LDS General Authorities don’t talk about Jesus being a husband and father, even though it is a core tenet of their faith that a man is required to be sealed to a spouse for eternity in an LDS temple if he is to attain godhood (Doctrine and Covenants 131:1-2). So how did Jesus become a God if he didn’t get married? And why would a faith that teaches “Families are Forever”, not have at its head a married man? Mormons do need a role model for this slogan and they tend to use Joseph Smith to fill this role, painting his wife Emma, him, and their children as the ideal family. This often has the unintended effect of causing Christians on the outside to perceive Mormons as Joseph Smith worshipers. If Mormons are to ever have a unified religion, they’ve got to come to grips with Jesus being married and having children. Not only do they need to believe it, but they need to preach it just as boldly as “The Family: A Proclamation to the World.”
Being the curious sort that I am, I gathered the number of full-time missionaries per year back to 1977 from the Statistical Reports in the Ensign magazine and made up a simple chart to more easily digest the data.
The first thing that really jumped out at me was the sudden drop off between 2002 to 2004. Equally alarming is the basic flat-line that has continued up until today. Now certainly there were dips in the chart before this (one from 1981 to 1982 and another from 1993 to 1994), but none of them was as dramatic and they both rebounded back to the general upwards trend the very next year.
This next chart is even more depressing than the last one. It tracks the number of converts each year. The high point was in 1990 and then it pretty much flat-lined (although some might argue that it’s on a slight downward trend). This is understandable given the growing disinterest in religion in our secular age.
And now the good news. Yes, the Church is still growing!
No this chart isn’t a membership chart. It records the number of children baptized per year. There have been two major jumps in this number. One starting in 2001 and the other in 2007. However, you’ll notice that while the number of converts is hovering around 275,000/year, the number of children baptized is only around 120,000/year. The question is, “Will the number of children baptized per year continue to increase to offset the losses in the mission field?” Only time will tell.