Latest stats show ‘a lot of positive developments’ in LDS Church growth

Converts, children and missionaries fuel post-pandemic surge as the faith’s global membership tops 17.2 million.

A surge in convert baptisms and new “children of record” helped The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continue its post-pandemic roll, resulting in increases in key areas that mirror pre-COVID levels.

All told, church membership rose by 252,933 to 17,255,394, according to 2023 figures the global faith released Saturday during its 194th Annual General Conference. That’s a roughly 1.49% bump from the 17,002,461 recorded the previous year.

“There’s a lot of positive developments with this statistical report,” said independent researcher Matt Martinich, who tracks the church’s growth and retention around the world and records his findings at ldschurchgrowth.blogspot.com.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Chief among them, Martinich noted in an interview via text messages, are the 251,763 converts added to the membership rolls, an 18.65% leap from 2022 and the highest number since 2015. Moreover, convert baptisms in 2023 nearly doubled the 125,930 tallied during the height of the pandemic in 2020.

Even so, Martinich wrote on his website, these numbers “remain tens of thousands below the all-time highs of convert baptisms reached in the late 1980s and the 1990s, when there were several years of more than 300,000 converts.”

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A Latter-day Saint baptism in Africa.

The 2023 boost in converts was accompanied by the addition of 93,594 children of record, or infants added to the faith’s rolls. That is 5.1% higher than the 89,059 in 2022 and the largest gain in that category since 2019, according to Martinich. Still, the number of children of record fell short of the six-figure mark the church routinely recorded each year more than a decade ago.

Full-time missionary numbers also rose in 2023, up 5,237 to 67,871, an 8.5% spike from the 62,544 who labored in church missions the previous year. With the exception of a four-year span from 2013 to 2016, right after the age requirement for full-time missionary service was lowered from 19 to 18 for men and 21 to 19 for women, the faith has never flooded the mission field with so many full-time proselytizers.

There were also 31,685 service missionaries last year, a 6.3% uptick over 29,806 in 2022 but still lower than the 36,639 in 2021.

Another plus Martinich identified from the faith’s latest stats: the number of Latter-day Saints removed from church records — either through death, resignation, loss of membership or children not being baptized by age 9 — fell to 92,424, nearly a decade low.

“Many statistics,” he said in a text message, “have returned to pre-COVID levels.”

Attending the temple, which President Henry B. Eyring, second counselor in the governing First Presidency, and church apostle Ulisses Soares extolled in the conference’s Saturday morning session, became easier in 2023. The church had 186 temples in operation at year’s end — if temples undergoing renovation in Manti, Salt Lake City, Stockholm and San Diego are included.

That’s 16 more than were in operation in 2021. In addition, 55 temples were under construction at year’s end and church leaders have announced plans to build 94 more temples.

Other key stats for 2023:

• 3,565 stakes (regional clusters of congregations similar to dioceses).

• 414 church missions (the church is adding 36 more this year, raising the total number to 450).

• 489 districts (smaller versions of stakes).

• 31,490 congregations.