Latest from Mormon Land: The Utah slump and a push to end prohibition in an LDS stronghold

Also: Where the church is growing fastest and slowest in the U.S.; President Dallin Oaks gives a pep talk on marriage and childbearing; and the IRS whistleblower pushes harder for federal probes.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Attendees arrive for General Conference outside the Conference Center in Salt Lake City in October 2019. Utah's predominant faith grew by a meager 0.56% in 2022.

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LDS growth slows in the Beehive State

Utah hosts, of course, the church’s global headquarters. It contains the faith’s most iconic temple. It boasts by far the most members.

The Beehive State’s 2,173,560 Latter-day Saints at the end of 2022 represent nearly 32% of the nation’s 6,804,028 Latter-day Saints and almost 13% of the church’s 17,002,461 worldwide membership.

Even so, Utah’s Latter-day Saint population increased by a meager 0.56% last year — ranking it 37th in membership growth rates among U.S. states.

To independent church tracker Matt Martinich, that was the “biggest unexpected development” in the church’s freshly updated state-by-state statistics.

“Membership growth rates in Utah slowed significantly in 2022 compared to most previous years (usually about 1% to 2% a year, whereas this past year it was a mere 0.56% — probably the lowest membership growth rate ever reported for the church in Utah),” Martinich writes at ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com. “... It is likely more Latter-day Saints are moving away from Utah and states with negative membership growth to these states with the highest membership growth rates and/or there has been an increase in convert baptisms in these states with the greatest membership growth.”

And which states had the quickest growth? Well, the South carried the day, with seven states in the top 10, led by Arkansas (4.05%), Tennessee (3.55%), the Midwest’s Missouri (3.43%), South Carolina (3.1%) and North Carolina (2.73%).

Eight states saw their Latter-day Saint memberships shrink, topped by California (down 0.82%), Washington (down 0.78%) and Oregon (down 0.62%).

“California is the only state,” Martinich notes, “that has consistently experienced a decline in membership for the most consecutive years (negative membership growth has occurred since 2014).”

The most members are found in Utah, unsurprisingly, followed by California (728,995), Idaho (473,894), Arizona (439,411) and Texas (378,281). Eight of the top 10 states are out West.

The fewest live in Washington, D.C., (3,168), Rhode Island (4,351), Vermont (4,631), Delaware (5,613) and New Hampshire (8,996). Six of the bottom 10 states are in the Northeast.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: A deeper dive on growth

(Photo courtesy of Matt Martinich) Independent Latter-day Saint demographer Matt Martinich tracks church growth across the globe.

Independent church tracker Matt Martinich mines the latest membership stats to show where the church is growing, shrinking or stuck — and why. Listen to the podcast.

Last call for prohibition?

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) The Cardston Alberta Temple. The predominantly Latter-day Saint town will be voting in a nonbinding referendum whether to allow limited alcohol sales.

Cardston, home to a landmark Latter-day Saint temple, is a “dry town” and has been for more than a century, but it may yet turn wet.

Residents, most of whom are members, will vote May 29 in a nonbinding referendum whether to allow “limited liquor sales.”

“We have people who come here from all over the world to stay at my bed-and-breakfast,” business owner Ivan Negrych, who’s been pushing for the vote, told the Calgary Herald. “They come here for supper, and they’d like to be able to get a glass of wine with their meal or be able to bring their own wine into the restaurant, but I can’t even allow that.”

Whether Negrych becomes the toast of the town for his lobbying effort will rest not only with voters but also with the Town Council, which has the final say.

Last year, residents of Raymond, another Latter-day Saint enclave in Alberta, voted to stick with their booze ban.

From The Tribune

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and his wife, Kristen, speak to young adults at a worldwide devotional broadcast from the Conference Center Theater on Temple Square in Salt Lake City on Sunday, May 21, 2023.

• President Dallin Oaks and his wife, Kristen, urge young Latter-day Saint adults to stop delaying marriage and start having kids. On a prominent LGBTQ issue, the apostle also warns that “anyone who does not treat individuals who face gender identity challenges with love and dignity is not aligned with the teachings of the first and second great commandments.”

• A much-referenced whistleblower is stepping up his push for federal authorities to investigate the church’s wealth, and his lawyer tells The Tribune the IRS, for one, is weighing the matter.

(In addition, tax law expert Sam Brunson offers an interesting solution to the controversies dogging Ensign Peak Advisors: Turn the church’s nonprofit investment arm into a for-profit one. Such a move “eliminates questions of whether it’s actually engaged in charitable activities and whether it actually merits tax exemption,” he writes in a By Common Consent blog post. Despite the “marginal tax costs … it would be better for society and for the church.”)

• Tribune columnist Gordon Monson calls on members to love their neighbors no matter the path they’re on — covenant or convenient, heavenly or worldly, faithful or faithless.