%, Niue - 22%, Cook Islands - 17%, and Kiribati - 15%), 2% to 9.9% in seven countries and dependencies (Marshall Islands - 8.5%, French Polynesia - 8%, Federated States of Micronesia - 4%, Chile - 3.3%, Uruguay - 2.9%, New Zealand - 2.5%, Palau - 2.1%), 1.0% to 1.99% in 19 countries and dependencies (United States - 1.98%, Vanuatu - 1.9%, El Salvador - 1.84%, Fiji - 1.83%, Honduras - 1.78%, Bolivia - 1.72%, Peru - 1.72%, Guatemala - 1.64%, Tuvalu - 1.64%, Cape Verde - 1.53%, Northern Mariana Islands - 1.47%, Guam - 1.41%, Panama - 1.35%, Ecuador - 1.33%, Nicaragua - 1.33%, Paraguay - 1.26%, Belize - 1.23%, Dominican Republic - 1.21%, Mexico - 1.11%, and Nauru - 1.07%), 0.50% to 0.99% in 13 countries and territories (Argentina - 0.95%, Costa Rica - 0.86%, New Caledonia - 0.8%, Guyana - 0.7%, Bonaire - 0.65%, Philippines - 0.64%, Australia - 0.6%, Brazil - 0.59%, Puerto Rico - 0.57%, Venezuela - 0.55%, Sint Maarten - 0.54%, United States Virgin Islands - 0.54%, and Canada - 0.54%), 0.1% to 0.49% in 41 countries (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Aruba, British Virgin Islands, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Curacao, Colombia, Cayman Islands, Portugal, Isle of Man, Hong Kong, Turks and Caicos Islands, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Jersey, Bahamas, United Kingdom, Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Taiwan, Macau, Suriname, Antigua and Barbuda, Bermuda, Ghana, Dominica , Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Haiti, South Korea, Zimbabwe, French Guiana, Saint Lucia, Liberia, Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Guadeloupe, Switzerland, Spain, Reunion, Sweden, Swaziland, Armenia, and Japan), 0.05% to 0.099% in 25 countries and dependencies (Norway, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Botswana, Denmark, Andorra, Cote d'Ivoire, Cambodia, Guernsey, Albania, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Ireland, Luxembourg, Nigeria, Belgium, France, Gibraltar, Netherlands, Austria, Latvia, Martinique, Hungary, and Germany), and 0.01% to 0.049% in 39 countries and dependencies (Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Italy, Malta, Madagascar, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Mauritius, Namibia, Uganda, Malaysia, Kenya, Lithuania, Thailand, Ukraine, Greenland, Mozambique, Czech Republic, Togo, Zambia, Slovenia, United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Qatar, Russia, Romania, Croatia, Bahrain, Faroe Islands, Moldova, Central African Republic, Malawi, Benin, Greece, Belarus, Gabon, Sri Lanka, Angola, and Cameroon). At the time there were 36 countries with known Latter-day Saint membership that constituted less than 0.01% of the national population (Lebanon, Jordan, Poland, Georgia, Serbia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Israel, Oman, Djibouti, Laos, Indonesia, Kosovo, Tanzania, Burundi, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kazakhstan, Macedonia, South Sudan, India, Rwanda, China, Nepal, Cuba, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Tunisia, Burma, Morocco, Senegal, Bangladesh, and Egypt).
The percentage of nominal membership in the general population is strongly correlated with the percentage of the population residing in locations with an LDS congregation. For example, all six countries where membership constitutes over 10% of the population have LDS congregations operating in locations inhabited by 80% or more of the population whereas all seven countries where membership constitutes two percent to 9.9% of the population have LDS congregations operating in locations inhabited by at least 66% of the population. However, there are many small countries with highly urbanized populations that have LDS congregations operating in locations accessible to most of the population but nonetheless have a small percentage of Latter-day Saints within the population such as in several nations in the Caribbean, Europe, and East Asia.
There is no clear relationship between the percentage of members in the population and member activity rates in the LDS Church. However, some countries with the highest percentages of nominal members like Chile (3.34%) exhibit the lowest member activity rates (12%) largely due to quick-baptismal tactics that have significantly increased the number of individuals on church records but with very low convert retention rates. Some countries with the smallest percentages of members like Burundi (0.002%) experience the highest member activity rates (80-90%) due to the recent establishment of the Church and the operation of only one or two congregations that display excellent short and medium-term convert retention. On the other hand, the Church in some countries with the highest percentage of members like the United States (1.98%) report moderate to high rates of member activity whereas the Church in some countries with the smallest percentages of members like the Republic of Georgia (0.004%) report low member activity rates (less than 20%).
The Church experiences a steady increase in the percentage of its nominal membership in nearly all countries of the world due to membership growth rates surpassing population growth rates. At present only a few countries in Western Europe experience no increase or a slight decrease in the percentage of nominal members in the general population due to low receptivity and sizable numbers of active members emigrating or relocating elsewhere.