LDS Church membership tops 16.5 million as convert baptisms rise by 6%

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Two missionaries walk past the Conference Center in Salt Lake City just before The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds General Conference on Saturday, April 4, 2020. The area would usually be packed with tens of thousands of conferencegoers. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, no public attendance is permitted. In fact, the conference is coming from a "small auditorium" in the Church Office Building.

The Conference Center plaza in downtown Salt Lake City may have been virtually void of people this weekend — due to the coronavirus clampdown — but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is still attracting crowds.

The latest statistical report, released Saturday, put total membership above 16.5 million at the end of 2019, up by more than 251,000 from the previous year.

That’s a 1.54% increase, according to independent demographer Matt Martinich, and represents the “first year since 2012 in which the rate of membership growth has accelerated instead of decelerated.” The church grew by 1.2% in 2018.

Convert baptisms last year also mushroomed, to 248,835, up more than 6% from 234,332 in 2018.

So 2019 “is the first year since 2014,” Martinich writes on his blog at ldschurch.growth.blogspot.com, “that the annual number of convert baptisms has increased by a sizable amount compared to the prior year.”

The tally of Latter-day Saints congregations — called wards and branches — around the globe, reached nearly 31,000 for a 1.3% spurt and the largest net increase since 2005.

Still, Martinich notes, the number of children added to church records fell below 100,000 last year, to 94,266, a 7.67% drop from the 102,102 logged in 2018. That’s also the lowest number since 2007, when 91,800 children were added to the rolls.

“The church consistently reported over 100,000 children of record added each year between 2008 and 2018,” the researcher writes. “This statistic indicates declining birthrates among church members, particularly in countries with the largest church memberships like the United States, Mexico and Brazil.”

Here are the latest church-reported statistics as of the end of 2019:

• Total membership: 16,565,036.

• New converts in 2019: 248,835.

• New children of record: 94,266.

• Full-time missionaries: 67,021.

• Service missionaries: 31,333.

• Congregations: 30,940.

• Temples: 167.