LDS Church tops 16.3 million members, but number reflects lowest net increase in 40 years

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Latter-day Saint missionaries teach a young man in Lyon, France.

Amid the 2018 statistic report announced Saturday by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is a startling finding: the largest number of membership records ever removed in a single year — 140,868.

It’s not a line item, but independent church demographer Matt Martinich has a way of calculating the number.

To get the number of records removed, Martinich adds the number of convert baptisms to the increase in number of “children of record” born to Latter-day Saints. That brings the total to 336,434. Then, he subtracts the number of members reported in 2017 from the ones reported in 2018, which makes the net increase a mere 195,566.

“This is the lowest net increase in church membership since 1978,” Martinich said on his blog, ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com. “when the church reported a net increase of 194,000 members.”

The removals could be caused by a number of factors, Martinich said.

It could be due to more children born during these years who reached baptism age of 8, but were not baptized. It might reflect more deaths due to an aging church membership, he said. Or it could signal that more individuals requested to have their names removed from church records, which may have increased in 2018 “compared to previous years.”

Here are the statistics the church reported Saturday. They reflect the global faith’s growth and status as of Dec. 31, 2018:

Membership • 16,313,735.

Converts in 2018 • 234,332.

New children of record • 102,102.

Congregations • 30,536.

Full-time missionaries • 65,137.

Service missionaries • 37,963.

Operating temples • 161.