Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Following Faith
Peggy Fletcher Stack
Peggy Fletcher Stack has been producing stories for The Salt Lake Tribune's award-winning Faith section for nearly two decades. Writing about contemporary faith, rituals, and spirituality as well as religion's conflicts and cohesion has always been Stack's passion. Follow her at facebook.com/peggy.fletcherstack, Twitter @religiongal

» Peggy Fletcher Stack E-mail

» Subscribe (RSS)

Brazil mystery: Case of the missing Mormons (913,045 of them, to be exact)

The Brazilian government believes there are far fewer Mormons in the country than the LDS Church does.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The 2010 Brazilian census found that 225,695 people identified as Latter-day Saints whereas the LDS Church reported 1,138,740 members in Brazil in 2010.

"These findings indicate that self-identified Latter-day Saints on the census account for only 20 percent of total membership officially reported by the church in Brazil," writes Matt Martinich, an independent LDS researcher. "Furthermore, the percent of official LDS membership self-affiliating as Latter-day Saint on the census has declined over the past decade."

In 2000, the census reported 199,645 Latter-day Saints, or 26 percent of Mormon membership reported for that year (775,822) by the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

To Martinich, who lives in Colorado Springs, the "most concerning finding" was about the LDS Church's growth rate.

The church reported that Brazilian "membership increased by 362,918 members between 2000 and 2010 yet the censuses for these two years indicate a mere 26,050 increase in self-identified Latter-day Saints," Martinich wrote on his blog. "In other words, the increase in census-reported Latter-day Saints was only 7 percent of the membership increase reported by the church."

The numbers were "surprising," Martinich said in a phone interview. "The church has experienced such steady congregational and stake growth over the last decade, especially the past five years."

That's a trend the LDS Church noted as well.

"A good indicator for membership growth and activity in any area can be found in the construction of meetinghouses and temples," church spokesman Scott Trotter said Monday. "We only build them where members need them, not in anticipation of future growth. Our construction of both types of buildings in Brazil continues at a brisk pace."

Because he doesn't know Portuguese, Martinich, project manager for the Cumorah Foundation, which tracks LDS growth, couldn't read background on Brazil's census to know if there was any difference in the data collection this time around.

In many Latin American countries, for example, only the head of household fills out the census forms, he said. "If the father is Catholic, and his wife and children are Mormon, he might fill out the form as if everyone is Catholic."

Still, the numbers are concerning, said Martinich, who is Mormon.

"We know that the church is struggling to maintain self-sufficiency in Brazil, with Brazilians staffing all 27 missions. The church can't do it, even with all the members they have."

During the same period, the census revealed that Protestants have experienced major growth reflected in both church-reported members and census-reported members. In the past 30 years, the Brazilian census has revealed that the percentage of Protestants in the population jumped from 6.6 percent to 22.2 percent.

It is clear, Martinich said, that the LDS Church continues to have "significant convert-retention issues in Brazil."

Peggy Fletcher Stack

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.